For my Journalism 201 class, we have to read through various chapters from a textbook called Mass Media and Society, which is composed by a professor here at the U of O. While I was reading through the chapter about books, something caught my attention. He was specifically discussing the book-screening that schools go through to filter out the poor-quality books and to keep the good ones, the ones that do a wonderful job of teaching generation after generation. What struck me as odd, though, was the various ways we – as regular human beings – choose to screen our own books. It’s called a-literacy: having the ability to read, but choosing not to.
I think in many ways, it’s quite similar to apathy; we sometimes just aren’t interested in reading certain books. But it’s more than merely lacking the interest to read like apathy would suggest; it’s choosing not to read for fear of being influenced in a particular way that one does not want to. Some people don’t read the Koran because they fear it will make them a Muslim. This caught my attention not because I know someone who ignores other cultures and beliefs because they fear succumbing to the them, but because I ignore other cultures, beliefs, or perspectives myself.
It isn’t so much because I’m afraid of jumping ship from Christian to Muslim or Christian to atheist, but because I have my own opinions about things and I don’t want them to change. I feel that being a-literate is, to some degree, being intellectually stubborn. We develop our thoughts, ideas and beliefs in a certain fashion and we don’t want them to change. Why? It could be because of our fear of things being different. It could be because we’re lazy and we just don’t want to handle change. Or, as is the frequent case with me, it could be because of pride.
Once our ideas are developed, we automatically think we’re right and that we’ve got the Truth. And we take this attitude and apply to practically anything else. Politics, science, religion, spirituality, and even music are all areas where we listen to the person, group, or band that agrees with us the best and affirms all our opinions not because we believe they’re right and we must align our thoughts to theirs, but because we’ve already made up our minds to believe we’re right, no matter what.
Even if tomorrow the government passed an act or law stating that all books should be burned, I think being intellectually stubborn would be worse. Why? When all the books are removed, I wouldn’t have the option of reading someone else’s opinions. But when I’m merely being intellectually stubborn, I have the ability to read someone else’s opinions or beliefs, but choose not to. I have the opportunity to possibly relate to someone of a different faith, culture, ethnicity, political group or whatever, but choose not to because I already think I’m right.
It seems so counter-intuitive to believe in Jesus and yet not share Him with others in a humble manner. The very essence of Jesus demands our humility; we are unable to accept the grace He has given us without first admitting our own sin. Why then should we profess Jesus with our lips and say that everyone should believe in Him when we don’t move a muscle to learn about a different religion, culture, or spirituality? Learning about other groups isn’t conforming to them; it’s just learning about them. I hate seeing this happen with other people that I know, but I hate it even more when I do it. Just talking to someone doesn’t demand that I surrender my relationship with Christ; if anything, it demands a stronger relationship with Jesus on the off chance the person I’m talking to might want to learn about Him. “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person,” – Colossians 4:5-6.
The challenge before me this summer is to practice being personable with others. Merely chatting with others about what they think, believe, feel, etc. will be carrying a gracious speech towards others, exactly what Paul exhorts the Colossians to do. It means that I’ll have to dig a little deeper into other cultures and beliefs and not the stereotypes of the generalizations I hear from other Christians or people who agree with me; I’ll have to go to the source myself and ask them. At the end of the day, I won’t have converted to Judaism, Islam, or Buddhism; I’ll have practiced true Christianity.