Monday, October 22, 2012

I Disagree = I Hate You

Over the last few months, I have become more and more frustrated with division in the Church. It seems that even within the most accepting Christian communities, disunity finds it's way in, stakes a claim and develops a stronghold. The roots dig deep and are unyielding to movement. In the effort of creating open and accepting communities, we sometimes produce just the opposite. Conservative Christ followers open their doors of acceptance to "seekers", allowing them the honor of joining their "open" community, but only if you develop the same mindset. Come as you are, but only if you leave as we are.

Conversely, liberal Christian churches are just as guilty, creating an atmosphere of tolerance but only remaining tolerant if you agree with each and every aspect of their particular theology.  Rather than unity in the Church, we end up with a chaotic mess of anger and division that is hardly what Christ had in mind from the beginning.   

I try to remain as neutral as possible, realizing that we all have something to contribute to the mix. I love the words of a pastor that I used to work with who when asked about his political views said, "I love the idealism of the democrats and the pragmatism of the republicans and hate the hypocrisy of both." Rather than choosing sides, I try to see the inherent good in all people and celebrate that. By the same token, I despise hypocrisy and will point it out, regardless of theological beliefs or political ideology.  Being fairly outspoken and opinionated, I tend to get attacked from both sides. I suppose that makes me an equal opportunity offender.

When looking at divisions in the Church, I always go back to Paul's interaction with the Stoics and Epicureans at the Aeropagus in Athens. (See Acts 17:16-34)  I suppose you could classify Paul as the Conservative Fundamentalist, and the philosophers as the spiritual seekers, maybe Universalists.  Maybe just Rob Bell followers. Had to stick that one in there!  :)  I actually love Rob Bell.  But either way, Paul is presenting the truths of Christ to a group of people with very different beliefs; the antithesis of the truths that Paul is defending.  In essence, he's asking them to reject their pluralistic philosophy and beliefs, and embrace a very narrow view of theology.  Both parties had ample opportunity to begin throwing stones, especially the Athenians who were more threatened that Paul.  Division could have developed and the discussion shut down before it even began.

But something refreshing happens at the end of this discourse. Paul finishes saying what he has to say, making clear the truths of God and his belief in the resurrection through Christ. "When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” At that, Paul left the Council." (Acts 17:32 & 33)  

We see three interesting things in this small verse that I think can help all of us avoid some of the divisions that inundate faith communities from time to time.

1. Face it. There will always exist people that firmly and angrily disagree with you, and from time to time, you will respond with anger to those who disagree with you. (some of them sneered)  It's going to happen. We're all messed up people. Let us do the best we can to keep our hearts open and loving toward one another.  "Love one another" leaves no room for hate. (John 13)

2. Dialogue can continue, even when we adamantly disagree. "We want to hear you again on this subject." Translation: I respect your views and beliefs. I love you and would love to talk again sometime. I'll buy the coffee! 

3. Change the subject! End it! When disagreements arise and come to a stalemate, we need to learn to leave it alone for a while.  "At that, Paul left the Council."  None of us are ever going to agree on everything and it's impossible to change someone views just by a simple conversation. That's a good thing!  We all don't have to share the same beliefs in order to celebrate community together.  Disagreements do not have to equate to anger or hatred. 

Let us learn to to rejoice in what we agree on, but also celebrate our difference as well.  The journey of life and faith would be a pretty boring if we all walked upon the same path.  


Monday, October 15, 2012

Random Observation

Random observation: Kids are the most curious of human being.

I'm a people watcher. Especially when plagued with writer's block, I can spend hours observing people and their interactions with one another. I also enjoy listening to conversations. Not eavesdropping, but just overhearing casual dialogue that occurs naturally in common gathering places. It's amazing at how much can be mirrored about culture by just spending a few hours in Starbucks.

Random observation: As a whole, most people have no self-awareness.  

Random observation: You can learn a lot about people by what they carve into wooden tables.

Observing others is a strange thing. Lives intersect on cultural roads and inadvertently beg for their personal significance to outweigh the other.  When you think about it, we all stand on level playing field and all evolve from the same spiritual cloth. Some of us have connected to the natural beat of life, and some of us miss it. Not by chance, but by quite natural urges. I wonder how this coincides with God's divine order of life and why such a dichotomy seems to exist. Did God ordain us to rhythmically interact on common ground, but we deviate on our own accord, distended to collide with others that deviate as well?

Random observation: Most people don't care.

Random observation: The truth has nothing to do with the reality around us.

Random observation: The man sitting next to me looks exactly like Alfred Hitchcock dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, running shorts and Topsiders.
As we journey through life, attuned to the path set before each of us, and intersecting as we go along, we long for connection. Connection to community to a natural longing that is embedded in each one of our spirits. Connection is a natural urge that we want to embrace, but often suppress because of certain social standards and misconceptions.  Usually, quite often in fact, we never really receive what we long for from others. Our desires often go unfulfilled.

Random observation: Whenever I see elderly ladies, I miss my grandmother.

Random observation: The further I move from "Church", the closer I feel to God.

When we push against the grain, finally producing what we want, we naturally may receive what we perceive as connection, but usually it pales in comparison to what we essentially longed for originally. Inevitably, when we fail to connect with others, we feel a disconnect with God as well. And this is one of the greatest mistakes that we make in our spiritual lives. When we attribute human characteristics to God, ignoring the divine, we actually set God up as being flawed. What we tend to forget is that within God lies only perfection. We screw up far to many relationships because of our own selfishness and failures. Let us not lump God into that category as well.          

Random observation: I sometimes hate the music that is forcefully pumped into my head at Starbucks.

Random observation: Just because we call it "community", doesn't mean it is.