Everywhere I look and read there is some element of fear that is being described. For instance in the conversation around the inclusion of LGBT Christians in the UMC, each side claims the other side is fearful. One side says that the other is fearful of change. Another side says the other is fearful of being out of step with culture. One side says the other is fearful of a slippery slope. Another side says the the other is fearful of embracing the full authority of scripture. Everyone says the other side is afraid.
In some circles you may hear that everyone is afraid and even go a step farther in sharing what they are afraid of. Owning what we are each afraid of is cathartic, but it does not seem to produce much fruit. In fact, talking about fear seems to only amplify the fear that may not even be out there!
Instead of talking about our fears, can we just take at the starting point that we all are afraid? Can we move the conversation around LGBT inclusion from "what are you afraid" of to something like "what do you value"?
My son is four years old and he says he is afraid of the dark. However, in addition to being afraid of the dark he is also fearful of deep water and caves. At night I can give him a flashlight. I can ensure he stays in the shallow end and in the suburbs it is not difficult to avoid caves. The "thing behind the thing" around my son's fear of the dark, deep water or rocky crevasses is that he values being able to see clearly. Now if you listen to my son talk about what he is afraid of you will miss the underlying value that informs (drives) his behavior.
Likewise in the Church. When we spend time listening to the fears of another person, this is a pastoral action and it is important. However, if we are only listening to fears we can miss the underlying value that drives those fears.
The final point I want to elevate when talking about fears is that it is easy to dismiss the other person as not having legitimate fears. When we hear the fears of others and then speak to our own fears we often discount our partners fears as being less important as our fears. Playing the game of who has the most legitimate fear is a relational earthquake that shakes foundations, rupture relationship and crumbles bridges.
Rather than talking about fears, can we talk about values? Can progressives and traditionalists see that our values are aligned? Talking about values shifts the conversation from what arrests our actions to what can we do to live out these shared values?
We Are All Afraid. Okay. Can We Move On Yet?