Engage - Claremont Lincoln University

Are There Limits to Dialogue? (with Kendra Fredrickson-Laouini) [Podcast]

Do we want to be right, or do we want to get along with others? What are the key ingredients for conversation about difficult topics?

In Trump’s America, traditional ideas about cross-cultural and interfaith engagement have become more urgent. The Muslim ban, immigration “reform,” racism, Islamophobia, and rampant mysogny have caused many activists and peacemakers to refocus their energies and reconsider the goals of eduation and dialogue.

In this conversation with interfaith activist Kendra Fredrickson-Laouini, we explore the limits of dialogue. Must we remain in conversation when we’re unsafe? What about hate speech? Are there limits to compassion and understanding?

Ways to listen to this episode:

In this episode, we discuss:

  • How to engage in difficult conversations on social media
  • How comfort can block real dialogue
  • The work of repairing ruptures in civic discourse
  • When to prioritize safety over continued engagement
  • Goals and strategies for being an ally in contentious times

Top 3 takeaways from this week’s episode:

1. “I don’t want to be the one who built the wall.”

When we look back at history, we always want to be on the side of the angels. Everyone imagines she would have marched with MLK, or fought against Nazis. And yet, we have opportunities every day to work for justice and inclusion. What opportunities are we missing?

‘I don’t want to be the one who built the wall.’ Listen now: Click To Tweet

2. “We might want to win that argument, but when we see each other—a human face—it has to change us.”

Part of dialogue is a willingness to be changed, but too many of us want others to change while we get to keep our own beliefs and practices. Relationships with others can help us maintain a posture of openness. Why do we tend to have relationships with only those who agree with us? Is there something we can do to fix this?

‘We might want to win that argument, but when we see each other—a human face—it has to change us.’ Listen now: Click To Tweet

3. “We have to open our eyes. We can’t disengage.”

Fear, disruption, and civil discord are overwhelming. The media too often stirs up feelings of danger, even though we’re actually safer than we’ve ever been. Paralysis can keep us from collaborating effectively. What practices can we use to keep us engaged in important social justice work?

‘We have to open our eyes. We can't disengage.’ Listen now: Click To Tweet

Mentioned on the episode:

When we think about the necessary work of engaging and educating others, it can feel scary to approach those who disagree with us. Kendra mentioned a tool many activists use to think about the work of reaching out: those closest to use are our natural allies, those farthest away may be a threat to us, but there are groups in between who can be reached. Below is an infographic of the tool Kendra mentioned in the episode of how to reach out thoughtfully.

More resources include:

How to connect with Kendra and with us:

You can find Kendra on Twitter here: @KFredLaouini.

You can connect with me on Twitter here: @SVarnonHughes. And you can always connect with us at CLU on our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts linked here.

Like the show? Help us spread the word by giving us a rating and review on iTunes!

About the Podcast

In Times Like These explores the difficult spaces we humans navigate in culture and religion, in dialogue and doubt. We talk to voices from the field, in law, activism, civil rights, and from places of struggle and places of deep learning. In Times Like These, we unpack the most troubling issues of politics and faith we face, together.

In Times Like These is hosted by Dr. Stephanie Varnon-Hughes and is a CLU Live production by Claremont Lincoln University.

Stephanie Varnon-Hughes

Stephanie Varnon-Hughes

Stephanie Varnon-Hughes, Ph.D., is the Director of Cross-Cultural & Interfaith Programs at Claremont Lincoln University, and an award winning teacher and interfaith leader whose research interests include the history, theories, and practices of inter-religious education, mindfulness and compassion practices (with particular emphasis on practices from the Dharmic traditions, especially Jainism), public policy (especially regarding inequities in public education), and how digital and online resources can make education accessible and learner-focused. Her doctoral dissertation, in inter-religious education, focused on disequilibrium, resilience, and reflective practice as key ingredients for learning. She was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Inter-Religious Studies, a peer reviewed journal, and its sister publication, State of Formation, an online forum for emerging religious and ethical leaders. She holds a Ph.D. from Claremont Lincoln University, an M.A. and S.T.M. from Union Theological Seminary and her undergraduate degrees are in English and Education, from Webster University.

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Claremont Lincoln University

2 comments

  • I liked the podcast interview with Kendra. One of the points made is something I myself try to promote at conversations person–to-person, group, and facebook, which is that we should not take the extreme sides in the current division, but instead, try to reach out to the people who feel victimized in the political environment for the last several years where they were abandoned in their homelessness, joblessness, mental illness, etc. while out of political correctness our leaders were welcoming refugees and illegal immigrants and offering them welfare budgets to resettle them. I believe that we should ensure that we attend to the needs of the abandoned Americans while we think about how to help refugees and illegal immigrants who depend on welfare. Can we help refugees by creating a worldwide fund (including the super-rich nations like the oil rich Gulf countries) and convincing countries that match the ethnic and cultural values of refugees to accept them in their lands ? This may be better in minimizing the cultural disruption for the host country and for the refugees (to avoid their culture shock, disillusionment, vulnerability and attraction to terrorist propaganda and harmful actions on the hosts).

  • Maneck–I love and appreciate this conversation with you. Yes, when we are activated by a sense of scarcity, loss, and fear, we aren’t able to do justice or grow as community members. What do you think the roles of leaders can be in both working to make resources more equitable and responding to these fears (both founded and unfounded)? Thanks so much for listening and responding.

Stephanie Varnon-Hughes

Stephanie Varnon-Hughes

Stephanie Varnon-Hughes, Ph.D., is the Director of Cross-Cultural & Interfaith Programs at Claremont Lincoln University, and an award winning teacher and interfaith leader whose research interests include the history, theories, and practices of inter-religious education, mindfulness and compassion practices (with particular emphasis on practices from the Dharmic traditions, especially Jainism), public policy (especially regarding inequities in public education), and how digital and online resources can make education accessible and learner-focused. Her doctoral dissertation, in inter-religious education, focused on disequilibrium, resilience, and reflective practice as key ingredients for learning. She was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Inter-Religious Studies, a peer reviewed journal, and its sister publication, State of Formation, an online forum for emerging religious and ethical leaders. She holds a Ph.D. from Claremont Lincoln University, an M.A. and S.T.M. from Union Theological Seminary and her undergraduate degrees are in English and Education, from Webster University.