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The Sinful State of Debate in the US…and Among Christians

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand. (Philippians 4:5)

Are you viewed as a reasonable individual? Even more, how does your reasonableness (or lack there of) reflect on your Savior? Have you shutoff your ability to witness to those who disagree with you because you are more concerned with maintaining your identity in a position, party, or affiliation?  Do people believe Christians are jerks because of your demeanor on social media?

A growing concern for me over this past year is that many Christians have bought into the ways of the world when it comes to disagreeing, whether with our leaders, with outsiders or within the Church. Many are all too content in making simplistic assumptions about where people stand on issues or judge the motives they assume from the decision and then in demonizing those who disagree with them.  They are more concerned with being right (or rather not being proven wrong) than they are with the truth. But worse, than they are with loving one-another.

I know the world does this regularly. It’s no surprise really that reasoning capabilities in the world have devolved to this point. You know, Romans 1 and all. But it saddens me to see Christians doing this regularly; Christians who are called to not conform to the pattern of this world but to instead be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2).

But rather than modeling a renewed mind to the world, Christians end up embodying Proverbs 18:2; Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.

Here are some of the sinful ways Christians have bought into the ways of the world in an effort to retain their self-made identities.

  • Identity & Tribalism
  • Righteous Indignation & Culture of Outrage
  • Polarization, False Dichotomies & Package Deal Ethics
  • Confirmation Bias & Echo Chambers
  • Demonization & Cancel Culture
  • Fake News, False Narratives & Conspiracy Theories

Understand each of these terms here

In reality, life is more complicated and nuanced than any of these fallacies.  To use them and buy in to this way of argumentation is not to think critically and worse a sin.  That is because it is not seeking to understand (James 1, see below), but rather to caricature a person which is an affront to the image of God in a person.   The effect is to dehumanize a person for coming to a different decision than we have for fear that means they are against us. And that is idolatry by putting our identity in a decision over and above our shared identity in Christ.

In none of this, am I saying we don’t stand on and for truth. We must never cede truth. We tell (say) the truth, and we must be able to tell (recognize) the truth.  But, we can’t force people to believe the truth and we don’t make them feel stupid if they don’t. Equally, we must be open to the truth, even if it challenges our self-taken identities or tribes.

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19-20)

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George Sayour
George is Senior Pastor of Meadowview Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Lexington, NC. When he's not pastoring or writing, he's fishing, kayaking and spending time with his family.
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