Because if I had to reject everyone whose brain thinks and communicates in ways that are different than mine and which are hard for me to understand, I’d miss out on gems like this post from Ancient Hebrew Poetry, “Why I am Not an Atheist”. The whole post is brilliant, and I hope you’ll go there to read it. But, since I find through blog stats that few links are consistently clicked onto, let me highlight this one small selection:
I see a rising tide of evil, and hope against hope in God’s superabounding grace. I see baseless fears everywhere: they just have new names. I see an abundance of racism, and especially classism, wherever I look. It is simply put to more ‘refined’ uses. I see no more wisdom in the current arrangement of roles and time management as it is distributed along gender lines, than was true in the past.
Oh, yes, it is wonderful to hear someone presenting reality as reality, side by side with the hope of God’s superabounding grace, without trying to reconcile things by diluting or denying either how bad things still are in spite of all of our progress or how superabounding the grace of God is. The reality John points out here makes me think and puts words to things I see and feel.
My point, though, is not primarily how much I liked this particular post, as much as it is what I’d be missing out on if I wrote John off as a “hopeless intellectual” just because he often writes about things my brain can’t begin to comprehend in ways that are quite complex.
I subscribe, via Bloglines, to Ancient Hebrew Poetry. Perhaps 80 percent of what I read there goes over my head. I can imagine some of my friends looking at me and asking, “Why bother?” Well, partly it is because the part I do get enriches my life so much. But, another part of it is that I enjoy getting to know and hear about life through John’s eyes and mind. I enjoy having friends, even blogging friends, who make life so interesting because they are so different from me.
If I see a brilliant intellectual, and let that aspect of the person’s personality be all I see, and if I write off that person because of what I don’t understand when they speak, I will have missed that person as a whole person, who is intellectual, but not only “An Intellectual”. I also will have missed the opportunity for my life to be enriched, for my faith to be challenged, for my heart to understand things from perspectives I’d never have arrived at myself.
Aristotle’s Feminist Subject is another blog I follow, but do not often understand. I’m glad I stumbled on the blog and hung around, because I’ve met another nice and interesting (and I mean both of those words as compliments, in spite of how they are often twisted, semantically, to mean other things) person in J.K. Gayle and gleaned so much of value from the small percentage that I do understand of what he writes. It was on that blog that I was introduced to a biography, Same Kind of Different As Me, which has impacted my life and thinking profoundly. It’s the only book I can think of that I found myself weeping after I finished reading. It shook up many of my presuppositions about life, about class, about change, about how God works.
Sometimes I’m intimidated by highly intellectual people. Okay, I usually and almost always am. But I don’t want that intimidation to get in the way of connection with people. The conversations I’ve had with both John and J.K., while only a small part of my whole life, are ones that I am so glad I didn’t miss out on. I treasure these connections and online friendships. And I find that once I get to know the person behind the intellect, the intimidation either goes away or at least becomes not so big of a deal.
And while I say that my life has been enriched by the things I do understand that John and J. K. write, it’s not nearly as utilitarian as it sounds. Mainly I’ve really enjoyed getting to know, however remotely, two interesting people whose amazing intellects happen to be just one part of what makes them interesting and nice people.
Connection in the body of Christ is supposed to cross over barriers. If you can run intellectual and academic circles around me, and I use that as a reason to disdain you, then I’m telling you I can only connect to you if you stop thinking and talking the way God made your brain to work. To me, that is sad and would be a great loss all around.
What do you think? Is there a difference in disdaining people because the way they think is complicated as opposed to any other reason that we disdain people who are different from us? Is it okay to disdain an intellectual, but terrible to disdain someone who is mentally retarded? I see that as highly inconsistent. I would daresay we deceive ourselves if we think it’s acceptable to disdain someone who has more of something than we do–whether it be money, intellect, popularity, etc.–but appalling to disdain someone who has less of the same thing than we do.
If I think I can disdain or write off someone who has “more,” then I have to wonder if my “acceptance” of someone with “less” is really acceptance or merely patronizing? Lately I’ve been thinking that “patronizing” is just the dolled up, socially acceptable version of disdain.