Disagree, but don’t
Last week, I was watching the local news in the morning. The mayor spoke about the latest NYC kerfuffle, this time about budgeting and the cuts in the city’s public education funding because they lost nearly 100,000 students from the system during the pandemic. Daily parental and teacher protests have sprung up (likely spurred on by the union), and now the courts are involved. The mayor quipped, “Disagree, but don’t be disagreeable.” Ironically, about a month ago, that same mayor called these school budget protestors “clowns!”
Our culture is fraught with divisiveness, aggressive rhetoric, and name calling. Is it any wonder when a protest turns violent, or people are targeted on the streets by others who have been stirred up by misinformation, ignorance, or hate? More importantly, many have become disillusioned, feel helpless, and are checking out.
This condition is not just a societal or cultural thing; it can be a church thing. For decades, I have watched infighting and division within the church. I have witnessed aggressive posturing, name-calling, and threats hurled from extremists on both sides. Eventually, many extremists from one side followed through and walked, and those from the other side seemed okay with showing them the door (but not without paying an exit fee, of course). Now the system is out of balance (the Hopi people call this “koyaanisqatsi”). The numbers in the denomination where I serve have been falling since 1965, and now it’s in freefall. Why? Because the church’s witness became tainted before the world. Note: It’s not just my denomination that suffers from this disease. Just ask the Baptists, Methodists, and others.
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, there appears to be some disagreement within the churches of Ephesus. Paul instructs his protegee that he needs to remind and charge them before God not to quarrel over trifling or useless matters, as it subverts their witness before those who are listening (2 Timothy 2:14).
I do not think this scripture (or any others) mandates us not to disagree. After all, you only need two people in a room to inspire a disagreement, let alone adding 10, 100, or 10000 personalities. I think the concern is more about how we disagree. I suspect that if we disagree in a disagreeable way, this pushes people further away from Jesus because they don’t want to be part of or catch our “ick.”*
ick (or ich) is a word used to express disgust at something unpleasant or offensive. It is also a parasitic disease for fish, often seen as pustules on the fins and eyes. My office administrator taught me how to use this word to describe when others spread their stuff on another.
Finally, I provide you with one more word from our lexicon, a word we should all consider: COMPROMISE. It means a settlement of differences by arbitration or consent achieved by mutual concessions.
And then, maybe, we can learn to disagree without being disagreeable!