Crossed Arms or Open Ears
It was less the song lyrics and more the motions that unnerved me. A well-known evangelical organization has marketed a Bible school curriculum used by churches across the U.S. which includes original songs and music videos teaching motions to those songs. The chorus looks harmless enough:
Rock of Ages
Your word is always true
Rock of Ages
There is none like you
The problem is that we were instructed to cross our arms and tap a foot on the ground when we sang “Your word is always true.”
I’m still amazed that this organization thought that was ok.
I’m not sure how this translates in other parts of the world, but here in the USA, this body language is rather negative. Crossed arms means “I’m not listening to you. My mind is made up, I’m right, you’re wrong, and you’re wasting your breath.” Tapping one’s foot means “Shut up already – I’m so over this. Can we please get on with it?”
The motions developed for this line in a song demonstrates one of the biggest failures of conservative churches today.
Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
To be able to entertain a thought is the opposite of “I’m right, you’re wrong, get with the program” thinking. To entertain an idea is the doorway to a humble orthodoxy. To refuse is to shut down a relationship. One cannot discuss fairly, give and take, understand another, or build mutual respect without this skill. It is impossible to agree to disagree unless you respect the other person and have entertained their opposing idea and found it wanting.
We must learn to listen and engage, to open our ears and listen, to be patient with those who disagree or question. The ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes enables us to ask each other thoughtful questions, think out loud together, and engage with compassion. They grasp how complex faith can be, especially lived out in a broken world in a broken body, and they can help another recognize those places where we need to hold two seemingly-irreconcilable truths in tension. (Mystery and paradox, anyone?)
On the other hand, refusing to acknowledge the barriers someone can’t get past is as shocking and simplistic as saying, “What are you complaining about? It’s easy – just walk straight ahead. OBEY,” to a person mired in spiritual quick-sand or clinging half-way up a sheer rock wall with no safety line. It comes across as insular and cold-hearted. It is also a surefire way find yourself sidelined and circumvented.
I am no expert on how to teach this. I do know how important it is that we learn it ourselves and teach it to our children. Our faith depends on it.
So much of evangelicalism’s dogmatic arm-crossing arises from the way it views the Bible, so this month, I will be writing about this intersection of Truth, faith, and the Bible. I will dive into what the terms inerrancy and infallibility really mean, the consequences of defining and using these words wrong, and the place the Bible should occupy in our faith.
What questions do you have about Truth, faith, and the Bible? How do you think we can teach our children to engage with compassion?