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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On (possibly unintentional) arrogance

Today, I got around to listening to the October 25, 2013 edition of Wayne Jacobsen's podcast, The God Journey. Now, it seems to me, after listening to a number of this series, that when there is some really notable truth that comes out in one of the programs, it appears near the end, after going 30+ minutes of no particular direction, which one can get by with in a podcast. On this, Wayne retells a conversation he had with a woman who came to faith in Jesus later in life, and asks a question about a certain (unnamed, as almost all would fit the situation) televangelist. Wayne tells that he deflected the question back to her, to which she replied that he seemed (after 5 minutes) arrogant.
To me, that clicked. I've been trying to put a finger on what it is among, not just radio and TV Christian speaking personalities, but also the huge amount of institutional church pastors. I will be kind enough to not specifically charge the persons with arrogance, although assuredly in some cases it must fit, but the system, albeit unintentionally breeds arrogance, in the sense that the idea that one person who, according to his/her position, is largely disconnected from whatever our “real world” is, has all the edifying, and the large number of other believers who do live and work in the largely unbelieving world have none of the answers, should reasonably come across as absurd.
Now, I recognize that in a large number of cases called denominational churches, such as the one I went to when I was a teen, only authorized, approved leaders (i.e., graduated from their seminary) are allowed to speak to the congregation, following a tradition that goes back to the 4th century. It is so ingrained that most, including myself up until a few years ago, and on both sides of the artificial clergy/ laity divide, just accept it as status quo. In those churches in which it is not an enforcable rule from some headquarters, it still happens to varying degrees. Still, that one or a small number of persons have all the answers, and have them without even having to ask what questions the others have, should come across as ridiculous. Now, to go back to the story Wayne tells, the persons on radio and TV are insulated, usually first by geography, and when in their general presence by a layer of staff, from actually dealing with what questions people have, and, of course, the problem that it takes time for any one of us to truly trust even fellow believers to give, as Francis Shaeffer wrote sometime in the 1960's or '70's, “honest answers to honest questions.”(1)
1) The phrase appears in one of his books; at the time of this writing, I wasn't in a position to look up which one or where.

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