Listen To Article
Two weeks ago I did a short blog here as part of our annual fundraiser (and thank you to all who chipped in!). In it I described “The Reformed Journal” and “The Twelve” as an important place to discuss ideas and to have theologically informed conversations on important topics and issues. The piece garnered two comments, both of which essentially made the same point: nobody on The Twelve ever discusses issues related to changing sexual mores and practices, divorce, abortion, and other issues that one commentator said seem more important outside of “Grand Rapids” than in it (though it should be noted our bloggers come from all over the country, but I know what this person meant). Instead the issues are all left-wing, anti-Trump topics that leave more conservative readers of this blog feeling voiceless and alienated.
I have been thinking about this. It reminded me of the occasional comments I got on my sermons while I was a pastor across 15 years. “You don’t talk enough about abortion” one person said to me once. There was a sense in which that was true but partly because I had more than a firm sense that when I did talk about this topic, it was clear that I and the congregation as a whole were against it. We might debate the hard cases and there might even have been a bandwidth of ideas as to what type of legislation would be the most helpful for the most people but in terms of the wanton destruction of human life, we were against it. I wondered how often whole sermons needed to be dedicated to re-saying that. (I also seldom preached about being against believer-only baptismal practices and being a member of the mafia because I did not think this was pastorally fruitful in that we pretty well all agreed on such things in the first place.)
In general I hope preaching is a proclamation of the Good News that just is the Gospel and not a series of diatribes against others. Preaching should inspire hope and joy not rile people up to further hate or fight against those with whom they disagree. That said, all preaching—like topics here on The Twelve—does of necessity touch on morality and issues related to our carrying out lives of discipleship. And there it often seemed to me that if there were topics we needed to ponder on Sundays when it came time for the “application” part of the sermon, it was more fruitful and logical to address things we might not be in agreement on or, worse, things we may not be aware of (like the implicit bias involved in racism and racist views of others—traits we may bear but are not aware of). Or maybe it was pastorally useful to take up topics that have a deep spiritual dimension—say, ecology and the care of God’s creation—but that we often treat in anything but spiritual ways (we often talk of it practically, politically, economically but not in terms of piety and Christian practice).
So also here: I am against the arbitrary, casual destruction of a human life, including of life in the womb. Always have been. I have disagreed on some of the tactics certain groups have used to outlaw abortion completely. I have often thought that some more nuance and at least a small degree of give-and-take might well have yielded better legislative results across the years than the all-or-nothing approach we’ve have sometimes seen. And I have disagreed on various aspects of this with any number of people for whom I cast a vote over the years.
Even so, I also think that people who agree on all this can and should talk about also other things that I sometimes see the church much more divided over (if many congregations or pastors are talking about these things at all). How do we take care of the poor children in this country and through the church? What do we do when we find ourselves turning a blind eye to the genocide (including of children) that once happened in Darfur and that is now happening—with U.S. support—in Yemen? How must we speak—and speak out—when families are ripped apart at the U.S. border (even if we also agree we need immigration policies and they must be enforced to avoid chaos)? How do we reconcile pro-life Christians who also march in support of the NRA and seek to uphold the death penalty? Is this merely inconsistent or can a Reformed, theological argument be made to explain what turns out to be only apparent inconsistency?
But back to where I started and to the comments that led to this blog. OK, I at least am willing in the future to try to address issues that are important outside of the allegedly liberal burg of “Grand Rapids.” Maybe our lead editors would consider a suggestion made by one of my commentators to invite bloggers of a more conservative Reformed stripe to contribute sometimes. Maybe that’s only fair. And maybe it’s only fair that those writers also face the gauntlet of the Commentariat. Perhaps that is when real dialogue and conversations happen.
I will try. That is not to say I will not keep raising issues that I think the church is not addressing or that the church is addressing in ways that are tantamount to heterodoxy or heresy. My fellow Twelvers perhaps feel the same. But if this is, as I termed it, “an important place,” then it should be so for more rather than fewer.