As soon as I post my (almost) weekly blog online, I make mention of it on my Facebook page. There are usually very few direct comments on my blog, but from time to time there are quite a few on Facebook. That was the case this past week as well. I could have suspected that the Corona vaccination topic would evoke strong feelings from some readers. But once again I was surprised how controversial the subject has become, and how difficult it is to discuss it reasonably objectively.
The list of things we do well to avoid when talking with others–including family, friends, and close acquaintances–is steadily expanding. It varies from country to country, but I do have the impression that the lists of controversial subjects are becoming more and more similar internationally. In recent years I have experienced several times that in some countries it is better not to ask about the political persuasion of people and not to touch upon a series of sensitive political issues, if you do not want to endanger good relationships. Unfortunately, I see that this is increasingly also the case in the Netherlands. As soon as “right-wing” oriented people suspect that you are “left-wing,” and vice versa, a pleasant conversation tends to be no longer possible. In the past, most Dutch people made no secret of their political alliance and were open about how they voted in an election. Today the political landscape has become much more complex, and it is often not advisable to tell others which party one prefers, especially when it deviates significantly from the “middle”.
Among the other topics on the list of risky topics of conversation is sexual orientation. Unfortunately, if you are not part of the heterosexual population, it is in many circles still advisable to remain silent about your orientation. But the conversation about sexual orientation in general can also very easily (especially in a conservative Christian milieu), cause an extremely unpleasant atmosphere.
Likewise, conversations about faith and theological topics are often far from safe. “Liberals” and “conservatives”–or whatever label one uses–may still address each other as “brothers” and “sisters,” but often manifest very little affection in their acrimonious confrontations via social media. A “normal” conversation between people at different ends of the theological spectrum is in many cases also impossible. Listening to each other, and possibly also wanting to learn something from each other, has become a rather rare phenomenon.
And now there is the polarization regarding vaccination. For some, the availability of vaccines is a blessing for which they thank God. They bemoan the fact that there are so many people who don’t want to be vaccinated, and trust that the government will do everything possible to persuade (or even force) people to get the shots, in order to prevent the pandemic from causing even more havoc. Others regard the vaccines as devilish instruments, which are promoted by dangerous organizations, from which Christians can only expect further mischief. Any meaningful conversation between representatives of the different viewpoints has become virtually impossible. The responses to my blog of last week confirmed this once again. No one is able to convince the other of the wrongness of his/her position.
The apostle Paul gave an urgent recommendation two thousand years ago that continues to be applicable to us. We read in Romans 15:7″ “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order or to bring praise to God.” Perhaps in our context we should translate that as: “Let’s keep talking together, even when we disagree with each other. But Gods wants us to keep the peace between us. Consider how Christ has always accepted us despite all the imperfect traits we have and the questionable opinions we hold!
I don’t find it easy to put this into practice. I have strong opinions (also on the others points I mentioned above, which so often cause a lot of disagreement) and I often have great difficulty in accepting the point of view of others. But the least all of us should try to do, is to respect each other and strive for peace. (In any case my next few blogs will not deal with Covid or with vaccins.)
I find a huge division, in the church over Righteousness by Faith. One side holds that Faith in Christ will empower us to keep the law to retain Justification. The other side agrees that faith, produces holiness of life, but our being righteous, our justification before God is not based on our holiness in life, any works of the Law to any degree, but simply because of our faith in Christ. This quarter’s lesson on Deuteronomy have created a huge swell of voices “obey the Law and live.”