Speaking our Peace
I don't know if you feel the same way, but I hate conflict. I will walk a mile to avoid it. When I can't, I smooth, I charm, I distract with humour, I disarm. I am in this way a peacemaker, one of the blessed, according to Jesus. But it doesn't feel noble. It feels cowardly.
Last week I raised the ire of a reader. I write a column for the Niagara Anglican, the monthly newspaper of the Diocese of Niagara. This was only my second contribution and already there were problems. The topic was Christmas. I said we must read the story mythically, not literally. We must read it for the connections we feel in our own lives, not for the magic that makes it unreal to us--a virgin birth, a leading star, a heavenly chorus. I'll run the piece here in a few weeks so you can read it for yourself.
But one reader didn't like that. He wrote in to say I was wrong-headed. Without the literal historical event the story wouldn't matter, he said. I was instantly defensive. It was war. The new theology against the old. The fundamentalist against the liberal. My back was up.
But then, something shifted. I had written what I actually believed. I wasn't trying to be provocative, or offensive. People are free to disagree. If the Diocese of Niagara is thin-skinned about this kind of thing they can drop my column. Okay. I spoke my truth. So I began to relax. And then I did something else.
I knew the correspondent personally, from years ago. So I wrote him an email. I asked him if he could say more about his position. I asked about his kids, and if he still played guitar. He wrote back, disarmed, and gave me a fuller explanation of his thoughts. Then he told me he'd hurt his hand and didn't play much any more. I commiserated with him.
So maybe I'm a peacemaker after all. And it wasn't that hard. It didn't cost me my truth, my thoughts about the Christmas story. I still think what I think, and so does my adversary. The world did not come to an end. Maybe Jesus was right. It felt like a blessing after all.