For a long time one of my personal projects is to allow people to believe what they believe, or say what they say, even if I think it's wrong. I distinctly remember a law school classmate who had this ability, who could listen to someone say something absurd, but still smile and move the conversation forward without criticizing or correcting. I noted how he did that, and I thought it would be a useful life skill.
Easier said than done. Sometimes I can do it, especially if it's something I don't really care about. But sometimes, if someone gets a fact wrong, the urge to correct is hard to resist. And sometimes people express opinions that make me apoplectic, even as I try to appear to be calm, rational, and controlled. What twists me up the most are comments that combine ignorance, power, especially if I think someone is abusing power by taking advantage of the less powerful, by economics, violence, or deception. Fox news makes me angry, because I think it spreads misinformation and takes advantage of its audience's gullibility. It makes me angry when people insist the United States is a Christian nation or that guns are the cornerstone of our culture. I hate it when political candidates and office holders insist they support public education, even as they vote to cut funding and harm teachers. I think arguments against using the Oxford comma are absurd.
And the smugness of Ayn Rand's disciples drives me crazy. Do people seriously think she's a good writer? I tried to read Atlas Shrugged, I really did, but how can anyone read a novel that's so long when it doesn't have a single likable character? And her philosophy, for want of a better word, that lauds those who are the smarted, the most able, the most productive, and vilifies people unlucky enough to lack ability or money or power.
Wait, I've gotten carried away. I want to say that Saint Andrew, like the Disciples of Christ denomination in general, creates an atmosphere that fosters critical thinking, the kind of atmosphere that allows us to reject mainstream ideas about religion and politics that glorify the strong or vilify the weak, the powerless, the different. And as a matter of fact, it does.
But the more important thing Saint Andrew fosters is humility. I keep forgetting that I'm trying to learn to let people think what they think, believe what they believe. It's not just acknowledging that people have their own reasons for believing and thinking as they do. It's not just that they only believe certain things because they lack the education to believe otherwise. The truth is, they might be right, and I might be wrong. About anything. No matter what I've considered to reach an opinion, no matter how much thought I've given to a subject, there still could be something I haven't considered, a reason I might be mistaken. Ian McCrae, a Saint Andrew member who believed strongly what he believed, always insisted on humility, on the possibility that we might be wrong.
It's not a comfortable thought, that we might be wrong about something. But ultimately, our beliefs can only have real value if open them up to challenge, if we consider the possibility that we might be wrong.
Creator God, thank you for a church that opens us up to new possibilities, allows us to question not only convention wisdom, but our own wisdom as well.
Mark and his family are members of Saint Andrew. He is an attorney with his own practice in environmental, employment, and commercial law. You can reach Mark at email@example.com.