The Edmond Sun

Features

November 6, 2012

Striving for honest conversation

EDMOND — I wonder how many sermons this Sunday began with something like, “I’m glad the election season is almost over”?

There is conflict and hostility in the air. It is difficult to get into a discussion abouat politics without starting an argument.

This is my first election season as a member of the Facebook community. Facebook is a way to keep in touch with your friends through the Internet. You write something on your wall, and all your friends can see it. It’s like a mass email to all your friends. People post all kinds of things. Some people post pictures of themselves with their kids. Some people post interesting things they have read so that their friends can read them, too. Some people post stories on behalf of the presidential candidates.

My liberal friends post anti-Romney stuff and my conservative friends post anti-Obama stuff. I really don’t see too much pro-Obama from liberals or pro-Romney from conservatives. Some people take a break from Facebook during election season. They get tired of reading the political posts, which are a lot like the attack ads you see on television. They wear you down.

We come by this hostility naturally. It is part of our Christian identity.

Brian McLaren addresses this hostility in his new book, “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?” It is about religious pluralism.

McLaren has a unique approach to pluralism. He suggests that we begin by focusing on our own identity as Christians. McLaren is a progressive theologian who grew up as an evangelical — it has left its mark on how he see things today. He sees Christians as having two dominant attitudes toward pluralism. Evangelicals tend to see a strong Christian identity as being hostile to other religions. For them, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life means that Jesus is the only way to God. The stronger our Christian commitment, the stronger we emphasize the difference between Christianity and other faiths.

Religious liberals tend to open themselves up to other religions by watering down their own Christian faith. McLaren says that we emphasize our similarities with other religions and minimize our differences. We make it matter less that the other is Hindu or Muslim by making it matter less that we are Christian.

McLaren’s book is about finding a third way. Not a compromise between the two but a different identity altogether. Both evangelicals and liberals see hostility toward other religions as an essential part of Christianity. McLaren believes it doesn’t have to be that way. There has been hostility toward the stranger in many parts of the Bible and throughout Christian tradition, but there also has been hospitality to the stranger in other parts of the Bible and as a minority voice throughout the tradition. What if we built a Christian identity on the foundation of hospitality toward the stranger?

That will require us to be honest about the skeletons in our own closet — to challenge those parts of the Bible and Christian tradition that encourage hostility. We will need to interpret them in a new light. When Luke’s Jesus says, “Woe to the scribes and Pharisees,” we will need to examine the hostility that is embedded in that passage. It makes it too easy for us to say, “Woe to the people who disagree with me today.” When Matthew’s Jesus says, “Love your enemies,” in the Sermon on the Mount, we have to ask whether Matthew practices what Jesus preaches. Does Matthew loves his enemies? Does Matthew love the Romans and the Pharisees?

Is it possible for us to have honest conversation today? Can Democrats and Republicans live together after the election?

We get too little honest conversation during an election season. It is more like a food fight. So we avoid talking about difficult subjects. We talk about something less divisive. Something pleasant and trivial, like the weather or the Thunder.

Part of that aversion to talking about meaty issues flows out of the dominant Christian identity that has emerged from our tradition. We have been taught that the purpose of Christian mission is to convert people. We will save them by making them think just like us. If we can’t convert them, we can still treat them with civility. But in our own minds we write them off. We shake the dust off our shoes and move to the next person.

Can we get in a conversation where we aren’t trying to prove that we are right? Is that a Christian thing to do?

Humility is a Christian virtue. A humble attitude might suggest that there is a lot of mystery in the world. There is a lot we don’t know about God. People in other faiths may have insights into the sacred that we lack. There is a lot we don’t know about how we can improve society. People on the left and the right have only a partial grasp of truth. Sometimes well-intended programs have bad results that we didn’t anticipate.

Our churches need to be models for honest conversation. The church should be a safe place. Folks in church should be able to trust each other and respect what each other has to say. We don’t all think alike. Some of us will vote for Romney. Some of us will vote for Obama. Some of us will wish we had a third option. Wednesday morning, no matter who wins the election, we will still be church and we will still come to worship together next Sunday.

Thank God the election is over. Thank God we can talk about the hard issues in church.

DON HEATH is pastor of Edmond Trinity Christian Church. He may be reached at donheathjr@sbcglobal.net.

1
Text Only
Features
  • NAMI classes begin in September

    NAMI Edmond North-OKC, the local organization of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, will offer its Family-to-Family Education Program beginning Sept. 2. It will contine Sept. 4 and 8-9. Classes will be at Crossings Community Church, Quail Springs United Methodist Church, Francis Tuttle Technology Center (Portland campus), Tinker AFB Chapel and the Thunderbird Club House in Norman.
    NAMI Family-to-Family is a free 12-session education program for family caregivers of adults living with mental illness. The sessions are offered once a week for a few hours each.

