All or Nothing

We live in an increasingly perfectionistic world, in which media go after politicians and other public figures for every little weakness and inconsistency. If the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about grace (God’s unconditional love for us), then I think that this is one of the times in history when that gospel message is most sorely needed.

I frequent ‘Thinking Anglicans‘ from time to time. It’s a rather interesting name, in itself something of a judgement on people who take a different view : “We’re thinkers, those who disagree with us are not”. Statistically, it soon becomes patently obvious that the ‘Thinking Anglicans’ really like thinking about two subjects: same-sex marriage and the ordination of women as priests and bishops. The majority of their posts are related to these two subjects (they advertise themselves on Google as blogging ‘from a liberal Anglican perspective covering news, documents, and events that affect church people’, but apparently church people are mainly affected by these two subjects).

The thing I’ve noticed about ‘Thinking Anglicans’, though, is that many of the folks who comment there have an ‘all or nothing’ attitude toward the Christian faith of others. For many of them, homosexuality is their big issue, and that’s perfectly understandable to me, given the trauma that many have been put through. What bothers me, however, is the sort of attitude that says, “Well, I know you work for peace in the world and you give generously to support refugees and former child soldiers and all that, but all that means nothing because you still oppose marriage equality, so you’re actually a hypocrite and a fraud. It’s all or nothing, my friend!”

Of course, this attitude is not limited to ‘Thinking Anglicans’. Over the years, many of my pacifist friends have described themselves as ‘consistently pro-life’; in other words, they are opposed not only to abortion, but also to capital punishment and war. This description is, of course, aimed at right-wing Christians who get all bent out of shape about abortion but don’t seem to lose any sleep at all about the horrors of capital punishment and war (I would describe myself as consistently pro-life, actually). But of course, the phrase can easily become a judgement on those who don’t see the world as we do. Once again, they must be hypocrites and frauds.

Well, here’s the news, folks: the world is full of hypocrites and frauds. At no time in my life have I managed to achieve perfect consistency between my beliefs and my actions. Nor have I managed to perfectly align myself with someone else’s manifesto or ideology; I’ve always been able to see the weak point of any argument (especially my own), and I tend to be a maverick about what I accept and what I don’t accept. Which means that people are always going to see me as inconsistent.

But isn’t that the way we grow in Christ – one step at at time? In the eighteenth century lots of lovely Christians saw nothing inconsistent about being Christian and owning slaves. To this day, the vast majority of Christians see nothing inconsistent about being Christian and putting on the uniform of your country and killing Christians who have put on the uniform of their country just because the state tells you that they’re your enemies. And there are probably many other blind spots that we have.

We all, as Paul put it, ‘see through a glass darkly’. None of us sees the whole truth and the whole picture. I’m sure there are many things that I get wrong. But wouldn’t it be a better idea for me to rejoice when I find myself walking in step with people over some issues, rather than lambasting them for the times when we’re still out of step? Wouldn’t it be more in keeping with the gospel of grace? Wouldn’t it be loving others as Christ has loved us?

I think so. But then, I might be wrong about that too!

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Published by

Tim Chesterton

Family man; pastor of St. Margaret's Anglican Church on Ellerslie Road, Edmonton; storyteller; traditional folk musician and occasional songwriter. Email me at timchesterton at outlook dot com.

3 thoughts on “All or Nothing”

  1. I agree with most of what you say. I think “Thinking” in this context does not mean “being liberal on same sex equality and women” but “engaging in intelligent conversation. As opposed to “spiritual Anglicans”, “praying Anglicans” or “yelling at each other Anglicans”. At least I hope that’s what it means.

    And I would like to add a plea for understanding. Because it is a predominantly liberal forum it attracts many people who have been very very badly hurt by the church over the years. Respect and compassion and tolerance are learned and if we haven’t experienced them we find it hard to give them in return.
    There are also some buzz words in the debates that just trigger emotional responses in some circles they do not trigger among people not so steeped in the conversation. We can be very quick to judge! And a 400 word limit does not always make it easy to be more nuanced.

    If at all possible, be generous and be aware that those who shout loudest on TA are often the most frail ones.

  2. I suppose homosexuality and women’s ordination predominate because they are the hot button issues of the moment and hence generate the most ink. This, in turn, will result in them generating the most electrons at a news aggregator like Thinking Anglicans.

    I like Erika’s comment except to say that those who shout the loudest are almost always the frailest, and those who consistently shout the loudest are certainly the frailest.

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