a couple of nights ago i had a disturbing dream. i was visiting a local church that has been quite critical of the gathering for some time. after the sermon - which, if memory serves, was filled with theological certainty and strict morality - i sat down with the pastor and, in the guise of questions, offered a trenchant critique.
the pastor immediately threatened to shoot me for incivility, but, assuming he would not follow through, i continued the one-sided conversation. in response the pastor picked up a rifle, rested it upon his knee, and after some discussion, he shot me through the abdomen.
there's not a lot of love lost between this pastor and i, but as i woke up, i couldn't help but think that my critique, which was shaped by my contempt, inspired his violent action.
this dream, as well as emergent village's recommendations concerning the appropriate manners of theological conversation,* has led me to believe that i need to be far more careful about the worlds my critiques and words create.
here is the abbreviated list of emergent village's commitment to church in all its forms, as abbreviated by franke:
1. To be actively and positively involved in a local congregation, while maintaining open definitions of 'church' and 'congregation.'
2. To seek peace among followers of Christ, and to offer critique only prayerfully and when necessary, with grace, and without judgment, avoiding rash statements, and repenting when harsh statements are made.
3. To speak positively of fellow Christians whenever possible, especially those with whom we may disagree.
4. To build sincere friendship with Christians from other traditions.
i am truly sorry and i humbly repent for the times i have neglected charity and poured out contempt upon my brothers and sisters. i believe that gracious, well intentioned questions and critique are vital to the vibrancy of the Christian faith, but these conversations need to be shaped by charity, filled with grace and grounded in prayer.
* which john franke mentions in his excellent new book, manifold witness.