For my write-up today on my church’s service this morning, I’ll use as my starting-point a question that was part of the service of installing a new deacon: “Will you be governed by our church’s polity, and will you abide by its discipline?”
The terms “discipline” and “accountability” within evangelical Christianity give me the creeps. They sound authoritarian to me. They sound like they repress human individuality. I seriously doubt that my church takes these concepts in an abusive and authoritarian direction. But there are settings within conservative Christianity in which these concepts have been abused.
And, to be honest, I don’t think that such concepts are abused only within conservative Christianity. They’re also abused by liberal or progressive Christians (not all, but some of them). I recently read a post that argued that Mark Driscoll should be accountable to the larger Christian body on the Internet when it comes to his offensive tweets. I am far from being a Mark Driscoll fan, and I certainly believe that people should feel free to criticize him. I also hope that Driscoll, as a Christian, will recognize why his comments are offensive and will reach out to those who feel hurt by them. But he’s entitled to his own opinion. I don’t think that he’s obligated to check his individuality at the door of Christian “accountability”. I don’t agree with Driscoll’s belief that President Barack Obama is not a true Christian (not that I think that Obama’s religion has anything to do with how well he governs), but that’s Driscoll’s opinion, and he has a right to express it. “But that makes Christianity look bad”, one could argue. Do you know what makes Christianity look bad? The way that it tries to pressure people to think and act the same way, in the name of “discipline”, “accountability”, and “witness”.
I one time read a conservative Christian lady say that, if a blogger sees her blog as a ministry, that blog should be supervised by the blogger’s pastor. Hogwash! That blogger has a right to be an individual and to express her own thoughts on her blog, without having to get the approval of any pastor. Why are there religions that are so authoritarian?