After listening to a couple of books from C.S. Lewis, I moved onto another Christian author. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy: A Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reich provides yet another look into a sharp mind from our rich, Christian heritage. To my friends who believe that Christians, as a whole, simple accept the tenants of Christian faith, and most other aspects of life on simple faith, well, I encourage you to read about these two men. Just like atheists, Mormons, Muslims, and others faiths, you can find plenty of people who simple accept what they hear, and a few who have thought over their viewpoints (as well as the opposing points) very thoroughly.
In fact, the book mentions that when Bonhoeffer visited the United States nearly a century ago, he noted how the country as a whole, both religious and atheist, could not think through the most fundamental aspects of their perspective. In short, they were quote beneath him, from an intellectual standpoint. He wrote of his disappointment with our universities, teachers and students. Back home, in Germany, he enjoyed such conversations, especially with those from opposing or different points of view. In America, he struggled to find others who he could have deep, thoughtful discussions.
Decades later, as I read his book, I find myself in a similar predicament. Outside of some YouTube videos and debates, I have had great difficulty to find others who are willing to sit down, over a cup of tea, and have deep, intelligent conversation. It does not help that our generation seems to think you cannot disagree on a topic without being disagreeable. While many threads on the internet seem to affirm this point of view, mature adults know some of the best ideas and fresh direction comes with ‘constructive conflict.’
The ability to disagree without acting disagreeable is not the only hurdle, however. The fact that very few people have really given deep thought to their held beliefs blocks our ability to have such discussions. Most people I speak to either lack interest and/or claim they simply do not have time to think through things. I can imagine few scenarios that not only stop true progress from taking place, and work best for our enemies. Does it really surprise us that our young adults have so little backbone as to need ‘safe spaces’ when we, as their parents, do not even know why we hold onto beliefs? Our own leaders blow to and fro as national opinion sways, as they, themselves, seem to have no deeper conviction than what they think will get them voted into office.
I have written before about the dangers of completely depending on our intellect in attempting to lead a culture. In fact, my series, “New Direction” addresses this concern head on. Yet, the alternative, simply tossing our brains out the window to follow a religion, leader, government, TV, culture, emotions, etc (or combination of these) takes us into territory that proves just as destructive and dangerous. We need to balance the things.. studying to show ourselves approved, yet never losing touch of the culture around us. We have to intellectually comprehend the deeper teachings of the Bible, while understanding the emotions of the lost and dying world we live in. Bonhoeffer absolutely believed that our faith must be lived out in the world around us. If we do not touch others with the love of Jesus, we can not expect them to believe.
I encourage my friends to take time to read the Bible, read or listen to books from other Christians, dedicate time to thinking through what we believe, and find others to share those thoughts with. Engage in serious, deep thinking about your faith, and the world around you. Then, find friends who are patient, will listen to you, and then challenge you where they differ. One of my favorite passages from Proverbs says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Finally, seek ways to actually live out your theology and faith with those around you…especially those in need. It is time for the rubber to meet the road!