Friday, July 29, 2011


Good Words Can Also Be Used For Coercion

Jonathan D. Fitzgerald:
"Exactly," I said. "Neither did she." Didion binds the disparate pieces together in a manner that is both disturbing and confusing; in that way we begin to get a sense of what it felt like to be in Los Angeles in the late '60s. The important lesson here was that "I don't know" is sometimes the best answer.


At times in this process we come to an impasse. We reach a point where we either cannot uncover the meaning of seemingly disparate texts, or we cannot find agreement among a variety of interpretations. One need not go far from here—click around this site, or follow the links out to related blogs and publications that play host to theological discussions—and there are considerations that give way to debates before devolving into arguments where the underlying understanding is that the other side isn't seeing what seems so plainly there. These are often perfect opportunities to choose silence, and to admit, "I don't know."

And yet, this response is rarely received well. In 2006, Brian McLaren, writing on the leadership blog on Christianity Today's website, came to his "I don't know" moment about the church's response to "the Homosexual Question." He reached a conclusion that I echoed earlier this month. McLaren writes, "Perhaps we need a five-year moratorium on making pronouncements. In the meantime, we'll practice prayerful Christian dialogue, listening respectfully, disagreeing agreeably."
I started out really liking this piece. Too often as Christians we rely too heavily on our own understanding. Our faith is full of mystery and we should embrace the mystery as opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work.

But there is a difference between "I don't know" and humility about what we do know. There is a difference between a clear cut ethical imperative and the unloving, unhumble, heavy-handed enforcement of same.

The homosexual question is not an "I don't know" moment. Scripture is clear that homosexual behavior is wrong. But that said, we have been cruel in making that clear, and unChristlike in confronting those so engaged. We truly do not know about humility and love.

But we cannot let that lack of knowing be used coercively to change the plain standard. We cannot let one lack of knowledge be turned into another - we must rather build to more knowledge.

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