Thursday, July 9, 2009

The ZigZag Café

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue. I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

Do you think that loving an uninformed or arrogant Christian legalist-fundamentalist who needs to change their outlook, way of relating and understanding might contribute to a change taking place?

16 comments:

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

Could you define your understanding of legalist-fundamentalist please?

Greg said...

Lukas,

Here's what I have in mind.

Legalist - over-emphasis on the law, a code of conduct, the letter and not the spirit.

Fundamentalist - closed minded, always right, dogmatic.

Joshua said...

It seems to me that people just swing to the other pendulum, making them more socially acceptable, but hardly more Christian. In terms of legalism that is.

Greg said...

Joshua,
True, lots of polarizations around and change sometimes is merely characterized by exchanging poles.

Rhett & Valerie said...

Yes!

It's interesting how it seems that the trend among moderate Christians my age (in their 20s or so) is to go out of one's way to befriend extremely liberal Christians and non-Christians, but few people have the patience or the interest in investing in someone who defines him or herself as a "conservative fundamentalist". People from legalistic camps are often laughed at and belittled by other members of the church.

Committed and long-lasting relationships almost always lead to change, whether you're moderate, liberal, or conservative (I realize these terms aren't always helpful but I'm using generalizations now). And of course both sides have the opportunity to affirm and critique one another.

Getting into a serious conversation with someone you personally consider a bigot is sometimes one of the hardest things, but really listening and respectfully replying can lead to amazing results. I just don't think very many people take the time to have these conversations because they're too busy trying to not be seen with a fundamentalist.

Greg said...

Rhett and Valerie,
Thanks. A very well put and insightful response. One of the reasons I posed this question was that someone had suggested that loving people would not change them, but merely end up confirming the status quo.

To love, of course, is our calling and hopefully in doing love there will be possibilities of change that open up in dialogue and this exchange will facilitate community.

renea mac said...

I appreciate Rhett's and Val's observation of the gross double standard, and I agree that love is always constructive; in our own lives, even if the other person is never affected (which I think is rare). We may never see "results" in his or her life; we may never really see "results" in our own lives: but love is not right because it's pragmatic; love is often pragmatic because it's right. We are called to love above all else; it is what our new nature longs to do/be, even though our old self lothes it.

It is even more difficult when we feel we've "tried" to no avail. We are still called to love. It's too easy to give up on people. How do we continue to love someone with whom conversation simply isn't a viable option? She needs to change her outlook, but she simply won't. Do we write her off?

Continuing to love a person by being interested in his life even when his life frustrates and angers us, can be the only thing that could possibly reach him when conversation can't. "Being interested in his life" looks different depending on the relationship, but I think at the least, it always includes prayer for the other. God never plays fair; I have an impossible time being selfish/unloving/snobish toward others when I cave into the Spirit's prompting to pray.

Greg said...

Renea,
Thanks. Excellent response. Sorry I took so long to respond, but I had some blog issues.

In addition to prayer, what do you suggest when someone doesn't want you to be interested in their life?

Joshua said...

I don't mean to be unloving (who's kidding who), but you haven't waited 'til after 6:30 to come up with a "Reflections of the Week" since May 18, and even then it was 6:35. :P

Just saying.

renea mac said...

Greg,

In this case, it is often best to walk away, to give them the space they need. It is the way in which we walk that matters. We can't choose for the other to try to reconsile or converse, but we can choose how we respond to our rejection: with soft and open hearts and minds, or with hard and closed and bitter ones; with anger and compassion or with anger and bitterness.

When someone explisitly does not want you to express interest in his or her life, I think the only thing I can suggest is to be open to the Spirit's leading. Being open derives out of being prayerful for the other, and vice versa. Being open-minded is important because the Spirit suggests seemingly counter-intuitive things all the time: bring him a coffee without expecting conversation or anything in return; send her a card of genuine encouragement; go to their daughter's soccer game... Faith = trust-propelled risk.

Even when the best thing to do is to walk away, being in the habit of being responsive to the Holy Spirit prepares us for when that person comes to mind out of the blue---after months and years of not talking to or even thinking of him or her.

Another suggestion is to focus on common ground. (This is more in response to your origional question than to your querry of someone who wishes you to stay out of his/her life.) The other person may not be ready, and probably isn't, to have a conversation about the dogmatic view in question. Common ground elsewhere opens the door for nuance. He begins to see you as a likable person despite your "heretical" views on xyz. This may open the door to that turmultuous conversation, because she can no longer write you off as a [insert generalization here]... and vice versa!

The trick is to start slow and be subtle, gentle, long-suffering; to be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves (BOTH/AND). It seems as though people around my age in particular expect others to change over night. We don't give consideration for the fact that this other person/group of people has a whole context which often includes a long, complicated history attached to that dogmatic view. We don't allow the other to be a person. We have to put ourselves in the shoes of the other. We have to learn what true tolerance is.

"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you."

renea mac said...

PS. "We can choose how we respond..." doesn't mean we always choose well immediately, and doesn't mean we won't have to struggle with bitterness and/or arrogance for days, weeks, months, years. We're in process and community, with God and with others.

Greg said...

Joshua,
Thanks. Sorry about that. Been having serious access problems with my blog, though you Americans seem to be getting on fine. After 3 days of trying to fix this, without success, this morning when I tried it appeared. Was constantly getting a DNS error- server not found. Anyone know anything about that kind of problem. This was happening not only on my computer but other Swiss computers like my internet provider???

Greg said...

Renea,
As I explained to Joshua I've been having access probs, but now for some weird reason I can get on the blog. For how long??? I was able to respond to your comment the other day but only was up for 30 minutes. We'll see?

Thanks. Well thought out perspective. I agree and think you have stated it in a gracious and practical way that carries force.

renea mac said...

Thanks, Greg; that's high praise and I really appreciate it. (Looks like you're blog issues have subsided. :)

John said...

Greg -
I think the DNS - Server Not Found error is an issue with Blogger/Google. I've been having issues with other websites as well having server connectivity issues.

Essentially I think all the big websites got scared when Michael Jackson dying almost brought down the Internet, so they are all in the process of upgrading their servers and are having some hiccups along the way.

Things seem to be better for now, but who knows what may happen...

Kind of shows how dependent on technology we are!

John

Greg said...

Thanks for that John. Make sense. You're probably right.