Issues we feel strongly opposed to (or supportive of) are points where we are most prone to backfire; to reject “new and provable facts” contrary to our beliefs. The research is clear on this: and all people are subject to this kind of defensive reaction.
Yet sadly, it is often not a “new and provable” fact that stimulates backfire in us. Many times, it is simply the presence of another person who holds to a different belief that is the source of our backfire. We become threatened by and take defensive or accusatory postures toward “people” as opposed to positions.
Just before the Iraq War, I was at my home church for a meeting. Two women whom I highly respect came into the room. One said, “I cannot believe these liberals who refuse to support the war – and they claim to be Christians!” As she left, the other woman whispered, “Call me liberal but I stand against this war because I am Christian.”
There is no intersection point between these two views. One person adamantly believes supporting the war is a Christian duty; the other believes Christians should never (or rarely) support war. We cannot reconcile these two women’s views, but it is possible to live in reconciliation with one another. However, our tendency is to allow backfire not only to harden our position but harden our hearts toward people. This can happen over all kinds of ancillary issues: immigration, gun control, health care reform, war, sex education, etc.
The problem is that there is NO intersection point on many of these “black” or “white” issues. Critically, if we allow backfire to harden our hearts toward people over differences in position, we are going to have a very difficult time ever giving witness of Christ. Sadly, this is largely the state of our witness today as evangelicals; we have positioned not just ourselves but the God who lives inside us against many people.
Where do we go from here? Join me next time to find out.