Then they took Paul and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) – Acts 17:19-21
I COULD BE WRONG ABOUT THIS!!!
In general – and if such classifications were in any way useful – I’d say that I am best understood as a “leaning” moderate. Sometimes I lean a little right, sometimes a little left. What I hope and pray is that no matter which way I’m leaning in the moment, it is always a tilt in the direction of love, and of grace.
Then there is the fact that I disagree with myself on a regular basis. It sounds funny, I know, saying it out loud, but I think that the principle of self-debate is crucially important if we are to ever hold credible positions. In politics, I’d be criticized as “inconsistent”, “flip-flopping”, or someone who “doesn’t know his own mind.” But, seriously friends, isn’t the willingness to learn, and grow, and shift, and reevaluate, and listen to others more conducive to the public good than walking into a conversation with your mind made up ahead of time, your heart hardened, and your spirit pre-set on a closed loop?
I’ve said this before and I’ll throw it out again: I’m most likely wrong as much as I am right. There are many reasons for this, including the following:
- I’m working on it, but my relationship to God still leans more toward “you help me,” than “I learn from you.”
- I make more judgments in relation to my own wants and needs than the needs of my community, or the world.
- I’m a good listener, and in consequence both sides of a given argument typically sound reasonable to me.
- I still have a lot to learn.
- I’m just now beginning to sort out the difference between what I was raised to believe, what I have come to believe, and what God is teaching me. Sometimes they all line up; quite often they don’t.
- I am learning that God is “truth,” that simple facts only tell a part of the story, and that – most importantly – we cannot presume to know the mind of God – and so our only recourse is to follow Jesus, and to live his kind of love and grace out loud…
MY POINT: All this is by way of prelude for my key issue this morning. I am increasingly disturbed by the arrogance, the intolerance, the pettiness, the hate, the self-righteousness, and the unwillingness to participate in respectful dialogue that I witness being exhibited by so many so-called Liberal Progressives, and so many similarly mislabeled Conservative Traditionalists.
In opposition to that belligerent mindset, here’s what I believe to be true:
- Government is not about being right, it’s about getting things done that benefit the people.
- Christianity is not about being right, it is about celebrating and exploring a restored relationship with God.
- Higher education is not about protecting and disseminating a set of pre-determined views, it is (supposed to be) about exposure to a body of knowledge, about learning, and about expanding what we know through intelligent discourse.
If you are a Progressive Liberal, listen to this: You need to keep progressing, and that means listening to people who disagree with you, and valuing honest discussion. Surrounding yourselves with “like-minded” people is anathema to intelligent inquiry. You need to respect people who hold deeply held views you don’t share; so try working together on actual solutions. Remember, like me you could well be wrong about a number of things.
If you see yourself as Conservative, then this is for you: Lighten up! Raising your voice and evoking the name of God doesn’t make you more authoritative, it makes you boorish. “Faith” and “Conservative” are not interchangeable. Fact is, the real Jesus was too busy teaching love-in-action, and advocating for the oppressed, to spend any time talking about the agenda you force your Jesus to endorse. Work together with the Liberals, they have some great ideas.
Seriously, friends, we have got to be more respectful of other people’s deeply held views. Being respectful isn’t a compromise, it’s an opportunity. I can guarantee you will find you have more in common than you think…
If, that is, you have the courage to try.
Peace, and courage – DEREK