Thoughts have been on my mind a lot lately and I mean that in the philosophical sense, not the literal sense (although both would be true). My one-track mind has been running a marathon this week.
Don’t worry, that’s my last pun for the day.
Engaging in “free thought” is considered a good thing in America, so is being “open-minded” (and I’m careful to reference my culture here because I’m acutely aware this isn’t true of all) but I’ve been questioning how good a thing it is to open one’s mind to everything. To those of us in the free world, open-mindedness seems the only acceptable modern response to all questions of compromise; it’s become very much like education in application… you know, that presumed solution the government prescribes for almost every social problem.
According to every secular professor I’ve ever had (and even some that claim Christianity), for me to be a quality student in today’s academic world it’s a basic necessity to study (aka: meditate on) perverted ideology, base lifestyles, and expletives. You’re not well-educated until you’ve read all the “Greats.” I don’t disagree that we need to acknowledge other perspectives (that’s an important part of understanding one’s audience) and take all angles into account when facing any decision; however, in terms of thinking through and acting on what’s right as a believer in Jesus Christ, I’m not at all satisfied with the blanket assertion that damaging ideologies and dirty laundry deserve equal air time in our thoughts.
Elisabeth Elliot is one of my favorite authors for her experience and her spiritual intelligence. She said, “So-called realism in literature usually treats evil as though it were the only reality and good as though it were fantasy. It concentrates on the ash can and the outhouse in the backyard, ignoring the rose bush in the front yard, which is certainly as real as they are.” I know only too well how accurate this is.
Last year, when I was working as a teaching assistant at Cedarville University, I was more sad than shocked when I was told by a male freshman student that he was being required to study sexually explicit material for his literature class. I felt absolutely sick inside over the position a divorced, female lit prof was putting the guy in and helped him fight the nefarious assignment all the way to the Dean of Humanities. The reasoning behind the uncomfortable standoff was this: Study is the same as meditation and, for any virgin working to maintain total purity before God, a graded vicarious sexual experience is as much rape as a professor requiring a student to sleep with him or her for a grade. You can always take a zero but the injustice was unconscionable. Sadly, my friend was only one student out of four classes who said “no” to that assignment last year and he wouldn’t have done it without the support. At a Christian university, this issue required as much courage, reasoning, and debate as I had been forced to apply as a freshman at a secular university a few years prior.
Socrates was one of the first to make reasoning and morality an art form through rhetorical debate and philosophy. His arguments against the sophists of his day were revolutionary in that they were guided by more than physical values, values we as Christians should know by heart. Truth, according to Socrates, was divine and beyond us. He didn’t have the Bible to solidify his logic but we do. Unfortunately, even in our time, with all our highly-prized education, we continue to use the worn-out sophistries of obligation, moderation, happiness, comfort (I’m not comfortable with this), pragmatism, responsibility (this is my life), technical feasibility (if we can do it, let’s), etc. They’re all based on our ever-changing feelings and have no concrete foundation. Anything can be used to prove what we want to believe. One can listen to a political speech today and note dozens of sophistries in a single sitting but few have the discernment, courage, or values to publicly call them out. Without moral gravity, our values are left to float aimlessly and our arguments exemplify it.
Although some may have the intelligence to discern Truth, the one who stands for Truth won’t be popular. Socrates was right when he said the “truth-teller” will have his eyes gouged out. It’s unfortunate but typical that people are often offended by the mere proximity of a person who won’t “keep an open mind” with regards to sin and selfishness. We don’t literally gouge people’s eyes out today, heaven forbid, but we certainly make it known that to live, think, and always reach for goodness is naive, sheltered, hung-up, high-and-mighty, or any other label that will exonerate us from accountability to that same standard (I’m having Sarah-Palin-blog-deja-vu right now). We pity them, treat them like lesser members of society, think of them as “less honest” with themselves and others because they won’t validate their lonely, wicked, arrogant, sad, or depressed thoughts by publicizing them. We hunt tirelessly for the failings of a “do-gooder” and then crucify him or her for the inevitable discoveries saying, “See, see! You’re just like us, you sad, little pretender.”
Honestly, the whole concept of “free thought” in terms of expressing the underbelly of life IS the opposite of “taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” The little boogers don’t want to be caged; it takes massive effort to put them away. Jesus asks what’s not possible for us to do by ourselves… even in regards to our thoughts and words. It’s hard work but we do it anyway.
The Christian life would be easy if your meditation didn’t matter and you could watch any movie or listen to any music or read any literature or ogle any picture. There’s a ton of thought stimulation available to us. Regardless of what side of the fence you’re on, we’re responsible for our minds, words, and actions. That’s a given. So what’s our response? Peter says to “prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” A thought is way more costly or valuable than I think we realize.
And no, I seriously doubt a penny would even begin to cover it.