Strong beliefs in spiritual things are often seen as arrogance. Certainly, they can be. But the true arrogance isn’t in strong faith. The arrogance is when people hold to their faith so tightly that they fail to respect others’ beliefs; fail to ever question and explore their own; and assume they know all the answers.
As is so often the case, I went negative on my “own kind” first by pointing out some serious flaws in many Christian mind-sets (see “Getting Off Track, Part 1“) before I decided to go pointing fingers at the non-Christians. But now, it’s time for some people on the other side to get their share.
I saw a bumper sticker a few days ago: Jesus, Protect Me From Your Followers.
I got a chuckle out of that, because it is true than many Christians make Christianity an easy target due to their actions (and not because there’s anything inherently bad in the tenets of Christianity itself). Frankly, a lot of Christians scare me, and I’m a faithful (if inconsistent) follower of Jesus.
But at the same time, when people get in my face (literally or figuratively) about how arrogant I am that I would say Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, I can only ponder this: “Methinks thou dost protest too much.”
Why the rancor toward Jesus and the faith centered on him? I mean, this is one of the most progressive guys of ancient history. I’m still waiting to see agnostics and atheists pile onto the Jews or Buddhists or anyone else and call them arrogant for believing their paths are the right paths and probably the only legitimate paths.
And please, don’t start with the “Well, Christianity has done more damage than…” It’s a bullshit argument that half the time isn’t even accurate and generally has little to do with Christianity itself, and I’m tired of people arguing that most of the world doesn’t really even know about Jesus, much less believe in him, and thus I should shut the hell up…and yet somehow my faith is doing these people such harm. You can’t have it both ways. Is Christianity abusing them, or are they ignorant of Jesus? Kind of hard to believe both things.
Maybe I’ll start a path toward accepting the argument that having a set of strong beliefs makes me arrogant when more people around me start saying, “Gee, representative democracies in capitlalist nations sure do seem to do a lot of damage to the world! We’d better abandon capitalism and democracy right now!”
It is not arrogance for me to say that Jesus is the right path. It’s my belief, and you are welcome to think otherwise and to disagree with me. But it still doesn’t make me arrogant.
You see, God has an easy way, and a hard way. But it all comes down to Jesus the Christ in the end.
I give Little Girl Blue as much freedom and latitude as I can. I allow her, even at just shy of four years old, to disagree with me strenuously if she likes. But in the end, if something needs to be done a certain way (i.e. Daddy says so), then it will get done my way in the end. Not because I’m a tyrant but because that’s the way it needs to be, for her health, safety, and general well-being and proper growth.
Now, Little Girl Blue can say, “Daddy, I don’t want to” and then do it anyway because I’ve asked her nicely and explained why it’s necessary. That’s the easy way. (Note, I don’t expect the easy way to be to just obey me without question; not even God really expects that of us…He knows us too well). Or, she can throw a tantrum or ignore me repeatedly and do other things that will cause me to raise my voice and possibly snap one of her favorite DVDs in half and throw it out (should she push things that far).
She has options. But eventually, it comes down to me or to mommy and what we’ve laid down as law.
You can give Jesus some serious consideration now (and hopefully come to see that he is the way, the truth and the life), or you can just keep shouting that it’s arrogant to believe such things. But I wonder, when your heart beats its last, and you see Jesus, and he gives you an amused little smile, a shrug of his shoulders and says, “You know, Deac and Big Man and a lot of those other folks pretty much had a lot of it right. So, why don’t we talk about the choice you want to make now”…what are you going to do?
Are you going to say, “Oh, well, I guess we should talk then. I guess I was off track there.”
Or will you say, “Fine, I’m here, you arrogant messianic asshole. You think I’m going to bend my knee now?”
Hard way, easy way…and even a semi-hard way right in between the two, I believe…but hell, it’s your choice, and I’m devout in my conviction that you have every right to make any of those choices. Your right. Your free will. It doesn’t affect me in the end. I wish you well, I hope you do well in this life and the next, and I respect your rights.
If that’s the new definition of arrogance, then I’m happily arrogant.
Who doesn’t wanna feel special…right? I mean a compliment here, a bit of flattery there, a slap on the back for a job well done. We all want some kinda validation and unsolicited love.
There’s nothning wrong with that but we need to be careful that when we’re getting a fair amount of it, we don’t let it go to our heads. See that’s the problem that popular people have, whether it’s the chick who’s been head cheerleader and prom queen and president of the class and is dating the super-hot dude on the baseball team…or whether it’s a celebrity on an ego trip…or whether it’s me or you.
