I disagree

by Don Hartness

“I disagree”

The room went quiet. “You disagree with what the Bible says?” the group leader asked.

“On this matter, yes,” I replied. You could have heard a pin drop in the living room we were all gathered in.  “I think Paul’s teaching concerning the roles of men and women in the church were culturally relevant to that time so as not to divert attention from what was truly important; namely, the preaching of the Gospel.”

“However,” I continued, “I think we live in a different time, with different cultural and social values, and that continuing to objectively uphold these values does more harm than good towards  preaching the Gospel.”

Everybody in the room shifted uncomfortably in their seat. I just said something sacrilegious, but nobody wanted to face me about my heretical view. Finally, the newest visitor to our small group said what many were thinking.

“Are you even a Christian!?” he blurted out, the anger rising in his voice with each word. He went on to berate me for my lack of faith and my heretical views, concluding with a call to repentance for my backsliding. When I held my ground, he didn’t come back the following week.

It seems he didn’t agree with me disagreeing.

*          *          *          *          *

As it turns out, neither did the group leader: one of many reasons I also didn’t come back. She never really explained, at least in her own words, why my view wasn’t correct, because she didn’t have too. I was wrong because the Bible says I’m wrong. Her interpretation of those words, or the context in which they were written, were not relevant.

Christendom has a well-documented problem: it’s filled with an economically middle-class, politically conservative bunch of church-goers with a homogenous view of the world. Nothing particularly wrong with that…until you attempt to live out Jesus teachings on, say, the poor. If you’ve never been there, how can you do so in such a way that is not condescending? Would you even know if you were condescending??

The problem isn’t the homogenous view; it’s the lack of opposing views. Or, as Austin Thomas on Red Letter Christians recently articulated:

“To be honest, I don’t really trust people who have had the same opinions their entire lives. Which is probably why I don’t trust much Evangelical theology, these days. I think it’s natural to have your views about the world change as you experience more of the world, and I wish it was easier to be honest about that when it happened. I wish it was encouraged. We live in a world full of contradicting ideas, and the church is a great example of this…we’ve all got our ideas about who Jesus is and what he came for and how we should go about making him proud of us, and unless you’re crazy, or maybe even if you’re crazy, it’s easy to find a bunch of people who agree with you about most things and it’s usually nice to hang out with these people.

But here’s the thing. We can’t just avoid the people we disagree with. I mean, we can, and actually most of us do…but it’s costing us something Big, if we do.” – Churches Shouldn’t Be Think Tanks

That “Big” thing is summarized in one word: wisdom

*          *          *          *          *

“So,” the leader of my new group concludes, “I think we should break into small groups and…yes Don!”

“I disagree,” I say simply with a grin.

“Why am I not surprised?” he retorts, as the room laughs.

I’ve become known and appreciated for these two simple words. At least by some.

“Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.” By disagreeing, I demonstrate that I take loving God with all my mind seriously.

In my new group, we argue, sometimes passionately, bringing our views, interpretations, experiences and associations to the table. We challenge each other. We open up and share with each other because we know it’s okay to disagree. Ultimately, we grow individually, each in his own way and at his own pace.

Disagreement is healthy when it challenges others to love more than they did yesterday. This includes fresh perspectives on anything and everything that is a part of this thing called life. No matter how much you think you know, you can always stand to broaden your perspective a bit further. Healthy disagreement leads to a broadened mind and a deeper heart.

On the other hand, unhealthy disagreement produces dogmatic, hardened thinking. Once you believe you know everything to know about a matter, your mind calcifies and you become callous towards others who don’t share your view. Unhealthy disagreement leads to judgment, scorn, and a hardening of the heart.

And you can’t love God or others with a hard heart.

Do you disagree?