I have been shocked as I have caught up with the news after being gone for a week. The massacre in Norway was absolutely awful. I have just emailed my friend and fellow Connectional Table member, Oyvind Hellieson, my condolences. He’s a District Superintendent in Norway. Now I am pondering the message from all of this especially after hearing that the perpetrator’s motives were founded on his disdain for free-thinking. He has been described as a “Right-wing Christian Fundamentalist.”
Fundamentalists come in all shapes and sizes and represent every persuasion of thinking. I have listened to liberal and literal fundamentalists that assume that they have the only corner on the truth. Some have described fundamentalists as “fun-dam-mentalists” because they damn fun and have very little mentality. So true in many ways. It’s scary when a person or group, whether they be progressives or traditionalists, declare they are the sole arbiters of right and wrong. That’s what puts guns and evil intentions in the hands of cultural vigilantes like this guy in Norway.
Hey, this isn’t too far from the deadlock in Washington over the possible budget default, or the NFL players’ union and the owners’ impasse. Polarizations often occur because people are pigeon-holed into an untenable situation with no room at all for compromise. One of the workshops I led this past week was on peacemaking. Some of you who know me are finding that notion pretty hilarious. Me doing a peacemaking workshop, yep!
I have my convictions, but I also hold onto Wesley’s admonition: “In essentials, let there be unity; in non-essentials, let there be liberty; in all things, charity.” We need to be very careful when we are deciding what is the truth as you or I know it. Jesus said that He was the truth and I ain’t Jesus and neither are you. We can search the Scriptures and hopefully discern WWJD, and we can pray to have the Mind of Christ; but we need to mostly say “Whoa!” when we’re about to rush to judgment.
Sure, I embrace orthodoxy more easily than I do a lifestyle or mentality that is too loosey-goosey, but I am not going to denigrate, castigate, or subjugate those who differ. I believe in a God whose imago dei we all share and a Jesus who died to redeem more than condemn. I can never assume that it’s my way or the highway though I would sometimes like to do that. Liberal fundamentalism is just as bad as literal fundamentalism. An “Us versus Them” mentality has no high moral high ground, no room for the Holy Spirit to convict because certainties have already been deeply embedded. This reminds me of the story of someone trying to explain the difference between capitalism and communism. Pardon the sexist language. The person doing the explaining said, “In capitalism man exploits man. In communism, it’s the other way around.” Same difference, right? Someone is the exploiter and someone is exploited.
So Right-wingers and Left-wingers, NFL owners and NFL players, Democrats and Republicans, theological conservatives and liberals – everyone – beware fundamentalism. We are looking for the “We” more than “Us versus Them.” We seek the truth as we know it through holy conferencing, and finding Jesus in unlikely sources and obvious ones, too. This ain’t easy in a complex world. So let’s be careful not to pre-judge. The Jesus method is to pre-love. Sure, Jesus shines light on what’s wrong but He only does it so the wrong may be turned to right, so that sin can be conquered by redemption.