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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Intellectual Honesty

Contrary to popular belief, the opposite of arrogance is not doormat. It is confidence.
Confidence and arrogance are not related at all.
Confidence welcomes people; arrogance repels them.
Confidence fosters a safe place for others to share their thoughts.
Arrogance cannot see past its own perceived wisdom to acknowledge the value of listening.
Confidence is centered on others. Arrogance is centered on self.

Recently, it has been suggested to me that being so sure of my faith makes me arrogant.
Would I contradict people who do not believe like me? 
Dare I suggest that someone else could be "wrong?" 
Does saying so make me intolerant?
As a generation, we need to take a step back and recognize the inconsistencies in our approach to ultimate questions. It is time that we admit to the faith inherent in our differing worldviews.
While here is evidence to be fought over, the bottom line is that we will all interpret the evidence based on what we have put our faith in.

To my atheistic friends, you did not observe the big bang. You have never seen macro-evolution. You accept it on faith. Whatever evidence you have for your view is interpreted based on your faith in science, because of your limited point of view as a mere human bound by time and space.
Please admit it.

To my Christian friends. We did not witness the crucifixion first hand. We were not there when God planned redemption. And while I believe there is a lot of evidence for the historicity and validity of Scripture, I ultimately recognize that I accept the Bible on faith.

What I'm trying to say is that it is time to stop mislabeling confidence as arrogance.
Let's take intellectual responsibility for our views and be confident about them.

I do not think my atheistic friends are arrogant for believing differently from me. I think they are wrong, yes. Just as deeply as they believe me to be wrong. But I don't think they are arrogant. They have come to their views through experience and faith, however misplaced I believe it to be. I respect them for their willingness to explain their side and the logic that helped them reach their conclusions. Our discussions are calm, cordial, respectful. I value their friendship and the unique beauty they bring to my life. Without conceding the Truth I cling to, I appreciate their perspectives and want them to know that my love for them is not dependent on what they believe but rooted in God's love for me, because I was welcomed before I knew Christ also. He died for me when I was lost in my sins, so I don't think I'm intellectually or morally better than anybody else.

But let me clarify.
The laws of logic cannot be contradicted.
Two contradictory things cannot both be true.
You cannot be a good moral person and encourage genocide.
You cannot be an atheist and affirm the existence of God.

It is not insulting to my atheistic friends when I listen to them and respectfully disagree. I would insult them if I said, "Wow, yeah, It seems like you've found a lot of meaning from your atheism. I don't believe that. But that's true for you."
To say something like that accuses them of an arbitrary flippancy through which they did not reach their views. The same is true for the Christian, who quite often hears that his or her beliefs are "good for you, but not for me."
I respect the friends who tell me when they think I'm wrong.

Neutrality is neither possible nor desirable. Stand for something. Don't tell me that my message is wonderful and then turn around and say that the opposing view is just as true. Please don't insult my intelligence by claiming that logic bends for you or that we simply agree to different versions of the same story. Admit that you disagree with me. Present your evidence.
Realize that the questions matter, because they drive our actions.
Don't reduce issues of life and death to the realm of cute preferences.
Attempting to do so reveals that as a whole we are intellectually dishonest with ourselves and guilty of an arrogance that which claims to listen to all sides while secretly undermining them through pretended acceptance of them all.

There is a call in my generation to sit on the fence and take no side. Using the excuse of "waiting for more evidence," we intend to spend our lives claiming nothing, appreciating all truth, and affirming none. Some believe tolerance is spinelessness. It is the opposite. I cannot tolerate something I agree with. I can tolerate only that with which I disagree (including the friends who claim neutrality.)

So to my friends who have no faith in the Bible but faith in Darwin, I accept you, and I will tolerate you and love you and coexist with you in the most literal ways.
But just so you know, I think you're wrong.
And it is because I'm confident enough about what I believe that I can welcome you into my home, drink tea with you, read your books, enjoy your company, take your classes, grapple with your questions, and appreciate your confidence.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Not An Expert...- My Thoughts on Selections from the SLT One Act Festival 2014

As the title of this post admits, I am no seasoned thespian. My interest in theater is far older than my involvement, and therefore I know my opinion to be that of a novice. All the same, I witnessed all but one of the acts, and of those I saw all but two in their entirety.
My comments are in order of appearance, though I don't cover them all. I just had some burning opinions that I wanted to share. Hence, a blog post. What else is a blog for?

