How do we deal with disagreements? I mean disagreements that goes deeper than:
- Person A: We should have pizza for dinner. Person B: No. Salad.
- I think Phantom Menace is the best Star Wars movie (said no one. Ever.)
- I think Batman is better Superman.
- Lebron will never be better than Michael Jordan. (… actually, that one is a pretty deep disagreement…)
How do we deal with disagreements when it comes to the church? Or differences in faith and theology? One church that I know excludes them from the community. Dissenters are shown scriptures of why they are wrong and they are “excommunicated” from that community.
Actually to an extent, that’s how most churches respond, ain’t it? Sometimes the disagreer leaves because they’re frustrated. Most of the times, they feel the pressure to leave, whether the pressure is out in the open or one’s made to feel uncomfortable. I mean, we religious folks are the masters of muttering and really good at making one feel uncomfortable.
Take a look at this tweet: https://twitter.com/johnpiper/status/41590656421863424
That was because one Christian author wrote a book that another Christian author found disagreeable. And the response? “Farewell.” You are no longer welcomed in… the (Christian) world? What was Rob Bell getting kicked out of…? We want people to be like-minded. We say we have room for discussions and disagreements and questions and doubts. But in the end, fear of the differences, questions, and doubts are too big to handle.
So while we tout “like-mindedness” what we aim for is same-mindedness. We want everyone to believe the exact same thing. We want everyone to think the same thing. We want everyone to vote for the same politicians and policies. We want everyone to read the same Christian authors and writers. We want everyone to watch the same (appropriate) shows and listen to the same (appropriate) music. (it sort of reminds me of this Far Side comic… except the Penguin is singing, “I gotta be… just like everyone else!”) And you may call me crazy. That I may be. But I suspect you know what I’m talking about.
Here’s the thing — when we strive for same-mindedness, we’re not striving for a community — we’re striving to become a cult. All that’s missing is that we’re not wearing the same thing. If you’re surrounded with people who think exactly like you, believe exactly like you, and most of the time, look exactly like you — you just might be in a cult.
Disagreements has always been part of the Christian faith. From Peter and Jesus. Paul and Peter. Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Corinthians. Paul and Galatians. Paul and James. Paul and Greeks. Paul and Jews. Paul and… well, you get the point. Paul was sort of a … jerk.
But fear has a great propensity to take over the driver’s seat. And really, it’s because of fear we don’t allow people who are too different from us to be part of our community. We’re afraid to lose the world we have constructed through our life time.
It’s easier to be afraid of Muslims and label them dangerous instead of being a good neighbor.
It’s easier to be afraid of the LGBT community and call them abominations than befriending a person.
It’s easier to be afraid of the African-American community and call them thugs and jobless when they riot instead of trying to get to the heart of their actions — to see why they’re so angry instead of dismissing their anger and applying a “one size fits all” prescription of “get a job.”
It’s easier to point out how much we differ from one another than understand that we just might have more in common. While I’m not quite advocating for chaos in the form of diversity (which, I think is a good problem to have. Or maybe I’m saying that because I’ve never experienced it), I’m saying that sometimes we tend to want everyone in the church to think like us, believe like us, vote like us, and look like us.
And that might not be the best thing. We shouldn’t be afraid of differences. I’m inclined to believe that it’ll only make us stronger. …
But… if you are in the camp that believes that Phantom Menace is the best Star Wars film… “Farewell.”