Christian rhetoric can be inclusive toward all beliefs

AB Boyd | Cartoonist

Baylor is a Christian college. A side effect of a campus as religiously homogenous as Baylor’s is that most if not all facets of discourse revolve around and are permeated by Christianity. Discussions are often wrapped in religious jargon and aimed at a very narrow audience. We can be more inclusive.

Consider the columns written by Dr. Joshua Ritter and Drake Toll published in The Baylor Lariat’s election issue. Both were very, very good columns that advocated for kindness and constructive discussion regardless of election results, but Ritter used Christianity as a common thread throughout his column while Toll didn’t invoke religion a single time. Which of these will be more appealing to an audience beyond the Baylor Bubble? Which is more approachable without much knowledge of scripture?

Yes, tailoring an argument to a specific audience is going to help win them over, and yes, the audience at Baylor is overwhelmingly Christian, but it isn’t entirely Christian.

Being able to make a point with rhetoric and evidence other than scripture will make a stronger and more widely-applicable argument. Others may not have the same in-depth understanding of Christianity, or they may just not believe the same things.

That said, a well-crafted argument rooted in religion and directed toward a Christian audience can still be both effective and inclusive.

Humility is essential when discussing any issue as all-encompassing as religious beliefs. Your faith should inform your views, but it should not be treated as a trump card that’s somehow more valid than anyone else’s. It’s entirely possible to talk about religion without falling into this trap; something Ritter’s aforementioned column did very well. He spoke directly to a Christian audience and used his faith to frame his argument, but didn’t structure it in a way that dismissed other viewpoints.

Think about how you would approach a discussion with a Buddhist, Muslim or atheist instead of another Christian. How would you feel if someone from another religion approached the conversation with the belief they were right by default and you were wrong? It’s an easy mistake some make without even realizing it. Be aware of your own beliefs, biases and assumptions so you can always give others’ views the respect they deserve.

This doesn’t just apply to argumentative situations, but also more personal interactions as well.

There is the issue of adages like “Jesus is king,” or “it’s all part of God’s plan.” It’s great if these are your core convictions and use them to comfort or motivate yourself, and it’s safe to assume most people reading this probably do. But be aware of how these words can impact others, especially those who may not share the same beliefs.

What might the implication be of telling a rape survivor that everything is part of God’s plan? What impact will saying an all-powerful and all-loving God put them through such trauma have on them? If a friend reveals they’re an atheist and is met with “I’ll pray for you,” how invalidating must that feel?

Jesus may still be king no matter who wins an election, but the outcomes of elections can have very real consequences on people’s lives. In many contexts it can cross the line from faithful to dismissive.

These sayings may embody your core truths and no one can or should discredit or take them away, but consider how they’ll be interpreted by other people. What one person may find comforting or reassuring, another might take like a slap in the face.

This is absolutely not to say you should hide or abandon your religious beliefs. It would be wrong to force that upon anyone. It would still just lead to the same problem, only now from the opposite perspective. Instead, remember other people have different, equally valid beliefs and be aware of how common Christian messaging may be interpreted by people who don’t have the same views and experiences.