Agreeably Disagreeing

Like neighborhoods and private clubs, congregations are increasingly sorting ourselves into pockets of sameness – at least in terms of political perspectives.

Yes, churches have always been communities of disagreement but our differences often focus on paint colors (“I can’t believe they chose aqua for the sanctuary walls“) or some other property-related issue.  Do you know many congregations with a broad array of political perspectives sitting side by side in worship?

This is yet another age in which we judge one another morally depending on where we stand politically. Bret Stephens

I once served a congregation comprised of people of different political parties, different theologies, and different perspectives and it was fine.  They not only got along with each other but they supported projects and people with whom they disagreed.

A guest preacher one Sunday talked about her work serving an LGBTQ organization and one of our elders asked to speak with her privately after worship. He said somthing like this:

I don’t agree with everything you shared but I see that you are a person of deep faith. I’d like to make a contribution to your organization.  (Note:  He gave her a check for $100.)

There was an elder in the same congregation who consistently questioned “all this interfaith stuff” but one Sunday he sat on the same pew with two Muslim men from Turkey and before he left after worship, he brought them to meet me.

These gentlemen are visiting from a Muslim congregation.  They would like to meet you.  (Note:  They came back another Sunday and brought Turkish snacks for coffee hour.”)

Can we imagine this happening today in church?  I hope so.  I hope it happens all the time but I wonder.

How do we agreeably disagree with each other in these quarrelsome times?  First we ask questions – especially of ourselves:

  • Why are we uncomfortable with certain people?  Do they frighten us?  Do we believe that their ideas will rub off on us?
  • Can we see past nationality/color/political party and instead see each other with the eyes of Christ?
  • Would we be willing to talk with those who disagree with us – and by listening, could we truly listen and place ourselves in their shoes?(Listening is not the same as waiting for our turn to talk.)

These are contentious times and we are clearly a divided people.  But can agree that:

  • People are suffering in the world and all of us are called to help relieve their suffering?  (Hurricanes and earthquakes have no politics.)
  • There is deep hurt in our nation and some are desperate enough to do something that will grab our attention? (e.g. Take a knee.)
  • A variety of people feel ignored and misunderstood in this country, and they just want opportunities to work and live?

How can the Church model agreeable disagreement?  We begin with ourselves.  We begin by realizing that we don’t have to hate the people with whom we disagree.



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