Christ

The Christian Dilemma of Disagreement

Do you remember your first time? I do. A bet a lot of Christians do. There’s nothing like the first time, the one where you expose everything and… share a theological stance when—worst case scenario—the ear on the other side of the table disagrees with you.

Disagrees? Can Christians do that? Should Christians do that?

My First Time

I’ve gotten better, since my first time that is. I remember it well. I was in youth group, in high school, and the hot topic of teenage dating came up. I argued for it; he argued against it. I hated him. Well no, but he was the type of Christian who always seemed to think the opposite of what I was thinking. I’ve grown to cherish people like this—because, well, it seems that everyone disagrees with me these days—but back then, I couldn’t really handle it.

I remember feeling so caught off guard, I didn’t know what to do. One of us is right, I would think, which means God is against one of us—obviously, not me. 

Processing disagreement has less to do with spirituality and more to do with maturity. At some point we become adults and our emotions dwindle down a bit. We learn to listen and smile—even when we feel like calling someone Mr. Poopy Pants.

For some reason though, spiritual arguments exist on a different level. Our beliefs are very special to us. We’re allowed to have political arguments, sports arguments, American Idol arguments, but when we disagree over spiritual arguments, we take real offense.

Offense/Defense

The reason we take great offense to spiritual disagreements is because we associate God with our beliefs. If I’m wrong then God is wrong then there is no God. I would argue that this is not healthy; however, we have all done it.

I’ve had to learn this lesson many times over. I remember singing along to the mewithoutYou classic song, “Four Part Letter Pt. 2” where the singer yells, “We don’t want our beliefs, God of peace, we want you.” I would sing along and think I knew what that meant. Then I would get into an argument over salvation and walk away with my faith shaken.

If we are one body, if there is one God, if there is one truth, why are we disagreeing so much? 

Our beliefs are not God, but we associate God with our beliefs.

A Dull Stab

Since I chose (yes chose) the route of becoming a slightly left leaning, emergent apologetic Christian—I’m only labeling myself, which I hate doing, for the sake of this blog post—I’ve signed up for my fair share of disagreements. To make things worse, I also dislike the majority of whatever the church does these days. There are other things, but you get the point. I’ve signed myself up for a lot flak.

I’ve grown a pretty thick skin, and I’ve also matured a bit. At the end of the day, regarding our spirituality, we are all just taking stabs. Some use a duller knife than others, yes. But we are all just taking stabs.

There are few things the Bible maps out for us very clearly. Most topics in scripture, however, are meant for a life of meditation, reflection, conversation, and argumentation. We are not meant to have the answer to every question in our pocket, not yet at least.

Is there predestination? Are homosexuals allowed in Heaven? Is there even a Hell—in regards to how we currently think of it? Is church suppose to be how it currently is? And yes, have we made a mess of worship?

We may get the answer in Heaven; we may not care when we get there. What I’ve learned is that it’s okay to ask; it’s okay to argue; we should expect disagreement from one another. Argument proceeds understanding and develops our faith.

Listen, learn, and share what’s in your heart! Be mindful and understand that God speaks to other people as well. Also, you are allowed to be wrong. I do it all the time.

Questions to Argue

1. Have you ever had a spiritual argument that shook your faith?

2. Is there danger in equating God with beliefs (denomination, translation, political views, etc.)? Or should they be one in the same? Is that even possible?

3. If we learn to disagree—to listen and respond in grace—could the Body build a tighter bond?

Life in the Spiritual Fast Lane

Spiritual fasting. What do you think about it? Does it intrigue you? Personally, the thought of it makes me hungry, a bad sign. Fasting is definitely not my strong suit.

Recently, I read Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse. The second book of Hesse’s I’ve read, and admittedly my first on Buddhism, Siddhartha follows a fictional character (paralleling the real Siddhartha Gautama) who throughout his life searches for oneness and truth.

My upbringing has taught me to read all non-Christian, even non-evangelical, religious material with a filter. This filter acts less like a screen door and more like an actual door. Closed all the time.

As I’ve aged in spirit and body, I’ve come to realize that much can be learned from other religions. We all yearn for God. If a life-long monk wanted to take me out for coffee, or better yet, donuts, then you can bet I would take his offer. I’d probably even have to pay and I would still take his offer. I love donuts. I love talking about God with donuts.

This theoretical monk has spent his life learning to fast, learning to think, learning to be less. I would love to hear his insight, wouldn’t you? Just because religious roads differ, this doesn’t mean travelers can’t bump into each other every now and then. And get donuts.

Consumerism, Buddhism, & Ism-ism

Fasting was never pushed on me. I’m not blaming anyone else for my ignorance towards it, but let’s just say that the culture I grew up in simply didn’t value it. “It’s more of an Eastern thing,” I would hear or, “Just don’t tell any one about it.”

Regardless of how I got here, I’m here now. I believe that Americans have much to gain from learning to fast.

Our eyes have been purchased by the cinema of must-have.

Our hearts foster inward desires over the outward love of Christ.

Our bodies sleep best in a commonplace of complacency.

What if consumerism was just another powerless foe? What if we could break the paradigm? I wonder about a world where Western Christians could chose others before themselves, every day, with every dollar and every minute.

In the book, the young adult Siddhartha wishes to go into business with a merchant. The merchant asks Siddhartha what he can do. Siddhartha replies, “I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”

“… fasting, what good does it do?”

