Thursday, April 03, 2014

Giving Each Other Some FLAC

This post may be a little late to the party, but it's been on my mind for a little while. It's genesis was in the infamous Ham/Nye debate regarding Young Earth Creationism, but found more traction following last week's World Vision fiasco surrounding their decision to hire people in same-sex marriages, a decision that was quickly rescinded in the firestorm of backlash that ensued.

But this isn't really about either of those particular instances, so much as the way we all behaved in the midst of the storm.

For the most part, Christians behaved rather badly.

A few years ago, we here at Lakebay Community Church adopted a Relational Covenant; a document that spoke to our way of living together. Recognizing that people have differing thoughts, beliefs, opinions, and values, we committed ourselves to function together in a way that will allow us to stay focused on the greater values of loving God, loving each other, and loving the world, and (hopefully) not become fractured over secondary issues.

This is what we committed ourselves to be:

- Friendly
      By which we mean we approach each other with an attitude of good will, of basic trust, of seeing and hoping the best, rather than suspicion, doubt, fear, and judgment. We begin with the premise that the other is a good person acting out of good motives, having good reason for what they do and believe.

- Listening
     Before ever casting judgment or thinking we understand another, we take time to ask good questions, to get to know them, to do our best to really get the fullest picture of why another acts the way they do, believes what they do, says what they say, fights for what they fight for. We listen before we speak.

- Accepting
      The Covenant Church bases much of its ecclesiology (the way we do church) around Psalm 119:63 - "I am a friend of all who fear Thee." We find we disagree with people, but we accept them anyway because we see the Image of God in them. Rather than draw dividing lines, we stay in relationship with people, even people who hold to different ideas/political persuasions/theological understandings.

- Compassionate
     And thus, rather than living in suspicion or hostility or division, we are able to live out lives of compassion, because we understand and accept people with whom we disagree. We carry out the greater commandments of loving God by loving our neighbor, even when it's not easy.

Now, if you look closely, you'll see there's a fun little acronym there, if you take the first letter of each of those four points: FLAC.

And so I told the church we all need to work hard at giving each other more FLAC. It's something I remind myself of time and again, when I'm growing tired or frustrated or antagonized over disagreements and misunderstandings. Just when I'm tempted to dismiss or lash out, I hear that voice saying "Give 'em some FLAC, Dan." And on my better days, I do just that.

So it was last week when the internet erupted over World Vision's decision, when Christians were casting WV out of evangelicalism (there was more than one "Goodbye, World Vision" tweet), when my own faith was being questioned by people who knew me, when I saw nothing but anger and judgment and condemnation and outrage, I found myself thinking of how much better this would all be, had people known about the concept of giving people FLAC.*

I wasn't in on the inner workings of it all, but I wonder if Franklin Graham called up World Vision and said "so tell me about this - why did you make this decision" before posting his scathing rebuttal? If Al Mohler had his people contact the people at WV and say "could we meet? I'd like to understand what you're doing." If the leadership at the Assemblies of God (who encouraged their membership to slowly stop supporting WV) made any attempts to listen to the leadership at WV? If any of the 2,000 people (or was it 4,000? Or 5,000? I've heard various reports)** who instantly called and cancelled their support made any attempt to really listen and understand why WV did what they did?

The response I saw certainly couldn't be categorized as "approaching one another with an attitude of good will." Instead it was more akin to "this is the end of Western Civilization and WV has just sounded the death knell of all things Christian."

I know there are Big Issues that need to be worked through, but I find more often than not my concern isn't so much the issue, but how we work through these issues. After all, Jesus said the world would know we were his disciples by the love we have for one another. Instead, so many jumped on Facebook and Twitter to denounce, condemn, pounce, and judge, and the world just laughed at us (or shook their heads in disbelief and said "see - that's why I'm not a Christian.")

Here's my little part of trying to make the Church healthier. Can we please learn to give each other some FLAC, and stop with the judgment and condemnation already? The hysteria isn't good for the Kingdom, and will never help resolve any of these issues. Please. Let's learn to give each other some FLAC, living as Christ commanded as we love our God and love our neighbor.

*The sad thing is that, while I wouldn't expect any of these Christian leaders/spokespeople to know anything about Lakebay's relational covenant, the principles are right there in scripture. Maybe Al and Franklin didn't know about giving people FLAC, but they certainly know the words of Jesus and Paul, which encourage us time and again to act in love and compassion and understanding and unity, and to "judge with right judgement," which doesn't include press releases denouncing decisions we have yet to fully understand.

** Update: Various sources are reporting today (4/3/14) that it was actually closer to 10,000 kids who've lost their sponsors. I can't imagine Jesus being proud of all those people who displayed their offense by abandoning hungry children.