Friday, September 14, 2012

No need to be meaner

Thinking about how we conflate ethical or just conduct (goodness) and polite conduct (niceness), I said that sometimes the culture of fake niceness bothered me in the church.  This strikes me as particularly funny because it almost makes it sound like I want people to be meaner in the church.  Really, I don't.  Especially not in these politically combustible times when there is a whole lot of screaming and what appears to be hatred directed toward and away from people who go to church on Sunday.

Recently, a friend of mine posted something on Facebook that was pretty counter Evangelical culture, and someone just ripped into him in the most unreasonable and destructive way possible.  Regardless of who was right or wrong or who I agreed with on basic principle or didn't, I was horrified to watch once child of God treat another child of God like that.  There was rage and contempt and anger and fear nearly bordering on hate and not really any sign of thoughtfulness, reason, or, well, love on the part of the attacker, while the attacked remained calm and reasonable and tried to redirect the posts towards the actual issue/argument at hand.

I tried to defuse the situation, but I ended up getting slapped, as well.  Stepping back away from the cloud of acrimony and letting the hurt subside a bit, I can now more clearly recognize that there was genuine concern and even anguish, but it was applied in the most unproductive way possible in the most unproductive place possible. 

Later I was told that the person who made all the hurtful comments was a very learned man with many degrees and a lot of knowledge about theology.  Maybe this person was trying from a place of knowledge and deep conviction to speak the truth in love, but he was frankly speaking the language of unreasonable hatred and couldn't even understand that this way of handling the situation was a new kind of wrong he was bringing in and committing against the brother he believed had wronged him.  (Or the world or whoever it was he thought had been wronged and needed defending because, well, just keep reading.)

I was also told the wife of the man said that he didn't think the Bible verses I brought up applied to the situation because my referenced verses were when Jesus was talking about how we should respond when a brother sins against us, and that's not what was happening in this case.

I had a few thoughts about that.
  1. In this particular case, lots of the rantings were very much obvious accusations of sins committed against the ranter (at least in his own mind).  
  2. What exactly does it mean to sin against a person?  In the past, I've wondered about this idea because, really, how frequently does someone in my local body of Christ sin against me?  Not very frequently.  (It helps to be antisocial and not really have relationships with people, certainly.)  If this is how we are supposed to keep each other on the right path as members of the body of Christ, it seems kind of . . .  I'm not sure inefficient is the right word.  Hands-off?  Maybe we're not understanding this idea of sinning against a person right.  Maybe it's broader?  Maybe it's indicating that whenever one of our family members in Christ sins and we see it?  Is it that someone does something that offends us morally?  What is sin against a person?
  3. What is our responsibility when a brother doesn't sin against us (in the way I initially interpreted it) but publicly makes a stand/does something we believe is wrong?  Since the sin is committed in a public forum, should it be addressed in the same public space?  Or is it not our place to address it publicly? And should this be limited only to believers?  What does the internet do to the body of Christ?  How are they related?  (How) Should they relate?
Any thoughts?

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