i received a post on my facebook wall that created some stir among mutual friends and “by-standers”. the author is a guy i graduated with nearly twenty years ago (wow!). we were both in marching band and i’m sure had some classes together at some point. we weren’t friends that hung it much, though as much as i can recall we were on friendly terms. we had several mutual friends that we were individually closer with. i don’t guess i have seen him since graduation night, but as far as i know (from what i have discerned on facebook) he is doing pretty well in life.
i will include his post at the top, as well as quote the individual aspects i responded to in my response. i post this here, not because i think i did a stellar job of responding (i surely could have said things more clearly, in a more helpful way, maybe included better arguments, etc.), but to hopefully encourage some readers that they aren’t the only ones having to respond to friends (or family, co-workers) after taking a biblical stand on social media or in person.
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? — Micah 6:8
I write this as a fellow human, as a fellow classmate, as a friend. I challenge you to define the word humble and to justify you using your position to espouse your recent emphatisism of the abortion issue. Can you not worship the god you choose, and at the same time realize that others feel very differently from you? There are many people in the world who feel differently, there are many people who ascribe to different religions, there are those who believe that there is no God. Why try and force feed your beliefs to people who do not ascribe to what you think? Ultimately, what proof do you have that your opinion is better than the rest? And please don’t say the bible, because I will take you to task over that book. Please, as a human, enlighten me. Let us come to a common understanding that does not involve one ascribing to arbitrary beliefs. Please, help me find a common ground for all of us to exist
hello, chris. it is hard to believe that next year will be our twenty year high school reunion! time does fly by. twenty years, though it has gone quickly, is plenty of time to shape and mold us in ways that we never imagined were possible- at least i know that is true in my case. my path has been full of twists and turns, switchbacks, valleys, and terrain i never anticipated.
in the past twenty years i have questioned a lot of things, turned my back on how i was raised and taught to believe, searched for answers on my own, struggled to find meaning and looked for it in all kinds of places. though I got my b.a. in music, i ended up 2 classes short of an additional major in philosophy. i took nearly all of the upper division courses – metaphysics and epistemology, logic, ethics courses, and the like. those classes coupled with my life experiences – having deep and loving friendships with people from all kinds of backgrounds, worldviews, and lifestyles (as you know – the arts community is incredibly diverse) it all could have potentially caused me to self-destruct because of all of the internal conflict between how I was raised, what i was seeing, what i was hearing in class, what i was feeling in my heart, and what I was learning on my own journey.
what kept me from losing my mind was the reality of absolute truth. there is certainly room in this world for opposing views and opinions – no denying that. but at the end of the day, though there are many gray areas in this life, that does not mean that there is absolutely no black and white when it comes to truth. if there was no absolute truth, i wouldn’t even bother responding to your post – because, why would it even matter? if all we have are opinions, then what is the point? whose opinion is more valid if everyone’s opinion is equal? if they are all equal, why get offended at someone else’s opinion? and if they are not equal, then what is the criteria for one opinion being more valid than the other? at the bottom of all intellectually honest inquiry, the search for truth wins out over the desire to be perceived as correct. after all, what good is being seen as on the right side of an argument if all opinions are equal in their veracity? If my opinion or views are no more valid than yours (or vice versa), then why even bother with this discussion?
i share all of that as a prelude to what is coming because i want you to know up front that i am not in any way some “boy in a right wing, religious fundamentalist, bubble” who has been brainwashed and is unable to think for himself. that is absolutely not the case. i am imperfect and have my share of imperfections and inconsistencies, but i stand where i stand, not because of any academic degrees granted or my upbringing, but because i am absolutely persuaded that there is absolute truth that can be known, and i am on a lifelong pursuit of it.
I challenge you to define the word humble and to justify you using your position to espouse your recent emphatisism of the abortion issue.
i must admit, i’m not exactly sure what you mean by “using my position”… i am simply one of millions of people who have a facebook account and post on things that i care about – from family pictures, mundane details of life, movies, music, etc., sports, humorous observations, as well as posts to promote discussion or prompt thinking. as far as that goes, i’m not aware of many who do anything differently on facebook.
my “position” as a christian, however, demands that i speak up about matters of eternal significance. to not do so is disobedience. now i am to speak to things with grace, even if passionately, but i am acting very much consistently with my faith when i post about matters of life, culture, and faith.
if you meant my “position” as a pastor, then i would refer you to my position as a christian and then say that the ante is upped precisely because i am a pastor. i am commanded to watch out for and protect the christians in my care – which include a whole lot on facebook. so what i post is very much intentional – and again, consistent with my position as a pastor.
