Is it OK for Christians to Disagree on Important Social and Political Issues?

The wake of recent tragedies has brought up the predictable arguments about what could or should have been done and what could or should be done to address similar situations in the future. Equally predictable is the way in which these arguments inevitably trend toward the ethical, moral and even religious, with each side taking an ardent stand that their position represents the only consistent, acceptable or faithful response to the given circumstances.

The interesting thing is that reason dictates that both sides can never be right. Particularly given the frequency with which the two sides of the argument are set forth as mutually exclusive. It’s the ultimate in zero-sum games. It is never enough for me to prove myself right. I must also prove you wrong. Which, given the aforementioned frameworks, also usually means proving you to be hypocritical, immoral and faithless. It can be a nasty business.

So, the question naturally arises. Can people who share the same religious label disagree?

On the one hand, the answer is pretty obvious: yes. They do all the time. But on the other hand, this simple answer really only leads to another, more complicated question. Better stated, the wonder at hand must be, “Are people that disagree on Important Social and Political Issues really of the same religion?”

Though this one might seem to be more problematic, and some might be tempted to say “no,” I think the answer here, too, is most emphatically “yes.” Disagreements are to be expected even by those who share the deepest commitments to ethical, moral and religious frameworks. Particularly in a religious tradition like Christianity, where core receipts are ancient, not always reliably transmitted and framed mostly in stories rather than codified in legal documents, disagreements are to be expected.

Moreover, disagreements are to be honored. Because, as any good relationship counselor will tell you, disagreements are those places where see the true nature of our relationships most clearly. And what is Christianity but a tradition of relationships – relationships with God, with Jesus, with our fellow Christians and the world at large.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do think that there is such a thing as “wrong belief”, heterodoxy and even heresy, but these are subjects for subsequent posts. Even in these extreme cases, however, there is no reason to allow even the most severe and weighty disagreement to stand in the way of relationship. Jesus never did and I don’t think he would want us to either.

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