Unless you’ve been under a rock lately, you’ve been seeing a lot about leftist college snowflakes demanding “safe spaces” which block them from hearing words or seeing images that cause them to be “triggered” into fear, discomfort, offense or a sense of alarm. For the majority of sane and reasonable people, this phenomenon has been an easy target for snarky diatribes, lectures about narcissism and comparisons between this generation and the one that, say….stormed the beaches of Normandy, at the same age. Yeah, it’s all a part of the ongoing consequences of the hyper-leftist, post-modern, self-indulgent atmosphere found in the indoctrination centers known as College or University these days.
However, as one who has been in ministry leadership now going into my fourth decade, I would point out something that will make some of my dear readers feel a mite uncomfortable. It has struck me as no small inconsistency that the majority of those howling about the precious petals of tolerance who demand exclusion from intolerant bullies spouting ideas which they don’t affirm or with which they simply disagree are conservative….wait for it….CHRISTIANS (at least on my social media outlets.)
Now why is that a big deal? Because for years, I’ve seen whiny church goers react exactly the same in the church du jours with amazing frequency. “How so”, you might ask. Let me give you a few examples…
- I watched a family (of the fundamentalist variety) huff out of a church service never to return when I quoted (in honest context) a person they considered too liberal – John MacArthur (insert absurd laughter here.)
- A lady once approached me to request that I notify her anytime abortion was going to be discussed at church as it made her feel “uncomfortable.”
- There was the time someone left the church because we did not make announcements that no one should wear cologne, perfume or scented deodorant in a 2,500 seat auditorium because it made them sneeze.
- I was once chewed out by a regular attender because he had to walk from the back of the parking lot because we had reserved a row of parking for guests. (I invited him to find another place to worship and he obliged me…that very morning.)
- We once had five families with loyalties to a particular conservative fundy institution of higher “learning” leave the church simultaneously when we introduced percussion instruments to the church orchestra. (Though the same instrument had been featured frequently in pre-recorded music at that church for years.)
- I’ve known of people who left their church due to Bible version disputes, because someone who spoke was not emphatically “young Earth” and stated that there were other valid interpretations of Genesis 1, when praise team members were allowed to hold microphones (it apparently reminded them of a night club…I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been to a night club), because of the type of tracts made available in the church tract rack, because a politician was allowed to greet the congregation, when a woman was allowed to lead in prayer, because someone raised their hands in worship, because people clapped after a special song, when their child did not win an AWANA award, because they did not get a special number in the annual Christmas production, because they didn’t allow a petition drive about a certain moral issue to be conducted in the lobby, because they didn’t approve of a book that the pastor read, because the pastor cited a Catholic theologian, because a mixed race couple was baptized, due to the discontinuation of a particular ministry (one in which they did not volunteer even), as a result of not receiving a hospital visit (they told no one they were going to be in the hospital), due to a line-item in the budget that they did not like, and honestly….I’m just getting warmed up.
In other words, at the first offense….they would run to their “safe spot” which was anywhere but at that awful church that had dared do, say, feature, stop, start, highlight, quote or some other action with which they disagreed. But in those cases, they weren’t being spoiled narcissists with consumer-Christianity mentalities, they were simply showing “discernment” or “taking a stand”. There’s a theological term of ancient origins that describes those attitudes — Childish.
Are there reasons to be “offended” enough to leave a church. Yes, but they are not myriad. In fact, the fast majority should be attached to a major Bible doctrine. Yeah, deny the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection of Christ, the Blood Atonement, Sola Scriptura/Fide/Gracia/Christos and a handful of others and I’m heading for the exit. But seriously, the offense meter of too many in the Body of Believers is set way over on the “over-sensitive” side.
Unity, Harmony, Peace — are not natural conditions of a fallen creation. If they are to exist, it requires effort. If we put as much effort at fighting for unity as we do in demanding that everything be up to our acceptance levels, we’d have far fewer churches and far healthier ones as well. Scriptures tells us that we are to live peaceably with each other wherever/whenever possible and that was written to believers.
If you don’t disagree with something your pastor or the elders or your Bible Study leader says or does every so often, you probably aren’t listening closely enough or watching them much. Shoot, I look back over my decades of ministry and there are multiple things that I’ve said or done that in hindsight I would do differently, better, more carefully or not at all. Most of the wisdom I currently possess (which isn’t all that much) is primarily due to stupid things I’ve believed or done in the past. NO one is always right (yes, that includes YOU, Donald Trump.)
Just like it appears that many “Millennials” are looking for reasons to have their feelings hurt on college campuses, many within the church are also creating controversies and offense where none really need to exist. It’s OK to disagree with others over minor issues, style, non-doctrinal matters of theology, etc… For pete’s sake, don’t be a child and take your ball (tithe money, attendance, volunteer support or whatever) and bail every time you don’t agree or get your way or the call doesn’t come your direction. Such an attitude of self-absorption and entitlement corrodes and weakens. In as much as our families are strengthened by diversity and through difficulties, so would our churches (and our college campuses and country) if we sort through these issues like grown-ups and quit demanding vacuum-sealed bubbles of faux harmony where we experience the echo-chamber of own personal nonsense. Such actions create intellectually-spindly thinking and a lack of rigorous growth that comes with adversity, dialogue and challenge.