You know, I’ve realized in my many many years on this earth (Soon to be 24 of them) that there are a few things that Christianity just doesn’t do well.
We are absolutely terrible at learning from those we disagree with.
I’ve went through life cursed with an overabundance of confidence. I frequently joke that my left brain killed off my right brain shortly after birth. I don’t have a whole lot of respect for an argument unless you can make it logically, and from a sound premise.
Unfortunately, Christians allow ourselves to fall into a pretty deep pit…every theological or moral discussion we enter into starts with “God says” or “The Bible says.”
I’m waiting for that last sentence to sink in, and just checking to make sure that I haven’t offended everyone to the point that they quit reading…yet. Maybe there’s still time for that.
I think that every time we start an argument with our interpretation of the Bible or of God…God winces just a little bit. I think that our reliance on our religion’s truth being an accepted and foregone conclusion for everyone isn’t an endearing little quirk…it’s a dangerous flaw.
To explain that sentence, let me be a bit more blunt. When we assume that we’re talking to people that believe that the Bible is true, that there is an Absolute Truth, and that there is a God…we’re subtly implying that we can’t prove these things. Worse yet, we’re implying that we can’t make an argument for what we believe unless you agree with our perceptions of God, the Bible, and Truth.
That gives those that aren’t already Christians free license to ignore us as a marginalized, irrelevant oddity that will go away in time if we’re only ignored and patronized for long enough.
I’d like to propose something different.
The Bible is God’s Word. God is Truth. Truth is the most important thing we have, because it leads us to a right relationship with our Creator.
If we really believed those three statements, then shouldn’t Christians be leading the charge into Scientific inquiry, logical argument, and passionately (and respectfully) debating facts? Shouldn’t we be the most assured, the most logical, and the most fearless investigators of all things Truthful?
Paul went to Athens. He found an altar with the inscription “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” Rather than dismiss the Athenian beliefs as wrong and sinful, he set out to show them that he knew exactly who that unknown God was. Rather than run from understanding those who disagreed from them…Paul sought to understand them, and explain how their own experiences and beliefs led to the God of the Universe.
How often do we seek to understand those we disagree with? How often do we dismiss them as being wrong, sinful, misguided, or simply stupid? Shouldn’t we, as loving children of God, be the first to seek to understand and sympathize? If we are to effectively love our enemies, shouldn’t we understand them first?
I realize I started talking about this from the perspective of my own experience, being Science and Logic. But what about that insensitive person at church that just keeps grating on your nerves? Do you really understand where they’re coming from? What would they say about you, if they were to be asked what they really thought? If you don’t know, then you haven’t made anywhere near a decent effort to bridge that separation. The Church needs to stand unified, and we can’t afford your petty squabbles to get in the way of the greater Work of God.
As a society, I think Americans severely undervalue peace. We’ve become accustomed to having our secure borders, our victorious armies, and we like being able to assert our will. We were shocked and appalled when the two towers crumbled on September 11th…and we saw it as only fitting when we started a war on two different fronts to punish those responsible.
We’ve taken that national perspective, and we’ve gotten very good at creating a nation of individuals. We’ve created a Church filled with individuals…which has resulted in a group of individuals gathered in a church building.
Subtle differences, but they are there.
We devalue peace, so we assert our will. When things don’t go our way, we try to arrange those around us to fix the issue. We never stop to realize that we’re attempting to arrange other peoples’ lives to make ours more convenient. We’ve lost the art of compromise.
The old phrase goes: “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.” I think that we’ve strayed one way or the other. In convincing the Church in America that we have let some of our moral boundaries slip, we’ve become obsessed with keeping the baby in that tub…at the expense of the fetid pile of sludge the kid is now sitting in.
It’s time to change the water…clear the air…relax and let things go.
To quote a movie, “To let that which does not matter…truly slide.”
If you are not being sinned against, why hold a grudge? If someone is doing something in a different way…is it working well enough? Then why not let it be?
Let the chips fall where they may.
Focus on what matters.
Read your Bible.
Care for others…
…more than yourself.