I do not think that any of us is ever in a position to judge what reasonable behaviour is or what acceptable or considered viewpoints are. It is all too subjective.
If we agree with someone then we might consider their views to be well thought through, balanced and ‘reasonable’. On the other hand, if we do not agree then...!!
And yet, the obvious fact of our inability to be truly objective does not excuse us from considering our own assertions and convictions (or those of others) in the light of what is mature and measured, ‘reasonable’ (in the common sense of that word) and – especially – in keeping with the kind of attitudes exemplified in Jesus, taught by him and urged upon us in the New Testament Epistles.
In our contemporary situation there are two responses to disagreement that I cannot quite understand. The one is the conviction that the view I hold is the correct one, without a shadow of a doubt and with no room for persuasion or discussion. The other is that if you do not accept my view, agree with me and decide/vote accordingly then I have every good reason to walk away from you/the Church/this congregation/Scotland...
Over recent months I have been most aware of this in three very different contexts:
· the tradition of worship in the Church of Scotland (yes, I know, who would have imagined that this would have been a controversial issue with colleagues or within congregations... ? but especially with colleagues. I am tempted to quote the Professor in C S Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, ‘Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools?’!)
· what passes for a debate on the independence issue (and I remain appalled at the poverty of the ‘debate’)
· the ongoing (never-ending?) debate in the Church of Scotland (and other denominations) with regard to same sex relationships.
On this last point I recall being in a discussion amongst ministerial colleagues on same-sex relationships. One (who was obviously not yet decided on his view) ventured that he hoped that we might all learn to listen to what the Holy Spirit might be saying in this time of uncertainty and debate. The next person to speak said ‘Well, yes, I agree that we need to listen to the Holy Spirit. But we know that the Holy Spirit has already spoken and made God’s view clear...’ (I wonder if this also goes for slavery, polygamy, the role of women in the church, contraception etc etc...??)
But look at any of the three issues and you will find those who are all too ready to ‘throw their toys out of the pram’.
‘If they continue doing (this/that/other) in the services then I am going to go to another church’
‘I they vote “yes” in this referendum then I am going to go and live in England (or alternatively ‘if they vote to leave Europe I will emigrate to France...’)
‘If they affirm and accept the LGBT community and approve same-sex blessing/marriage I will leave the Church of Scotland.’
And I find myself wondering on what biblical, theological or spiritual ground such responses are made. One thing; such responses seem to me to be neither mature nor measured.