Saturday, June 14, 2008

Observations from Around the Dinner Table

So the game playing brings me back to the dinner table last night. I had rare opportunity to have almost all my kids (minus my oldest son and his wife) at our dinner table and two Evangelical guests.

I think I have nurtured, and I'm proud of this, the feeling of sanctuary around the dinner table, that my kids feel that they can say anything and not be condemned, as long as they are being honest. I mean, if one said, "I hate God," I would not scorn those comments, if he/she were being honest. Words like that don't offend me. I think that God is big enough that those words don't offend Him either, but dishonestly does.

My son Daniel (22) made the comment, “Success in life is really determined by your insincerity.” Knowing Daniel, he is a deep thinker and does not say things that are flippant nor just to get a response. He has never been one that craves the limelight. But he did get a reaction nonetheless by our two Evangelical guests . . . and his mom.

So the response that Daniel got was negative by the two Evangelical guests and I would guess a little embarrassment by his mother (who would have been much happier if Daniel had said, “Man I really love Jesus” even if she knew that he didn’t mean it). But that would have made her “proud” . . . even if she knew that he didn’t mean it.

I on the other hand, was quite pleased that Dan spoke from his heart, regardless what he was saying. I always feel honored, especially when we are alone, one on one, and he says something . . . even if it is provocative. If I know what he is saying is true to what he thinks, (it doesn’t matter if what he says is good or bad in itself), I feel honored that he said honest thoughts it to me. Why? Because I love Dan and I want to have windows into his soul and such candid comments are wonderful windows.

Also, as a peer, I take his words for their value, an intellectual claim, which can be discussed and debated. It is a place to start . . . just as if he had said, “I hate God,” is a starting point of a wonderful discussion. I can never have him consider loving God, if we don’t have the discussion. We can’t have the discussion if he doesn’t feel safe to speak what he really thinks (without any rejection from me).

So I started to engage Daniel about this profound observation of his opinion on insincerity (respecting his discernment). I made statements like, “Hum . . . Dan, I think you’re right . . . at least in most situations. I mean, I know that I could be much more successful if I was better at insincerity.

For example, I got out of the Air Force (15 years ago), because I knew that I could never make rank fast enough to stay in (I would have to be a full Colonel by retirement). The reason is, you have to be very insincere to advance in the military. You have to tell the base commander how great he is (even if you really think he’s a selfish jerk). You have to praise your commanding officer’s golf game. You have to tell his wife how beautiful she is (when she puts on makeup with a caulk gun).

So my point is Dan’s comments has merit, enough merit that it was worth discussing even if it did not sound “Christian.” It is also worth discussing, even if I don’t think it is accurate, because he said it and believes it.

Have you ever been in the situation where you were having a conversation with someone and someone else or a group of people are have a very different conversation with the same person simultaneously? This was what it was like around the dinner table.

I was making the comments (like I mentioned above) and the Evangelical sector were saying something very different. Rather than trying to quote their very words, they were saying, in summary: “You shouldn’t say things like that. That’s very wrong. People, especially Christians are very sincere and successful. The more sincere that you are the more successful you are.” But really overriding what they were saying was, “You should not say things like that, such comments are not very Christian.”

Now this observation was another eureka moment, but not one I haven’t had before. But to the mainstream, the lovely 99.99% of Evangelicals, appearance is more important than content. I will say it again, APPEARANCE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN CONTENT!

I am sure if I said the above in my Church’s Sunday school class, Charlie (the chief elder) or someone else will say something (with a hateful look on their face) “You shouldn’t say things like that.”

Those are some of the most empty words in Christendom or anywhere and I loath them. I’m talking about words like “Shouldn’t” or “ought not.” This is especially true when it comes to things you say. There is nothing more lame that the phrase, “You shouldn’t say things like that.” The real issue is; are you speaking truth (what you really think) or are you pretending? Speaking truth is far better than pretending (even if the pretending looks much better on the surface).

My re-writing is; “You shouldn’t say things that you don’t believe! You should say things, whatever they are, if you really believe them. That doesn’t authenticate the statements, it doesn’t make what you say to be true, but it does authenticate you, the person who thinks this way. Does that make sense?

So how can we reach the non-Christian, or even our own families when we have a very long list of thing they ought not say and things that they ought to say (regardless of what they really think).

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