Posted by: John Hall | June 28, 2011

Push Back

I want to strongly object to the use of the term ‘push back’.  Why, I ask, can’t we use the tried and true term – object.  There is a sense of nobility with the term ‘object’ because more is wagered on the outcome.  Are you right or wrong, will you make your case well or poorly?  It seems to me that at the heart of this issue is our society’s desire to be more tolerant.  In certain cases I applaud toleration.  When someone takes your parking spot or the mail is wet – these are times for toleration.  However, I have just finished a masters degree in theology and I feel strongly that that arena in particular is not one for ‘push back’ but for objection.  The problem with the term ‘push back’ is that it seems to imply that you are on the right track, you just need a little push to see things differently, but differently doesn’t necessarily mean better.  Even the sign language for ‘push back’- hands at your side, finger tips up and palms out in a shoving gesture – should be enough to get someone voted off the island.  ‘Push back’ implies, in a special anaemic way, that there is no absolute truth worth striving for.  It’s a passive/aggressive nightmare. Be assured that there is no ‘push back’ in engineering.  But ‘push back’ is a problem in theology.  As I mentioned above the term ‘push back’ passively endorses the notion of toleration, but Christianity and the word toleration should never be used in the same sentence.  The Christian faith hinges on the amazing gift of Christ’s sacrifice.  God loved the world so much and hated sin so much that Jesus came to die in our place.  That doesn’t sound tolerant at all.  The lack of toleration in Christianity doesn’t end there.  Christians are not called to tolerate people who hate them, we’re called to love them and pray for those who persecute us.  We’re not to do this silently but to actively decry injustice and hatred.  Christians are called to protect the weak and helpless by giving ourselves in their place if necessary.  I don’t want to be called a tolerant Christian; instead I want to be more like Christ who gave up everything for me.  He didn’t ‘push back’ and leave me to die in my sin, but he chased me down because he loves me so much.  His actions shook the earth.  I’m not suggesting that one side or another in a Christian debate has a handle on absolute truth to the exclusion of the other.  Our sin and our human limitations ensure that.  We need to be gracious in our debating, but we do need to debate because the stakes are too high for an anaemic push.


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