27 Mar (#8) BLACK AND WHITE AND GRAY
Romans 8:6-7, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.”
In researching for the Christians Might Be Crazy project, one thing became abundantly clear – those who believe the Bible and those who do not agree on much of anything for the simple reason that they start with complete different mindsets. Nones and Dones feel that Christian intolerance is like a death grip on black- and-white ideas in a world gone gray. Take a look at how Tony from Boston sees the problem:
“To me, it’s a religion that is absolute. There’s [sic] not gray areas with evangelical Christians. It’s black or white. It’s correct or wrong. It’s interesting listening to all of us say what the middle ground is, even in our wording of things. We weren’t thinking middle grounds of things. We were judgmental of them. You can describe a group and not be judgmental with them. Maybe I’m doing it myself by saying black and white, but that’s, to me, just a statement of fact that’s neutral. Some people may be ne with being black and white, some people prefer shades of gray. It doesn’t make one thing more correct than the other.”
What you hear there is an assertion that Christians should abandon black-and-white thinking in favor of more tolerant gray—which is inevitably presented as a more nuanced, intelligent, and loving way of seeing the world. You should stop thinking in terms of right and wrong in favor of blending all possible choices and actions into a vast pool of acceptable options.
But pay careful attention to how Tony argues that people with gray minds are right and people with black-and-white minds are wrong. How does he do it? He falls back on black-and-white thinking to assert that black- and-white thinking is wrong, and that gray thinking is right. He has to lay his black-and-white cards on the table. Tony goes on to say:
“Personally, in my life, I don’t have room for evangelical beliefs. I’d like to say it’s because I’m logical…. I have faith entirely in myself. I don’t have the same beliefs, but to give it to somebody else, just have an open mind. If something really feels wrong with it, then back out. When I said dump it, that’s my black-and-white response.”
People who claim to be gray thinkers are anything but consistent. They use black-and-white thinking when it is to their advantage, like Tony. As much as people claim to live in a world of gray, it is as if they shuttle between two homes. They move into a black-and-white home to judge the behavior of others. They relocate to their gray home to justify their own behavior. They might like their gray home better, but they head to their black-and-white home when it benefits them.
MEET THE INTOLERISTA
As I read more than 400 pages of focus group transcripts over and over for insight into what people think and feel and why, I was struck by their constant e orts to sound gray even as they speak in black and white. It seems that the key to speaking out against intolerance is to find a way to do it without seeming intolerant.
Like poker players with a tell, the focus group participants signaled their true intent with language like “I think,” “I feel,” “for me,” “to me,” “I personally believe,” “not to judge,” “in my opinion,” “personally,” “from my perspective,” “in my experience,” “I believe,” “my belief system,” “not to
be stereotypical,” “not to be judgmental,” “from my understanding,” “in my mind,” “in my life,” “in my case,” and “I try not to be judgmental, but….”
Those verbal qualifiers do nothing to alter the black-and-white statements that followed. To say “in my experience, Christians are bigots” is no less black and white than “Christians are bigots.” It does not change the basic assertion to say, “Not to be stereotypical, but Christians are greedy,” rather than, “Christians are greedy.” It seems like everyone, including you, is an intolerant hypocrite.
This series of 30 daily devotions are adapted from the first chapters of Pastor Mark Driscoll’s new book “Christians Might Be Crazy” available exclusively at markdriscoll.org for a tax-deductible gift to Mark Driscoll Ministries. For your gift of any amount, we will email you a digital copy of the book (available worldwide) and also send you a paperback copy of the book (U.S. residents only). Pastor Mark also has a corresponding six-part sermon series that you can find for free at markdriscoll.org or on the free Mark Driscoll Ministries app. Thank you in advance for your partnership which helps people learn that It’s All About Jesus! For our monthly partners who give a recurring gift each month, this premium content will be automatically sent.