Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dear Amos

Dear Amos,

Let me respond by telling you a parable.

Once upon a time there were two brothers building a clubhouse.  They were getting along marvelously until the younger brother suggested, "Hey, we should have a window in our clubhouse."

"Clubhouses don't have windows," said the older brother.

"How strange," said the younger brother, "they really should."

"No, they shouldn't!" said the older brother, and punched his younger brother in the mouth.

After several minutes, the younger brother decided to join in the building project again.  He asked, "What makes you think clubhouses shouldn't have windows?"

The older brother handed him a book titled:  Being a Kid.  He opened it and pointed to a page that read, "Every kid ought to enjoy the experience of building a clubhouse." Beside this was a picture of a clubhouse with no windows.  "See!" said the larger boy and then promptly punched the other brother in the mouth.

Wiping a tear from his eye, the younger brother asked, "I see the picture, but that doesn't mean that every clubhouse has to be built without windows does it?"

"Yes it does."  Blam!  This time he drew blood.

The younger brother felt like giving up, but instead he flipped through the pages of the book and found another picture from an earlier chapter that showed a house with windows.  Gingerly, he showed this picture to his older brother and said, "Here's a house with windows."

Thwak!  The older brother smacked him with the back of his hand and blood splattered on the floor from his busted lip.  "That's not a clubhouse! And it's not even in the same chapter!"  He threw a towel to his brother, "Use this to clean yourself up, that lip looks like it hurts.  I probably shouldn't have hit you so hard."

That evening, the younger brother stayed up all night reading the book his brother had shown him.  He couldn't understand why his brother was so determined that clubhouses couldn't have windows.  It didn't make any sense.  He stared at the picture of the clubhouse and noticed that it had a door.  Doors were a lot like windows.  Surely that would make sense to his brother.  He went to slip with an ice pack on his lip.

The next  morning he showed his brother the picture of the door.  He explained how doors are a lot like windows, even if they're not exactly the same.  Both windows and doors can let air in, let sunshine in, keep things from getting so musty and dank and depressing.  Both allowed entry and exit.  Both could be opened and closed.  The spirit of the ideas was the same.  He looked up smiling, sure that his beloved older brother would finally understand that he was trying to help.

His smile was not returned.  The older brother grabbed him and hurled him to the ground.  "They are NOT the same!" the older brother shouted as he landed a kick to the younger brother's kidneys.  "Doors are doors and windows are windows!  If they were the same, they would look exactly the same, work exactly the same and have the same name."  Kick!  "But they don't do they?"  Kick!  "Nobody else in this neighborhood builds clubhouses with windows, do they?"  Kick!  "Mom and Dad's clubhouses didn't have windows, did they?"  Kick!  "The book says we're supposed to build that clubhouse and there's the picture, so that's how we're going to build it!"  Kick, kick!  "And if you don't like it, you can just keep your stupid opinion to yourself!"  The older brother punctuated his final statement with three sharp kicks to the back, before returning breathlessly to his work

The younger brother lay there stunned.  He couldn't think for a long time, all he could think about was how bad everything hurt and why his brother would act like this.  Finally, after several long minutes, he groaned as he spoke.

"A clubhouse."

His older brother looked at him and snarled, "What did you say?"

"It says, 'Every kid should enjoy the experience of building a clubhouse not that clubhouse.'"  He groaned as he spoke, "There's nothing that says we have to build it exactly like that."

A moment of silence hung in the air like a thunder cloud.  Then the older brother was running at the younger, shouting with each stride.

"Why... can't... you... just... shut... UP!"

Concluding his sentence, he launched a kick square in the younger boy's face.  He walked away with blood on his white sneakers.

The younger brother spat out one of his baby teeth and lay quiet for a long time.  With resolve, he finally stood to his feet and faced his brother.  "Now you listen," he said, "this is my back yard as much as it is yours.  You may insist on building this tree house your way, but I don't have to."  The missing tooth gave him a lisp.  "I'm going to build a tree house the way I believe it was meant to be, and I don't care if you like it or not!"

The older boy was on him instantly.  But as he was about to swing, the younger boy raised a piece of lumber from the unfinished tree house to defend himself from his brother's blow.  There was a crunch as his brother's knuckles slammed against the wood.  Shortly following came tears and shouting.

"Why did you do that!?"  The older boy was screaming as tears gathered in the corners of his eyes.  "What kind of a person does that to their own brother?  I'm going to tell!"

Head hung low, the younger brother picked up a hammer and some nails and left his brother's clubhouse.

Let me remind you that I never addressed you directly.  I simply described the character of the comments I observed.  But if you feel I'm speaking to you, let me respond as best and lovingly as I am able.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9 and 10:  I refer you to the story above.  My words are remarkably kind in comparison to those of the people I responded to.  In your own response, you called the missional mindset "false teaching."  How should a missionally minded person respond to being called a heretic?  I believe in roughly the same standards as you for judging truth (scripture, tradition, reason and experience), and yet we come to clearly different conclusions.  You call people with views like mine false teachers (heretics) and audaciously claim that we are "exchanging the truth of God for trendy lies."  Then you get defensive if we respond with anything other than a grateful hug and repentance for our "unfaithful ways".  That's not the way things work.  If you don't like confrontation, don't be confrontational.

7, 8:  If more people took the time to read the scriptures in context, they would discover that the "Word" or "Word of God" in the New Testament refers almost exclusively (the argument could be made that it is absolutely exclusive) to Jesus and his gospel, not the scriptures in general.  I agree, if we used Jesus (the Word) and his gospel as our standard (which I believe the rest of the New Testament support when understood correctly) more often, we would be in much better shape.  However, in all kindness, who ordained you (or your particular doctrinal adherents) to the position of chief arbiter and judge of all scriptural interpretation?  Especially considering that, historically, you would almost certainly find that significant portions of your "orthodoxy" have been labeled heterodox or heretical by the "church" at previous points in history?

I don't expect you to agree with me.  I really don't.  Six years ago, I might have responded in much the same way.  All I ask is that you afford "missional people" the same rights and respect that you demand for yourself.  That you engage in discussion rather than immediately playing the "false teaching" card.  That you take the time to understand what missional leaders are saying (that means more than simply reading Joe Blatherall's twenty page article on "Why Missional Thinking Is Destroying the Church") before making your judgment.  If you ultimately disagree, I will love you no less.  But don't expect me to be silent.


Spot said...

This is a response to a discussion on If you care, you can find the entire discussion here:

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