The cartoon comes from the wonderful Dave Walker at CartoonChurch.com. And it expresses how I’m feeling this week.
I hate, despise, and loathe church politics.
Actually, that’s not even 100% true. I hate church politics a lot, and I want to have a complete and utter hatred of church politics, because I believe infighting in the church is contrary to God’s will. But there is a tiny, evil part of me that loves church politics, that raises its head like a racehorse at the starter’s pistol when controversy drifts my way. The better part of me shrinks away, but there’s still that tiny part that loves a fight and wants to dive in to the fray.
I try to keep that part in check, and not listen to it. In my younger days I was more willing to fight over issues, and it never made me feel better, happier, closer to my fellow Christians or closer to God.
In recent years I’ve tried to step back from such conflicts. I try to make my church time more about worshipping God and trying to love others as best I can, rather than winning battles or scoring points.
That’s not to say I always agree with my church as an organization (local or world-wide) or with the individuals in my local congregation. But my disagreements tend to fall into one of two categories.
First category: I disagree, but the issue is too trivial to be worth fighting over. Someone once said, “In the average church it is easier to introduce a fourth Person into the Trinity than a new colour of carpet in the church foyer,” and the sad truth is that many church fights fall into this category. Case in point: our congregation wants to build a new church. I think this is A Bad Idea and a poor use of our resources. I said so, once and with some conviction, at a business meeting called to discuss the issue, and when a vote was called I voted against it. I was one of a tiny minority to do so, and if the majority wants to go ahead, I’m going to put up and shut up and be as supportive as I can, because in the end it really doesn’t matter.
Second category: I disagree, but my views are so far from the mainstream of the church thinking and teaching that I will never effect change on this issue. Case in point: the fact that I accept gay marriage. I know I’m out of step with this, but I’m OK with being out of step. When I’m involved in discussions I may try to nudge the church in the direction of more charity, less judgement, but I know realistically this is not a fight I could ever win in this church, so I have no intention of trying.
So when I find myself disagreeing with my church as a whole or with individuals in the church, I usually keep quiet. Which allows me to stay out of most church politics.
But there is a third category: issues where I disagree with individuals in my church, I believe I’m right, and I think it really matters. When those issues arise, it’s time to speak up. Even if that means playing the dirty, messy game of church politics, trying to define who’s on which “side” and rally support. And I still hate it — I hate even thinking of my church in terms of “sides.”
But I hate even more the idea of allowing a small but vocal minority to dictate policy and move the church in a direction I believe is morally wrong, just because those who felt differently were too passive or apathetic to speak up. Case in point: the ordination of women as local church elders — approved by our world church, but sometimes still opposed by conservative factions within individual churches. Frankly, it’s hard to believe in 2009 we’re even still having this debate (or rather, having it again) but my disbelief is not going to stop this from happening.
So I feel called, rightly or wrongly, to take up my over-ripe tomatoes and wade into the fray. I try to pray that I can do it with the right spirit, that I can quell (or ask God to quell) that nasty little part of me that is actually spoiling for a fight, and to strengthen the side of me that is able to disagree with fellow Christians while still having a spirit of sisterly love towards them. I’ll admit it’s not easy, with one part of me wanting to fight dirty and another part not wanting to fight at all.
But sometimes staying silent isn’t keeping the peace — it’s cowardice. I pray for discernment, for the wisdom to know when to speak and when to be silent. And I can only hope I pick the right battles.