...are relentless. Absolutely no discussion or compromise. I have had the life kicked out of me at my church this past year by some of these people. For them, it just isn’t good enough to be a solid evangelical who really loves Jesus and wants to serve him. It has to be all about reformed theology.The ensuing discussion is lengthy (over 100 comments so far). I found myself drawn in.
Many posters are taking this chance to express their painful encounters with reformed Christians. Then there are parties who doubt that the encounters represented are actually talking about true Calvinists (natch), that Calvinists shouldn't be picked on more than other strident groups, that they have never seen this behavior in their own experiences (of course!), that it's not the theology, it's the misbehavior of sinners, and so on.
When this kind of back and forth didn't get too far, a third strain joined the discussion: "Well, we all think we're right, no matter what the topic. It's just that some people are more persistent than others and that offends them, but it shouldn't." There is a defense of "being right," "believing you are right," "having the right to assert your right-ness" and so on. It's almost as if the attitude is: "Well, we all think we're right so we're all meanies and not interested in listening to others."
But not so fast, Wile E. Coyote. One of the cultural factors in the reformed and fundamentalist camps that creates this stereotype of obnoxious argumentativeness is that it is believed that being right gives people the right to disregard other viewpoints while contending for their own. Lip service is paid to "Well I understand what you're saying BUT...." and then the "right" view is reasserted with new vigor. These debaters are tireless. Until agreement is reached, they assert they have not been properly understood (which makes sense if you actually do believe that you are leading people to the logical, spiritual, Holy Spirit inspired truth).
Here's the rub. Not everyone is up for arguing, not everyone feels compelled to win all points of view to one point of view. Moreover, some people have legitimately rejected the reformed point of view and aren't open to being shown its truth-value any more.
The justification that we all believe we are right therefore our conversations will be hostile, intractable, painful and at times downright unfriendly is a fallacy though. There is a way to interact over difference that allows dignity to all parties and leaves open the possibility of learning. I'll post my ideas in the next entry. What are some of yours? What has worked for you?