Disagreeing – A Rant

Credit: jhartenfelt on Wikimedia via Creative Commons

Credit: jhartenfelt on Wikimedia via Creative Commons

I lost a friend this week. I lost him over someone else’s blog post. She was speaking up after a well-known Christian teacher made some harsh statements about poverty in America. She filled in some of the gaps left by his article, very graciously so in my opinion. A week ago I took some heat from well-respected friends because I shared a different writer’s post about her book Jesus Feminist and how Jesus Feminism is good for men as well. Apparently some folks couldn’t see past the word “feminist” (a word I didn’t choose, by the by) to the heart of her message, which seems to be that men thrive as much as women in a culture of radical equality.

I’m a passionate person. I have extra-strength opinions about pretty much everything. And I’m known for the mantra “I could be wrong” following my sharing of most of those opinions. I’ve learned enough to know that my knowledge is infinitesimal, my understanding limited, and my pride 8,000 feet tall. I’ve changed my mind before; I will change it again.

However when something is taught as Biblical, or Christian, or the way of Jesus, and it hurts people, oppresses them, loads them down with guilt or shame, I don’t know what the “third way” response is. Either remain silent, or speak out. Slamming someone with the label “divisive” for disagreeing with you (or someone you respect) feels like the backhanded-slap of Christians fighting. Rachel Held Evans speaks eloquently about using this term against each other here.

Why aren’t we able to disagree? Why is it divisive to add a voice, an opinion, a perspective, to a conversation? Hell, why can’t we have conversations anymore? It seems like we’ve completely forgotten how to be kind, civil, polite, respectful. We have no capacity for disagreement; we just cut off relationships at the first sign of a differing opinion. No wonder the rest of the world looks on and shakes their heads. They are watching a religious train wreck.

Can we just agree to treat each other with respect? With love, even? I don’t want to lose another friend because we disagree about some issue. But I also don’t want to be bullied into silence, threatened with rejection for speaking out, or accused of destroying the body of Christ for disagreeing with you. Let’s have real conversations, that are honest and passionate and questioning and hard and challenging and that help us all to grow. We can’t have diversity without difference. We must make space for each other, and we must fill that space with grace. Believing the best about the other, trusting their motives, honoring what is beautiful and good in them. Please, give me the benefit of the doubt. Extend it to each other. Disagree, and love each other fiercely while doing so.

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8 Comments

  1. Gabrielle said,

    December 6, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Part of the issue, as I see it, is that we as a culture have lost the art of rational discourse. Many of the decisions we make are emotional-based even if those emotions are too deep to easily determine. So when you disagree with me, no matter how rational and reasonable I may seem to be presenting my side, I immediately feel attacked on an emotional level.

    I tried to have a conversation about the pros and cons of cribs versus playpens once, a conversation between two women without children so this was a purely theoretical discussion, and suddenly the conversation was an emotional trainwreck about our various pasts. The crib decision, which, again, was not an immediate concern, was based entirely on emotional footing so when I presented my anti-crib position she felt her emotional experience was being attacked.

    And that’s about cribs. I can’t imagine trying to have a conversation using such hotly regarded words like “feminism” or “poverty” in a culture that has lost the ability to separate our ideas from our experiences.

    • MandyK said,

      December 6, 2013 at 10:44 am

      I’m honestly a little overwhelmed at the relational damage done by reposting someone else’s blog article. But you are absolutely right; emotion always plays in. How do we regain the ability to have civil, rational, impassioned conversation?

  2. Dallas Ann said,

    December 6, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    While I can (and am happy to) exchange thoughts, share my perspective on topics, and hold real conversation, I don’t purposely seek out debate. I don’t engage in most conflict because of the very thing you experienced. I am scared of friends leaving me over conflict.

    Maybe that reflects on my personal insecurity. Maybe I actually do have strong enough relationships with other people that we can agree to disagree, but I’m too afraid to test those waters. Aside from Aaron, I can think of three relationships that I feel like I could safely hold a candid disagreement and come out the other side with our relationship the same. Maybe in the grand scheme of things, that’s a healthy number and I should just count my blessings?

    • MandyK said,

      December 7, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      I think it depends on how you are wired. I grow through struggle, so I NEED to have those conversations. Others don’t. They grow in other ways. I think a lot of us are afraid of the relational fall-out of disagreeing (and to be sexist for a moment, it’s a little worse with women). I think that having four people with whom you can have those conversations is a great blessing. But if you need more, if fear is the only thing holding you back, maybe it’s time to trust one new person at a time. Personally I feel honored anytime someone is willing to risk vulnerability with me, regardless of the topic.

  3. Eric Ashley said,

    December 6, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    Get in a time machine, travel to twenty years ago, and tell the Lefties that every time a Righty speaks up not to howl ‘racist’ or “Nazi’. Unfortunately, by this time, the damage is done, and the Right has learned to tune the Left out.

    I think ‘radical equality’ is, if I understand what you mean, a terrible idea. But unlike many, you might be able to have a rational conversation and disagree with me. However most on the Left could not, and its not really worth the effort to look for the few logical straws in the hurricane.

    Seek God’s will, and may He show it to you.

    • MandyK said,

      December 7, 2013 at 4:25 pm

      I know a lot of people who have been so burned by being screamed at about being wrong (ie – morally bankrupt, hell-bound, fundamentalist, ect) that they have just shut down having those conversations altogether. I felt a little tempted to do so the other night. But I honor any attempt made to engage other people with love and respect. I am always interested in the conversation. Thanks so much for sharing, and I hope you are able to find folks on the left, right, and in-between with whom to engage šŸ™‚

  4. Timothy said,

    December 8, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    Unfortunately, everyone seems to see everyone else as disposable these days. People walk out on friendships, relationships, and even marriages and family ties.

    • MandyK said,

      December 9, 2013 at 10:06 am

      That is an unfortunate reality. The best way we can respond, I think, is to refuse to do so ourselves. To so value each other that people want to change the quality of their relationships.


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