We all know that women are pretty much the worst at getting tangled up in heated, personally charged arguments about things (things being pretty much everything pertaining to children). Someone comes along to say that breastfeeding is the way the truth and the life, and people start throwing stink bombs. Someone barges through saying that epidurals are the only answer to the problem of pain, and before you know it, churchwomen will be driving cars with “Ban Sally from Mothering” bumper stickers. Some poor woman makes a comment at a baby shower about how she is scheduling her baby’s feedings to try to get more sleep, and women will begin making pointed comments about baby wearing and co-sleeping, and when the next la leche league meeting is. People start using words that are too big for the situations and start alienating Christian sisters over whatever they have decided is a monumental issue.
But here is the real big issue: Christians are not allowed to have hot button issues which they use to stir up trouble. Sure, you may care about things. Yes, you should have reasons for why you are doing what you are doing.
But have you gotten so involved in an “issue” that you cannot fellowship with Christian brothers and sisters who think it is silly? Are you so caught up in teaching your kids phonics while they are in the womb that you need smelling salts when someone laughs about it? Does it stress you out to see a “christian” mother feeding her children easy cheese? Do you long to pelt her house with copies of Nourishing Traditions with important parts highlighted? Are you the wrath of God as pertains to birthing methods, educational systems, and nutrition?
Now here is the thing. Principles are the things that God lays out for us. Love your children. Serve the Lord. Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Children are a blessing. Be fruitful. Methods are the tools we use to try to accomplish these things.
Methods vary, even when the people involved are all following God. Do not get caught up in method camps and chisel away at the number of saints you can fellowship with every time you read a new article about that thing that has become the most important thing. Do not build for yourself an arsenal of inflammatory topics. Do not be quick to fire off heated comments.
The thing about principles and methods is that if you agree on the principle, the method is not such a big deal. But most of us know this – we understand the difference between the two, and yet we still get all wangled into madness about it. Why is this?
Here is my theory: If principles are the content of what is being said, methods are the languages used. We agree that a good principle is “love your children.” So we each say it to them in our own language. Some of us might say it in schedule feeding, and some of us might say it with a sling. The problem comes in when someone overhears someone else “talking” to their children. Quickly translating into her own language, she overhears something like, “I do not love you, and you are a fink!” Outrage ensues.
We want to hear people speaking in our own languages. We have labored over all our translation manuals, worked to have just the right accent, and so it grates on us to hear someone come say the same thing in pig latin. We often refuse to admit that it is the same thing – it just can’t be.
Now the point of this is certainly not to say that there are not objectively better ways to communicate to our children. Some people may be speaking in pig latin, some in a random smorgasbord of cliche sayings, and some only speak to their children in Italian sonnets. Some methods are better. Some methods are dumber. My point is not that we shouldn’t have an opinion about methods, but that we should be comfortable with different languages. When people speak in different languages, it ought to give us joy. The world is a crazy place. The church is a crazy place.
So, next time someone says the clearly outrageous, just remember this: there is a wrong way to be right. There is also a right way to be wrong. And there is always a greater right than being right.