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Ecclesiastical Name-calling


Is it any wonder in the church that we sometimes resort to name calling in the midst of high anxiety?  All  you have to do is turn on the news and see this bad behavior modeled by politicians in 15 second sound bytes.  “Hobbit,” or “Trolls” or even worse names that signify crude sexual acts (had to look that one up/variation on Tea Party, you probably know what I mean if you’re a little more savvy about these things than I am).  This must be acceptable because it happens all the time.  We’ve become de-sensitized to it in our culture and the result seems to be that it’s almost impossible for people to disagree without vilifying one another.

My own experience of this has been quite painful. . . and I am not exaggerating or being paranoid for those who might want to label me as such.  There have been times where I was sitting around the lunch table at one of our ELCA seminaries in the past couple of years and have heard all sorts of names being tossed around over sandwiches about those who consider themselves to be orthodox or more conservative in their theology.  I suppose this happens because  those who have an opinion to share think that everyone around the table has the same viewpoint without really knowing for sure or opening up the topic for genuine discussion.  I’ve heard it said that anyone who doesn’t agree with the ELCA’s changes in ministry standards are “homophobic,” “bigoted,” “socially retarded,” “hateful Republicans,” to name a few.  Is there a double standard in effect in the church?  If you agree with the changes then you are permitted to be angry at those who continue to disagree?  If you disagree you must be extremely careful about even mentioning that you disagree or else you will be labeled in negative terms.  In order to avoid a fight or being called a name one might just avoid any touchy subjects altogether.

I suppose it cuts both ways but I have only been on the receiving end of the name calling.  I would guess it happens the other direction as well but I haven’t been privy to those conversations.  I have been asked in a cowardly fb message if I was crazy (my paraphrase), and I have been chastised for not sticking it out with those with whom I disagree, because “that’s what we Lutherans do, we stick together.”  I have been lectured, reprimanded and shut down for my position on the issues facing the church.  It has helped me to define my position even further, hopefully with grace and humility.  Also, though, a few (and very few) have inquired of me personally as to how I came to my conclusions- they were the ones who blessed me and said, “Now I see why you  hold that opinion.”  I give thanks for those people who have addressed me with love rather than judgment and assuming they know what I think before they ask me, or assuming something about my character or if I am at all loving. It is possible to talk together without calling names.  It really is!

The church is in a desperate mess; that’s just my humble opinion.  There are  many wonderful things about the church as well, many, many wonderful things, thanks be to God.  But the emotional climate we live in does not serve the church well- it ratchets up anxiety and somehow gives us the false impression that we can call each other names and accuse each other being mentally ill or worse, evil, when we don’t agree.  This is very troubling to me. . . we can do better than that.  We have to do better than that for the sake of Jesus whom we all love and who loves us.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ronald A Orovitz permalink
    2August2011 08:41

    Your post today cuts to the heart of a deep spiritual matter. How and why do these things happen? What explains the behaviors observed? At the root is sin, particularly the sin of “pride.” It is the curse of our postmodern age that is encouraged and amplified by the world in which we live.

    It is almost impossible to speak to this without doing the very thing that one should not do, and that is “judge” others on the basis of what they say and what they think. I have to dare to say it, but it even borders on a judgement of the nature of one’s faith one’s relationship to Christ is. Either one is doing what a good disciple of Jesus would do, or one is not.

    Much of what you write about; pettyness, labeling, name-calling, marginalization, and the like does not seem to be what disciples of Jesus should do. The same goes for the bigger expressions of the Body of Christ, like a denomination.

    Jesus said, “…let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’,and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” (NKJV) Matt 5:37. My take on that is that one should be silent, and hold one’s opinions to one’s self, rather than making small talk about what others are saying, doing, believing, etc. Much has been said about the “tongue” in the Word, and not much of it good.

  2. 2August2011 10:11

    It does seem that we can’t have a conversation talking about our differences without becoming mean-spirited. I can be just as guilty as anyone on that, although I try to behave myself! It’s too easy to go on the defensive the moment someone challenges another.
    I feel fortunate that when I mentioned to our bishop in NEOhio about the ones who don’t support the changes in the ELCA, or are still trying to sort it out feeling as if they are ones who must bear the burden, she listened.

    • 2August2011 10:27

      Yes, Julianne, I agree. There are many in our synod offices who have done a wonderful job listening for understanding. There is grace there! Blessings on the journey.

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