Why I Am Not Writing About Which Lives Matter or Who Should Be President or The Weather

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When I was a kid there was an old proverb going around that I think had been going around for a good century.  It went something like this, “Do not talk about politics and religion in polite company.  Better to stick to sports and the weather.”

I’ll never forget the moment I realized the last sentence in that tidbit wasn’t true any more.  I had moved to a small town in Eastern Oregon from the Midwest.  I was sitting in the local sandwich shop that sat a block from my church.  I was trying to get to know the owner, a bright woman with an entrepreneurial spirit and fun personality.  Somehow we got to talking about the weather, probably because we were polite people.

I made some statement about the fact that I was glad that I wasn’t in tornado alley any more.

She stopped and stared at me and said, “Oh, we get tornadoes here” as if she was genuinely concerned that I had been misled.

I almost laughed out loud.  Northeast Oregon is surrounded by 9,000 foot tall mountains.  They do not get tornadoes.

“Well I suppose you get little dust funnels out on the farm fields but not like Missouri where people’s homes get destroyed.”

The tone of the conversation changed drastically.  Her concerned expression turned to a glare.

“No, you need to know here that the wind blows pretty hard.  In 1967 a tornado knocked a single wide trailer right off its cinder block foundation!”

I suddenly realized I was in an argument I didn’t even want to win and so back tracked and said, “Oh really?  Thanks for letting me know!” and changed the subject to sports which she gratefully knew nothing about.

I could list thirty more conversations I have had that are very similar to this.  When I started my current assignment I made the horrible mistake of asking my worship team to pray right before our worship service.  I thought, “Everybody loves prayer!”  I am still paying for that horrible request.  Right after that I suggested to the wrong person that we look into painting our fellowship hall.  He let me know in no small way that I was not to touch that fellowship hall and still, a year later, won’t meet with me outside of Sunday morning.  I can’t open my mouth about anything any more without some unexpected backlash.

This illustrates that keeping polite company any more is a brutal chore.  People don’t value civility any more.  Instead they value their own opinions and how right they think they are.

Some of my friends have given up entirely.  They seem to adore the national and theological arguments that are destroying politeness.  Every time something goes down regarding guns, the LGBTQ community, women’s rights, or national elections their Facebook profile is instantly water marked and their statuses hashtagged with activism.  Whether conservative or liberal, they seem to love the chance to post divisive cartoons, tired talking points, angry blogs and partisan articles.  They seem sincere in this, like they genuinely believe they are doing society some good.

You older, anti technology types should not be fooled.  This did not start with the invention of Facebook.  I know a lot of people I meet with face to face who are just as boisterous.  They yell and share their opinions with anyone who will listen and they want to bait you into the argument so they can drag you down to their level and beat you with their experience.  They have succeeded to do that to me more times than I can count.

But don’t get me wrong, I am envious of their freedom.  I wish I felt like I had the freedom to just post whatever opinion I wanted to.  In fact sometimes I feel guilty for not chiming in and joining my “side” with my carefully informed and well formed opinions.  I bet I could even articulate them better than half the internet and that alone might do some good.

Or it definitely won’t.

Because every time I do chime in, whether online or in real life, I instantly feel guilty.  I cried for days that I had let the color of our fellowship hall come between me and a beloved parishioner.  I am still in mourning over insisting my worship team pray during a time that just would not work for them.  I should have reversed harder and quicker.  I definitely did learn my lessons though.

When I do chime in on my opinions, it is almost like I had just smoked my first cigarette.  There is a rush of rebellious satisfaction followed by nothing but guilt and a hacking cough as I wonder:

What will my church people think?

Will I lose my job over this?

Does that person still love me?

What will my liberal best friend or my conservative uncle think?

What if this new couple who has just started attending our church disagrees and decides our church isn’t right for them because of it?

Then I delete, delete, delete.  Or if it is in person, apologize, apologize, apologize.

In today’s world having and sharing opinions is just too costly.  The price is too high, especially for pastors.  In ages past you were allowed to think differently than someone without losing your salary, your position, even your ordination and definitely your friends.  This is not true any more.  People care more about the weather and what color their fellowship hall should be than they do about each other.  I don’t want to be one of them.

My friendship with you is far too important to me.  If you are going to terminate it because I think Oregon doesn’t get tornadoes than by all means, “watch out for those funnel clouds!”  If you want me to liberal, I will be liberal for you.  If you want me to be conservative,  I will be conservative for you.  If you love our fellowship hall just the way it is, than it is the most beautiful fellowship hall I have ever seen!

You can call me wishy-washy but know that I am not.  I know what I believe and I do act on it.   My best friends and wife will certainly attest to that!  I just try really hard not to let you know what I believe because I would rather keep being your friend.

Rather, you can say I am a coward because I am.  You can say I care too much about what people think because I do.  You can say I like having money to feed my family more than I like “the gospel.”  That is fair, though I would argue my opinions and your opinions about national affairs are NOT the gospel.

Ultimately we now live in a world where pride is alienating us from each other and I desperately crave true, civil, Christian friendship.  And if the price of my friendship with you is letting you have your opinions while thinking (most times wrongly) that I agree with you, than so be it.  I want to be your friend and that is worth the price of constantly biting my tongue and not clicking the “share” button.

Getting Rid of Some Opinions

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One of my very first blog posts was about the burden of having too many opinions.  Way back then I wrote that one of the unfortunate side effects of education was that you end up having opinions about pretty worthless things.  I reread that post this morning and realized that there is one thing I would add to it, that being opinionated isn’t just a product of education.  It also comes with personality types.  One of my best friends has no opinions, not because he isn’t educated but because he was one of those saints gifted with apathy.

