Sunday, November 9, 2008

Thinking Clearly With Our Hearts and Minds

Have you ever had a disagreement with someone you love and respect dearly? Both of you are so sure the other person is wrong and you are baffled that there is such distance between your perspectives. This is typical for married couples to experience. If you haven't found yourself in this situation, I'd like to suggest that you should someday soon. It is a kind of agony, but it is an inevitable progression to deep loving and sharing.

We can call this experience a "de-centering." The world as you know it, what seemed familiar and safe has been turned inside out and is now frightening.

This is what some of the religious right are experiencing right now. What has happened to their version of America? Some even suspect this could be the beginning of the end and begin using words like "apocalypse" and even "anti-Christ."

My best friend, Josh Bottomly had his recent post election blog picked up by Emergent Church guru Brian McLaren. At last count his blog had attracted 74 comments. A small handful of them bluster in accusing Josh of attacking religious conservativism. If anything, I'm the one who might seem to be aggressive. Josh, in contrast is full of conviction, yes. Offense? No. It is clear that these comments are not responding to Josh's words, but to a preconcieved notion of what he represents. The dissenters are reading between the lines presumptively. If someone experiences drastic proportions of de-centering, he or she can rear back and bite vicsiously like a cornered animal.

And this is no surprise. None of us can use our minds in abstraction from our hearts. We are mislead to believe that we can attain a kind of god-like, bird's eye, objectivity, that we can stand above and outside a discussion and freely maneuver between the ideas without bias or prejudice. We can't. We use our hearts when we think with our mind and vice-a-versa, we use our minds when we feel with our hearts.

Scholars refer to this as "epistemic blindness." We are limited like a horse with its blinders to see only part of what is infront of us. Our affections and fears drive what we pay attention to and what we avoid considering. The path toward clear thinking is begun by coming to terms with these limitations, that our thinking can only be just so clear, that none of us will be able to have absolute certainty of any idea.

Some may fear the slippery slope of confessing to this kind of limitation: if there is no such thing as certainty, then is everything therefore relative? No, not at all. We are walking through the darkness, but we can still see the light. The Apostle Paul describes it as "seeing through a mirror dimly."

I once had a sparing session with a self-proclaimed agnostic who was convinced that I would be happier if I gave up my faith. My response was, but if you are agnositc, how can you be so sure that my faith is wrong? We went around and around on this for a few hours. I kept trying to burst his bubble, you can't be an agnostic and be certain at the same time! But he stuck to his guns because in his experience he claimed to have found more happiness when he had resigned the Baptist faith of his parents. His emotions were dictating his reason. And after learning more about his upbringing, it is totally understandable that his heart was coloring his mind.

This is my way of coming to terms with what sounds like irrationality to me when I continue to hear and read conservative Christians be-moan the inauguration of our next president. These brothers and sisters are functioning out of fear. It is the end of the world as they know it. And they do not feel fine. They are scared.

If some are so quick to read into the words of Josh Bottomly and paint him as an attacker, I have to wonder how I am percieved myself. The spirit and purpose of my writing here is precicely to build bridges--not to burn them. I want so much to offer others a chance to look over my shoulder and see the world, the church, music, worship, this election, from my vantage. I don't believe that I'm the final word on any of these things, but how can I learn and grow if I don't offer up some thoughts for discussion? If anything, I'm learning the limitations of this blogging venue to engage others. The essay form is very difficult to master. Oh how to be a charitable, loving critic!


Josh said...

Two are indeed better than one, Josh.

I appreciate how you are able to read between the lines of not only what I say and what I write (as well as others) to discern the heart and mind beating and breathing and living within me.

I deeply cherish our long history, and know that because I have shared much of my life's journey with you, I can be with you in my words and in my silences. There are very few in this world that I can share silence with. I count myself blessed to be able to share that with you. As well as my dreams. And fears. And doubts. And hopes.

I wish everyone in the world to have a friend like you.

Josh, you are simply a taste of the blessed eschaton. And, at fleeting moments, a taste of the blessed epistemic day when the mirror will be removed, and our deepest thoughts and truest selves will be fully known.

Love you, brother.


p.s. I hope I have your permission to post this blog on my blog.

Banner said...

Geeeeesh Bottomly, Mr. Gusher. Yep! I miss you tons. It is fun writing. I've almost got my chapter done and will send it to you. Please use my stuff however. PEACE

Amy said...

"I've got a love to give."

Name that movie?

Can't wait to read your revised chapter.

Send it. I'll read it. Re-read it. And hopefully offer you feedback and criticism you can use.

Much Love.

Amy said...

That last comment was by me. Not Amy.