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Divisiveness on Conciliar Post

We live in a divisive time. As I write these words, the outcome of America’s presidential election is uncertain (and may remain so for some time). Regardless of the result, it will leave many unsatisfied and will further foment tension. Now is a fitting time to remind ourselves that, at Conciliar Post, our mission is to facilitate meaningful dialogue across Christian traditions. This is becoming more and more difficult. The reality is that our own authors increasingly find themselves divided across political and ideological lines—and this division also rips deeply through an increasing number of Christian households and families.

So I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm our purpose: “This community is a place where those growing toward God may humbly, faithfully, and dialogically reflect on important issues—all while deepening in relation with our neighbors.”

Over the past year, Conciliar Post has been publishing ideas that many of our readers, whether coming from the “right” or the “left,” have found troubling. We ran a piece that suggested not wearing a facemask is a sin, but we also published a perspective that questioned how it can be possible to love someone when their facial expressions are not visible. We’ve published positive reviews of works like How to be an Antiracist alongside essays that seriously question critical race theory. And in the theological realm, there have been serious debates over the meaning of the pandemic, and some serious questioning of God’s own nature.

Behind the scenes, articles like these have caused a number of readers to approach me with equal and opposite concerns. Yet what I hope you will notice is that these essays have all led, in one way or another, to dialogue.[1] I want to clarify that Conciliar Post is not (and will never be) monolithic. We are an ecumenical project. And the philosophy behind my leadership as editor-in-chief has always been one of trust in our community. I trust that, in the end, charitable voices will win out and we will all be better for having hashed out issues openly.

This position is not easy to hold. While dealing with some internal fallout over these and other articles, I was tempted to overreact. I was tempted to assume that my perspective was obviously right. I was tempted to dismiss people I disagreed with, or not even reply. But I soon learned anew that, in the process of disagreement, we can collectively get past that initial anger and come to understand better. What we are doing at Conciliar Post is more than following a certain set of rules, or scrutinizing one another to see who is the most orthodox. To paraphrase the words of a close friend: “I want us to be big-hearted enough that we can truly listen, even to reactionary chatter, and not be disturbed.”

What I want to preserve in my editorial activity is an ongoing tension between the already and the not yet. It’s a principle we too often forget. God’s kingdom is already at hand; it is accessible to each one of us, and we are all God’s children. But we are not yet living in perfection. Evil, strife, and suffering: these are daily realities—and we have to remember that the way they affect others will not always align with our own perceptions or assumptions. We cannot love without listening.

To sum this all up, allow me to share a story with you. One of the most influential people in my life was Dr. Patricia Burton.[2] When I first began to read the work of St. Thomas Aquinas, I did not understand very clearly what he was doing. In my defense, his work is rather complicated! But I wrote an engaging paper in which I attempted to tear down some of his ideas. Dr. Burton affirmed the hard work I did. But at the end of my paper, she also wrote a comment that will always stick with me: “Ben, you clearly put a lot of work into this essay, but you need to try and read Aquinas more charitably.” Those words struck me to the core. I hope I will never forget them.

Dr. Burton taught me that it is much easier (and, often more satisfying) to tear down than it is to build up. She affirmed the principle that Christ calls us to see others—even people with whom we feel we have nothing in common—as image-bearers and potential conveyors of truth. This principle especially applies to those who, like the members of the Conciliar Post community, are engaged in the process of faith seeking understanding. We need look no further than Hebrews 11; who would have guessed that a man who nearly killed his own son, an actual murderer, and a prostitute would be deemed heroes of faith!?

As Conciliar Post continues to grow, we ought to wrestle with the question: What makes our community more than the sum of its articles? What is it about this platform that sets us apart? What kind of writing, and behavior, are we aiming to encourage? Returning to our mission once more, we state:

Conciliar Post seeks to affirm the inherent worth of all human beings, which arises from our creation in the image of God (Gen 1:26). Truth tempered by grace is our standard, while recognizing we are all sojourners in this world. Because we must speak not just to Christ-followers but to everyone, we offer this conviction in humility: namely, that societal issues—and the divisions that plague the human race—can be addressed (and eventually rectified) through a Christian view of the world.

Like life itself, this mission is still a work in progress. As your editor-in-chief, I want to be there for each stage of the journey—as this community continues to grow in charity, into the head who is Christ (Eph 4:15).

[1] Our “Dialogues” page keeps track of these and other articles.

[2] May she rest in peace; she passed away from cancer recently. She was a professor of philosophy at Truman State University.

Benjamin Winter

Benjamin Winter

Dr. Benjamin Winter is assistant professor of theology at Divine Word College. His research interests include scholasticism, Christian mysticism, science and religion, and philosophical theology. Before matriculating from Saint Louis University with a doctorate in Historical Theology, Ben completed a Master of Arts in Theology at Villanova University. His undergraduate degree comes from Truman State University, where he studied English and Philosophy. His interests outside the academy include creating electronic music, travel, swimming, science fiction, and podcasts of all sorts.

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