Ever since entering seminary I’ve felt, for whatever reason, that I am incapable of doing what I desire to do. Be it preaching, ministering, exegeting, etc. It’s not that I can’t do it, I actually can do so quite well in situation where I feel comfortable, specifically among friends or in my evangelism class. It’s when I get in those situations that I’m not comfortable that I just don’t feel like I should share my opinion.
Why don’t I feel comfortable? Probably because I have conservative evangelical leanings. I know I am not alone in these view, but even the others who have views similar to mine feel alone… let’s just say we’re in the perceived, probably an actuality, minority. What’s weird is that I don’t have incredibly conservative views, I’m intelligently moderate.
The thing is, as tolerant and thought through as some of those with liberal leanings want to say that they are they aren’t. I’ve heard them speak in public and private and they come off sounding harsh and rather poor in their understanding. They don’t support their side very well and sound just as judgmental and ignorant as the ones they deem judgmental and ignorant. (Which I have a huge issue with… personally I just wish all sides of the arguments would actually be introspective, and not self-righteous, for a moment to see how truly unrighteous and hateful they are, myself included.)
Perhaps this darker side I see is why.
Perhaps I perceive that they are as bad as the conservative they speak against. Perhaps I think they are going to lump me in with the crazy fundamentalist conservatives because of my evangelical leanings in the same way conservatives lump me in with the radical Jesus hating liberals because of my desire to think more moderately and outside the box. Perhaps I really do have an issue with acceptance not culturally but theologically…
I wonder if this has larger implications. I wonder how I’ll minister in a church that’s very much unlike me. I have no doubt that I will be able to love and serve, but how limited will I be when I feel that I need to keep pressed lips? I think, I’d like to think that is, that this is just a stage, that once I’m free of here and in a situation where I am granted some semblance of authority I’ll feel more free to express my views.
I’d like to think that.
But I have this inkling, which I know is magnificently true: I won’t feel more free. When I get a church I will inherit some members whose beliefs are rooted in emotion and talking heads and the second I raise up an opposing view point I will be attacked. Not merely because they disagree, but because I will be destabilizing their long held assumptions that have formed a part of their identity, much like those whom I have encountered in seminary.
The problem that this reveals is that I don’t like conflict. And it’s because I’m “right”. Because I am “right” people who disagree with me are frustrating, and when its disagreement stemming from emotionally held beliefs, not logically held ones, its even more frustrating because you’re no longer merely arguing a concept; instead, you’re arguing against that person’s identity. So, perhaps its not only that I don’t like conflict, it’s that I don’t like difficult conflict. I want people to be a bit more like me: able to separate their selves from their ideas. (After all their identity should be in Christ.)
I don’t like difficult conflict, nor do I like to be the instigator of conflict. I’ve no problem engaging someone who wants to start an argument (that is unless they start off just really ticking me off) because I ask questions and can get to the bottom of a situation, beyond the emotion and toward reason, which I can work with. The issue is raising a point that I know will be met with anger. The reason I don’t like this is because I put myself out there to be slaughtered and I’m slaughtered; most people don’t know how to engage a startling concept except to treat it like a wolf attacking their flock. This is difficult because I don’t think I’ve yet figured out how to transition go from a action position (putting an idea in place) to a negation position (diffusing anger and getting to the faith issue).
I’m sure this will come with experience, practice and several disgruntled churches.
I suppose in the meantime I can busy myself figuring out my own emotionally held assumptions that I have tied to my faith and identity…