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There is always someone with another quarter to feed the outrage machine. I admit I’ve spent my fair share of change but think I’m about broke. Mea culpa. Kyrie Eleison. My ashtray is empty, my has been card declined, and my overdraft protection is zero.

I can choose to be mad forever at the injustices in our world or do something about them in a positive, loving way. When people start dying for turning around in the wrong driveway, it’s time for all of us to take a deep breath. To paraphrase Jesus of Nazareth, we are at a live by the sword, die by the sword moment. And now, more often than not, we seem to be dying by the sword.

Anger, directed outwardly toward others or bottled up inside my soul, isn’t going to change how anyone else thinks. I admit it, it feels great to get it off your chest. There is value in making a well-reasoned point-to a point. What our society has come to define as “culture wars” are, in fact, not conflicts ultimately about beliefs – what you or I believe about scripture, human sexuality, God, or the church. They are issues of identity. For example, my view of scripture is central to my identity as a person and fundamental to how I see the world. It is the same way for my traditionalist sisters and brothers.

Years-long debates and disaffiliation votes don’t change someone’s identity or who they see when they look in the mirror. If anything, they, as we’ve seen, harden the resolve of all parties involved. Extended arguments make it more challenging to find grace-filled, Holy Spirit-led solutions. Why? We’ve stop seeing something sacred in each other’s identity. Once you’ve “othered” your neighbor, no matter who your neighbor is (even if they’re your blood kin), it’s hard to love them as you love yourself.  

I’m beginning to wonder, is there winning a religious argument? Is there a point in getting into a religious argument? No, not really. There are no winners. We all lose at one level. Which of us is getting the Bible right or wrong? Probably, none of us. How do we know we’re interpreting the Bible correctly? We don’t. Whose vision of God is leaner and meaner?  Yours or mine. I don’t know. We’re both right. We’re both wrong. I do believe our greatest sin is that of certainty. Of this, I am certain.

I admit it; I’m physically and emotionally drained. Will we come to a point where we recognize that those we’ve demonized are not demons?  I hope so. I do not believe there are demons in the United Methodist Church. There are plenty of flawed humans and ordinary sinners. I count myself among them. United Methodists are regular people trying to win our version of the world’s oldest unwinnable argument: religion. If we speak peace, we talk to Christ; then we can talk to each other. If the Catholics, Protestants, Serbs, and Muslims can keep speaking, Methodists have every hope for the future as well (United or not).

–Richard Bryant