Jamie Arpin-Ricci recently wrote a great piece called, “Being Brian McLaren.” No, it’s not an emerging version of an RPG (yikes!) where you can write books or go on nationwide speaking tours — rather, Jamie speaks out about the way certain camps of Christianity have been in all-out attack mode on McLaren, and how he might feel about such things (thus, the title of Jamie’s post).

If you want to see this in action, just type “emerging church” in your favorite search engine and watch the sparks fly. Some people, in the name of upholding a certain doctrine, theology or orthodoxy, apparently feel that it is justifiable to insult, slander and generally resort to mean-spirited tactics (even name-calling). I see people drag names like Brian McLaren or Rob Bell into conversations that really have nothing to do with them on a regular basis, just to find a reason to attack them.

While I do not agree with everything they have ever written or said (does such a person exist with whom we can agree on everything, anyways?), I appreciate many of the thoughts, insights and opinions McLaren and Bell have offered to the Church. I understand that these two, in particular, are very public figures and thus open to a different kind of scrutiny than other individuals, but that hardly gives license for the kind of vitriol and nasty rhetoric some people have used against them.

I think their harshest critics operate under a set of false assumptions. The first: Jesus needs them to be His personal bodyguard to fend off the heretics and blasphemers. I don’t remember Jesus saying, “Now go into all the world, with shrill tones and snap judgments, mimicking the talking heads and pundits of 21st century American media and let loose on the people you think I don’t like.”

Please don’t misunderstand: Truth is central to our faith. However, I think we miss something crucial when we treat truth as a set of static propositions with which we can bash others who deviate from our perception of it. Truth changes us. From the beginning, God has been concerned about our hearts. As such, it doesn’t make sense to stomp around angrily all in the name of “truth.” I wonder how much we really believe if we’re not actually being changed.

The second false assumption: You can change someone’s opinions through finger-pointing and yelling. From my experience, these kinds of angry exchanges only serve to further entrench people in their established positions. Maybe it speaks to my reprobate heart, but when people come on too strong it makes me want to disagree with them, even if I actually agree with what they’re saying. It’s a lesson I’ve learned from my wife — the way in which we say something is just as important as what we say.

The Bible has a lot to say about working for peace. Jesus Himself holds peacemakers in pretty high esteem. This is not just wimpy “I’m OK, you’re OK” pop psychology where we sweep our differences under the rug. Jesus was pretty realistic about the trouble we would encounter as we live our lives — but He was also realistic about His role in helping us overcome our differences. He was clear about how we are to treat one another. I don’t see any conditional clauses — if they subscribe to every bullet point of your doctrine, if they hate all the same people you hate, etc. — just a simple command: love each other.

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