Speaker’s Corner

So Jan and I are staying in London right now with some friends. We are a bit worn out from all the cold and rain, but it is a beautiful city and today actually got a little bit of sun. The sights and history are incredible, but there was one spot that really caught my attention.

There is a park in the middle of town that has one area designated as the “Speaker’s Corner.” When we first drove by it(in our huge and cheesy open air tourist bus…) I thought it was an area for politicians to come and give their sh peel on their proposed policy. After all, there is an election coming up here on May 1st. Anyway, after driving by I found out that it was a place where ANYONE was welcome to come, stand on a ladder or box of some kind and just let loose. They could talk about any topic to anyone who was willing to listen. This intrigued me…

We continued to tour the city, but intentionally came back to this Speaker’s Corner to hear what it was all about. There we hundreds of people all crowded around various speakers who were getting fired up on issues of war, religion and philosophy. It was quite interesting to note that the overwhelming majority of the discussions were that of Muslim VS Christianity. There would be a Muslim on one ladder going to town and a Christian a few yards away going to town. For the most part, there was plenty of space offered in the middle of the speeches for public dialog. Someone in the crowd would shout out a disagreement with the speaker and then they would begin to discuss their disagreement in front of the masses. Others would join in and the discussion continued…

Occasionally there would be a more heated dialog that would take place that was a bit out of control and led to strong words, but in general this was very rare. On one hand it was very saddening to realize how many areas we can figure out to disagree with each other and allow that to lead to relational disconnect. On the other it was really encouraging to see a group of people not only culturally “allowed” to speak in such raw ways, but willing to discuss and process in such a raw way. I would have to imagine when Jesus was a kid speaking in the “temple courts” it has to be with some kind of open dialog much like this. How far we have come from this healthy dialog in most of our cultures!

Anyway, as I stood intrigued by one of the speakers who was doing his best to disprove the existence of the Divine Trinity, a gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and asked me what I believed. I began to share with him of my love for Jesus and my resolve to do my best to live out His ways on a day to day basis. I also mentioned that I didn’t necessarily relate with many of the “Christians” who have chosen to preach a message far from what I see as Jesus teachings and have to some degree given us a really bad name. I asked him of his believes and he mentioned that he was a Muslim. He had a sweet beard, much more impressive than mine…

We began about a half hour conversation on the teachings of Jesus, the letters of Paul in the New Testement, the Mosaic Law, I even got to share a little bit on one of my favorite Hebrew words “Echad” in relation to the divine Oneness of Jesus and God…He was a very humble man, with many great things to say and during our discussion quite a few people came and went to listen in. Much of what he had to say had to deal with Pauline writing being inaccurate to the teachings of Jesus. He mentioned that if it weren’t for the books that Paul wrote, Christianity and Islam would be very similar. Much had to do with Paul’s interpretation of Grace apart from the Law. We shared back and forth and as we were talking I came to realize that we could learn alot from each other, but trying to convince each other was not going to get us anywhere. I explained to him that our conversation was great, but a debate was not what we needed. We shared what we believed and what we were most passionate about and respectfully listened. After acknowledging our mutual respect for each other we shook hands, thanked each other for the conversation and went on our ways. It was beautiful. A small piece of heaven on earth in my perspective. Maybe if we create more contexts like this, there would be more communication and understanding and less hatred and violence…

Picture: This is a picture Jan apparently took during our conversation

2 Responses to Speaker’s Corner
  1. everydaylove

    Sounds like an epistemic dialogue of grace and love. Brilliant!

    “A Generous Orthodoxy” by McLaren is a solid book with a chapter discussing this topic.

  2. tom

    i have heard of that place before. i’m glad you got to go there and spend some time. thanks for sharing that story with us jjjjjeeeeeoooooonnnnnn!!!!!!!!!