Filling my gas tank yesterday, I heard a bird singing the most incredible repertoire. Shrill whistles, clicks, trills, and melodies tumbled out of this bird’s throat in a riot of sound. And he was good — sounding just like the original birds whose songs he imitated. I could’ve sworn that bird was a wild canary, a meadowlark, or even a parakeet, except for the fact that he didn’t stay with any one bird song for long. He gave my wife and me a tumultuous medley of sound bytes, none more than 3 or 4 seconds long.

I couldn’t tell whether this was a mockingbird, a gackle, or something else because he sang no song of his own. Instead he had practiced to a high degree of perfection the songs of every other fowl he’d heard.

Some Christians are like that — including some very learned Christians. Instead of reflecting upon their own experience or their own reading of Scripture, they mimick the faith of every believer or professed believer who strikes their fancy. So their faith narratives are cacophonies of imitation, leaving us to guess what kind of theological birds they really are.

One could argue that’s better than the “Johnny One Note” song that some Christians sing. They have one message to give to the world and, no, it’s not the message of the gospel. It’s a message of inerrancy, second-blessing holiness, pacifism, or any of a thousand other “-isms.” (Ever notice how such a person tries to bring the conversation round to his/her favorite point of view…and keep it there? Start talking about the mechanics of a salt-water acquarium and within 5 minutes they’ll be making their case against infant baptism.)

In this world, with all of our limitations, none of us knows everything. Even though some of us speak as though we do.

So this is a plea for respectful, reasonable dialogue among Christians — a plea for genuine conversation, not merely parroting what we’ve heard others say or endlessly looping our own favorite message. Let’s say what we really think, unafraid to confess when our thoughts are ambiguous or contradictory. Let’s hear what others are really saying about their faith and engage constructively with it. I believe the result would be transformative. Connective. Spirit-led.