Difficult Conversations

Lately I’ve been struggling with a frustrating problem.

There are quite a few times when I have absolutely no idea how to speak with Christians.

Given my vocation this might seem like a strange issue.

It’s not even a specific type Christian which is causing my communication struggles. When “Christ-followers” rail against “chuchianity” I have absolutely no idea what to say that won’t have me labeled as a relic. When I sit with liberal Christians who assume no sane person believes in some of the classic Christian doctrines, such as Jesus’ divinity or the virgin birth, I really don’t feel safe to speak my mind. When I am grilled by evangelicals about popular “Christian living” books I don’t know what to say that won’t be perceived as rude 1. When people from “very contemporary” churches question every little detail of our non-contemporary 2 worship service, I end up feeling as though my faith is suspect. So many times around Christians I find myself frustrated with the walls our different tribe put up to declare, “We’re not even sure you’re Christian.” I wind up shutting my mouth and hoping no one engages me 3.

Because of my sense of alienation, wider Christian gatherings tend to terrify me. I find it difficult to juggle all the different social and theological assumptions people project, and quickly shut down. I’m literally afraid I’ll ask a taboo question, or make an unwelcome observation. Some of this is certainly my own psyche rising to the surface, but much has been learned from experience. Christians who step out of the expected tribal boundaries tend to be either beaten into submission or sent exile. People are worried another tribe might dare to move on to “their turf.”

The truth is, this isn’t even a “Christian thing,” it’s a human one. We human beings are tribal by nature and, for all the illusions we project about individuality in our culture, those who deviate from the tribes are instinctively punished. The modern phenomenon of “twitter shaming,” using social media to call out the mob on people who do undesirable things, shows us how powerful this tribal mentality can be. Human beings, it seems, have a tendency to feel secure only whey they are surrounded by people who are like them. Given the nature of humanity’s tribal mentality, I spend a good deal of time in public trying not to say anything.

This is one of humanity’s greatest tragedies, made all the more sorrowful because I know this tendency for tribal-insecurity exists within my own heart.


  1. I am really not a fan of Christian living books, sorry. 
  2. Central’s worship isn’t contemporary, nor is it “traditional.” 
  3. And if you know me and think of me as a “speak your mind” kind of person, ponder what I may not be saying. 

3 Comments

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  1. Oh who can know the mind of Wesley T. Allen?

    Sent from my iPad

  2. You know, I think this is a difficult conversation to have irregardless of what labels you happen to be applying to describe the spiritual aspects of your life. The spiritual is highly personal, humans have egos, and egos are quite afraid to be wrong about things, and like to be affirmed that the position that we personally hold is the right one. So, instead of giving each other grace and finding the common ground, we try to convince each other that, “Oh, it would just be so much better for you if you did it MY way,” ignoring the fact that most of the things that we squabble about really come down to mere personal preference and that God is likely far more forgiving than humans are about that sort of thing.

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