Monday, March 25, 2013

I Expect Better from a Disciple of Christ

The fine line between calling out bad behavior in others and ridiculing them illuminates the key to Christian unity.

I recently read a very good article which brought to light some hidden agendas and techniques used by a particular group of people to inappropriately politically manipulate an institution to which they theoretically belong. I enjoyed the article, but as seems to happen so often, I became very concerned with some of the comments.

They mocked and ridiculed, rather than expressing charity and concern. And for some reason, I have a harder time with that than I do with people who disagree with me using poor tactics. In fact, just these kinds of concerns have distanced me from groups on BOTH sides of ideological divides who might otherwise be my allies.

This ties into a long-standing argument with myself. I have a hard time feeling like I belong to a group. Inevitably, whatever group I try to join eventually rolls around to discussing those who disagree with them. Such conversations almost always devolve into separation tactics: ridicule, demeaning, dehumanizing, etc. These tactics lay along a line that I will not cross, and I become alienated.

Someone once said to me that people first and foremost want to know if you're on their side. This assertion has lurked in my mind ever since. I have a hard time understanding it. I just don't think of the world in terms of "on my side" or "not on my side." But apparently, most people do.

When in a group, people seem to adapt towards the mores of that group. If you start out agreeing mildly with the Whisk Superiority Club that the best way to scramble eggs is with a hand whisk, you might enter the community initially to learn tips and tricks to hand whisking. But as you converse and create bonds with community members, it is apparently a natural conclusion to drift from mild agreement to full-blown spite towards anyone who uses a mixer. They are defined as lazy, ignorant, and ridiculous.

Natural or not, I expect better than ridicule from a group of people who profess to follow Christ. Christ taught that we should turn the other cheek, walk twice as far with our enemies as they force us to do. Scriptures teach us that soft answers turn away wrath. It is a delicate balance, speaking boldly with charity, but it is the only way to soften hearts—theirs AND yours.

I don't think there is any other path to Christian unity. Only through sacrifice of ego, putting it on a back seat to charity and compassion, can the way be opened for the Spirit to manifest truth. Truth without Spiritual witness is useless. Charity is a choice. It is charity that we must possess when we approach our Lord more than any other Christian value. It is charity that can ultimately save all who will invite it into their hearts.


  1. Thank you for not only taking the time to engage with those who commented on my post at WBMW, but also for sharing your thoughtful concerns here.

    I will respond on WBMW because I, too, feel that this is an important principle of discipleship to discuss -- and sincerely have a desire to encourage such, among those whom I have some influence.

  2. Thank you, Kathryn. I'm well aware of the difficulty in criticizing behavior I find damaging while still maintaining charity. If you voice a concern about the way someone is behaving, it will always hurt their feelings. It is easy for them to feel you are being uncharitable. (Which is why I didn't state it there, where it would be a specific, personal, and direct criticism rather than criticism of a general trend.) Yet, this is an important thing for us, as Christians, to address.

    We MUST speak charitably, but we must also speak the truth with boldness. We can't allow cries of unkindness make us hold our tongue. But we can analyze our own reactions, determine whether we are speaking out of genuine love and concern, or out of a desire to justify ourselves.

    Really, the difference isn't in how others ultimately feel. No one can control the emotions of others. But we can make an effort to see their side, to mourn with them if they are mourning, and we can make our best effort to respond with love or not at all.

    I have been learning much about keeping silent over the last three or four years. I find it to be just as important as knowing when to speak, and both require acute sensitivity to the Spirit.

  3. Given that first paragraph of the linked article began with a broadside against the old bogeyman of unspecified "liberal media" outlets and then proceeded to characterize the various ordain women movements in a way that, at best, could be described as lightly ridiculing and at worst as openly contemptuous (with strawmen abounding), I'd suggest that that the author had no intention of promoting Christian unity with that post. Which is fine: everyone has the right to say whatever they want on their own blog, and polemics are certainly a part of the Christian tradition (I'm a bit of an amateur satirist myself), but my general observation is that most blogs get the kinds of comments they deserve, whether that comes from the echo-chamber triumphalism of WBMW or mean-spirited disagreement. I'd contrast WBMW with this site, in fact, because on the occasions I read here, even when I disagree I sense a desire for Christian unity that I simply don't there.

  4. Thanks for this SilverRain. Internet communication is hard. Spite and disdain are not Christian sentiments.

    People often also confuse Sarcasm with Irony. Irony can be an effective communication tool if used properly. But by definition sarcasm is inherently belittling and mean. Irony can be used in the service if sarcasm, but irony doesn't have to be sarcastic. It is hard to see how sarcasm (which comes from root words meaning "To bite one's lips with rage" and always reminds me of the phrase "gnashing of teeth") is compatible with Christian ideals.

    All we can do is try our best to be reasonable and charitable and follow the spirit.

  5. Thanks for posting and linking. It helps me see the scene better.

  6. I nominated you for a Liebster Award.

  7. I think that it's a tough one. It's easier to try and sit on the fence than to get into some negative chat. Humour can help but ultimately it's having the strength of character to be yourself and try to add positivity in the mix. Thanks for a thoughtful post.


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