life’s a beach, Batstone’s a rock star
This weekend, some friends and I took a trip to a place called Manuel Antonio, an area that boasts a densely forested national park and a series of beaches that were absolutely incredible.
On the way to las playas, we’d walk right past these swaths of sloths, howler monkeys, zebra locust, baby deer, termites, iguanas, and all sorts of little creatures.
It felt like we were hiking through Jurassic Park all weekend.
At one of the beaches, we decided to spend some time dancing in the waves and jumping around in them.
The first time a massive wave came tumbling toward me, I tried a purposefully stubborn approach against it. I stood there ham-fisted and sure and waited for it to hit me.
It smacked into me hard and toppled me over immediately. I found myself swirling, knocked on my ass, spitting up water.
My friend Jessie was swimming right next to me and she burst out laughing.
“Why did you just stand there?” she asked, surprised.
“I’m doing an experiment,” I grinned absently, eyes set on the next wave.
I probably did this for longer than I should have, testing the different sorts and strengths of the waves and the ways I could resist them.
After some time, I came to the conclusion that there were three main ways to deal with this ocean:
I could One, stand straight against the waves, brave them upright and unbending and strong and uncompromising and what would happen was that every time they just about snapped me in half, like a brick wall smashing into my face.
Two, that was the method I’m most familiar with: I planted my feet in the sand below me and stood sideways, kind of like a crab. As I was buffeted by the water, my body would bend and shift and go with the flow and became kind of like a wave itself, like the tree that survives the storm because it’s flexible and not rigid. The only downside was that I occasionally lost my grounding and slid way too far to the left or the right.
Three – and this was probably my favorite – was to dive under the waves to the ocean floor and avoid the chaos completely. I’d take a deep breath and sink below the surface and the reverberations and shock that the tidal currents otherwise wrought didn’t even touch me. I resurfaced for air but otherwise began exploring the previously-neglected seashells and sand under my feet. It was fascinating.
Point is, I kind of ignored the waves down there. And even though they seemed so huge and world-altering up above, they didn’t feel like much from my new perspective.
I laughed out loud after I dried off and plopped into the sand because I opened the book I was reading and read the following line:
You can believe something with so much conviction that you’d die for that belief,
and yet in the same moment
you can also say, “I could be wrong…”
A few thoughts about these waves, and then a story about another purported heretic.
I believe that, when it comes to God, it’s not just the beliefs you hold, but how you hold them.
I have no problem with you holding to confident belief in a literal 6-day Young Earth Creation , or in the concept of fatalism, or even having rejected the idea of a God as long as you are willing to question your assumptions and at least truly consider that you may be wrong.
That’s why I’ll passionately argue for the divinity of Christ and for an earth that is billions of years old, against child pornography and for same-sex marriage, for an inspired and trustworthy Bible and for evolution: because this is what the evidence – carefully weighed and inspected by these holy scriptures – points me to. At the same time, I try to take my own advice and be open to the swelling possibility that I am just dead wrong about some of this stuff (maybe God does abhor homosexuality, maybe I really am going to hell, maybe there actually was a literal Adam and Eve who lived 6,000 years ago).
I don’t believe these things. But let me show you my life and how I got to where I am and let me encounter you and see how you got where you’re at and let’s learn something from one another.
A couple months ago, some friends and I were fortunate enough to have lunch with David Batstone, the professor, author, and founder of the acclaimed (anti-human trafficking) Not For Sale campaign. Somehow, we got to talking about leading figures in American Christianity and he mentioned how Rob Bell was a truly genuine pastor. I asked Professor Batstone what he thought about all of the controversy that had risen up around Bell recently, and his answer floored me.
A bit of background information: after Rob published Love Wins in 2011, many Christians immediately publicly alienated themselves from him. Bell, who blogger Tony Jones playfully calls “the Jason Bourne of Christianity,” was brutally and loudly ostracized in a way that made huge waves in the blogosphere and in the real world – clergy lost their jobs for saying they enjoyed the thoughts presented in the book, churches pulled his popular NOOMA videos from youth groups across the country, and Christian bookstores blatantly refused to carry his work.
All that to say, Mr. Batstone’s response to my question both surprised and impressed me.
He furrowed his brows and genuinely asked: “what controversy?”
Take note of this: this man was so immersed below the surface in his work breaking the chains of poverty and freeing slaves across the globe, so close to the poor, daily embracing the weakest physical manifestations of Christ, that he did not even know about the bitter waves of the theological and cultural currents thrashing overhead against Rob.
So while I’m getting my feathers ruffled over the latest stupid theological squabble, Driscoll fracas, or ecclesial controversy, people – Mother-Theresa-esque folks like Dave Batstone – are so busy pursuing the Lord and plunging into the depths of human suffering that they don’t even know about this crap.
If I could have a tall drink of the knowledge I’ve gained from all of this mess (one part unwavering confidence, two parts bending like the wise coconut tree, six thousand parts Batstone’s philosophy of being so immersed in the Kingdom that he doesn’t even notice the chunks of theological bullshit floating overhead) I would be more than set.
It’s certainly something to think about.
Plus, the drinking age here is only 18, so they’d be totally cool with it.