Saturday, March 6, 2010

the argument culture

Something has been growing in me for the last year, like a mold that I cannot get rid of. It appears to me that I have been invited into a discussion time and time again that is designed to frustrate me. Like every human who has lived before me I inherit the ideas, philosophies and doctrines of those who have gone before me. As I consider this discussion I am beginning to realize that the deck is stacked against me.

Over the years I have been passionate about many things - and my passion has led me to read, research, discuss, listen and then express my feelings on a matter. It has not been until recently that I have realized I have joined a game that has no winner. I have joined a culture that is satisfied with choosing sides. It's as if what you believe is more important than the world those beliefs create.

Let me give you a few examples.

Who is right, the conservatives or the liberals? Most of us are not so closed minded as to be totally in the conservative camp or totally in the liberal camp (although some are and I apologize for the "close minded" comment). We recognize a predisposition in our souls to agree with the majority of ideas coming out of a particular worldview. We agree with principles and ideas originating in a place inhabited by thinkers who wish to either preserve traditional, tried and true strategies, or who wish to challenge the status quo and try out new, "cutting edge" strategies. And discussion (better known as arguments) are a series of polarizing ideas in which we draw the battle lines on either side of an issue and then point out the weaknesses on the otherside.

Who is right, the capitalists or the socialists? We all know that freedom and competition are the ingredients that go into invention and excellence. After all that is what makes this country so prosperous. Or is it? Why do more and more people seem to be falling behind and why are specific people groups not thriving in this environment? Maybe the wealth should be shared; with those having so much sharing with those who have so little.

If I throw this meaty bone out into a group of interested parties you can imagine the healthy exchange of ideas that would ensue. We would quickly be forced into one of the two camps by the questions and accusations of the other and before long there would be an argument between two polarized groups.

Who is right the Christians or the non-Christians? We as Christians realize that ours is the revelation of Scripture, ours is the truth of God, ours is the moral authority. So much of what we say and how we package the "Gospel" is a drawing up of battle lines. WE know the correct position on issues like marriage, raising children, sexuality, basic morality, etc. It's our job to get this information out to the world that is so mistaken and so ignorant of what God intended.

Before long we have a polarized discussion between the holy and the un-holy. Is it any wonder that we are known more for our moral and doctrinal positions than for the nature of our character?

We have unknowingly chosen to participate in this argument culture, seeing the world as a serious of choices to agree with one side or the other. I want to suggest to you that Jesus gives us another option.

All human arguments are predicated on the assumption that power is exerted from above. In other words, winning an argument is virtuous and establishes a superior power in our belief while losing an argument is a failure and requires that we discard our inferior belief.

But what if power can be exerted from below, from a place of weakness, without fear of "losing"? Jesus regularly took polarized arguments and inserted a different perspective. It was if he surveyed the battle field and was constantly able to lift the conversation out of us vs. them into a higher realm. Insiders or outsiders, haves and have nots, religious or pagan, Jew or Samaritan, free or slave; Jesus' teaching always trancended these polarized groups and suggested a different way. A way of serving, forgiving, loving and submitting.

What would it look like if we elevated the one we disagree with above our need to be right? What would a community look like that valued connection based on serving from below instead of being right from above.

Here in the Flathead we are coming to the end of a prayer vigil by well-meaning Christians who are praying to end abortion. We see these prayer warriors night and day picketting the abortion clinic, peacefully and with great faithfulness. I personally admire these brothers and sisters in faith. But I wonder, what would happen with those who seek an abortion if there was an unexhaustible supply of Jesus followers who regularly opened their homes to pregnant teenagers and single mothers. If our energies were directed at the people who feel the need to seek an abortion from below - from a place of serving love instead of from above - moral superiority?

Just some stuff we should talk about.


