So last Friday I was wrong . . .
I read on a variety of news outlets that the Ben Carson camp admitted to lying about being offered a scholarship to West Point and wrote about it in this blog. Turns out that the campaign was admitting that he was never offered a scholarship but that didn't mean they admitted to a lie. I can see how this was a communication error in an age in which things go from conversation to print in the matter of minutes.
But it is important to say, "I got it wrong" concerning Ben Carson - and there is something about his visceral reaction to being pegged a liar that reached out to me. I think we have all been in that spot where you are unjustly accused of something.
For as much as I like Ben Carson as a person, however, I still think we can do better than the top four people we have in place to elect for President right now. I really think my wife would make a better President than any of them.
You probably won't convince me otherwise . . .
What I found interesting is the common thread I have seen from people of faith in reaction to this and other cultural hurdles in the last week or so. Starbucks cups, biased media and politics - there seems to be an awful lot of whining and counter-whining about the misinterpretation, under-representation, manipulation and general mistreatment of Christians and Christianity in our culture.
Well . . . yeah.
Like you, I was incredulous and yelling at my TV when the debate moderators were tossing out sixth-grade-style 'gotcha' questions to Presidential hopefuls, but that is what we signed up for people.
Anyone following Jesus is walking away from what most people value. Period. Following Jesus does not mean we have an easy life - it is a life of swimming against the tide. Swimming against the tide means we bump into a whole lot of people heading in the opposite direction . . . but bumping is not the same as cultural head-butting.
I think sometimes we forget that we live in a pluralistic culture - not a Christian culture.
Pluralism is where two or more competing lifestyles, ideas and worldviews live together in civic peace. Thanks to urbanization, increased communication, speedy transit and mass education we live in hodge-podge of thoughts about everything. While this is good for ideas, it makes it hard to hold onto your faith when you are constantly bumping into people that think differently than you. In ages past it was easy to demonize people who believed differently because they lived over the sea or on the other side of the mountain or they spoke a different language. Now a kid from China is sitting next to your nephew in English class. Freshmen in high school are playing Destiny from separate continents. Their beliefs mix and it makes it hard to keep one's faith from being sifted together with any number of ideas out there. For some this is scary . . .
There are basically three reactions from people who want to hold onto their faith:
Retrenchment - Fight it at all costs. Demonize those who think differently. Discredit opposition. Build a wall around our ideas and thoughts. Create a subculture that doesn't mix with others. God-Tube.
Accomodation - Take bits and pieces of culture and weave them into a patchwork of faith and modern culture. Claude Levi-Strauss called this psychological 'bricolage' - using random scraps of whatever is available to construct new ideas about society and culture (and potentially even faith). Love Wins.
Embracement - Ditch what you know about faith and instead take up whatever culture values as true and trustworthy. Um . . . Universalists.*
So I get it when people want to throw up walls and keep the faith pure, but that really misses the point. Was the mission of Christ to keep our ideas intact? Or was it to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth? And even Jesus recognized that embracing the latest ideas and trends just makes us lose our saltiness . . . so both throwing up walls and shaking hands with every new idea seems pointless.
And really, who wants to be good at accomodating? I like to think that following Christ is a transformational way of doing life, not trying to negotiate differences . . .
So I guess that means not whining about the Starbucks cups but showing people (in all of its peculiarity) what following Jesus looks like (even if it offends them). I guess it means making sure your passion for helping people encounter Christ is never outpaced by your passion for ideas and policies (or worse - winning an argument).
This path we walk is so hard.
But the end of it leads to life. Don't lose heart in finding it . . .
*Ideas are taken from Peter Berger and Anton Zjilderveld's book "In Praise of Doubt" - check it out for a great treatment of these three areas.