Protests, Policy, Patriotism & Politics: How to Disagree Respectfully without Compromising our Convictions : John Inazu

Protests, Policy, Patriotism & Politics: How to Disagree Respectfully without Compromising our Convictions - John Inazu - 113 - FrontStage BackStage with Jason Daye

Legislation, policy, patriotism, and religious freedom. There are so many differing views on so many challenging issues. As pastors and ministry leaders, how can we disagree respectfully without compromising our convictions? In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by John Inazu. John is a distinguished Professor of Law and Religion at Washington University. He is a constitutional scholar, legal expert, former litigator, and devoted Christ-follower. John has written for a number of media outlets, and his most recent book is entitled Learning to Disagree. Together, John and Jason discuss important considerations for engaging respectfully with those who hold differing views on issues and beliefs. John also shares some powerful insights about how our allegiance to Jesus impacts and influences our lives and ministries.

Looking to dig more deeply into this topic and conversation? Every week we go the extra mile and create a free toolkit so you and your ministry team can dive deeper into the topic that is discussed. Find your Weekly Toolkit below… Love well, Live well, Lead well!

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Additional Resource Links – Visit John’s website to learn more about his ministry, his book, and the courses he offers. You’ll also find plenty of helpful resources for your faith journey.

Learning to Disagree: The Surprising Path to Navigating Differences with Empathy and Respect – In a tense cultural climate, is it possible to disagree productively and respectfully without compromising our convictions? Spanning a range of challenging issues–including critical race theory, sexual assault, campus protests, and clashes over religious freedom–highly regarded thought leader and law professor John Inazu helps us engage honestly and empathetically with people whose viewpoints we find strange, wrong, or even dangerous.

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Key Insights and Concepts

  • Cultivating empathy is a vital practice for Christians, enabling us to see the humanity in those who hold different beliefs and engage with them constructively rather than resorting to caricatures or outrage.
  • While institutions may require clear boundaries, in the public square, our differences are often more nuanced, calling us to seek common ground and understand the complex arguments on various sides of an issue.
  • The Church’s purpose should guide how it navigates disagreements, allowing for vigorous debate within its walls while graciously inviting people to consider and affirm its core tenets.
  • Avoiding the temptation to label others as “evil” is crucial, as it prevents us from engaging in meaningful dialogue and risks minimizing the true gravity of genuine evil in the world.
  • Religious freedom in a democracy means protecting the rights of all, even those whose beliefs we find erroneous. This then challenges the Church to offer a more compelling witness rather than seeking legal solutions to coerce people into alignment.
  • The line between healthy patriotism and an unhealthy blending of national and religious allegiances requires careful self-reflection and honest personal assessment.
  • Idolatry often arises from the elevation of good things to an ultimate status, underscoring the importance of maintaining proper perspective and allegiances as followers of Christ.
  • Civility is not an end in itself, and there may be times when strategic incivility is necessary to disrupt comfortable norms and challenge power imbalances, but this must be balanced with a spirit of grace and truth.
  • Pastoral leaders bear a weighty responsibility to model courageous faithfulness in the face of mounting criticism while also cultivating a supportive network of truth-tellers who can provide accountability and encouragement.
  • The Church’s mission transcends any particular cultural or political moment, calling believers to anchor their identity and allegiance in the timeless Kingdom of God rather than the ever-shifting sands of human institutions.
  • Learning to see the full humanity in those with whom we disagree, even on deeply held convictions, is a crucial step towards reflecting Christ and building a more civil and constructive discourse.
  • Maintaining a robust theological tradition means being willing to engage in vigorous debates, while always remembering that the purpose is to sharpen one another’s understanding and draw closer to the truth, not to win at all costs.
  • Differentiating between institutional boundaries and societal diversity requires wisdom, as the Church navigates how to hold firm to its core beliefs while extending grace and hospitality to all.
  • The Church’s call to love its neighbors and pray for its enemies compels it to resist the temptation to demonize those who hold different views, and instead seek to understand and engage with them charitably.
  • Pastoral leadership in an era of deep division and cultural upheaval demands a delicate balance of courage, compassion, and an unwavering commitment to the transformative power of the gospel.

