This morning, I read a post at Frank Viola’s new Patheos Blog that I happen to think is very timely. Not only because we are nearing the end of a hateful political season and we’ve all failed in loving our fellow Christians who believe differently politically, but also because of something new I’ve gotten involved in: a book launch team for a book that is getting a lot of publicity: Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood.
There are a great many supporters and a great many dissenters of Evans’ book. It is easy for me to interact with others who loved the book as I did, but a great deal more difficult to interact with fellow Christians who are tearing it down (with or without having read it).
There are times when my husband has come home from work and asked me about prominent Christians that coworkers mentioned, and I immediately roll my eyes, get all indignant, and tell him exactly what is wrong with their ideas. Of course, none of you readers know that because I don’t do it publicly, but does that make it any better? Or does it make it worse?
In the post I linked to above, Frank Viola writes:
Civil disagreement and even debate, when done in the spirit of Christ, are healthy and helpful. But when disagreements descend into second-guessing motives, distortions of one another’s words, mischaracterizations of one another’s views, and personal attacks, then we’ve moved into the flesh.
And so I wonder how to interact with and respond to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ when we disagree about a book. What is the loving way to respond? I don’t want to get into petty arguments, but I do want to have helpful and fruitful discussions. Is it possible?
I can understand that people will not see this particular book in the same way that I will, but it saddens me to see it attacked and described as mocking the Bible. I know that as I read it, I felt the Bible come alive; I saw an honest and searching approach to understanding how different women view and are viewed in the words of that beautiful book that points us to Jesus.
Will Evans get everything 100% correct? No. But who among us will? I certainly won’t. Even the greatest theologians in history failed in certain ways (I’m looking at you, Martin Luther, for your “On the Jews and Their Lies” essay), but the good news is that we are called to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves…not to love our favorite theological method with our of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
I have two hopes. The first is that those who are attacking this book will actually read it with an open mind, and be able to see the good in it. The second is that when I read articles or posts or books with which I disagree, that I will read them with an open mind and be able to see the good in them, and not be so quick to roll my eyes and get disgusted, and try to see where the writer is coming from.