As a writer, I suffer from a curious neurosis. I believe quite sincerely that I am smarter than you.
This neurosis surfaces mainly in the form of undertones, insinuations, condescensions and name-calling in my writing. I am not alone in this. Most people who have a loud voice in this world, I suspect, reached that high volume by (A) having a few good ideas, and (B) acting as though their ideas were better than most everyone else’s.
It is easy to throw stones. When I write with passion in this blog, it is frequently to throw stones. I tear down the logic and sentiments of others because I think they are stupid, and by the way it also makes me feel good. Sometimes as well, this act might actually accomplish something useful in the world. Maybe someone will be challenged profitably, or their ideas may change in a positive way.
But as I started to write about Chick-Fil-A yesterday, and those observations gave way to my latent discontent with much of American Christendom, I realized something funny.
I am the problem.
I have, perhaps, a sharp nose for when things are wrong in this world. I also may have at least a vague idea of what right things could look like. Most Christians have the latter, in fact.
The problem, though, is that I’m rarely willing to enact those right things myself. I am apathetic toward the notion of being the actual change on the ground.
I would rather that somebody else do it. I would prefer to have good ideas and broadcast them to people. I would prefer to make pithy criticisms and challenge everyone with my superior perspectives on whatever. I would prefer that my part in the redemption of this world be to craft profound witticisms, and play ultimate frisbee.
Yesterday I talked about human trafficking and gay rights. I am too busy to really care about either of them. Instead, I am eagerly planning an ambitious backpacking trip. I’m trying to write a blog everyday this month, which takes hours everyday. My job makes me tired. I want to spend time with Nicole, and keep up with my family and all my close friends. I’m trying to plan a wedding. I need to exercise. I need to rest. There is no room in this schedule for taking up a cause of justice, or volunteering my time generously, to anything really.
It’s not that I think the above obstacles actually comprise good excuses. They’re not good — they’re just true.
It is clear that if I want to effect change in this world, somehow I will have to put my own feet on the ground in a hard place. I will have to spend some energy, time, money. I’ll have to experience genuine compassion. I can’t just think real hard and write some blogs, and hope the world will change and pat me on the back in the meantime.
But doing that will cost me some part of my comfortable lifestyle. Unfortunately, that is unacceptable. I would prefer that others concede their lifestyles instead, and I will coach them from my laptop command post.
I don’t think I’m unique in this at all. Don Miller wrote:
“I think every conscious person, every person that is awake to the functioning principles within his reality, has a moment where he stops blaming the problems in the world on group think, on humanity and authority, and starts to face himself. I hate this more than anything. This is the hardest principle within Christian spirituality for me to deal with. The problem is not out there; the problem is the needy beast of a thing that lives in my chest.”
… And there’s the sharp end of my point.
I think we all have this problem. I think liberals and conservatives, atheists and Christians alike have this problem. There are some among the ranks of both that have truly decided to live lives consistent with their own values, and to sacrifice their own comfort to pursue the healed world of their imaginations. Yeah, there are a few. But mostly, there is apathy.
Take social justice as an example. Those who align with the Left would prefer that our government care for the hurting parts of society, dress their wounds, and feed them. Those on the Right say that’s ludicrous, and that private citizens and organizations should do that work instead of the state.
Interestingly, neither of them do the work themselves.
As I said, a lot of people do volunteer. That’s true. Some people actually live out the things they yell out. But I contend that most do not. Most would prefer to maintain their lifestyles, just as I would. Most would prefer to sidestep the matter of getting their feet on the ground, and take a mulligan instead.
On the Left, the favored mulligan is to make fun of the Right and point out how they’re corrupt and idiotic, and thus cannot be trusted. This validates the Left’s agenda, and adds to their internal solidarity.
On the Right, particularly among religious conservatives, the mulligan of choice is to attempt to re-sculpt our civilization into something better. The instruments to do that are forceful rhetoric, in pursuit of the enacting of new laws, many of which are aimed to curtail the perceived agenda of the Left.
Jen Hatmaker fires a strong shot at the church here, using the issue of gay marriage as her canvas:
“Enough, everyone. With every hate Tweet and finger jab and Bible bludgeon, you are telling my gay friends they are indeed unwelcome, unloved, unvalued, and uninvited. If your agenda is to battle homosexuality, how’s that going? How many gay folks read your Prop 8 yard sign, knocked on your door, and said, “Thank you for voicing your opinion to the neighbors in this manner. Would you kindly invite me in and teach me how to be straight? And do you have a Bible study I can join?””
… and she says it better than I can.
You can’t argue a person into a better place. You can’t legislate them there either. You’ll have to quit typing, close the laptop, and try living out what you espouse so vocally. It’s not good enough to let someone else do it for you.
I think if more Secular Humanists lived out such consistency, the world would likely be a better place. I think that if more Christians would do the same, we would see a world dramatically transformed by a generous and graceful gospel.
I hope I’ll start one day. Until then, I am a hypocrite. I beg your pardon, but I’m still too busy to really care.