Questions for Reflection

  • As a pastor, how do I ensure that the empathy and compassion I preach and teach about are genuinely reflected in how I engage with those who hold different beliefs or perspectives from my own?
  • When navigating complex societal issues, how do I strike a balance between clearly articulating my theological convictions and charitably understanding the nuanced arguments on various sides of an issue?
  • What measures have I put in place to maintain clear institutional boundaries for our church or ministry, while also cultivating an environment where vigorous yet gracious debate can thrive within those boundaries? How are we creating safe spaces for people to wrestle with their faith questions?
  • How do I guard against the temptation to hastily label those with whom I disagree as “evil,” and instead seek to understand their perspectives and motivations with an open and discerning heart? Am I doing well in this area? If not, what changes do I need to make?
  • What are my thoughts on the freedom of all religions and the government’s role in religious freedoms? In what ways am I advocating for robust religious freedom protections? How can the Church develop as a beacon of truth and grace, rather than resorting to coercive legal tactics, to expand the impact of the gospel? What would that look like for our local church or ministry?
  • As a leader, how do I regularly examine the blending of my national and religious allegiances, and ensure that my primary loyalty remains firmly rooted in the Kingdom of God?
  • What strategies do I employ to help my congregation identify and resist the subtle idolatries that can creep into our lives and distort our ultimate allegiances?
  • Are there times when I have intentionally disrupted comfortable norms through strategic incivility, and how do I ensure that such actions are motivated by a desire for justice and truth, rather than a spirit of domination?
  • Who are the trusted truth-tellers in my life? How am I actively cultivating those relationships to provide me with the accountability and encouragement I need as a pastoral leader in a challenging era? If I am lacking in this area, what can I do to establish these critical relationships?
  • How do I consistently remind myself and my congregation that our mission transcends any particular cultural or political moment, and that our primary identity and allegiance is to the timeless Kingdom of God?
  • What practical steps am I taking to help the members of my church community develop the empathy and understanding necessary to engage constructively with those who hold differing beliefs and convictions?
  • As I navigate theological debates, how do I model a spirit of humility and a commitment to sharpening one another’s understanding, rather than simply aiming to win arguments?
  • Practically, what does it look like to maintain clear institutional boundaries while also extending grace and hospitality to those who may not fully align with my church’s core beliefs? Does our ministry practice this well? Why or why not?
  • How do I deal with the temptation to demonize those who hold different views from me? In what ways do I struggle with being kind and empathetic with those who hold differing views? What am I doing to understand their perspectives and engage with them charitably? How can I improve in this area?
  • What specific strategies am I employing to cultivate a delicate balance of courage, compassion, and an unwavering commitment to the transformative power of the gospel in my pastoral leadership during this challenging cultural moment?

Full-Text Transcript

Legislation, policy, patriotism, and religious freedom. There are so many differing views on so many challenging issues. As pastors and ministry leaders, how can we disagree respectfully without compromising our convictions?

Jason Daye
In this episode, I’m joined by John Inazu. John is a distinguished Professor of Law and Religion at Washington University. He is a constitutional scholar, legal expert, former litigator, and devoted Christ-follower. John has written for a number of media outlets, and his most recent book is entitled Learning to Disagree. Together, John and I discuss important considerations for engaging respectfully with those who hold differing views on issues and beliefs. John also shares some powerful insights about how our allegiance to Jesus impacts and influences our lives and ministries. Are you ready? Let’s go.

Jason Daye 
Hey, friends, welcome to another insightful episode of FrontStage BackStage. I’m super excited about today’s show. Every single week, I have the opportunity to sit down with a trusted ministry leader, all in an effort to help you and ministry leaders just like you embrace a healthy rhythm in both life and ministry. Now, we are proud to be a part of the Pastor Serve Network. Each week, not only do I have a conversation, but we also create entire toolkit that’s available to you to go through and to use with the ministry team and the ministry leaders at your local church. You can find that toolkit at There, you’ll find a lot of resources, including our Ministry Leaders Growth Guide with questions and insights on the topic that we’re going to be discussing to help you grow and develop there. So be sure to check that out. Then at Pastor Serve, we love walking alongside pastors and ministry leaders and you can learn more about how you can receive a complimentary coaching session at So please check that out as well. Now, if you’re joining us on YouTube, please give us a thumbs up and take a moment to drop your name and the name of your church in the comments below. We love getting to know our audience better and our team will be praying for you and for your ministry. So be sure to do that. Then whether you’re joining us on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform, be sure to subscribe or follow so you do not miss out on any of these great conversations. As I said, I’m excited about today’s conversation. At this time, I would like to welcome John Inazu to the show. John, welcome, brother.

