Monday, March 19, 2012

Paper-doll theology and political thinking

Some people blog about what they do, where they went,  what they wore, what they ate, what happened at the event and much wore.  I blog about what I am thinking these days when my body isn’t able to move from place to place  as much it used to.  As the poet said, “Stone walls do not a prison make nor iron bars a cage. Minds innocent and quiet take that for a hermitage.”  

Last week at church I listened to a retired professional,  retired in the sense that he is focusing his  energies in a new direction – advocating  for the mentally ill. He was speaking  about how his mind had changed over the decades from the time he was a young boy in a rural home in a Nebraska. His attitude had changed toward his father, other races,  gays and many other aspects of his life. 

In a sense he was telling us his worldview, or the way he looked at life,  had moved from point A to point B.   He saw that as a good thing, unlike some people who pride themselves that they never waver  from their initial viewpoint. 

I believe it is important to keep revising one’s thinking, but also to reflect about those changes, hopefully a movement towards  growth because growth involves choice. As I survey all the writing I’ve produced  over the decades, I sense that much of it has to do with how my mind has changed as I encountered new truth.  

Our worldview, often  defended  by our theology,  is one of the most difficult things to change because it is so deeply embedded in us. Prejudice  against the African-Americans,  for example, had its roots support strongly rooted in biblical teaching. The Bible was used to put a scaffolding under the need to own slaves. 

We can easily change which direction we brush our teeth or which side of our head we part our hair, if we have hair to part.   But our worldview, the grid through which we sift everything that comes to us from parental teaching, Sunday school instruction, preaching, literature, general reading, and nowadays, from movies and popular music, is harder to change.  It  also comes from coffee chatter and over-the-fence conversation. 

Changing your mind about something as deep-rooted as racial discrimination,  sexism, ageism – or any kind of snobbery – doesn’t  usually happen overnight.  The tentacles of such attitudes are firmly entrenched in our inner being, often supported by our theology if we are people of faith.  They need to be ripped out one by one, sometimes inch by inch. Sometimes they return to dig in deeper, and must be eradicated the same way they entered – by learning, by interaction, by experience. 

An example: I grew up with dispensationalism,  a word some  people wouldn’t even recognize today.  It became part of the warp and woof of my faith life.  In brief,  it holds to the understanding that church  history can be  neatly divided into clear divisions and that we mortals can figure out  what  is going to happen, step by step, especially as it relates to the end-times.  

During my young adult days I indulged myself in the delight of figuring  out the complicated  mammoth puzzle of God’s plan for humanity to the day and hour.  I learned to draw all the charts about the final days  with its many arrows pointing up or down, according to the action.  

My adult life has been a second growing up—sorting, learning to respond differently to old stimuli – to come up with an understanding of God that is mine, not forced on me by old experiences. It has been a matter of choice.  Changing one’s mind and saying so is a freeing experience. 
It took me too long to understand that scouring the daily news for clues to beat God at figuring what is going to happen at the end of the world  meant I was putting too much energy into preconceived human conclusions and not into what is important about the Christian life.  

As I mention in my essay “What? Me? A Fundamentalist” (see CascadiaPublishing Autumn 2006 ), it took too long to say to myself, I do not—I cannot—believe this.  There is some truth somewhere in eschatology, but not when the result is an intricate drawing of lines and arrows.

I come to that same conclusion when I hear people feverishly defending their position on many of today’s political issues  related to human sexuality with Scriptural proof-texts.  I want to say to them that the faith life is much bigger than one single Bible verse.  To put all one’s energies into one area reduces one  to the one-dimensional paper dolls we played with as children.  Thin.


No comments:

Post a Comment