When ignorance is bliss—even appreciated
Too many people know too much these days. Turn around and you’ll find an expert on almost everything. Turn around again and you’ll find two more experts on the same subject, and yes, they both disagree with the first expert—and each other.
This is certainly true in the COVID-19 world we’re all living in these days. I’m not just talking about the higher ups; and by this I do mean those on the upper most rung or rungs; I’m talking about your in-law, neighbor, guy down the street or fellow committee member who has a lot of information and that unsolicited tagalong opinion he or she will share with you about the health crisis or the façade of a health crisis. Oh, there’s more. You know someone who has told you how long they think we will remain in masks or that masks are completely ineffective.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of people with this knowledge. It wears me out. It wears me down.
When it comes to people’s opinions, oh, I am ALL in. After all, I’m a congregational pastor, which, for those who may be unfamiliar with the position, means at its simplest level that I have no higher ups (except God, of course).
I work with the people of the congregation only. I describe the role of a congregational pastor as the opposite of the Pope and Catholicism. Where Pope Francis represents top down management, a congregational pastor represents bottom up management. While we have a conference minister here in the Penn Northeast, and the United Church of Christ (my denomination) has a President and General Minister, there is no ruling body over the congregation except God and the congregation itself.
I share all of this because people’s opinions matter. In particular, they matter to me. Outlooks and perspectives are vital. Differing histories and varying locations matter. I welcome a bias as a bias. Points of view—especially when they are at first in discord—mean one thing: we are standing on good, fertile ground.
Blame this all on postmodernism if you like, but the fertile ground these days seems to be depleting. Or maybe I’m just tired of speculation that is presented as fact.
Here is my point, and it’s a theological one. Know less. Truly. With humility and grace, know less by opening yourself to divine mysteries even more. By no means am I suggesting you approach your faith formation with ignorance; that’s not it at all; please bring intelligence to the table. Know scripture. Study biblical times. Read. Read more. Then read scholars and authors whose voice may be far different from the others you’re familiar with so that, in doing this, you understand again and again that an opinion is just that—an opinion. Speculation is just speculation. A guess, even a really good one, is still a guess.
We should all be good with opinions, speculations, and guesses. They serve a purpose. They help us think, learn and grown. And be mindful that as Christians we are to lift others up (1 Thessalonians 5:11 and Hebrews 10:24-25), not tear each other—or those in the world with us—down.
Humility goes such a long way. Openness to who we are in the presence of God is another. After all, we have not given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place (Job 38:12).
There is so much we do not understand. I don’t think this is ignorance on our part; rather, I think it’s both honesty and faith where it belongs, which is not in us but with the Keeper of the stars.
When you’re about to give your forecast for this upcoming summer or beyond in regard to the pandemic, please listen more and know less.
Samuel 22:33 aligns us not to ourselves or our ignorance, but to God. He writes, “For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock? God is my strong fortress, and he makes my way perfect.”