John Inazu 
Thanks, Jason. Great to be with you.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, so good to have you. Now, we’re gonna dive into a topic that is something we face on a regular basis in the world in which we live today. That is engaging in conversations with people that we don’t agree with, right? We’re coming from different places and from different perspectives. You have recently written a book entitled Learning to Disagree, and to do this in a healthy way, I mean, John, that’s what you’re trying to help us do. Help us to be a little more civil in the world in which we live, where civility, respect, and all that fun stuff have seemed to disappear from a lot of the conversations that we find ourselves in. As pastors and ministry leaders, we do find ourselves in these conversations about situations, whether they’re political policies, what’s taking place in a local city, or different groups, different faiths, processing and working through things. We find ourselves in these conversations. But we also know that our people in our local churches are bumping into these conversations, whether it’s on social media, at work, or at school on a regular basis. These are the conversations that are happening. John, one of the things that you help us understand in Learning to Disagree is this idea that things really begin with a true understanding of empathy. So I think, to start there, I guess the big question is oftentimes, we think of people like, oh, this particular person is very empathetic, right? It’s almost like this is something that you’re born with, right? You’re born with it. John, can you learn empathy and if you can, how do we go about doing that?

John Inazu 
Yeah, I hope we can learn it or else the premise of the book falls apart here. But I think learning empathy is a practice and a habit that helps you see another human being more fully and start to see what motivates them, why they might have an argument different than yours, or why they might come to believe differently. You’re right, some people are just temperamentally more wired for that. But we can all learn it, and we can all practice it. It just takes a lot of time and a lot of work, especially with people who are either really unfamiliar to us or are so close to us that we don’t want to give them a lot of grace. Those, I think, are the two hardest test cases there. But we can learn it.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s good. John, I’m glad that you mentioned that those are the two most challenging test cases because I think all of us watching along or listening probably resonate with that. That it’s those people that we really don’t know at all and then those people that are closest to us in our lives that tend to be the greatest challenges, right? So, John, as we’re thinking about this idea of empathy, why is coming from a place of empathy so foundational when it comes to us entering into any conversation where there are differing beliefs involved?

John Inazu 
Yeah, I mean, at a macro level with our society, we have these deep differences over really important issues and they’re not going away. So, we’re stuck with the differences around us as a fact of the world and learning the best possible version of other people’s viewpoints and arguments as a way to engage with them in a healthier manner. A way to live as neighbors and citizens with people who are different than us. If we always have our caricatures or the shortcuts of other people’s beliefs, that’s where we’re going to see the social media outrage and the short interactions instead of really seeing each other as full image bearers, which is what we’re called to do as Christians.

Jason Daye 
Yeah. Now, John, as we’re thinking about it, you make a distinction between the issues at hand and then understanding people as people. It seems in the world in which we live today that, there’s a lot of dehumanizing taking place, right? Especially on social media because it’s easy, it’s anonymous, you’re not sitting across the table from someone, and it’s really easy to be rude. Share with us a little bit, John, about this concept. It’s a very biblical concept. It’s something we should all be embracing as we seek to honor God. This concept around separating a person from their viewpoint and not conflating those two or just lumping them all together.

John Inazu 
Yeah, I mean, I think it starts with sort of a common sense intuition that we do have a lot of common ground with other human beings. When we situate relationships within that common ground, then it’s very hard to reduce most people just to an idea or set of ideas they hold. So if you have an interfaith friendship, a friendship with an atheist, or perhaps more challengingly, you’re in the PCA, and you’ve got a PCUSA friend or something like that, where those differences are important, they divide you, and they can be painful. But when you step back from the difference, you realize that you share a whole lot in common, and you can be reminded of the fuller context of your humanity, which is why, to your point, social media is so hard because we reduce each other to these one-dimensional interactions. You’re not thinking about Jason, the person who has a family, hobbies, and likes all kinds of things about the world, you’re just thinking, this is Jason who has this different belief than I do on this really important issue and that’s usually a recipe for disaster.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s helpful. John, one of the things that you help us come to understand in Learning to Disagree revolves around this idea that not every issue has a clear winner and a clear loser, right? There are nuances in so many things. In ministry, one of the challenges, John, is that there are definitely some things that are kind of absolute, right? There are definitely some things when it comes to our faith in Jesus Christ that are absolute. Sometimes I think that we can begin to broaden that out and start assigning these absolutes to things that are nuanced, right? So, John, help us better understand how we look at some of these things that we may disagree on from both sides of that coin. One where there are clear, yes, this is true and this is untrue. But then, I think the more challenging part for many of us in ministry is where there isn’t a clear winner or a clear loser and yet we ascribe what we think as being the clear winner, right?

