I’m officially over this idea that Christians need to start conversations, dialog, negotiations with everyone they disagree with. As if talking to someone of another faith persuasion somehow bridges the ideological divide between us.
Advocates of such an approach usually appeal for conversation on the basis that it will lead to…
Problem is, depending upon your “opponent,” cultivating those virtues might be just the thing to grease your slide. I mean, do you really think Mr. Fox gives a blip about “understanding” Mrs. Hen? No. But he’s crafty enough to endure a hen-house pow-wow in the hopes of an easy meal. Likewise, the notion that we need to converse with our ideological adversaries might be the first step to conceding the hen-house to the fox.
Of course, I’m not suggesting we avoid dialog or cultivate rudeness. Listening to “opponents” is the “Christian” thing to do. They are humans. They have stories. They deserve love and grace. But they also deserve TRUTH. And this, I’m afraid, is the ground Christians are often too willing to concede.
In our attempt to be nice, civil, and understanding, we are avoiding the real truth about our differences. And the consequences of ignoring those truths.
That’s the feeling I had reading Rachel Held Evans’ recent piece on atheists at CNN Belief Blog: Hey atheists, let’s make a deal. What is “the deal” Evans want to make with atheists? Well, that we/they stop using nutjobs in either camp to whitewash the other side. In her case, Evans cites Pat Robertson and Richard Dawkins as representatives of the fringes of their prospective movements.
…what if we resist the urge to use the latest celebrity gaffe as an excuse to paint one another with broad brushes?
What if, instead of engaging the ideas of the most extreme and irrational Christians and atheists, we engaged the ideas of the most reasonable, the most charitable, the most respectful and respected?
Only then can we avoid these shallow ad hominem attacks and instead engage in substantive debates that bring our true differences and our true commonalities to light. (bold mine)
I appreciate the tone of Evans’ approach. Really. It just seems… naive. It did, however, “bring our true differences… to light.”
Exhibit A: The non-substantive debate that followed Evans’ appeal for “substantive debates.” The post is nearing 6,000 comments. But the snark, vitriol, bickering, and nastiness is rather comic. Here’s a few gems cribbed from the conversation:
“This article is one of the most pathetic things I have ever read.”
“No deals for you. That’s the difference between Christians and atheists. Christians are supposed to try to be nice people that do the right thing and keep the peace. Atheists have no such directive.”
“The difference between yourself and Professor Dawkins, is that when he makes a claim he can back it up.”
“what Rachel fails to understand is that her belief system is based on the same foundations as Robertson’s”
“Okay I’ll agree to do that when you also agree to stop brainwashing children into a world of guilt, by calling them sinners.”
“Please find yourself to the nearest 20+ story building, toss yourself off the top of it, and ask your sky fairy to save you.”
“Hey Rachel Held Evans, how about you be quiet.”
“Hey Christians……ADULTS WITH IMAGINARY FRIENDS ARE STUPID!”
“Gaffes made by the likes of Dawkins and Robertson do not and cannot change the undeniable and unalterable truth that religions are man-made nonsense. So, No. No deal.”
So that thing about…
Forget about it.
Christians are doing a disservice to atheists by looking for “common ground.” The real important thing to distinguish between Christians and atheists is not that sliver of ground they share, but the Grand Canyon that stands between them.
Christians are doing a disservice to atheists by not telling them the truth about their eternal state. Jesus said, “unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24 NLT). At some point, being Christlike might mean sharing this, in love, with objectors.
Having a conversation is great. It just doesn’t guarantee we will ever agree — or SHOULD agree — about our points of contention. Building bridges is okay… provided the folks on the other side don’t have the pox.