These two actions are what’s driving the masses and simultaneously destroying people. It’s our go-to, and it’s our life sentence, which is sadly killing us softy each and every day.
We don’t roll like that at Brew Theology, and I do believe it is one of the main reasons why we’ve been able to not only sustain a great Denver community filled with vastly different kinds of interesting people; it’s why we thrive as an example for what I think can and will change communities around the western world. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let me explain the negative by giving you 4 examples of different people who’ve come to the local Denver gatherings and have been steered by these two harmful actions: to fix and to abandon.
I’ll preface by saying that while we encourage diverse thought, we aim to be respectful, listen well and remember that nobody gets the “last word.” Bottom line: Don’t be a jerk. Now, while we are open to all viewpoints, tolerance is not the word we would use to describe our gatherings. In fact, I am convinced that nobody is tolerant; it’s a nice buzzword, but it badly misses the point of healthy diversity. If someone is dismissive and oppressive, that is simply not allowed. You can hold a differing opinion, but the minute you get cranked up on Mountain Dew and demean another human in the flesh, we will have some words… and I’ve had to do this before on a few occasions.
For historical reasons that we could possibly unpack in another post (Thanks Plato), we have inherited a rigid, dualistic worldview. I hate to fully blame ‘ole Plato (even though his epic influence has completely saturated how we live in the west) as dualism can be traced to ancient Egyptian religions as well. Still, due to this way of being, we – humans – operate under a “fix” or “abandon” posture when it comes to anything that we deem different, unusual, and/or conflicting to our liking, understanding and chosen (or un-chosen?) ideology. Thus, we have the “far left” and the “far right,” the “good,” the “bad,” the “pretty,” the “ugly,” the “orthodox,” and the “heretic.” Ever been called an anathema? It happened a to a buddy the other day. Ugh. C’mon! And while there are some obvious actions that a society – at large – can deem abhorrent, and there are definite times when we should stand up for injustice, our typical, rigid labels and categories of “black” and “white” have not helped us when kindly trying to make sense of the “other.”
This leads us to the “fix” or the “abandon” way of life…. When we don’t understand something or a situation, and the other’s beliefs seem cringe-worthy and deplorable to our current belief system, we naturally want to fix the other. By the way, this is why we – Brew Theology – make sure and hold ourselves accountable to not move toward the way-too-easily-adopted soapbox. If we tell ourselves to listen and understand rather than impulsively critique someone’s differing position, this will help bridge that strange gap that divides the masses. However, we feel compelled to fix someone’s wrong thinking since Platonic thinking still runs the western show. And if we can’t fix someone’s thinking, we get frustrated. So, we abandon them. Furthermore, there are others in our world(s) that don’t even bother with getting on a soapbox to fix; they simply abandon!
A dualistic thinker posed a strange – yet all to common – question to a recent speaker at the pub, “Do you feel as if your group is superior to the western white world, as you seem to imply from your talk?”
For a second, one could hear a pin drop. And the speaker – who doesn't live according to this western worldview – provided a gracious response, “Not superior. Just gentler.”
It was an honest question, but the question missed the point and it definitely could have been asked another way, more respectfully without the supposed snarky answer in the question. Needless to say, this person left the group before the discussion time, furthering the typical posture of abandoning. Side note: While the majority of the group would have disagreed with this person that evening, they would have given him the benefit of the doubt to express his legitimate thoughts. Still, to fix or abandon wins the day for most people.
Another friend of mine used to attend these pub gatherings. He’s an atheist, a kind and good person that I respect, and now I miss… While we have many atheists who frequent the pub and contribute in helpful ways just like anyone else with another Judeo-Christian belief system, this person continued to use the “fix” strategy and would get others in the group going down unnecessary rabbit trails, aiming to convince others that their belief in God was wrong. A few times, this man was ironically called a “fundamentalist,” which didn’t go over very well as you can imagine. While he was a delight on so many levels, he did operate in this “fix”-postured way on many occasions. I had a few chats with him, trying to help him understand that while his opinion matters, it’s important to remember that we have to graciously listen and put down our dualistic agendas regardless of beliefs. We discourage Christians from trying to zealously convert others to their preferred way, and we discourage atheists alike. Over time, he stopped attending the group.
Again: Fix and abandon.
There was a biblical literalist who attended a gathering on feminism. We had a young female leader moderating the group table. While there were a handful of people in the group who were more “progressively” minded with this topic, there were two others with more conventional, patriarchal views when it comes to women’s roles, etc. This is fine to allow for multiple views, but this is when the tension can and does get very interesting. One of the individuals, a long-standing Denver pub theologian, spoke with conviction, passion, intelligence and much grace. The other dissenting individual spoke with conviction, passion and intelligence. Yet, he forgot to bring any kind of grace or compassion to the table. He was dismissive toward the table moderator, talked over her and others, and used his Bible as a zealous weapon of hatred rather than encouragement and love. Several of the group attendees voiced their complaints after the fact. While the other groups were having amazing, robust dialogue, this table was plain messy and horribly unproductive. Let me remind you that we had two people in this small group who were “complimentarian” in their theological positions of women in ministry along with women in the household. This was not the issue; the issue stemmed from bigotry and the inability to listen in love. I spoke with this person, and I even tried to set up a time to talk over coffee or a beer. However, this individual never understood the error of his ways, and was unable to make the time to talk about his possible poor posture. This person has not come back to a gathering, and I think that is okay. I can’t fix that. He chose to “fix” and then to “abandon.”
To finish, last fall we were honored to listen to a female Muslim leader speak about Islam 101. It was fascinating. Then came the Q & R time. A newcomer eagerly raised his hand, and as he began firing away “questions,” I noticed he was reading from several sheets of printed-paper, extreme jihad loaded proof texts from the Quran. The entire questioning was rooted in his interpretive thoughts, not the presenter’s beliefs. It was an over-the-top, anti-Muslim loaded question (ask anyone of the 50 people in attendance). I was beyond embarrassed. Still, our speaker was a generous Rock Star! She even continued to dialogue with this person via email for months afterward until he continued to be persistently zealous and dogmatic in his ways (over hers). I saw the email interactions as I told our speaker to email me if this individual got out of hand. Yup. He did. I was appalled, and after messaging with him about how he could have handled himself differently, this person has not been back to a gathering. He too chose to fix, and then to abandon just like the other examples, above.
Where does this leave us?
(To Be Continued…)