Thursday, December 02, 2004

on being wrong

as a general rule, i try to work from the assumption that i'm wrong. now, i don't always succeed in this goal, but it something I try to do -- a sort of aspiration -- to assume that i'm wrong. i'm not sure how common it is. not sure how many others out there are trying to assume that they're wrong. i guess there must be at least a few. i started thinking about this lately after my world religions class read the rule of st. benedict. it reminded me of some those deep seated beliefs and goals of mine. that sort of deep religious humility has always been a big part of what i think religion is about. i don't think it gets much currency today. people want an empowering and uplifting kind of message, not a humble-yourself-in-the-sight-of-the-lord kind of message. we think, for the most part, that that kind of humility is dangerous. it feeds into the oppression of people. it's interesting that it the upper-class churches that seem to be more into the empowering message than some of the lower-economic ones. in any case, i'm a white american man, so i figure i can probably use a good dose of humility. if other people are to be empowered, i must be humbled. so back to the original thought about the assuming that i'm wrong. yes, that is my goal. there was a time in my life when i thought i had everything figured out. in fact, i was terribly afraid of changing my mind, so confident was i in my own right-ness. but eventually i did change my mind. i changed my mind on a great many things. so, now, like i said, i try to work from the assumption that i'm wrong. no matter how hard i try to be correct and right about something, there is no doubt in my mind that something about what i think and do will be wrong. i like to say that no one has a monopoly on the truth. in fact, truth is a pretty frustrating concept for me. i think that truth plays a really big part in lots of people's ideas about religion. for some, truth is really the central concept -- god has given us the truth and we have to share it -- we can't change god's truth and therefore we can't change -- we must protect the truth from perversion. i'm not so sure about truth. you, it plays into lots of people's ideas about ethics too. that there's some sort of universal truth which can be used as an ultimate guide for the right and wrong of things. yeah, there may be such a universal truth. i'd actually probably agree that there is a universal truth. that fits into my idea of who god is and what god is about. but, assuming there is such a truth, do we really have that kind of access to it? even the very wisest and most pius of us disagree about some of these essential truths. no, i don't think that anyone has a monopoly on the truth. that's one of the reasons that i have to work from the assuption that i'm wrong. i know enough (ha ha) to know that i don't know everything. i am wrong. not "i'm probably wrong" or "there might be something about what i think that's wrong" but "i am wrong". it's one of the few things that i hold with some certainty. so hopefully knowing that, or trying to work from that assumption will help me to keep my eyes open, to keep awake, and to keep changing. i think that's important. i am wrong, so i must change if i want to strive for something better. i have to keep my eyes open to see things and people that disagree with me but are right. just as i don't think that anyone has a monopoly on truth, so also no one has a monopoly on falsity. everyone has a little piece of the truth. everyone has a little piece of god. what kind of god would do self-revelation only once in the person of a nazorene preacher and leave the entire rest of the universe to fend for itself. no, i think god has been and is being revealed in all kinds of unexpected places. we have to keep looking for it. even the church must have the courage to say "we are wrong." we are trying our best, we are struggling for the truth and giving the best answers that we can, but in the end, at least some of what we are saying and doing is just not right. we are wrong. what do you think? is that a safe assumption? how would it change the way we live? no longer credo but erro.


Blogger *Christopher said...


Benedict wrote his rule for Roman men, so his rule is highly counter-culture in many respects concerning the hierarchies of a Roman society if hierarchy means lording it over others rather than meaning a diversity of gifted persons each doing that to which they are called. Joan Chittister has written excellently on the Rule interpreting it for people who find themselves not on top. When it comes to humility, try this great sermon by Prof. Bill Carroll Click Here. He gets beyond the abuses of the word "humility" too often found in our ecclesial institutions. I'm saddened to hear of the latest defrocking of Beth Stroud. Though this doesn't surprise me anymore.

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