Thursday, September 29, 2005

Irreconciliable Differences?

I was very shaken today by a conversation I've been having online that's become polarized between evangelicals and persons in the broadly catholic tradition. Some of us in the latter category were sharing our negative, indeed hurtful experiences being judged, proselytized and verbally bullied by culturally aggressive evangelicals and fundamentalists. This didn't go over very well, to put it mildly, and in the course of things someone whom I consider a friend "went off on" me, somehow interpreting my characterizations of some evangelicals/fundamentalists as a criticism of her.

The sad thing is...all I, and I think the other catholic folks, in the discussion wanted, was a simple validation of our experience. Instead, the wagons circled on both sides, and now it's a real mess.

We have such different theological frameworks, and such different vocabularies -- even different definitions for the same terms -- that I wonder how we can ever have conversations that lead to mutual understanding instead of mutual alienation. Maybe the most ecumenical dialogue we can manage is while passing the sandbags or spooning food on plates in a soup kitchen or engaging in other "no preaching, no praying" endeavors.


*Christopher said...

Sometimes doing things together gets us where talking about differences can't. I think the use of different meanings for the same terminology presents a lot of headaches.

Songbird said...

Sometimes yes. Sometimes, unfortunately, even being in service can lead to a disagreement about whether it's okay to preach or pray. It's sad.

Nate said...

I think it's important to remember that religion, along with politics, is one of the most difficult things to talk to people about. I know that's a clichè, but it still rings true. I think it's also to remember that as long as we confess Christ together, there can't be any truly "irreconcilable" difference. Christ came to reconcile all things to God, to himself and in himself.

On the other hand, just because these differences aren't irreconcilable doesn't mean they're not serious. I think you're onto something when you say that maybe the best way to go about ecumenism is in service to others. Another way of putting it, maybe, is that the best way to talk about Christ with other Christians is by first being Christ with other Christians. When you've had that experience of being the Body of Christ together, maybe talking about the specifics will get easier.

Just my two cents.

Nicodemia said...

'Tis hard to do that, Nathan, when one group doesn't consider the other to be *real* Christians.

Lorna said...

all of us are wounded, most of us listen poorly and in my experience this leads to reacting (or equally bad withdrawing) instead of being able to dialogue in a healthy way

I'm sorry for the mess, May God in His mercy heal the wounds so that we all can step forward with joy and confidence in His leadership.

be blessed :)

Kathryn said...

How sad...that happened on a site I used to visit, to the extent that most people left and though some of us are in touch, that whole community folded. I love the insight about being Jesus to each other...but it is often so hard.
Hope you aren't personally too bruised by the encounter.

Anonymous said...

there is a fine line between debate and arguing. People will become very defensive if their theology is challenged. a cornered rat will bite back if it feels challenged. Not that fundamentalist are rats but you get the idea. I have seen on beleif net Lutherans wiping each other out, liberal vs conservative and they practice their faith together. Sandbags and soup lines are important so if thats the best you can do . so be it. Eventually will go to the same place at least I think. Thinkstomuch.

Nicodemia said...

Bad enough on the net. Worse in real life!!

LutheranChik said...

I am really clueless as to why this person is reacting so violently to what I said. I mean, I was describing the kind of people who physically grab you off the sidewalk to scream in your face about what a sinner you are and how you're going to hell; who, if you self-identify as a Christian, instead of accepting that, demand some sort of proof ("Are you sure? Are you really, really, really, REALLY sure?"), or just invalidate your comment totally ("Well, you may think you are..."). And this person is so not like that I can't imagine why she's taking this fact, when I said I wasn't referring to her she told me not to patronize her. Oy. This is like an "interpersonal relationship" with only the bad parts..."If you really loved me you'd know why you're upsetting me!...." Oy. Hey -- as I mentioned in my other post, I'm a Relationship Doofus. You have to 'splain it to me like I'm five years old. (And I'm not even gettin' dinner and a movie for all of this drama.)

LutheranChik said...

That last comment, BTW, was my poor attempt at humor. I wish I could make this situation right, but first it would help to understand what I did that was wrong.

Luthsem said...

This is sad. Lutherans are supposed to be centered on the gospel. Too much Legalism.

LutheranChik said...

Well, you know that and I know that, but when I have tried to explain the difference between Law and Gospel on ecumenical forums, I usually get my hindquarters handed to me on a plate for peddling "cheap grace."

BTW, I like your blog; am adding it to my blogroll next time I edit that.

Bag Lady said...

Interesting that I stumbled across this tonight on AKMA's blog (, Sept. 25 entry):

“The decisive passages in the New Testament do not say: One theology, one right, one opinion on all matters public and private, and one kind of conduct. Instead they say: one body and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of us all (Ephesians 4:4ff; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 12:5); various gifts – one Spirit, various offices – one Lord, various powers – one God (1 Corinthians 12:4ff). The point is not ‘unanimity in Spirit’ [‘einigkeit in Geist’], but the ‘unity of the Spirit’ [‘einheit des Geistes’], as Luther puts it in his exposition of Ephesians 4:3; this means the objective principle sovereignly establishes unity, unites the plurality of persons into a single collective person [Gesamtperson] without obliterating either their singularity or the community of persons. Rather, unity of spirit, community of spirit, and plurality of spirit are intrinsically linked to each other through their subject matter.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Communio Sanctorum, trans. Reinhard Krauss and Nancy Lukens.

J.C. Fisher said...

just invalidate your comment totally ("Well, you may think you are...").

Oh, yeah LC: what are you gonna do w/ that?

[I was out in a nearby town today, and came across a large contigent of anti-abortion demonstrators---some kind of multi-city organized effort?(the TV news mentioned it)---and had half a mind to protest them, by making a sign that said "I'm a Pro-Choice Christian." But I knew full well that their reaction would be "No, you're not!" or "You just think you are." I just let it go...]

But the irony is, I know that I do the same thing. I meet (putative) "Christians", usually on-line, who are So Hateful, that I can only conclude that they do not KNOW Jesus (which I may then suggest as a question).

. . . but of course, they assure me that they do.

This is one of those situations, where you can only throw up your hands and say "Lord have mercy."


Luthsem said...

Thanks Lutheranchik!
You can tell
Those who borrow from Bonhoeffer's phrase "cheap grace" that they need to re-read Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was not a political conservative by no means. I know people on the Right use his writings but he is not a fundamentalist at all. He also goes up against those on the Left as well(part of the Neo-orthodox school that reacted against 19th century liberalism).

LutheranChik said...

And now, on the same forum, we have an individual who is advocating the death penalty for homosexuals. I asked her what mode of execution she thought was God's preferred means of dealing with gay folks -- stoning, Zyklon B, etc. -- and she hastened to add that "they" (the Real Christians[tm]) aren't to do the actual killing. Hmmmm...I see. Maybe they want to job that out to someone of a similarly bloodthirsty frame of mind. (Wasn't there a movie like that, with Marlon Brando and Al Pacino?)