I shouldn’t do it and I know I shouldn’t, but much like the allure of the possibility of seeing a wreck at a NASCAR event, I read emergent blog comments well after the posting turns into an us-vs.-them argument.
For example, in a resent posting by Emergent, called “Our Response to Critics of Emergent” someone said in regards to the tone of the message that the response was “…PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE. This statement is no different than everything heard before. The underlying sentiment is that the critics are narrow-minded, selective legalists and misguided dinosaurs. Nice try, Slippery, Slimey Emergent! You fool only those entranced by your poetically smiley luster. Soothsayers!”
Now, can someone tell me how this is suppose to convince me of Herold’s point of view. It seems that he has nothing but contempt for those in the emergent “camp”(divisive terminology), to the point that one feels like Herold is communicating that we who identify ourselves as emergent are all just lost, minions of the dark one, and deserve nothing from true Christians but contempt. Perhaps I am reading too much into his retort, but terms like “legalist”, “misguided” “slimey” and “soothsayers” make me feel attacked and that he sees me as his enemy, as if I am someone to be fought and destroyed rather then someone created in the image of God who God loves dearly.
Of course biases is cemented when another responses, “Very, very well said and stated, Emergent fellows…very, very, very sad words from the “other” side professing Jesus as Lord…when will so-called followers of Jesus ever learn that their vitriolic responses, their “name withheld” e-mail boxes, and their weak theological stances simply do nothing more than betray their supposed allegiances to Jesus, the Risen One?”
In my mind this is an attacking statement also. The “other side” and “supposed allegiances to Jesus”? How do divisive statements like that do anything but widen riffs between people? Hiding venom in an academic sounding response does nothing to but threaten people and send them seeking for protection in numbers. We end up huddling amidst likeminded people that affirm our beliefs but do not call into account our understandings and convictions, creating this “other side” mentality.
Maybe I am being too harsh here but is there not room in the body of Christ for discussion of these differing points of view that could lead to better understanding of each other as well as of God, whom we both serve? Is there no room for civil behavior in an open conversation? Is there no room for choosing our words so as not to purposely wound? Is there no room to receive wisdom in the multitude on counsel or to speak the truth in love? Is there no room to assume the earnest conviction of another point of view rather then the assumption that these ideas are purposely misleading, steeped in deception and narrow-mindedness?
If “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things*”, then what right do we have not to be generous in our conversation?
If I say that I have come to believe that full-water emersion baptism of the adult professing believer is something that God calls all Christians to do, some would say that I think, in turn, that those who disagree with me are less biblically literate, not able to understand what is written in the bible as well as I, are not guided in interpretation by the Holy Spirit as closely as I am, and/or are perhaps even deceived or practicing deception. Why cannot I just have a conviction based on the evidence as I see it without having to make all these other base assumptions about people that hold a differing view? Even if I have considered other lines of thinking on the matter and have decided not embrace them, why must it mean that I have to reject individuals that do? If we truly have the same Spirit in us then, by faith in God, our doctrines should work themselves out. Mostly though, it seems in arguments like these we are more likely to assume the worst about someone who disagrees with us on a point rather then give them the benefit of a doubt.
Is it because our faith feels more grounded if we can convince others of the truth of it? If so, where is the root of our faith, in God or in the people that we can convince to believe the same?
Is it because we have come to love our doctrines and expressions of faith over God Himself? It is not unheard of for people to embrace this processes that God has given to bring us closer to Him as an idol.
Is it that we just find it easier to believe in what we are told by those we trust rather then learning the truth of it for ourselves? I have done this myself, looking to someone to teach me in the way of God and totally forgetting and disregarding that God can instruct me Himself by the Holy Spirit. Come to think of it, I have done the opposite also.
Perhaps we need to examine this compelling need to be right and what it is that is within us to attack those who disagree with those items that we have a compelling need to be right in. Do we fight so strongly for our convictions because we are champions of truth or is there something dark in us that cannot stand the thought of being perceived by others as being wrong?
What set this all off for me was that term passive-aggressive as it was used by Herold. As if trying to take into consideration another person’s feelings when forming and argument is simply just another way to attack that person without sounding like it is cynical beyond defense.
I think we need a lot more civility, honest reflection and, yes, even open-mindedness in the church if we ever truly going to live up the high calling that Jesus prayed for us, “The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind — Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them, so they’ll be as unified and together as we are — I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, And give the godless world evidence That you’ve sent me and loved them In the same way you’ve loved me.**”
* 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 (NASB)
** John 17:21-23 (NASB)