John Inazu 
Yeah, I mean, maybe the most helpful threshold distinction to make is between institutions, particular institutions, and society at large. When it comes to society at large, there are very few cut-and-dry, black-and-white issues when we’re talking about policy preferences, who to elect for office, or how a certain law should go. There are usually very complicated arguments on both sides of the issue and often the policy answer ends up somewhere in the middle, which is not anyone’s actual set of beliefs. I think it’s a lot easier to understand, although sometimes harder to live out when you think about a particular institutional context. So, in a church or denomination, when you’re clear about what your purpose is and when you can set your boundaries to your mission and your institution, then within those boundaries you should be able to have lots of disagreements about what we really think about this issue that we’re both committed to. How can we welcome other voices into the conversation? Then outside of those boundaries, you would very ideally just graciously tell people that this institution or this denomination is not a good fit for you. So clarity about purpose at the institutional level can allow for healthier disagreement because when you broaden that out to a social or societal level, it’s much harder to figure out what clarity looks like, or what the purpose of say, the country is, it becomes much harder to have those kinds of disagreements.

Jason Daye 
Yeah. Now, John, if we press in a little more here, sometimes we can attach ourselves to our own particular beliefs and they may not necessarily be Orthodox Christian beliefs that everyone must hold. But we believe and we kind of elevate them to that, right? We elevate them to a point like, hey, if you believe the opposite of this, then you’re not hanging out with Jesus anymore type of thing, and we put that on people, even within the church, right? People have different traditions within Orthodox Christianity. So John, how can we maybe be more respectful? How can we thoughtfully, as leaders in the church, be sure we’re not feeding into that kind of frenzy of “othering” people, but inviting that place where we can talk through those things and process through those things together?

John Inazu 
Yeah, I think this is a great question. I think it ties back to that institutional line-drawing question that is so important, which is really the question of understanding and knowing your purpose. So I would be very wary of pronouncing somebody not Christian, right? If they self-identify as Christian, then I would start with sort of a graciousness about that. Then you can have institutional boundaries, right? Somebody who says they’re a Christian but doesn’t ascribe to your creed of beliefs can’t functionally be part of your church or denomination and that’s okay. Then you can also say that these differences really matter, right? We split the church over these differences. So it’s not that they’re small, but we can still be gracious to each other and not undermine each other’s claims to try and understand faith. Then in that, try to have a robust conversation about why your view is the better one. I mean, if you think about the history of Christianity as an ongoing tradition of argument where people try to refine each other’s views and follow God more closely, wouldn’t we want to have the most robust possible conversations about what truth is and what right doctrine is? I think we can do a better job of that, especially realizing that we’re modeling it for the rest of the world. That doesn’t surrender to relativism and it doesn’t mean that the differences don’t matter. But what it says is that we’re willing participants in a conversation rather than just trying to shut things down.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, John, as we enter into those kinds of conversations, there’s one thing to be a willing participant, as you said, which I absolutely love, versus being a combatant, right? So, unfortunately, we see this a lot taking place where people get really amped up over their particular perspective, right? One of the things that you touch on in Learning to Disagree has to do with the idea of being respectful in the way that we disagree. The idea that we can focus on the person, as we mentioned, that we can be friends with people that we don’t completely agree with. That this isn’t just a world in which, it’s becoming a full-on cancel culture if everyone doesn’t aligned specifically. There’s this beauty in diversity, there’s this beauty in different opinions and different perspectives. That means we have to be willing to not just slam our thoughts down someone’s throat. We have to be willing to listen, too. So there’s this give and take. John, what perspective should we have as ministry leaders in regard to this thoughtful dialogue, this give and take, the respectability of that, and the meaning in that, right?

