I would like to begin a thought experiment.
There has been an awful lot of scoffing in my life and in the lives of those around me. I never knew to what extent it really went until I started watching Jon Stewart on the Daily Show many years ago, and I quickly stopped. It wasn’t because his points were wrong, but there was the sense that all you had to do was show a montage of news reports repeating the same phrase or buzzword, stare at the camera or audience, and magically that phrase or buzzword appeared to be the most absurd thing in the world as everyone in the audience laughed. There was no argumentation, no consideration. Just scoffing. The fact that an idea could be scoffed at became proof that it clearly had to be ridiculous. I grew rather sick with that, but then I began to see it in myself as well.
You see, no human exists outside of a culture, and culture defines what we understand to be silly, or absurd, or laughable, or embarrassing. In a world of science, superstition is laughed at. In a world of Western bio-medicine, traditional healing techniques are considered harmful or completely ridiculous. In a world of increasing technicality, the non-technical or less-technical is considered backward and outdated.
And in a world of agnosticism, religious conviction is considered arrogant or uneducated.
At least in the circle of Christians I know, there is strong disapproval of conviction. After all, how could we know? After all, don’t we make mistakes, too? I have known gifted people who refuse to claim the responsibility or power of their gifts. I, having studied Anthropology, can’t bring myself to actually desire an end to animistic religions, because they are a sort of snapshot of human diversity, a testament to the great human story. And yet, I claim to be a Christian, which is to believe that the only way to heaven, in this life or after, is through Jesus. One side scorns the destruction of diversity, while the other side laments the brokenness of hollow worship.
I must confess, that despite being a Christian, I don’t have a strong desire to see the world converted to Christianity. Which is sad to me, because don’t I believe that there is freedom and truth in Christianity? And yet, I don’t believe humans are just earthen chemicals, either. I believe there is a greater purpose.
What is it that we scorn, and why? What are we embarrassed to live out? Our convictions drive our actions. And our actions betray our priorities.
So this is my experiment: that I should learn to seek the source of my convictions, the source of what I believe to be foolish. What sort of assumptions do those beliefs rely upon?
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. – 1 Corinthians 15:19