As a young evangelical, I was socialized to see the biggest threat to the church as theological liberalism. But now I think the biggest threat is Christian tribalism.... Such is the challenge facing the church today and what the reaction to Love Wins reveals.This tribalism isn't just about eternal destiny (the subject of Bell's book). It can be about so many other things. A current favorite on the divide-and-bicker list is the topic cluster of masculinity, gender roles, and sexuality.
For example, on Monday, Rachel Held Evans called out a well-known pastor who posted a polarizing statement on Facebook.* That pastor provided the "divide," and some of Evans' commenters supplied the "bicker" portion of the equation.
Later, Brian McLaren, reflecting on Evans' post, wrote about the two tribes in this Washington Post article.
Now, I want to say this next part carefully, knowing that it's likely to be misunderstood by some from both tribes.
As a preface, I come to this whole discussion with a graduate degree from a conservative seminary, including as many credits in Bible and theology as comprise a university master's degree. That's not to wave credentials around, but just to say I know a little about biblical subjects, and I try to approach theology carefully.
|image: Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet|
by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794-1872)
from Pitts Theological Library's Digital Image Archive
To me, it seemed like infighting over small issues. Honestly, it reminded me most of bickering siblings (another subject in which I have some expertise).
I realize there are important theological points to be made, and we Christians don't all see things the same way. But can we please agree to disagree agreeably? When we think of our approach to relationships with our brothers and sisters in the faith, can we be less like bickering siblings and more like suffering servants?
Can we be less about polarizing rhetoric and more about self-emptying?
Less table-overturning and more footwashing?
One of the comments on Rachel Held Evans' post was pretty telling:
"Aren't Mark Driscoll and Rob Bell part of the same outfit?
I'm looking forward to the love winning thing, when's that gonna start?"
Another commenter corrected this misperception, explaining that Driscoll pastors Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and Bell pastors Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids (actually Grandville). To which the first commenter replied, "I guess I thought 'Mars Hill' was a franchise."
And indeed, it should be — at least, in the sense of outsiders being able to see some similarity between the two. Some love. Some Jesus.
* For the record, I don't disagree with everything I've heard from Mark Driscoll, and I don't agree with everything I've heard from Rachel Held Evans. In case you're wondering.