as far as defining the word “humble”, i assume you mean that if the passage you quoted (micah 6:8) says that the lord requires his people to “walk humbly’ that you believe my post(s) on abortion are inconsistent with that.
i would first say, that at the end of the day, it matters less how you or i would define “humble” and matters more what the meaning of “humbly” is in the way it is being used in the text. words have intrinsic meaning, to be sure, but usage often affects meaning. to accurately and fully determine the meaning of a biblical text, we have to answer the question “what did the author mean when he used that word?”
in this passage, as in the case of most of the bible, humility is recognizing that god is god and we are not. to walk humbly with god is to live in daily submission to god and his will, not asserting our ways over his. to walk humbly with god, in the vocabulary of both the old and new testament means “to live in joyful/ glad submission and fellowship with god”.
to that end, there is no inconsistency with that command of that passage and my posting about abortion.
if you didn’t mean that, and were insinuating that one cannot be humble (in our vernacular) and decry what i perceive to be a moral evil, i would question what definition of humility you are using, as neither the oxford dictionary or webster’s define humble in a way that causes a contradiction between being humble and calling attention to a matter of grave concern. one does not need to be perceived as “important” to sound an alarm.
it certainly is not the case that i am forcing my views on anyone – i posted on my own wall. i did not post on other people’s wall who hold a different view- forcing them to interact. i wrote on my own wall, and people are free to scroll on without responding if they choose. they can even choose to delete it from their feed or block me altogether. so i am not sure how the charge of lacking humility and the implicit charge that i am forcing my views on people has any credibility. if i have misunderstood your intention, i apologize and am open to responding to what you intended to communicate.
as for “the abortion issue” – it is really quite simple. abortion is the killing of a human being. by any scientific or medical standard, a baby in the womb, with functioning heart, brain, etc. is a living human being. the skull that is crushed is a human skull. the limbs that are torn apart are human limbs. The organs that are “harvested” are human organs. calling it “tissue” doesn’t change anything. it is no different than when slaves were called “property” in the law books. they were still humans and how they were treated was cruel, wrong, and unimaginable. the same with the holocaust. how do you make it “ok” to exterminate a group of people? convince everyone else that this class is “subhuman”. abortion is no different. location does not determine personhood. (if so, then it should be legal to kill a baby after its head is out of the birth canal – having moved just inches). viability or quality of life does not determine personhood (if so, why not just pull the plug in every hospital and nursing home in the country connected to people who wouldn’t live without around the clock help and care”).
would you have told a person hiding jews, or someone working the underground railroad, or a tutsi in roanda to keep their politics or religious views to themselves and to stop working to spread awareness about the evils of the slave trade, holocaust or genocide?
i cannot be silent about the legal holocaust in our country and i will not. if people on your newsfeed can be so vocal and brash about their supportive views of sexuality, marriage, taking down flags or politics and not get shouted down and labeled as offensive, then it is inconsistent to do so with this issue.
Can you not worship the god you choose, and at the same time realize that others feel very differently from you? There are many people in the world who feel differently, there are many people who ascribe to different religions, there are those who believe that there is no God. Why try and force feed your beliefs to people who do not ascribe to what you think?
here you have created a false dichotomy – i worship god every day while realizing other people feel/live/ worship differently than i do. i have dear friends who are decidedly not christian – jewish, mormon, jehovah’s witness, agnostic, “atheist”, etc. i have shared meals (multiple) in various homes with muslim friends in africa. of course i worship jesus christ and at the same time realize not everyone does! i never said, posted, or implied otherwise.
as for “force-feeding” my beliefs on anyone, surely you do not mean that posting my views on facebook is immoral or wrong. if that is the case, i hope that you are sending similar posts to pretty much everyone on facebook. how many friends who celebrated the scotus decision a few weeks ago did you chastise for “force feeding” their beliefs on everyone else/ did you share an opinion on this? did you have anything to say about the confederate flag fiasco? did you post it on facebook, or comment on someone else’s wall? if so, then by your definition, you were “force-feeding” your beliefs on people who believe differently than you do.
you have equated “posting a view/ opinion” with force- feeding beliefs. i think we would both agree that that is not a fair equation. again, i posted on my own wall. people are free to scroll past, ignore, or block whatever they choose. no one is having anything forced on them. and if posting one’s views or “opinions” on facebook is somehow wrong, immoral, uncouth, or “force feeding” people, then we better shut the whole thing down.
