Learning from your Enemies

Krish Kandiah has a blog post up about how Tom Wright ( N.T. Wright) is the christian equivalent of marmite.

In the article he raises this point:

“For some of my friends its all or nothing with the theologians they like. There’s a tick list – a writer needs to tick the boxes on a number of issues in order to have anything to contribute to a conversation.”

I think it’s a fair point. When I studied for my BA in Youth work with Applied Theology, there was a clear split between those who preferred Rob Bell or Mark Driscoll. As if somehow by liking one you automatically had to hate the other. It became very tribal.

People like to be part of a tribe and its very easy to have a tribal mentality. When someone attacks what you makes you ‘you’, it is in your best interest to fight it. You want to defend your beliefs as you feel its a personal attack against your identity.

For me though, I think its a little different. I can happily listen to those that I disagree with- to a point. I imagine its the same for most people. We all have buttons or ‘no go areas’. There are convictions that we hold that cannot be pushed and its not always necessarily to do with theology.

For instance I will have nothing to do with Mark Driscoll or Martin Luther. I will not read what they’ve written or take any time to listen to their views.

Why?

Because they both, in my opinion (and it is just an opinion) have a very abusive view of women. Martin Luther once said, “women are the gateway to hell”. Driscoll famously has said, and i paraphrase here, that since the husband is the head of the household, if he wants anal sex, he gets anal sex.

Those are worldviews that those men hold that I cannot get around and its not simply a case of removing those remarks when I come to look at them. I cannot come to a text of Driscolls or Luthers and ignore what they’ve said. Those remarks infect everything that they have to say. It is behind everything that they have to say.

Krish suggests that he can learn from any flawed person and I commend him for that. But I cannot do that.

Let’s imagine Hitler wrote some great literature. I could not sit down and read any of it without thinking “this man had over 6 million people killed”. I cannot just conclude that he’s a flawed human and get past his actions. They are what makes him. It is part of who he is.

Now I’m not comparing the actions of Driscoll or Luther to Hitler. But…if we believe, as many say, that all sin is the same and that sin by its definition is anything that causes a breakdown in relationship with either ourselves, others or God then maybe its perfectly acceptable to do so.

So, over to you. Does any of this make sense? Do you think this is helpful or is there some way of getting past your convictions in order to learn from people like this?

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One response

  1. Claire Ashurst | Reply

    I completely see what you are saying here. For me, I don’t think I could ever join a church that does not allow women to teach in church, or to be leaders. It is just something I couldn’t get over. We can’t expect teachers to be perfect, but if we hugely disagree with something they say it is very hard not to let that colour all their other teaching.

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