How can we be one again once this is all over?

Toxic? Hardly. Reconciliation is the whole message of Christianity (c.f. the passage from 2 Cor 5 I quoted above). If you don’t wish to reconcile, then… well… we have fundamental differences in our understanding of what Christianity even is. Now, just because you wish to reconcile doesn’t mean your brother or sister will, and there may well be nothing you can do about that. Later in 2 Cor 5 Paul implores the Corinthians to be reconciled to God. He’s reconciled to them, but they still have a ways to go. Still, the example of Christ was to go all the way to the cross in an effort to reconcile. Even at that point, not all will respond… and that’s on them. But I know in my own damaged relationships I rarely ever get even close to cross-level reconciliation efforts. And… well… that’s falling short.

Whatever you do, if you do it in love, honestly esteeming your brothers and sisters more significant than yourself, then you can act in a clear conscience knowing you have followed Christ. The rest of us have to look at the stones in our hands and think hard.

I was thinking about one of my previous arguments after listening to a podcast , “ Green Dreamer “ episode 328 with Nick Estes. My argument I am not feeling, and even at the time sort of felt like, a bit unfair. Not completely untrue but still not all the way fair.

The argument was comparing looking past those who refuse vaccines in the same way I look past someone going on a unnecessary drive to feel better. The difference is that with vaccines there is a reasonable choice you can make. It’s not like we are forced to not get them and it’s a battle to get them. It’s easy to get them and by getting them there is no negative effects. While with the joyride the reality is that there is not really any other option other than to not drive somewhere. Most of us don’t have friends living with us and so on. We can’t just saddle up a horse and ride 8 miles to see friends and so on. Most people are even beginning to live in apartments with friends further away.

So while it’s partly true it’s also a not a completely fair argument due to realistic living even when cutting back. It does not change my end position of looking past things but does show how the comparison is a bit off.

Reconciliation with God through Christ. When the “church” abandons the mission of reconciling the world to Christ and wants to focus on selling pillows and spreading Q Anon memes, and Christ followers call BS on that, you can’t just use guilt and shame to keep them in the fold. That is toxic.

Walking away is not throwing stones.

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That’s the key, isn’t it? You have to get past the politics and whatever with your family because of the ties of blood and history that unite you. Your sister is your sister, and that means something, no matter how much you want to clock her in the head (I know, I have two of those myself). Any human community has to share some sort of “connective tissue” like that in order to cohere in the face of external changes and forces. I’m not sure you can have connectivity like that at the scale required for the entire US. Like the dinosaurs, it’s simply too big to survive. (I’m not convinced this is a bad thing… I’m not keen on leviathans of any sort.)

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And reconcilation with each other. Seventy times seven, and all that.

I don’t think we’re talking about the same things. You say:

When the “church” abandons the mission of reconciling the world to Christ and wants to focus on selling pillows and spreading Q Anon memes, and Christ followers call BS on that, you can’t just use guilt and shame to keep them in the fold.
Why is “church” in scare quotes? Are you suggesting the people focusing on selling pillows and QAnon aren’t part of Christ’s body? Well then, you clearly can’t be reconciled to them in Christ until they’re reconciled to him. And so stop calling them “church”. IMO, there is no “the ‘church’”… If I thought that I’d be Roman (or probably Eastern). There are just churches where we worship with our brothers and sisters. That was the context of Adrienne’s original question, as I understood it. Big cultural movements are the domain of principalities and powers that are too big for me to comprehend or evaluate. If I can’t love the guy in front of me in the communion line whom I’ve known for years and truly believe desires to follow Christ even if he has some infuriating ideas, then I need to work on that before I tackle some remote wacky movement. But if I’ve been part of a church family for 5 years and wake up one day and suddenly realize that family isn’t “following Christ’s example”, then I first need to figure out how I can suck less at discernment before I go looking for my next “family”.

Why are you so quick to label what I say as “toxic”? That’s a nicely loaded accusation in our times, and quite literally impossible for me to refute. It’s possible that I don’t mean what you think I mean, but we’ll never find out if in your mind I’m just being “toxic”.

