Contention

I am 49 years old; and thus far, in my lifetime, I have yet witnessed a more contentious atmosphere in our culture. If you think this anxious attitude is absent among self-professed "Christians" then think again. (Some of them are even worse than the unbelieving culture in which they live.) Everyone is a critic; everyone has an opinion; everyone seems to maintain an entitlement to voice that opinion. Respect is lacking; seeking commonality is a quaint notion of the past; and those who carelessly and hurtfully (even violently and vulgarly) "speak their minds" are deemed credible -- yes, even by self-professing "Christians." I regret how many times I have been drawn, like a gullible moth to a life-threatening flame, into endless, contentious debates and spiteful, hurtful, godless rhetoric. God is not pleased.

A seminary professor informed a former dormmate of mine that becoming a blogging seminarian is beneath him. Why? Because blogging tends to grant equal validity among everyone. Someone who has studied a particular subject for years, and earned degrees in the field, can be undermined by some zealous blogger who knows or has studied little on a given topic. (This is, by the way, why I footnote and link my sources. I am seeking credibility even though I have yet to earn a Masters degree or a Ph.D. in a particular field of study.)

But this means that the contentious complainer with an axe to grind, whether sociologically, ideologically, or theologically, garners some semblance of credibility merely by publishing his or her ideas on a blog. Or, if you will, consider self-published books. Granted, there are some good self-published authors, and they are deserving of getting published by a credible publishing house. But there are some very poor communicators, poor writers, and poor thinkers who have a self-published book. For the average Joe, who is unaware that the book in his hand is not peer-reviewed and may contain damaging errors, the notion of self-publishing can be disastrous for a social construct.

Consider, as well, the onslaught of fake news from websites that seem credible, reliable, but that propagate either half-truths or overt lies in order to gain a readership. Such "resources" appear equally valid to the good reporting accomplished on a genuinely credible site by someone who cannot distinguish between the two. (Keep in mind, also, that many of us gravitate toward messages and views that we want to hear or read and the issue of credibility becomes even more complicated.) What is the source for all this contention?

The answer is quite simple: Power. Whether sociologically, or religiously, the struggle for power is manifest. Simplistically summarized, when conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention detected that "the liberals" were growing in number, and that "the liberals" could outnumber "the conservatives," the struggle for power became of primary significance, as the conservatives sought to regain dominance; and they did! Conservatives at SBC seminaries began hiring other conservatives. They constructed confessions that were required beliefs of the professors. When liberals could no longer agree, and tolerate the conservative agenda, they were forced (of their own conscience) to leave. (Hence the CBF, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, today.) The conservatives won the power struggle.

The conservatives did not win the power struggle in The Episcopal Church, however, and how thankful I am for that reality. That may seem a harsh gratitude. But allow me this concession. Power struggles are real in most facets of our reality -- marriages, friendships, the workplace, politics, religion, and child-rearing. (Relationships are supposed to entail synergy not tyranny.) Jesus commands Christians to not seek to overpower others. (Matt. 20:25; cf. 1 Pet. 5:3) We do recognize authority (Rom. 13:1-7), yes, but we are not to seek "lording authority" dictatorially over other believers. I read recently some comments from conservatives who remain in The Episcopal Church complaining about Episcopal Church members being "mostly liberal." This is true -- and it must be true. This is inevitable.



What I mean is that one group will likely outnumber another group. In this case, the conservative Episcopalians departed from The Episcopal Church, and mostly liberal Episcopalians remain. One contentious Episcopalian (who, instead of engaging one of my articles, decided to question the title of my blog) complained that the liberals would not allow the conservatives a voice. But that is not true. Conservatives who remain in The Episcopal Church may voice their opinion; that does not mean, however, that their opinion will dictate how the Church is to operate and what the Church will permit or deny in theology and practice. This would remain the same scenario if the conservatives outnumbered the liberals in The Episcopal Church today. Liberals could voice their opinions and suggestions but the larger group would dictate theology and practice.

But make no mistake: the reason why we bicker and fight today is because we seek power. I seek power. What kind of power? I seek the kind of power that does not dominate, like a tyrant, but influences how others think and what they believe. I am attempting to influence people to what I view as a toxic and corrupt reality regarding Donald J. Trump and the Religious Right who defend, affirm, and support him to this very day.

No one figure has stirred up more contention, strife, and hatred recently in this country as has Donald Trump. He hypocritically calls us to "come together" and "unite" while he, on his on-going narcissistic campaign rallies (for what could he possibly be campaigning since he is only seven months into the presidency?), accomplishes little else but stirring up strife, opposition, and hatred for his and his supporters' opponents. He has helped make this country more contentious. What is God's view of Trump? God calls the actions of a person who stirs up strife abominable. (Prov. 6:16, 17, 18, 19) As a matter of fact, Trump fits every description named in Proverbs 6:16-19 that God deems abominable, but his Religious Right supporters and defenders continually justify, baptize, and sanctify his evil.

There are days, I confess, when I think about giving up social media entirely. I become disgusted, critical, and my joy dissipates. What keeps me blogging? First, Jesus calls His people to be salt and light in the earth (Matt. 5:13-16), and refusing to be salt and light because I live in a contentious age would not please Him. I am commanded to seek what pleases the Lord. (Eph. 5:10) Second, every now and again I will receive encouragement from someone, just when I am about to give up for the hundredth time. I wrote a piece that helped someone think differently. Or I wrote a statement that gave someone hope, or encouragement, or even helped someone change their views for the better. If you are feeling the pressure to give up, because of this on-going contention, let me encourage you to not grow weary in well-doing. (Gal. 6:9) You are much needed to quell the contention! So am I; and I am in need of some recuperation so that I, myself, do not give up.

2 comments:

Hugh Krone said...

Billy,
Yu can't give up, first of all I won't let you. What you do need to do is get a little better at promotion so we can expand your readership. You are that rarest of human being who can admit they are wrong from time to time and that is just the kind of person the blogosphere needs. Personally you have helped me immensely, helped me to get back to the person I know I always was, the person that will always fight for the underdog, learning how to incorporate that part of me into my Faith journey can only be beneficial, at least for other people. LOL not so sure it is beneficial to myself but that's OK.Some day we are going to stand before God and as frighteneing a prospect as that is, I don't want to be the servant who buried his talent in the stand. I ant my life to stand for something, something God would approve of. When you need encouragement I can do that as long as you put up with the times I bitch slap you. You're a good man and that is a compliment I give very few people. Just remember all thouse who have went before us who have died for their faith in following Jesus you can put up with a few insults, so suck it up buttercup and keep going. Jesus loves you and so do I

The Episcocrat said...

Hugh,

Your encouragement never ceases to amaze me. You are the one conservative I know of who is self-effacing, humble, and unwilling to dismiss those with whom you at times disagree. Thank you so much,

You mention broadening my readership. I've noticed that, when you publicize a post of mine to your audience -- and you know they will not like it (haha) -- they may come and read the post, but they do not return. The numbers surge and then recede to normalcy when the brief storm is over. I think my mom was right: Birds of a feather flock together. It seems that we really only read what we want to read. Very few among us are willing to read from those with whom we sorely disagree. 'Tis human nature.

Sincerely,

Buttercup

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ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.