aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Time to move on from this conversation

Many years ago, I was the Spiritual Director for a Women's Walk to Emmaus. We had women from many different denominations participating. One Table kept getting led off into the weeds by a very aggressive, argumentative pilgrim. She was from a particular kind of fundamentalist background, and she had lots of talking points about biblical authority and doctrine to insert into discussions. She kept leading her Table away from the subject(s) in hand into unprofitable debates over the right way to do things. I was asked to go sit in for a while on their Table discussion.

I mildly suggested to this lady that other people saw things differently from the point of view she had just offered, and that we were supposed to listen to each other for what we might find spiritually profitable in each other's conversation. She replied, "Yes, but there can only be One Truth, right?" I looked at her and smiled and said, "Yes. And I have It. So, since you probably disagree with me on some things, we can either have conflict over that right now, or we can learn to respect each other and get along this weekend." She looked very startled, but said nothing. No more divisive debates were heard from that Table the rest of the weekend.

Trouble-makers always want to appeal to a superior authority. The only cure for them is to assert that superior authority, even if that's not your usual style. Most of them will then back off. Among those calling themselves Conservative or Evangelical, we have a lot of people who come from non-Methodist backgrounds, or Crypto-Baptist enclaves within Methodism, or from some other, personal history. They are grumbling, argumentative, loophole-seeking, stirrers of the pot. When we give them some measure of leadership, they use it to see what they can get away with. When we call them on it, they point fingers at the rebels over on the progressive side.

There is a way to deal with this. We who understand the rules and have obeyed them need to remind others that this is the way we do things. We who have stuck out the difficult jobs need to remind others that it's not about what you want to do, but about what you've been sent to do. We who have authority need to assert our authority, in what measure we have been given it. I would say to the rebellious progs: Here are the boundaries; stay within them, or leave Now. And I would say the same to the grumbling, uncircumsized-in-heart evangelicals.

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