Self realization is a wonderful thing. The more I know about myself the better person I can become. It’s very hard for some people to face who they are, to really look themselves in the mirror and see themselves as they really are. I’ve had a fairly significant, in my mind anyway, moment of self realization this week. I, D’Ma, am not a romantic.
Now before anybody starts getting the wrong idea here, I love fresh flowers. I love a candlelit dinner and I love a well timed surprise. But I love all these things from a significant other in my life. I don’t sit around and fantasize about someone I’m not in a relationship with or someone unattainable. Even when I’m in a relationship I don’t sit around and fantasize about the romantic things they might do for me. I’m practical, I’m down to earth. I think about things I know I can have. If I do fantasize about romance, it’s about what I can do for someone else. I daydream about things I know they would like, but then most of the time I actually do the thing.
This is the way my mind works. I like things to be concrete, real, that I can hold in my hand and examine. I need to understand how a thing works, to be able to examine it. For this reason I don’t care for abstract art, or music I can’t understand the lyrics to – that eliminates death metal and most rap music. It’s probably why I flunked out of geometry in high school. All those theorems seemed so abstract to me at the time. Once I needed to actually use it for a project at hand I could figure it out. It became clearer.
On the other hand there are those who are hopeless romantics. They daydream and are creative. I won’t call them flighty, but they seem to be more wistful. They aren’t so serious all the time. They tend to be artistic and crafty with fabulous imaginations. They travel the world in their minds and have exciting adventures without ever leaving home. They love opera, and abstract art and funky music. They also tend to be spiritual, not religious.
Maybe that need of something concrete and definite is what draws some of us into fundamentalism. The rules are clear, the objective is clear. The Bible gives us something to hold in our hand and examine and test everything by. For a fundamentalist it spells everything out in black and white because that is the way our minds work. It’s true or it isn’t. It’s yes or it’s no. Grey areas are few and far between. We see mercy and judgment. We see grace and wrath. Believing it word for word is our evidence for the unseen. We can’t hold God in our hands and touch him to know he’s real, so the Bible is the next best thing.
Those who are more romantic don’t need that evidence. They can daydream and imagine a God of love. They are idealists and can take hold of the gospel in a mystical sort of way that we rationalists cannot. They can look past the judgment and wrath and decide that’s not part of God’s character because it doesn’t fit with their idea of a God of mercy and righteousness. When they read John 3:16 all they see is the part that says “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son”. As s-p put it “”salvation” is about the “healing of the human person” NOT guilt, shame and black and whites. EVERYONE who struggles is on a continuum of “repentance”, even those who look like lost, unrepentant, gross sinners to everyone around them. It is not a matter of rejecting “Absolute truth”, it is a matter of defining “Truth” correctly.”
Here is the problem I see with that statement: It comes across with an air of superiority. I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way. But because my mind doesn’t operate that way, it feels as if he’s saying he’s doing it better than me and I’m doing something wrong. Like if I could just think his way about it, I’d see things the “right way”. I hope you didn’t mind me using that as an example, s-p. Just like when I said, “This is how I picture the analogy of a fluid faith. Fill a bucket with gravel, that would be reason. These are the concrete things we experience and know to be true because we’ve seen it with our own eyes or they are ways of making sense of our perception of reality. Now fill that bucket with water. That is God. He only fills in the parts we don’t already have figured out. He’s the God of the gaps. When our perception of reality changes, our God changes with it.“. That was offensive to someone who has a fluid faith because to her it implied that I thought her faith was “less than”. I’m in no position to judge the faith of someone else or whether they are right of wrong.
I am not saying any of that to criticize. It’s an observation on my part – a self realization. No two people think the same way, of course. But maybe there are some of us who think in such concrete ways that we cannot romanticize the gospels in that way. For us it is black and white. It’s the way our minds work and we cannot change that. Maybe the reason we fundamentalists have such a hard time communicating with progressive/liberal Christians isn’t that we’re trying to be bullheaded. Maybe it’s honestly that we can’t understand. We can’t wrap our minds around the concepts that they so readily accept.
The flip side of that is also true. Progressive/liberal Christians get equally frustrated because they cannot wrap their mind around how fundamentalists can be so black and white in our thinking. As one person put it, they rejected inerrancy right out of the gate because it clashed with their sense of reason. They reject the notion of a God who wants our worship, and who needs Jesus sacrifice to reconcile us to himself. They think it’s ridiculous that we can’t separate God and Jesus from a book. They speak of a different way of taking hold of the gospel.
I’m not a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a neurologist. I got my degree from a cracker jack box. But I think it takes both kinds of thinkers to make things work in this world. Neither way of thinking is superior to the other. And we could learn from one another. But we’ll never, ever think alike.
What do you think? Do you see yourself somewhere in there?