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  • Writer's pictureMalcolm Bolduc

CULTURALLY MIXED EMOTIONS (June 22, 2024)

Galatians 3:28 New Living Translation

28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

We live in a culture today where many people have extremely strong feelings about various topics.

That’s fine.

Not only do I believe that people should have strong feelings about things, I myself have very strong feelings about certain issues.

However, what inevitably happens is that a person encounters another person, or especially another organization, that disagrees strongly on the same issue.

This is where the problems come in.

Let’s say we have a person, let us call them “Person A” who has strong feelings in favor of an issue, let’s say, “Issue B.”

Eventually, Person A meets someone or reads an article or even just hears through the grapevine that some organization, “Organization C” is very much Anti-Issue B (Whatever issue B happens to be), ostensibly because of their own deeply held, strong feelings about the issue.

What is Person A to do?

They are now faced with something or someone who disagrees with their strong feelings.

Surely, they cannot simply remain silent about it.

So they write an article, or post a link to an article that someone else (who agrees with them) or just even a strongly worded status update on Facebook denouncing Organization C for taking a stance that deviates from the opinions of Person A.

However, this seems to seldom take the form, “I do not think that you should support Organization C because they are against something that I am in favor of or because they are in favor of something I am against.”

Rather, they are usually much more pointed than that.

Often, the strong feelings underlying the position of Organization C are acknowledged simply to be dismissed or, what is more often the case, demonized.

Words like “hate” and “evil” are thrown around with alarming frequency.

The impression one gets after reading something like this is that, if I find myself either agreeing with Organization C or even simply deviating slightly from the rigid position of Person A, then I must be equally hated by Person A and therefore am equally dismissed or condemned by them.

The other potential conclusion is that I may find myself completely in agreement with Person A and the writing has further empowered me to continue to hold my own strong feelings and condemn those of others without feeling the need to understand the other person.

It is important to point out that there are both liberal and conservative forms of this situation.

I have seen countless appeals from one group to completely boycott or fight against another group because of the views they hold.

I say this because, though it might seem that I am particularly picking on one side or the other, I am fully aware that this is a widespread issue and cannot be pinned only on one side of the political spectrum.

The question that I believe needs to be raised is, “How can we, in good conscience, do these kinds of things?”

I cannot express how many times I have seen someone write words to the effect of,

“This person/organization supports/is against this particular issue. They are so arrogant, closed-minded and exclusive. You should avoid them or write letters of protest against them.”

How is this tactic any less arrogant, closed-minded and exclusive?

How is it that I can, on the basis of my own strong feelings, condemn someone else who, on the basis of their own strong feelings, acts accordingly?

  Does that not seem as though I am doing precisely the same thing that I am condemning them for?

How are my own exclusive actions and words more noble than those I condemn?

Is it because the other group or person is wrong while I am right?

  If so, how am I so sure that I am right?

I fear that, all too often, the determining factor of whether I am “right” or not is simply because I choose to believe that I am right.

This leads me to say a few words about what has developed in Western culture, particular in America, which I like to call the ideology of inclusivity or the ideology of pluralism, as the two ideas are deeply interrelated.

Inclusivity is something that is prized very highly within the various mainline denominations in America, not least the Church of God (Anderson, Ind.).

There is a deep conviction that the church ought to be inclusive.

The rationale for this is that Jesus was remarkably inclusive, eating with sinners and Gentiles, ministering to women and the poor.

So far as we remain rooted in Christ, I have no problem with being inclusive.

However, when we take the statement, “Jesus was inclusive and we are called to be like Jesus, so let us be inclusive like Jesus was,” and transform it into, “Jesus was inclusive so inclusivity is a goal in and of itself,” insurmountable problems arise.

What does it mean to be inclusive in an ideological sense, that is, being inclusive for the sake of being inclusive?

Perhaps this can be best expressed by taking a look at the cognate idea of “pluralism” that has developed.

I am a Christian.

Someone who is a pluralist in the popular sense would say to me, “It is fine that you are a Christian. However, you must not make any claims that Christianity is true, unless you limit it and say, ‘Christianity is true for me.’”

The reason for this is because it is clear that not everyone in the world is a Christian and to say that “Christianity is true,” is to say to the non-Christian, “Your religious convictions are wrong.”

