Last week I tried to read Rick Pidcock’s post on the Thanksgiving Twitter war between complementarians and egalitarians, and I just had to quit. I will say more about Pidcock’s fine article below, but at the time I just couldn’t make it through.
I’m sad, and I’m weary of it all.
The next morning as I perused my Twitter feed, I came across a tweet, maybe it was a retweet, about this subject. I can’t cite it for you because, again, I’m just weary of it all, but it was about that fight between the complementarians and the “egals,” and the arguments around deconstruction and who’s most orthodox. (Did I say I’m weary of it all!?) Following the tweet was a not-surprising, and not-surprisingly-endless string of tweets from the self-proclaimed “Exvangelicals”… along with the grateful used-to-bes… the happy now-I’m-an-agnostics… the delighted glad-I-walked-aways… the slightly snide proud-to-be-an-atheists… the I’ll-never-go-back-and-I’m-not-missing-anything-by-staying-aways.
Apparently they’re all weary too. I think Jesus could relate.
The Pidcock article centered on a Twitter war between the “complementarians” and the “egalitarians.” I know this is painting with a broad brush, but can we just call it what it is, another silly battle between conservatives and liberals? The Twitter spat was over the culturally pressing issue of — wait for it — who’s most orthodox. And that’s so important, because, as you probably know, what is keeping single mothers up late at night is their worry over who rightly settled the filioque clause.
In the midst of a world-altering viral pandemic, millions of anxious Americans can’t decide where to go to church because a correct expression of Johannine eschatology is, after all, so critical to everyday life. As our uniquely tragic children-killing-children frenzy continues in public schools, the church is losing credibility, because churches that appropriately defend the inerrancy of those original (but lost) Gospel manuscripts are so hard to come by.
Orthodoxy. You know how important it is to a struggling world. Or, as Jesus said:
- Woe to you … you blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
- Woe to you … for you clean the outside of the cup… but inside are full of greed and self-indulgence.
- Woe to you … hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs … but inside are full of the bones of the dead… So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy.
I’m sad and weary. As one of what sounds like only a handful of ministers who are left in the church after the last 18 months, I’m increasingly burdened by the hoards of good people who are walking away (some are running), and who are now happily unaffiliated, psychically unburdened, emotionally freed by turning their backs on a church that just cannot get out of its own way.
I’m not orthodox. I have no interest in making such a claim — and no interest in arguing with any who would impugn my character for that admission. It’s not that I’m not Christian, that I have no convictions. It’s that, more and more, I’m trying to have as little concern for a religion of slavish legalism as Jesus did.
“More and more, I’m trying to have as little concern for a religion of slavish legalism as Jesus did.”
If we just preached the love of God and the way of Jesus wouldn’t that be enough?
Now, to be sure, because I’m something of a liberal Bible geek and religion nerd, I find the arguments interesting. I believe that understanding the basis and the history of the development of theology and specific doctrines is fascinating and can be helpful. Faith always will be formulated using images, metaphors, specific language. As it turns out, the only way to even try to express the ineffable is with the effable! So, we try. An image for God can be a helpful way to connect with something so big no one could ever see it — but only if the language doesn’t become an idol in the process, only if we can remember that the whole framework was constructed, by us, for us.
Yes, I believe in inspiration. Yes, I believe God was in the whole process. (And still is.) I just believe there is no way for human beings to get themselves out of the way of that process. No pure revelation that is not temporally experienced, culturally interpreted, linguistically shaped. It’s our experience. Our setting. Our language. How could it be otherwise?
At the conclusion of his article, Pidcock acknowledges this:
“But what if interpretation and cultural influence go all the way back through orthodoxy and even to the writing of the Bible itself? What if the Bible itself is a culturally informed communal story of critiquing the hierarchies of Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Roman empirical power from a diverse community of the oppressed based on their social location in relation to their exile? What if the Bible is a contextualized perception of an infinite reality that simply can’t be perfectly communicated and contained in words? And how might the Bible’s modeling this progressive liberation into mystery inform our opening up from hierarchies today?”
Pidcock eloquently expresses the heart of the matter. The trouble is that you have to get to the end of the article to see that, and by the time you’ve waded through another chapter of the culture war … a dozen more good folks have walked away.
They are not leaving because the church is too caring, too loving, too kind, too generous, too involved in social justice and preaching racial equality and advocating for peace.
They’re leaving because we’re making them weary of the whole affair. And in the process, we’re the ones missing the point.
Russ Dean serves as co-pastor of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. He holds degrees from Furman University, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Beeson Divinity School. He and his wife, Amy, have been co-pastors of Park Road since 2000. They are parents of two sons. Russ is active in social justice ministries and interfaith dialogue. He is author of the new book Finding a New Way.
BNG column sparks Thanksgiving Twitter war of words between complementarians and two female scholars | Analysis by Rick Pidcock
The deconstruction of American evangelicalism | Opinion by David Gushee
I knew the truth about women in the Bible, and I stayed silent | Opinion by Beth Allison Barr