Ultimately, what proof do you have that your opinion is better than the rest? And please don’t say the bible, because I will take you to task over that book.
here, i would point you to what i posted at the beginning. all opinions/ beliefs cannot be equal and be valid. i grew up on the beatles and think john lennon was an amazing song-writer, but “imagine” is a logical catastrophe.
if one group in society has the view that rape is wrong, and another has the view that it is ok, they will not co-exist without those coming into conflict. if someone steals your wallet and tells you “I believe that private property is a farce and that we should all share all resources”, are you going to just say “ok!”? saying no opinions or views are any more valid than anyone else’s simply does not work.
both “A” and “NOT A” cannot both be true at the same time and in the same way. someone is going to have to compromise or, in certain cases, be proven wrong. take the call for all of the world’s religion’s to just “coexist”. well, that is a farce on its face, because – well – we are all coexisting (living at the same time in the same space). but let’s look at what people mean by that (again – usage is determining meaning).
jews believe that there is one god who created all things and is lord over all. he has promised a messiah who has yet to come, but when he does, he will establish an earthly kingdom that ***all people*** must or will submit to, or suffer punishment. sounds pretty intolerant to anyone who doesn’t agree or share these beliefs, right?
christians believe that there is one god who has eternally existed as three distinct persons – father, son, and spirit. we believe that jesus is the son of god who came, in real space,, time, and history. he lived a real life, died a real death, and was resurrected by god. we believe that his perfect life, substitutionary death, and literal, physical resurrection was to pay the sin debt for every single person – no matter their ethnicity, social status, etc. – who admits that the have lived in disobedience to god, but claim his sacrifice as the just payment for their sin, so that they can live forever in eternal peace and joy with god. we believe that jesus christ is the only way to be reconciled to god, and apart from repentance and faith in him, that each person will die still owing the price for their sin debt and will spend eternity justly paying for their sin.
again, pretty “intolerant”!
muslims believe in allah, believe jesus was not the son of god, but merely a prophet, and put the bulk of the weight of their faith in mohammed and the five pillars of islam. they believe that looking for a coming messiah (judiaism) or looking to jesus for salvation (christianity) are inadequate for salvation. this group does not escape the “intolerant” charge either!
obviously, i am a christian and believe that jesus is the only way that we can be reconciled to god, and that because of his great love and mercy toward us, he desires that we come to him through christ. but my point in sharing this is to say that to ask each of these three major world religions to accommodate the other is to ask them to deny the very basics of their faith, culture and history. that is incredibly un –loving and very intolerant.
at the end of the day, everyone can’t be right. whether it be jews, muslims, christians, new agers, atheists, or buddhists – there are so many conflicts in all of those belief systems – they simply cannot all be true. someone is wrong. each of these belief systems/ world views *requires* that their adherents be faithful to the message they have been given. to tell anyone of them “keep your views to yourself” is to ask them to violate their conscience and to disobey the object of their worship. by saying “keep your views to yourself” you are telling me to tell my god who has complete authority of my life, “no!”. that is no small thing.
take your own view – you believe the bible is not a worthy guide when it comes to truth. i believe it is the ultimate truth. we cannot both be right. one of us is wrong.
you can feel free to attempt to “take me to task” over the bible, but in all honesty, i doubt very seriously that you are going to argue a point that i have not already studied extensively and that has been refuted for centuries (or millennia). if there is one thing i have learned over the past dozen years or so – while in grad school (where, to earn my 94 hr. master’s degree i had to read and interact with opposing viewpoints from various religions, cultures, critics, and centuries with research and writing projects), teaching systematic theology for a couple of years, and years of studying the bible and it’s doctrines for sermons, magazine articles, and other reasons, it is this: there are no arguments that discredit the bible. they have all been addressed and dismantled. new ones are merely repackaged old ones.
i do not mean any of this as if to say i am intellectually superior to you or anyone. minds that are infinitely brighter than either one of us have been discussing these things for thousands of years. my point is, truth always wins. certainly there are people who are more interested in winning an argument than seeing the truth (on both sides). what i am saying is that it i have devoted my life to finding the truth about these things- even willing to be proven wrong, and after all of these years each time i come away more convinced than before that the bible is the inerrant and infallible word of the one true god of the universe.
i am assuming you are on a search for the truth, not to merely stir up an argument. because of that, if you want to discuss the trustworthiness of scripture than i would be glad to. just come with more than the conspiracy theories that have been debunked a million times over that newsweek, time, so called “scholars” and the history channel keep repeating with their fingers in their ears to everyone who tries to tell them why their “discoveries” don’t hold the weight they claim. doubting is fine. gathering evidence for your case is fine. refusing to listen and objectively consider the response to your case and accusations is disingenuous at best, and lacks integrity. if you desire to have this discussion, i hope we can agree to listen objectively and not just shout over/ past one another.
