Most of my friends who no longer attend church, and the majority of my friends no longer attend, have left over petty arguments about theology. It’s not that they left because people didn’t agree with them, they actually left because they got tired of hearing other people argue about their interpretation of scripture. They wanted to talk and learn, and a very small group of people simply wanted to dominate the conversation with something they discovered last year when they read a book. These friends don’t mind subscribing to a theological grid, they just got tired of all the jabbing.
I confess I understand. It’s like attending a dinner party where one guy takes a black and white stand on an issue and the tension enters the room and you really wish you could get back to that conversation about the Italian Renaissance but you can’t because now you have to agree with the guy about gun control or he’s going to keep making everybody uncomfortable. Pretty soon you just want to leave. I don’t blame people for wanting to leave.
Robert Gibbs was asked yesterday (I wrote this blog more than a month ago) about why the President would have a private dinner with the President of China knowing the country participated in human rights violations. I thought Gibbs’ response was wise. He said the human rights violations justified the need for a face to face conversation all the more. When you take a “if you don’t agree with me I am going to cause tension” you rarely get anybody to agree with you, you just get a false feeling of moral superiority and greater division. So the question we have to ask ourselves is do I want to make people agree with me or do I want to say my piece and respect their individuality, even if I think they are wrong.
And on a side note, I am wondering whether the church in Europe decreased in size and impact because of loose, liberal theology, or because the church got divided and people got tired of the fighting. You never hear about that loose European theology, but you do hear a lot about bitter fights (historically, to the death) over theological squabbles. I think people just left the dinner party saying to themselves that they’d just rather find community at the pub. If the church dies in America, it wont be because of liberal theology, it will be because people don’t sense Christians actually understand or respect Jesus’ prayer in John 17. It goes without saying, then, that if they will know us by our love, they will also know we are not of God by our inability to acknowledge an individuals sovereignty.