From The Servant, Volume 1, Issue 1, July 1996…
Spiritual Preparation For Conflict
E. Glenn Hinson
My earliest memories of anything are of my mother and father fighting–physically and verbally. Such memories constantly push me to steer away from conflict, to avoid it at all costs. My mother used to call me a ‘yes man’ because of my efforts to smooth the turbulence any time it came up, and she didn’t like ‘yes men.’
As a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for three decades, my modus operandi showed its weakness when fundamentalists gradually asserted control over the Southern Baptist Convention and its agencies. I began to sense a very particular calling to stand fast and speak out. At the time I happened to be reading Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, wherein she notes that absolutists seek first to take control by silencing people. Here I found myself having to face conflict head on. What did I do about it? How did I prepare myself for the trial?
First, I faithfully and deliberately continued the 45-minute morning walks which I began in 1970. They were soul saving and probably life saving. I can’t tell you exactly what I did on those walks. Sometimes I just walked. At other times I meditated on a text of scripture. Still other times I interceded for someone or about some concern. What I did didn’t matter so much as what resulted. I became collected. Spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical energies came together. I was present where I was and ready.
Second, I drew support from my own family and from the extended family which Church has become for me. Not just other Baptists, but persons of many other denominations, my Christian family–Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Brethren, Quaker, and dozens more–called to remind me of their prayer and support. One Methodist friend once told me I was on the prayer agenda of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church! It was important to know I did not stand by myself, but that the Church Universal stood with me.
Third, I kept a sense of humor. To do that, I learned not to take myself or what I was doing too seriously. Original sin–’to be as God’–easily takes over, and when it does, the load it places on you will crush you. As Peter reminds, ‘Cast your burden on the Lord; he cares for you.’ Translated in context, that means, ‘Laugh a little. Keep things in proportion. You are not in this by yourself.’
Glenn Hinson, now retired, was a charter member of MTM’s Board of Trustees and Professor of Spirituality, Worship and Church History at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia.