The Future of the Progressive Churches of Christ: The Marriage Metaphor

[I posted this earlier as a comment, in response to a comment by Keith. I need to post it here to set up the post that follows tomorrow.]

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I need to clarify that I don’t think mere teaching on grace via periodicals or otherwise is enough. I agree that it’s not.

My idea is that we need to present both sides side by side — in conversation. I guess it’s the lawyer in me, but I think the path to truth is found in letting the church hear both sides well argued. We reconcile, simply enough, by talking to each other. 

Think of the Churches of Christ as a marriage and the conservative and progressive wings as husband and wife.

A husband and wife live together, but they don’t much like each other. They remember the old days and would like the marriage to work, but one spouse is changing. She thinks she’s maturing and growing and wishes desperately that her husband would read what she reads, talk to the people she talks to, and learn what she’s learning.

Her husband, however, says he likes things the way they are. He has no desire to change and she’s destroying the marriage by bringing in new ideas and changing. If she’d just not change, everything would be fine, just like they used to be.

And so they live in the same house, but they aren’t close in any real sense. They rarely talk at all. What conversations they have are getting more and more tense, and sometimes they make some pretty serious accusations about the other. Sometimes the accuser is right. Sometimes wrong. They’ve even starting talking hatefully about each other in public — always a danger sign!

They are at the point that the children are having to pick sides. And some are preferring to leave the house altogether rather than deal with the fighting.

If you were a marriage counselor, which of these solutions would you recommend?

* Live Together, be comfortable with who you are, and try not to fight. Just don’t let the neighbors see you fighting. Don’t try to change the other spouse. Accept that you live in marriage where you don’t get along.

* Divorce. Get as far from each other as possible. Isn’t it obvious you can’t stand each other? I mean, these problems are incurable. Why even try?

* Talk. Because emotions are so high, find someone to serve as a neutral third party, to help mediate and lay some ground rules. After all, you have quite obviously forgotten how to truly talk to each other. And the talk has to be about the deep, underlying issues that divide you. Until you talk about the roots of the problem, the conflict will remain unresolved and you’ll either divorce or live separately in the same house, pretending to be married but living separate lives and fooling no one.

Now, I would consider a significant number in both camps to be in the Divorce category. Some have already left. Some are trying hard to push the others out. Most consider the problem incurable, even by God — at least, that’s how they act.

I’d take the Chronicle to be in the Live Together category. They report the news from both sides, they give space for each side to talk, but they don’t encourage a conversation about the real reasons the two sides disagree. In fact, that’s outside of their mission. 

And I think most of our universities are in the same camp: let’s just pretend the problem will work itself out (and hope we can stay out of the line of fire) — which would make perfect sense if God didn’t care about the division and if the division didn’t threaten the continued existence of many of these institutions.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink.
My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.

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2 Responses to The Future of the Progressive Churches of Christ: The Marriage Metaphor

  1. I think the marriage metaphor is powerful, and would have to agree that our universities are the better venue for the conversation to take place – and not just because, as you pointed out in the previous post, they stand to lose so much if it does not take place. They offer the opportunity for face-to-face dialogue that an online chat room / bulletin board / forum cannot duplicate, much less the long-after-the-fact pages of a monthly publication.

    What I fear is that the neutral third party organizing the conversation might not be able to establish ground rules, maintain civility, or even be able to find common ground so that a conversation could begin.

    We're talking about a marriage that has deep problems that go back generations. It's a Montague-Capulet situation, untainted by the depth of love felt by the young couple in Shakespeare's tale.

  2. Jay Guin says:

    Although hardly neutral, FHU actually put on a couple of good "conversations" re instrumental music over the last couple of years.

    The discussions were polite, responded to the arguments, and made some progress. Obviously, if you pick the wrong champions, you get the wrong attitude, but FHU chose gentlemen.

    The major deficiency was that neither side seriously questioned the tacit assumption that error in worship is cause for damnation. But that was the fault of the debaters, not FHU.

    The other shortcoming was that the discussions weren't published in print — only by DVD, and they were quite lengthy. It's important, I think, that the arguments be committed to paper when it's over, or else few will have the patience to study them.

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