Saturday, July 30, 2011

Celebrating differences--in a different way

This last Tuesday night I led the a book discussion on the controversial book called “Love Wins.” We had a large group for a July night in the summer—8 from Chain of Lakes and 5 from Presbyterian Church of the Way. This book has become controversial because the people who disagree with the book freaked out about what was written. Rob Bell asked the question of whether the traditional view of Hell exists—the one where people are tortured for eternity. Because of that some people on the conservative edge want to throw Rob Bell out of their community.

This willingness to throw people out of the community is not specific to conservatives—those on the liberal side do it too.

On Tuesday I shared three traditional views that the church has taught about Hell. Those views are the classic position that people are tortured in Hell forever; the view that people’s bodies and souls are annihilated at death; and the view of Universalism where everyone eventually experiences heaven.

I shared with the group that I would love to be in a church where all three views of Hell were expressed among people AND where the community saw these differences as a strength. My dream is Chain of Lakes will be a group of people who sees differences in theology as something very special—that eventually we have the courage to celebrate differences.

These differences won’t undermine our unity. Instead we see that following Jesus will lead us to different understandings of the Scriptures and our tradition.

If you are reading this and are part of a congregation, let me ask this question, “How deeply does your congregation celebrate different understandings of the gospels?” If people come to different conclusions on an issue, do you see that as a strength, or do you do the classic Minnesota thing and try to ignore these differences—eventually not talking about them.

The world needs a church where we tolerate different views and celebrate them. Look at our world right now. For the last month we’ve had stories every day how the Congress and President can’t sign a deal to extend the debt ceiling. The story everyday is the same. People can’t agree. It’s Groundhog day every day. Same story—different actors.

I don’t know what the people at Chain of Lakes thinks about the current debt crisis. I hope over time that Chain of Lakes Church would be a place where we expected some people to agree with Obama’s plan; and we expected some people to agree with the Senate plan; and we expected some people to agree with the House plan. We didn’t see different views as a sign of weakness, but as a sign of strength. If we heard a view that was different from our own we would not heap scorn on the person, but instead we would invite the person out to lunch to listen to their views.

I believe that the world is waiting for this type of church.

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