Now, you are welcome to disagree with me on this—as long as you want to be wrong, stupid, un-Christian, un-patriotic, and worthy of gross rejection. Oh, oops, I wasn’t supposed to put that last part in there.
Why is it that some teachers, pastors, group leaders and others try to project this willingness for discussion and differing thought when they really don’t want to hear anything contrary to the conclusions they have presented? Why is it that Christians are so quick to jump to “my side versus your side?” Why are we so willing to abandon friendships and relationships for our disagreements?
I am watching a discussion deteriorate into the name-calling and friendship-severing mess we often see in churches and ministries when people stop remembering who they are in Christ and let their differences define their relationship. It grieves me. So much is lost when this happens.
Let’s think about why this happens. Let’s get the obvious and most nasty reason out first. There are some leaders who simply cannot abide a challenge to their opinion or teaching. This is a narcissistic characteristic some people have that moves them to see anyone who disagrees as an enemy or an obstacle. I have known pastors who fired associate staff upon the first disagreement. Narcissists usually react very strongly against people who disagree because they feel threatened by the challenge.
But not all ugly disagreements stem from the paranoia of a narcissist. Sometimes churches, ministries, even friendships are destroyed simply because people don’t know how to disagree or they hold their own opinions too highly. Sometimes a minor disagreement is blown out of proportion because a political rift already exists and one or both sides use the disagreement against the other. Sometimes people are frightened and respond with much more force than is appropriate and the battle escalates from there.
We really can’t do much about the political or ideological rifts and the wars that result from minor disagreements. In those cases, anything would have been a good weapon and the disagreement was just handy. No matter how much you try to talk through the disagreement, you find no progress because the disagreement isn’t the real problem. Some churches, in other words, are primed for an explosion and almost anything will set it off.
But believers should be able to discuss their differences without becoming angry and attacking. And we should be able to relate in a way that a simple disagreement isn’t seen as an attack. Actually, we should be able to see each other in a way that even an attack is not fatal to the relationship.
In the next several days, I will write more on this. I would like to address concerns such as: what to do when you are attacked; when it is appropriate to name names; how far a disagreement can go before the relationship should be severed; how far to go to prove or force your point; what arguments are worth having; why Christians, in particular, are susceptible to the us versus them mentality; and more.
Maybe you can add to the list.