I’m suggesting they are fatally off-mission. If your concept of the church is hanging out with people who say they are Christians, well, I have a different concept of church and it’s related to participating in God’s mission in the world. When the church abandons the mission, it becomes the “church” in my mind. I wasn’t making a comment on anyone’s salvation or sanctification, but I do believe strongly that it is more biblical to judge people by their fruit than by what they say they believe. Unity with other Christians is all fine and good, but unity is not a goal, it’s a means to an end. We are united in order to fulfill a mission. The unity bus needs to be going somewhere. If it’s going off a cliff, people need to get off.

Probably because I’ve spent the last 20 years being hurt in various ways trying to be unified, and I’m done making excuses for the people who hurt people. And you are echoing messages I have decided to stop listening to. It’s not personal and not intended as an insult. I’m just kind of done hearing about how I’m the problem. I don’t think it’s coming from a place of pride or anger. More exhaustion and sadness.

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One thing I think that sometimes gets missed is that everyone , regardless of how right or wrong they may be on an assortment of stances, are not perfect and because of these imperfections, some of us are better equipped for this or that area. Does not mean we can stay in the boat because sometimes we have to get out of it. So from my perspective some people in here are far more equipped to be emotional support for those struggling with the church because of some marginalized societal problem. I’m not and probably will never be the guy that trans people need to come to. I’m far better off being the guy that tells other heterosexuals that they need to back off and stop being cruel. I’m not the guy that black people need to look towards as a beacon of social Justice. I’m not that passionate about social Justice. I recognize it needs to happen and occasionally i feel like I’m in a position over a specific case to try to speak up. Usually it’s again I’m far better at talking to some white guy doing something a bit racist and pointing out to him he’s being a bit racist and reason with him than to be the guy trying to console the black guy that was hurt.

I’m ok with knowing what I need to work on and also knowing what I’m simply not a good fit for. It’s why I prefer to stick to small acts of kindness such as giving someone a ride, helping someone with $50 or showing up to help them work on their house or car for free. Beyond that what I mostly focus on is environmental issues. Some others in here seem the complete opposite. They seem to be far more equipped to be a social Justice warrior by actively trying to be a buffer between oppressive systems and outdated thoughts and it’s victims.

So not everyone needs to fight every battle. Not everyone needs to try to fit into every problems solution.

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Hi @Ron_anon . As a lurker in this thread, I appreciate your contribution, but I think you may be missing a dynamic in the conversation.

You’re intentionally anonymous here. At least in this thread, it’s not an anonymity that frees you to share more personally. You’ve cloaked more than your name. Your argument is made through platitudes, principles and prooftexts. And that’s all fine. We need to hear from people like you, and I know I need to consider what you’ve raised. You’ve spoken some hard truths.

But critiquing someone else’s real situation with abstracted principles is less than helpful. To give a trivial example, you mock about those who wake up one day and recognize their church family has been different for years – to someone who was away from their church family for years while serving internationally. The abstracted principles and one-size-fits-all advice fail to connect not just because they aren’t couched within the details of your own experience, but because they deny the reality of others’ experience.

Extoling biblical principles in ways that fail badly when confronted with real life is not, in the end, any gift to those principles.

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Hi @Ron_anon, 2 Tim 1:7 which you quote is one of those verses that is so memorable, a personal favourite in fact. However, its memorability means that it can easily float out of context. Consider:

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. ~ 1 Timothy 1:6-8 (NIV2011)

Notice how in these verses and in those that follow the thing that the Holy Spirit protects us from fearing is persecution. Since Timothy has been given a Spirit of power, love, and self-discipline, he should not shrink back from the challenges ahead of him but rather join Paul in suffering for the gospel. By extension, we are called to do likewise.

To take the the verse and apply it to COVID is in my view a mistake. A healthy measure of fear in view of a contagious virus that might harm, or even kill our brothers, sisters and those in our wide community is a good thing. Indeed, it requires us to show more love and self-discipline to abtain from certain activities or wear a mask, than to ignore the risks and by our actions putting others in harms way.

