Yet again, I must put the next post in my series on hold. There are simply too many thoughts rattling around in my head. What was going to be a tweet turned into a rather lengthy train of though, which turned into what will hopefully be a brief post.
I know I'm not the only one who senses it, but something's boiling under the surface of the "Christian" circles of social media. There have been multiple events recently that have caused lengthy and often heated comment threads. With the death of Robin Williams, there's been an absolute explosion of controversy over a blog post written by a popular blogger. I personally found the post very helpful and life-giving. I've seen Christians post it on Facebook. At the same time, I've seen some Christians viciously attack it.
On another note, a popular Christian musician has opened up about some opinions that many would find heretical. Again, there has been an explosion of blogging and Facebook posts about it. I admit, I put together some thoughts on the issue myself.
However, in this post, I don't care all that much about defending where I came down on those issues, as much as I want to talk about the fact that those issues, as well as several others, are causing what seems to me to be an incredibly visceral exchange of ideas in a very concentrated amount of time among a lot of different people. Most of this happening within Christian circles.
What are we to make of this?
I've already seen some people pick up on this development and I've already seen a variety of reactions. Some respond with what you might call an "epistemological cynicism" (epistemology being the field of study that looks at how we come to gain knowledge). I have long seen that there are Christians who react to any form of Christian conflict with humor and indifference. Rather than engage in the content of the debate, they mock the concept of debate itself. "If it causes tension, it's not worth my time" seems to be the attitude. If there is disagreement, the issue probably can't be settled or fully understood.
At the same time, I see some who aren't so much cynical as they are fearful. They jump into a mode that asks why everyone can't just get along. "Where's the love?" seems to be the foundational question. "If there is tension, there will inevitably be division and hatred" seems to be the belief.
Another response I see is just that, hatred. There are some who explode and write incredibly cruel and vicious things as soon as they see someone who diverges from their point of view.
Again, what are we to make of this?
In my personal opinion, I think this tension is long overdue. I'm not what you might call an optimist when it comes to the intellectual state of the church today. For a long time, the critical minds of Christians have remained at rest. During that time, the surrounding culture has moved further and further from God. This, as a result, has not stayed out of the church.
As a result, when a cluster of stories comes along that forces us to look deeply into ourselves and pressures us to open our mouths and express an opinion, we end up surprising ourselves or others with what we say. This results in all of the reactions just mentioned. Fear. Cynicism. Anger. Even hatred.
All the while, God is in the midst, sharpening his people. He is exposing passivity, provoking righteous anger, cleansing away unrighteous hatred, revealing heresy, promoting love, exposing false Christians, comforting the afflicted, tearing down the boastful, and ultimately, revealing his glory more clearly.
At times, we feel like Christian unity is on the brink of destruction. However, even though I can be pessimistic as a result of the human frailty in the church, I rest confidently in God's promise to build his church. For those of us who truly belong to Christ, God is bigger than our disagreements. This should not cause us to ignore our differences, but to bring them to the light. We can argue and wrestle and sharpen each other like iron, and in the end, Christ will use it to unite us even further.
For those of you who feel fear, know that God is building his church.
For those of you who feel anger, perhaps it is time you did.
For those of you who feel hatred, ask God to reveal his love to you like never before.
For those of you that are cynical, know that truth matters and it can be known.