I’ve been really intrigued at the response over the last month or so to the passing of two political/social icons – Justice Antonin Scalia and former First Lady, Nancy Reagan. In today’s world it seems to be an oxymoron.
How can it be that people who couldn’t have disagreed with the positions of either more are saying wonderful things about the people they were. Is it possible for Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsberg to be really good friends?
How can that be?
If you disagree with someone you’re supposed to destroy their personhood, aren’t you? Isn’t that our social and political culture? Friendship with someone we disagree with is an oxymoron. It is our responsibility to put them in their place. To force them to see the error of their ways. Isn’t that how it is supposed to work?
Why is it we often feel the need to practice a scorched earth policy when it comes to ideas and disagreements? I watched this play out recently at my alma mater, Wheaton College.
The entire episode didn’t make me angry, it made me very sad. I can only think of one person in the entire conversation who consistently advocated a position of civility. Everyone’s motives were questioned. By everyone.
Every. Single. One.
By the way posting a piece on facebook as “information” – even without comment – doesn’t earn you a pass. You’re still party to the lack of civility.
But sadly this isn’t something new. I’ve been very frustrated at watching the Wheaton College community act over the years. Now you can feel free to disagree with me but I think that the change of mascots may have been an omen of things to come. I’m not at all suggesting that the Crusader mascot should have been kept.
It just seemed to me at the time – and now – that the choice of mascots now is just a bit curious and perhaps a sad statement on where the evangelical community is moving (all of them — liberal and conservative).
Perhaps to give you a little insight into my perspective I heard about it listening to the Bob & Tom show on my way to work (not really the most uplifting of radio shows). It made for a great joke on the show. So … what did the college choose?
It’s a loud noise that does absolutely nothing. Ok it may scare small children. It may knock a few things off the wall at times but it really doesn’t do anything at all. Talk about inspirational. (Please feel free to insert your own image of thunder here, I couldn’t find one.)
What I find so ironic is that is exactly what we become when we can’t agree and can’t be friends. When we resort to name calling. When we base our responses on people’s motives (because we obviously know what’s in their hearts!).
In this most recent “controversy” there are valid arguments and positions on both sides. But maybe it’s deeper than that.
It seems to me that we don’t know what to do with our faith if we’re not “right.” I’ve seen fathers and sons not speak to each other for years because their position on eschatology didn’t match. I’ve seen friendships fall apart because one had a young earth view and the other had an old earth view.
Is our need to be right all that important? More important than our need to be kind? More important than our need to be a light into a dark world? Please don’t hear this as a call for “anything goes” or that there isn’t absolute truth.
I think one of the biggest challenges for Christians is how to be “in the world but not of the world.” Too often we’re afraid that the two are the same. So we retreat back behind the walls of our churches to keep the world at bay.
Even if that were a good thing (and I don’t think it is) that also means walling out other Christians who don’t believe exactly how we believe. After all they’re wrong and we’re right so we “can’t associate together or my friends will think I’m one of them.”
I have to say that throughout the whole recent debacle at Wheaton College, I was tempted to unfriend many people. Not because I didn’t agree with their point of view (some I did, others I didn’t) but because their tone and approach was so unkind. Because they assumed they knew the hearts and motives of the other side.
But, how would I be any different if I did that?
I still want to be your friend whether we agree or not. Frankly, I’d love to engage with many of you more. I enjoy healthy debate – it’s fun for me especially when it’s a bit controversial. But I feel as though people are painting my portrait with a 12-inch roller. I guess that might be ok if it’s on the side of a building (though who would really want that?) but not if it’s going to fit in my living room.
Maybe that’s why I’m such a big fan of the artist Georges Suerat. His painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte” is hanging in The Art Institute in Chicago. It’s from a style called pointillism. I think that’s a great way to see each person.
I think, perhaps, that is how God sees us. He sees the whole but he sees all that makes up the whole, too. Maybe I ought to start looking at people that way.
I’d love to make a difference in peoples’ lives. I’d love for every one of them to see Jesus in me – even if it’s not as perfect as I’d like it to be.
I know that’s not always the case.
I wish it were. When I look back over life I see too many relationships that have been left along the side of life’s road. I hope that’s not you. If it is, I’m sorry for letting a valuable friendship drop because we didn’t agree. I’m in a much different place now. I hope it’s better for everyone. I may not agree with you but I still would like to be a friend.
I hope you still want to be my friend, too.