I have been ill at ease with the blog post that I put up yesterday and I have been searching for the reasons why. I think I’ve found them:
First, I dismissed people’s motives as incidental to the lovingness of an action.
Second, I wrote in a cavalier manner in which I failed to be charitable to other viewpoints.
I’m sorry for this. My intention was not to make universal claims about the nature of prayer or God’s interaction with people. Nor was my intention to belittle another viewpoint. I take responsibility for the hurtful ways in which my words may have affected others. I realize that words often produce unintended consequences.
I still agree with the substance of what I said, however, and I want to put that substance into a little bit of context.
First, Seth asked a specific question using a specific incident as the framework. That is, if one is (to use Seth’s word) “ambushed” by a group of strangers wanting to pray for you since they believe God told them to, how do you respond? Because I riffed off of this specific question on to two related ones (is it ok for people to do “ambush” others?; why do I feel like I don’t owe my attention to such people?), I decided to write my own blog post in which I answered those two specific questions.
Thus, I do not think it is ok to “ambush” others even if you think God told you too because I think that is an unloving invasion of another person’s space. And, moreover, I feel like I do not need to incorporate into my life what strangers tell me about my own faith or beliefs since I do not know them and have not built intimacy with them. What I did not say is that I would never listen to anyone who told me that they had a message from God. Indeed, I articulated in the comments on yesterday’s post that I have friends who do just that. And I trust them because they know me and there is accountability for what they have to tell me. I will see them again.
Second, I failed to clearly articulate the tenuity with which I hold my beliefs. I wrote:
These days, I am supremely uncomfortable around people who claim God has told them something specific. I don’t get it, I don’t think God acts in that way, and I think making the claim that God has told one something takes a lot of gumption.
That was not a humble thing to write. What I meant, by using those sloppy words, is that I live my life with the norm that God does not tell people specific things through some supernatural act. This norm is occasionally violated—I’ve been in situations which I can only describe as miraculous—but for the most part it holds. And, further, that I will never make the claim that God told me this or that since making that claim requires a level of certainty about God that I do not possess. My hope is that others who make that claim do not do so flippantly, but that is their affair, not mine. And I am sorry for insinuating otherwise.
Third, I failed to appreciate the motives with which others act. I do not think a group of strangers want to “ambush” others with prayer because they are hateful. Rather, I think the opposite: I think they are inspired by (however misguided, in my opinion) love. My point is that they did not consider the elitism and power dynamic they established when they approached Seth (or other strangers). That does not make their actions wrong, just potentially unloving.
Fourth, it is not always productive to parade one’s beliefs around in public. However, a great conversation about this topic was already happening on Seth’s blog and I decided to add to it. I certainly don’t post about all of the controversial things and I am still convinced that the life I live ought to be marked by love rather than fear of the things with which I disagree. Christianity is a practice, not a belief system. Anyone who has been around the blog very long will have noticed that I almost always focus on my journey rather than speak in broad terms about others. Yesterday was an exception, and I realize the potential and real harms.
So, again, I apologize and ask for forgiveness. As always, thanks for reading. And, of course, keep pushing back on my ideas. That’s the whole point.