Thursday, March 29, 2012

A word about polemics.....

I've mentioned before I try to avoid polemics on this blog, and I've given a few reasons why that is (I'm new in the faith, not fit to teach, etc.). I also firmly believe it is not good to tell someone else what they believe.  In the few occasions I have delved into compare/contrast posts, I have tried for that reason to concentrate on what we believe versus what the other party believes.  While it is sometimes necessary to define the belief of another so we can discuss our disagreement with it, we ought to be very, very careful doing so and only do so with the greatest humility.  To do less is to risk doing harm to our neighbor.

Having said that, it occurs to me that there is a much greater reason to avoid polemics for the vast majority of us -- it is simply bad for our own souls. I can easily tell you what I believe with love in my heart.  But when you tell me why I'm wrong (or worse, when I tell you why you are wrong), the temptations are too great for most people.  I don't believe that's an exaggeration -- most people are simply not fit to do polemics.  Not because we are harming the other person involved, but because we are harming ourselves. Polemics invite us to judge our neighbor, to be uncharitable, to be focused on "winning" rather than the truth, much less He Who is Truth.  Polemics encourage conflict rather than concord.  Polemics in the wrong hands is the antithesis of humility, patience and love.

This is not to say there is never a place for polemical discussions.  We can and must speak the truth in love.  My experience is that the "in love" part is where most of us get hung up.  Me chief among "us."  So while I am appreciative of others who are able to engage in polemical theology without falling prey to these temptations, I am not among them and I have observed in my limited experience that most others aren't, either.

It is with this in mind that I close this post with St. Efraim's prayer.  May it ever be on our lips and in our hearts.

O Lord and Master of my life,take from me the spirit of sloth, meddling, lust of power and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Thy servant.

Yea O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sin and not to judge my brother, for thou art blessed unto ages of ages.  Amen.


Cha said...

Bravo. Thank you for this post.

Bill M said...

Yep. I've long had a self-restriction on Facebook, blogs, etc. that I call my "Rule #1", which is: "No politics (or polemics). Ever." One time in a conversation with a politics-loving niece, I made mention of this, and she took it as a criticism of her, and her love of high-energy debate. I had to explain that it was not about her, and that I was not telling her what she can or can't do online, or anything. It's a rule for me -- because such conversations are poison to my soul, even when I feel I have "won". Perhaps especially then.

You've written a good word here.