Sunday, March 23, 2014

Conservatism: A mental disorder?

The truth be told, I don't really believe that.

Now, I do believe that many conservatives get their basic facts wrong, misread history and maintain a worldview that's out of touch with reality. But are they "sick" people in a general sense? No.

That being said, the recent conservative meme "Liberalism is a mental disorder," which I've heard many times, most recently last week from two conservatives I know, is becoming tiresome. It's very hard for me to take seriously a mentality that refuses to engage folks that don't agree with them.

The clause is what's known in psychology as a "thought-stopper," meant to end conversation. "We know what we know what we know ... " without bothering to consider alternative views or explanations.

Do liberals criticize conservatives? Sure they do but based on how conservatives behave, not on what they believe. In fact, it could be said that how you behave is a reflection of what you believe. (Which is why more and more "liberals" are disdaining conservatism.)

Recent complaints about President Obama -- that he's "weak" and/or a "tyrant" -- only inflame, never inform. Worse, they're never specific as to what he does except for the Affordable Care Act (which is law, by the way), his use of executive orders and his lack of what they see as a credible response to the situation in Ukraine. What would you do? they should be asking themselves. But that's beside the point.

Really, those who subscribe to that view ought to think -- think -- about what they believe and not assume that they alone know the right answers. Such arrogance buttressed by fear is what's causing the dysfunction in American political discourse.

"But we need to combat Marxist/communists/socialists ... " No, you don't, because if you knew what they really believed you might realize that they could be right. So stop slinging mud and start talking to people who don't support your ideology; you might learn something.

Monday, March 3, 2014

'You don't know God'

I was at a Bible study on Saturday, and one of the readings was one of many confrontations that Jesus had with the Pharisees.

Keep in mind that these boys had memorized the Scriptures to an extent that many of us never will, but Jesus had something unpleasant, even insulting, to say to them -- essentially, "You don't know God."

And that should be sobering. I've studied a lot of theology over the years -- coming from a Reformed background, I really didn't have much choice -- but realize that "theology" can take you only so far. People have to experience God for themselves, and we need to remember that He wants to be known.

An illustration: Some years ago a close female friend and I attended a New Year's Eve party, and we ended up playing one of those "Mars and Venus"-type games. When it came to the questions, she got every single one right about me and I got every single one right about her. Yes, we apparently knew each other that well.

And it's not by mere "study" or even participation in religious exercises or church activity but also a day-to-day life with God that demonstrates whether someone knows Him. Of course obedience is paramount, but with the wrong attitude it doesn't matter.

My friend gave me a book "Finding the Groove: Composing a Jazz-Shaped Faith" that made reference to the classic John Coltrane album "A Love Supreme." I didn't know until reading that book that Coltrane was referring to God -- in 1957 he had had a four-day encounter during which he heard the "sound of God" and that caused him to abandon drugs.

The author, Robert Gelinas, said that Coltrane never became a Christian as we understand that. Problem? Perhaps. But he understood that mere "religion" won't cut it; he had to find God for himself.

I think that's why Jesus was so well-received by the religious non-elite of His day; He related to people and didn't preach at them (although he did talk about sin). They felt that they were in the very presence of God, and He wasn't threatening, but the Pharisees missed that. And Him.