John Inazu 
I think to some degree, the idea of beauty and differences, we have to limit that concept a little bit, right? Some differences are not beautiful, they’re tragic, painful, and hard. Some differences represent a recognition of badness and evil in the world. But other differences are pretty beautiful. I think the one thing, as Christians, we know is that the individual image bearers around us and the differences that they reflect as human beings are derivative of God’s image. That we have to see as beautiful even when we don’t respect or like the ideas the person may hold. So to remind each other that the focal point of our interaction with other image bearers is as human beings first. That doesn’t mean that we hold back or surrender our viewpoints about certain convictions or beliefs, it just says that we center the person. This is, for Christians, I think this stuff isn’t optional, right? We’re not told to respect the image bearer only if they like you, or display the fruits of the Spirit only if the other person reciprocates, right? Or forgive only if other people forgive you. That’s not what it says. The bar is raised quite a bit for Christians and we’re called to engage in this way. Especially for pastors and ministry leaders to model that for others even when, and maybe especially when, people are not reciprocating.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s good. That’s solid. John, one of my favorite chapters in the book revolved around this idea of being wrong versus being evil. Which I thought was just such a great chapter, by the way. It just brought out so many things that I was reflecting on and just looking at really the last decade of life, at least here in the US. People tend to be quick to label things as wicked and evil that aren’t necessarily wicked and evil. That’s not to say that there aren’t wicked and evil things in the world, that we should name, right? But share with us a little bit, John, about as you’re processing through this, what brought you to write on this idea of wrong versus evil?

John Inazu 
Yeah, the basic distinction, I think, is that when you think someone’s wrong, you’re still open to persuasion, right? You want to give them the right view or a better view of an argument. When you actually think somebody is evil, in most cases almost as a logical matter, you’re not interested in conversation, you want to minimize their influence, and you want to get out there as fast as possible. As you said, there are real evils in the world and we have to be able to name evil, right? Slavery was and is an evil. But once you name it as evil, there are massive consequences. In our case, we fought a civil war over it. So I think we have to be very careful about what else we dump into that evil bucket. I think increasingly, especially by some of the social media interactions, and even what we see modeled by some political and religious leaders today, we are dumping a lot more people into that evil category, which means those are no longer people we’re trying to persuade, we’re trying to coexist with, and we’re trying to live with as fellow citizens. Those are people we’re trying to minimize or eliminate because we don’t want evil in the world. So it’s a very dangerous shift. Maybe as a first step to say, when we are tempted to deploy that rhetoric and that language, let’s be really clear about why we’re using that word, and whether it really fits the context.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s really good, John. So, John, we haven’t yet talked about the fact that your day job, what you’ve invested your time and your life in. Which people might be surprised about as you’re listening to this. But your life uniquely brings together two worlds that not everyone thinks of as coming together. That’s the world of law and then the world of religion, and in those types of things. You’re a law professor, distinguished law professor, and you’ve spent a great deal of time engaging in how policy happens, and how laws impact the people of a country and all of these types of things, specifically here in the US. But then you have this entire understanding of your faith in Christ, religion, and the importance of that. Both of these are key things in society, right? There’s faith and then there’s law, and you kind of live in where those two things kind of cross, or kind of collaborate, or sometimes maybe clash even. So, talk to us a little bit about this idea because I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in regard to the law’s relationship with religious belief and faith because we are having more and more and more of these conversations here in the US around those pieces and what that looks like. So share with us from your years of expertise, from this is what you live in and you breathe so often. What’s a healthy relationship between those two?

