Political Debate: The Grace & Truth Paradox

“Just because you find it hateful doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a discussion. If this is what it took to get everyone up and talking, then I’m glad we did it.”—Brendan Mahoney (treasurer, Hood College Republican Club)

Mahoney and the Hood College Republican Club took heat from both students and faculty for a display board they posted in the campus center.

The board included images and quotations promoting a conservative take on social issues like abortion and transgenderism. While the group simply aimed to spark discussion, many community members (especially minorities) found the messages deeply offensive. For instance, the board included this Ben Shapiro quote:

“Transgender people are unfortunately suffering from a significant mental illness that is deeply harmful…Biology is biology; men can’t magically become women, and women can’t magically become men.”

The group’s board also referenced abortion as the “largest genocide in human history.”

To read details of the Hood College Republicans’ defense of their board, check out the article below. Currently, the administration is “reviewing” the board, and “appropriate sanctions [might] follow…”

Are the group’s actions legal? Yes—the Constitution protects that speech (offensive though it may be).

But let’s not get bogged down in a discussion of rights. Why? Because the hullabaloo at Hood College ultimately points to a larger idea: The grace and truth paradox.

In other words, how do you boldly stand for your beliefs and not alienate an entire college campus? How can you be both unapologetically truthful and undeniably gracious?

The answer to that question lies in one fundamental understanding: Arguing and persuading are two different things.

How so?

Arguers simply marshal data, figures, and logic to prove their point—they confront their opponent solely with fact and reason.

Persuaders, however, make their arguments in the context of interpersonal relationships. Effective persuaders understand that people aren’t robots. They know people will listen (and perhaps even agree) to a different perspective if they know the person articulating that perspective truly cares for them.

So how does all this relate to the Hood College Republicans?

Simply, Ben Shapiro quotes and abortion statistics won’t ultimately persuade people to agree with or even listen to a conservative worldview. Why? Because however solid those arguments are or however empirical facts may be, people don’t just think with their heads—they also think with their heart, with their emotions. You won’t persuade anyone of anything by ignoring that reality.

Which brings us back to grace vs truth. Conservatives must stand for their values, principles, and beliefs in a way that tells others, “Look, we don’t have to agree, but I care enough about you as another person to make an effort to understand you.”

If you really wish to persuade someone, first make it clear that you care about them. Truth means little if it’s not communicated with respect and compassion.

(Originally published on AllRight)