    July 30, 2014

  • clinic 1.jpg Edmond church to host free eye clinic

    An Edmond church and Feed the Children are partnering to provide a free eye clinic.
    Individuals will be able to receive a free vision test and free prescription eye glasses from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 9 at the Waterloo Road Baptist Church, 3100 E. Waterloo Road. All ages are welcome and registration is not required.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • UCO forensic volunteer wants to aid more agencies

    A four-person group of forensic investigators who volunteer their time to help smaller Oklahoma police departments isn’t enough to meet demand, a member said.
    Kama King, who recently completed her graduate research and will be a member of the faculty at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Forensic Science Institute, said outside of full-time jobs, members of the group volunteer to assist these agencies.
    As her career progresses, King hopes to help establish a permanently funded organization available to any agency in the state to assist in remains recovery as well as related training.

    July 29, 2014

  • jc_ITS map.jpg City to improve traffic flow

    The Edmond City Council this week approved a services agreement with Electronic Technology, Inc. For the  installation of Intelligent Transportation Systems’ video wall system at a cost of $314,620. The vote was 3-0.
    ITS is a fiber optic, wireless or hybrid communication system of monitoring road events and equipment in the field, data archiving and predicting traffic volume, said Kent Kacir, an engineer with Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • jc_Earp Marlin 2 - photo credit Noel Winters.jpg Shootout of a sale

    An original article of the Wild West will be made available at auction Thursday. The rifle of legendary lawman Wyatt Earp will be part of the J. Levine Auction & Appraisal’s Summer Quarterly Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz.
    Earp was an Arizona deputy sheriff and deputy town marshal in Tombstone, Ariz. He is legendary for playing a key role in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He died in 1929 at age 80.
    Wyatt Earp collector Barry Tapp of Edmond will be selling his 1895 Wyatt Earp Marlin rifle at the auction. The rifle has an estimated value between $50,000 and $75,000. It includes authentication documentation from Tombstone Heritage Museum, according to the auction house

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • 11.6.12 Mother and Cub (2).jpg UCO forensic researcher answers key question

    After working a few human recovery cases on a volunteer basis with a variety of police departments, a question kept bugging Kama King.
    “You spend the whole day,” the UCO W. Roger Webb Forensic Science Institute student said, “sometimes days, searching for someone and only find a skull or a few bones and it just ate at me. Are we not finding this or is it not there to be found?”

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Karan & Rwanda.jpg Peace through Business empowering women entrepreneurs

    Peace Through Business is part of the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW) based in Oklahoma City. It is a program that connects small business entrepreneurs in Afghanistan and Rwanda with business owners in Oklahoma. One such entrepreneur found out about the program from a friend, applied, and was accepted to take part in this year’s session.
    Upon earning a master’s degree in Civil Engineering from the Universite de Sciences et Technique de Lille in Belgium, Lyliose Nduhungirehe began her career working for a construction company in Brussels, but she quickly switched paths to Information Technology.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • How to care for your pet without breaking the bank

    It’s a shame furry friends can’t pay for themselves. Though wagging tails after a long day at work may make pet ownership seem worthwhile, a happy pup won’t stop those bills from rolling in at the end of the month. Thankfully, quick and easy ways exist for dog owners to cut down on costs.

    July 28, 2014

  • MS_new pastor_Page_1.tiff Local church welcomes new pastor

    For one of Edmond’s newest pastors, faith and family intersect on a personal level.
    Sam Powers, pastor at Edmond 1st United Methodist Church, 305 E. Hurd St., and his family arrived in mid-May and his first Sunday in the pulpit was the second one in June. He and his wife Sheryl Heaton Powers, have two children — Kyla will be an eighth-grader at Cheyenne Middle School and David will be a fifth-grader at John Ross Elementary.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • pm_Ramona Paul.jpg Keith, 5 others to receive service awards

    The 2014 Door-Opener Awards Gala dinner and silent auction Sept. 4, benefitting ASTEC Charter Schools, will recognize five outstanding Oklahomans and one Kansan for lifetime contributions made toward helping others in society maximize potential and achieve dreams.
    Those selected to receive a Door-Opener Award at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel event include Dr. Harvey Dean, Pittsburg, Kan.; Toby Keith and Tricia Covel, Norman; Former Gov. George P. Nigh, Edmond; the late Dr. Ramona Paul, Edmond; and Natalie Shirley, Oklahoma City.

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos