Not Idiots After All

In the long journey from my bapti-fundie roots to where I am now, the visible changes have been many. I raise my hands in worship and prayer these days. I touch people when I pray for them, and sometimes I anoint them with oil. I sing Psalms and say the Lord’s Prayer. And the Creed. I listen to good quality music of all types, not just that slop they cook up in whichever “Christian” label it is that Sony owns these days. I drink alcohol — and not always in Communion, either.

In truth, though, it all comes down to relatively few real changes, and the downstream consequences of those few changes. One of the big ones was the realization that the Christian world is not, in fact, largely composed of idiots.

See, where I started, we had it right, everybody else had it wrong, and no further thought beyond that was really required. Why were so many people so wrong? Well, the question didn’t really come up all that often. Probably they didn’t really read their Bibles nearly as much as we did. I mean, I went to an Episcopalian church once and I was the only person in the whole congregation that brought a Bible to church! (That really happened, by the way.)

Imagine my surprise when I discovered people in impossibly “liberal” denominations like the RCA or the United Methodist Church who really did love Jesus, and were not crazy or stupid. When I began to actually listen to these people, I discovered that they were very difficult to dismiss. They didn’t see things the same way I did, but the Spirit was clearly operating in their lives. Moreover, they had some things to teach me — and the lessons I learned from God through His people have certainly contributed to the distance that has grown up between me and my tribe over the years.

I had occasion to reflect on this as I was talking with someone last night about figuring out who you can work with, and who you can’t. It turns out that on paper, I still have most things in common with the people in the tribe that raised and trained me — certainly enough to be able to work together at least on some things. However, the common attitude they hold toward people who disagree with them is more than enough to keep us apart. They really do think that such people are irresponsible, or just stupid. I have not found that to be the case.

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3 Responses to Not Idiots After All

  1. Jeremy Myers says:

    Awesome post, Tim. I am not in the same place theologically as you are anymore, but have found much the same truth – that there are lots of people in other groups who love Jesus and seek to follow Him in every way they can. I am discovering that the things we have in common are often greater than the things we do not.

    Are some of them messed up in their theology a bit? Sure… but probably no more than I am.

    I am even hanging out with Catholics now! Gasp!

  2. Tim Nichols says:

    Jeremy,

    Thanks for jumping in! I’m not in the same place theologically anymore either — but I’m still finding that other factors have far more to do with whether and how I can work with someone.

    I just had a fun conversation with someone about this the other night — how seminary rewards making fine distinctions and arguing who is right, whereas actually seeking first the Kingdom in the real world tends to reward finding ways to work around those same fine distinctions and not bothering to argue about who is right. Fun stuff.

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