Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Third Side

With all the recent discussion about organizational structure in our denomination, some of us have used the world wide web to compare notes. We do this via the web because, I believe, we're too cheap to buy gas to meet in person. And then there's the whole "Who's picking up the check?" deal. So we sit back in the comfort of our respective cushy chairs and compare and contrast what we've heard. One of my friends and I have exchanged multiple emails and countless words in discussion of the pros and cons of the current proposal. We had a pretty good debate going. Then we figured out that mostly we were saying the same thing. Sure he was coming at the argument from one side of the coin and I was coming at it from the other, but we've pretty much found out that it's the same coin. Of course my side is shinier!

Communication is a funny thing. One of my many mottos is, "Never assume that everyone shares the same frame of reference." We look at things from different points of view. I certainly know that, but I tend to forget it also. I forgot it in my discussion with my friend this week. Sometimes when we are sure we are communicating well, the other side still isn't getting the message. It may be our fault or it may be their fault, but good communication isn't guaranteed.

Never is that more evident than in the world of politics. I was reading this editorial by William Rusher in my local newspaper. Much of it is a lot of blathering about which party most religious people support. Interesting, I guess. But what caught my eye was part of this section:
This marks a major turn in our political history. America's Catholics, to take just one example, were predominantly Democrats until very recent times. Government aid to the needy was thoroughly congruent with Catholic interpretations of the Gospel message. But recently the passionate commitment of the Democratic Party to what amounts to abortion-on-demand has sharply eroded its Catholic support.

According to Rusher, Catholics sided with the Democrats due to social concerns until recently when the abortion issue moved those people to the Republican side. Now I don't want to get into abortion today. Politics either. But let's recognize that each political party has concerns for the poor. In general terms, the Democrats want the help run through the Federal government. We pay the government and they dish out the help. Generally the Republicans want help for the poor to come through private organizations, leaving the government out of the equation. There are pros and cons to each argument. The Democratic solution creates dependency to a faceless, unthinking beaurocracy. The Republican answer depends upon human beings who tend to be more concerned about self than about others. Simply put, if we want to help the poor (which is what we're supposed to be doing), we could really use a third side of the coin.

Christians seem to be as dead set in our ways as non-Christians. Too often we are unwilling to scrap our comfortable ways - even if they are not working. On the other side of the coin, some are willing to abandon everything as relics of the past in order to move into a new age. The ideal example is in the world of worship songs. Hymns or choruses? Piano and organ or guitar and drums? If you want to start an argument among Christians, music style is usually a good place to start. Of course the ridiculous part is that neither side is actually biblical. The argument has its basis in what we ourselves prefer. Jesus and the Twelve didn't have a pianist at the Last Supper. David actually played a stringed instrument and (gasp!) danced! We tend to look at worship as being for us instead of for the One to whom it is intended. We flip the coin from heads to tails and back, not realizing very often that it is the third side we need to focus upon.

If we start with what we are supposed to do then deal with the various ways we can accomplish those things, then and only then can we see the third side of the coin. We must start with the Bible and with prayer, then let the Holy Spirit lead us to the means to our end. We may convinced that "our side" is the shinier one. But have we taken a look at the third side?

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