Everything is political. Life, by very nature, is political. Every choice you make is political.
But here, for a minute, please understand I am not talking about American political parties, or socialism, or communism, or any other mainline political system. I’m not talking about propaganda from the top government.
Lets talk about religion–American Evangelicalism to be specific.
Dissenting views are not helpful to our cause.
The church I grew up in was the strict conservative type of Evangelical, rather than charismatic. The congregation was full of academics and theologians–very smart people.
When I was in high school, I was encouraged to think critically about theology and what I believed. Discussion was actually lively in our high school Bible studies and groups. However upon graduating into the ‘adult’ world, I found that studies suddenly became much more like lectures; one side presenting a view point and leaving it at that. No one argued. No one questioned. A few times I wanted to say something in response to what had been presented, but I felt that, being a young person, my views would not be valued, especially if I happened to disagree.
Unfortunately, it only seemed to get worse as I got older. The teachers of these adult classes seemed to always want to “invite discussion” but couldn’t figure out why no one was discussing.
For instance; I had come come from college once to class where an elder had just presented a rousing lesson on the tenants on marriage, ending of course, with the condemnation of homosexuals and harping on the slippery slope that this country was going down.
I had sat there, quite full of opinions. All of them dissenting. But as I looked around at the older, politically conservative crowd, I realized that my voice would be a whisper at a Baptist revival; swallowed by the noise and quite powerless to reach anyone.
I couldn’t fight all of these people. I could’t argue my opinions–my feelings– against church elders, seminary graduates, and teachers.
Whether or not others felt a similar way, I would never know. The environment that had unfortunately been created was a spiral of silence.
The spiral of silence theory is a political science and mass communication theory proposed by the German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, which stipulates that individuals have a fear of isolation, which results from the idea that a social group or the society in general might isolate, neglect, or exclude members due to the members’ opinions. This fear of isolation consequently leads to remaining silent instead of voicing opinions. [Wikipedia]
This theory is not only proven in Evangelical circles time and time again, but this spiral of silence is detrimental to any semblance of diversity in a group. It forces conversations on the hard-hitting issues out of the church’s doors.
If church is supposed to be a family, or at very least, a community, then I find it very sad that these conversations cannot be held within the community.
I had to go elsewhere to talk about depression, anxiety, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights… hell, even education in any type of depth.
The fact is, God influences the way I think about all of these issues. The love of my Heavenly Father and the grace I have been shown affects the conclusions I’ve come to and the questions I still have about all of these things.
Christ impacts my worldview. So why can I not discuss my worldview with my brothers and sisters in Christ?
Perhaps if I were braver, I would have stood up and said that same sex marriage isn’t what’s dragging the country downhill. Perhaps if I had more confidence, I would have stood up, as a young woman, and stood before the gray-haired elder, asking if he would still say these things with a gay person in the room.
But I’m not brave. Fortunately, the responsibility doesn’t lie solely on my shoulders. We can all do our part (conservative and liberal alike) in embracing differences. We can have grace for one another. Have grace for one another’s viewpoints.
We’re all human and we all arrive at different conclusions because we all walk different paths in life. But these paths have led us to each other; to a community of fellow believers who have come together to fellowship and worship our creator.
If Evangelicals are truly Calvanists and truly believe in predestination, then they are predestined to having this diversity in the room in which they’ve found themselves. And if my Evangelical brothers and sisters pride themselves on their theological education, I pray that they can be confident enough to listen to another’s viewpoint. After all, John Calvin, in his day, was just a man with an opinion.