Remember Compassionate Conservatism?
Remember Compassionate Conservatism? Aside from the alliterative catch-phrasiness of the term, to some, them there words are an oxymoron (yes, I used “them there” intentionally/colloquially, for all you grammar nerds out there).
But seriously… Is it possible to be conservative… and compassionate? Or even civil, for that matter? Forget about being conservative. Let’s take this a step further: Is it possible to have a civil discussion, period?
We are passionate people, after all, obligated to defend our respective positions to the death, if necessary, or at least (to quote the Princess Bride) “to the pain” of our ideological enemies. Compassion is for sissies. It just waters down perfectly good zeal, and makes us impotent warriors. Maybe at one time, we could be all nicey nice with each other, but let’s face it, we are at war. And war is not nice. Or so we have convinced ourselves. And in doing so, maybe we’re forgetting to ask an important question:
In this day and age of “trolling for a righteous cause”, is it even possible to have a thoughtful, rational, and respectful dialogue without resorting to name calling and sensationalism? The old “eye of the needle” camel analogy comes to mind. It seems, in fact, highly unlikely. Implausible. Impossible.
But with God, all things are possible Matthew 19:26
Recently (as in moments ago), I was having a Facebook discussion with a friend about the (insert your own controversy here) issue. This friend and I are on very opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of our worldview. So you can imagine the exchange was a lively one, with all kinds of emotional propaganda, personal attacks and mild profanity being lobbed back and forth in the name of our respective sides, like a vicious, PG-13 tennis match.
Surprisingly, this was not the case.
Did we vehemently disagree? You bet. Was it uncomfortable, even awkward to be in stark opposition with someone I care about? Uh huh. And honestly, wouldn’t it be easier to just post videos of cute kitty cats and leave it at that? Oh, how I love cute kitty cat videos.
But the truth is, I actually love these discussions. Not because I like confrontation. In fact, I hate it. I hate that feeling of venturing out of that puffy, quilted comfort zone where we all “amen” each other, and NOT preaching to the crowd, with all the risks of being misunderstood and maligned that go along with it. Who wants to be maligned? Not me. But aside from all the pitfalls and dangers therein, the reason I love this kind of discourse is for those very precise reasons. I NEED to take those risks. I need to listen, not just talk. I also have a responsibility to communicate well. I can’t do that if I’m only hearing myself (and people just like me) talk.
Of course, all of the above standards should apply to everyone, regardless of our faith, or lack thereof. (And my friend, by the way, was very kind and respectful to me). But for those of us who call ourselves Christian, they should apply all the more. Why, you ask? I’ll tell you why, and thank you for asking. The very same God who told us “with (Me) all things are possible” also gave this sober warning to Christ followers: Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (James 3:1)
Oh, and in case you’re thinking “well I don’t own a flannel board, so, phew!”, sorry, that DOESN’T let you off the hook even if don’t have your own Sunday school class. It’s an admonition for anyone who, in the name of Christ, attempts to convey Biblical truth to a world who does not by nature understand it. You will be judged, my Christian friend, and strictly. That may seem unfair, but it’s actually a great litmus test for authenticity. Truth matters. The way we convey it matters, too. Don’t compromise it for the sake of finding “common ground”. And don’t misrepresent it by being ungracious. Or obnoxious. Or unintelligent. It is a weighty responsibility to engage with our culture about Scriptural truths, and one we should not shirk.
We NEED to engage with the world, as much as the world needs us to engage with it. We don’t need to be “right”. We don’t need to win. We DO, however, need to speak the Truth, as much as we need to live and move and have our being in Him (Acts 17:28 for those of you following along at home), if we really are in Him. And we need to do it in a way that actually represents the Truth of which we speak. With Authority. With Grace. With Love. And yes, sometimes even with humor. I think God has a great sense of humor (come on, think about it – a camel trying to shrink it’s big, humpy body down, down, down to fit through a little “needle”? That’s FUNNY).
So, did I accomplish all this with my friend? Oh, I like to think I did. I hope I did. I tried to listen, and understand, not just react and think about my response. Even so, I am fairly certain I missed the mark here and there. He’s pretty smart, and I worry I can’t keep up, so maybe sometimes I might try to prove to him how smart I am, too, and lose track of what we’re talking about. But the good news is, it’s a dialogue. We’ll talk again. And I’ll have another chance to be gracious. I don’t know if either of us will change our positions because of these discussions. That’s not my job, though, to change Him, or anyone else. It IS my job to speak what I believe is Scripturally True, in a way that gives honor to the Truth, and let the Holy Spirit do His job.
In fact, my friend’s parting words to me, in today’s exchange, kind of say it all:
“I'm perfectly ok being in disagreement with you on this. We see things fundamentally different. I doubt more posts are going to move either of us toward another perspective. I love this kind of engagement though!!!! I wish I could keep it going”.
So there you have it. Oh, and what did we actually talk about? Stay tuned. Maybe that’ll show up in another post!