Friday, July 11, 2008

Let me ask you two questions...

I spent many years in the university community and would always come across the perennial discussions of faith and belief, and even this morning as I was looking at a bulletin board at a campus coffee house, there again was another flyer announcing a meeting to discuss the accuracy of the Bible and the textual errancy that exists and the problems that it creates and so on. But I find there is always something missing in these kinds of debates.

The Bible refers to our having a mind, soul and body, interpreted by many as being a kind of Trinity to man’s existence. I have no problem with that kind of categorization. Where my problem comes in is when you try and split those apart and consider them as separate entities, independent of one another.

Arguments about the Bible are almost always intellectual, and we cite all the rational reasons why we should believe one way or another, but we do so without consideration to our whole being. We are not just walking brains. We are living, breathing stories of humanity. This is why I do not make a good Evangelical.

One of my favorite encounters as a campus pastor was about a two month stretch of interacting with folks from the Campus Free Thought Society, formerly known as the Campus Atheists, but they changed their name since they felt that was too restricting. I’m not sure how the initial meeting was initiated, but one evening several of their group and a few of my friends met at a coffee house to discuss our points of view.

There must have been 15 of us, all packed tightly in a circle so as to hear each other over the din. There was the usual bit of chit chat at the onset, but when it started to get a little awkward as everyone became aware that no one was in charge of moving the discussion forward, I decided to jump in.

My first question seemed to surprise everyone, because it was not aimed at finding out our differences. Instead, I asked the group to cite any church or religious experience they may have had growing up.

That’s all it took to get the party started.

To my surprise, everyone had something to say, and further, everyone had something heartbreaking to tell. Stories of abuse, neglect, disillusionment, abandonment, all from parents or church people. People who should have been trustworthy were not, and the results were sitting in a circle clutching coffee mugs.

This scene is one example why I was always uncomfortable with my Evangelical heritage. I hated to argue and defend a point. Intellectual arguments act as shields behind which we hide and toss spears of attack. I couldn’t put a finger on it at the time, but I see now what I am more comfortable with is finding out what you and I have in common over how you and I differ in belief. Commonality in our stories lead to trust, which is something these young people in the circle had very little of.


Les said...

This reminds me of a quote Ravi uses. I'm not getting it exactly right but its something like "why give someone a rose after you've cut off their nose?"

The idea being that a well defended intellectual position will not persuade a person to your side if you've destoryed the relationship in the process.

This obviously holds true no matter what beliefs you hold.

Maria said...

I think a lot of us could use some training in how to ask genuine questions, rather than the typical evangelical training in having all the right answers. I suppose one has to give up some of that sense of having the right answers (or the belief that they are out there in some book or another) in order to be able to ask good questions.

Les said...

Step 1: Be Geniune! :)