I envy him horribly.  I was not given such a gift.  It is really easy for me to be decisive which is a great word that actually means “arrogant” in most situations and a “jerk” in some others.  One of my greatest flaws is that I am tempted to care about things that are not really worth caring about.  Sometimes there is great pressure from other people to care about these things.  Sometimes the pressure is more internal and pride based.

Over the last couple weeks I have begun a new “deopinionating” cycle with the hopes of getting rid of some of the more burdensome and pointless opinions I have.

So this morning for your humor and amazement, here are some opinions I am throwing away:

White Boards Vs. Brown Chalk Boards Vs. Black Chalk Boards: You wouldn’t think people would still care about this but oh boy do they!  But from here on out I don’t.

Theories of the Atonement: We have spent 2,000 years arguing about this one and the smartest people are the ones who say, “There is some truth and some falseness in all of them.”

The Best NBA Team of All Time: ESPN.com has dozens if not hundreds if not thousands of articles on this very topic right now.  I accidentally read two of them and started to be angry with those who think this year’s Golden State Warriors are better than Michael Jordan’s Bulls but then I remembered I didn’t care.

How to Interpret “Faith of Jesus”: This phrase only appears seven times in the New Testament but it is one of the current hot button issues in biblical interpretation.  Does it mean faith we have in Jesus or the faith that Jesus had in God?  Nobody knows or will ever know.  More than that, I read one article that tried to explain why it matters and it turns out it doesn’t really.

The True Meaning of the Word “Easter”:  There are scores of internet memes trying to argue that the word “Easter” has something to do with the pagan god “Ishtar.”  It actually doesn’t at all and I wouldn’t mind pointing that out to all the uninformed nitwits who post those memes every Holy Week but in the end who cares?  I officially don’t.

Is Strengthfinders a False Gospel?: Don’t get me wrong, if it isn’t than it is almost.  Actually I have written on this before and received resounding accolades for my opposition.  However, my opinions about Strengthsfinders are greatly influenced by the fact that I worked under a pastor who threw the Bible out of the pulpit and replaced it with Gallup’s books.  I am now willing to admit I may have over reacted and that there might be a little merit in Gallup’s personality assessment tool, but only a very little.

And finally:

How Quickly Donald Trump is Destroying America: I get it.  We all want to have an opinion on Trump’s resounding success in the early primaries.  We all want to prove we can find the next best insult for either him or his followers.  We are in a competition to see who can denounce him quickly enough.  And if you don’t know the latest ridiculous thing he said or did you are looked at as being a neanderthal.  Any more we are just overreacting to Trump’s overreaction.  And maybe for that reason I have decided not to play that game.

If you are getting rid of opinions you can post in the comments below or to my Twitter under the hashtag #deopinionating or to the Gobeforegrace Facebook page.

Have a great third week of Easter y’all!

 

 

The Burden of Having Too Many Opinions

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I am opinionated.  I have way too many opinions about way too many things.  That is not a confession per say.  I kind of like my opinions and I worked really hard to get them.  I have read well over 1,000 books in my life and many more articles online and in print.  I spent many years and much money to get a bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree.  During these years my opinions were tested with the fires of academia.  So I don’t necessarily regret having opinions, though sometimes they cause more problems than they are worth.

Awhile back I did try to subject myself to a process called, “de-opinionating.”  I researched all my opinions by reading books, perusing news articles, watching TV shows and having conversations with people.  I did it all in the hopes of deleting some of my opinions.  It didn’t work.  All that reading and watching and conversing just got me more opinions.  Now I have so many that I don’t know what to do with them.

This week I read a few blogs and news commentators and even the dreaded comment sections.  I found that I am not alone in having no idea what to do with all my opinions.  Everybody has all these opinions about Palestine vs. Israel and ISIS Vs. Iraq and Russia vs. Ukraine and Mark Driscoll vs. pretty much everybody.  But not one person knows what do with these opinions except to write them in less than gracious but very colorful prose on the internet and then viciously attack those who disagree.

So if you clicked over here today looking for a new opinion, I apologize because I am choosing not to write down my opinions with the exception of the opinion that I have too many opinions.  Instead, I want to offer that if your opinion just makes you angry, bitter, hostile and frustrated, it might not be worth having, especially if you have no power over the details of the situation.  (Dang it, that is another opinion!)

I think maybe Mark Driscoll should do more than offer a shallow apology but I have no control over getting him to do more and I don’t know what else he should do.  I long for there to be peace in the middle east but it is way above my pay-grade to solve it and if I tried I would probably only make everything worse.  I think Putin is.  .  .well, the ex KGB communist he is, but I can’t even afford a plane ticket to Russia right now so what do I know?

Well, I know that today I had lunch with a new friend who makes much less money than I do but insisted on paying for my meal anyway.  After that I met with a retired high school chemistry teacher and showed him around our new town because he plans on moving here.  He was a wonderful guy who had a fair share of opinions himself.  Then I spoke to the mayor about local problems and frustrations and assured him I was there for him.  Tonight I will meet with our group of 20 or so teenagers.  That will be fun and I hope to get to know and like them a bit better.  They live such troubling lives.  Before youth group I am going to prepare dinner for them and read a little bit.

If someone did give me authority over peace in the middle east and violence in Iraq and who gets to be President in Russia I would probably make all the wrong decisions.  But luckily God didn’t call me to be opinionated.  God just called me to seek peace in the city where I find myself.  That might be a great deal harder than forming opinions about global events but it also might have a bigger impact on the world in the end.

Or maybe I just have too many opinions.