‘the doctrine of the incarnation contains at its heart the divine welcome of the Other; and embodying that same welcome is at the heart of our obedient response to God’s grace. the God who is for us and with us in jesus christ incites us, by the work of the spirit, to be for and with one another.’
–william stacy johnson
it’s been a rough week in the blogosphere.
so many of the church’s words and so much of its demeanor concerning people with whom we disagree (in doctrine or practice) are profoundly contrary to what the gospel proclaims.
i’ve been following a handful of discussions in the past week, each from different perspectives on various topics that led me to a similar (and familiar) conclusion ::
• tony jones asking for women to speak up created quite a stir on his blog. he was praised by some and attacked by others, had his intellect challenged and was repeatedly called defensive. from my perspective, tony responded quite graciously, despite his well established ‘brand’ of provocation and argumentation.
yet that didn’t stop his readers from going toe-to-toe in the comments.
• another article forwarded to me by a friend made a point of saying name calling is used in disagreements simply to discredit others without ‘carefully considering a fellow believer’s contentions’.
the author then proceeded to do just that in his post, questioning the motives and integrity of his adversaries across the aisle.
• yet another series of posts from timothy dalrymple posed the question ‘is it time for evangelicals to stop opposing gay marriage?’ – maintaining a (staunchly!) traditional and conservative theological position on the subject, only to be met with hundreds of dissenting comments – some denouncing tim for even approaching the topic.
so here’s my conclusion ::
there is an ever-increasing need for peaceful and productive dialogue with those with whom we disagree, without declaring them anathema. but when disputes dissolve to name-calling or include demonizing and polarizing language, these disagreements can unintentionally lead opposing worldviews toward hatred and disrespect.
both conservatives and progressives are guilty of this collapse in conversation. to be sure, this discourse goes both ways. there are angry birds on both the right and the left .
i just don’t see the polarizing, back-and-forth rhetoric very helpful.
the truth of the matter is we struggle to ‘put skin’ on the words and message of jesus with anyone who thinks differently than us.
and yet, that is precisely what took place in the incarnation. rather than losing our civility in the dialogue, perhaps it would behoove us as followers of christ to welcome and embrace even those with whom we may disagree. perhaps, one might suggest, the very act of solidarity with the marginalized and the Other-ed can serve as an act of worship and obedience as we love our neighbor as ourselves.
too often, we demand conformity prior to connection. yet when we approach one another as brothers and sisters – image bearers of the God we claim to serve – and celebrate the humanity which we hold in common, we better position ourselves toward peaceful and productive dialogue in the midst of disagreement.
i wonder if we have a better chance of living out our calling as agents of reconciliation if we not only tolerate diversity but actually welcome disagreement – seeing it as a necessary part of healthy and robust dialogue, acknowledging that opposing points of view bring about a prism of perspective which can potentially open the door to a deeper, richer and more full understanding of our own.
what do you think?