A comment from my Facebook conversation in response to the Christ Church SF posting.
For the sake of argument let’s assume the traditional position for this analogy. Imagine your young adult child is arrested for stealing. You know you’re raised your child not to steal. You know your child knows that stealing is wrong, yet your neighbor feels the need after reading the police notes in the paper to stop by the house and ask you “stealing is wrong! Why don’t you just tell your child stealing is wrong. Just make it clear to them by telling them, nagging, them, threatening to cast them from your home, refusing to have them over for Thanksgiving.”
Now you’ve got a few things on your hand. Your child was caught stealing, this is your primary concern. You’re concerned for your child. You love our child. You know that your child knows how you feel. The situation in question is hardly a matter of information. The established norms were commonly known, yet something has happened. There are multiple other factors in your child’s life, their sense of self, their friends, their story, how they spend their time, where the child lives, etc. You know all these things.
You’ve also got your neighbor and their Facebook friends that keep sending you messages about how stealing is wrong. What begins to dawn on you is that the repeated messages probably have little to do with you and your child, but more to do with the need of the sender to broadcast a message. You begin to realize that the matter at hand is less about your son and more about a broader conversation going on in the culture.
Very quickly we figure out that all of this chatter really isn’t a question if “informing”, it’s more a question of the practice of influence and democracy. If we keep repeating a message again and again, and leverage our personal influence maybe it will be believed and reinforced.
Now this practice isn’t a bad thing. We should talk about things and it is legitimate to weigh and and share with others what you think. There is, however, an irony in this, because it we are by our practice then putting our faith in a sociology of knowledge process and seeking to legitimate a position upon that basis, and not upon the bases of the authority that was initially appealed to.
For the parent of the child arrested for stealing, the politicking of course feels different. The parent of course isn’t unbiased either.
The important thing to take away from this little story for me is the realization of what we are doing when we’re doing it.
Now let’s imagine the parent is talking to the adult child and the neighbor keeps knocking on the window and says “stealing is wrong!” Maybe they organize the neighborhood, make signs, and hold an event. The parent would probably say “You’re not being helpful in my relationship with my child.” Is that parent then soft on stealing?
We can of course flip the script on this little story. Both sides have lots of arguments, appeals to different stories, authorities, and means of validation. What I hope we can see is that we’re “_________ is wrong? Are you unclear, let me make you a sign!”
Social pressure on both sides (of which there is plenty, with both sides playing the victim) abounds. Go ahead and make your sign. You can invest in this sociology of knowledge operation. It works. It’s effective. It isn’t a specifically Christian or loving thing to do. It’s just what it is.
The church has to have something more similar to the family conversation.
Now as you said Mike, families sometimes put someone out. Families sometimes break up. These are always losses and the Apostle Paul knows this and talks about it in serious terms. Plenty of this happens all the time. Paul also sees even those extreme cases as part of a longer process and the process doesn’t look a lot like sign carrying activism.
So we can do the sign thing, but I’m more interested in the family conversation.