Battling Ideas Instead of People

I recently noticed a disquieting tendency in the Christian community. It’s not a new thing, but these recent reflections on love have made it stand out. Basically, there’s a difference between challenging an idea, and challenging the people who believe that idea. The latter seems to be more and more common, and this is unsettling.

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 1 Corinthians 1:10–13

For example, consider opinions about the age of the earth, expressed by two views: creationism and evolution. People can compare and contrast these views, which would involve an exchange of ideas. Bit it’s quite another matter to pit creationists against evolutionists, because that is a conflict between people. The difference is that when we battle ideas, the weapons are words: essays, debates, books, and so on. But when we battle people, the weapons can too easily escalate to lawsuits, fists, guns, and car bombs.

I think the enemy loves it when we attack each other, instead of each others’ ideas, because this works against the unity that Jesus desired for us. Disagreement itself isn’t the problem, for we are told to practice discernment, test the spirits, and so on. It’s when intellectual disagreement becomes personal attack that there’s a problem. That is exactly the trend I’ve noticed among certain exchanges. Rather than debate the merits of creationism versus evolution, for example, it’s common to find discussions about creationists or evolutionists. We start calling each other names like “compromising” and “hypocritical”. This makes it much easier to move from discussion to confrontation.

Realizing this caused me to go back and reword a few things in earlier posts. I’m going to try really hard in the future to stick to commenting on ideas, instead of people.

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