CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter… ©
BELIEVING THE UNBELIEVABLE R, 3-9-17
I went to the church one morning when our secretary was entertaining a few of her friends in her office. They had a hot conversation going and ignored me and kept on talking as I went through. According to them, two men in our town, business competitors who were on the outs, had an altercation. The older and more established one, “Sam,” had gone to the business of the other one, “Jim,” and tried to assault him, had actually backed him up the stairs of his establishment trying to do him harm.
That sounded unbelievable to me. I knew both men. I could not imagine a scenario like that. So I called Jim and asked him if that had happened. He said, “No. Of course not. I haven’t even seen Sam in months.”
I went back to the secretary’s office and told them I had called Jim and he had denied the whole story. They sat there in sullen silence, giving me dirty looks, until I went back to my office.
As I entered my office, I heard one of them say, “Well, it’s the sort of thing Sam would do,” and they were off and running with more stories of “what he would do” that I am sure soon became stories of “he did.”
These were not bad women. They were church women who taught Sunday School and cooked meals for the youth fellowship. They helped keep the church going. But they believed the unbelievable, even with clear evidence to the contrary. Because that is what they wanted to believe.
I don’t know why they wanted to believe those things. The majority of folks in our church would not have believed that story of Sam and Jim. They also taught Sunday School and chaperoned the youth fellowship and cooked meals.
These were the same people, in the same town, in the same church, some believing the believable, and some believing the unbelievable.
I learned in 60 years of pastoring that it’s possible to help those who believe the believable to become better believers. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to do anything about those who believe the unbelievable. Indeed, in theology, they consider themselves better believers because they believe the unbelievable. Their faith must be even stronger and better, they think, if they believe by faith what is unbelievable by evidence.
I don’t know what to do about those folks. I must respect them, which means taking them and what they believe seriously, and explaining the evidence and asking them to believe the believable rather than the unbelievable, and accepting paradoxes and mysteries. But I can’t let them make decisions for me or the church or the nation on the basis of their unbelievable beliefs.
I tweet as yooper1721.
For several years I kept a careful index of stories and subjects I had used in these posts so that I would not repeat. That has become cumbersome, and I trust that most of my readers are old enough to forget as much as I, so now I just rely on memory to avoid repeats. If your memory is better than mine, and something sounds too familiar to bother reading again, I apologize.