I’m really struggling to put words on the page these days. As soon as I type, I realize that I have a pretty good chance of offending or alienating at least half of my readers. Therefore, I have to weigh the options…is it worth offending members of the blogosphere?
The same goes for sermon preparation. As soon as I jot down a note, if it can remotely be taken as an offensive statement, I have to weigh the options…is this a “truth” that needs to be stated? Is it worth offending the members of the congregation?
The politically charged environment we currently find ourselves is making, well, just about everything difficult.
It seems like people are just looking for opportunities to be offended.
For example, a colleague shared a story of some of the “Biblical literalists” folks getting furious when he read a passage of Scripture that addressed the human role in caring for creation. He said, “I mean, the passage was pretty clear. I read it and simply stated, ‘It would appear that the way we treat the creation says a lot about what we think of the Creator.'” Following the service, he was cornered by a small group that said, “Don’t bring that hippie-liberal global warming agenda into our church.” You see, while they like to take parts of the Bible literally, when confronted with a passage that challenges their political and anti-science perspective (I make that statement fully aware some will be offended by it), it becomes apparent that politics trumps faith. He simply responded, “Well, I’ve obviously struck a nerve. That was not my intention. That was simply the Scripture for the day. I can tell you want me to apologize. But, I will not apologize for reading the Bible in church.”
Another friend shared a sarcastic statement along with a satirical article poking a bit of fun at some of the almost-unbelievable stories coming out of the political world. An emergency meeting of his HR team was called to address the repercussions of offended clients.
Personally, I “liked” a video on Facebook that challenged people to seriously consider what it means to align our faith and our political agenda and to be honest about how no political party fully aligns itself with the way of Jesus. I received a great deal of pushback – even to the point of being accused of saying that “You can’t be a Christian” and vote for a particular party.
For far too many of us, we’re simply waiting to be offended. We’re waiting to be able to jump on our soapbox and proclaim, “I’m being persecuted!”
The reality is this…it’s not about our labels of conservative/liberal, traditional/progressive, Republican/Democrat, confessing/reconciling/centrist.
It’s about being open or closed. The process of healthy conversation, whether political or faith-based, shuts down when we are closed. In other words, when we’re closed we’re stuck.
There’s a lot of power in a closed community. A closed community has the power to shut down communication, to stall progress, to render organizations and relationships ineffective. And, closed communities tend to be very loud. We know what they are for, what they are against, and what they are not willing to compromise. A closed community is often a stuck community.
The labels really don’t matter if we’re closed. We will remain stuck. The hope of movement is lost. If we are closed, we are shut down…we are no longer willing to listen…we lack humility.
However, if we are open, there is hope. An open liberal and an open conservative can have healthy and fruitful conversation. There is potential for relationship and even transformation. There is potential that what is divided can unite and work together.
When we are open, there is a sense of humility that allows us to admit that “we could be wrong.” When we are open, we have the capacity to listen. When we are open, we have the ability to realize that there are far greater and far more important things than our political perspective and agenda.
I mean, Jesus was pretty clear about love being the foundational characteristic of our world. Without love, well…
Within a closed system, it’s hard to love…
You see, we are no longer listening to one another.
But, I hold onto hope that what is closed can be opened.
I wonder what steps we need to take to be open to those of different political leanings? I wonder what steps we need to take to be open to those of different faiths or no faith? I wonder what steps we need to take to be open to those with different sexual preferences or citizenship status? I wonder what steps I need to take to be open to Reds fans?
Are we open or closed? Are we stuck or moving forward? Are we willing steps to open ourselves to others?