I want to expand a bit on a post I made on Facebook yesterday by tying it together with what I see as a larger cultural issue that has unwittingly seeped into the Church unopposed. Those of you who frequent this blog may not know that I get into some theological debates online and they can (and do) become very heated at times. It came to my attention through a debate companion and friend that someone who had been watching these debates between us ‘Christian brothers and sisters’ asked, “Why are you all acting like male genitalia to each other?”, which doesn’t make much logical sense, but I understood the sentiment.
A few thoughts immediately came to mind. The first, as Jesus taught, was to do an honest self examination (a subject I have written about previously). Is there any legitimacy to this? Is the Holy Spirit using this to convict me of sin and draw me to repentance? After a thorough self examination and heartfelt repentance before God, I began to look at the larger context in which this issue occurred.
The squishy postmodern thought-culture we live in detests debate. It detests discord and disagreement. It sounds noble, but it’s a strong shove down a slippery slope. It’s why we can’t label our discussions ‘debates.’ We have to call them ‘conversations.’ Because if we have ‘debates,’ then people disagree and their feelings get hurt…and then they blog. In this pomo thought-culture, the methods used to reach conclusions, the conclusions themselves, and even the abstract ideas that someone has are so closely associated with their identity that if anyone began to question any of them, it’s tantamount to questioning them personally and will be met with a hearty, “How dare you!” In PomoLand, everything is an ad hominem and disagreements are equated with the harshest judgment. But, despite their fancies, the pomos have a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of rhetoric and the exchange of ideas. A disagreement regarding principles, methods, or conclusions need not be a dividing wedge that prevents further dialogue. On the contrary, it should be the catalyst that spurs us onto truth!
While basic communication breakdowns are occurring across the country because of the squishyness mentioned above, that’s not why this is so concerning. What is unsettling to me is this thought process has found a wide-open door in our churches among brothers and sisters in Christ. Not only can we not disagree with anyone outside the Church without being called mean spirited or judgmental, but now we can’t disagree inside the Church without being accused of “not being very Christlike.” This has resulted in my palm’s reintroduction to my forehead innumerable times.
All of this pomo nonsense doesn’t prevent people from disagreeing. It simply prevents them from discussing why they disagree, to what degree they disagree, or the specifics of their disagreement. It does nothing to address the problem. The ‘solution’ is on par with the ‘solution’ a toddler concocts. Something along the lines of, “If I close my eyes, cover my ears, and hum real loud, it will all go away.”
The reality is we are going to disagree and we are going to have debates and we are going to have tough conversations. Let me submit that there are a few things we Christians need to learn when the feces and the fan inevitably interface.
As Christians, we need to learn…
…to give one another the benefit of the doubt, making sure that our comments and questions are laced with grace from beginning to end. This means putting the safety on our guns, taking our finger off the trigger, and not flying off the handle when someone misunderstands, misinterprets, or mischaracterizes our views. A gentle answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1), and it was Christ’s gentle answer in the form of His loving kindness that has led us to repentance (Romans 2:4). So it should be in our interactions with a brother or sister in Christ who has received the same grace upon grace given to us (John 1:16).
…that our aim is to understand more than to be understood (Proverbs 18:2). No one needs to win, lose, or back down, because that’s not the primary purpose.
…how to model for our fellow brothers and sisters in the audience honorable, grace filled, humble disagreement that includes forgiveness, apologies, and possible concessions when necessary.
…how to model for our unbelieving neighbors, friends, and family in the audience honest, open, grace filled dialogue about difficult issues revealing 1) that Christians aren’t a bunch of culturally irrelevant rednecks who make their own overalls and sing “Kumbaya” in their ‘Rapture Bunker’ in the basement, 2) that Christians need not resort to ad hominems and low-minded mudslinging, 3) that people who love God, love Jesus, love the Bible, and love the Church can disagree on non-essentials and still love one another and everything on aforementioned list.
…that when this is all done well, it’s worth sticking it out and staying at the table as long as possible, not only for your benefit, but for the benefit of those in the audience.
If Christ really is Lord over all our lives, then He should also be Lord over our disagreements and debates and we should seek to honor Him in those as much as we seek to honor him in our eating, our drinking, and whatever else we do (1 Cor. 10:31).
This is Christianity.