Disagree Beautifully

Confession time: I get angry a lot. I tend not to show it, but a lot of things frustrate me. Mostly ignorance.

It’s a continual achilles heal, trying to be gracious with those I disagree with. Sometimes doing so seems as futily inept as trying to debate in the comment section on Youtube though–you get absolutely nowhere.

People certainly do make attempts though–to win arguments in an online forum. But even on a seemingly less hostile Facebook, debates are virtually pointless, if they could be classified as debates at all. Frankly, most arguments on Facebook (and elsewhere) are circles of personal attacks, logical fallacies, and stubborn attitudes.


Reactions to the above photograph on Facebook.
Reactions to the above photograph on Facebook.

Last week, President Obama hosted the Miami Heat at the White House in honor of their recent NBA championship. Since President Obama’s and Miami Heat Superstar LeBron James’ every moves are criticized, the rendez-vous between the two caused all the more stir. There were plenty of people on Facebook who questioned why the President would spend time with these athletes when he had more important things to be doing. In a photograph where President Obama jokingly offers advice to the Heat Superstars people made personal attacks against both President Obama and the players.

This frustrates me.

Frankly, this is not a Democrat-Republican thing. This is just about treating people with respect.

More Facebook reactions.
More Facebook reactions.

In all seriousness, I don’t see why President Obama can’t enjoy time hosting a group of athletes, as though it were even possible or plausible for him to be at work 24/7. Frankly, he already works more than most people; furthermore, the Bible commands that we take time off (it’s called the Sabbath).

But apart from this event in question, it is easy to critique others, especially those we do not know personally, or who we know will never hear our criticism. The Bible has  something to say about offering criticism—we are supposed to criticize ourselves first.

Matthew 7:3-5 says to take the plank out of our own eyes before we point out the speck in someone else’s. If we don’t use the entirety of our own time doing what is most beneficial, then who are we to critique someone else (especially the president) for how they use their own time? (As a side note, who gets to decide what is deemed a wise use of time? Is writing this blog a wise use of my time? Are there better things I could be doing? E.g., you are not an authority on how someone—particular someone you don’t know personally–should best use their time). I’d also suggest that our critique is only worth offering if it is given to someone we know personally. Telling President Obama how to use his time is ridiculous (and a waste of our own time!) given that he will never consider your criticism. Let those who know President Obama be the ones to question him (though I doubt that they would ever rebuke him for hosting a selection of athletes, given how hard the President must work [whether you agree or disagree with his priorities and what he accomplishes in his work is superfluous; presidents must work hard regardless] and given that it is largely a tradition to host championship teams).

Unfortunately, a lot of critiques often boil down into personal attacks. Of course, the Bible also has words to impart on this matter.

Ephesians 4:29 says “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may givegrace to those who hear.” James 3 stresses the importance of taming the tongue and how letting your words fly freely can hinder your testimony.

Not agreeing with someone or not liking an individual is never a license to personally attack someone. Even the President.

I’m not saying you should be uninformed about the government or the President’s decision, or even that you should not criticize the president, but that to do so in a public forum is unhealthy and unhelpful. Certainly, enjoy discussing politics with your friends, but also make sure to do so in a manner of grace and compassion. A bias towards one political party or another with alter how your view the government and consequently you must make a concerted effort to speak without a bias. To fail to do so is often to be uninformed, or to misrepresent the facts.

Author and blogger Sarah Bessey graciously summarizes a driving point here. “Some of the words I have to say might rub you wrong. You might disagree with particulars, but that’s okay–stay with me. Let’s sit here in hard truth and easy beauty, in the tensions of the Now and Not Yet of the Kingdom of God, and let us discover how we can disagree beautifully.”

When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai, he brought down The Ten Commandments, along with hundreds of other laws, to which hundreds more would be added in the Talmud. Jesus was asked by Pharisees to choose the greatest commandment, and He chose love. “Love the Lord your God with all of your being, and to Love your neighbor as yourself.”

We are part of a religion that chooses love. The story of our gospel has been one of redemption. So we choose love and we choose redemption, but part of the glory of love and redemption is that is does not create uniformity. As Christians we can disagree, knowing that we share the love of Christ with our counterparts. We show the love of Christ to the world when we can disagree with grace–when we can disagree beautifully.

Even with the President.

So consider your words–how and where you use them. Are they good for the building up for the kingdom? Does this harm my testimony? Am I speaking with a bias or with malice? Am I speaking with grace? Is this discussion fruitful? Can I disagree beautifully?

Ah, Jesus. Save us from ourselves.


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