The Virtue of Contrariness

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Have you ever had a conversation like this:


Them: “You know, Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all time.”

You: “Yeah, he really was the greatest.”

Them: “Well, not really. Lebron is better.”

Wait, what just happened?!? How can you disagree with me agreeing with you? I understand for some people that debating is a form of communication and shows their desire to be in conversation with others. However, this back and forth can be tiring if the other party doesn’t share the same understanding. I despise divisiveness for the sake of divisiveness, but I’ve come appreciate and embrace a virtue I believe has fallen to the wayside.

Contrarianism.

I believe it has gotten a bad rap.

In one of my favorite works of agrarian, writer, and social activist Wendell Berry, he says in a piece entitled “The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer”,

“I am done with apologies. If contrariness is my
inheritance and destiny, so be it. If it is my mission
to go in at exits and come out at entrances, so be it.”

(Click HERE to see Berry read the entire work himself)


I’m coming to embrace this same inheritance, particularly when it comes to my vocational “calling.”


You have to wear a jacket on Sunday morning at this church. You’ll never catch me in one.

We’re a casual come as you are body of believers. I’ll show up in a 70s green sports coat.


We spend our time building up believers in our church. Fine, I’ll do ministry outside the walls.

We don’t get caught up in steeple work. That’s fine, but I’m partial to stained glass.


Honor God through your education and studies. I think God might be after my heart.

Be Careful of seminary, it’ll steal your faith! I’ve been exposed to a bigger God while there.


You’re a professional, now act like it. But I thought God “called” me to this service?

You’re “called” and that settles it. But don’t you think I should lean into my vocation?


That’s the way we’ve always done it. I’m telling you we need to do it different.

We need to shake things up! I’m telling you we should be respectful of our traditions.


Our community is entirely inclusive; all means all! Maybe it shouldn’t be.

These are the requirements to be in fellowship here. Maybe you need to expand the table.

“Going against men, I have heard at times a deep harmony
thrumming in the mixture, and when they ask me what
I say I don't know. It is not the only or the easiest
way to come to the truth. It is one way.” (Berry, again)


Maybe what I’m coming to understand is that when someone attempts to place me inside a box restricting my thoughts, feelings, experiences I find myself wanting to push back. And if I’m made within the image of God, just maybe God feels the same way too.


As you were,

~tBSB