It Ain't Easy Being Godly While Being Married: Thoughts, Words, Dis-Tractions
Not to start on a negative note, but this performance was marked by bad theology and long-winded attempts at comedy. I mention it only to disassociate Christianity, and myself as a Christian, from its poor explanation of marriage and godliness. Aside from portraying God as a simple-minded Santa, this performance grossly misrepresented, misquoted, and took out of context the Bible. The actor appeared to have one intensity level and so missed out on communicating the complexities of human thought and emotion.
Here I learn my first lesson as a new thespian.
Just because you like being on stage, doesn't mean you should stay there for upwards of an hour.

Frozen Sisters
Justlie Cholewinski conquered her fears to perform, and she did a nice job. Kudos to her mom for hand-making a great, award-winning costume.

The Towel Lady
Well written and well acted. Though the audience caught the humor, I think they also realized the metaphor, and in spite of myself I think I got a little choked up.

Losing my Religion: A Heathen's Tale of Tooth Fairies and Atheism
In perhaps one of the most important monologues of the festival and a bold move considering the audience, Skylar Norman told the story of how logic and personal experience led him to stop believing in God. Of course, the story is unique since it is his own, but in bigger picture he speaks for an entire generation that is leaving churches by the droves and not always for frivolous reasons. As a Christian, I found his words to be vital in understanding the contentions of those with whom I disagree and effective in stirring compassion within me.

So What Else Are You Doing These Days?
Collin's intensely-expressed struggle to be a writer resonated with me. So many times I was moved to say, "Yes! Exactly! Someone understands!" Maybe I'm a biased member of his writer's group, but I have to say his second draft is coming along quite well.

First-time director Samantha Topping won a well-deserved award for her directing finesse in this short skit about a girl discussing her insecurities to the mirror. What I love so much about the performance was the gritty hope of the ending. The protagonist, in a brilliantly performed moment, does not give in to the enticing escape of death. Aptly named and well-written, I'm glad that this act was recognized in the awards ceremony.

Unconscious Subconscious
My instinct would like to skip this one, but it won too many awards and garnered too much attention to ignore. What did it have going for it? A very dedicated cast, lots of makeup, interesting set pieces and a prolonged plot. Though the judges were fascinated by the entire play, I have to contend that the writing was weak and mostly driven by shock-value lines. The plot also did not stand up to further scrutiny. Worst of all, the ending could not have been more anti-climactic. There may be a way to use vaudeville techniques purposefully and meaningfully. Maybe. But no genre is done more disservice than vaudeville in the hands of amateurs.

The Prisoner and His Cause
A shocking ending and thought provoking wording, I'm glad I didn't miss it. It was a good example of the mental games that theater can play on the unsuspecting viewer. My philosophical agreement with the content is next to nothing, though it was slightly reminiscent of Milton and for that I appreciate its artistic value.

The Thread Men
This bit was another genre that I don't spend a lot of my time on, but The Thread Men justifiably won several awards. The takeaway was an anti-simplistic way of seeing the world and other people. The blocking in this elevator set was also an interesting, attention-keeping move.

Five Dollar Bill
I don't have much to say for this triple-perspective monologue(?). I'm including it because of all the religious skits, it said the thing I am currently learning as a Christian. That my actions can be motivated by God's love for me. The writer is young and has a lot to learn, but I love the heart behind what she was trying to do. It was not legalistic or preachy, and I hope she continues to grow in her ability to communicate truth artistically.

Wait Wait...I Can Explain
Of all the acts, this was the one I had heard the most about and for some reason, I did not have high expectations. Remember, I'm very inexperienced with theater, so I had not yet learned to factor in what a fantastic cast can do with a not-so-fantastic script. (Or maybe as a writer I don't love to think that the script really isn't at least half of everything..)  I was pleasantly surprised. The play was truly funny, thanks to the excellent casting, which I have already mentioned.

The Pink Lady
I know it was long. But that was the one and only problem with it. You know you're dealing with passion when a 76-year-old woman writes her own material and travels from Kentucky to compete in a festival. I am less than half her age, and I'm not sure if I could memorize all the material and remember the subtle changes in character. History lovers enjoyed it, and I really appreciated the artistry.