I like to say, “I’m the only normal person in the world.” Why? Because I believe that normal does not exist. My normal might be your crazy.
This blog post was inspired by my favorite column in the Sunday newspaper magazine Parade—“Ask Marilyn” by Marilyn vos Savant. (I doubt that’s her real name, but she is very smart.) Her article for January 5, 2020, started with this question from Stephen Gibbs of Colton, California: “Is there a word for a person who does not accept facts that challenge his or her beliefs?”
My answer would be fundamentalist. By this, I mean a person who rejects any new ideas or discoveries that threaten his or her religious beliefs. For example, fundamentalist Christians believe the earth is less than seven thousand years old and their god wrote every word in the Bible. Huh?
I believe that if one’s faith isn’t built on doubt, one can never grow. My faith is built on change. Yesterday’s truth can be today’s fallacy. I want my faith to be constantly challenged by new ideas.
These are the qualities of a healthy believer:
- Critical thinking. I went to a liberal arts college and a seminary where I was taught to think. The message of Jesus can stand up to any doubt.
- My first thought whenever someone makes a claim is “Prove it!” I sometimes think I overthink.
- I need to read, listen to, and watch everything I can—even “Ask Marilyn”—to broaden my horizons.
- Constant learning. Even at eighty-eight, I want to encounter new ideas, play with them, and incorporate the meaningful ones into my faith.
Marilyn’s response to Stephen Gibbs’s question was “Yes, and it’s ‘normal.’” I never expected that answer, but it does explain the large number of fundamentalists. They claim that their faith is the only one with all the answers, so don’t bother looking at any others. They’ll tell you how to think, act, live, and vote.
Marilyn added that a “great majority of people share this trait.” I know she’s right. Too many churchgoers are like sheep: they follow the leader even if that means supporting ideas and people that are diametrically opposed to the teachings of Jesus.
About three-quarters of the way through her column, Marilyn stated, “The more these beliefs define your life, the more you will spin everything your way.” Fundamentalists are certainly guilty of this. The more I learn about the historical Jesus (not the made-up one), the more I rely on historical facts, not silly church doctrine, to substantiate my beliefs.
Then Marilynn said something else I didn’t expect: “Prime examples are politicians.” Was she talking about the Republican party and Trump? Then she took a swipe at both sides of the political aisle: “To become a thinker instead of a believer, a fundamental step is to disassociate yourself from any political party.”
My political party is the one that advocates for liberty and justice for all and demonstrates agape to the “least of these” (Matthew 25:40). That probably makes me abnormally normal.
How about you?