“the world is not the way we thought it was going to be”

Anytime conflict arises - personal or social - it’s easy to become caught up in the moment. For my 2-year-old son, “no!” or “mine!” are provoked easily, even leading to moments of hysteria if things don’t go his way. But that’s normal. Yet even adults or groups in culture broach similar hysteria if specific things don’t go their way.

Take the ongoing saga of homosexuality and Christianity for example. For some, recent legislation in parts of the U.S. and the full-on acceptance of gay marriage in Canada should be accepted by Christians and within the church. To disagree with this is seen as ridiculous! Yet others aren’t so quick to accept such change. For many Christians, the cultural shift to accept homosexuality is one of the greatest battles Christians should fight. Thus, sides are picked, theologies defended, and relationships broken. Both sides are prone to hysterics in defending their side (or simply bashing the other side).

It’s interesting, though, because oftentimes the conflict centers around specific definitions of homosexuality itself (e.g. biological, social, or biblical definitions) without much consideration for the factors driving the conversation.

Renowned biblical scholar, Walter Brueggemann, offers an insightful comment on the issue in a recent interview:
“It is an amorphous anxiety that we’re in a free fall as a society. And I think we kind of are in free fall as a society, but I don’t think it has anything to do with gays and lesbians particularly.”
Instead, Brueggemann suggests, the emotionally charged conflict around homosexuality has more to do with people’s unease when “the world is not the way we thought it was going to be.” Like my two-year-old when things don’t go his way, people from all perspectives can act irrationally if the world around them is not as they’d like it to be. Homosexuality just happens to be the current illustration. I think Brueggemann’s onto something.

When expectations aren’t met, fear, loss, frustration, and unease fuel the conflict for all involved. Engaging in dialogue and achieving understanding around the dynamics of homosexuality and Christianity are furthest from the minds of many. They just want their world back (or for the first time). And they’ll do whatever it takes to get it.

Unless people process their feelings of loss and frustration, emotionally charged conflict will likely continue to guide the debate on this and many other issues facing Christians in the 21st Century.

So I ask: what comes to mind when you hear Brueggemann’s phrase?
“the world is not the way [I] thought it was going to be.”
And if you’re honest, how does your answer influence your life and faith in the world?


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