“Pippin: “And whose side are you on?”
Treebeard: “Side? I am on nobody’s side, because nobody is on my side, little orc.”
This sums up rather well how I feel when I look at the fissures in the Evangelical community.
We have this impulse to define ourselves in opposition to others, to reduce the messiness of the life of faith into a question of this side or that.
There are plenty of examples of this, such as the recent obsession with Love Wins. It’s telling that, in many of the reactions, there was little room left in the middle. Either Rob was a heretic, or he was a hero tearing down an oppressive false Gospel.
Those who felt neither of those was the case, which is where I found myself, were left in the uncomfortable position of trying to hold out an alternative which those on either side of us had little interest in entertaining.
I understand that there are important issues at stake, but the more I look at the church the less that splitting into our own sub-communities seems like any sort of solution.
Yes, there are Emergent thinkers. Yes, there is a resurgent neo-Reformed movement that often feels like a new fundamentalism. But maybe tribalism in either direction isn’t the answer.
Because it’s too easy.
It’s too easy to split.
It’s too easy to turn life into a dichotomy where one side is all wrong and the other side (my side) is all right.
It’s easy to pick a side, because once you do you can stop thinking. You decided on your team, and now your team can make all your decisions for you. Word comes from on high to tell us what books or theological positions we should be excited about, and which ones we should attack (along with a helpful list of talking points for why author X is brilliant/a tool of the devil).
What’s difficult is being willing to read both McLaren and Driscoll and find things of value in both, which being discerning enough to critique both as well.
It’s not about sides we can split into, life and theology are not that simple.
Sometimes I look at evangelicalism and I feel far older than I should have to feel. more worn, more bruised, like – in another Lord of The Rings reference – too little butter scraped over too much bread.
There is this constant move towards division and strife, and everyone is convinced it’s us or them, with me or against me.
In the meantime thousands of us who want to imagine a Church where unity is maintained amid the diversity are left to the sidelines. Because we’re on nobody’s side, and so, sometimes, it feels like nobody is on our side.