Why I’m Not Interested in Arguing With Conservatives (Especially the Christian Ones)

This is indeed the winter of our discontent, isn’t it? For many in this country, it is important to remember, there has never really been another season. Others have been recently emboldened — and equipped, via social media — to proclaim their convictions and engage in more tempestuous debate than ever regarding the current political situation in the U.S.

As a formerly conservative and now-liberal person, and as someone who is admittedly egotistical about doing the right thing, I am occasionally tempted to jump into arguments with right-wing humans. It happens to the best of us. At the same time, despite the spike in tempers that the presidential election brought about, I mostly find myself less and less interested in talking to these folks at all.

I know it’s not the sweet thing to say, that you’re done “reaching across the aisle”; but given my own life experience in their trenches, I’m really quite skeptical that it’s the best use of my time. Here are a couple of my thoughts on why (please forgive the “us” and “them” language, which is not meant to be inflammatory but simply linguistically economical):

  1. They want to argue. I know because, like I said, I used to be one of them, and never once was I actually open to changing my mind in the context of a debate. There is no humility in the fight; there is only the thrill of having felt like you stood your ground. They might pay lip service to always getting something new out of a conversation, always learning something, but it’s a disingenuous sentiment. Their ideologies — especially when grounded in modern Christianity — are (1) not based on the physical world around them, and (2) glorify conflict (“You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved,” Matthew 10:22). Personally, it was only when those who opposed my perspective (‘liberal’ folks) refused to fight with me, refused to engage, felt their time was better spent fulfilling their convictions — which happened to be helping people, not converting them — it was only then, as I stood alone with no sparring partner, that I wondered if my stance really was worth sticking by.
  2. Their concept of “evidence” is different. Again, this is especially concerning self-identified Christian conservatives. The entire worldview for this group is based on a multi-author, self-contradictory, millenia-old book that was written in ancient languages and has been translated, very subjectively, many, many times. That and the ideas that get passed down, elder to elder, within the conservative Christian bubble. In other words, their ideas, as I mentioned above, are not based on the physical world around them, nor on humans’ changing understanding of that world. And, the traditional ideas take precedence over any observable, tangible evidence to the contrary, which includes the testimony of actual humans whose experiences are different from one’s own. So, despite testimonies from women about how important Planned Parenthood is, despite testimonies from Black folks about the slow genocide that’s happening to their community at the hands of the “law”, despite testimonies from Muslims who experience hate crimes on a regular basis, despite testimonies from people who have disabilities and are denied integration into the community — despite all of these cries for justice and for love, the archaic, anachronistic sense of “right” and “wrong” of the conservative church stands. In light of that I ask myself, why honor those hardened hearts with face time? Why wait for them to get on board — which there’s a good chance might never happen — instead of mobilizing and empowering the disempowered? I don’t know about you, but to me, the latter sounds better.

Do I even know what I’m talking about? Not often — except when it comes to the conservative Christian mindset. And in that case, I really don’t think debate or argument is gonna be the thing that shifts a position. Their definitions of logic are different than what we’re used to outside the boundaries of their camp.

What I am not saying is that we don’t stand up against prejudice or hatred when we see it, that we don’t protect people from aggression when it’s coming at them. What I am not saying is that we don’t get in people’s faces when they need to back off, or speak our mind when we do truly want to.

What I am saying is something perhaps rather unpopular: that civil debate with “the other side” is not necessarily gonna get you very far. There is a place for it, and it is the primary role for a chosen few, but winning over the socially conservative heart might not be a goal that an everyday liberal should attach much hope to. I know I don’t.

It’s not that it can’t happen, it’s that I think it’s more likely to happen by example — when we ‘liberal’ thinkers refuse to join their verbal fight club and instead focus on the creation of a better now. That’s what got me, because I actually did want to help. Like recognized like; love recognized love.