Pride

Against Truth

“Truth is not a matter of knowing this or that but of being the truth.” –Kierkegaard

There’s not much I love more than learning. Maybe writing about what I’ve learned. Turning the ideas over on the page; kicking them around a little to see how much of a beating they can take. Ignorance can be dangerous because I’m apt to believe whatever’s most comfortable. But facts can be dangerous too. I’ve been known to narrow my eyes in a petty search for the slightest wrong to correct. I’ve balled up my hands and punched down those with whom I have disagreed, and it felt like heaven. Like anything good, knowing can be bad.

I would sit all day in front of my computer as a teenager, playing games, making websites, and studying the bible. I’d lean back in my chair and listen for hours to lectures and sermons, read commentaries and articles. If I had a question, I’d look for an answer until my eyes burned. I don’t want to give the impression that I was some kind of spiritual giant. I spent way more hours watching television, playing Mario Bros. and looking at slowly loading pictures of naked women via a 56k modem than I did all that religious stuff. But the bible was important to me. I learned that God loved me. I learned that I was forgiven, not because I was good, but because God is good. I learned that if you don’t know what I know, I sometimes look down on you. I learned that knowing theology is good, but that theology, like other good things, can make you mean.

When I was young, I didn’t understand how a person with a lot of knowledge about the bible could also be a jerk. She had been there since the beginning. The church was a large brick building now. A steeple you could see for miles above the trees. She was there when it was a small mobile building, working to make it more, inviting everyone she knew, giving what she would, and no one liked her then either. She was there every service, faithfully tithed, and volunteered for every event. But people I invited to come, they would sometimes frown and mention her name. Mention some thing she’d said or done that didn’t make them feel welcome. She always had a smile.

It was a cognitive dissonance that I constantly fought with when I saw people who were more knowledgeable than me blithely crushing others. But I could’ve understood if I’d just looked at my own life. I was the poster child for the uber-conservative, liberal-hating, judgmental, fundamentalist-minded Christian at one point in my life. I meant well, and I only wanted to do God’s will, see other Christians do God’s will better, and see non-Christians become Christians. Heck, I always had a smile.

I grew up Baptist, and when you’re really into being a Baptist (or, as I’ve discovered, a Lutheran, Presbyterian, Pentacostal, etc.) you look down on people who aren’t what you are. You equate your brand of Christianity with the right way to do Christianity and, so, are exceptionally annoying to be around. I now go to a denominational church, but I don’t agree with everything that denomination says, and I can still be exceptionally annoying as well. But, it’s generally when I believe I’m arguing from some place of authority.

I believe in facts. I’m certain there are knowable, verifiable facts, spiritual and otherwise. But, as much as I love facts, they’re not the point. And, all the denominations can’t be right about everything they think they’re right about. Which is kind of humbling when I remember that applies to me too. Knowing is important, but being also seems to be the point Jesus kept on about. I can quote a lot of theologians, have some impressive books in my library, know the right people, and have some fancy letters after my name, and still be a butt-munch. Or, I can let the facts that matter mean something more than the fact that I know them. It’s pretty tempting to be seen as spiritual because I know much about spiritual things, but (in my wiser moments) I’d rather be seen as a fool and live spiritually through Christ.

Know it All

We’re busy people. Straining our backs to pull the pick through the air in an effort to break another stone. Another stone, another paycheck. Another car payment. Another visit to the orthodontist for Jenni. Another trunk-load of groceries from Publix. Always another. Yet, we’re expect to be informed. At most, we have time to skim the paper with our coffee, or watch the evening news while our children pretend to be something very loud that runs much. With exceptions, this is life.

We can’t be experts on foreign policy or know the depth of complexity on most issues. It’s not an excuse, it’s reality. Many of us try our best to have a cursory knowledge of the world around us. But it’s difficult. We Christians are also expected to wake early enough on Sunday morning to dress our children in bows and tiny sports coats to learn the nuanced teaching of all 66 books of a bible we don’t read enough, think about enough, or study enough. It’s never enough. None of it. Our little bubble of time laughs at us.

Knowing all of this should humble us,

but,

instead, we scrape up the bits of truth we have and pretend to be experts.

I have no children who are peeing on the neighbors azalea bushes or beating one another senseless over who plays the Xbox next, but

  • I’ll gladly scoff at some misbehaving scamp in a Denny’s and pontificate with my lunch partner on where the parent’s went wrong.
  • I’ll talk about the political climate, and the current President, and the intricacies of law with something I’d be embarrassed to call comprehension.
  • I’ll personally expound on bible verses I’ve decided I completely and utterly understand at length only to find that the context is greater than I’ve given credit, which makes my point null and void. I’m proud and foolish.

I have great excuses for being at the level at which I am in all that I do. I don’t mean that sarcastically either. I’m no expert on all things because I simply haven’t lived long enough to be so. It’s not been my job to understand, say, politics. But I’ve endeavored to watch enough news and study enough history to make me conversant. (If politics were Spanish, I could easily ask where the bathroom is.) And, while I have a degree in counseling psychology, I never specialized in something like child-rearing, nor—as I mentioned—do I have much personal experience there. I was also a pastor for several years, and I’ve always had a deep passion for learning the Scriptures. I’ve accomplished more in this area than all the others, and feel competent in what I know. Yet, I’m no bible scholar, nor could I order a cheeseburger with extra pickles in the original languages.

