Rumley: To disagree or not to disagree 2.0
I wrote a version of this column in May of 2017. I am thankful to the Vail Daily for republishing the article in light of the cultural crisis. I enter into this discussion again cautiously, compassionately, and with deep concern.
I enter cautiously because the well has been poisoned, so any attempt at articulating my point of view will somehow be misconstrued. I enter compassionately because I genuinely care and I hope we can talk about this without being misrepresented. And I enter concerned for three reasons: one, the misrepresentation by people who read only one side of any issue, two, any disagreement with the new metanarrative will be seen as hateful, and three, where we are headed may be unstoppable. Let me explain.
I am a Christian. I believe the Bible is the word of God and has answers to our nation’s issues. I believe the Gospel is the overarching answer. And I do not agree with how some things are being portrayed in the media relating to the pandemic or the protests taking place around the world.
But can I do that? Can I disagree with someone and long for something different and still be seen as loving and educated? I am starting to believe I cannot, not anymore, not in America, not in the land of the free and home of the brave. I am beginning to see I am not free to disagree anymore. For if I am brave enough to disagree, I might be seen as unloving, uneducated, intolerant, and hypocritical.
I am beginning to think I cannot even state this in a non-threatening way without repercussion. Now before you flood the comment section and malign my character with all your thoughts about how I am in the dark ages, an imbecile, a Bible thumper, outdated, and a misguided hate-filled racist, I want to do two things: look at two definitions and ask one question.
Contend. It means to assert something as a position in an argument. I am asserting a position on how to discuss opinions. So please be tolerant as you read this. Tolerant. Long ago, in a galaxy far far away, the word meant willing to live with beliefs that are different from your own, although you might not agree with or approve of them. It’s a good definition and the right one, the true meaning of the term.
Words matter. To tolerate you means I can live with your beliefs, but I do not have to agree with and/or promote them. To tolerate me means you can live with my beliefs, but you do not have to approve or promote them. Fair and square.
However, the term tolerance has morphed. It now means I must not only accept what you believe but promote your position. I cannot disagree. I cannot disapprove or I am a hater. But you can disapprove of my position and not be seen as a hater. Weird.
Here’s my big question and the reason for the column. Do I have the right to disagree with you whatever the issue may be? Do I have a right, in the land where freedom of speech and the right to peacefully assemble, to wholeheartedly disagree with you? And if so, what does that look like?
I’ll ask one more time for effect: Do I have the right to wholeheartedly disagree with anyone on any issue and do it with love and not have my character attacked because we don’t agree?
Before you answer, think about this. I have a friend who wholeheartedly disagrees with my proclaiming salvation in the name of Jesus alone, by grace alone, through faith alone. We don’t see eye to eye on certain issues but share a love for free-thinking and intelligent discussion. We do this with civility. And he asked me recently to start writing again for the Vail Daily because he respects my opinion. That’s why we love America.
However, I am afraid that, for any person, whatever their religious affiliation or not, this ability to lovingly disagree over cultural issues is coming to an end. Do you agree? If not, can we disagree agreeably and still love one another? If not, why not?
Judd Rumley is the lead pastor of Redeemer Eagle Valley. He is married to Ashlea, and they are blessed with three children. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.