doubt & faith: owning our egocentric tendencies

every day this week i meant to post but here i am, squeaking by before the end of the week and before our next refuge gathering tomorrow evening.  i am still typing on my old irritating computer but the big news at my house is that a lovely group of friends pooled together and bought me a new MAC pro!  it is the biggest gift i have ever received (and a little hard for me to receive, but i am going to buck up and just be oh so very thankful) & i am so excited about not having to fight daily with my current laptop.

i am continuing a very short series of posts about the conversations we’re having at our saturday refuge gathering on doubt & faith.

last saturday eve my friend craig spinks facilitated our conversation on doubt & faith.  he used this video from his site, recycle your faith, that focused on the potential “branding” of christianity.   he did a great job, mixing it up and interviewing different groups of people in the middle while we were able to observe and participate from the outside. i’d encourage you to watch it and see what it stirs up in you.

the conversation went all over the place and there were many different ideas that i resonated with or disagreed with in different ways, but one word i have been thinking of over this past week when reflecting on this theme:   egocentrism. here’s the definition:  “having or regarding the self or the individual as the center of all things” or “having little or no regard for interests, beliefs, or attitudes other than one’s own; self-centered.” i remember in world history or sociology or one of those classes learning about ethnocentrism, “the belief in the inherent superiority of one’s own ethnic group or culture.”

no one who shared reflected that idea, but some of craig’s questions stirred this pot.  he asked:  what would happen if we were born in a totally different culture, are we sure we’d be christians? and what if christianity is just a brand of something that is more deeply embedded across religions and we just have our own twists & nuances?  how are we influenced by the packaging/branding and not necessarily what’s underneath? it is always interesting to me how tightly we hold on to “our way” as “the way” and that usually that doesn’t give a lot of room for those who might have different experiences with God or Jesus or all kinds of other things.

there is no way to encapsulate a live conversation, but one thing that seemed to really emerge was how each person’s belief in Jesus did not come from a structure, a dogma, or some kind of packaging. it came from some kind of holy-spirit-meaningful-shift-in-a-deep-place-in-their-heart. i thought of the post i wrote a few weeks ago about practical theology and the blind man who was healed.  his experience with Jesus was all that mattered; the religious leaders could argue all they wanted about all of the peripheral theological issues and it didn’t change that he was blind and now he could see.

my favorite quote of the evening from the middle group was: “i don’t care one bit about ‘christianity’ but i do care deeply and passionately about the body of Christ.”

for me, i think the takeaway is just to keep being honest about my egocentric tendencies when it comes to issues of life and faith.  oh i can recall so many conversations where i was just plain ol’ rude & judgemental to people who had different faith experiences than mine.   i am glad some of that has shifted over the years,  but i admit that sometimes my “evangelometer” goes off now and then in certain conversations because i know what a good evangelical is supposed to say when people are saying (or not saying) certain things!

the bottom line for me is that my faith experience is very important to me, but others have all kinds of different experiences that are just as important to them.   respecting and valuing and learning from each other and trusting God is somehow at work in ways that have nothing to do with my limited perspective is so important.

  • how do you resonate with this idea of egocentrism when it comes to issues of faith?

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ps: i only post  on the refuge blog once in a while, but i do have a very short post/prayer up there about this topic of doubt & faith–the doubter’s prayer

 

6 Comments

  • In the whirlwind of moving I haven’t really processed last saturday night, this post helps me put some tangible language to the conversation, thanks! I had so much fun, thanks for inviting me to facilitate!

    Egocentrism – who would have thought that there was a pre-existing term for this idea that so many of us are feeling:-)

    Reply
  • ok, i will one day soon re-enter the world and live in this weirdo cyber community!
    thanks kathy for the constant reminder that faith has very little uniformity to it, each time it is expressed is a different version.
    i like the tired old snow flake thought, all snow flakes look like snow flakes, but no two snow flake look the same- weird.

    maybe the same with faith? keep being brave to say the unconventional and uncomfortable.

    Reply
  • You know, I always thought I was the most radical one when I was worshiping at a more traditional church. Whenever I read a book like “Case For Faith” or “Case For Christ”, I could always find the holes in the author’s argument.

