The value of dissent

September 15, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Finished Luci Shaw’s The Crime of Living Dangerously a few weeks back but there are a couple of sections that I wanted to blog about and then I can put her book away.  For many Christians (in my circles anyway), dissent seems to be a word that is fitting for the political sphere but is not appropriate for the church–maybe it has connotations of rebellion against authority?  As Shaw points out (as she does numerous times in this little book), the motivation for dissent matters.   “If your dissent is in service to self-centered interests, it may well be destructive of the good of others.” 72  But it can reflect a concern for the welfare of others.  In our dissent, follow the example of Jesus (argued with philosophers, challenged rabbis, socialized with disenfranchised, rebuked hypocrisy, touched untouchable, etc).

Maybe it is a matter of understanding the term.  Shaw helps us here.

Dissent–the word has a prickly sound, a negative, rebellious intransgient tone. It is neither complacent nor compaisant.  It fights back at injustice, at wrong-headedness, at inequity.  It questions the status quo even though that may promote discord. It may even feel un-Christian.” 79

“Assent–the hearty yes that we give to God, our willing aquiescence, our obedience, our diving into the swift water of his desire for us, may also involve risk.  Assent is the opposite of dissent.  God can look with approval and blessing on either one, depending on its purpose and motivation.”  79

Shaw recognizes that dissent may move into dissension–creating strife, disturbances and being destructive.  The test, “If we thoughtlessly, even habitually, promote dissent without a divine prompting in that direction, we may be adding to the fragmentation of community.” 80  Fair enough, not easy but fair.

Why do we need to be involved in dissent?  Because we follow Jesus.

“. . . when dissent contributes to health and wholeness it is in service to the kingdom of God.  Dissent in the face of injustice, dissent to right an egregious wrong, dissent to challenge a selfish lifesylte, dissent to promote a healthier balance between the advantaged and the disadvantaged–these are some of the varieties of dissent that God will bless.” 80

I must admit that I am very challenged by Shaw’s words.  Too often my dissent is for the wrong reasons, to make my wounded pride feel better, to make a statement about me!  And how blind I seem to be to those areas in which God would call me to give a dissenting voice.  Even though my spiritual temperement is not that of a social activist, I would like to see God bring a greater balance in this area.   Much holiness yet to be worked out.

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