  1. I love this post! Dan, you hit on a major problem in the Church, and that is do we present a relational-based gospel, or do we present a moralistic-based gospel? I can't help but read the life of Jesus in the Gospels and say that those around Jesus wanted to be around Jesus. Jesus was good company. He was, it seems to me, able to listen and respond to people's needs, affectionately serving humanity. How many people that we know, besides our children and possibly our wife, really want to be around us because of our overflowing love? Are we good company or do we just brow beat our wives and children?

    How we answer your question "What would it look like if we elevated the one we disagree with above our need to be right?" determines if we are living the gospel, or just a type of Judaistic moralism. We can make Christianity so complicated, just like the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ time.

    What I have been reveling in lately is that I am His son, and he loves me, period. This truth is under constant attack. I may choose to forsake Him, but that would grieve His heart like loosing one of my own children to meth.

    My faith becomes really deep and rich when I know that I am his beloved son. Worship becomes alive and meaningful, scriptures are all the sudden meant to empower me rather than judge me, and my judgment level of others goes way way down.

  2. I believe it is 2 Corinthians that tells us that God is busy not counting our sins againstus and that we have been given this ministry of reconciliation. I am purposing to pass every decision I make through this filter of not counting people's sins against them. Let me tell you, people look a lot different when I see them without their "sin".

  3. Ok, sorry about that last one, I didnt want to write a huge long comment and then have it not post like last time. (And this is Tony by the way) I agree, this post and the last one kind of go hand in hand. We are "keepers of the mud room" or "mud room police". It comes natural to us, it takes the heat off of our own muddiness, which is the only muddiness we have control over, even in surrendering it to the Lord. Dan, I dont know if you remember this conversation a few weeks ago and I apologize if this gets you in trouble or labeled as something you are not(that has never happened before I am sure), but we were talking about people labeling the book "The Shack" as universalism and I loved what you said, it made me think. You said " What if... What if we get to heaven and all those we had judged as doomed to hell are there, enjoying heaven, because God let them in anyway. What if all are saved, is that a bad thing??" Now don't start labeling Dan a universalist, he was just asking "What if?" What about this upsets those of us who are "saved". Because deep down we feel like there has to be something we did to get us there, even if somehow is was our greatness that brought us to the foot of the cross, piled in a bloody, bruised heap, with nothing left to give, weary of our own attempts at this life. We have a subconcious problem with the fact that we were(and still are) exactly the same as those we are judging in their obvious "sin". Ryan Reed and I were just talking about that book (The Shack) and the part where God was showing Mac the difficulty of Judging ones children, especially sending them to hell. He asked Mac to pick the 2 worst of his children to be sent to hell. Of course, Mac, as any loving father would do, refused. And then he proceeded to offer his life in exchange for the life of his children. Funny how that works. God gently rebuked him saying how human kind, especially the already saved, like to think that God finds some sort of joy in dealing out wrath and justice on those who "deserve" it by their immoral actions, when really the human race is his creation, his children in whom he finds joy no matter what their state, who he offered his own life to deliver from an eternal separation from him. All that to say this one little thing. It says in John 3:17 "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him" Jesus did not come as Judge, He came as saviour. Later John authors a book of a vision he saw of Jesus coming at the end of the earth, and in that vision Jesus comes as a Judge, and He effectively judges the earth. The end of time is not here, so Jesus is still about the buisiness of reconciliation to the Father, through His sacrifice, "that none should perish." I believe my, and many others ministries are hindered because we cant wrap our minds around the fact that we are not called to judgment, but reconciliation. We are not the morality police, because if Jesus himself is not acting as the Judge,but removed ALL obstacles to the Father, why are we stepping in for him

  4. Thank you Tony. I believe the revelation you talk about - NOT JUDGING - is the place we as Christians have the hardest time following Christ in.

  5. I just reread this post and comments and it really hit home once again, pertaining to an issue my wife and I have recently went through Thank you Dan for asking questions or yourself and of those around you, making us think of what we actually believe and why. Havent heard you talk about this blog or seen any new posts, are you done?