    So…I find myself out of sorts sometimes in a community where faith and doubt go hand in hand. Maybe because I’ve grown used to being the one person in the group who expressed doubt instead of unwavering faith. I’ve grown used to being “the only one” and felt proud of my own intelligence in not following the crowd.

    To not be “the only one”. It’s a strange feeling. I’m not sure I like it. Maybe that’s how ego-centrism plays out in my own faith.

    P.S. Ethnocentrism is also, according to my comparative studies professor in college, one of the reasons why the term “Middle East” exists. In relation to European nations, that area geographically was in between them and the “Far East”.

    Reply
  • I have been thinking about your question regarding egocentric tendencies. I think that I always view life through me first and then outward. Even when I hear other people’s experiences I think about how I relate to them. I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing but I can see how it could be narrowing. Lately I have been thinking about how I can make a difference in this world. I mean exactly where I am at not when I have more money or when my kids are out of the house. Right now.

    I saw a story on Nightline about a woman who has a shopping addiction. She has over $250K in credit card debt with an income of $100K per year. She has to have the best of everything and shops on Rodeo Dr. She has closets full of clothes. Many that she has never worn. I looked at her story and I thought what an extreme example of glutony. I didn’t think I could relate to her at all. Then I started thinking about my own use of the planet and the resources I have been given. It became very clear to me that I eat way more food than my body requires. I am overweight and that is glutony. Maybe the way I can make a difference right now is to not consume more than I need. Will that make a difference? Will less people starve? Maybe it won’t but it will give an example to my children and maybe influence them to only take what they need. Jesus lived on this planet and only took what he needed so I am going to try to do the same.

    Okay, maybe my response is not what you where looking for but it’s what came into my head.

    Reply
  • ooo…Kathy this is so GOOD! I lived so comfortably inside the idea of ethnocentrism…for most of my adult years as a Chrisitian.
    I am not sure how it happened…(maybe it was a book I read by Brain McLaren, Rob Bell or Shane Claiborne….or maybe it was turning forty…or living during a time when my own country is actually at war with another)…BUT…some how one day the idea that who I am and where I live in context to other people in the world, infected my thinking like a virus. I began to contemplate being born into a Muslim faith and culture…or a native or indiginous tribe…

    I tried to imagine the reality of what I would know or how I would relate to the world…and it really made me start to question how I could claim absolute truth in my ‘brand’ of spirituality…as if I had something to do with the lottery of where I was born. I wondered if God just didn’t like brown or black people very much because they seemed ‘predestined’ for poverty, misery and distruction by their lack of right belief. I wondered about that.

    Just prior to that revelation…I imagined that I was at the zenith of my spiritual understanding and practice and perhaps all I could add to it…would be a mission trip to a third-world country to try to fix ‘those’ people in one way or another! I could not listen to the ideas of others or spiritual claims and experiences of others with out having one of two reactions:
    1) total panic that I would be infected spiritually with their ‘sinful beliefs’ and there for dismissing them or the conversation immediately OR
    2)Feeling completely superior and grateful that I had not been born a jew, a muslim…mormon…whatever. And then dismissing them as lost and their experiences and knowledge and flawed and of no value!

    Reply
  • craig – it was fun & challenging & your videos are really good. looking forward to the new stuff you find on the road…

    karl – yeah, it’s fun to let go & see the beauty & uniqueness in faith. i am glad we are part of a place that gets to see that up close. there’s a lot to learn from each other.

    lisa – i loved your comments, sorry you’re not so special anymore, hahah. i am glad you are part of these conversations, you bring an honesty that is always needed.

    julie – i always appreciate your stories & perspectives here. i think the thing that you hit on is an awareness of our self-centered tendencies & how those kinds of in-grown eyeballs always miss something so much bigger. i love that Jesus is stirring up in you a passion for looking out & the ways that you can contribute to change. yeah!

    joy – you rock. i love your journey & your willingness to admit where you were. it is so wild, isn’t it, how once that box gets broken open that there’s no turning back & a new and wonderful world is opened where God is much bigger than i ever imagined…

    Reply

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