But I will correct you. I will attack with the ferocity of a tenured professor of advanced age and talents. I will write lengthy posts, and responses to your foolish Facebook memes (if only in my head). I will not consider that I could be wrong, or that there could ever be a point-of-view different from my own that had any validity worth considering. I will simply raise my hands, bare my claws, and rip you to shreds. I’m very good at that.

Quite talented.

If they offered such a thing,

I might even be working on my PhD in it.

I looked in the mirror earlier, and I had cheese in my beard. The cuff on the pants I’m wearing is hanging loose. I plan to go out in public wearing them later. I’m a couple dozen pounds overweight and live with a psychological disorder that saps up at least 30% of my mental energy on a good day. I need a haircut, my room’s a mess, I haven’t bothered to look up the facts on the latest thing I’m mad enough to blindly write comments on other people’s posts about… and did I mention that cheese-beard thing?

I have to remind myself that I don’t have to be an expert on everything. That I’m an imperfect conglomeration of unfinished facts. I don’t have to correct every error I see in someone else’s life. Don’t have to confront every racist, bigot or sexist. But it is important to look for those things in myself. Even if they exist only as a sliver in my finger. Maybe that’ll humble me enough to be able to see past the surface things that I want to rail against to the people doing them. Maybe recognizing my incapacity to know it all or have all the answers will give me the humility to embrace them where they are, no matter how deeply I disagree with them. Because we’re both just struggling. We’re both trying to understand. And maybe that love will create questions for this sinner. At least one of them. Because there’s only one thing I know for sure—one answer—Christ died for sinners like me and you.

I’m Tired of Being Right

I couldn’t look at my Twitter feed today. I stumbled into my office still wiping sleep from my eyes, still trying to remember how to walk, post-unconsciousness. I dropped myself into a chair and sorted out in my head what I needed to accomplish. But my brain hadn’t quite caught up to my ambition yet. It was telling me I should be happy it got me to the chair, and that I should let it be for at least another five minutes out of respect. So I called up Twitter. But I couldn’t move past the first two tweets. I realized how tired I am of some religious stuff.

The first thing I’m bored of is other Christians telling me what to think. Every Christian has an opinion on God’s opinion. You want to know what Christians think God thinks about anything? Google it. Cremation, money, your sex life, dating, and even your diet. And few of them agree. I mean, there are three views on hell, five views on sanctification, four views on justification… It’s not that I’m not interested in these topics. I really am, actually. It’s that almost all of these guys tell me I’m a heretic if I don’t see their view as the plain reading of Scripture. It makes me want to give them a plain view of my butt (but that wouldn’t be very Christian of me).

I’m also tired of picking sides. It’s not just red or blue politics, or even Christian and non. It’s this denomination, and that denomination, male and female, black and white, bible versions, high church or low church. Some of these are super important issues, and we should blood our heads beating them against the walls built against them. But when everyone thinks their opinion or stance is the only acceptable version of an opinion or stance, and I get ticked because they can’t see that it’s obviously mine that’s correct, I get tired.

There’s just not much that’s worse than a Christian who thinks he should have a platform. I’m aware that I fall into that category on some level just by writing this. Some level I’m certain Dante described somewhere: Decently educated religious folks who see themselves as ordained to spread the true truth. Whenever I get like that—and it’s way too often to admit—I like for God to remind me about Jesus.

To be clear, I do not enjoy it at the time. It’s a painful and annoying reminder that, frankly, does damage to my brittle ego. I’m off blustering again about putting on the full armor of Chad, and there’s Jesus shrugging off his godliness. The creator of every Tom, Dick & Venus, becoming a single cell. Born in the usual traumatic way. The God who spoke and giraffes happened became a baby who could neither control what food went in, or where and when it came out. My ego is gnawing at me like a sewer rat because I’m worried enough people won’t read my stupid blog, and God humbly takes on the form of that which he formed with his own hands—a lump of living, thinking clay like me.

That’s the path I’m supposed to follow. The Jesus way. Upside down and crazy. But I’m over here thinking maybe I’m the special one—the one trustworthy enough to not have to be quite as humble and servant-like. I’m special; a little ahead of you other guys. Surely he wouldn’t have given me such an active desire to share my righteous truth if it wasn’t his will. But, no. Jesus is all: touching the sick and loving sinners. And, seeing him as he is—again—brings me to my knees.

I’m tired of being right all the time. I’m sick of trying to fix you. So, I’m going to move toward the way of Jesus. Trust me, it’s not going to be pretty. I’m not going to be a shining example, and it will probably take the rest of my natural life to even get a decent start. But I’m sick of pretending I’m your mother. I’m not too happy that you believe you’re mine either, but I can’t do anything about that… except love you anyway.

-Chad

photo used under CC