It doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll go ahead and say it for anyone who is unaware: Evangelicals are notorious. That notoriety is not all bad, either. However, Evangelicals are getting better and better at being notorious for the worst things at a pace that is as alarming as it is impressive. If one were to take a look at the news from the past three weeks, Evangelicals are getting a bad rap almost everywhere:
- The President’s Evangelical Advisory Council members refuse to tell him he needs to speak out against white supremacy, and refuse to resign because of his remarks. As of this writing, Pastor A.R. Bernard is the only former member of the Evangelical Advisory Council. The outside world asks, how come everyone else gets this, and these Evangelicals don’t? Are all of these guys also super-racist?
- Evangelicals issue the ‘Nashville Statement’ , which does its best (and fails miserably) to affirm the humanity of the LGBTQ community (and straightforwardly normalize heterosexuality), while simultaneously drawing a line in the sand of who’s in and who’s out in the Evangelical community. If you are affirming of homosexual or transgendered folks, you are not ‘in’. The outside world asks, what is the point of such a formal statement? Was anyone wondering what many Evangelicals thought of homosexuality? What prompted this?
- Joel Osteen is accused of not opening up his arena-sized church to help people who are fleeing flooding in Houston, TX. This is probably the most unfair news for so many reasons — but it serves the purpose of pointing out that Evangelicals have a reputation for being on the wrong side of a whole lot of what is wrong in this world.
Which is unfortunate.
One could imagine that, given the fact that Evangelicals are now everyone’s favorite fall-guy, Evangelicals will detach, hunker down, and reinforce each other. Being the bad guy is an isolating feeling, even when it is unwarranted.
Undoubtedly, many Evangelicals and Evangelical churches wear these accusations as badges of honor. They call it persecution. They see it as the way the ‘world’ rejects prophets, or even how the ‘world’ rejected Jesus. They remind one another that they are on God’s right side, that they are the blessed, the saved, and that their job is to continue to speak truth to a fallen world. If they just stay the course, follow their convictions on what the ‘Bible clearly says’, they will be blessed. Even if the world never changes from its wicked ways, they will be found faithful to God and earn untold blessings after death.
Regardless, what ends up happening when Evangelicals feel shat upon from all angles is that they disengage from relationships and conversations with those that think/believe/act differently. This is what happens to all of us, if we are honest. I highly doubt there are very many people who are actively seeking the impeachment of Donald Trump that are also actively seeking to understand his supporters.
As we become more and more isolated,
we need each other more than we know.
More than we want to admit.
More than we could imagine.
In these moments, it is vitally important to seek understanding across lines of religious, political, or cultural difference. We need to pursue uncomfortable conversations with those who bother us the most. You know who those people are. They are the ones you both can’t stand and can’t unfriend on Facebook.
You need to have coffee with those people.
My plan, over the next few weeks, is to lay out a path to engaging in meaningful, reciprocal, life-changing and life-giving conversations across lines of difference. I will unpack what that means, and what that doesn’t mean. I will attempt to help my Evangelical and/or conservative brothers and sisters understand ‘dialogue’ as a necessary and important part of being a human being, rather than a liberal idea that requires me to compromise my beliefs for the sake of finding ‘common ground’. I will also attempt to do the same for my liberal brothers and sisters, who see ‘dialogue’ as a means to beat up people with good information in order to make them see the ‘truth’ and become more enlightened, science-believing, humans.
So stay with me. This will take some time. It won’t be easy. But it is absolutely necessary if we want to stop shouting and start really working to make the world a better place.