I’ve noticing recently more use of the “don’t sow discord among the brethren” in my research and interactions with others, but this certainly isn’t something new. Remembering back to my IFB days I distinctly remember this being a topic of sermons on a regular basis. I also remember that whenever a disagreement came up the warning was usually something like “well, let’s not sow discord” and as a result the discussion would end. It’s almost as if the IFB tries to use the “don’t sow discord” argument in the same way that Lex Luthor tries to use kryptonite on Superman.
This is still happening, unfortunately, and in large part typically for one of two reasons. Either it’s a manipulative tactic to get people who show a glimmer of individual thought back under the control of the brainwashing so they will stop the free thinking and so that damage control will be easier or it’s a guilt tactic to make people (like us) who have actually broken free from the chains of legalism to feel ashamed for speaking our minds.
I’ve lost count of the number of times that an IFBer (or someone else who is just unhappy with us) rips us a new one because they think we are “sowing discord among the brethren” (all the while wondering why they are allowed to “sow discord” with me, but I’m not allowed to do it). This guilt tactic is employed mostly when they have nothing else to say in defense of their belief system, but it’s also largely used to try and convince us that what we are doing is harmful to the cause of Christ. The problem? They NEVER (ok well hardly ever) use scripture to support their (what amounts to nothing more than a) philosophical temper tantrum.
My gut tells me that leaders use this to manipulate situations that leave them with a loss of control. What better way to reign in someone who is trying to say something contrary to their beliefs then to tell them they are guilty of the sin of “sowing discord among the brethren”? We see this all the time. Someone stands up and speaks out against the horrible terrors of this abusive cult like denomination for the sake of healing and recovery of spiritual wholeness (i.e., this site) and the IFB counters with “you should be ashamed of yourself for sowing discord among the brethren!”. The irony, of course, is that the IFBers are quick to point out someone else’s “sowing discord” but conveniently quick to ignore their own abusive and manipulative spiritual tactics that serve to “sow discord” among those in their congregation (I guess it’s only “discord” to the IFB when it opposes their teachings).
This idea of “sowing discord” is a very subjective concept. What does “sowing discord” even mean anyway? Well if you are IFB it means just about anything that goes against your belief system. Its understood meaning in my IFB circles growing up was anything that caused hard feelings. It was taught in a very subjective context that was way too broad. So broad, in fact, that someone could say that anything was “sowing discord”” simply because they didn’t like what you were saying or doing. And of course that’s the rub, another way that the IFB maintains control over what you say and do. Say or do something that isn’t in agreement with their “standards”? You’re labeled as a “sower of discord” (punishable by death, not literal death, but death of the soul – of course I’m being a bit dramatic, but you get the point).
The IFB leaders would use this verse as a way to squelch any type of open discussion or dialogue contrary to what they were teaching. If someone had a question that challenged a particular teaching (even if it was a legitimate question due to a lack of understanding) and threatened the authority of the Man of God, he would respond that “we shouldn’t be sowing discord”, proceed to effectively hand wave the issue raised and conveniently move it to the side to be forgotten.
So, I’d like to dive into scripture to find out the truth regarding this notion of “sowing discord” and see what it’s all about. We find the actual words “sow discord” in only two verses in about a half dozen translations (actually they all read “soweth discord”). I bet you can guess what one of those translations is… if you guessed anything other than the KJV you haven’t been paying attention very well – shame on you. The two verses are Proverbs 6:14 and Proverbs 6:19.
For those of you who know me well enough already know that I believe that context is king when it comes to scriptural interpretation. These verses are no different. Keeping Proverbs in context, chapter 6 is a continuation of some daily wisdom for everyday life. He’s not giving commandments, he’s not telling us what we should or shouldn’t do. He’s telling us what we should be careful of and starting in verse 16 he tells us 7 things that the Lord hates.
Careful reading of the entire chapter reveals that the idea behind these verses is one who is constantly and consistently stirring up trouble – or being a trouble maker. Verse 12 reads: “Here is a description of…wicked people: They are CONSTANT liars,…They stir up trouble (read “sow discord” in the KJV) CONSTANTLY. This isn’t about the person who occasionally has a disagreement or someone who puts up a website to speak out against his perceptions of evil among the body of believers (wink, wink). This is someone who “plots evil” and then acts out that plot (see the beginning of verse 14).
The idea is someone who goes around like a sneaky drama queen gossiping about one person to someone then going over that that person they were just gossiping about and gossiping to them about the person they were just gossiping to (I know that’s a bit confusing, but just think about it for a minute, you’ll get it). This is a person who DELIBERATELY and knowingly causes people to fight and argue for the sake of their own enjoyment and entertainment (or for whatever reason they have – maybe a personality disorder?). Then we get to verse 19 and we see once again that this is an evil minded person whose heart is seeking to deliberately cause division among the body of believers.
No, this isn’t about someone who shows disagreement, it’s about a wicket and vial person whose intent is to purposefully and deliberately cause “discord” among people.
I hear some of you saying “BUT what about those other passages that don’t use the words ‘sow discord’, but talk about causing strife among people?” Well I respond to that by saying “OK, what are those other passages?” We are told throughout scriptures to be careful about our interactions with others, but this idea of “sowing discord” is unique and each passage has to be interpreted in light of the context. If you have another passage in mind that you’d like to bring to my attention, please let me know and I will consider it as well.