John Inazu 
So I mean, let me start with sort of a broader point which is about what law does in our society. Law is the way that we resolve disputes through a kind of constrained discourse, as an alternative to street violence. So that’s really important for all of us and Christians especially should be committed to this shared enterprise of law. It’s not without its downsides, it’s powerful, it’s coercive, and it can be manipulative, but as an alternative, it’s really important. That goes for the laws that constrain us as well as citizens. We might prefer a different way of doing Christianity in the world but we live in a democracy where that is also constrained by law in some ways. So that’s maybe the premise that I would start with. Someone says that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others, right? So we’re stuck with an imperfect system. But thank God for that system that lets us live freely within it. Within the particular state of free exercise law and the law of religious freedom in this country today, I would say it’s, in many ways, stronger than it’s ever been. We’ve seen really important decisions in the last 15 years that have protected churches and religious believers. If you pay attention to some of the fundraising letters of certain organizations, it doesn’t sound that way. But the law is in good shape. There are cultural influences that are pressing against a lot of traditional religious beliefs that will make it harder over time to engage in certain policy discussions or to do certain things. But that’s separate from the law and I think distinguishing between those can be pretty important. Then I guess the related point here is that what law does in this country is it protects religious beliefs of all kinds, including that which we don’t like, and that which we find erroneous and even harmful. That has to be the way the system works. So as we advocate for religious freedom in this country, we necessarily have to advocate for the religious freedom of all. What that means, as a practical matter, is we are advocating for more space for people to make arguments we don’t believe in. That’s hard, and maybe increases a bit of the responsibility on us to have a more persuasive, more compelling witness about what we proclaim the truth to be, but but we ought not be doing that through coercive legal systems.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s fascinating, John. As we’re looking at that, and looking at lots of conversations around patriotism, lots of conversation around Christian nationalism, all of these these “isms”, these things. It’s rising up and we do see that political leaders are either leaning into those things or maybe distancing themselves from those things for their own gain and their own good, right? As politicians often do. John, how would you recommend we as ministry leaders, ourselves, and then in how we can influence and impact those people God has entrusted to us, entrusted to our care, how do you recommend we navigate that piece of where our nation’s laws, our legal systems align with or uphold religion? What does that look like when it comes to Christian nationalism, patriotism, and all those pieces?

John Inazu 
Yeah, yeah. So I think the first point is, we should be really clear on the definitions. Right now, in popular discourse, the phrase Christian nationalism is being thrown around without a lot of clarity. I think because it is a real political phenomenon, we should be clear about what we’re describing and be careful about who we’re describing, in order to help minimize its influence. I mean, the people out there who want the United States to be a theocracy, or who want to deny religious freedom to non-Christians. That’s a very real and dangerous political threat. I think it’s important to challenge it, but if you start calling, not you, but if people start calling everyone a Christian nationalist who believes in God, then we’ve lost the credibility of the category. So I think clarity about what we mean by Christian nationalism. I mean, you mentioned patriotism, and this is I think, probably the harder one for listeners of this conversation. It’s very easy for a lot of, I would say, Christians in my circle today, to talk about those Christian nationalists because it’s clear that those Christian nationalists are not us. But I think the nature of patriotism and the blend of patriotism and religion can be a lot harder for a lot more Christians today. I come at this as someone who was raised in the military family and I myself was on active duty with the Air Force for four years. So I am, in many ways, a very patriotic person, and I care deeply about this country. But there’s also a way in which certain patriotic liturgies have been infused into churches and into many pastoral frameworks that blur the allegiances, somewhat. So, as I pointed out in the book, I don’t actually put my hand over my heart for the Pledge of Allegiance. I take very carefully the idea of making an oath to this country when the oath would ask that I convey my allegiance against all enemies, foreign and domestic. When I think about what will it mean for the kingdom of God to be an enemy of the United States, foreign or domestic. When you think about how imperfect this country has been over many decades, we don’t have to deny the good things about America and the good things about democracy to say that our allegiance should be properly limited. So in my own life, I just tried to have these self-checks about my words and my expressive actions to remind me that my primary allegiances are elsewhere, I’m grateful for this country, but I also want to limit my allegiances to it. In a lot of, I think, churches today, this is a challenge because there are past dependencies and very long-standing liturgies that people just kind of think of as normal, but might be better disrupted or challenged sometimes.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s very good, John, and I really appreciate your willingness to talk about how this is impacting you and how you’re navigating this as one who is devoted to Jesus Christ. Because it’s so true that in our lives, there are kind of these competing allegiances. Some of them seem subtle. Some of them seem positive. Yet, when we pull some back sometimes we’re like, okay, but what are we really doing? What are we really saying? Is that really what Christ is calling us to do or calling us to say? I love the fact, John, that you can say, man, we’re grateful for the fact that we live in the US, we’re blessed that we live in the US,  that there are things that we love, and there are great things about our country. But also the willingness to say, but my allegiance is to the kingdom, my allegiance is to Jesus Christ, first and foremost. You can say both of those things, right?

