By Natallie Rocha
Since 1951 PLNU’s School of Theology and Christian Ministry has sponsored the annual H. Orton Wiley Lecture Series. This year, PLNU has invited Dr. Dan Boone, President and Professor of Pastoral Theology at Trevecca Nazarene University (TNU) in Nashville, Tenn. to lead the lectures. Dr. Boone’s series of talks will reflect his experience as an educator, author and pastor in topics such as sexuality, marriage, cyber ethics and political engagement in the Church. With divisive language swirling around social media and stifling relationships, the Wiley Lectures seek to open the conversation through the theme: Charitable Discourse- Speaking Generously about the things that divide us.
In preparation for the Wiley Lectures, The Point discussed with Dr. Boone how his life and experience guide his approach to engaging in difficult conversations.
How has your experience in the church and academics informed your perception of conflict?
Dr. Boone: The best of learning occurs in the context of competing ideas. Christians are taught to exegete prevailing cultural practices and philosophies through the lens of their faith. Having spent most of my career as pastor or president on a Christian college campus, I have seen this lived out and violated in the best and worst of ways.
How can Christianity help students address conflict and difficult discussions (ie. politics, sexuality, social media etc.)?
Dr. Boone: First, it gives us a bedrock command to love persons, even those we deeply disagree with. If loving regard is the starting place, it eliminates destructive behaviors in significant ways. Christians have centuries of practice at figuring out what it means to live and think as Jesus does. We’ve been right more than wrong but should have enough history to keep us bold and humble. Many persons want to find a single place to stand that everyone else will join then in. That’ll never happen. I’m old enough now to bet on that. However, we can find ways to form communities that share a common faith while disagreeing.
Do you have any advice on simple ways that we as Christians can have constructive and inclusive conversations?
Dr. Boone: Listen first. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood. Ask a lot of questions until the other person believes they have been heard. Learn to articulate what you believe in ways that are not aimed at offense but rather are an expression of what you believe. Be willing to learn tot hat you can be wrong.
In regards to your first lecture and published works, what is the key to maintaining a Christian identity amidst divisive topics (ex. political identities etc.)?
Dr. Boone: Remain a citizen of the kingdom of God, first, foremost, and last. Do not crawl into bed with a political ideology that requires the sacrifice of your faith. Remain prophetic when it comes to politics. The world needs our honesty and questions more than it needs our votes. Speak truth to power in likeness to the ways of Jesus.
With all of the religiously-driven conflicts in the world right now, what do you think people often mistake or what is the correct way to address these conflicts from a Christian perspective?
Dr. Boone: We are too quick to offer simple solutions to very complex problems. I am concerned that we do this in both conservative and liberal directions, caving to whichever side pressures us the most. When we come across as judgmental, we hurt the cause of Christ. We are called to speak for the common good of persons as it points toward the thriving life that God intended. When we are more interested in winning debates and making points than in doing good, we have lost sight of why we speak into complexity.
What do you hope listeners will understand by the end of the week?
Dr. Boone: What do you hope listeners will understand by the end of the week? That it is ok to live in a world of tension without solving it all today and that divisive issues are the very places where we have the capacity to be formed in likeness to Jesus.
Dr. Boone will lead the Wiley Lectures from February 27- March 1; he will also be speaking at chapel on Monday, February 27.