Agree to Disagree?

a couple, arguing

A Twitter friend wrote a really great post about wanting to stop “agreeing to disagree” with bigoted Christians. Personally, I have rarely “agreed to disagree”, but Crystal writes:

The truth is that I’ve grown very weary of the “agree to disagree” policy that is so often applied to issues surrounding same-sex relationships. The phrase “agree-to-disagree” implies that both positions (for and against) have merit– but in the case of civil rights, I don’t believe that’s possible. I simply do not believe that a person’s right to oppress is as valid as the rights of those experiencing the oppression. And I think we become complicit in oppression when we buy into the myth of the oppressor’s rights.

Christianity is a privileged class in this country, and at many times throughout history (including today) its religious leaders have been guilty of oppressing people whose humanity (as found in their religion or lack thereof, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, etc.) they haven’t understood. This has happened in nearly every generation in which Christianity has existed– and in every case, there has always been some faction of people who said, “Those who wish to use scripture to marginalize others are entitled to their opinion.”

I can’t say that anymore. Even if it’s popular. Even if it’s politically correct. Even if it’s touted as the “peaceful” thing to do.

Those who use scripture to belittle, marginalize or discriminate against other people are NOT entitled to do so. There is no merit in a position that minimizes a person’s worth based on his or her sexual orientation– even if he or she believes God has given him or her the divine right to carry out such discrimination. “Agreeing to disagree” is not the helpful or peaceful thing to do in a situation where oppression is the problem. The helpful and peaceful thing to do is to call oppression what it is: Bigotry. Socially violent. Absolutely and totally wrong.

I rarely comment on blogs (although I’m finding myself enjoying it lately!), but apparently I really liked Crystal’s post because I wrote a novel. Yes, a massive response. Here it is, but for those of you who hate reading novels, here’s the run down–

1. People actually are allowed to use the Bible to endorse bigotry because the Bible encourages bigotry, racism, and violence. 

2. I outline what I think is the history of modern fundamentalist Christianity, including the idea that many preachers act more like Puritans than Jesus. 

3. I have decided to agree to disagree, actually, and find that being diplomatic suites me just fine, particularly with friends and family who I love and want to remain close to. This comes after being SO outspoken that I have lost many, many friends and some family members to arguments. I’ve decided to learn how to communicate my points more peacefully. 

Now for my actual novel:

Really great points you’ve made, Crystal.

These two in particular:
“Those who use scripture to belittle, marginalize or discriminate against other people are NOT entitled to do so.”
and
“The helpful and peaceful thing to do is to call oppression what it is: Bigotry. Socially violent. Absolutely and totally wrong.”

When you point out to those people that they are bigots, then the tables get turned and they claim they are being oppressed or attacked. Why? Because what they regurgitated from some backwards preacher (not original thought) has just got them handed the bigot card and they know it’s an ugly label and they know they are one for holding those opinions. Yet, it’s popular with the televangelists or the Mark Driscoll’s of the world so it MUST be okay. Everyone’s doing it, right? The irony in their claim that they’re being oppressed is just so funny. The other day someone claimed that I was oppressing them by taking away their FREEDOM to have a different opinion. I said no, “You’re still free to have that opinion, but I’m free to say that opinion is stupid or bigoted.”

The other thing is, “those who use scripture to belittle….are NOT entitled to do so…”. This gets me twisted up some. See, at one point I thought fundamentalists were reading the Bible wrong. That’s why they were so hateful, right? (And by them, I mean formerly me, since I was one.) It starts getting really complicated here. Yes, there are wonderfully progressive Christians and ministers who are intelligent, thoughtful, kind people I respect and love having in my life. It’s interesting though, that they are NOT considered Christians among fundamentalists. Perhaps this is why modern fundamentalists teach their members to “go deeper” and be “pure” and “sacrifice” because they can then claim superiority and isn’t that what we see so much of in modern fundamentalism? Superiority. The “we are elite Christians and no one has us beat on our devotion to God.” I know. I was in an elite training program for young, Christian adults for most of my twenties (as you know). But because of my background as a LITERAL Bible reader, not a progressive one, I have a hard time saying the Bible isn’t oppressive and these people don’t have the right to use scripture to belittle, because if you do read the Bible literally and at face value, you have the right to use scripture to be VIOLENT, insane, murderous even. And that is where things get complicated-because although the Bible is in many ways violent and perhaps one of the more violent texts, people SHOULD know better. They should know right from wrong simply because society (not necessarily religion) has permanently branded that concept in us, but they do what I did–they lay down their right to think for themselves. They ignore their conscious. They begin to accept the ‘group think’ and popular arguments without analyzing them or debating them, and that’s partly because the modern evangelical church is set up to be hierarchical (and you could argue this for every major religion), and even further, we have a deeply rooted authoritarian culture in modern Christianity. God is an angry Father and so is your pastor, type of thing. In my experience, and from observation for the past three years, many of the fundamentalist churches nationwide have more similarity than difference. Their core values are all rooted on similar ideologies that are not necessarily UNIVERSAL to Christianity, but they are common in US evangelical ‘theology’. Terms like shepherding, discipleship, accountability, purity, manliness, gentle spirit, servant, etc. all stem from this ‘theology’ and it all comes from somewhere. Historically speaking, I think it comes from the Puritans but has gone through micro-evolution over the years with prominent Christians like Smith Wigglesworth, Oswald Chambers, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pat Robertson, Bill Gothard, the whole TBN crowd, dozens of “prophets”, Billy Graham, David Wilkerson, James Dobson, etc. (obviously, there are plenty of influences in the early 1900′s and even 1800′s that I can’t name off the top of my head at the moment). Evangelical preachers have plagiarized these men’s sermons for decades and decades, sometimes adding to it, other times taking away, but essentially leaving the core values and ideology in tact. It’s no surprise that there’s a lack of diverse thought within US Christian culture (at least the most outspoken culture, ahem, fundamentalist), then. But further to that, there’s a hostility toward original thought and a fear of taking away their faith, because the minute you use logic and reason or call them a bigot, it calls into question their faith and beliefs and makes them question whether their is a God. (got to stop the rant for now…)

On a personal note, I’ve tried to become more diplomatic and less argumentative because I wasn’t getting anywhere with some people. So, I think it’s important to point out that as much as I hate to admit it, you win more bees with honey. (I truly hate to say that, but I’ve learned the hard way.) I also feel like people know who I am and what I believe, and it’s a lot like being a Christian. I wasn’t the type to shove Jesus down someone’s throat, but if they wanted to know, they would ask. I’m still outspoken, but I don’t expect anyone to change. I just want to point out facts.

When it comes to, say, my family, we have to agree to disagree but not because I think their point is valid. It’s because I respect them as my family members and love them. I know that they are smart people and are very informed, though they disagree me on with major social justice issues.

 

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Lisa Kerr

Lisa is a writer, editor and humorist who has been featured on the Huffington Post, Philly.com, New York magazine, and BreakThru Radio. Find more of her at: thelisakerr.com.