Monday, January 22, 2007

The believing game

It's easy to dog your opponent with her inconsistencies. Much harder to get inside her skin and see the world the way she does ... especially when you're sure she's wrong. (Part 4 of a series.)

Here's today's column.


Cheryl said...


I haven't seen you posting on Jesus Creed lately. And I'd just like to know your response to Scot's post today about the issue of a women professor at Southwestern seminary. It makes my blood boil!

Sorry this isn't a post about your article, but I didn't see a way to email you directly.

Bilbo said...

Hi Julie,

I think you are onto something with your comment, "Instead of finding hidden flaws in the argument, I seek hidden strengths"...Take for example Christianity. What initially attracted me to Christianity was the love, forgiveness,unconditional acceptance, community, and hope...which, imo, are some of the strengths of the Christian subculture. Of course, what is considered a strength to one person may not be to another...and...Christians don't always practice what they preach or live up to their ideals which can create disillusionment down the road...but...if one can tap into these strengths as you suggest and help affirm these strengths, rather than, go after what we consider flaws than hopefully we can build bridges...Unfortunately, Christians and many other groups are often prone to lose sight of their hidden strengths and assert various agendas to bolster their numbers, power, prestige, etc...

Ampersand said...

Isn't it interesting how recursive this stuff can be?

There you are feeling that its only you that has the quality of wanting to "step inside the feelings of others" where others don't...until you take a moment to "step inside," and realize you weren't doing, in that instance, what you wanted others to do for you...

It's kind of a pomo denial of self.

I want to try to play the believing game. And, I want to play it more intentionally, but I still think there will be those times when I miss it and get that smack upside the head when I ultimately see it from the other's perspective.

julieunplugged said...

Cheryl, I popped over there. I can see why you're in a dither. :) You did a great job of stating your casse though.

Bill, you got one of the points I wanted to make: that finding hidden strengths is the key to developing sympathy between us. Sometimes it's not offered reciprocally or (as you said) sometimes the strength of a position isn't always manifest in individual lives. Still, it is helpful to look for those strengths.

And Kim, you got the heart of what I meant to communicate, but I think you said it better than I did!

There you are feeling that its only you that has the quality of wanting to "step inside the feelings of others" where others don't...until you take a moment to "step inside," and realize you weren't doing, in that instance, what you wanted others to do for you...


Matt said...

Julie, I really enjoyed this column. As I've seen my own faith journey grow and evolve in recent years, I've moved from looking from the flaws in other arguments to looking at what the other side has to offer. Needless to say, I've been very shaken -- and overwhelmed -- by watching how my own beliefs have been altered; for instance, being a Republican, I used to look at everything in strict conservative terms. Now, however, my faith side and my political side no longer match up -- fiscally I may be a conservative, but socially I find myself applying my faith, rather than politics, to finding solutions rather. It took me a long time to recognize that -- and even longer to admit it.

Thanks so much for writing this and sharing it; I know how much that group meant to you. I look forward to e-mailing this column around to my list of friends to read; I know they'll enjoy it.

- Matt

Kansas Bob said...

Life has not let me, my theology or my attitudes about life remain static. Since October I have watched my dear wife suffer through two MS relapses ... she is in a wheelechair today.

Honestly, I do not want to change but I have had no option in the matter ... I either change or I crash. Maybe some do not embrace the believing game because life is working for them - or they are in denial :)

The believing game has revealed major chinks in my spiritual armor. It has caused me to reevaluate long-held positions ... some have fallen ... some will fall ... and many will stand firm.

Sign me up Julie for the beach arty Julie!

brian said...

Interesting Julie. When I saw the headline of your article, I thought it was going to be about the sometimes force belief it takes to become/maintain being a Christian. What a surprise when I started reading the article.

I'd like to think I play the believing game. But, there are very few of us. We are indeed a rare breed. I have been searching for years and years to find people in real life to play the game with me and all I can come up with is less than a dozen people on a message board here and there. Real life people just aren't interested in discussing the kind of stuff I want to discuss. The things I find to be of the ultimate importance don't seem to interest them.

