Linus Knows Best

I just finished a large end-of-the-semester-type paper for one of my classes.  I attend a Southern Baptist seminary, and the paper was, more or less, attempting to take down a piece of their theology.  I didn’t do this with malice or anything; I just really do disagree with them on this issue.  However, it wasn’t always like that.

(And before anyone asks, no.  I will not tell you what this particular piece of theology is.  I don’t want to offend half of everyone.  Yet.)

I spent half of my childhood actively in the church.  I picked up bits and pieces of theology here and there, and it was fine.  I had no framework of reference, so if a pastor told me that the Bible says ____, I believed them.  Why would I not believe them?  I viewed their word as the gospel truth, and everything was great.

I then went to college.  I attended a Christian university, and majored in ministry.  Within my first semester there, everything was shattered.  The things I had believed for so long were slowly getting demolished by an actual study of the Bible.  I then tried to defend my beliefs like any good Christian would do, but I couldn’t.  Things weren’t going my way, and I had nothing to back me up.  I quickly discovered that saying, “My pastor said _____,” or “my church taught me ______,” did not hold up in an academic setting.

I did not know where to turn or what to do.  I wasn’t mad at my church or pastor; I was mad at myself.  I was mad that I could be wrong about certain areas of theology.  I had built this belief system (that, looking back now, was not biblical at all) that could be shoved down by a quick few sentences from someone.

There’s debates and taking sides of issues in theology.  What I was experiencing was just me being wrong.  I did not have biblical beliefs.  I had “churched” beliefs.

“Churched” beliefs got me in trouble.  I might have been able to throw a verse or two that were utterly ripped out of context, but that’s it.  I was experience part humiliation, part anger, and part helplessness.  The professors and students I had been talking to weren’t mean at all.  This was all on me.

I had two responses here, which may sound familiar: fight or flight.  I could fight, meaning that I had to go back to the Bible and actually read it for myself, studying and talking to people along the way, to see what I really believe.  Or, I could leave my college.  Transfer and get new friends.  Even just drop out, altogether.

Guess which one I chose?

I’m glad I chose to fight.  It made me a better follower of Jesus.  I experienced an earth-shattering thing in college and everything I believed was torn down.  With God’s help, we rebuilt it.  I still do that today.

One of the thoughts I kept coming back to in my paper for my class mentioned above was about the problems we have in the church of 2014.  Could it be that we simply have not thought for ourselves for the past 50 years and just went with what the pastor said?

Don’t get me wrong.  Usually, pastors are educated and very informed.  They make great conclusions and hypotheses, and can teach you about theology with little preparation.  However, if we just take a statement as is, without knowing any background information on it, then what is it worth?

Nothing.  It’s worth nothing.

I still say that one of the best things that’s happened within the past few decades for the church is Rob Bell.  He shook things up with a few of his books, associations, and videos.  He said things that made the church mad, and when they went to tell him how he was wrong…

…they couldn’t do it.  We couldn’t do it.  So, we had to think.  We had to read the Bible for ourselves, and actually view it through the lens of context.

I’m not bashing Bell.  I love the guy.  I don’t agree with some of his statements, but I don’t 100% agree with any popular church leader’s theology (even Andy Stanley).  And that’s a good thing.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we should start thinking.  Actually, we should resume thinking.  We, as a church, did it for 2,000 years.  We just stopped at one point.  Let’s pick that habit back up.

And if you’re going through that earth-shattering and life-changing event that has broken down everything you thought was true about church, God, and Jesus: good.  It sounds harsh, but you’re going to be a better follower of Jesus because of it.


The Sun Shines Bright…

Unless you’re a fan, you’re probably sick of the University of Kentucky basketball talk.  You know, the 40-0-best-team-ever-assembled-in-college-basketball-history kind of talk.  I understand, although I am a huge UK fan.  It can be a little much.

It’s indicative of a bigger thing, though.  Bigger than what a lot of states in this nation of ours understand.

I grew up in northeastern Kentucky.  As most teens do, I dreamed of “escaping” once I graduated college and going somewhere else.  I did that by moving to the middle of five huge cities on the eastern seaboard, in Virginia.  As a small-town kid from northeastern Kentucky, that was quite a culture shock for me.  I loved that city and area (and still do), but I quickly learned that there’s no place like home.

More specifically, there’s no place like Kentucky.

Sure, I may sound crazy.  But I’m in good company.  The love for the Commonwealth of Kentucky runs deep in many people.  I join the chorus of people like nationally-known writer (and Kentucky-born) Jesse Stuart who said, “If these United States can be called a body, then Kentucky can be called its heart.”

It’s true.  I love Kentucky.  The entire state, from Pikeville to Paducah and from Covington to Corbin, holds a special place in my heart.  Not to sound too sappy here, but the natural beauty contained within these borders is difficult to find in other places.  Whether you like mountains, plains, plateaus, hills, or anything in between, you can find large lands of it in the Bluegrass State.

More than that, the people of this Commonwealth are a unique group.  I am one of them.  We’re proud of our part of this nation.  This is why the University of Kentucky is such a huge deal for us.  When we have the best college basketball team in the nation, we’re not just screaming at the top of our lungs for a game.  We’re going crazy because, once again, the spotlight of this land is upon our Commonwealth, and we get to showcase just who we really are.  Proud, loyal, and sometimes stubborn.

This is also the reason we get so worked up when other states like to poke fun at us.  Anytime I travel out of state and tell people I’m from Kentucky (and especially when I say eastern Kentucky), I get the same jokes:

“How did you read the road signs?”

“You’ve got shoes on!”

“How does opossum taste?”

And the ever famous, “Did you marry your cousin?”

Yeah, it gets old.  Quickly.  And, I must tell the truth: it angers me.  Kentuckians are a proud people, and when we hear things like this, we get defensive.  We get angry.  And we know it simply isn’t true.  Because of one article in a newspaper, or one misguided news report from a New York City, our entire state is shunned.

However, Kentuckians are resilient.  That’s why some have lived in the same hollow, road, or around the same creek bed for generations.  It’s also why some people would never dream of leaving this Commonwealth.

I think it’s very fitting that Kentucky was founded by guys like Thomas Walker and Daniel Boone.  Their spirit lives on in our land.  Kentucky is full of pioneers, dreamers, creators, and the like.  There’s always something brewing in Kentucky.

If I never move out of Kentucky again, that’d be alright with me.  What Albert Benjamin “Happy” Chandler said was true: “I never met a Kentuckian who wasn’t either thinking about going home or actually going home.”

Kentucky is important.  The dreamers and builders in this land are invaluable to the nation, and the pride we have in our Commonwealth drives us to be better than yesterday, but not as good as tomorrow.  This is probably why Abraham Lincoln said during the Civil War, “I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.”

Yeah, I love Kentucky.  I’m proud of my Commonwealth and I cheer the loudest when the Wildcats are on the national stage, just so the rest of the nation can catch a glimpse of what we experience every single day.  I love to think that this Commonwealth is mixture of the minds, spirit, and bravery of its people like Jesse Stuart, Daniel Boone, Thomas Walker, and Abraham Lincoln.

And to answer any questions that come my way: Yes, I wear shoes, I’ve never eaten opossum, and my wife isn’t my cousin.  Also, I sure am proud to be a Kentuckian.