...are the ones that make the biggest difference

4.21.2005

College decisions and revolution: an office debate

The mother of a girl in my youth group (a graduating senior and I am sorry to see her go) volunteers one morning a week in the church office. This girl is having a hard time picking a college, but one of the top three is a Mennonite school in Indiana. When the possibility of this particular school first raised its head, the mother was disappointed and exclaimed "they don't even believe in war." It seemed (and seems) odd to me to base a college decision on whether or not it is wholeheartedly in favor of war. The mother is in the office this morning and I asked her if her daughter had made a choice yet. She said no but revealed that the Mennonite school was still in the running. Another pastor suggested they really investigate this school's views on salvation, scripture and sexuality, since these are the areas where the Mennonites have turned quite liberal in recent years.

The mother, though, still perplexed by their pacifist ideals asked "what would they make of the Revolutionary War?" I wanted to ask "what the hell does that have to do with anything?", as if the Revolutionary War holds some special place in the history of wars because it involved the founding of America or something. But I refrained. Instead, I pointed out that from a biblical perspective a la Romans 13, the Revolutionary War was wrong since it involved militant disobedience to the established powers. Stunned silence ensued, followed by one office member saying something about the nature & behavior of the government. I pointed out that the text offers no such caveat or exception - whether or not the government is nice or plays fair doesn't matter, moreso when you realize Paul was writing under the Roman government which had many moments of exceptional brutality. Well, she immediately went for a Bible to prove me wrong, but gave up after a few minutes.

The mother listened for a few minutes and then asked me what my point was. "My point," says I, "was that it does not matter what the school's view on the Revolutionary War is because, in light of the most plain sense reading of the text, our view on it is wrong. We think the Revolutionary War was an unmitigated good, never considering the possibility that it just might have been a sinful act." Not that God cannot and has not brought some extreme good out of it, and not that, perhaps, that text should not be taken overly literal so as to preclude the possibility of any exceptions. The debate kind of moved from there to the perceived legalism of the Mennonites in regard to following the example of Christ, and the mother chimes in with a sneering "and that is the only way to be meek." I pointed out that it is pretty hard to consider a soldier laying down suppressive fire with a machine gun "meek." That's more or less where the discussion ended, but I walked away extremely frustrated. Frustrated that people are unwilling to consider the ideas and beliefs of others, unwilling to critically evaluate their own thought systems and so damn condescending and spiteful towards fellow Christians. I'm not saying we should be so open that we uncritically accept anything that comes along, but why can't we at least be open to discussion?

4 comments:

John said...

you should suggest Bob Jones University.

Doug said...

I honestly wish we had conversations that stimulating in my workplace. All I ever hear in my office is "Did you test drive that new BMW?" or "I can't wait to go to Vegas this weekend" or "You're going to have to upgrade your wardrobe." Joy...

Karl Thienes said...

I laughed at Doug's comment--totally true for me as well in the advertising industry.

What happened on "The Apprentice" or what new bar is the hot spot in town are the usual topics of discussion.

But re: the post--It has always amused me how rabidly "ethnic" modern Protestantism is. America's national politics and history are almost more important than nurturing the spiritual life in terms of people's subconscious understanding of the faith.

Nathan said...

Nah, Bob Jones has gone soft, what with allowing inter-racial dating now. Sell-outs!

Yeah, I have to admit the conversation is nothing like anything I had while in either the Army or working as an insurance claims adjuster. In that light, it was a step up. :)

"America's national politics and history are almost more important than nurturing the spiritual life in terms of people's subconscious understanding of the faith."

Absolutely. And the true mark of orthodoxy is proper political allegiance, not doctrine or praxis.