Thanks to the Internet, it's likely that something theologian Os Guinness said Tuesday night on the Kansas University campus will reach someone - somewhere in another part of the world - who will be offended.
"We are speaking and we are listening to others speak all around the world," Guinness said.
That aspect of modern-day life - what Guinness calls the "global public square" - was one of the issues he covered in a speech to more than 400 people in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union.
Guinness said that in a time marked by culture wars, religious violence and "exploding pluralism," it's becoming more important for humans to learn to live together despite religious and ideological differences.
"It's going to be one of the key issues that affects the future of humanity," Guinness said.
Guinness is a Christian theologian, lecturer and author of 20 books who is of Irish descent but lives in Virginia.
He said his purpose Tuesday was not to argue for Christianity. Instead, he offered a challenge to audience members: to help the American experiment succeed, in part through promoting "tough, robust debate" about ideas and beliefs. It's critical, he said, for Americans to try to persuade others to their most deeply held beliefs rather than to coerce them.
"We have fundamental differences that are incredibly important, and they needed to be debated," Guinness said.
As part of the ongoing lecture series "Difficult Dialogues at The Commons," Christian theologian Os Guinness will take part in a discussion at 10 a.m. today at Kansas University's Hall Center for the Humanities conference hall. The series is a joint venture of the Hall Center and the Biodiversity Institute. Tuesday's speech was co-sponsored by Kansas Public Radio.
He said leaders of both sides in America's culture wars aren't debating each other and instead are "talking about the other side to their own side."
He criticized the Christian right and suggested that the push for a Christian-oriented state at the expense of other religions actually is causing more Americans to reject Christianity.
"They have no public philosophy," he said. "They have no vision of the common good. : They're producing the very rejection they fear."
Guinness said discussion of religion in the public arena should not center on which religion is true or correct; instead, it should focus on the implications of everyone being able to have his or her own beliefs.
"The right to believe anything does not mean that anything anyone believes is right," he said.
That's a point that resonated with audience member Greg Urban, a 20-year-old KU junior from Broken Arrow, Okla.
"You can't put the Bible against the Quran and say one's better than the other," he said.
Philip Baringer, a KU professor of physics and astronomy, said he thought Guinness was a dynamic speaker. Baringer attended in part because he's been involved in debates about the teaching of intelligent design in classrooms - a topic that's put Kansas in the international spotlight in recent years. Baringer said Guinness' call for civility hit home.
"People don't know how to give an argument," he said. "They just give put-downs."
Guinness' speech, co-sponsored by Kansas Public Radio, was part of an ongoing lecture series dubbed "Difficult Dialogues at The Commons." The Commons is a joint venture of KU's Hall Center for the Humanities and the Biodiversity Institute.
Guinness will take part in a dialogue at 10 a.m. todayat the Hall Center's conference hall.