A friend of mine invited me to a Mennonite church with her to experience their message this past November of 2006. I looked into the history; I examined the theology. And it made sense to me. As a result, I had a Christian conversion.
And then I spent some time in the church, and found that faith can smolder even among Mennonites. Despite a great theological understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit, I rarely hear Mennonites talk about the Spirit in their lives. Though preaching pacifism, some Mennonite lives out passive-ism. And still others cling to an ethnic identity which, while certainly important to heritage, is also exclusionary for those folks who don’t share that history.
I found this blog and thought perhaps it could be a helpful spiritual outlet for me. And, indeed, it has been.
But even us folks I think warrant a bit of constructive criticism, which I do submit comes from within my limited worldview, so take it with a grain of salt. YAR ain’t perfect. I may love this space, but I don’t unflaggingly support it. In the upcoming year, I would suggest the following to be considered by us folks:
1) Polarizing arguments are, well, polarizing and not constructive.
Polarizing arguments tend to lead to polarizing debates between two really impassioned people writing comments at 1am while they finish a paper on Russian Mennonites and their relationship to borscht. Everybody else gets drowned out or tired by the back and forth and then we have a post on the same issue two weeks later with two new people contributing their vitriol to the debate. It’s really tiring. Try to be more inviting with your debates, and never assume that your word is the final word on the subject.
2) If you are arguing something pretty conservative or pretty radical, “check yourself before you wreck yourself”.
I’ve encountered folks on this blog espousing conservative ethics and theology without feeling the need to explain themselves because their argument should be self-evident. I’ve encountered folks using incredibly radical arguments that throw scripture out the window despite the fact that, in my estimation, the supremacy of the Bible is key in the development of Anabaptist thought. Feel free to argue that one till the cows come home (because it can be argued), but you are definitely in the fringe of Anabaptists at that point. If you want your argument to be compelling for the majority of folks who don’t agree with you, at least try to reconcile your argument with the Bible in some way.And for folks with a conservative argument: you can be very selective with scripture. Don’t cite a verse and then say “see – that’s the Word, and it’s true” because I guarantee you can be proved wrong by another book. That’s the beauty of the Bible.
3) Your theology sounds great: can you help me understand it even a little?
I’m just as guilty as the next on this one: spewing forth some kind lofty theology with big words learned in a Christology class at seminary X. Dense concepts don’t need dense arguments: they need simplified arguments. If you are able to explain a dense theology with simple arguments, you’ve proven you understand it way more than if you use dense arguments. Please try to keep this in mind.
4) In the next year, do we need 28 more posts on LGBTQ?
I think Skylark noted something significant when addressing our underdeveloped topics. Most of the comments I’ve written on this blog have been defending/elaborating LGBTQ inclusion. However, there’s a great blog doing the exact same thing, and probably a lot better than we could: Coming Out Strong. Maybe we should be encouraging the work they do by engaging the issues there rather than trying to own it here. I’m not suggesting a moratorium on posting on the topic, but let’s be conscious of the fact that we may be spending so much time on this simply because it’s controversial and not because we’re getting to any productive or life-giving point with the discussion.
5) Encourage sound dialgoue, not simply controversial flaming.
I can’t think of simple tactics for this beyond real intellectual vigor, respect for others contributing on the blog, and being open to new ideas.
Given that, I’m curious what you YAR’s out there think. Here’s your assignment:
1) Find an example in our archives of what you feel was a sound, enriching dialogue on YAR
2) Post a comment with the link to that dialogue/post.
3) In the comment, tell us why you think it was a good dialogue
I’m sure among our archives we could even find one or two somewhat constructive discussions on LGBTQ. I look forward to hearing from you all.