Thoughts on division, etc.


Boxers always hug at the end of the bout. At least, every one I’ve seen. It’s the most remarkable thing. For weeks, the two boxers have been verbally attacking one another, declaring their dominance, and otherwise making their hatred of the other person known. Who hasn’t seen the weigh-in as the boxers stand toe to toe, staring each other down, and daring the other person to start the fight a day early.  The fight itself is brutal. They are cut, bleeding, and frequently hit the canvas. Real damage is being done to their brains and bodies.

But when the fight is over – they hug.

I assume it’s because they have nothing left in them. They both are wounded, exhausted, and after so many rounds, they end the fight with a different perspective and respect for the other. That’s not to say one didn’t win and one didn’t lose; but they hug. And at least from my perspective, it looks completely genuine.

I will not comment on the substance of the issues at the United Methodist Conference yesterday. I will not for at least two reasons: first, I used to be United Methodist. I left in 2004 and have made it my policy to never comment on the church that raised me and brought me to faith. I’m afraid that would be poor form. Secondly, we – American Christians – aren’t ready to have a conversation about the substantive issues at the General Conference or General Conventions or General Synods. I’m happy to have conversations, but not online. It is very, very hard to embrace online.

We are the boxers. If we aren’t in the ring bloodying each other, we are outside making our points or staring the other down. When we are wounded enough, exhausted enough, humiliated enough, we might have a different enough perspective and respect to embrace.

I will, however, offer these observations about the debate, not only at the United Methodist Conference but, again, General Convention and General Synod.

·      There is a disturbing ecclesiology emerging that is identifies the Church as merely a bureaucratic and therefore, ineffective, mess. Nadia Bolz-Weber dangerously advised her twitter followers to not conflate God and the Church. This theology is making the Church the antithesis of God and not Christ’s Bride.

·      Along with the first point, the Holy Spirit seems to be invoked when we are victorious. If our perspective is not, it’s corruption, etc. Both sides, I think, are guilty of this. As a divided Christendom, it is hard to discern the Holy Spirit. Our own General Conventions from 2000-2006 (3 conventions) contradicted itself again and again. The Holy Spirit does not sow confusion.

·      I appreciate the appeal to evangelism to younger generations, but I think it is dangerous, whatever the issue, to say the Church should adopt a certain position just because millennials, or anyone else, wants it. I’m actually surprised this keeps coming up. Traditionalists and Progressives (whatever term we should use) should be nervous about this.

·      I need to say this carefully, because there is zero snark behind it. The number of letters behind LGBT keeps growing. I don’t always know what they are. Now, certainly, I need to do my homework, no argument. That’s not my point. My point is, we are confusing issues. Theologically, I think there is profound difference between sexual attraction and gender identity. One, of course, may disagree, but where is the theological literature on it? Maybe it’s there, but I haven’t seen it.

·      We’ve dropped the ball on human sexuality. Full stop. Our inability to address it theologically and charitably as led to division, the MeToo movement, Robert Kraft, etc. We are arguing over symptoms and refuse to acknowledge the pathology.

·      Traditionalists need to do a better job articulating their theological position (on every issue). As a traditionalist, I do not recognize the arguments that others make that are supposed to summarize my position. I think that is my fault.

·      I’m not sure two theological integrities can exist without formal structure. A Church cannot declare an issue to be an imperative of justice and at the same time allow for conscientious dissent. It doesn’t make sense and continues to isolate and divide.

I don’t know about you, but I am tired and a bit wounded. But I don’t think we’re tired enough. Yet.