A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Gospel According to Forrest Gump #4: Variety Is the Spice(d Shrimp) of Life

Anyway, like I was sayin', shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that's about it.-- Pvt. Benjamin Buford "Bubba" Blue

I am not a picky eater. Indeed, I will literally try anything. When I travel to another American city, I eat in the local restaurants. I can get Applebee's and other franchise food at home. When I travel to another country, I do not look for a place that serves hamburgers and American fare. I want to eat the food of the folks who live there. For me it is an adventure and a learning experience to taste all the culinary variety in the world. It also makes the dining experience more interesting.

I feel sorry for finicky eaters whose tastes restrict them to a very limited fare. They miss out on so many of the great flavors of life. I understand that for whatever reason there are many flavors they do not care for and I certainly don't think people should have to eat what they do not like, but I am thankful that my taste buds have not so restricted me.

In the movie Forrest Gump, Forrest becomes best friends with a young man he meets on the bus headed for boot camp-- Benjamin Buford "Bubba" Blue. Bubba's dream is to buy a shrimp boat and open a shrimping business. In one scene during the movie Bubba recounts all the various ways that the versatile little shellfish can be cooked. He leaves out a few recipes, but the point is well taken. Even if one were forced to eat shrimp daily (I would like to try that some time), one could still enjoy variety. Why eat shrimp only fried as some people do when you can eat it boiled, stir-fried, baked, sauteed... well.. you get the idea.

God has created a wonderfully diverse world filled with variety, and all of it has a beauty of its own, from the desert of the American Southwest to the tundra of Siberia, from Carolina pine forests to tropical palm groves. Wherever we travel in this world we will never experience more of the same ole' same ole.' And variety-- difference-- always makes for a wonderful adventure.

But the truth of the matters is, many human beings are afraid of variety and difference where it really matters. It's one thing for a "foodie" like me to speak of the wonderful variety of flavors in life, but it is quite another thing to experience variety when some believe that such difference threatens their way of life. People can be afraid of the immigrants who have come to the country seeking the very same things that our ancestors came for-- opportunity, and the possibility of a better life for their children. And we can act toward these new immigrants in the same discriminatory way that some people treated our immigrant forefathers and mothers, while the irony is lost on us.

Others of us do not mind religious variety as long as it's variety contained within our own religious system. As a Methodist I am more than willing to co-exist with the Presbyterians across the street and the Baptists on the other side of town, but what about the synagogue down the road, and the mosque that is being built right next door? I want to be clear on this one. I stand within the larger evangelical tradition and I do believe that Jesus is decisive for a saving relationship with God. I am not one of those persons who believes that all religions are simply spokes in the wheel attached to the same center. I do not believe that all religions lead to God. (You may call me intolerant for that view, but that's your issue, so you have to deal with it.) But what I fail to understand from many of my believing friends who think along these same lines is why our Christology and ecclesiology preclude, not only tolerance for people of other faiths, but working together with them in common causes and also learning from them and appreciating the variety that they bring to our life together.

Then there is one other area where some people are not only afraid of variety, but they are angry over the differences-- the arena of politics.* Yes, it is true that much of the passion on both sides is the result of deeply held convictions on government and what it should and should not do That is a very important and a worthwhile debate to have, but there are also those who are simply angry because when it comes to politics, not everyone thinks the way they do, and they believe as well that the views of those on the other side of the political aisle are not only wrong but dangerous. This is true on both sides and what it leads to is shouting and interrupting campaign rallies and speeches on college campuses, which is done all in the name of free speech. How interesting-- refusing to let someone speak all in the name of free speech (once again the irony is lost on these folks). Such logic could only make sense to people whose politics is their religion.

All of this seems a long way from Bubba Blue's litany list of ways to fix shrimp, but the point is that variety does make life better and more interesting, and it also gives life's purpose a fuller significance. St. Paul reminds the Corinthians, and all believers in the 21st century too, that even God's people reflect a wonderful diversity that God uses for his work in this world (1 Corinthians 12:12-30). The Body of Christ is one, but it is made of many parts (people and groups) with many different purposes for ministry in this world that point to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Without that diversity, the Body simply could not function. Without diversity there can be no functional unity; without unity, diversity is nothing more than fragmentation.

Yes, variety-- difference-- can present its own difficulties to be sure, but I would rather live life in such great variety, even with its difficulties, than merely exist where everything and everyone are the same. Meat and potatoes day after day is really, really boring... shrimp fixed 27 different ways-- now that is quite interesting.

*I realize that some may be tired of reading my thoughts on politics (I received an email yesterday stating such), but it is my blog so I get to post what I want. One of the great things about web browsers is that anyone who doesn't want to read what I think, can click on that little "x" at the top right hand corner of their program and solve the problem instantly. Or, if you disagree with something I write, you are welcome to comment and join the discussion.


Chuck Tackett said...

Good post Allan. Difference & fear are, in my mind, only a symptom of the need for control. Where people don't have the security of knowing and accepting that God is in control they seek to gain control themselves and thus continue the cycle of sin.

You posted the other day about church and I had wanted to add another comment there but it fits here as well. A point you noted was that the people of Israel wanted kings just like those around them. Why are we different?

We seek control and thus create institutions or other structures (a gun to the head!) to assert and maintain our control. We want things to happen the way we want them to happen.

But then we meet Jesus.

Allan R. Bevere said...

"We want things to happen the way we want them to happen... But then we meet Jesus."

Well said, Chuck.