Agreeing to Disagree: or, finding space for holy disagreement

dhowSo I’ve been going to this bible study for two weeks now, and I’ve been biting my tongue a lot.

It’s not that I’m trying to be contentious, but I honestly don’t agree with most of the theology that is at the foundation of the book we’re reading.  I finished this week’s chapter and thought to myself, “that’s bullshit”.

When the discussion leader turned our minds to the text at hand and asked for our general opinions, I kept that precise wording to myself.  I listened to a few others speak their minds and then tried to keep myself calm and polite while suggesting that there was, in fact, nothing worth discussing:

The underlying premise for this chapter is that God exists in the same space and time dimension as us.  I think that is completely false, and I think it would be preposterous for us to constrain him to that, so it follows that the rest of the discussion in this chapter is unnecessary.

A few nods, patient smiles.  My thoughts were generally ignored until the end, when one person circled back to my original point and agreed with my logic.  And I thought, “why did we bother with the last 75 minutes, then?”

If I’ve learned anything in all the years I’ve spent both in and away from church, it’s that I’m never going to agree with everyone.  I would be ridiculous to try to find that.  In fact, I think there’s a word or two for people who only put up with agreement: we could start with “tyrant” and “dictator”.

This is where patience comes in.  And listening.  I’m going to work really hard at listening to other opinions.  Who knows; I might learn to agree with one or two of them.  If nothing else, I’ll work on my ability to tolerate bullshit.

What’s the bottom line for how much we can disagree with a faith community and still be a part of it?  

What’s the threshold of trouble I’m allowed to cause by disagreeing?

How long can I bite my tongue before it falls off?


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