Transcript: A couple of weeks ago on facebook I saw a wonderful reflection of what we’re talking about here at A Clear Lens, especially with regard to First Date Evangelism and the proper order of persuasion. On July 3rd “Spotlight Stories Official” shared a blurb about President George W. Bush and Bono.
It said: “”At U2 concerts in the early 90’s, a regular part of the show featured criticism of George H.W. Bush. In fact, frontman Bono used to call the White House in the middle of the concert to try to get a chance to speak to the 41st President. When George H.W. Bush’s son George W. Bush became President in 2001, Bono was also a critic of him.”
Now let me stop right here. There are videos on YouTube, I think, where Bono calls up the White House operator and the lady answers the phone. And Bono does this shtick. He asks for “George” and the lady says, “George who?” And he says, “The President. Let me speak to him.” And the operator says, “The President is not available. Call the comment line tomorrow” or something like that. And Bono becomes shocked and says, “The President of the United States is not available to me?”
I mean… for somebody with Bono’s convictions, it’s as an amusing little shtick he puts on for his audience. Anyway, that really happened. Bono trolled George H.W. Bush in the early 90s. And he was a critic of George W. Bush! Alright, let’s get back to the blurb.
It says: “George W. Bush didn’t (try to) go to war with (Bono) Instead he invited him to talk about something they had a common passion for, saving lives in Africa. They had lunch together in the White House Mess hall, then Bush took him to the oval office. For 40 minutes they discussed A.I.D.S., malaria, and debt relief.
After the meeting, in 2003, President Bush started a program in Africa known as PEPFAR, which 14 years later is credited with saving over 11 million lives. Yesterday, Bono was in Texas as part of the current U2 tour, and paid a visit to his old friend. It is amazing what can be accomplished when mature people find common ground for the good of all.”
End quote. Friends, this is true! In a 2013 interview with Fox News, Bush said, “[Bono] was skeptical of me and frankly I was skeptical of him… And we became pals because we shared a common desire to help others on the continent of Africa.”
Imagine that. Two opponents who actually became friends! And more than that, if you read other interviews with Bono talking about his friendship with George W. Bush, Bono says that he became open to some of what George W. Bush had to say (this is in regards to their differing ideas about foreign aid). Bono even stopped criticizing Bush about the War in Iraq! Before that he openly criticized the war!
And don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that Bono fundamentally changed his mind at all, because we don’t have that kind of information. But what we do have is a public record of two opponents changing their stance and — not only setting aside their differences in order to work together — but actually developing a genuine friendship.
Now, here’s the question for us today: Are you seeking relationship with your opponents? Is there someone that you’re currently clashing with? Someone who doesn’t share your beliefs, someone who maybe has been snarky to you in the past — even trolled you, the way that Bono trolled Bush senior? Are you seeking genuine relationship with this opponent?
Or is it more important for you to win the argument. To just tell it like it is? Because, you know what… in your opinion, there’s a lot of snowflakes out there, a lot of idiots. And hey, the truth hurts to people like that! And so you’re thinking, “I just take the truth and shove it right down their throats… and how they react is on them, man!” Is that you?
Friends, I sincerely hope that you’re seeking genuine relationship with your opponents. That if you have non-believing friends, who are perhaps pro-abortion or pro-lgbt, or Mormon, or Jehovah’s Witness, I really hope you’re seeking relationship with these people. Not so you can soft-pedal the truth or avoid areas of disagreement altogether, but so that you can disagree in a manner that will cause your friends to really consider and take to heart what you say to them.
Because if you’re not doing that, if you’re “punching back twice as hard” because you think that’s the best way to get your message across to these people… then the Bible says you’re doing it wrong, ladies and gentlemen. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:19-20, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law… that I might win those under the law.
Notice what Paul is NOT saying here: To the Jews I became a troll so that I could destroy Jews and win the argument! To the Greeks, you know what, I hit those snowflakes with a truth bomb — because I’m all about that Thug Life apologetics. No, friends. He said the exact opposite. And he said it for a reason.
Nobody is going to change their minds because you trolled them hard enough or slapped them with the perfect meme, or because your sarcasm was particularly biting, or because your laughter and mockery of them was particularly persuasive. All of those moves will simply entrench your opponent deeper into their own views. This is why the Bible says to make a defense “with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” This is why Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28).
And this is why we keep advocating to build relationship FIRST. And not because it’s a mere means to conversion… because that’s not genuine relationship. Genuine, authentic relationship can produce a change of heart for those who are initially opposed to our Christian worldview. I am speaking from personal experience. It has happened time and again with students in my classes; and it can happen for you as well. We just have to reject this very current 21st-century American, political mindset, that our opponents are idiots and snowflakes and they need to be slapped upside the head with truth.
I think the story of Bush and Bono show us that authentic relationship is the key to turning an opponent into an ally. And that only happens when you build trust and relationship first, and when you respect and affirm the person you’re talking to. These are the principles of First Date Evangelism, seek relationship with your opponents! Respect and affirm the person you’re talking to, and you will stand out from the crowd and be persuasive communicators of faith in today’s kind of culture.