Disagreeing Generously

Over the past two weeks, we’ve had a lively debate about torture and whether or not a Christian can justify it (here and here).

Personally, I love a good debate, and for the most part, I’ve learned to detach a debate with a person about an idea from my perception of the person as a person. In other words, disagreeing about an idea doesn’t mean I have a lower opinion of someone.

In the second discussion about torture, I made these comments:

..my attempt to construct a theology that is opposed to torture is not an attempt to part ways with Jesus as God but rather an attempt to become more faithful to him — and I realize that’s your desire too; we have just come to different conclusions in our attempts at faithfulness…

I wanted to repost this for a couple reasons.

First, because I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t want to hear your opinion — because I do, and that’s one of my main reasons for starting the blog. I value the opinion of others, and I don’t want to squelch those opinions because I lay it on too thick in the comments.

Second, because I know that some of my theological musings might be foreign, and because they are unfamiliar, it might be easy to dismiss them as something I’m creating out of thin air. But please know that my posts are always, always, always an attempt to become more faithful to Jesus in the way I think — because I do believe that the way we think usually determines how we act. And I, for one, do want to act more like Jesus.

So, if you do read my blog, please know that I always welcome comments, and I hope that as we move forward we will be able to disagree generously. Because if we always assume that the person with whom we disagree has the best intentions in mind, we end up having discussions that enhance the perspectives of everyone who participates.


9 thoughts on “Disagreeing Generously

  1. Yeah. It is kind of like Daniel in the Lion’s den over at UF. But, as someone who has seen nothing but televangelists and only has cursory knowledge of church history, I would like to know something about the more positive figures. The most positive figure I’ve seen is Joel Osteen; and he seems to be preaching simplistic pabulum.

    1. Rather than try to convince you about the past 2,00 years of the church’s history, let me point you to some contemporary organizations that I think are making very valuable contributions to the world:

      World Vision

      The Water Project.

      Especially their comments,

      Are You a “Religious Organization”?

      No. We are simply a Christian non-profit.

      Religious organizations are organized and recognized differently than public benefit charities. The work we do through The Water Project is for the good of the general public. The reason we do this work is because we are Christians. We believe that important distinction allows us to work with people of all backgrounds and faiths for the benefit of all people. Our projects do not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, ethnic or religious backgrounds. We serve others.

      Samaritan’s Purse.

      Word Made Flesh.

      I have an old college acquaintance that I just reconnected with who works with this organization. They do amazing things.


      Above is the global, international stuff. Currently, I’m serving as an AmeriCorps member, and I support a state-wide mentoring partnership. As I said, I do what I do because of what I believe. There are hundreds and hundreds of people like me across the state who serve in non-profits, serve as AmeriCorps members, and serve as volunteers.

      For one example, take
      Kids Hope USA. Kids Hope is a mentoring program that creates partnerships between churches and schools. The churches produce the volunteers. The schools refer at-risk youth.

      1 out of every 6 mentors in my state is a Kids Hope volunteer, and there are almost 20,000 mentors (that we know of) in our state. And that’s just one of the many faith-based mentoring programs in our state.

      In a comment at UF, I mentioned Catholic Social Services, a nation-wide organization that serves at-risk youth (http://www.css-phl.org/). A similar Protestant organization is Lutheran Social Services.

      And I could go on and on about the countless homeless shelters and food kitchens across the country that are run from churches. And I could talk about food and clothing drives that congregations do annually. And on and on.

      Hopefully, I’ve piqued your interest a little and given you an alternative perspective about how Christians think of the world and are involved in it.

  2. I appreciate the prompt response. I have on doubt that Christian organizations do a lot of good in the world. However, my question was about individuals to counterbalance the list provided by Frank at UF:
    Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart, Peter Popoff, Todd Bentley, Joseph Smith, Jim Jones, Mohammed, David Koresh, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum…..

    1. I’ll try to answer in few ways.

      First, I would argue that reason that you know all of those names is because they are associated with scandal — or at least most of them. And I think we all know that scandal is what makes news, from sports, to politics, to religious leaders — scandal sells.

      Second, if you look carefully at those websites, you’ll find a few things. First, they are staffed by individuals, and most of them have a “champion” or “spokesman.” Second, you’ll see that their efforts depend largely on volunteers. Most of the volunteers will remain anonymous. But if you wanted a list, you could quickly generate a list by looking at the spokesman, ED’s, CEO’s etc. of those organizations.

      In other words,

      I have on doubt that Christian organizations do a lot of good in the world.

      Christian organizations are comprised of Christian people, from staff to volunteers.

      Does that get at your question?

      If you’re looking for a list of people throughout history in addition to this, to counterbalance Daniel’s at UF … I guess I’d want to know more about what types of things you would want to know specifically… because I’m not sure I’m following you. Are you looking for a list of famous folks who’ve dedicated their lives to doing good? If so, I’m sure I could give you a starting point. But I would keep in mind that those types of people don’t always make good headlines.

  3. I think I understand. But I didn’t ask for “few ways”. Just one. Didn’t ask for organizations. Individuals. The list was not mine, but Frank’s. I don’t even know some of those people. And it was you that characterized them as scandalous characters, not Frank. I’ll put it this way: Are there any well known religious figures that you do not consider scandalous. Name a few. Below is a cut and paste from the UF discussion.

    The Churches that WROTE the bible were operating in the same, “Fallen” world we are in now. The Bible, then, is just as much a product of the “sinful”, imperfect, human world as Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart, Peter Popoff, Todd Bentley, Joseph Smith, Jim Jones, Mohammed, David Koresh, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum…..

    brgulker May 19, 2009 at 11:48 am
    It’s interesting to me that your list is comprised of only scandalous characters. You’ve entirely left out any of the positive contributions of faith leaders throughout history… I realize that’s kinda your point, though.

    1. While I was waiting for your response I thought of a couple. Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu. Maybe John Paul II. I’m sure you could throw in a couple of saints.

      1. nomad,

        I wrote an entire response to you at length, and it seems to have disappeared.

        I wrote that back on Thursday… I’ll see if I can find a draft somewhere ,because I’m not sure when I’ll have the time to recreate that.

      2. Looks like it’s vanished into the abyss of the Internet.

        I will try to do a recreation of the post at some point this weekend…

        But, some names of not scandalous people in relatively recent American History and contemporary times:

        Jim Wallis
        Billy Graham
        King Jr.
        Harriet Tubman
        Clara Barton
        Shaine Claiborne

        The list is brief, but intentional: I’ve focused on “religious leaders” whose focus is social action (namely, poverty, civil rights, slavery – with the exception of Graham), because I realize that focusing on evangelizing can be thought of as self-serving, not self-sacrificial.

        And FWIW, my comment to Frank should be taken in the specific context of being in response to him. His claim was that the bible is the product of the same types of churches that have produced the likes of … thereby comparing the motivations of the biblical authors to his list. His list is a list of frauds and hypocrites. So, the implication is clear — it’s entirely possible that the bible was written by a bunch of self-serving hypocrites and frauds. That’s not an unreasonable interpretation of his comment; or, am I wrong about that? I could be.

        My comment was thus a simple objection on the grounds that there are plenty of contemporary examples of people who are not self-serving frauds but who are rather self-giving people who are dedicated to the service of others. Thus, my implication is clear: why would we assume that the former list, not the latter, is more emblematic of the people who penned Scripture?

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