Tuesday, December 27, 2005

No one has all the answers

I tend to rant a lot about Christian fundamentalism because as a Christian I feel doubly attacked by it. First by its insistence that it and only it is perfectly right. Second, by its claim to be from my faith, my God. When Pat Robertson makes yet another idiotic statement in the name of Christianity, it makes us all look bad.

This guest editorial in my local paper, however, makes a more accurate point: it isn't just Christian fundamentalism that's a problem. Fundamentalism in all its forms is dangerous.

We all fall into certain categories; I am liberal more than conservative, Democrat more than Republican, Blue more than Red. But the differences between these ends of a spectrum aren't the problem.

Many bright and highly functional people are on the other end of each of these spectra from me; I admire them, and they me.

And that's the way it should be. Our differences are functional. But let's explore a deeper, more transcendent issue.

The real problem is fundamentalism. Not specifically Muslim nor Jewish nor Christian fundamentalism, but the more general fundamentalism of "I have the answers and no longer need to think about the questions."

The arrogance here is the core of the problem. The fundamentalist will argue that it isn't they that are perfect, but their God. The problem is, God cannot be known objectively. We can't observe God and analyze God scientifically. God can only be known through the filter of subject personal experiences. Even Scripture comes to us through many, many filters. The human writers, the human editors, the humans who chose what was canon and what was not, the human translators. God may be perfect and have all the answers, but no human interpretation of God can possibly achieve that perfection. Even Paul, who was pretty much a fundamentalist himself, wrote that now we can only see as if in a dark mirror.

The editorial ends as something of an advertisement for the writer's theories on education, but I think he makes a good point.

First, we can recognize our own fundamentalism or rigidity and do our best to be open-minded, to listen to the other person, to remain in dialogue.

But beyond that, we can deliberately cultivate a learning style for ourselves and our children that leads to self- reliance, so that we increasingly find our solutions from our own experiences, from which we can develop our own generalities....

We can learn, and help our children to learn, to be thinkers and feelers, to be seekers of information from many sources and not depend on only one source, be it a book or parent or teacher or political leader or even someone's view of God's wishes.

Good suggestions for all of us. Even us fundamentalist liberal Christians.


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