Flame wars: What are You Offering as a Practical Alternative?

7 Jul

A few years ago, we used to call the constant bickering in cyberspace “flame wars.”   The people who lived to get them started were called “trolls.” 

I am not sure we use the term “flame wars” anymore.  I am not sure we have updated it either.  It seems as though controversy for controversy’s sake is accepted as normal now in cyberspace, not singled out for approbation.

I think of that idea as it relates to my Christian denomination.  I have spent 31 of my 55 years in the Independent Fundamental Baptist denomination, or IFB.  It stands out for not actually being a denomination, but a loose confederation of churches who have agreed to band together because they share certain fundamental beliefs about the Bible. 

It also stands out for loudly denouncing (“separating from”) almost any other group of Christians who don’t see things our way.  

That “separation” goes far beyond what is written in the Bible, too.  It often ends up being chiefly about music and musical styles.  There have actually been quarrels about whether God thinks that 18th century Europe produced the best praise songs and hymns ever.  Ummmm, really?  I love 18th century European music for many reasons, but I don’t think God had to wait almost 18 centuries after He sent His Son to earth to find someone to praise Him appropriately!  Ya know?

Problem is that the human heart is, by nature, tribal and divisive.  If we are not careful, we carry those tendencies to church.  

We would never leave our church because we know God has placed us there.  It has educational facilities for every age between preschool and a doctoral degree, so it stands out as being a place that values Biblical education.  It is also diverse and multicultural in the true sense of those words.  

I have also noted that those who leave our church, or the IFB, don’t stop being tribal anyway.  They usually just join another church and end up sniping at our church and/or the IFB for the rest of their lives.  They continue to preach “separation” only with a new target.  They end up separating from those who taught them the doctrine of separation!

I left the IFB for a while and came back.  I would like to think I have some wisdom on this subject to convey.  

Tribalism is inside us.  The tendency to create controversies with “us” vs. “them” is inborn in us. It is that tendency we need to fight, not other churches.  

And when we leave a church, we take ourselves along!  So the imperfections of our former church, in many ways, come along with us.  

When we realize the enemy is indeed us, as Pogo said, we begin to gather wisdom.

There is no perfect church.  So my initial question is still valid.  What are you offering as a practical alternative to flame wars?  

Can people come to you to find a solid, supportive friend?  Or are you too busy stirring up controversy to see the human treasures right before your very eyes?

We miss them too often, the very people who could make our lives in Christ richer and fuller.  Let’s not do that. 


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