Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What happened to thinking minds?

Senator Richard Lugar (Indiana) after his recent primary election loss, wrote, ideology cannot be a substitute for a determination to think for yourself, a willingness to study an issue objectively and for the fortitude to sometimes disagree with your party or even your constituents.  In my mind, that kind of thinking is what we so need but so deeply lack in our time.  

I serve in a "congregational" church where we at least state that We believe in being a church of thinking and seeking minds.  We value the principle of freedom of conscience.  We have no one statement of faith or cannon law that is binding on all.  For one to have sincere convictions they must be given the opportunity for intellectual freedom and personal experience.    I feel this is one of the things about what we refer to as the "congregational way."

It seems far more popular today to have a black and white position on everything. People want it all spelled out and dictated to them, then we sign on to it with no real thought.  We buy it all and as I often say, we drink the cool-aid.  It's like a check list that determines who's in and who's out with no room for any accommodation or compromise. As I meet new people almost immediately they run through the labels in their effort to find the pigeon hole that I personally or the church I pastor belongs in. This eliminates the need to take the time to get to know anyone and simply value them for who they are.  If they don't have the same label that you value we don't waste our time. We simply add them to our "out" list.

We are in this type of situation because it has become easier to take what is handed to us than to take the time to think for ourselves.  We hear - this is what our political party believes, this is what our church believes, this is what the Bible says...  This gives everything and everyone a label.  Do you realize how we label everything and everyone?  We're no longer Americans but instead we are "red" or "blue" (totally conservative or totally liberal).  We're no longer followers of Christ but instead we are defined by some facet of belief that again throws us into some defined camp with a label.  In church it is no longer the label of a denomination but instead each denomination is split into different camps as we split over the Bible, theology but mostly over social issues.

All this has done in our culture and in our churches is divide us so that we refuse to have anything to do with anyone who is not exactly like "us."  We justify this without any thought because we've bought into what we are being told. We're told and we believe that we are standing up for what's right or we're taking back our nation or our church. Everyone does it all under the banner of what the Bible says yet being totally blind to everything else the Bible says, like how our lack of unity is one thing that really is against the will of God.  What I see in the name of Jesus is not the Jesus I see in the New Testament.

I could write books and preach sermons forever on this topic and still not scratch the surface of the damage that is being done to us as a people.  But if you have to have a label, label me with the "thinkers," with those who respect the value of diversity.  We are all different. No two of us were created totally alike and none of us have all the same experiences.  Thus no two of us will agree on everything but for the sake of humanity and in honor of our Creator should we not value each person.  Now here's a Bible idea! Extend to everyone the respect and dignity of their sincere convictions that we would like them to extend to ours.  No labels - no disrespect - no dirty name calling.  

I am thankful to pastor in a tradition that values thinking and seeking minds.  While my experiences and thinking have lead me to beliefs and views I hold sacred to me I am working on loving all people, especially those who see the world differently than I do.  I am praying that the time will come when especially Christians, begin to do away with labels.