Revealing Assumptions

There is a strange climate afoot these days – one where assumptions are running rampant. It seems to be a season where it is okay to label, to only half listen, and to cast a wide net of opinion that goes well beyond issues and instead demeans the character of those with whom we may disagree. Worst of all, we feel the freedom to assume things about others based on actually knowing very little about them. I’m not talking about political candidates here as much as I am my brothers and sisters voting for them and the way we view one another based on how we engage in this process.

Assumptions are like a false start in a hundred yard dash. Once you hear the gun and realize that you are already ahead of the facts it’s just too late!

We impose ourselves on those around us via our own unresolved issues and insecurities. Assuming is looking at others through the lens of what we believe to be true about ourselves, and making judgments about them accordingly.

When we assume, we are filtering everything we think we know about a person, situation, or event through our own arrogant grid of experience.

I had dinner with an editor friend one evening not long ago. She lives in Boston. She is Catholic. She is a believer who happens to vote as a democrat. She recounted to me how every time she comes to Nashville she is bombarded by assumptions based on her political perspectives. She said that because she is a believer people assume she’s a republican. Or, they find out she’s a democrat and it calls all of her spiritual and doctrinal perspectives into question. Her quandary was how the south, conservative evangelicals, and the Christian subculture seem to have sewn so many things up in one neat little ball. While she understood the things that concerned conservatives she didn’t necessarily agree on how those things should be addressed politically and culturally as a social remedy.

In this season of election coverage at the forefront of just about every form of media we encounter, I want to encourage us to check ourselves when it comes to our assumptions. Everyone in the room may not be coming from the same place simply because we share the same Savior.

At the end of the day I believe that most of us would agree on things like taking car of the poor in our communities, not entering into wars hastily, and making sure that every human being is guaranteed equality under the law. I realize we don’t all agree on how to get there and that’s what makes America a wonderfully free and progressive place to live. We need the pushing and pulling and tugging on our opinions and ideas to make us think. It is okay to disagree. It is even okay to passionately disagree. However, I don’t believe that it is ever okay to assume that just because we think alike in one area that we will all think alike in every area. Such assumptions shut down and shut out those who might like to express another point of view.

The Circus Comes To Town!

There is a circus coming to town this weekend. The attractions aren’t lions, tigers, and bears but something much more frightening and ferocious. It is the band of inflammatory, sign carrying, insult spewing protesters who call themselves Westboro Baptist Church.

As much as I don’t want to give this group any more face time than they already garner by their own extreme measures, I feel compelled to ask the ecumenical community of Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin, and even surrounding towns to lock arms in spirit and prayer with one another this weekend.

In case you’re not familiar with them, Westboro (out of the Topeka, KS area) specializes in picketing military funerals, memorial services of AIDS patients and anything having to do with sexuality in the culture. They are most famous for their neon, “God Hates Fags!” signs. Their website rattles off endless lists of all the other people and things that God hates as well!

They have selected three area churches for this Sunday’s media hyped spectacle. And by media hyped I mean that they inform media in the towns where they plan to be, whom they are targeting, and why. Of course, Westboro always makes for good TV so why wouldn’t the local news cover them?

Their focus includes a church in White’s Creek because of their ministry to the military personnel in their community at nearby Ft. Campbell (for reasons I still don’t understand). They also included certain Cross Point Church campuses, and Gracepointe Church in Franklin for their invitation to all people, broken, hurting, and seeking to come as they are.

1 Corinthians seems to be where Westboro likes to go to compile their list of those whom God hates. As someone who has personally found myself in the Corinthians hall of fame of people who will not inherit the kingdom of God I have a soft spot in my heart for all of this. I also claim some of my dearest friends as members and staff in these targeted churches. Interestingly in the ESV the passage that includes envy, greed and drunkenness also finds the word “revilers”, which according to American Heritage is “one who criticizes in an abusive or angrily insulting manner.” Am I the only one who sees some irony here??

Sadly, what Westboro demonstrates (pun intended) even better than their disdain for just about every group in our culture, is the way all of us can see the parts of the bible that don’t seem to apply to us as “worse” than the parts that do. When this happens we lose our desire for discourse and embrace the idol of being “right”. When being “right” precludes me from having compassion then I’m no longer right. When me being “right” sends me on a mission to disrupt your privileges then I’m dangerous!

Pray for courage, peace and wisdom for these targeted churches. Pray for Westboro that God would soften their hearts. Pray for ourselves that we would engage in relationship and dialogue and not pick and choose the parts of the scriptures we rally around based on what applies to us the least.