  This implication, that someone else might have a wrong opinion, is deemed as “not loving” and “exclusive,” and must therefore be eliminated.

This seems to be a consistent view at first, because it advocates and actually insists upon making room for other views.

However, it is, in practice, almost never consistent.

What does the ideological pluralist do, for example, with the neo-Nazi or the member of the KKK?

If we are to make room for everyone’s convictions, religious or otherwise, on what grounds can we say that some people are wrong?

Those who advocate pluralism or inclusivity as an end in itself, find themselves condemning people, in spite of their own philosophy.

What began as a view that allowed everyone to have their own opinions and lifestyles transitions into a view that says that at least some opinions and lifestyles, are not allowable.

Why are some lifestyles allowable and others not?

  It cannot be on any pretense to “truth” because the ideological pluralist or inclusivist is too postmodern to think that any community can have a monopoly on truth and that we must allow for those who disagree with us.

However, radically intolerant groups, if left unchecked, will tear society apart.

They must be opposed.

But on what grounds?

What seems to be put forward most often is an ideal that is stated with such confidence that it must not be questioned, “Ideas and lifestyles are alright if they do not hurt other people.

  If they do, they are not acceptable.”

This is so widely believed, but on what is it based?

At best, purely Western values such as are enshrined in the American constitution; more often, simply on the whim of the speaker, who does not want to be hurt by others.”

The problem with this is that, once you have said that something is wrong and it is always wrong, regardless of the community to which a person belongs, a standard has been made by which every other view is judged to be acceptable or not acceptable.

In spite of the alleged “humility” that presses someone into a radically pluralist or inclusivist view, it actually becomes very paternalistic and judgmental because it claims that the radically pluralist or inclusivist view is “right” and any group that is exclusivist is “wrong.”

Let us put this into its clearest form.

Those who wish to be radically inclusive realize they must take a stand against those who are radically exclusive, so they take the stand, “Everything is relative, but pluralism is true!”

This solves their moral problem by condemning any person or group who is exclusive in their eyes.

However, this statement has shown that the radical inclusivist is indeed exclusive of exclusivists and therefore must be excluded by their own ideology.

If one must be exclusive of those who are exclusive, that same person is automatically excluded.

Professor Alan Torrance at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, has written a profoundly insightful essay called “Toward Inclusive Ministry: The Logical Impossibility of Religious and Theological Inclusivism, Pluralism and Relativism.”

Torrance, a committed Christian, begins by explaining the famous threefold typology of “Inclusive, Exclusive, and Pluralistic” popularized by Gavin D’Costa.

However, in the years following the publication of his book, D’Costa has completely changed his mind on this issue and now contends that it is only possible for human beings to have an exclusive stance, inasmuch as it is logically impossible to truly follow the implications of an inclusive or pluralist ideology.

Without going into all the details of this excellent essay, what is important for this discussion is that Torrance questions what we mean when we say that we should be “inclusive.”

Do we mean that we must be inclusive of ideas or that we must be inclusive of persons?

This is a significant distinction.

If we wish to be inclusive of all persons, we must consider certain ideas to be out of line, such as genocide and all forms of abuse.

However, if we wish to be inclusive of ideas, we cannot be inclusive of persons, as some ideas are defined by their stance against certain persons.

Torrance concludes by upholding this understanding of inclusivity, which is markedly different than the word is popularly understood,

but as, he believes, is much more consistent with the gospel and much more productive of actual conversation with people of differing opinions.

To bring this back to the original point of this writing, our strong feelings are not intrinsically evil.

However, what ends up being destructive is our determined ignorance.

If I criticize someone else for running roughshod over my cherished beliefs and, by doing so, run roughshod over their cherished beliefs, I am just as much to blame as they are.

To complain that a person or organization is being closed-minded and discriminatory in such a way as to use primarily emotionally charged words without actually engaging in the issue in a calm and clear way is to be equally closed-minded and discriminatory.

Nothing will change so long as we continue to insist that we are always right, and that any deviation is grounds to brand the other as “evil” or “hateful” or “closed-minded” or similar things.

We have to be the ones who take the lead, who treat others with love, even when we are not treated in a loving manner.

We must be the ones who allow our strong feelings to be what they are but refuse to let them isolate us from others but put them to the test in dialogue with those who disagree with us.

Romans 12:15-18 New Living Translation

15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

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