If You Love This Land of The Free–Disagree, Disagree

Whenever I write a post–whether for this blog or another–I always have an inkling of what kind of response it is going to get. Posts on poverty, hunger, AIDS or something Bible-related that has nothing to do with gender roles will get minimal responses. Posts on Victoria’s Secret, eating disorders, or sex, on the other hand, well, you know.

It’s kind of a joke among my fellow writers. The more sensational, the more pageviews and comments–a virtual law of the blogo-twittersphere.

But when I wrote a piece pointing out that “masculinity” is not a fixed concept and that there is no good reason–Biblical or otherwise–for John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Douglas Wilson, or anyone else–to press men and women into “traditional gender roles” and call this “Biblical” or “Christian,” I was unprepared for some of the responses that came my way.

  • you’re going to hell
  • you don’t really believe in Jesus
  • you’re in rebellion
  • you’re stupid
  • you need to be ‘straightened out’
  • you’re trying to grasp authority that’s not yours
  • etc.

Being disagreed with so strenuously, being ‘put back in line’ or simply told off is not something I’m used to. I’m a pretty conciliatory person. There’s a part of me that likes a good debate, but a bigger part of me that just wants to get along. If we disagree strongly on, say, some point of theology or some political position, I’m much more likely to want to talk about anything else just so’s we can not argue.

However, sometimes the stakes are such that I can’t avoid an issue for the sake of a superficial ‘peace,’ or to ensure that people keep “liking” me. I look to Dr. Martin Luther King on this one. Remember his letter from Birmingham Jail? The pastors who wrote to him–well-meaning, of course–urged him not to make waves, create discord, to wait.

But justice too long delayed is justice denied. The time for acting, for speaking, is almost always now.

And the ‘peace’ that comes from ‘not arguing’ is sometimes just a silencing cloth covering injustice.

Yet this does not mean that we have to be, well, mean.

I realized something last week: I can disagree, discuss, yea, argue, with the people I love very best in this world, with none of us doubting the others’ love or even assuming ill will. Why is that?

  • Is it because, from the very outset, we want to move to a place of concord?
  • Is it because we want to know what the other thinks, and why, so that we can understand where they are coming from?
  • Is it because we will love and respect and accept and live with each other even if we disagree?

This country was founded upon some powerful ideas.

One of them being that we are not a monoculture, religiously, politically, or otherwise.

We can disagree, two Americans, and still both be Americans.

We can disagree, two Christians, and still both be Christians.

We can disagree, two friends, and still be friends.

As Pete Seeger sang/said, “I may be right, I may be wrong […] but I have a right to sing this song! (Isn’t that the great thing about America? You have a right–to be wrong!)”

Fun fact: law in 17th century Maryland prohibited the use of the words “Papist” for Catholics or “Roundhead” for Puritans. Because them’s was fighting words, and that’s not what this New Country was ever supposed to be about.

So if you love this land of the free–feel free to disagree. But not in such a way that casts one of us out.

In a way that makes it possible for us all to be in.

3 thoughts on “If You Love This Land of The Free–Disagree, Disagree

  1. “We can disagree, two Christians, and still both be Christians.” – Problem is, as you found with your post on masculinity and as I have found nearly any time I write about reproductive ethics, there are Christians who believe they have a moral duty to call out anyone who is (in their mind) betraying the faith. There are those who believe that, on certain topics (gender roles, abortion, homosexuality) we absolutely CANNOT disagree and still both be Christians. This saddens me, and I struggle with how to respond to this dynamic. In some cases, I have ultimately chosen to cut ties with a handful of Christians who have slandered and belittled me by saying that I cannot be a Christian and hold the positions that I hold. I will gladly converse with those with whom I disagree…if they will honor our mutual faith.

    1. Ellen, you’re absolutely right–that IS the problem. And sometimes it is right and good and the only thing to do to avoid further discussion with people hell-bent on, well, telling us we’re hell-bound. There are emails, discussion threads, and issues I have also cut ties with, because that polarizing dynamic leaves no room for further talk; it is hateful mudslinging. This post is for the folks who are unwilling to concede that we can disagree and still be sisters and brothers. Casting one another out like that–whether out of Christendom, out of America, or whatever–is as unChristian as it is unAmerican. It is a diminishing dynamic.

  2. Rachel, thank you so much for articulating something I’ve had rolling through my head for a long time. It’s more than why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along. It’s a question of how to disagree without being disagreeable. You have borne it well, judging by the recent her.mi article.

    And as for those who can’t separate disagreeability from their disagreement, I’ll pass on something I told Karen Swallow Prior a while back regarding how some folks were responding to a her.mi article she wrote: A little coping mechanism I use when I see that kind of negativity is to remember the Latin aphorism, “illegitimi non carborundum.” Flippant, a touch base, but very effective for keeping one’s spirits up!

    Cheers, Rachel.

    Tim

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