Saturday, February 1, 2014

Honesty as a Theological Concept Part I

In my office I have an employee who is very skilled in proof-reading. I now send all my documents through her fingertips. I respect her and never question her suggestions. I do have lots of trouble with seeing typos as you will notice here. I'm confident that I have dyslexia as I've tested out that way. I was a star student in all areas except when it came to spelling and some language use.

Beyond the spelling and homophone transpositions, it is typical that she marks a big red X through whole paragraphs in my letters and office web site postings. Beside the Xs she writes, "You can't say that!"

The other night I sat down with her after she had edited a new website posting and once again had huge marks of deletions with those same comments. I reassured her that I was not doubting her views for a minute, but was wanting to understand why those particular words were in the "you can't say that" category. I often feel my social-correctness radar doesn't function the way it should.

She pointed out to me that I always say too much and give too much personal information. This is especially true when it comes to expressing feelings, because medical professionals are not suppose to reveal personal feelings. "The more information you give people," she said, "the higher the likelihood the reader will misunderstand you and will be offended." She also added that while I'm being very honest in what I say, it makes me look vulnerable and it is not socially acceptable to appear vulnerable or show less that total confidence in what you think.

So what does this have to do with being a Christian? I find it fundamental. The more honest we are, the closer we are to reality. If God is really there, and I think He is, it should mean that the closer we are to reality the closer we are to God. Or does it?

The type of honestly that I'm not talking about isn't the kind that a friend of mine's roommate exhibited. This guy suffered from Tourette's Syndrome and use to say things to complete strangers such as yelling, "You are very, very fat!"  He couldn't help it, but this type of honestly is more cruel than honest.

I will share an example where my honestly leads me to social blunders and talk about it on the other side (part II).

So I really like my church, but I'm not in the inner circles and that is due to my own fault of not doing a lot of activities with this church outside of Sunday morning worship. I did recently attend a church-sponsored dinner. Across from me were two church members a man and a woman I will call "Jane" and "Jack." I respect this couple but don't know them that well. Jack is a former pastor himself.

With totally good intentions, they started an ice-breaker conversation with me. Since I'm known as the "movie-club guy," they quickly brought up films. We recently showed the French film, Amour. While neither of them came to my movie club, they had seen the movie. Jane commented that the message of the movie, in her opinion, was how lonely that non-Christians are when they are in need. Christians, on the other hand, have a large community who is there for them whenever they are in crisis.

I thought for a moment. I don't think I had an agenda but only to speak honestly. I shared the story of my mother (92) and my aunt (87) who live together in Tennessee. This past year, they simultaneously developed dementia. It has been a huge problem for my siblings and myself because they need help, but they refuse to come live with us or to get help such as in assisted living. Since we live hundreds of miles away we have needed help from their own community.

My mom and aunt have been lifetime members of a small Missionary Baptist Church. They have had no help from that church, even though they had served that church tirelessly for all those years. One of the deacons of that church lives two doors down but has offered no help, even when we have asked him for help.

However, the gay couple (men) who live next door have been saints. I've worked closely with them and they have faithfully visited them twice a day. They give my aunt her insulin and take them to get groceries and any thing they need.

When I finished my story, Jane and Jack looked stunned and offended, as if I had intentionally insulted the Church (capital C). I had no intentions of that. If I had a subconsciousness agenda, it was simply to illustrate that Christians do not have a corner on hospitality and kindness. The story I told was completely true, although it doesn't support the Christian narrative. So, how does this type of honestly fit? I remember in my evangelical days being told things such as, "For the sake of the kingdom, don't mention this (something that really happened) to anyone." This post is too long already, so I will pause here and try to come back and discuss it later . . . if I have the time.

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