Saturday, May 14, 2011

scattered thoughts on the extremes

I'm tired of hearing black and white theology in the public discourse. Our public theology has followed the lead of the political discourse in this country, which is drawn into one-side-against-the-other fighting by the media's willingness to be complicit in feeding our voyeuristic tendencies.

We seem to believe that if we're not stating our point of view vehemently, to the point of yelling at each other, we aren't being faithful to what we believe. We seem to believe that it is necessary (for salvation?) that everyone agrees with the 'right' belief or theological point of view. If anyone disagrees with us, especially in the areas of faith and theology, we seem to believe that they are not faithful. We seem to not be able to listen to one another, or to have meaningful back-and-forth dialogue. And we seem to not be able to understand that a position other than the one we hold just might also be born out of a truly faithful perspective.

And the thing is, I don't mean to talk about only those who disagree with me. The conservatives demonize the liberals regularly, and the liberals demonize the conservatives with equally aggressive vigor. In at least one other location, I've encouraged people whose opinions differ to sit down and have dinner together, to spend time together that is purely personal, to get to know one another as real people with real concerns and legitimate opinions.

I just returned from our synod assembly (where my denomination, in a regional gathering, does the business of the synod (regional area)). These assemblies happen annually, and at times they are exciting and invigorating. This one, however, was something of a snoozer. At every assembly, the voting members from congregations are able to enact legislation which governs the work our synod does through the year. Some years, some of the resolutions that come to the floor prompt passionate, heartfelt, theologically informed conversation and debate.

This year, however, there were no resolutions and no business before the synod that was particularly contentious. I did notice, though, that we still found something to fight about.

It seems like we've gotten to the point that it's less important what our opinion is, and more important that we can take a strong stand on an issue, thereby demarcating the boundaries between the in group (who agree with me) and the other (anyone whose opinion is not perfectly in line with mine).

I guess I long for some nuanced conversation in our public life ~ some conversation that moves beyond black-and-white thinking, and recognizes the reality that our world and our lives are much more in the middle, tending toward gray more than either of the extremes.


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