John Backman is on the board of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation and creator of The Dialogue Venture. He writes extensively on contemporary spirituality and its ability to help us dialogue across divides. Backman is an associate in the Order of the Holy Cross, a community of Benedictine Episcopal monasteries in North America and South Africa.
What is dialogue? Backman's favorite definition comes from Robert Apato, a retired professor and eminent dialogist: "The function of dialogue is to bring people together as friends in the shared exploration of the truth of an issue." He then unpacks this term even more: it's sharing, exploring, aiming for the truth, and involves self-transcendence. Dialogue is not debate, negotiation, conversation, or persuasion.
Backman sees Jesus and St. Paul as compassionate peacemakers who model dialogue as a habit of the heart. He discusses some of the obstacles to this activity: black-and-white thinking, fear of change, giving in to distractions, and capitulating to negative impressions of others. Dialogue is medicine for the soul that engenders humility, openness to others, and freedom. Best of all, it is a timely resource for living in an age of multifaith interaction. Why Can't We Talk? is tailor-made for small discussion groups, and Backman helps you get started with "For Your Consideration" section at the end of each chapter.