Explosive issues

Emotional disarmament

Sometimes society faces issues that seem to defy rational solution. They excite extraordinary tensions, and participants in debate find that simple language is misunderstood and motives are vilified. In the 20th century this level of irrational hostility has exploded around such issues as the right of labor to organize, women's suffrage, desegregation and abortion. Welcoming homosexual people into full membership and positions of leadership in the church is this kind of "killer" issue.

Speed Leas, an experienced consultant in congregational crises, describes the highest level of conflict as an emotional condition in which one side wants to destroy the opposition, literally to kill the enemy (Moving Your Church Through Conflict, Alban Institute). He identifies a slightly lower level of conflict which is the "fight or flight" condition: each side is willing to engage the other, but both still have the freedom to withdraw from conflict.


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