John Inazu 
Yeah, I mean, most of our idols are really good things taken out of context, or to which we give too much allegiance. So it doesn’t mean that the thing itself is bad. It’s how we treat it and how we view it.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s awesome. Great word there, John. As I was reading through the book and looking at some of the different things, one of the things that really stood out was this entire concept of being respectful, being civil in our discourse, and obviously, how that reflects Christ to a watching world, which is important. Yet, we do see examples of Christian leaders, ministry leaders, and pastors, who, again, seem to feel it’s their job to defend the Christian faith by any means necessary. So, John, share with us a little bit about what we’re seeing, and maybe some thoughts about the direction that we should actually lean in order to have impact and influence.

John Inazu 
Yeah, I mean, this is a great question. It’s also pretty complicated. So I don’t think civility is necessarily always a good thing unto itself. A lot of my own scholarly work is around the rate of assembly and protest. Sometimes you actually need something like strategic incivility to disrupt comfortable norms. That’s especially true when there are power asymmetries, and there are moments to disrupt and say, We need to be thinking about things differently. But to your point, there are a lot of people who aren’t actually thinking about strategic incivility as much as trying to control or dominate a discourse that would otherwise be seasoned with salt and light. Part of that is kind of a fear or an anxiety that thinks it’s all on us, right? As if we have to be God’s messenger to the world today and everything will fall apart if we don’t say it loudly and clearly enough and I just don’t think that’s true. I mean, I think the kingdom of God is not situated in 2020 for America. It’s much bigger and God will be just fine without our every last word. We’re called to be faithful. We’re called to speak truthfully. But the pressure is kind of off. I mean, we’re part of this very long tradition unfolding over 1000s of generations with so many participants, so many faithful people, and we’re just the players in it. Yes, we have to be courageous, faithful and loyal. Yes, that will sometimes be challenging and costly. But I don’t think for any of us it translates to, let’s shout and scream as much as possible to make sure that our views are out there in the world.

Jason Daye 
Yeah. John, as we’re talking to pastors and ministry leaders, I wanted to give you an opportunity, as we’re winding down this conversation, to share from your heart. I know through your book Learning to Disagree, through the work you’ve done there, and through the work you’re doing even outside of that book. What are some hopes that you have for pastors and ministry leaders in this time that we find ourselves and maybe some encouragement for them?

John Inazu 
Yeah, I mean, I guess I would just start by saying how grateful I am for pastors and leaders who are serving in these roles. These are hard, lonely, sacrificial roles, and I’ve got many friends who are in them. You don’t go into this because you want to be surrounded by popularity. Just hang in there, but also really fight for friendships and fight for truth-tellers in your life because we’re going to enter into an even harder season. There are going to be people who are critiquing and attacking in all directions and there’ll be moments when a lot of us are tempted to respond in kind, and we need people in our lives to tell us when we’re veering off course in tone or in substance. I think especially for pastors and leaders, it can be lonely in those circles when people might be reticent to challenge you. So have good deep friendships with people who can speak truthfully into your life and be encouraged that you’re not alone and play the long game.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, I absolutely love that. It’s been great to have you with us. For those of you watching or listening along, John’s latest book, Learning to Disagree is available. You can find links to that in the toolkit for this episode. So if you go to, if you’re driving, out for a run, or something right now, just go to when you have the time. You will find the toolkit for this with insights, questions, the Ministry Leaders Growth Guide, all those things, and links to Learning to Disagree. One of the things that’s really cool about this book for those you who are listening or watching is that it provides actual questions for you to really dig more deeply reflect and upon each chapter and each topic. Each chapter is based around a question over the course of a year in John’s life that he was wrestling with. So there are questions that you can go through personally, you can go through with your team of ministry leaders at your church, your staff, key volunteer leaders, or even your small groups. It’s an incredible resource so be sure to check that out at John, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you for the work that you’re doing. Thank you for living in the midst of this tension between the world of law and faith and for speaking into that for us. I certainly appreciate it.

John Inazu 
Jason, thanks so much. It’s been great to talk to you.

Jason Daye 
Awesome. Thank you so much. God bless you.

John Inazu 
You, too.

Jason Daye
Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at That’s And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.

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