When you’re popular or cute or talented, you can get hit with lots of praise and you start to think that you crap roses and fart perfume. You get caught up in who others think you are and you start to think you’re special and people who get less praise than you aren’t
But even those of us who don’t get praised and adored and lusted after and pumped up on the regular can still fall prey. A dude who’s been married a long time, and suddenly 20-year-olds are giving him a little flirty action and he steps out on the wife. Or you’re at work and you’re doing well with the boss and you start to think you don’t need to hang around the water cooler or that you can shirk your work and pass the weight along to your lessers. Or people tell you how healthy you look and you neglect to actually go to the doctor so you can find out about that cholesertol problem that’s gonna kill you in another 8 or 10 years.
So, a few words on that from the Bible writing folks…
St. Paul – Colossians: “Masters, do unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.”
Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips. (Proverbs 27:2)
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (St. Matthew 23:12)
Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. –2 Philippians 2:3
Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 26:12)
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (Romans 12:3)
Keep it real, folks, and don’t let yourselves get too much into believing your own press.
I don’t like to get judgmental about anyone. OK, that’s not true. I’ve have some notable and very amusing conversations with Mrs. Blue in which I have been very judgmental. Shame on me. Truly.
But my point is that, really, I don’t generally feel comfortable judging folks. Which is as it should be, biblically speaking, for we are told “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
And yet, you may have noticed that around here, I’ve taken certain well-known pastors of huge churches to task. I’ve pretty much said that one of my own recent former pastors has essentially become a virtual cult leader.
I’m not judging.
Really, I’m not. I am, however, pointing out that some of these guys are taking very dangerous paths. In terms of their teachings, the dogma they espouse and the way they treat people, they show themselves to be of questionable characters and motivations.
At times, I cut them at least some slack, based to a certain extent on this:
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (From Romans chapter 12)
There are those, I’m sure, who would take me to task for my approach to spiritual matters, what with my cavalier language and my propensity to talk about sexual odds and ends (and tips and crevices…oh my!). I feel that I am responding to a calling to reach out in a different way and perhaps to different people.
Who am I to say that Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church isn’t fulfilling his own calling to the letter? Perhaps that is what God wants Joel Osteen to be doing. Or Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church. Or Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church.
And I find myself with these passages from the Book of Romans staring me in the face:
Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand…But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God…Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this-not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. (Excerpts from Romans chapter 14)
It is that last line that reminds me I am fully justified in shining a light on the pastors that I have and the attitudes among many Christians that I have, when I take issue with common attitudes among Christians. Or non-Christians for that matter.
I am not judging people. I am looking at actions and calling to mind the very real possibility that those actions are going to lead people astray. Encourage them to do things that aren’t right. Lead them down paths of false doctrine that Jesus would have cringed to hear.
It’s entirely possible I’ve been guilty of the very same thing at time. I hope not, but if I have been, I hope someone will open my eyes to that and I hope that if it’s true, I will correct myself.
I cannot judge the people I rail about, but I can say that at times, they seem to be clearly doing wrong, and in that they are hurting others, and they need to be called on it.
So today’s topic…skiing? A sweaty pair of 36DD’s? Hilly streets that my piece of shit little Sentra can’t climb after a good snowstorm?
Nah, just going to talk about those proverbial slippery slopes where one thing “inevitably” leads to another.
I’ve been thinking about slippery slopes a lot because plenty of people are still talking about the passage of Proposition 8 in California, or Barack Obama’s decision to let pastor Rick Warren (who doesn’t anything nice to say about homosexual marriage) give the invocation at his inauguration. And because these things are being talked about on the blogs and elsewhere, myself and plenty of others have to address the real or perceived slippery slopes on both sides of the issue.
Mind you, I believe there are times in life where you have to draw a line, lest people walk en masse right down a treacherous slope. Don’t get me wrong. But in the end, I find the whole “slippery slope” concept to typically be questionable and often laughable. I mean, wasn’t our failed War on Drugs, which I believe Ronald Reagan initiated (and which still puts too many people in prison for too long for no good reason) founded on the idea that we needed to stop those drugs before little Timmy got a taste of pot and then went on to snort coke and then inevitably to shoot up heroin and then steal all the family’s belongings and perhaps rape his little sister Susie too? And haven’t we waged many a war on the idea that if we don’t stop [insert political system/ideology/group of your choice] here, it will spread everywhere, even to our own borders?
