The Common Good

"Oh Say Can You See": Learning to Disagree in Love (Part I)

banner-truth-and-civility

The two authors of this blog post have been having a good conversation over the past six months and thought it might interest others as well. First, though, it seems like a good idea to give you a little background about who we are and why we have been talking.

Jim Brenneman is the president of Goshen College, a Mennonite school in Indiana. The Mennonite tradition is part of the historic peace churches committed to Christian nonviolence, simplicity, and a healthy suspicion of power and nationalism. Shane Claiborne is an author and Christian activist (www.thesimpleway.org) committed to many of the same values. We have much in common, and appreciated getting to know each other when Shane spoke on the Goshen campus in 2009.

During its history, Goshen College did not play the national anthem prior to sporting events on campus. In January 2010, Jim and his leadership team made the decision to allow the college's athletic department to play an instrumental version of the anthem prior to select events, along with a reading of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis (read more at www.goshen.edu/anthem). The decision gained significant national attention, and sparked some controversy among the college's alumni, other Mennonites, and other Christians. Jim received many letters, calls, and petitions from folks unhappy with his decision. While some offered respectful critique, to put it simply, many did not embody the spirit of agreeing and disagreeing in love.

In the midst of the controversy, a conversation sparked between us that has been a gift. In fact, it has been such a gift that we wanted to share it with you. What you will read here are emails that we wrote back and forth over the course of six months. What's just as important as what we talked about is how we talked about it because we live in an age when hateful extremists fill the airwaves and the art of civil discourse is in danger of extinction.

As people both committed to following the Prince of Peace, we believe we have a theological imperative to engage each other in dialogue because the source of all conflict is the temptation to believe that our particular point of view is divine, divinely inspired or nearly so. Modeling civil dialogue about disagreements is the first principle of Christ-centered peacemaking. We believe this dialogue offers the hope and possibility that we can learn from those we disagree with, because we both have. We continue to learn that being loving comes before being right.

So welcome to the conversation. Click here to read the full email exchange.

Shane Claiborne is a founding partner of The Simple Way community, a radical faith community that lives among and serves the homeless in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. He is the co-author, with John Perkins, of Follow Me to Freedom, from which he offered this excerpt as his contribution to the conversation on race and the emerging church.

Jim Brenneman has been president of Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana, since 2006. He was a the founding lead pastor of Pasadena Mennonite Church in Pasadena, California, and spent 26 years there. He is also an Old Testament scholar and author of On Jordan's Stormy Banks: Lessons from the Book of Deuteronomy and Canons in Conflict: Negotiating Texts in True and False Prophesy.

Sojourners relies on the support of readers like you to sustain our message and ministry.

Related Stories

Resources

Like what you're reading? Get Sojourners E-Mail updates!

Sojourners Comment Community Covenant

I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)