Inflammatory language is a spark that ignites hatred, disdain and, when the volatile fuel of anger is present, violence. It would be wonderful, in this pluralistic culture, if we could just be considerate as we debate. Christians don’t really have any choice in the matter. While we must be ready to explain why we have hope, we are instructed to be gentle, respectful and to use the seasoned language of grace in the process.
To call another person an idiot, bigot or (fill in the blank) accomplishes nothing but violence at worst and polarization at best. I love a good debate but when we become brutal with each other debate ends and hostility begins. In the atmosphere of hostility, Satan gleefully pursues his goals. Several times now, I have heard about church “business meetings” where threats and even punches were exchanged by enraged brethren. How shameful and embarrassing!
Lately, I have been locked in debate with a few atheists. They have been courteous. As I looked at other atheistic blogs and websites, however, I have seen the opposite attitude. Theists (both past and present) are portrayed as ignorant, deluded, irrational and stupid. It was difficult not to be angered.
I have lived long enough to learn that arrogance and an attitude of intellectual superiority is counterproductive to persuasion. But humility (or growth in that grace) must be real! My life is a history lesson about assuming that one has all the answers. How wrong I have been too often! Humble pie is always bitter. Would I care for another slice? No, thank you very much. Now I assume that I have something to learn in every exchange. Too soon old and too late smart!