There was a time when I was argumentative.
There will be some of you who say “like right now? Like always?”
To which is say “I’m getting better.”
I like to debate and discuss. There is however a trend in how we in the church talk and debate that’s troubling me.
So many arguments or “discussions” I see in meetings stem less from a difference of ideas as they do from choosing to not talk about that actual idea. It’s talked around and implied but so rarely is it ever just directly addressed. In some instances its an accident. Neither person involved realizes that they are really having a different discussion.
But not ever time.
It’s these other times that are far more insidious. When rather than talk about the real subject we shroud it. We cover up what we’re really saying.
The church is an expert at this. We are direct, passionate and assured. The problem is so many times we aren’t really that clear what on earth we are talking about.
I think the biggest point of contention and divide are not about the topics but more about the deeper and unsaid implication of the topic. Worst of all, we often convoluted or hide our true topic by drawing people into the mix. We hide behind fears, expectations and stereotypes of people, using their prototypes as surrogates for good discussion. We attack people rather than discuss an idea.
And we do it a lot.
How the church chooses to interact with LGBTQ community is a big topic in church circles. But I’d argue in many instances the argument isn’t about the LGBTQ community. It’s a front for the real discussion.
The real discussion is how do we read the bible.
It’s a discussion of nuance and interpretation. It’s an attempt to understand how we work with the book and allow it helps us see who Jesus is and live like him. That statement is itself and interpretation and speaks to how I read the bible.
This is a good and necessary discussion. The problem with how it’s had is that rather than talk about how we read and live out the bible we talk about people. Rather than start with how both sides hold a deep reverence for the bible and are honestly struggling to be authentic to its purpose and live out its life giving teachings, we start with a people group.
We put real living, breathing, feeling people at the heart of our discussion. We let a people group become the argument. We use people as pawns and pieces to move around a board. We stop treating them like people. We talk about people as if they aren’t hearing us. We use people as chips to gain favour or build monsters in others eyes to make a point.
We make it personal. We make it not a discussion about an idea but a direct comment on who your mother, brother, sister or partner is. What they are or are not. And rarely do we paint them in a light that reflects their God given image.
We all realize there are implications to what we’re doing when we talk about theology. But it’s reckless to run to those implications and back people into a corner.
“Ohhhh so you just don’t love people then?”
“Ohhhh so you probably ok with stoning people then too?”
“Ohhhh so you don’t love Jesus is what your saying?”
“Ohhhh so you don’t really believe the Bible then?”
We’re all struggling to figure out how this works and we need each other to push and help us grow. We are talking about opinions and interpretations. But then we take these opinions and interpretations and place the entire weight of God and the bible behind our interpretation and opinions.
No wonder people get hurt.
And I don’t think our goal is to hurt people. It’s to be faithful and reverent and true to what we understand God to have taught. But we aren’t doing that when we create “others” in our community. We aren’t doing that when we speak into situations and experience we haven’t had and can’t understand. We aren’t doing that when we act as the arbiter of justice holding the final and true list of sin and the punishment that will come with it.
Accountability and the struggle to be more Christ like are deeply foundational to becoming a good follower of Christ. But when we put really, hurting people in the middle we don’t help the discussion or our discipleship. We only damage relationships and continue to ostracize and oppress. When we talk about people not with people we continue to hold tight to our position of power rather than step back be a servant to them, dying to ourselves.
We aren’t talking about the LGBTQ community, or wealth, or divorce, or whatever wildly specific item we want to argue about.
We’re arguing about how we read and live out the bible.
I’m sure we can do this without other, hurting, hating and breaking people.