Why is it that when someone challenges a traditional teaching/practice, he is often labeled as “divisive” or a “troublemaker,” and is summarily dismissed?  It may be true that the individual has a divisive attitude or is acting in a troublesome manner, but the attitude in which he dissents or questions a particular doctrine/practice is separate from the arguments he presents against it.  Someone may be the biggest jerk on the planet, but their attitude has nothing to do with whether their arguments are valid, and their beliefs correct.  Simply pointing out their bad attitude does not answer the question of what is true, nor does it excuse us from interacting with their arguments.  Labeling and dismissing those who question the mainstream view is often just a power play, usually employed by those without a rebutting argument.  It’s a way of avoiding discussion, and having to defend their own point of view.

We always need to be open to the possibility that the person who challenges some traditional teaching/practice may be right, and the traditional teaching/practice may be wrong.  If he is right, then he would not be divisive, but a unifier.  Unifying what you may ask?  Unifying the church with truth.  What divides the church is not the person who challenges a particular teaching, but the false teaching itself.  We often determine who the divisive party is by counting heads, but this is fallacious.  Truth is determined by reasons, not head counts.  As William Durant said, “Truth always originates in a minority of one, and every custom begins as a broken precedent.”  Indeed, if truth was determined by head count, then those of us who hold to a Unitarian view of God must be mistaken, because our view is a minority view in Christendom.  We ought to remember that before we crucify those among us who question an accepted view.

I think part of the reason we tend to dismiss dissenters is because there is this prevailing attitude among us that “we have the truth.”  I agree that we have the truth in a basic sense, but this does not mean we have all the truth.  We do not.  There is always more to learn, and always areas of thought that we need to either change or refine.  If we recognize our continued room for intellectual and spiritual growth, and the possibility that we might be mistaken in some of our beliefs, then we are only doing ourselves a disservice by shooting down those who question the mainstream.  Let’s hear the dissenters out.  They may have something to teach us.