I got into an insightful conversation the other day. It was with a group of people from the church group I currently work with (The Church of England). It was not a group of people that I knew particularly well but it included a couple of vicars.
What struck me was their use of the word "right wing" or "conservative". It was always a word which they seemed to use of someone else with whom they disagreed and their voices intonated with a bit of scorn when it was used... but only ever so slightly. In doing so they seemed to assume that their views were moderate, middle of the road, mainstream, etc.
As I continued to listen to these people it seemed that there were two distinguishing characteristics which made the people they were critiquing so extremely "right wing". These "right wingers": 1. Believed bishops should be men and 2. They took the Bible literally.
Are these the views of only a small segment of right wing extremists?
In actual fact, here are the biggest Christian blockings:
1. Roman Catholic: 1 Billion +
2. Orthodox: 300 million
3. Pentecostal: 250 million
4. Anglican: 80 million
5. Assemblies of God: 60 million (included in Pentecostal grouping as well)
Of these 4/5 groupings, the Anglican grouping is the most theologically liberal. The Church of England ( a mere 1.7 million) is among the most liberal within the Anglican communion. So, when these people were dismissing the views of a few "right wingers" the were actually referring to beliefs held by the vast majority of Christians both past and present.
Here's the danger for all of us. Because these people only tended to hang out with people like themselves, they began to assume that their beliefs were mainstream. When they met people with different beliefs they assumed them to be "right wingers" because they had not realised how far they had drifted. They had been looking at the other people on their boat and not at the shore.
If we only look at people who are on "our boat" we fall in danger of drifting. If we are Methodist, Reformed, Non or Charismatic people who only read books from within our camp and fellowship with people from within our camp we risk drifting. And while acceptable Christian doctrine is not what the majority believes, but rather what Scripture teaches, listening to other groups will often expose the weaknesses in our own theology whether we are drifting left, right, up or down.