Thursday, December 01, 2005
Unlike Minds Unite
Sunday school at St. Paul's encourages the open exchange of ideas from all viewpoints. We enjoy the company of very conservative Republicans, moderate Republicans, Democrats and more than a few liberals.
We unite in a belief in our common ground, our faith in the truth and the exploration of the truth. We often disagree, but we are (almost) always civil. We are open to anyone, and we encourage debate and discussion.
That makes a lot of people very nervous.
Open discussion, dialog, and the search for truth threatens anyone who already knows he has a lock on the truth. People who are accustomed to sitting around and agreeing on how great they are do not thrive at my Sunday school. That type of person is still welcomed, but must realize an open door and the invitation to stay at the table is no guarantee of immunity from intellectual challenge.
St Paul's does see a number of people come and go. People with definite ideas condemning others don't like a message of unconditional acceptance.
Sad to say, the majority of churches I've ever been to (admittedly not that many) have all been small minded closed clubs. I'll never forget how angry my first wife became on Christmas eve once because I broke some rule known to everyone at that church but not to me. That was my first and last trip to church with her.
I write a lot about Sunday school because that's where I get a lot of first hand reports on interesting topics.
We do not host a "traditional" Sunday school class where the same 20 people socialize every week for 30 years. Most of our classes last six to ten weeks, and involve viewing a video and then discussing it. We do have one-shot classes and we frequently have speakers. (We also offer long-term, intensive Bible studies.)
In recent months we have heard from two sides on the immigration issue and the intelligent design issue.
We do plenty of traditional Christian study, and it's like exploring a treasure cave. I get lots of good mental exercise in grad school. But church is where I get the highest quality exchanges between people of unlike minds.
Sometimes I get very uncomfortable. Those are the best, because I know I'm really learning then.
Have the group watch the movie "The Mission" with Robert DeNero. If you've seen it, please excuse my short synopsis.
I believe the film is set in the 1600's and the location is South America, where European nations are trying to claim as much colonial territory as possible, while covertly supporting an illegal slave trade. Robert is a conquistador who is capturing slaves in the jungle, until he has a powerful conversion experience that is facilitated by a Priest from the local Mission.
Appropriate material. Very moving and thought provoking.
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