Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the woman who, in preparation for cooking a roast, cuts off both ends. Her friend asks why she does this and the woman replies that it was the way she had been taught to prepare the meat. This sets off a snowball effect of daughters asking mothers why the ends must be cut off the roast. At last, the originator answers that her pot was too small to contain the large piece of meat.
I have come to see that each of us, in our own ways, have sets of values and beliefs that are based on the traditions of our families, the people with whom we associate, the books we read, even the region in which we were raised. All these factors account for our personalities, principles, and process of thought. These things make up our boxes.
Most people have some trepidation, if not outright fear of change, and it isn’t lightly that I challenge people to scrutinize their beliefs and values and decide if they need to start making changes to themselves and the things that have shaped them into the people they are.
I grew up in close contact with a Christian subculture where the people were not only content to keep cutting the end off the roast, but they were afraid if they stopped, they would be led down an evil path of destruction. Let me clearly state that I believe it’s okay to have Christian traditions and values that come from our beliefs, but I think we have to look at the other side of the coin too. We have to dash the fear that looking might influence us to change because sometimes we need to change.
The particular type of Fundamental Christianity I grew up around had a disproportionate fear of the world around them. They were afraid of the liberals, afraid of contemporary versions of the Bible, afraid of the public school system, afraid of the government, afraid of debt, afraid of feminism, and afraid the gay movement might to take over the world. But the biggest fear was the fear of being infected by any of these influences. In an attempt to prevent ruination of God’s plan, it became the responsibility of the Christian family to raise up an army that could take these things back for God. It sounds crazy when I put it like that, but that is how many of these people believed.
Of course, all of this sounds perfectly believable when the Bible is used to support it. So I was fearful too. I closed up my little box and surrounded myself with people who lived in boxes just like mine.
Then one day I peeked outside.
The further I moved away from this line of thinking the more I began to wonder if Fundamental Christians are possibly over-reactive conspiracy theorists, thinking that everyone is out to get their conservative God.
When we really stop to think about this, we realize it’s ridiculous. God is so much bigger than anything we can fathom. He doesn’t need us to protect Him or His plans. How silly of us to think that His plans for the universe might be poisoned by someone in an elected office or a theory about how the World was made. How silly of us to think that the more children we raise as Christians the more power God’s cause will have.
As I’ve continued to grow away from that subculture and looked to embrace a more mainstream form of Christianity, I’ve been disappointed in what I’ve seen because, though they look different, the boxes and the biases still exist. Now, instead of politics and the evils of the world, they have to do with Christianity itself. We choose to align ourselves with a particular theological camp which causes us to pre-filter the way we view scripture. We prevent ourselves from considering any perspective which might undermine our beliefs. We point to the champions of our theological persuasion touting the argument that there are older and wiser men whom have already given us the truth.
Personally, I think most people are working to execute their own agenda. I think they probably don’t realize this, but just like any form of public communication, it is difficult to preach without presenting the angle of your own bias. Yes, I realize I probably sound cynical, but when I sit in church and listen to the same person over a period of months or years, I start to hear what they deem most important. Perhaps it’s sin or discipleship or authority or the state of our nation. A lot of it probably has to do with what has been most beneficial in their own lives and I won’t fault them for this.
At first it sounds pretty good. It sounds like it comes from the Bible and for the most part it does. But what I hear is that every single scripture pertains to their particular agenda. Bernard Ramm wrote, “My study Bible has 1512 pages. Some place in these 1512 pages I can usually manage to find a text to damn or bless anything or any person I want.”
There is so much division and dissension and distraction that it can be hard to maintain focus on what the Bible is really about.
Eventually, we stop seeing the text for what it actually says and we see it for what we want it to say or how we’ve always heard it presented. We stop questioning. We get stuck in denominations that tell us how to think. So many of us have grown up in one church, in one denomination, that we don’t even realize it’s good to question the status quo because we’ve never been exposed to anything else.
So our biases entrap us in our boxes and our boxes blind us from our biases. But we just keep pushing forward. Instead, let’s stop and ask ourselves if the way we church is hindering growth.