Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Good thoughts

Fred Clark, a blogger and newspaper-worker who I enjoy reading, recently posted some thoughts on a Catholic Confirmation service he had attended. In the post, he mentioned a theological quibble he had with the RC Church.

At which point, the comments box filled up with people accusing him of being "anti-catholic."

In a later blog, he responded to this by saying I do, of course, disagree -- respectfully but strenuously -- with Roman Catholic doctrine on several points. I couldn't very well be a Protestant or evangelical or Baptist if I didn't. Likewise, an orthodox Catholic will, unsurprisingly, disagree with me. It wouldn't occur to me to regard such disagreement as evidence of "anti-Baptist" or "anti-Protestant" chauvinism on their part. "Non-" =/= "anti-." And so it didn't occur to me either that my comments on feeling really, really non-Catholic during that confirmation homily could or would be interpreted as anti-Catholic.

There's wisdom in that paragraph, if you really get the point he's making. But what struck home for me was his next statement: I can't help but wonder if I stepped in it a bit because, coming from a tradition that accommodates and celebrates dissent, I'm accustomed to discussing such disagreements in a way that sounds hostile to those coming from a tradition that, you know, doesn't. If so, then I've probably just stepped in it again.

I had one of those "aha" moments in which I came to understand my own position again. You see, in the Evangelical Covenant Church, we, too, accommodate a diversity of opinions and theological positions. We, too, mostly discuss those disagreements with humility, respect, and love for the other. We offer freedom to those with whom we disagree. And, being in this tribe and having come to love the way it works out its life together, I tend to approach most theological conversations with grace and openness toward other ideas.

And then I wonder at the backlash from those who interpret any "other" position as heresy, who attack and fight and argue and demean in their attempt to prove themselves "right."

I was talking with Harvey earlier today about certain famous theologians and preachers who so narrowly define Christian Thought that anything not fitting into their box must be destroyed. At times I leave my Covenant Campground and discover the conversation tends to be a lot more virulent, and a lot less "open" out there. And, coming from this camp, I found myself caught off-guard.

So thanks to Fred, who reminded me that there are those who celebrate diversity of thought, and those to whom any diversity must be destroyed. Sometimes, just being reminded of the playing field helps in the playing of the game.

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