So, let’s talk about some of those slippery slopes that Christians get so bent out of shape about and why I’m sick to death of groups of Christians who raise up their standards and march off on an ideological war to put some grit on those slopes or, better yet, blow up the whole hill so no one slides into depravity.
Homosexual marriages. Because you know, we all know if we allow gays and lesbians to marry, next it will be the polygamists demanding their rights and then the incest-lovers, and then the pedophiles, and finally the people who are into bestiality and want to marry Fluffy. I mean, how can I argue with logic like that, right? Because people who commit incest just really want everyone to know, and there are soooo many of them. And of course, we’ll just forget about age of consent and maturity issues and abuse concerns and just let folks marry kids, right? Look, the only reasonable expectation in that list is that maybe, just maybe, polygamists will want their say. Well, let’s deal with that bridge then, eh? And let’s remember that multiple partners is a whole different issue than homosexuality with many more potential societal complications.
Abortion. Ever since Roe v. Wade, we’ve been on a Crisco-greased slide to murdering our babies, right? I mean, any day now, it will be legal to kill your full-term baby in the womb or on its way out the birth canal if you have second thoughts at the very end. In fact, we’re just around the corner from six-day “lemon laws” that will allow you to bring a baby back to the hospital to have it euthanized if you find it cramps your style too much. Give me a freakin’ break. No, I’m not a fan of abortion. And I know late-term and “partial bith” abortions are particularly gruesome thoughts for many people, myself included. But they do have a place for some people in the secular world, as much as my Christian soul doesn’t like it. Such practices are performed rarely and usually for very specific reasons, yet they are often wrapped up by zealous Christians in a package that suggests (a) the mothers are all irresponsibly doing this and loving it and (b) that somehow a viable, kicking screaming crying baby is being yanked out of a woman and hacked to pieces. To make a strong case, the truth is buried under a lot of visceral and bloody hype by many in Christian circles. And why not? It sure makes the slippery slope argument seem more logical, doesn’t it, so that you can go back and argue that any abortion should be illegal, right?
I’m not going to continue any more of that. You get my point. Slippery slopes are often overstated by Christians who wish to force their ethics into the law books for everyone else to follow.
But instead of decrying the illogic of some of the slippery slope mindsets, how about we imagine a world where Christians continue to have the kind of success they did with Proposition 8 in California, and imagine some of the slippery slopes for those successes?
OK, so we outlaw homosexual marriage. Now what? Hey, you know, let’s make it illegal not to have kids if you’re married. Or, maybe we prevent infertile people from marrying because, like gays, they can’t be fruitful and multiply. Or maybe we should allow a spouse to instantly and without recourse divorce the other spouse if that spouse is unable to provide a child. And hey, since we’re already at the bedroom door, let’s criminalize adultery. Or outlaw blowjobs and anal sex.
Or, let’s say abortion gets outlawed. Great! OK, so do we allow it in cases where the life of the mother is in danger? No? OK. Well, what if there are multiple kids in the womb and one kid is putting all the others in danger and removing that fetus, which might have minimal chance of survival anyway, will save two or more others? No? Or, maybe if a child is already dead in the womb we should remove it? No? Oh, yeah, because maybe there will be a miracle that causes it to return to life. Hey, and while we’re at it, let’s outlaw birth control methods, because aren’t they really just the same as abortion? And same for masturbation, too.
“But,” say the fellow Christians I’ve just offended, “those are ridiculous! Some of those assumptions would never happen. And we wouldn’t want them to nor would society in general!”
So, maybe you see my point now.
I’m not saying that Christians shouldn’t engage in causes in which they fervently believe. What I am saying is that the temptation to justify it by being so arrogant as to say “We know where this will lead” instead of simply focusing on the act itself that repulses you, is the kind of thing we cannot afford.
Nor, by the way, can we simply say “the Bible says so, and that’s why it must be outlawed.” This isn’t a Christian nation; only a nation where Christianity is the largest religious bloc. Our laws must be based on the societal good and on secular foundations, not religious ones. To argue that something should be prohibited by law, you must be able to provide a real argument as to why your way is the better way for society.
Because as often as I’ve read the New Testament, I still haven’t found that part where Jesus, the apostles or any early church leaders said, “Yeah, it sure would be cool if we forced Christianity on everyone else at the point of a sword…or under weight of law.”