When you couple the disinterest that with the fear of going off the path most of them have about any tradition of their own, you end up with people who find the believing game not only not of interest but downright dangerous. When my wife's friends found out I was doing yoga and meditating they became seriously concerned about my spiritual well-being.

Great article.


Dave said...

Julie, this column provides an interesting glimpse into who you are "these days." Did you have that same curiousity and magnanimity toward others beliefs back when you were at the height of "evangelicalness?" If so, I am surprised you stayed within it so long! :o)

For me, once I had bought into the lock-tight, reinforced "conservative world view" approach to Christianity, it became necessary to draw provisional conclusions that people who fundamentally disagreed with the presuppositions that accompanied our ideas of "biblical truth" were either deceived or willfully suppressing what they knew to be true. The idea that sincere seekers after truth could genuinely arrive at mutually contradictory beliefs was one of the first items to be discarded as absurd and impossible. There had to be some other explanation, and it usually had to do with sin and the darkness that obscures the truth from our minds.

Now I was caught up in Reformed circles when all this was going on, and I understand that you never really did make that particular leap. Since that's the case, it doesn't surprise me that eventually you would emerge out of that style of Christian belief and practice into something more multi-valent.

My own break with Reformed theology came about because it repressed too much of my life's experience and cut too drastically against nature.

Trying on others' beliefs for size and fit can be an exhausting process, as well as intellectually and relationally dangerous, as you've already indicated. I consider myself to be a pretty curious person, but even that curiousity has its limits. Unless I'm in close relationship with a person who believes radically different than I do, I'm no longer at the point of feeling like I need to inhabit the mindset of other worldviews. I'm basically content with the assumption that people believe what they do for pretty good reasons, as far as the combination of experience, temperament, psychological confirmation and cultural influences is concerned. And it's not really my place to try to reshuffle that complex, delicate and objectively beautiful arrangement, unless the safety of others is put at risk.

Kind of a rambly comment, I suppose, but that's what your column got me to thinkin'!

julieunplugged said...

Dave that's a great question! I have been a pretty curious person all my life. I was the one in my college Bible study who told the group that I thought Jews were going to heaven if there was one. :) I also had questions about the nature of free will and predestination from teh get go.

I was obsessed with foreign cultures, travel and understanding other mindsets. Evangelical Christianity was a challenge for me for the first two years as I tried to adapt to the viewpoints that were troubling to me. Eventually I did and took on evangelism with a vengeance.

Still, even within that very strong idea that Christianity had all the answers, I found myself attracted to people who thought differently than the status quo and who were different from my worldview. (Even my dating Jon is an example of that as he defied all the Campus Crusade ideas I had about politics, evangelism and missions.)

I definitely remember judging others who didn't have the same faith as being lost and feeling they needed to share my beliefs. But I don't think I ever felt disinterested in them, if that makes sense. I read widely and sought out those outside my area of comfort.

I'm sure at my most fundamentalist, though, I was at home with babies and not particularly active in diversity. And I tend toward bandwagon beliefs - I do like to be in a group that shares my point of view because it creates a context for shared enthusiasm - which is my own peculiar fan-girl tendency.

I'll think more about this. good question and one I'd like to answer for myself.

Dalissa 365 said...

I am interested in coming out to play when the time comes around. Are men going to be allowed to play this time? If so, Jeff would probably love to join us. He loves discussing other points of views. (points of view? or points of views? I can't decide... help me grammar master!)

SusansPlace said...

Yes, I'll play. Throw me the ball. ;-) My two older girls will probably be interested in joining from time to time.


MaryD said...

Hey Julie, your column was a good read. And I must admit I didn't have enough time at the moment to sit with it and digest it. Still, what hit me, was the parallels with what I'm studying right now in my online "coaching and counseling" classs. Listening with acceptance. Suspending my pre-conceptions of what is "right."

I don't have to give up my beliefs, but to be a good listener I need to listen with acceptance, and even though my beliefs may not fundamentally change, I grow in the process of learning while listening.

It's hard work though! And not everyone has the energy.

I appreciate your words.