NB: Lightly editted for clarity

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I can be sympathetic with people who see a “conspiracy” in the way Covid and masks are shutting down face to face human interaction and replacing it with the internet, which is frankly showing more and more signs of control, manipulation, and censorship. Nothing has boosted the internet culture the way the Covid pandemic has, and I think we are right to be alarmed by the removal of communication by human touch and facial expression. I am reminded of the film “The Last Mimsy” where it envisions a future where we have lost our humanity and there is a definite suggestion that a loss of human contact and wearing masks is to blame for this.

But… as long as our population increases… I think this is only going to get worse.

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What is “the church” exactly, and how do you determine that “it” has abandoned the mission?

I disagree that unity is just a means to an end and not the goal. I think the unity of all things in Christ is the goal. If that’s not what someone is prioritizing, then… well… they’re not following Christ. (Just because Aaron told the people the calf was YHWH didn’t make it so.)

Curious, since you’re making a pointed effort to respond to the message you believe I’m making. #snark

When you accuse a person of espousing a view that is toxic, you are saying something about them: either that they are malicious, or ignorant. If that’s not what you mean to say about them, then you shouldn’t make the toxicity accusation. If it is what you mean to say about them, then own it.

An issue underlying this entire discussion is that even we as Christians are losing the ability to dialog clearly and charitably. As much as any non-Christian, we’re dragging every perspective, alliance, and experience into every interaction we have with everyone. What I said was “Not wanting to be reconciled is as antithetical to Christianity as anything I can think of” which, honestly, sounded like a pretty uncontroversial, self-evident statement, what with forgiveness and reconciliation being the foundation of the entire religion. Note that I said “Not wanting to be reconciled”, not “Not being reconciled”. (Reconciliation is costly, and requires all parties to be all in – it doesn’t always happen. But there’s a difference between “I want to reconcile, but can’t” and “They’re idiots so f**k them”.) In your accusations of my view’s toxicity, I don’t actually recognize what I understand to be my view. But once the T-word has been deployed, It’s On. See the dynamic?

Our species simply didn’t evolve to handle the level of connectivity our technology has foisted upon us. But as a Christian, I think there is a way forward to be found in the message of Jesus.

For the record, I didn’t try to suggest anything of the sort and if it sounded like I did it was poor communication on my part and I’d be happy to clarify.

Confession: I, for one, rarely post on the internet except from a position of pride and/or anger. When I’m not feeling proud or angry, I just don’t seem to feel the desire to do it. When I do and it turns out okay, I feel a little happier at possibly having inched further towards sanctification. When it doesn’t, I feel reminded of my sinfulness and need of Christ. I’m sure this isn’t true for everyone, and I’m not suggesting it about anyone else. Just… well… confession is a thing Christians are supposed to do.

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Thanks for sharing this Christy, it was a fascinating read. I had to do some mental gymnastics to get it to apply to my UK context but I think the categories still apply.

My wife and I both came out as Type 3. In my case, I wasn’t that surprised by this. On reflection, I’ve never cared much for Bebbington’s categories and I think my involvement here on BL says all that need be said about my views on the culture wars!

Over the years, we have and still do attend Type A churches. This has been a perfectly comfortable experience by and large, since politics and culture wars were more side issues. However, I do think Brexit, Boris Johnson, responses to Black Live Matter, and the Pandemic is changing this. Divides are appearing and widening among evangelicals here in the UK, time will tell whether it gets as bad as the other side of the pond.

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It surely is more than some people gathered around a Bible. Otherwise the last president holding aloft a Bible in a DC park after driving out by force those who had assembled there lawfully for its intended use would have to count too.

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You’re just as anonymous as I am. We’re all anonymous on the internet. You have a name and a picture, but that gives me no clue at all as to who you are. I’m just avoiding creating any illusions. A platitude or principle is true whether it comes from an anonymous voice or not.

No. My example is in reference to Adrienne’s original post, in which she said she’d left her church family of five years because they’d relaxed their masking requirement. I’ve said nothing about Christy’s experience. And, for the record, I’ve spent years serving internationally myself, and know full well the realization that in the interim the place you left (not to mention you) has become quite different. That’s not analogous to Adrienne’s question.

