I had a fascinating experience a number of years ago, around my sophomore year at Hope College. It was around the issue of abortion, sort of, but affected how I see the world, how I listen to people, and how I try to teach and learn. It happened with two conversations I had with my sister, whom I love, and my girlfriend, with whom I was falling in love (she would become my wife, and I still love her a great deal.)
My sister supports the ability of a woman to make the choice of weather or not to have an abortion. She made it very clear to me, she is not pro-abortion, but pro-choice. She has strong arguments for the value of this choice, both historical, political, and logical, as well as emotional. She is very loving, very kind, and brilliant (though she would disagree). She supports the parents' choice out of love and compassion, not out of hate or anger or dislike of babies or desire to see people suffer.
My girlfriend, now my wife, supports a federal ban on abortion. She is very loving, very kind, and brilliant (and much more of all three of these than me.) She offers arguments in support of a federal ban that are logical, loving, emotional, political, and that respect the political climate before RvW and current. She is not ignorant of the situation, but well researched and has come to a carefully thought-out conclusion. She supports a federal ban on abortion out of love and compassion, and for no other reason.
I had a conversation with both my sister and girlfriend within the span of four days on this issue. Both were kind enough to explain why they believed what they believe, and both answered my questions. Both also found it surprising that others could disagree. They saw the facts and the only logical conclusion that anyone with a heart and mind could come to was what they believed. Obviously, any rational person would come to agree.
Needless to say, this struck me, a philosopher, whose entire world view, then, was based on what could be logically discovered and proven.
Another story: While in seminary I had a two friends with very different political view points. During the last election I overheard a conversation between the two of them. One supported Obama and could not understand how the other could support McCain because of his stance on war. The other supported McCain and could not understand the other because she supported Obama, who is pro-choice. Essentially, both of their arguments came down to "How could you support that murderer?!"
I have had a number of experiences like this on all sorts of topics: health care, total depravity, income tax (taxes in general), limits of sanctification, privatization of basically anything, Jesus, interpretations of history, human choice in salvation, value of facebook or cell phones or television or technology or whatever, human sexuality, and the list goes on and on.
Over the years I have come to a very striking conclusion: people disagree. People can come to the exact same set of data, have loving and kind motives (or any other motives) and come to different conclusions.
People often look at a question and come to different answers, or express their answers differently. I have realized a basic fact: No matter what you believe, no matter how well educated you are and passionate you are, no matter how strong your arguments are and who you are citing, there is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS somebody equally educated, equally passionate, equally well supported with counters for all of your arguments and answers for all your counters, and coming from a perspective you would respect.
This fact is crucial to how I see the world. It is crucial, I believe, to recognize that nobody has a corner on truth. I believe that the gospels are correct in that Jesus is the way the truth and the life. That means that Truth is not a set of principles, but a person, probably with a gnarly beard, calloused feet, and compassionate and loving eyes. Truth also grew up under oppression and despotic Roman rule, and I imagine does not think highly of being caged and used for the purposes of folks in power. Call me crazy.
This does not mean that we can't believe anything, nor does it mean that everybody should throw all their beliefs out the window in favor of hugs and flowers and listening to Bob Dylan and Janice Joplin and Peter Paul and Mary (though I think a little more hugs, flowers, and protest music would do the world a great deal of good). I still strongly believe in entire sanctification, I still support a federal ban on abortion, and I'm still something resembling a libertarian; I still fight like a bulldog for Sacrament theology, Wesleyan theology of sanctification, and the value of social justice (bite me, Glenn Beck.)
This is something that I value very highly, and is very highly by my generation, as I see it. As my friends EVT said, "It makes sense that I could see 1+1 and say the answer is 2 written in blue. It also makes sense that someone could see 1+1 and say the answer is 2 written in red. It doesn't make sense that someone could see 1+1 and say the answer is 'baked potato.'" This just makes good sense to me. (I read "baked potato" as an answer that gives no respect to the question itself.)
We can come to similar conclusions or very different conclusions, but we have to recognize that other people are not idiots, are not evil, are not just willfully stupid. Rather, we can disagree, but we can do so civilly, rather than demonizing and attacking their character.
Maybe I'm nuts, maybe I'm just a hippie or post modernist or liberal or whatever label you want to put on me to write me off. You are welcome to.
Peace and wholeness.