There’s another art we’re no good at either. But we’re not the only ones. Pretty much all of humanity has still not mastered this art…
The art of disagreement.
You’d think by now, we’d have this thing down. We’ve been doing it…well, forever. Yet for some reason, people still can’t get it right when it comes to resolving their differences. I think it’s been no more apparent than the time we live in. And I’ve got something to say about it, whether you agree with me or not.
Disagreement is an Art
I really think that. I was on the debate team in high school. We disagreed with each other a lot. Yet after centuries of disagreement, most people still can’t do it right. Allow me to enlighten you with a short history of disagreement:
900 thousand BC: Og, the caveman gets super pissed when his neighbor, Carl deliberately walks his pet dinosaur over the property line to leave a half ton pile of crap on his very meticulously manicured yard. Og responds in kind by allowing his saber toothed tiger to squat on Carl’s tulip garden and eat Carl.
1804 AD: Aaron Burr, having a long standing disagreement with Alexander Hamilton, removes his left handglove and, brandishing it in a manner most threatening, assails Hamilton, slapping him with the glove about the face and neck and says, “You have insulted my integrity! I challenge you to a duel!” He then runs over Hamilton with a bulldozer and continues to work as Vice President.
Present Day: Six year old, Johnny, upon hearing some upsetting news from his older sister, resorts to childish namecalling. Meanwhile, the adults of the world settle their differences not by debating the issues they disagree upon, but by calling each other unamerican, unpatriotic, unchristian, intolerant, racist, sexist, bigoted, homophobic, fundamentalists, liberals, deniers, idealogues, retarded, partisan, or pinheads. And if none of that works, you can just call someone gay.
We’re not even going to the effort of coming up with clever insults like the old days. With so much emphasis on who’s on “our” side, and who’s against us, it can only lead to one thing.
We’ve Got Hate Built into Us
You know I feel strongly about a lot of things. I tend to feel strongly about things I’m right about, and I’m right about many things. There are a lot of ideas that I think are absolutely ridiculous. I think there are ideas that are tearing apart our churches and crushing our culture. But of all the ideas I hate, I absolutely hate that I am conditioned every day to hate so many people.
I am told everyday why I should hate virtually everyone, depending on what my opinions are. I am supposed to hate liberals and conservatives, immigrants and border patrol agents. I’m supposed to hate the President, the Pope, Wall Street, Wal-Mart, and anyone else who I can dream has slighted me in some way. But the worst is that I’m programmed to draw a line in the sand on every little issue, and if my friends and family don’t cross over to my side, then there must be something wrong with them, and they must be avoided.
That’s an exhausting way to live. We aren’t built for it. But people get up and live that way every day, even without thinking. I guarantee this holiday season (sorry, “Christmas season”) will not just be about Jesus, as if it ever was. Christians will be given the marching orders to boycott another store that doesn’t use the word “Christmas.” Just wouldn’t be Christmas without picking a fight with someone. We practically can’t help but pick someone to not just disagree with, but wage war against. But with our history of burning heretics and splitting into 20,000 denominations, what can you expect? It’s as if we think we’d be happy if we could just get rid of all the people we disagree with.
Which leads me to this thought…
How Do You Know What You Believe?
How often do you try to interact honestly with people you disagree with? Most of us try to surround ourselves with people who validate our opinions. We read blogs and books and watch TV and listen to radio that validates us. We listen to preachers who validate what we already know. If they fail to tell us what we already know to be true, we tune out. We avoid spending too much time with our extended families, just to avoid an argument.
Most normal people put a ton of effort into insulating themselves from people who are wrong. That’s why people go to Bible college (which I was in for two years.) But I ask you, how can you know what you believe if you’re only around people who agree with you? If you’re scared that being around people who you disagree with will somehow “corrupt” you, I’d say if being around other people makes you change your beliefs, you didn’t really believe what you thought you did, or your beliefs weren’t worth anything.
People have always believed that they are right. And guess what? Usually, they’re wrong. We’re no different. We soldier on for the “truth,” as if we’ll never have to change our minds about the world being flat. George Bernard Shaw said, “All great truths begin as blasphemies.” My worship leader tells me that he’s glad I’m giving messages on Sundays that he doesn’t want to hear. He is one of my most challenging and best friends. Always something to disagree about.
I hope you know that I’ve always welcomed disagreement from my readers. If you agreed with everything I said, I don’t know what that would say about you or me. It might mean that you are almost as intelligent as me, which seems unlikely, as my intelligence is so high that conventional IQ tests cannot measure it. But most often, people who write in with their disagreements tend to sharpen, focus, and sometimes slightly change my beliefs. I’m always just as grateful for the disagreeable commenters as I am the people who are giving me high fives for being brilliant. The disagreement makes me a better writer, more empathetic to others, and smarter, if that is possible.
How do you handle disagreement in your home, church or work? Do you try to insulate yourself from people who are wrong, or do you try to evaluate what they are saying? How many disagreements do you give a pastor, a blog, a friend before you’ve had enough?