The Danger of Insularity (addendum)

My previous post about “insularity” didn’t really head in the direction I’d intended. While it touched partly on the issue I wanted to address, I probably didn’t make my intended points clear.

I mentioned how limited my own understanding had been regarding doctrinal diversity within “the church”. I had a lot of (wrong) assumptions about the general conformity of Christian beliefs.
To a degree that created a “trust shortcut”, giving the illusion that something could be accepted on trust if it had a Christian label.

Those assumptions were changed through interacting with others outside of my familiar theological world. Realisation of significant doctrinal differences across the Christian community made me aware of the need to reassess all of my beliefs: all of those things I’d taken for granted.

One of the points I intended to make in the previous post was the way we can misinterpret the world outside of our religious (and political) cocoons. In other words, I wanted to consider whether our understanding comes from seeing “the real world out there” or from a collection of assumptions we’ve adopted through listening to others. To what extent is our understanding of the world based on fact (what is real, what is actually true), and how much is based on prejudices we’ve picked up?

When we hold onto, and even promote, an opinion about the nation or community in which we live, we are no less responsible for ensuring there’s a foundation of truth behind those “political” views, than we should be regarding our doctrinal beliefs.

Promoting political error is no less a compromise to our Christian witness than promoting false doctrine. Both are rooted in lies.


9 thoughts on “The Danger of Insularity (addendum)

  1. “Promoting political error is no less a compromise to our Christian witness than promoting false doctrine. Both are rooted in lies.”

    Amen !! If Jesus is “the Truth” as He said…if He is sovereign (“Jesus is Lord”)…if He is the One through Whom all things exist (John 1)…NOTHING exists, spiritual or earthly, outside the reign and judgement of Truth.

    Those who love Jesus in truth, love Him AS Truth. We love Jesus in truth when we submit EVERY thought of our heart, every attitude, every “opinion,” every assumption, every like and dislike, every operative belief, to the sovereignty of Truth. Amen !

  2. From that other thread post:

    I recall many years ago when I was speaking to an atheist friend. He asked me why I had believed what another person had said. I replied that the other person was a Christian and therefore wouldn’t lie. I’ve since recognised the foolishness of that justification: that just because someone claims to be a Christian, and just because they quote the bible and use Christian terminology, it doesn’t mean that they are speaking the truth (even IF they themselves believe it to be the truth). The trust I had in Christian testimony was effectively a reversal of something Jesus said referring to false prophets: “You will know them by their fruits”.

    Instead of judging SOMEONE by their fruit (as per scripture), I was effectively judging the fruit according to my preconceptions about that someone, basically applying the view that “He’s a good Christian, so what he says must be good”.

    I felt I couldn’t well put in words the sense this (just quoted above) brought up, but I’ll try and say something. A lot of us have been there, trying very hard to “live by” faith. It’s endearing (even while we remember disappointment). We learn that wasn’t really faith, at least not solidly placed (but the innocence or naivete isn’t all bad).

    It is essential that we change that kind of attitude and start to make assessments according to the quality of the FRUIT: that is we should evaluate the acceptability of a teaching, a dogma, a planned action with reference to the teachings and example of Jesus.

    We do really need to get in touch with the point of the things Jesus said.

    And not let people skate by as “good Christians” because they claim to be.

    Our responses should be informed by scripture (AS A WHOLE) and NOT by political creeds, especially those promoted by alleged Christian politicians who use religion as bait to attract the evangelical vote.

    “[E]specially those [political creeds] promoted by alleged Christian politicians who use religion as bait…” I agree.

    Okay, so, now getting on track with what you wrote in this thread post:

    …misinterpreting “the world outside our religious (and political) cocoons.
    In other words… consider whether our understanding comes from
    seeing ‘the real world out there’ or from a collection of assumptions…”

    “how much is true… and how much is based on prejudices we’ve picked up?”

    I absolutely agree with your last two paragraphs in the opening post of this thread.
    In response to the former of those two, I was thinking… we should notice that
    being a proper witness is important to God in scripture. Thou shalt not bear false…

  3. Marleen,
    recently I was reprimanded, mildly rebuked – or at least made to seem questionable – because of my reading of “secular” writings. At that point in the year I had read about five “secular” books. Since then I’ve reached a total of 14 completed books. While two or three have been fiction – the majority have been non-fiction, mainly addressing political issues, and often from a non-western perspective.

    Maybe the thing I’ve been made most aware of is the extent to which our western perspective blinds us to the realities experienced throughout the majority of the world. We just don’t grasp how “good” we have it, and how “bad” things can be for the majority of the world outside the comfortable west.

    Disturbingly, western Christians often attribute this difference to God’s blessing on the “Christianised” west. However, it doesn’t take much honest investigation to find that those “blessings” in reality come from western exploitation and abuse of those less-blessed nations.

    Ironically, so many Christians in the west marvel that those poorer nations seem to experience more “revival” than we do in the western church. Maybe if we could be more honest about our own comforts, and the cost of those comforts to others, we might GENUINELY start to experience God’s blessings in ways we’d never thought of. But that path needs to start with recognising some of the truth/realities that our comfortable cocoons are hiding from us.

  4. Tim, it’s very good to have you back.

    “… our own comforts, and the cost of those comforts…”

    A well-phrased idea: it seizes my attention for further meditation.

    “…many Christians in the west marvel that those poorer nations seem to experience more ‘revival’ than we do…”

    The cost WE bear for our comforts ?

    Curious: did a particular book or two of your “secular” non-fiction reading impress you as worthwhile ?

    Blessings, Steve

  5. Hi Steve, when I look again at the following list I realise I’ve included almost every one of those “secular” books – apart from a couple specifically related to Australian history.

    It’s might not be easy to obtain outside of Australia, but one book that I think everyone should read is Econobabble by Richard Denniss
    It cuts right through the economic spin at the heart of all of the political dogma we’re subjected to every day, exposing and explaining the constant lies and misinformation we’re fed by politicians and business leaders.

    I’d also recommend Naomi Klein’s No Logo and Fences and Windows (both of which OUGHT to be outdated but aren’t) and almost any non-fiction by Arundhati Roy who writes mostly about the political situation in India, and how that links to Western politics.

    Most recently I read A History of the World Since 9/11 by Dominic Streatfield. That’s another book that I think everyone needs to read.

  6. Thanks Marleen,
    From the second of those articles:

    “This, in turn, makes Nordic citizens willing to sacrifice their own interests to help their neighbours. Americans don’t feel a similar kinship with other Americans, I’m told, and thus will never sacrifice their own interests for the common good.”

    I wonder how accurate that observation is – and how would it sit with the American followers of Jesus? Would they be similarly resistant to self-sacrifice for the benefit of others?

    Also, I found the article presented a good example of what I meant when referring to insularity. In examples given, it is suggested that Americans can be led to dismiss the achievements and benefits of differing political systems because of wrong assumptions about the greater success of their own system, and ignorance about the successes achieved by nations who are doing things differently.
    I think we all need to be aware of how such an insular attitude can have a detrimental effect on our understanding of the world around us, not only politically, but also spiritually.

  7. There are probably some people who really don’t care much about others, but most people I know of at least don’t want to think they don’t care. This is why “conservatives” (really Republicans more specifically) have had to brainwash the general public to think neglectful apathy for our neighbors (other than fervor for telling them to go to church to learn how to be apathetic out of “love” for the neighbor) is good for people and the country.

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