This is my favorite part:

It is very good, sir. If a person has nothing to eat, then fasting is the wisest thing he can do. If, for instance, Siddhartha had not learned how to fast, he would have to accept any service today, whether with you or with someone else, for hunger would force him to do so. But now Siddhartha can simply wait, he knows no impatience, he knows no plight. He can stave off hunger for a long time and he can laugh at it. That, sir, is what fasting is good for.

So what do you think, is it time Westerners start fasting? Can we still have donuts? Since I’m new to this whole thing, I hope to learn one or two things in the comments.

The Folly of Academic Faith

A couple nights ago, one of my best friends sent me a text:

I was reading 1st Corinthians the other night and came across one of my favorite verses… it reminds me a lot of you and what I think is a major message you are tying to get across to other Christians.

He had my attention. Finding myself in scripture? I’ve given up on that. I find God; I find ancient people with worn stories. I find context and complexity. I don’t find myself.

I used to, but not anymore.

A side-effect of embracing the academic faith? No doubt. My spiritual journey of debates and alternate perspectives is what I know now.

Why would I be in scripture? I don’t need that any more.

The next text came through and my eyes filled with tears.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but a croaking, rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

I hesitated sharing this. Have I accomplished this? No way. Has anyone? Probably not.

We don’t find ourselves in scripture, but scripture finds us. It speaks to us. It grabs us and leads us. Scripture reveals the bits and pieces of us that God is shaping.

My friend Scott thought of me when he read this passage of Paul. I was honored, yet felt more like an impostor. I’m no man of love; more often than not, I fall into the “croaking, rusty gate” category.

My attitudes as of late… I think I’ve lost my way.

The Folly of Academic Faith

In these moments, I’m reminded of the folly of academic faith. We get so wrapped up in ideas. We get wrapped up in our heads, in ourselves. Beautiful simplicity—all too often, we forget it.

This last year I’ve been obsessed with meanings: Heaven, Hell, gay marriage, politics, gender roles, you get the idea.

It’s been rewarding—I would say I prefer it—though I must be cautious.

The academic faith. It’s a door to a man-made mansion with rooms added daily. We’ll never fully explore it, nor will we ever find our way back. Unless, of course, we mark our steps with love.

A warning to all of you like me. Though we yearn for debates and arguments, and we feel as if we must always dive to the bottom of every issue and search endlessly for every solution, we must not forget love.

Thank you Scott for sending me those kind words, and the wonderful reminder.

Signed,

 

A Modern Day Pharisee. 

Is the Church a Boys Club?

This weekend we visited some friends in the Bay Area of California. Overlooking the Palace of Fine Arts, we sat in the park and talked faith, church, Star Wars… typical Christian stuff. Most important here, we discussed the roles of women in the church.

My wife, as well as my friend’s girlfriend, had some great wisdom to give. Their perspectives were shared with both frustration and grace. Women are battling issues in the church that men can’t even begin to understand.

(Hey boys!) Have you ever thought about the complexities of being a girl in the church? Do me a favor, next time you go, give every woman you see a high five.

They deserve it.

Since I am a man, I feel that I can solve this issue with a single blog post.

Girlie Stuff

My childhood church was definitely a boy’s club. Male senior pastors, male deacons, male elders. Women were allowed to be sunday school teachers, choir directors, or secretaries, but nothing more.

Paul’s words in 1 Timothy defined my views and 1 Corinthians confirmed them. I say this as if I knew scripture, but to be honest it was bleek. I listened and never questioned the general traditions of my church. Here’s what I knew (and assumed):

Women were not to teach men. Their life goals would consist of learning submission and quietness. Overcoming any resentment held towards men and any hostility held towards God would be their life’s work.

Eventually, I read the bible for myself. I read about Esther, Deborah, Mary, and Ruth. I read Luke. I read the words of Paul. I read context. I listened to wisdom and heard alternate, biblical views. I listened to my wife. I listened to my heart.

All this to say, I’m still sorting stuff out.

Your Mom was Stifled  

I recently read The Blue Parakeet by Scot McNight. In it he talks about the various ways people read the bible. He mentions that everyone picks and chooses scripture; he calls it discernment. The problem, says McNight, is when our discernments become canon and our canon becomes the lens through which we view scripture.

The modern church has done this—it has, we have, shaped our traditions into canon. The stifling of women, I believe, is a prime example Evangelicals need to repent for.

(For more on Scot McNight’s great book, check it out HERE).

I’m not an expert on the subject of women’s roles, but I do hope to continue to learn. So far, this is what I’ve got:

  • The traditional church may be a boy’s club, but the Kingdom of God is not. We all have a purpose and a reason to be here. Seek what’s inside you and let it out.  
  • We are all one in Christ—the curtain was torn, remember? There is no need for division anymore. Men need to teach women, and women need to teach men. 
  • Every faith generation experiences a change of tradition in one form or another (Thinking back to Paul and circumcision, or twenty years ago to the contemporary worship movement). Expect turmoil and kickback. Offer grace, always.

large_6335630844

What’s YOUR response? I encourage all with a perspective to participate. Please know, everyone’s view on the matter is welcome. Is the church a boy’s club? Have women been stifled, or am I making something out of nothing? 

Photo Credit: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/74576085@N00/6335630844/]