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Every denomination needs one of these...

How do you like your chaos?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Observer has an interesting book review of UCCer Jack Good's 2003 book, "The Dishonest Church". The review puts a great deal of focus on "chaos tolerant" and "chaos intolerant" churches:
The chaos intolerant either long for an institutional church with dogmas and infallible authority or for an infallible scripture unambiguously stating the inerrant Word of God. “The church — or the Bible — says it, and that’s it,” they proclaim. Therefore and forever the case is closed. This is a love-it-or-leave-it approach, an either-or, binary position. There is little choice.

The chaos tolerant, on the other hand, have a cafeteria approach to religion. After all, they say, you can get a good meal in a cafeteria if you pick and choose wisely. The chaos tolerant have no trouble with theologians and scripture scholars, who question many of the texts and interpretations of doctrines that previous generations considered sacrosanct. The chaos tolerant are more opened, accepting and non-judgmental of diversity of both belief and conduct. They have little trouble, for example, with non-literal explanations of the virgin birth or with homosexual unions even of clergy. Just recently this country’s largest Lutheran denomination has prayed, urged and encouraged its bishops not to discipline gay and lesbian clergy in committed same-sex relationships.
The article does make an interesting analogy to marriage:
Church communities struggling with change and formulations of faith might consider the model of what happens in a loving marriage. Perhaps we have a couple faced with an employment move of the breadwinner, which is painful for the spouse. Maybe his lucrative promotion would take his family hundreds of miles away from her mother and father. In a loving marriage the spouses negotiate this wrenching change lovingly and together make their decision.

Or perhaps a chaos tolerant husband instinctively fails to put the cap back on the toothpaste and leaves his dirty clothes on the bathroom floor. Maybe he’s married to a chaos intolerant wife who is as neat as the alphabetized spices in the kitchen cupboard. What can be done to make such a marriage last? The husband and wife must calmly and gently negotiate. Both have to respect the needs and nature of the other. The husband has to pick-up because he loves his wife. And sometimes the wife has to overlook his failures. Why? Because despite it all they love each other. Isn’t there a lesson for the churches here?
While the analogy is overly simplistic, it does hold up to offer different ways of conflict resolution within churches. Ultimately, the extremes of this chaos are imperfect:
Both approaches have their shadow sides. The chaos intolerant can become strict and rigid, judgmental and inflexible. The chaos tolerant can become so opened minded that their faith has little intellectual content. The danger of the one is calcification, the danger of the other dilution.
I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the terms "tolerant" and "intolerant" to describe the conflict that is taking place in churches. It sets up a "right way" and a "wrong way" to view the conflict before you've peeled back the underlying issues.

In any event, I'll take my chaos with coffee... in my church's fellowship hall.
posted by UCCtruths, Thursday, August 23, 2007


I feel my former church (UCC) was intolerant of all things non-liberal. The minister had no tolerance for social conservatism in any shape or form. He is a liberal crusader as are his supporters in the church (the majority) and as is the UCC.
commented by Anonymous Alex, 2:42 PM  

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