Forget "come let us reason together." Forget "love wins." These days it feels like whoever has the loudest voice wins. I know that sounds really cynical but I'm getting tired of being drowned out by those voice. Let me explain.
We do church differently at our church - call it emerging or postmodern if you like. We don't (generally) preach at people, but instead attempt to engage people in discussion and reflection. This works really well for people who are used to us or who have an bit of an intellectual bent. But occasionally we get people who show up who after listening to part of the conversation say something like "But Joel Osteen says _____". That's the end of the discussion for them. Joel Osteen has a TV show so therefore his voice being the loudest and most prominent is correct. So if we are talking about self-sacrificially serving others based on texts from Luke, but Joel Osteen said that we can have it all if we just have faith, Joel Osteen must be right. There is no interacting with the issue, no trying to determine which message holds the truth, just allegiance with the guy with the loud voice.
Then there are the issues with the radio preachers (as the Out of Ur
blog recently discussed). These guys can say whatever they want and because it is Christian radio people believe them as Gospel truth. It doesn't matter if your church preaches one thing on Sunday, if the people in your church listen to Christian radio they will believe the radio guys' over you. If they are on the radio they have the loud voice and therefore must be right. So if you are say in the emerging church, but the radio preachers tell their listeners that the emerging church is a cult where they sacrifice children and have sex with Satan (or something similar) they will believe the radio guys and condemn you to hell. No honest intelligent dialogue. No pursuit of truth. Just automatic default to whatever the guys with the loudest voice are saying.
I've personally experienced this phenomenon in a women's Bible study I was in a few years ago (which yes was just as painful as it sounds). Not much deep engagement went on at this thing. Our discussions involved reading whatever answer we filled in the Beth Moore blank with or occasionally reading the study notes from the NIV. Any attempts to push the conversation further were met with confused looks of "that wasn't in the book." One week our topic was on Rahab, and I was determined to bring up the alternative view that perhaps she wasn't a prostitute. Before I could one of the other ladies chose to read from Liz Curtis Higgs' Bad Girls of the Bible
on Rahab. Essentially the passage claimed that Rahab has to be a prostitute because she represents our potential to be saved from the baseness of our sexual nature as women and if you question her role as a prostitute you are unbiblical and challenging the saving work of Christ. Which of course I disagreed with even more. At the risk of being labelled unbiblical (which I eventually was at that church) I tried to speak up and was immediately shut down. Who was I to question Liz Curtis Higgs the others asked? She's the expert on bad girls of the bible, you can't question the expert. So faithful exploration and biblical study don't matter in the face of a loud voice.
The "loud" voices, the ones with clout, are considered more believable because they are prominent and reach a wider audience. As we in the emerging church attempt to rethink patterns of theology we run up against these loud voices. They don't engage us in dialogue or a willingness to learn. Instead they ridicule, spread rumors and lies, and inoculate themselves against feedback by screening their calls and emails and deleting negative (or just basically insightful) comments on their blogs (if they allowed them in the first place). I guess it's hard to remain a loud voice if you don't just shut out all other voices.
So what do we do with this? People are allowed their own opinions, and I can ignore individuals who make fun of what I am a part of, but what about my family and friends who believe lies about me because of a few loud voices? Or who at least write me off for things I truly believe because they have been exposed to a bad representation of those things? Or what about those of us who have lost jobs because of the loud voice of others? How can we encourage church members and friends to actually think for themselves instead of swallowing whatever the loud voices tell them to believe? How can we do this without getting too cynical?
Labels: Church, Culture, Emerging Church