Let’s Agree to Disagree

March 19, 2010

I’ve been reading a great book.

It’s a Christian book.  It’s by a pastor named Philip Gulley.  It’s called If the Church Were Christian.  It’s really good.

And I totally disagree with everything the book says.

I mean I can still read the book.  It’s probably a good thing to read books that you disagree with.  It’s given me lots of time to evaluate what I do believe.

But I wouldn’t go to the guy’s church or anything and listen to his sermons.

That got me thinking.  I disagree with tons of people.  I disagree with the thoughts, religions, politics, and personal decisions of most Hollywood actors.  But I still enjoy their movies.  I disagree with a lot of blogs I read.  But I still respect them and read them regularly.  But my church?  I generally want it to be a safe haven of my own brand of hive-minded Christianity.  I want people to agree with what I say.  I want my opinions to be validated and my ego stroked by not having any nay-sayers.  I like a church full of the “same kind” of Christians as me.  We believe the same things.  We worship the same way.  And all the things we believe are the “best” form of Christianity, obviously.

I know that’s dangerous.  I couldn’t stand it at my Baptist college.  Some people there were obsessed with agreeing on everything.  There were even students who wanted to “cleanse” the library of books that were contrary to Christianity.  Believe me, I wasn’t the only one who vocally disagreed.  I thought I went to college to learn, and not just the Bible.  I made it my mission to remind everyone we were at an academic institution, not church camp.

In fact, just about every place in life, we expect to disagree with people.  It’s even good to disagree with people.  Take these five examples:

Where It’s Better to Disagree

Government
Seriously, when everyone in Congress agrees, it always gets us into trouble.  It doesn’t matter which party is in control.  They always screw it up.  Government works best when the people we elect can’t get along. 

Science
If there’s one group of people we want to disagree, it’s scientists!  If a doctor tells us something we don’t like, we go for a second opinion, which we hope will prove the first guy to be a quack.  When scientists start saying things like “the debate on global warming is over,” there’s something fishy, as we’ve found out.  Plus, it’s always fun to see a bunch of nerds duke it out.

When your girlfriend is being ridiculous
Guys, there’s no reason you always have to agree with your lady.  Some guys try to just give in and let the girl win the argument, in order to “make up,” but this is not a good strategy, as women do not respect guys who do not think for themselves.  In fact, if your woman is being ridiculous, it’s because you aren’t doing your job of telling her what to think. 

When your boyfriend is being an airhead
Ladies, you and I both know that the world needs a good dose of estrogen to counteract all the testosterone being flung all over the place.  Don’t go along with some idiot idea your man has just because you want to be a good wife and support him.  I can’t tell you how many times my wife has saved me from walking into a bad idea.

When your friends are about to pour several dozen glow sticks all over themselves
If only our one smart friend had disagreed with us about how “awesome” it would be to smear glowing diphenyl oxalate all over our bodies…if only.  He just sat there absentmindedly until it was too late, and then told us the stuff causes cancer.  At least we looked awesome, until we were yelling in pain and hosing each other down in the middle of the night.

Obviously, there are many times when it’s better to disagree than to go with the flow.  But when it comes to church, why are we so uncomfortable with people who disagree?

Think about this: say I was your pastor.  What would be your threshold for disagreeing with me before you left my church?  What would I have to say to get you to leave?

Would I have to tell you I believe Mary wasn’t a virgin?  What if I said I believe in infant baptism?  Or that I don’t believe in infant baptism?  What if I favored ordaining practicing homosexuals as ministers?  What if I vocally opposed homosexuals in the ministry?  Would you leave if you found out I was pro-choice, or believed Jesus was not sinless, or that the Bible is more “metaphorical” than literal?  What if I was a Mormon or a Unitarian or a Republican or a Democrat or Glenn Beck?

Chances are, just about all of you would leave my church over one of those things.  Fortunately, I just pulled random thoughts out of the air, so you don’t know what I believe about any of those things.  I’m not Glenn Beck.

But Christianity is full of people who believe all those opposing viewpoints.  So what’s really important?  Where is your threshold for disagreement in your church?  Where would you have to draw the line on what your church friends believe about Jesus or the Bible or church or anything else about life?  Is it important that you agree with your pastor, or is he cool with you as long as he loves Jesus, whatever Jesus looks like to him?