“Some have defined a culture as a group of people who argue about the same things over many generations. . . In my country we’ve been united by a set of perennial political and economic arguments: What are the rights of the nation in relation to the rights of the state and the individual? What are the rights of the majority in relation to the rights of minorities? Is the nation the fundamental reality, and we are all human embodiments or expressions of the nation, or is the individual the fundamental reality, and the nation is primarily a service agency to uphold individual rights? Are the poor more dependent on the well-being of the rich, or the rich more dependent on the well-being of the poor? When we get lazy or squelch dissent and stop debating these issues, we seem to get in trouble; When we keep arguments alive, we seem to stay healthier.” –Brian McLaren
There is something within most of us that does not like tension, arguments, or conflict. Much of our society is committed to relieving tension and eliminating conflict. Most of us (especially those in authority) would rather people follow orders than question them; would rather we listen quietly than stir up debate; would rather we agree with each other than argue; would rather we just fit in than try to stand out.
Life is simpler without tension. It is more comfortable.
But life without tension is unhealthy.
We see what happens when establishments try to eliminate dissent and create homogeny. The ultimate result is structures like Nazism, the Soviet Union, violent fundamentalism, and genocide. This is why the founders of the United States allowed enormous room for citizens to express disagreement and dissent.
As an evangelical Christian, I continually see in people of my faith, the desire to eliminate questions and tension. It often seems that we want to make everyone think the same. We have answers for everything, and we accuse anyone who introduces too many questions of stirring up disunity. Why are we so afraid of tension?
If our unity is based on toeing the line, then it is an artificial unity. It cannot be maintained. The moment a person has a question or disagreement, they disrupt the unity. The only way to perpetuate this unity is to change the questioning person or disassociate them.
What if our unity was based on the desire to know the truth rather than on sympathetic beliefs?
There is something within most of us that does not like tension, arguments, or conflict. There is also something in us that cannot live without it.
Tension is uncomfortable, but we must not be afraid of it. We must embrace tension. We have to remember that tension makes us grow. Tension reveals truth. Tension creates a healthier community.