Monday, August 6, 2012

No one is fighting...Do you see any elbows?

When I was little I would be taken with my sister to family holiday events at my grandmother’s house.  We would gather together not to celebrate the Holiday so much as it seemed was supposed to happen, but to argue.  

Well, I didn’t argue.  I was 9.  I had no interest in the apparent discourse other than when we were going to open presents and who was going to get the prize for the worst gift.  Seriously.  One year my cousin received a Bat House.  Yeah, you read that right. Who does that to a kid?  I myself developed a keen psychic awareness towards underwear regardless of the package it was hidden in.  I could tell when it was given to me and would respond with an audible groan.  Did one of the Kings give Jesus underwear hidden in any of the gifts they brought?  Nope.  Nor did our Savior get a bat house.

Anyway, around the time everyone had finished eating the arguing would start.  At least as a kid it sounded like arguing.  What it actually in essence was a family that loved each other very much; speaking freely and openly ideas that had contention and conflict associated with them.  Because of the family relationship there was no worry if someone during the heated disagreements would cut ties and discontinue the conversation for fear of offense or worse…hurt feelings.
During the lively wild finger pointing and elevated voices discussion, no one for once thought that anyone was trying to hurt anyone's feelings.  THIS was how you exchanged ideas, took a stance or contended for your belief.   It wasn’t personal.  It wasn’t vitriol spewing against who you were as an individual.  It was just how you would talk.  No subject was taboo. Religion, Politics, Abortion and current events were all up for debate.  All things were fair game.  There was no waiting your turn to voice your opinion.  You jumped in the ring and held your own, or you sat quietly back while the adults used big words that made you feel inferior.  It was rough, but it wasn’t personal.  You either hung in there, or you put your bat house together.   

Now I am older, a believing Christian, and I can only compare those things to which I have seen and heard.  And something has always troubled me horribly:  Some Christians can’t argue.  Most of them can’t tell or take a joke (or be severely teased), but some can’t argue.

I think it comes from the programming of hearing “Childlike faith” and then falling into the trap of believing what you are told all the time without question.  There is no iron sharpening iron, no practical contending for what they are taught.  No growth.   They rely upon someone else to support their beliefs.  And should that person ever fall, they either fold up their own convictions, or attach themselves to the next strong willed individual who they can feed off of.

Let’s look at something.  I’ll shorten the bible lesson because I am tired.  Jesus left the Apostles.  Peter was running the show mostly.  Here comes Paul, an outsider who formerly killed Christians but decided after a road trip to Damascus to join them, has Peter meet up with him in Antioch.  Peter, the guy who the Catholics say was the first Pope.  THAT guy.  Now, there is a lot of stuff that goes down but Paul says he WITHSTOOD Peter to his face because he was wrong.  That isn’t a simple “let’s work out our differences nicely” type of statement.  No.  It was Christmas dinner and Peter said something stupid about an incorrect belief he held.  The bell was rung and Paul came out before the sausage stuffing was put away.  They argued.  Christian believers argued.  Paul was right, Peter was wrong.   No one had their feelings hurt, if they did they got over it.  They moved on.

What I find even more distressing is people nowadays, not just Christians, don’t discuss or debate so much anymore as they shout down at each other what they believe.  There is no respecting of the individual or the person that they are.  We paint people quickly with labeled names and classify them as either one of us or against our firmly held and cherished beliefs.  Even worse, is the arrogance and pride associated with what appears to be a large number of people who fear being wrong.  Some individuals will THINK they know your background because of a belief and re-frame the argument consistently against how they hold a bias against your worldview.  There is no person in front of them, just a set of thoughts they choose to be biased against.  Conversation has lost its humanity.
There is no exchange of ideas, no refining of an opinion and worst of all no teaching of a different point of view.  There are fundamentals that I adhere to in my life, things that shape my worldview and personal perspective.  Because another individual doesn’t share those does not for a moment give me the right to discount them as a person.

In fact, the opposite occurs.  If I find someone willing enough to share their point of view with me and debate or argue the topic it proves out if I really believed and understood what my position was to begin with.  

During an argument with a friend over a topic close to both of us about American Government, I remember him stating in aggressive frustration “Read a book!”  I don’t think he had any book in mind, but it was perfectly in flow with what we were talking about.

The other day, I was driving with Katie in the car.  I asked her simply why she believed this or that.  Her response was “Because someone taught it to me”.  That’s a great starting point, but it isn’t good enough.  Because someone taught something to her means at some point someone else can come along, and unless she is grounded and knowledgeable in what she thinks she believes her perception can be changed.  That grounding only comes with discussions, questions, and sometimes arguing.
Don’t argue with just anyone who is looking to pick a fight.  Some people are more interested in hearing themselves speak than defending passionately what they believe while leaving the door open to be taught.  That’s key.  Every discourse should be entered with the understanding that you may very well be wrong.  Peter had to face it.  You might too.

 I have seen to many statements of faith come from some people’s mouths that when asked to back them up, crumble against basic stress testing.  They didn’t really have an idea or belief formed.  They were just letting stupid happen from their head.  In all reality though, their Holidays were probably a lot quieter than mine.