The, ecclesia, the assembly of redeemed people united to Christ and reconciled to God through his Spirit, committed to the gospel message that Jesus is Lord and his kingdom is coming and committed to living out all that entails.

It has abandoned its mission when as a group it no longer displays the fruits of the Spirit or lives out the story of the gospel, and is most concerned with promoting other messages and fighting culture wars to maintain cultural power and influence.

If you read John 17, what does it say about why Jesus prayed the disciples would be one? There is an important “so that” in verse 23. In Paul’s body passages about oneness, do you think the point of having a healthy edified body of believers is the end goal? It’s not because the church has a job to do in the world and can do that job better healthy than maimed and dismembered?

You can’t listen effectively to others and have the clear and charitable dialogue you are asking for if people like me are so threatening to you that all you can hear from me are accusations. That just feels to me like your own insecurity talking and not my character issue. I do indeed see the dynamic and it is a very familiar one, unfortunately.

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Absolutely.

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I don’t know what “assembly” you’re referring to. There are the folks I worship with on Sunday. Near as I can tell, they’re not QAnon people (far from it). You talk about “it” not displaying the fruit of the Spirit or living out the story of the gospel, but I can only make sense of those things in concrete terms… These people… this group.

Well… yes. The great tree that grows from the mustard seed until it fills the whole earth.

Oh, I don’t find you threatening in the least. And I certainly hear more from you than just accusations, and there are probably many interesting conversations we could have. But my reponse to your first reply to me was what I thought was agreement, and you responded to that one accusing me of toxicity for stating what appears to me to be a foundational concept in Christianity. It’s been downhill ever since. I think there was a big misunderstanding in my first reply to you, but you jumped directly to “that’s toxic” which, conveniently enough, is an illustration of precisely what I was suggesting we should avoid in my first post in the thread.

Look, I genuinely don’t recognize my perspective in the statements you’re reflecting back at me. I’m sure we have points of solid disagreement, but at this point we haven’t reached them from my perspective. What we have reached is the “you’re just projecting your own insecurities” line, and it’s at that point where I bow out. There is, after all, nowhere to go after that.

I hope I haven’t caused you any pain. If I have, I apologize and hope your day gets better. If I haven’t, then I’m glad and… still hope your day gets better.

As y’all were…

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I’m referring to the NT Greek word ecclesia, which means assembly, and is translated church.

This is the familiar dynamic I am talking about:

Me: Things are on fire. There are insurmountable divisions and obstacles to unity. Some people need to change or we need to part ways.

Them: Let’s talk about the way you yelled fire. It was not respectful enough. You did not go through the proper channels. You don’t know how to submit to authority do you? Have you even really tried to breathe in a burning building? You do know the gospel is supposed to make you uncomfortable. All I hear is anger and bitterness, you need to check your own heart. Forgiveness…Unity…Bible verses…SomethingSomething…don’t be conformed to the world.

Me: That’s a toxic response designed to maintain control by making the way I addressed the problem the problem instead of dealing with the problem.

Them: How dare you? Defensiveness…SomethingSomething…Humility…Repent…

I’m done with that “dialogue.” And, yes, I know you probably don’t see anything you have said on this thread as fitting into that dynamic. That is part of the fire. I have zero confidence that me investing time and energy in trying to be heard and understood by you would be worthwhile.

I would like to process things with the other “3s” who are fleeing the burning building and trying to figure out where we go next.

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So, for the record:

I agree with that statement entirely. You never said it, but I never would have disagreed with it if you had.

As for your “Them:” half of the dialogue: I never said anything of the sort. I had no intention of implying anything of the sort. I don’t agree with “Them:”. I’m truly sorry I said anything that made you think I do, and I’m also truly sorry if you think that doesn’t matter.

I don’t know what to say. And now I wish I hadn’t said anything at all.

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It might be surprising. The pandemic has brought a lot, but not all, of that darkness to light, sadly. “Not all” because most of the instances that I am aware of (not a lot, thankfully) and surprised by were discovered ‘by accident’, inclining me to believe there are more.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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