I’m Here to Tell You What to Think…

kinnon —  June 3, 2009 — 4 Comments

…so listen up!

A wag once said, “I figure I’m right about half the time, I just don’t know which half.”

I’m arrogant enough to believe that I’m right much more than half the time, but the reality is that I am wrong a lot of the time – perhaps more than I care to admit.

One of the ways I discover I’m wrong is through engaging with other people who think.

“Iron sharpens iron” as it were, and course corrections, incorrect assumptions and just plain pigheadedness are (sometimes) dealt with, in my case.

So. If you come to this humble corner of the interwebs for absolute truth, you are out of luck. I often hope to provoke you. And. In that provocation, I hope we both grow and learn.

But. In the dark recesses of these webs of pushed pixels, there are those who are convinced they are correct – and they would prefer it if you let them do the thinking.

And. Sadly. There are those who want people to tell them what to think.

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Imbi and I have become rather hooked on Gabriel Byrne’s In Treatment series from HBO. Byrne’s flawed therapist character, Dr. Paul Weston is constantly being asked by his patients what they should do. They want him to think for them – believing he will do a better job for them than they could do for themselves. (And, perhaps he would.) Of course, ethically he can’t.

But then, in his own therapy sessions with Dianne Weist’s character, Gina, he almost demands that she think for him.

Fearfully and wonderfully made as we may be, we ofttimes default to letting others think for us. (Even if we don’t recognize we are doing it.)

This post was triggered by Jonathan Brink’s Just Tell Me How to Think and the mini-blogstorm around whether Rock Harbor Church is emerging or not. Jonathan quotes Mike Erre, Rock Harbor “teaching pastor”, who, while speaking @ Biola, was asked whether emerging/Emergent was good or bad. He responded,

Yes.’ Cause there are some parts that are really harmful and there are some parts that seem (like) positive contributions.

And (the questioner) said, ‘No, no. no. I don’t want to have to read it to know. I don’t want to have to study it to know. I just want you to tell me. [Bold added by Jonathan]

Jonathan responds,

I would ask, Are we teaching people to NOT think? Are we teaching people that critical thought is useless in a world where everything can be neatly packaged for us to swallow and digested? All we have to do is find the right person to feed us. That’s just scary to me.

If you dig into the archives here, you will find lots of commentary about church group-think. I briefly worked for an idiot a person who believed that only he and his spousal unit “heard from God.” He wanted automatons “under his leadership”, not sentient human beings. If you dared ask questions, you were sowing division.

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A pathetic and extreme case for sure, but one that I have much evidence is echoed throughout the church. Name any particular “Christian Leader” (from Piper to McLaren), dare question them and watch the fur fly (from their devotees). And more often than not, it is not your argument that is attacked, but you.

Folk have decided that these are the people who will think for them – and you are a fool if you don’t agree. (I spend a lot of time playing the fool in a lot of different camps, I guess.)

It all sounds strangely familiar though, doesn’t it.

I bring this up because some from Chloe’s family brought a most disturbing report to my attention—that you’re fighting among yourselves! I’ll tell you exactly what I was told: You’re all picking sides, going around saying, “I’m on Paul’s side,” or “I’m for Apollos,” or “Peter is my man,” or “I’m in the Messiah group.”

We live in a culture where we choose the camps where we will pitch our tents (and our battles) – and in those camps, too often we let others think for us. Politically the left have their talking points, and the right theirs. Computer users will tell you that if “you’re really creative, you’ll use a Mac.” (I still don’t understand how my favourite 3D artist uses a PC. And it’s not even a Hackintosh. Yikes.) “Blackberries rule!” “How could you buy a Blackberry when iPhones are available?” Meat-eaters are cruel. Vegetarians have a few screws missing.

You get my drift. Why should we expect the consumer church to be any different?

So. Sit back and relax. Let this 6’2″, greying, overweight Caucasian male do the thinking for you.

I’m off to find the next cliff we can stumble over together. Cheers!

UPDATE: This changes everything. Ignore everything I said. (Like you hadn’t already.)

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kinnon

Posts

A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

4 responses to I’m Here to Tell You What to Think…

  1. This issue seems to be surfacing a lot. So, here are a few thoughts, starting with Hebrews 5:13-14. “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

    Discernment is a form of critical thinking. If we don’t train ourselves and each other in this, we’ll never get beyond spiritual babyhood as “disciples.” Discernment, as well as becoming strong in God’s word and overcoming the Evil One (1 John 2:14), are indicators of moving toward maturity.

    This doesn’t mean strictly individualistic critical thinking equals discernment; we all have blind spots and weak peripheral vision. Our individual perspectives stand in need of tempering by some participation with communal discernment practices. However, “thinking with a group” is NOT the same as “groupthink” – the Orwellian kind of blind adherence while saying we see.

    If any of us refuses to think critically, and chooses to follow strictly the thinking of someone else, we have no excuse for our immaturities. Can’t blame it on McLarenism or missionalism, Piperism or reformationalism, leftism or rightism, Calvin or Hobbes. Okay, well, mebbe the latter but ne’er the former as excuses for faulty formation!

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  2. “Name any particular “Christian Leader” (from Piper to McLaren), dare question them and watch the fur fly (from their devotees). And more often than not, it is not your argument that is attacked, but you.”

    My guess is that this is merely indicative of our addiction to religion. This sort of pharisee-ism can be found in any “camp.” I’ve met missional pharisees and emergent pharisees, and many other kinds as well. But heck, I used to embrace pharisaical culture. Even pharisees can be converted to the kingdom (and I feel like I’m being a little more converted every day).

    We totally miss that whole “love one another as I have loved you” and instead, act like He said, “get it right, and make sure everyone else gets it right too.” Ugh. Been there, done that. Disgusting. 😛

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  3. I sometimes think that one of the great moral teachings of Jesus that has sort of been obscured is “you have a moral imagination, think for yourselves!” You should be able to figure out that the Sabbath is still holy even if you heal someone – observe the law but don’t be stupid about it. Of course such things are hard to codify so they get overlooked.

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  4. Good thoughts, all around … and, yes, Abi’s rant is now up for your reading pleasure, brother Bill!

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