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When Christians Engage in a Battle Over Words: Letting Go of the “Defend and Conquer” Mentality

The problem is simple—the church has developed a defend and conquer mentality rather than a dialogue and conversation mentality. How do I know this? After years of working within the church and writing about and for the church. My perspective is not from someone on the outside, but from the inside. Someone who genuinely cares for and loves the church.

The scene normally looks something like this:

Anytime someone makes any sort of theological claim, whether it is provocative or otherwise, the first instinct so many of us have in response to the claim is ‘defend and conquer’; to tell the person who wrote the claim how bad their idea is, how incredibly unchristian it is and how big of a heretic they are for entertaining the idea to begin with.

How often have I witnessed this, not only in relation to my own work, but with many of my colleagues as well. It’s almost like the moment Christians are confronted with anything new, something we may not immediately understand or something that may catch us off guard, we feel the need to defend our own view by attempting to conquer the opposing idea first.

Rather than seek to better understand the other viewpoint, however different it may be, it seems we would rather fight for our own cause, even if our own idea is fundamentally flawed, than to entertain someone else’s perspective.

The whole idea of war and battle is so entrenched in our psyche that it has become our default, go-to method of choice when confronted with a viewpoint different from our own.

These days, discussion, dialogue and conversation seem to have little place in Christian circles. Why? For a wide variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the defend and conquer approach has become so deeply ingrained in our collective conscience.

We’re often not the least bit interested in what someone else has to say, particularly if it goes against what we’ve come to believe about a certain topic. Rather than seek clarity and ask questions, we would rather engage in a debate and argue about why they’re wrong and we’re right.

Media-Induced Mentality

We see this played out in the media every day.

Politicians debate the merits of their idea by ridiculing the ideas of their colleagues on the other side of the fence.

Environmentalists espouse why their ideas to save the planet are superior by pointing out how ridiculous all other opposing views are by comparison.

Economists believe they have the answer to repair the economy and bolster their claims, not by pointing to reasons why they believe their idea can work, but by pointing out the reasons why all other ideas will fail.

Time and time again we witness this unending back and forth rhetoric that seeks to do little more than dominate and control others through fear and intimidation. And while this may be an acceptable method of debate in society, the church must pave a better way forward.