Let All Voices Have a Voice!
Forgive me if I don't make much sense today, but I'm struggling with some sort of bug that makes me want to crush my head and puke. But here goes anyway: I remember when I was a young Christian and was fanatical and infantile in my beliefs. I was downright silly at times in my theology and practice. I remember when I was going through college where it was required that I not miss 5 Sunday church services a year, but I'd lie and sleep in anyway. I remember when I went through my seminary training and became very cynical and critical of the church and Christianity and couldn't find a church anywhere that I was happy with or comfortable in. I remember when I discovered Reformed Theology and abandoned my pentecostal roots and totally submerged myself in the heady and heartless theology I studied at the time. I remember when the people I ministered to were more of a hassle and a hindrance, and I did everything I could to exclude them from my life so that I could pursue my own navel-gazing style of contemplative spirituality I embraced at the time. That lasted years! I remember long seasons of not only questioning the faith, but completely denying it. I remember exclaiming to my spiritual director at the time that I no longer believed in God and all I could see around me was complete and utter darkness. I remember times when I thought I'd discovered the secret and ultimate truths and would preach down to my people as though I had arrived and they had long distances to traverse before they could enjoy where I was at. I remember seasons, regrettable, when I completely gave up all effort and immersed myself in what could easily be called rebellious and sinful behavior. I remember times when I believed in miracles of faith and God's supernatural involvement in our lives and times when I didn't. I could go on and on. So, when I encounter in the lives of my own people similar stages or seasons or attitudes, how do I respond? Should I chastise them? Should I whip them from behind to hurry them through these times? Should I criticize them, judge them, and maybe even condemn them? Should I kick them out? Should I treat them as though what they are going through is unusual and irregular and therefore inadmissible? Should I only allow people a voice who are on the same page as me at this present time and silence those who are not? I think it is important, no, crucial, that we allow (and I even hate to use that word because it implies an authority figure permitting something) all levels or stages or seasons or attitudes. No one has arrived. No one has made it. And even if we think we have, then we certainly haven't! We must always remember that there is no guaranteed progression in the spiritual life. The bible makes it very clear that at any time I can revert back to a completely rebellious and sinful place in one blow, just to start all over again. In fact, the bible teaches that my heart is always there. So it is necessary for us to question. In fact, I believe the question is always better than the answer. Everyone should be allowed a voice. I think the reason we restrict all voices other than our own is the sheer cowardice of not wanting to deal with the aftermath. The reason, for instance, we don't allow one to speak and then the other (as Paul encourages in Corinth), is that we don't have the guts to discern, challenge, question, affirm or accept what someone with different ideas has to say. I dare us all to give space for all voices, whether from the mouths of babes or from the stones themselves! Remember: we've all been where the other is now. Respect that and deal with it as it arises. That, I think, is the way of love and inclusion. (here's one caveat: The only time I do consider asking someone to leave the community is when they are explicitly abusive of others. I've done it before and will probably do it again.) The fine art photograph is the creation of my friend Mark Hemmings. I wonder what she has to say?