I share a lot of thoughts here on this blog, and by far most of them relate (either directly or indirectly) with homelessness and bearing the image of God. Once in a while I stray off that path a bit, and this is one of those times. Actually, I see a relation to it all, but only in the most complex and esoteric ways. So, let’s just consider this as being off the beaten path for this blog.
I like to talk about Jesus a lot – mostly Jesus. And I enjoy conversation about faith and biblical things. And I like to challenge other people’s thinking and to be challenged by other people. Sometimes this means debating, but I am not actually a great debater. But often there is a sense of it.
And often people get into some complex ideas. So do I, for that matter. And it really happens when someone is making a complex statement that I find I agree with some parts and not with others. And then trying to share that, and iron out the distinction between them becomes even more complex.
So say a friend writes a blog post and makes almost 8 or 10 theological points about a passage of scripture. One or two of them I find really important and meaningful and well said, three or four of them I think are okay, but not crucial – or whatever. But then one or two I find objectionable.
Now, I can try to engage the post critically, which is my main modus operandi. Or I can just give it the nod… after all, some of it I really liked, most of it was pretty good stuff, even if less than richly inspirational, and the small bits I didn’t like are, after all, small and possibly insignificant. But that is not really engaged, that is just flattery.
But of course I cannot engage every blog post all the time like I would prefer. I don’t have the time or energy. And of course in the engagement, I might, just maybe, be persuaded to change my mind on some points. But of course, I am not likely to go in to it thinking that.
So what do I do? Engage or not? And if I do, then it becomes complex. I must of course be nice and supportive of the stuff that I really do like. And of course if that part is something truly rich and enlightening, then I will be enthusiastic to do so. But then there are the bits I contend with, and I must somehow go sort out which bits they are and then begin explaining why I differ. And just as a matter of complexity, that can be a challenge.
And then there is the matter of how well I know the other person or not. If we have been long time friends and have done this kind of thing before, it should go well. But if I hardly know you or you me, what are the odds that your feelings might get hurt? What if I come off as a jerk? Does that even really matter?
And once we are talking about feelings, there is a possibility that arguing an issue on the merits can get a little confused with insults for those with a thin skin. And this is still a matter of complexity at this point, not whether I might really intend to belittle you.
There is so much risk.
And then there is the matter of how much disagreement is okay before we cant be friends? What issues are more important than our friendship? I mean if you are pretty sure you want to be an idolater and want to blend your love for Jesus with a bit of pagan worship, I really might oughta draw a line between us, but if we both love Jesus devoutly, and if one of us worships Catholic (I am Catholic btw) and the other devoutly Protestant, should this line exist? Surely one of us has some mistaken views about Jesus (and actually almost assuredly both of us do), but do we have to have those mistaken bits worked out before we can extend true and deep fellowship to one another? (I trust I have offered two scenarios where the choice is easy to see, but with an eye toward all the harder choices in between!)
And if one or both of us persist in some mistaken views, and if some of those views are buried in complexity – thus making them hard to sort out just on that level alone, not counting real spiritual commitments – how do we move forward together and honor Jesus and one another? Is sorting this stuff out important at all?
I have a blogger acquaintance who loves to explicate scripture. He often does a wonderful job of it. Very imaginative, powerful, and engaging. Lots of people follow his blog and respond with comments that are very supportive. This blogger has demonstrated, to my satisfaction, that he loves Jesus deeply with his heart and his mind. And I praise his work because it is well deserving of it.
One of the points he frequently makes, one I agree with completely, is his view that so much traditional Christianity has mistakenly told us adherents that the goal of our lives is to Go-to-heaven-when-we-die. He calls this a mistake, and I agree with him. And in doing that, he is engaging a larger conversation in a manner much like I describe in this post. But then the same brother also holds a traditional view of “legalism” and paints the New Testament’s Pharisees with that paint brush, and I disagree with him on that. I have taken him to task with it a few times to no avail. And I have come to expect these things from his offerings. He does not see a need to change his views. I don’t have some incessant desire to continually hound him about it. I like the one bit, not the other. He knows this about me. I know his view too.
I admire the guy and his blog. But there is not much more to say really. Not that I can see. I sense that he and I are actually a lot alike. I sense that he admires me too. But there is this stubborn thing. And I don’t know what to do with it. Sit back and be patient, I suppose. I have no reason to believe he will ever change his mind. I have no reason to believe I will ever go back to his view (I once held a view very similar, if not the same).
And of course that is just one example. There are others.
What about my church? Same thing there too. Some fine point of theology becomes a sticking point for me in the sermon or the Bible class. I raise my objection. I don’t have some innate need to heckle the teacher to death. I really would like to have my questions answered, but I am not the only one in the class, AND after all, I really could be looking at it wrong and not know it. After all, if I knew which bits I was mistaken about, I would change them! And I have no need to change the teacher’s mind, necessarily, but I really would like to have my concerns heard, understood, and acknowledged AT LEAST. Because as the lecture moves on from here… building on the bit I object to, there is a sense, to me at least, that I am now left out of the discussion from way back there at point C or D.
But then there is the matter of the church vis-à-vis the homeless. The way the church practically ignores the homeless while sending boat loads of money to the nonprofit homeless ministry across town. And I blog on this stuff all the time hoping someone will take notice and make changes. And I really must be stubborn on this point, because those are HUMAN beings sleeping out in the gutter and in the cold while we tell ourselves we are the Body of Christ in here! And that actually is a Matthew-25 JUDGMENT ISSUE! With very, very, very little hope that the church will wise up to it.
And there are other issues too. But these will suffice for my ever growing post here. One I make no actual conclusions in, just ponder them and offer them for referral when every now and again this kind of thing comes up.