Go ahead, disagree with pastor
Putting beliefs in perspective
Growing up in church, I was always conscious of what constituted a “good Christian.” The fundamentalist churches I grew up in had a lot of rules against which we could judge ourselves (and others). We couldn’t go to movies or drink alcohol or wear jeans to worship services. And we were taught that good Christians conformed. We were not to conform to the world, but we were supposed to conform to each other.
The fundamentalism of my youth always seemed to push us toward homogeny. People were expected to dress in similar ways, to have similar haircuts, to talk the same way, to use the same version of the Bible. And this push for homogeny went deeper. We all had the same worldview, voted for the same candidates and believed the same things about God, humanity, and life.
But I don’t necessary think it should be that way.
Many churches — especially fundamentalist churches, but certainly not limited to them — are held together by the sheer force of the pastor’s personality. He (And it’s always a “he.”) stands as the mediator between God and church people. So many people choose a church — or choose to leave a church — on the basis of whether or not they agree with the pastor.
Standing at the center of this homogenous universe was the pastor of the church. His preferences, his convictions, his beliefs dictating life for his congregation. We were taught, that because the Bible says to “touch not God’s anointed,” we were not to disagree with our pastor.
In fact, I have come to believe that disagreement is a Christian virtue.
I think one of the best signs of health in my own church is when people disagree with me and each other.
Every once in a while, we do a short sermon series at our church that we call “Minor Heresies.” Someone will speak about something they believe that is outside of the box for most Christians. We’re not talking about the big stuff like the Trinity or the Resurrection of Jesus. These heresies are minor, like how Old Testament law gets applied today or who wrote a particular book of the Bible.
We all know phrases like “making a mountain out of a molehill” and “majoring on the minors.” When we admit we don’t all agree on everything, we have the opportunity to actually put smaller beliefs in their proper perspective and not make too much out of them. We’re all minor heretics who disagree about stuff.
Granted, disagreement is a scary thing because it can expose possible fissures and put relationships in jeopardy. If a friend and I disagree about something, there arises the possibility that our disagreement could balloon into something big that drives us apart. When we don’t disagree, our relationship is less vulnerable.
But vulnerability is one of the hallmarks of authentic relationships. Because it introduces vulnerability into a relationship, disagreement is one of the best things for relationships. There is something beautiful about a friendship that crosses the boundaries of what is conventional, that broadens our perspectives, that drives us to something deeper than what we have always known.
Disagreement also makes Christian unity possible. Many churches substitute various kinds of unity for truly Christian unity. Unity based on shared political positions or common ethnic and
socio-economic experiences or even theological agreement is not Christian unity. Christian unity is based on a common experience with Jesus. The apostle Paul taught
that the Christian vision of unity is not about gender, ethnicity or cultural standing. It is unity that is rooted in the Trinity, unity in the midst of diversity.
All of this has me dreaming.
What if we started to celebrate disagreement and what has been called the plurality
of truth? What if our churches were full of people from across the political spectrum? What if we had folks from vastly different denominational backgrounds and theological presents doing life together? When it comes to commerce, education, family and just about everything else, what if we embraced the
fact we value much different things? What if we disagreed on so much, and yet couldn’t be more unified?
So, go ahead, be a good Christian. Disagree with your pastor.