Responding to Challenges
While most Day of Dialogue® interactions should be positive, it’s possible that when you express your perspective and deeply held beliefs, you could be verbally challenged—and maybe even encounter angry reactions.
If that happens, it’s important to remember one of the most important guiding principles of Day of Dialogue—that we should reflect the spirit of Christ in our interactions with others. The goal of Day of Dialogue is to demonstrate Christ’s love and respectfully communicate a Biblical perspective, not to engage in debates and confrontations.
So even if someone becomes angry with you or is rude, it’s important to remain respectful and loving—while at the same time, remaining confident and bold in communicating your perspective and standing firm on your First Amendment right to share it. Below are tips for responding to some of the most common challenges that you might encounter:
Challenge: You don’t have the right to do this—you can’t talk about religion in a public school.
Politely remind them that the U.S. Constitution and rulings from the Supreme Court have backed your right as a student to communicate your viewpoint before and after class in a way that doesn’t create a substantial disruption.
You can explain that you are engaging in private, voluntary speech as a student and that your communication is not part of a school-organized or government-endorsed program. This is a voluntary, student-led initiative. As a result, you and others participating in the event have a First Amendment right to engage in free speech conversations—even if those conversations and communications happen to reflect your personal, faith-based perspective.
If your school has already had a Day of Silence event, you can politely point out that, in the interest of avoiding viewpoint discrimination, students should be allowed equal access to express an alternative or different point of view.
For more questions about your legal rights, contact the Alliance Defending Freedom or call 1-800-Tell-ADF. You can also visit the Know Your Rights section of this Web site for more detailed information.
Challenge: Why do you want to participate in the Day of Dialogue? Doesn’t this event just cause unnecessary controversy and divide people?
Thank the person for sharing their concerns, and explain that the heart of Day of Dialogue—in contrast to the whole idea of silence and division—is to bring students together to be able to have an honest conversation and talk to one another. That’s why Day of Dialogue has the “Get the Conversation Started” theme.
You can explain that the purpose of the Day of Dialogue is to encourage respectful and peaceful conversations among students—pointing out that you agree put-downs, bullying and disrespectful treatment of people are never appropriate.
Respectfully explain that these topics have already been brought up in your school (through various events like the Day of Silence) and that, in response to this, you are simply trying to have a free exchange of ideas about them and invite other students to have an honest conversation.
You can explain that you are simply requesting equal opportunity and time to share your perspective—and for your ideas to have a place at the table.
Challenge: What if I’m gay and can’t change. I’ve always felt this way. I think people are born gay.
You can assure the person that you are listening to them, you hear what they are saying and you believe them when they say they have always felt this way.
But the fact is that nobody knows how same-sex attractions develop—it appears to be a combination of factors (from biology to individual temperament to culture to environment). There is no proof that it is purely genetic. For more information, you can read Are People Really Born Gay?
You can explain that the real issue, for those who follow Jesus, is not about changing from “straight” to “gay”, or what kind of sexual identity a person has, but about having a relationship with God. And as our relationship with him grows, we learn to manage our feelings, desires and behavior according to His best plan for us. (For background, read Who Am I? Finding Your Eternal Significance).
Challenge: Aren’t you just trying to push your religion on other people and tell them how to live? Why do you think you know the truth, anyway? Maybe other people’s truths are just as good as your truth.
You can explain that you don’t want to push anything on anyone. You can make it clear that you agree that people are responsible to make their own personal choices about how to live. You’d simply like the chance to have a dialogue about some very important questions such as:
What if there is a God that cares about us?
What if what the Bible says about Jesus, and God’s plan for sexuality, is true? What if there is eternal significance and impact for our actions here on earth?
Lovingly remind the person that you are just seeking an opportunity to share a different perspective and have an honest conversation. Just because your perspective happens to come from a Biblical or faith-based point of view, doesn’t mean it should not be allowed. The Day of Dialogue is all about having a free exchange of ideas, even ideas that might be viewed as unpopular. That’s what true tolerance looks like.
You can also politely share that you believe there are such things as eternal truths that cannot and should not be changed. And that these eternal truths are given to us by God for our good, to help us have the most abundant and fulfilling life— not to condemn us. For instance, what would happen if we all rejected the truth that murder is wrong? Even our own national government recognizes some things as absolute truth—permanent truths are reflected in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, such as the fact that all men are created equal and have a right to life.
