I didn’t go to Belhaven, so I never got to meet Dr. Wynn Kenyon. I’m still in awe of the guy, though, because I’ve seen the impact he’s had on many of my friends, on my church, and on the city of Jackson as a whole. When he suddenly passed away last year, the impact he had on those close to him was obvious. He was, on all accounts, a great man.
I was talking with a friend of mine a week or so ago and during the course of the discussion, he told me something Dr. Kenyon had said to him. It was something along the lines of this (and sorry if I don’t get the whole thing right but this is close): “The greatest disservice we can do to a complex problem is to give it a simple solution.”
That stuck with me, because I see it happen all the time. And worse, I do it all the time.
Maybe the best example of this, at least in my world, is the sports message board poster (and this is part of the reason I no longer am one of those…for now…). A thread pretty typically devolves from a (hopefully) well thought out post to the whole “LOL MISS STAKE SUCKS” (for the uninitiated, “miss stake” is a stupid, yet common, insult Ole Miss message board fans throw at Mississippi State fans. Other terms include Cow College, Redneck Tech, and similar things. Their similar stupid nicknames for us include Old Myth, Plantation U, Ole Piss, and The School Up North. Yes, those names get under my skin, but not for the reasons you think). ANYWAY – sports are one of the easiest examples of this phenomenon. And in the grand scheme of things, sports are pretty trivial. Imagine what happens when the point of debate isn’t something trivial.
Take history for example. Remember the Civil War? Of course you don’t. None of us were alive. So we’re left to read about it in books, see it in museums, or find documentaries about it. And isn’t that a complicated story? Ask a Southerner, and it was the “War of Northern Aggression” against a bunch of God-fearing Southern gentlemen. Ask a Northerner, and it was the heroic liberation of thousands of people from slavery, nothing more, nothing less. But we know the truth lies somewhere in the middle – countless books and documentaries will speak to that.
Church history really isn’t any different, and neither is the Bible. Often times, it doesn’t give us the “do this, not that” paradigm we’re looking for. And we can’t ignore Leviticus or Judges while just focusing on John 3:16. I read a quote from a Puritan writer about evangelism – when asked where the best place to start in Scripture for sharing the gospel was, he replied with “Genesis 1:1.” But it feels like so often we try to keep people away from some of the more complex parts of the Bible when we’re trying to share it with them.
Thinking about all of that, I guess this is why I hate discussing weighty things on Facebook, YouTube comment sections, or blogs. So many of these discussions would be well served to sit down over a cup of coffee or a cold beer and really discussed. So many times things just turn into a flame war and Hitler comparisons fly and by the end of it we’re not even talking about what we started off talking about.
Perhaps this just turned out to be a few paragraphs bemoaning the death of civil discourse. I’d like to think that there was a time, at some point in history, when people could disagree on something and still treat each other respectfully (and I fully understand and recognize that still happens today, it just seems more and more rare). I’d like to think that there was a time when we recognized things were complex and discussed them to figure out what the solution was instead of becoming more and more entrenched than when they started.
Oh well. I have to get back to studying…that shorter catechism won’t memorize itself.