The podcast trying to teach you how to have better conversations
Eternity’s first podcast, ‘With All Due Respect’ has landed today.
Eternity is launching its first podcast! With All Due Respect is hosted by Michael Jensen and Megan Powell du Toit. And they say, it’s all about being “less agro” and having “more conversation.”
Megan is an editor, pastor and adjunct lecturer currently working at Morling College (Baptist) and completing her PhD in theology. Michael is an author and the rector at St Mark’s Anglican Church, Darling Point.
There’s plenty of things they disagree on: free will, feminism, where you should send your kids to school and what type of church you should go to. But there are also plenty of other things that they have in common. They want to talk about all these things with conviction. But they also want the conversation to be constructive.
Eternity asked them a few questions about their new podcast:
What’s the inspiration behind With All Due Respect?
Megan: I think both Michael and I, even though we have some differences, agree that people should be able to have constructive conversations about the things they disagree about; about society, about what’s really important to them. And particularly we agree it’s something that Christians should be able to do better, and aren’t doing that well. One of the things we had noticed by interacting together on Facebook was that we were both really trying to do that and have some leadership in that.
Michael: We had an argument basically! But it wasn’t a ‘toss your toys out of the pram’ disagreement. And it was actually… well maybe I learnt something in it. And I noticed that sometimes arguments between Christians can reflect the toxicity of social media arguments more generally.
We thought: maybe we could do a better kind of disagreement.
What do you think defines ‘respectful conversation’?
Megan: At a base level, it’s just not insulting the other person! Treating them as a whole person with dignity, listening, responding to what they’ve actually said. Just basic manners, really. But conversations about things that really matter have to go one step further. Those conversations should involve empathy and a genuine concern to work out what the other person is saying, why they’re saying that, and to be ready to change your mind and to concede where you were wrong. There’s genuine engagement there. And that’s something I don’t think Christians are doing well: we’re going in to win an argument rather than going in to have a genuine engagement with the other person.
We take over God’s authority, in that we want to be able to make sure that everyone else has ‘got it right’, rather than trusting that God can sort the church out. — Megan
Michael: Not writing the other person off, and being able to grasp the other person’s point of view even though you don’t agree with it. I think it can be passionate and even serious, but still not be nasty, violent, or destructive.
Why are Christians so bad at talking to each other?
Megan: Christians are talking about things that they have conviction about, and that’s not a bad thing! So we’re passionate about them and we have arguments. But two things are happening: 1. We are all still learning how to interact on Facebook, and other social media, and 2. We take over God’s authority, in that we want to be able to make sure that everyone else has ‘got it right’, rather than trusting that God can sort the church out.
Michael: I don’t think we are necessarily worse than everyone else. But two reasons: one is, that we care so much about what we are talking about. And the other is that we are anxious – feeling that our place in the culture is under threat. That makes for toxic discussions.
Tell us a time when you’ve found yourself in a less-than-respectful discussion? How did you handle it? What would you have done differently?
Megan: I actually got into a conversation on John Dickson’s wall (as we do!). It was with a person I didn’t know, and it got to a point where I felt that i had taken up a battle position, you know? I ended up going, ‘How am I going to fix this up?’ And said, ‘OK, can we start again?’ I introduced myself and said a little about myself and started a bit more of a relationship. One of the things I think happens on social media is that we relate to people as if they are avatars, rather than real people. This person and I had mutual friends, we were both Christians, so I thought, ‘Let’s see if we can make this work.’ And that went well!
I also used to find that what I posted online after a glass of wine was not always me at my best… I don’t drink anymore. — Michael
Michael: Oh my. I guess I’ve found myself attacked pretty nastily by some Christians who probably agree with me more than Megan does! And that was actually deeply distressing – I found sly comments and misrepresentations about me popping up everywhere. I don’t mind being criticised but this was personal. What I did was block that particular person. I think it was important not to answer this fool according to his folly, to be honest. I think that was the right thing to do and I should have done that sooner. I also used to find that what I posted online after a glass of wine was not always me at my best… I don’t drink anymore.
The idea originally was talking about things that Christians are talking about, but not very well. And we want to try and talk about them better. — Megan
What can we expect to hear on the podcast?
Megan: The idea originally was talking about things that Christians are talking about, but not very well. And we want to try and talk about them better. To that extent, the field is open. We want to talk about things relating to theology or church, but it’ll be around current events, culture. And there’ll be some self-indulgence, just stuff we like talking about! But that interface between theology and culture, and bringing our faith into how we interact with the world around us.
Michael: Full and frank exchanges of ideas on a huge range of topics. Maybe you’ll hear us change our minds as we talk to one another – who knows? You’ll get serious stuff, but we’ve found it a lot of fun so I think that will come through.