Yesterday, I wrote about evangelical Christians who are not open to change, and who repeat the same points over and over, without giving any indication that they have learned anything from others. Although I upheld myself as a noble exception to that rule, I think that there are cases in which people can say that I’m the exact same way. And so I have another pet peeve, which is the reverse of the pet peeve that I expressed yesterday!
I was one time talking about evangelical small groups with an evangelical Christian, and he was telling me why he was in a small group, and why he felt that it was important for Christians to be in small groups. And, I must admit: I did something similar to what I was criticizing yesterday. Shortly after that conversation, I made my usual complaints about evangelical small groups, without giving much of an indication that I had learned from what that person had said before!
I also think back to an experience I had in a small group in college—which didn’t exactly concern me, but rather somebody else. One of the members of the group was having problems with the evangelical Christian stance on homosexuality (not that he himself was a homosexual, but he knew people who were, and so the evangelical stance did not seem to him to be the end-all-be-all of the issue). He had a discussion with the leader of the small group which lasted for about four hours. The next day, when this person said that he still had problems with the evangelical position on homosexuality, the leader replied, “I thought we already settled that.”
I guess that my pet peeve is this: Some conservative evangelicals act like my concerns are supposed to evaporate as a result of their arguments! I’m not that good of a debater, and so, in many cases, when I’m discussing an issue with somebody, the other person will get the last word. But that does not mean that my concerns or my feelings or my opinions have changed. Just because someone told me some good reasons to be in small groups, and talked about how he had a bad experience in one and yet had a better experience afterward in another one, that did not make me more comfortable about being in a small group. Not only am I uncomfortable socially in those sorts of settings, but I also resent the group-think in them.
(But, to be fair to this particular evangelical, he was probably getting tired of hearing me complain about evangelical Christianity on a continual basis. It’s one thing for me to have problems with evangelicals. It’s another thing entirely for me to express such concerns to evangelicals on a continual basis, as if I’m expecting them to be concerned about me and my wounds, when they’re just trying to live their own lives.)
On the issue of homosexuality, an evangelical leader can drill into my head over and over that we should believe in the Bible and that God knows better than we do, and I can agree with him or say that I see his point in order to avoid conflict, but that doesn’t mean that my concerns have miraculously vanished! I still think it’s unfair for God to allow people to have same-sex attractions, even as he commands them to be celibate for the rest of their natural lives!
Still, going back to my post yesterday, I’d like to think that I’m at least listening to others. Even if I decide not to join a small group, for example, that person’s points are still in my mind, and I consider them valid reasons to be in a small group. Even if I still have issues with the evangelical stance on homosexuality, evangelicals still raise an important question: Can one be a true Christian while disagreeing with elements of the Bible? I can listen to people’s arguments, and, often, these arguments won’t make me change my mind. But they’re still in my head, somewhere (for better or for worse).