Hey, this is John Ortberg. And I wanna talk to you today about a real problem we have. And when I say we have, I mean, I have, although I think it’s a broader problem. I think we have it as a nation. I think it’s in our politics. I think it is online in spades and it is the problem of dismissing people with whom I disagree of, rejecting them, of even wanting to reject them without seeking to deeply understand them, of closing my heart off to people. And ironically, very often I do this, we do this because there’s another group of people that I think of as attractive or powerful or influential. And I want to identify with them. I want to be a part of their tribe. So I don’t want to be a part of that tribe. Now that notion of us versus them in the Bible is known as worldliness.
It is a part of the world. Often our day, when people hear that word worldly, it’s not used too much. And it will evoke for people, thoughts of styles, of dress or sexual appetites or physical appetite, something that’s relatively superficial, but really it simply means the system of human thought and behavior. When it is set up in opposition to God, apart from the way that God wants things to be the world is kind of anti SHA alone and that desire to exclude people, to reject people without thoughtfulness is a deep part of worlds. I, I talked not too long ago about CS Lewis’s essay, the inner ring, and how the desire to be a part of the inner ring I’m in. You are out prompts people to do very bad things. So in the screw tape letters, here’s the passage I wanna read about this aspect of worldliness today.
Screw tape is writing about how wormwood patient, the human being wants to be part of the inner ring. How should we deal with that? He says the first thing is to delay as long as possible, the moment at which he realizes this new pleasure being in the inner ring with people who will lead me in the wrong direction is a temptation. Since the enemy servants have been preaching about the world as one of the great standard temptations for 2000 years, this might seem difficult to do, but fortunately they have said very little about the world for the last few decades in modern Christian writings though, I see much indeed more than I like about Mamon. That is money. I see few of the old warnings about worldly vanities. How do I look? The choice of friends who’s influencing me and the value of time, what do I do with each moment? How do I find God in it? This is so fascinating. All that screw tape rights, your patient would probably classify as puritanism and may remark in passing that the value we have given to that word puritanism is one of the really solid triumphs of the last hundred years by it. We rescue annually thousands of humans from temperance chastity and sobriety of life.
I was reading recently a book by Ellen Jacobs, how to think. And he cites an essay, a wonderful essay by Marilyn Robinson. You might know her as the author of Gilead called, uh, Puritans and PRS. And she writes about how in our day, the term Purin has just become a standard insult for somebody, but it’s not based on knowledge that actually the Puritans were quite a vibrant people. They did not go around dressed in black. They didn’t carry crosses. They were actually less theocratic. She writes than Anglicans and Catholics who were in charge of much of Europe. They had a looser set of rules. They were, in fact, she said the most progressive people on the earth until the end of the 19th century. And yet ironically in our day, Puritan has become a term of disparagement to imply that somebody is rigid narrow-minded joyless. And she notes that actually, when we use the term Puritan in that way, we are exhibiting the very characteristics that we mistakenly accuse the Puritans of. So she asked, why do we do that? Well, she says, we disparage people about whom we have little or no information or knowledge because we look forward to the reward of expressing a socially approved opinion.
That is Jacob’s rights. We deploy the accusation of puritanism, cuz we know the people we’re talking to will share our disparagement of puritanism and will approve of us for invoking it. Whether the term is we use it has any significant relationship to the reality of pur and actions and beliefs is totally irrelevant. The word doesn’t have any meaning as such, certainly not any historical validity. It’s more like the password to get into the clubhouse. I use this word, I disparage this group to demonstrate my membership in the inner ring. Robinson, further comments, this kind of usage demonstrates how effectively such consensus can close off a subject from inquiry, which may be the most important point of all. The more useful a term is for marking my inclusion in a group. The less interest that I will be in testing the validity of my use of that term against well against any kind of standard people who like accusing others of puritanism, have a fairly serious investment.
Then in knowing as little as possible about actual Puritans, they are invested in not thinking. And this is a huge human problem. We just want to dismiss people. It makes us feel superior Jacobs. That’s a wonderful little book by the way, called how to think writes about an anthropologist Susan Harding, about 30 years ago, who did a study of fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism and faced a lot of blow back from her fellow anthropologist. She said over and over, she had to face the question. Are you now, or have you ever been a born again, Christian and wonders? Why would there be opposition to study this? This is what anthropologists do is they study different cultures and traditions. Why resist studying one that may be right next door? And the reason for it she says is because of the existence of what she calls the culturally repugnant, other the culturally repugnant, other, the person with whom I disagree so that I simply want to dismiss them without seeking to understand them because it makes me feel superior.
And that is a huge problem in our world and is not just the left that does it towards fundamentalism or with words like Puritan that had been redefined in destructive ways. The right does it as well. I was talking recently to a pastor friend who is at a church and with all of the racial unrest and confusion over this last year or two, his teammate’s daughter put a sign, black lives matter out in their yard, cuz she’s concerned about racism and justice scores of people from his church, petitioned the elders to have him removed because of his Marxism based simply on that sign in the yard.
And how often do people do that? He said in that case, people were talking about things like critical race theory. It was not clear that any of them have ever actually read marks or could actually name a single scholar or a single scholarly article on critical race theory. And might there be something to learn from that? We just simply want to disparage people because of the reward that we know awaits us for expressing a socially approved opinion and in the echo chambers cable news, online websites that goes on all the time. And so, so we paused to remember that Jesus himself was the great culturally repugnant other that’s what got him crucified. And he constantly broke down that wall and he would tell stories about culturally repugnant, others like the good Samaritan to build a little community of people who stopped dismissing others, even others, with whom they disagreed, who would seek to love, not just their neighbor, but their enemy. That’s what we’re invited into one little tip on where to begin. And that is with our minds on being deeply thoughtful. Jacob’s writes about a, uh, tech CEO who went to a conference, heard a speaker violently disagreed with the speaker, went up to him immediately and said, I didn’t like you talk. I disagreed with it. And the speaker’s immediate response was give it five minutes.
And at first the listener didn’t like that response at all, but then he realized the wisdom of it. He realized that he had gone into what he calls reputation mode, where rather than trying to think, rather than seek to understand, he was just busy generating reasons that would sustain his disagreement and his sense of superiority. And that’s become kind of a mantra. Now give it five minutes, whereas Jesus’ brother James, put it, let everyone be slow to speak. Slow to anger. Quick to listen, give it five minutes today for me, maybe for you instead of just dismissing people instead of just unthinkingly, critiquing and feeling superior over anybody with whom I disagree, give it five minutes today. When there’s that hard voice, when there is that difficult person, instead of wishing that they did not exist or thinking how glad you are that you are not there. I thank you, God that I am not instead give it five minutes. Slow to speak. Slow to anger. Quick to listen. God give me an open heart and a thoughtful mind. I’ll see you.