Holy Curiosity

In the movie “Jerry McGuire,” the title character, played by Tom Cruise, says at one point “We live in a cynical world.”  It was a moment of deep truth in an otherwise funny but pretty forgettable movie.

We live in a cynical world.  We all see it.  Everyday.  All around us.

In our community, I look at some of the “Concerned Citizens” Facebook groups and see people attacking the school system, city government, businesses and yes, even churches.  My spouse works in our school district, and I have many friends here who are school board members, teachers, staff and administrators.  I have witnessed the human cost when a community expresses cynicism.

We live in a cynical world.  And cynicism is contagious.

I’ve watched with fascination in the last few weeks the reaction of people in the ELCA to two different cultural phenomena:  The “He Gets Us” campaign, which has been around since last spring, but really crossed onto people’s radar screens with their two ads at the Super Bowl, and the “Revival” taking place at Asbury University.  

I have seen a lot of people in online groups respond with suspicion (at best), anger and contempt at both of these events.  

Let me be clear: I am not endorsing either of these things.  But I am interested.  

The “He Gets us” campaign is an attempt to place the person and teachings of Jesus in front of a broad audience.  The focus of the ads (be childlike, welcome the stranger, love not hate) are messages that we can get behind.  Where people seem to have trouble is not what is being said, but who is saying it.  The ads appear to be funded and organized by people whose faith lays in the evangelical and fundamental tradition, and whose perspectives on welcome and inclusion may not mirror our own.  This is a legitimate issue.

Likewise, the amount of money spent on the “He Gets Us” campaign (purported to be over a billion dollars, raised through private donations) raises questions about stewardship of resources and where else that money could be used.  Fair enough.  

But what has surprised me about this campaign is that it is not driving people to a particular denominational, social or political world view.  Any congregation can sign up to be listed as a community faith resource, so that people with faith questions can contact them for conversation and follow up.  Any church.  Even ours.  And I’ve seen several ELCA congregations report online that they have been contacted and have had good conversations.  The “He Gets Us” campaign is not filtering churches to match any theological worldview.

Would I endorse spending that kind of money on a campaign like this?  Probably not.  And I am really interested in what’s going on.  In fact, I appreciate anything that puts Jesus’ message of welcome of immigrants and refugees, and loving others instead of hating in front of people.

What is happening at Asbury University is equally interesting.  “Revival” is not really a part of our vocabulary.  So I don’t really understand it.  But I have seen people in our community approach it with skepticism.

We live in a cynical world.  And cynicism is contagious.

But so is hope.

I wonder – what if we in our form of Christ’s church chose to approach things like this…things out of our experience and worldview…not with cynicism, but with curiosity?  What if we didn’t rush to judgment but instead asked questions?  

  • What is happening in these places?
  • Why is it happening?
  • Who is it affecting?
  • How might the Holy Spirit be working?
  • Is it possible that God may be working through people whose actions may or may not be faithful to God’s mission in the world?  (It seems like there are lots of biblical stories of when this has happened).
  • What can we learn from these things about how God moves in the world?

Curiosity breeds questions, which lead to conversations, which build relationships and accompaniment.  And relationships build hope.  It is possible to be curious and to learn without endorsing or supporting something.  

Cynicism, on the other hand, breaks down relationships.  And being cynical and being judgmental are close cousins.  

In Colossians 3, the apostle Paul writes that we should:  “…clothe (our)selves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…” and that we should “Above all, clothe (our)selves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  (Colossians 3:12 & 14)

As a Network, we want to be a place of curiosity. We want to be a place where questions are asked and we learn from each other; even those with whom we may disagree.

As a church…the broader Christian church…let us be gentle with each other.  Let us be curious, asking questions, seeking to understand and learning from each other.  Even learning from those we disagree with.  And let us set aside the world’s instinct to be cynical, and approach each other with a holy curiosity.

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