They say that in our modern world, we need to constantly be learning.
Well, believe me, that's a mighty true statement. I've been learning a lot, and the more I learn, the more I write about what I'm learning. But I'm learning that sharing with others the things I'm learning is, in itself, a learning process.
You wanna know what else I'm learning?
- Well, for starters, I'm learning that most people really, really, really hate being challenged to think. Not that I think I'm the best person to challenge other people with new ideas. But more than ever, I'm finding that lots of folks hate having to process concepts that differ from preferences, assumptions, and even convictions that they've already nurtured and adopted. Granted, to a certain extent, I'm one of those folks, too. I'm not crazy about being presented with information and ideas that run counter to information and ideas my brain has already bought into. But my problem is that I simply don't like change; my aversion to thinking has much less to do with my personal pride and a dislike for being wrong, and much more to do with adapting to something new - and whatever other changes this new concept might bring about. Other people, however, hate the challenge of having to think because they risk admitting they've been wrong, or being forced to adapt to something new. The only saving grace in all of this - if you can call it that - is that people are so afraid that their long-held assumptions might be wrong, they're willing to ignore what I have to say so they can preserve the status quo... yet I really could be wrong! Believe me - most of the stuff I write about, I wouldn't mind being proven wrong. But it seems that few people even want to spend the effort to prove me wrong. Am I not worth the effort, or are they simply lazy?
- I'm also learning that people really hate it when I'm the one challenging them to think. Like it would make any difference if I had an alphabet-soup of degrees after my name. My opinion doesn't mean much compared with the opinions of better-educated people, but it doesn't seem that people are even willing to consider the opinions of those better-educated people. Just look at all of the churchgoers who sit under a preacher's preaching each week, or a seminary professor's lectures, and how many of them really like accepting new bits of knowledge that risk impacting how they think and view the world? It's simply easier to ignore people like me, and the questions people like me ask, because we don't have advanced degrees. What could we possibly know? And frankly, I can understand that type of logic. There's nothing special about me that makes me any more qualified than anybody else to offer any other viewpoint than the ones being offered and endorsed by professional Christians. I also should figure that since people aren't really paying much attention to "experts," why should I be surprised they're not interested in paying any attention to me? After all, it's so much easier for any of us to simply find people with whom we agree and shuffle along through life with them. We like to call it choice, freedom of expression, and agreeing to disagree. But I wonder what Christ calls it?
- And speaking of disagreeing, isn't it a lot easier to say "I disagree with you" and assume that's the end of the matter, instead of saying "I believe such-and-so," and then have to go about and explain your belief with proofs and rationale? Agreeing to disagree is one thing, but agreeing to disagree without offering solid reasons for why you disagree is the easy way out, don't you think?
- I've known this one for a long time, but this year I've continued to learn not to automatically trust preachers, pastors, theologians, and other professional Christians simply because they've got a collection of MDiv's and PhD's after their names. Until you get to know them, trust them as much as you trust me. Scary, huh? But think about it: Just about anybody can learn Greek and Hebrew in seminary, and the definitions for all of those fancy seminary words like "infralapsarianism" and "circumincession." Shucks, even if I went to seminary, I could probably learn most of it. But learning how to pass tests in seminary isn't enough, is it? Writing words that convince and influence isn't enough either, is it? At the end of the day, a seminary degree simply gives somebody more resources with which to propound an argument or philosophy, but it still doesn't make them right. Or wrong. Without the Holy Spirit inside of each of us, any of us can spout whatever we want and make it sound convincing, whether it's right or not. This isn't to negate the value of a seminary education, or to demean and castigate professional Christians. All I'm saying is that no matter their official qualifications, the truth anybody speaks comes not from their education, but from God. And God's Word should suffice as a measuring rod for any of us to determine the legitimacy of what anybody else says. Or doesn't say.
- Perhaps because of all this other stuff I've been learning, I'm also learning that many of my readers figure I'm some bitter, confused malcontent who can't see the good in anything. They think I intentionally pick on a lot of sacred cows. I've also discovered that the same bit of writing can elicit a vicious ire from both liberal and conservative readers simultaneously. And I'm not even trying to. Yet it's as if readers assume I find some solace in being unpopular. Or, perhaps they figure that the solitude resulting from unpopularity represents a well-earned reward for unintentionally offending so many other people. I've been told I think too much, and I write too much. I'm learning that sometimes, the things one writes simply can't go unpunished.
- I'm learning that many people equate speaking one's opinion to belligerence. I'm learning that no matter how hard I may work on a particular sentence or paragraph, any number of people will interpret it in any number of different ways, and few of those will ascribe any beneficence upon my motives. I'm learning that just as people assume I'm inherently negative and cynical, both negativity and cynicism automatically become legitimate tones with which they can accuse me of being, well, negative and cynical.
- And, you know what? I'm learning that, seeping from some of those deep crevasses of my rapidly-aging brain, a veil of jealousy and dissatisfaction sometimes actually will drip down over my eyes to mar my view of life. I'm learning that I need to be ever vigilant against such drippage. I'm learning that sometimes my readers are more perceptive than I am. Sometimes, at least!
- Through the abysmal experience of the George Zimmerman trial this past year, and the recent debate over reformed rap, and even the insensitive comments from the Duck Dynasty crowd about Jim Crow Louisiana, I've learned that despite all of the progress we white evangelicals somehow thought had been made over the years regarding racial reconciliation in church, blacks and whites are still miles apart from where we should be.
- As homosexuality continues to dominate America's social agenda, I'm learning that many evangelicals have no desire to speak the truth in love. It's no secret that many churched folk hold gays in derision, but I'm learning it's not just puffy stereotypes that churched folk hold; it's outright hostility. Not only do we hate the sin, we hate the sinner, and it almost seems as though some evangelicals hate the sinner more than the sin! I'm not sure where the Biblical justification for that comes in, but I'm further learning that, as a single, never-married guy of a certain age, evangelicals feel all too comfortable making assumptions about my own sexuality, and using those assumptions as a basis for scoffing at my questions regarding their hatred of gays.
- Which means that, all told, I'm learning that as evangelicalism continues to march into America's increasingly post-Christian culture, that culture itself is no basis for defending preferences, lifestyles, beliefs, and value systems. Even our evangelicalized, Christianized, churchified culture. We need to be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. God expects us to season our words with salt, not pepper. But all of this takes more work than just being spiteful, hateful, intransigent - you know, all of those things people accuse me of being, but that I see in them as well.
- And I'm learning that all of this means that as I continue to write, I'll probably not make myself any more popular than I've already made myself since I started writing this blog back in 2009.