Thursday, February 16, 2012

Do You Really BELIEVE It?

I saw a bumper sticker the other day: "You don't have to believe everything you think."


Because of an event earlier that day, I've been pondering that bumper sticker. Throw in the political events of the last week, with the government saying that they're going to force religious organizations to violate their beliefs, and there is yet more to ponder.

On the day-of-the-bumper-sticker, things were slow at work.  In the drive-ups, tellers are allowed to read or do puzzles if and when all the work is done and there are no customers.  My co-worker was finishing The Invisible Wall, a book about the dividing line between Jews and Christians in a British village nearly 100 years ago.  At one point my co-worker gasped.  She was at the point of the story where the Jewish girl had married the Christian boy, and the Jewish family was in mourning.  The newly married couple walked into her parents' home, and it was as if she did not exist.  My friend could not believe the horror of it.  "Can you even imagine this?" she cried.

Not knowing whether the "this" was the mourning or the shunning, I floundered.  "Well, if you really believe what you believe, then I can understand the mourning.  I mean, if you just 'believe' it and don't really believe it, then there would be no mourning over a child who abandons what he's been taught.  After all, it's just opinion to you, just a preference or a ritual, just a tradition from your culture.  But if you truly believe it, then how could a parent NOT mourn when a child gives up the truth?"

She hadn't thought of that.  Then she wondered if Lutherans would shut out a child who left the faith.  I emphatically answered "no" and told her why.  She understood what I said about continuing to be full of love for a person who rejects everything we hold dear, but I'm not sure she understood that there might still be great grief.

Somehow, I don't think that bumper sticker was referring to "I think the living room might look better if the couch were against this wall instead of that one."  Even though I think granola tastes better when I put in black raspberry schnapps instead of vanilla, that's not something I believe.

Do Americans today even recognize "beliefs"?   Liberals are not okay with Christians having those old-fashioned beliefs.  But do liberals recognize that they too have beliefs?  It's just that they [ahem] believe their beliefs (in science or humanism or consumerism or whatever), and take those beliefs for granted, so they don't even exactly see them for what they are.  They just think their way of seeing things is true.  And self-obvious.  And how could anybody ever disagree?

Isn't that what it IS to believe something? 


  1. Susan,you are great! I love reading your stuff!

  2. Thanks, Brenda. That's awfully nice to hear sometimes!

    In connection to one aspect of this post, your daughter has continued to be in my prayers (even though I don't know what's transpired in the last few years).