Friday, August 19, 2005
A Bridge Far Enough?
This is from an article by Brian McLaren in the upcoming Sept/Oct issue of Sojourners Magazine about how to build a bridge between the growing polarization of the radical right and the radical left.

You've heard the old saying: "The hard thing about being a bridge is that you get walked on from both ends." As someone who spends roughly half of my time in the conservative world and half in the liberal (theologically and politically speaking), I suppose I qualify as a kind of bridge person. Unfortunately, my experience confirms the old saying, and I have a few boot marks on my backside to prove it.

The fact is, I don't feel very qualified to write this article. I'm assuming the best person for the job should be well accepted and respected on both sides of the bridge. He or she should feel successful in communicating with both liberals and conservatives, feel comfortable in both red and blue states, be liked by both Hannity and Colmes. Sadly, the more I communicate with one side of the bridge, the more I feel suspect by the other. As a result, I've been invited to stay out of a state of one color, and in spite of my above-average imagination, I can't imagine possibly connecting with Colmes and Geraldo without infuriating Hannity and O'Reilly, or vice versa.

So, if I'm a bridge, I'm a rickety one, a "plan B," I suppose. My basic qualification to write this article is my belief that we as followers of Christ should at least try to talk to everybody we can - and to do so, as the Apostle Peter said, with "gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15). I don't agree with the tone of the conservative author who offers advice on how to talk to a liberal "if you must," suggesting that it's an odious task that one must do while pinching her nose. Nor do I agree with any liberal mirror image who sees all conservatives as equally stinky conversation partners. I have been given no exemption card regarding 1 Corinthians 13, and my calling as a Christian requires me, in the words of Paul, to "become all things to all people."

To those under the law I became like one under the law...so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law...so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do this for the sake of the gospel.... - 1 Corinthians 9:20-23

By the way - people often quote that Pauline phrase about becoming all things to all people preceded by "you can't". But Paul's assertion was that he must, for the sake of the gospel, no matter how difficult the task was (and it was difficult - resulting in at least one riot in his lifetime!). Paul had what he called "the ministry of reconciliation," and he saw himself as a peace ambassador for Christ.

For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.... All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.
- 2 Corinthians 5:14-20

He was called to enter various cultures - Jewish cultures, Gentile cultures - and invite people to be reconciled to God and to one another. Of course, nobody can be everything to everybody at the same time, but you can, Paul implied, cross the bridge on the right side and enter a person's world without judgment, and then go to the left side of the bridge and enter that person's world without judgment as well...

You can read the rest of this article in the onlineSeptember-October issue of Sojourners magazine, including Brian's seven scriptural principles for bridge construction:

1. We must stop answering questions that are framed badly. (Luke 20)

2. We must start raising new questions and issues that need to be raised. (Matthew 22:17-21)

3. We must answer questions with questions. (Luke 20:1-8)

4. We must go cleverly deeper. (Matthew 19:3-9, Romans 14, John 8:1-11)

5. We must agree with people whenever we can. (John 4:17, Luke 10:28)

6. We must speak through action, not just words. (1 John 3:18)

7. We must tell stories. (Luke 7:36-50)
 
posted by Mike Clawson at 8:31 AM | Permalink |


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