Thursday, June 30, 2005

Yugoslavian Goatherd School of Theology

Okay, I lied. It wasn't intentional, but when I said I wasn't going to write again until after the cruise I forgot that sometimes things just have to be said! (not that this column is one of those things...)

If I were to pass out to each of you different colored glasses and, then, I held up a sheet of white paper and asked you what color it was you would respond "blue", "pink", "gray" etc. according to the color of the glasses you were wearing. We view things -- all things -- through lenses colored by our experiences, our culture, our teachers, and even, to some extent, our DNA. As much as I love my African American brothers I will never know what it feels like to see through their eyes. I have to listen to them as often as possible and learn as much as I can from them and that will bring us closer together in understanding... but not all the way. They will never know what it means to be a white (VERY white. You can read through me) Scottish guy living in Michigan. We have different glasses.

An example: last night Detroit had its huge fireworks show. It is an awesome event with over ten thousand rockets, live bands, canned music, etc. all fired from barges between Detroit and Windsor, Canada. They always do this the Wednesday night before the 4th of July. Tomorrow morning, early, my wife and son and I will head to the airport. He will fly down to Texas to work with Kami's father, tending longhorn cattle and setting in fence posts. Kami and I will hop on a boat and leave the country for a week and a day. It will be the 4th year in a row that we will be out of the country on the 4th of July. Coincidence? Not really. We used to live in a wonderful neighborhood on top of a mountain in West Virginia. The neighbors gathered twice a year for a big party -- Christmas and the 4th of July. One year they came to me and told me it was our turn to host the party on the 4th. I said, "Are you kidding?" They said they weren't. I persevered: "You want us to celebrate the 4th? We lost!" We went ahead and did it, sending out invitations that said "You've got our country. Now come get our food." C'mon, when was the last time you had a Pearl Harbor party?

My son and I were standing in a store once, having a great discussion, our accents as thick as heather, when a sweet little store clerk walked over and asked, "Where y'all from?" When we finally told her we were Scottish she said, "I wish I had an accent like that!" My response: "If you hadn't shot us, you would!" I mean, we were fair and nice about it -- our guys dressed up like targets and stood in the middle of field beating drums so that you could find us easily. We stood shoulder to shoulder so if you missed one you'd hit the other. And you guys dressed up like Indians and shot us from the trees! How fair was that? Oh well, love what you've done with the country. (but we'll be back...)

Don't get me wrong: I love this country. I was born here (raised everywhere else) and even though I have a choice of where to live, I came here. My daughter was born in Scotland and my son in Ohio. We are forever bound to both places. So when you see the 4th of July celebrations, you see something different than I do. While I celebrate this as the freest, best country on the planet by a large margin, I can't help but wonder if, placed in that situation again, we would think it was fine to shoot our government officials and soldiers.

But that's beside the point (and, yes, I do have one). The simple fact is that none of us will see and feel everything that anyone else sees and feels. We need to respect that. If we are all seeking Christ, we will get along well enough to walk beside each other. One way to give each other room and grace for the journey is to enter the Yugoslavian Goatherd School of Theology. When I try to see past all the old, broken arguments (see last post) to what it is that is actually in the Scripture; to find what Christ requires of us rather than what we demand of others, I ask myself this: "If a Yugoslavian Goatherd were to stumble upon a Bible for the first time and read it, would he get "that" (whatever we are arguing about) out of it? Or are our arguments based on the fact that we had different teachers in different places at different times?"

When someone thinks I am attacking conservatives (it happens), or too mean to liberals, or resorts to name calling and accusations I first of all agree that they may be right. I have been wrong far too often in my life to become smug now! Second, I ask myself if they are seeing and hearing what I see and hear. If not, I try to close the gap. If it looks like that will be a waste of time, I wish them well, kindly promising to pray for them and love them forever, and move along. I can do that because I believe that the same grace offered to me is offered to them. And if we can't walk together very well down here, I still believe we can hug each other in heaven, when all the disruptive children come to the Father's house and His will is done.

If a Yugoslavian goatherd can't find it in the Bible. It might not be there. If our arguments sound bizarre and baseless, they might be. Another way to say this is: if God said it, that settles it. But if He did not expressly say it, it is open to negotiation. If God only speaks truth and wisdom, and if God chose not to say what we wish He'd said to bolster our argument, then our speaking has little to do with truth or wisdom and everything to do with what color glasses we are wearing.


At 6/30/2005 10:02:00 AM , Blogger David U said...

As always, well said. Thanks for the spirit in which you always write and speak! You write and speak the love.

Isn't Heaven going to be grand? :)


At 6/30/2005 10:39:00 AM , Blogger don said...

Patrick, you are welcome at our July 4th celebration. We will have fireworks, then a practice range for all the kids to shoot redcoats and kilt-wearing ogres, then home made ice cream for everybody!

At 6/30/2005 10:41:00 AM , Blogger Neal W. said...

Thanks for being a voice for the Gospel, not a school of thought.

At 6/30/2005 03:21:00 PM , Blogger Stephen said...

Patrick! Your post above was just what I needed to find. I just got through doing my first chapel here at camp and had no mutiny so I think things are going well. Even though I am at a "church camp" I assume I have Yugoslavian Goatherds to be working with. Lo and behold at lunch time today I found out a couple of those goatherds wanted to be baptized!

Thanks for the inspiration. It has been a great help in this very quite different role for me to be playing.

At 6/30/2005 07:03:00 PM , Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

Very well said. Thank you for your spirit of love and grace toward all. Even those who may resoundly disagree with you. I am caused to examine myself more closely in my feelings toward certain people (fellow "Christians") who caused me and my children grave harm in the past. Maybe you could talk about that one day upon your return. The attitude to have toward those who have caused great harm to you (and, as I say, my children, which was by far the worst part) in the past. I find it extremely difficult to rise above or to feel "good" about in any way. I really need help on this one. It grieves me greatly, still, because I cannot get a grasp on exactly the attitude I am supposed to and wish I could better have.

At 7/03/2005 08:36:00 PM , Blogger Keith Brenton said...

So ... when the parrots imitate you, do they get the accent right?

Happy and safe travels.

At 7/10/2005 02:23:00 PM , Blogger DJG said...

You are so right about our colored glasses.

Have a great trip!


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