Influence and Involvement
As those who read my blog know, at this moment, I simply have too much time to think now. I am now a ridiculously over-educated wife of a disabled GM/UAW retiree. My thinking can be razor sharp, as long as I don’t allow my mind to go into an obsessive direction. Good luck with that.
I’m old enough now to have some discernment in terms of whom I want to emulate. For example, I’ve related the story of the obnoxious Protestant guy that treated his children poorly in front of everyone and yet people in that congregation were in awe of him because he had so much of the Bible memorized. His behavior showed me that Bible reading is not necessarily transformative, like I had been told it would be. This guy’s life was a testimony that one could memorize vast quantities of scripture and still be someone no sane person would like to become like. I also lost some respect for those church members that were in awe of this blankety-blank. Integrity? Kindness? Respect? Who cares? Character was not the issue; low-level memorization skills impressed these people.
I saw an article in a magazine at my regular visit to Barnes and Noble that criticized Les Miserables because it demonized conservative Christians. I haven’t seen Les Mis. However, I wonder about what they mean. Les Mis is not exactly a new play, created with the express purpose of making conservative Christians look bad. It probably has a character or two that might remind me of the obnoxious Bible memorizer. I don’t think it’s “demonization” to showcase people’s behavior as one has experienced it, like the writer or Les Mis probably has and I have. Les Mis is popular for a reason. I don’t know what that is, but it clearly resonates with people. If it didn’t, people would vote with their feet and not watch.
The article reminded me of why I walked away: conservative Protestants still don’t get it. It’s about people’s attitudes and behavior, not their theology so much. If worldview and theology influence behavior as much as conservatives say they do, then many of them are walking, talking exemplars of why their worldview and theology are losing the culture wars. I don’t want to be like many of the ones I’ve seen. I skimmed through the article and was like, “I am so glad I escaped that culture and don’t feel obligated to defend it anymore.” The author might be a wonderful human being, but I haven’t met him. All I know is that I haven’t been overly impressed with the behavior of many people that share his views. I can only speak from my personal experience.
There’s my point: it’s all about personal experience and relationship. That’s where real influence comes from, not the articulation of religious opinions. My experience at school and the workplace has shown me how to get along with many different people. Social isolation is the death of influence and relevance.
I’ll never forget Bible study event that showed me the hazards of social isolation. It was the regular Wednesday night Bible study. It’s the early 1990s. This older gentleman says, “If we conservative Christians would just stand together, we could take over this country. We are the silent majority.” I almost laughed, until I realized he was dead serious. At the time, I was attending the local community college. I was surrounded there by young people, non-whites, and non-Christians. Sitting at the Bible study, I could only think, “Good grief. How isolated do you have to be to seriously believe that conservative Christians are a silent majority?” Conservative Christians, then as now, are neither silent nor a majority.
One of my problems with many conservative Christians is simply their complete lack of discernment in terms of whom they follow. They watch the same violent TV shows as everyone else, gamble at the casinos like everyone else, follow TV preachers without knowing squat about the private lives of these preachers, listen unquestioningly to Rush Limbaugh, and often only hang around other people exactly like themselves. Then they are mystified as to why no one takes them seriously.
Everyone needs to ask themselves, “Would other people want to be like me? Do I want to be like me? If my own answer is no, then what do I need to do to become someone I feel good about?” What you may discover, like I have, is that how you live speaks more loudly than any words that you could ever speak. “Two hands working can accomplish more than a thousand clasped in prayer.” I saw that saying online last week and all I can do is say, “Amen.”