Posts Tagged ‘otherness’

I spent some time talking to a professor of mine over lunch. He’s so knowledgeable and passionate that I find that I miss having that sort of intellectual one-on-one conversations (surprisingly, college doesn’t necessarily fill that vacuum). Anyway, we got to talking about philosophy and religion, as per usual, and the topic of the “others'” ideas and perspectives came up. How do “we” relate to them and how do “they” relate to us? Do some liberal theologians sympathize with the text and yet ultimately disregard conservative claims on truth while many conservative theologians fortify a wall around themselves in order to protect themselves from ‘liberal theology’ creeping in? What do you do with the divide when both sides are lobbing bombs at each other? Take a side and stick with it? Get caught in the middle? Withdraw completely from the conversation? None of those options sound very appealing. In the spectrum of beliefs which claim to be “Christian,” this is at best fuzzy to me, and at worse, completely intangible.

How does “otherness” and orthodoxy relate? If we accept the idea that there is a value of being different, not merely as one who follows the crowd, but as one who would for Christ serve in his own unique way, how far should we allow for differences and in what way does this dialogue practically take place? Do both sides simply claim to be open and sympathetic to the others’ ideas, so long as that side does not make any solid ethical, moral, and objective claims? Ultimately, I sometimes wonder if either side truly values diversity and seek instead to create homogeneity to conform other people to themselves. Where, then, do we have room to conform to Christ? Who are we following and for what possible good? What exactly are we conforming ourselves to??

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not advocating a concept of relative Christianity. Or even a flexible morality. Part of engaging faith is having the courage to stand up for your own particular beliefs even when no one else does, but I don’t find dogma in itself to be particularly virtuous, no matter what side it is that you identify most closely. I think I’ve come to the point where I’ve grown some amount of courage to stand up for my truth claims. At the same time, I also try not to fully disregard another’s perspective even if they tend to be radically different from my own. I think you owe it to yourselves to at least listen to what others have to say for themselves. There’s merit and weakness in every position that are worth sifting through. . .

And now, I’ll admit that I don’t know where to go from there. If you have any insight, please feel free to enlighten me. This is why it’s good to have friends who have some different strengths, interests, and opinions than your own. You just learn so much more from them. =)

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