Challenge: Isn’t this just really about the fact that you have something against homosexuality? Your religion is discriminatory and hateful.
You can lovingly explain that you don’t have anything against any person. That, in fact, you believe the Bible teaches us that we should love all people because the Bible says “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16).
You can explain that all of us, including yourself have fallen short of the God’s standard—and we are all in need of His grace. And that Christians should stand up for and protect others who are being hurt or made fun of, even those with whom we might happen to disagree or who are different than us. The Bible gives us this model through stories like the Good Samaritan or Jesus defending the woman accused of adultery against people who wanted to stone her to death.
You can also explain that you believe God has outlined the best plan for human relationships and sexuality in the Bible. And that this plan is meant to provide us hope, blessing and the best possible intimacy. So it’s worth at least considering what the Bible says about these important topics.
Challenge: What’s wrong with the Day of Silence? Don’t you care about people being bullied? Don’t you want to prevent people from committing suicide?
You can reassure the individual that you absolutely believe bullying, ridiculing or harming others is always wrong in any circumstance. And that it can have tragic outcomes that should never happen, and that you want to do everything you can to help prevent these terrible things from happening.
Explain that you agree with them that bullying needs to stop and students need to all stand against it. But that when it comes to beliefs about sexuality and relationships, you turn to the Bible and your relationship for God for specific guidance. And you’d like the opportunity to have a conversation about that.
You can respectfully challenge your listener with this statement: I think we can all agree that true tolerance creates a climate of respect for all viewpoints, including faith-based ones like mine.
Challenge: Do you think homosexuality is wrong? Are you against homosexuality?
Politely explain that you want to be honest and open about the fact that you’re a Christian and you believe that what the Bible says about sexuality—that it should be reserved for a man-woman marriage relationship—is the best and most loving plan for individuals, children and society as a whole.
You can also explain that you’re not focusing on judging individuals around you. That’s God’s job, not yours. And the bigger point is, that we’ll all stand before God one day. The fact is, all of us have fallen short of God’s standard—“each of us have turned to our own way”—as the Bible puts it (Isaiah 53:6) in one way or another. And we are all in need of Jesus’ saving grace.
Challenge: You say the Bible made people male and female, but what about those who don’t feel like their biological gender matches with how they feel?
You can assure the person that you understand there are people who struggle with these feelings and have experienced internal conflict, which causes a lot of pain.
You can remind them that as a Christian, you respect them as persons, made in the image of God, regardless of how they identify.
You can explain that, while you are not a gender and sexuality expert, you think the Bible has a lot of good things to say about sexuality—like the fact that we were created by God, male and female. And that masculinity and femininity reflect important things about God’s character—like justice and mercy, strength and beauty, nurture and protection. You can invite your friends to talk about those ideas.
You can respond by asking questions such as, Why did God create male and female? Why did He think that was a good plan? (To jumpstart this conversation, you can use pointers from: Day of Dialogue Guiding Principles and the Why Male and Female Matter and God’s Design for Sexuality articles.
Challenge: Jesus didn’t say homosexuality was wrong.
You can politely point out that there are a number of issues we deal with today that Jesus never spoke about, everything from spousal abuse to drug addiction. So arguing that Jesus was silent about something doesn’t logically prove anything.
You can also remind them that Jesus did say something about human sexuality. He affirmed God’s design and intention for us: male and female are complementary and marriage and sex are to be between a husband and wife. (For instance, check out Mark 10:1-9).
Challenge: The Old Testament says a lot of things are wrong that we don’t follow today. So isn’t what the Bible says about sexuality just outdated for today’s society?
You can agree that there are things in the Old Testament that Christians don’t follow today, like dietary restrictions, sacrificial laws, ceremonial and ritual requirements.
Christians believe we are free from these laws because Jesus was sacrificed on our behalf, fulfilling all of the demands of the law that human beings couldn’t possibly meet. The Bible tells us that we are no longer under these restrictions or requirements.
There are moral laws, however, that remain in effect for Christians. Behaviors like lying, worshipping things that aren’t God, stealing, murder, envy and sex outside of marriage are described and taught against in both the Old and the New Testament.
The Good News is that God gives us the power to overcome sin. He works in the hearts of all who believe in Jesus to bring forgiveness, restoration and transformation.