Please, as a human, enlighten me. Let us come to a common understanding that does not involve one ascribing to arbitrary beliefs. Please, help me find a common ground for all of us to exist.
what you are asking, though noble, is impossible. that doesn’t mean that people of opposing views/ beliefs can’t be friendly and loving toward one another. again, i have friends who reject nearly everything i believe, but i still love and care for them, and i know that they feel the same for me. the remedy is not one of us telling the other that they have to deny their core beliefs in order to remain friends. it is found by loving one another, even when you disagree.
i can hang out with, share meals/ coffee with, invite into my home/ go to the home of my atheist friends, my gay/ lesbian friends/ family members, or my muslim friends without abandoning my faith. they know that i disagree with their worldview, but they also know that doesn’t mean i hate them. they also don’t ask me to forsake my faith – just that i treat them with dignity and respect- which i am glad to do. i just shared a meal with a dear friend who has been in an adulterous relationship for years. as far as i know, they are still in it. they know i adamantly disagree with what they are doing. i have talked to them about it many times. but they have no doubt that i love them – and i have no doubt they love me too. we don’t have to check our convictions at the door to “coexist” or to even be friends.
but we must remember that to love someone is not the same thing as validating all of their choices/ beliefs. no one really believes that when it gets to real world issues. to love someone means you would do anything to give them what is best for them, not that you give them whatever they want.
i am imperfect at best. i have a history littered with poor choices and outright stupid decisions. i have hurt people, and for a certain period of my life left a wake of destruction that impacted a lot of people. i have done a lot of apologizing and seeking forgiveness over the past 15 years or so. but you know what, a lot of that destructive behavior came from me trying to live a “conviction-less” life. just go with the flow. do what makes me happy (or what i thought would make me happy). whatever people wanted, i gave. whatever they stood for, not my problem.
that didn’t end with my life being more peaceful and full of harmony. it ended with unimaginable frustration and a swath of brokenness in the rearview and in my heart. But I am grateful for the truth alluded to by john newton, slave trader turned pastor – ““i am not what i ought to be, i am not what i want to be, i am not what i hope to be in another world; but still i am not what i once used to be, and by the grace of god i am what i am”
i mentioned at the first of this response that i am absolutely persuaded that there is absolute truth that can be known, and i am on a lifelong pursuit of it.
you know what i have discovered? this isn’t just a truth for me – it is truth for everyone. truth has a name, and his name is jesus christ. there is a reason we long for peace and unity in a world full of contradictions and competing desires. it is because we weren’t meant to live in a world that has rebelled against truth or that seeks to create its own truth (as if such a thing were even possible). and when we want to define truth, or demand that all people either set aside truth or compromise truth for some false unity, all it does is frustrate us because it will never give us the peace we crave.
we were created to be known and loved by our creator. but because we are all broken (who taught us how to lie? to be selfish? to shirk responsibility, etc.? no one – it is innate in us all), we have gone off on our own quest for truth, which in reality isn’t a quest for truth at all as much as it is a quest to create our own truth. but the reality is that there is only one truth.
jesus said “i am the way, the truth, and the life” – and he is absolutely right. the reason we are miserable and unfulfilled is because we are going through this world seeking to quench the soul-thirst we all have with relationships, hobbies, careers, etc. – things that were never meant to satisfy us. we were created to have the deepest longings of our souls satisfied by the one who made us, wired us, and wants to fulfill us with all the joys we were created to enjoy. but the harder we run from the truth, the more hungry we get, and the more desperately we cling to anything we think might fulfill us. but all we are doing is shoveling salt in our mouths when we are dying of thirst.
truth is truth whether we believe it or not. but our unbelief does not undo or discredit it. we can no more diminish truth by not believing it than a blind man can extinguish the sun by passionately pleading with passerby’s that “all is darkness” on a cloudless day in july.
i pray that you would know the truth of jesus christ, and that in knowing him, the truth will set you free. free from an endless and reward-less search for an elusive and nonexistent world where everyone’s opinions are equally valid, everyone’s beliefs are right and no one’s are wrong, and where truth is whatever anyone wants it to be without anyone else being offended.
you asked me to help you find that “common ground”, and i am sad to say that it simply does not and cannot exist. but there is something – someone, so much better than that… and the peace and soul satisfying joy that is found in him is free for the taking if you are truly searching for truth, for he is the truth.
if you decline, i am still glad and willing to call you friend, even if we never agree on the truth.