Playing 40 questions

Despite Kevin DeYoung’s claim that his 40 questions for rainbow flag-waving Christians were sincere and not rhetorical or “snarky”, I’m seeing so many linking to his post as if it were a definitive rebuttal of sorts. DeYoung surely knows that his post will be used this way–as a list from the other side would no doubt be.

Gay photoHow many of those with whom DeYoung’s questions resonated will seek out a post with 40 answers (several are already available)? And of those, how many will read past the first few responses they find dissatisfactory and avoid dismissing the whole swath of answerers with a knowing smirk? And of those, how many will seek out answers from other people who are desperately wanting to be heard out for once? How many will read the answers without trying to refute every single one, stepping out of their shoes and into those of the accused?

This doesn’t just go with this debate over the legitimacy of homosexual Christianity, much less with just the conservative side of this debate. When it comes to any hobby horse subjects, none of us really want answers to our objections; we want acquiescence. We want our difficulties with things we reject to be aired, not addressed. We know good and well what we believe already and harbor the firm conviction that anyone who knew what we knew would agree with us if only they wanted to. If they won’t agree with us, they jolly well will at least listen to our objections. They owe us that much.

This is the bone-headedness schisms are made of. Schisms are the stuff our feelings of purity are made of. Empathy, by contrast, demolishes barriers, and the resulting unification and solidarity are what produces true purity. People, not doctrinal convictions, are those Christ redeems.

John’s Gospel shows Jesus praying for the oneness of those who follow him. We in our hubris have the temerity to restrict the subject of this prayer to those we agree with, implying or stating that if they can’t at least agree on firm_conviction_x, they’re not God’s people, and don’t qualify for Jesus’ prayer. How presumptuous! How insolent! “Who are you to judge another man’s servant?”

This isn’t a call to ignore our convictions or even to stop discussing them. I’m pleading yet again with all sides of this and other theological debates to exercise humility by subjugating our convictions to our concern for one another. I’m talking about a real determination to not misrepresent our interlocutors and to demand their voices be heard, seriously considered, and engaged. God resists those who won’t show this humility and gives grace to those who will. Those who truly recognize their own need to overcome their own nearsighted, self-serving shibboleths are the ones who will be ready to receive this grace from God.

There is humility in laying out our areas of ignorance to be addressed for all to see, but questions can also be used as interrogation, to demonstrate how very satisfied we are with not questioning our own position. I suppose Ihis whole post could be boiled down to a simple plea: If you have sincere questions, pose only the ones you require to help you love the person better. After all, the key to the kingdom of God isn’t knowing the right answers. It’s true empathy.

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