Seeing our own stupidity first
Lately I’ve caught myself ranting about stupidity. Or perhaps some would say I’m being judgmental.
I thought: How could Sarah Palin be so stupid? What was she thinking when she said, “If I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.” The National Rifle Association audience cheered. Stupid, I thought.
How could Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling be so stupid? Rancher Bundy wondered if African-Americans were “better off as slaves.” Basketball team owner Sterling’s racist comments jarred our ears.
I began to see stupid everywhere. It started coloring my world.
I saw a woman in the grocery store with extremely high heels. “How stupid!” I saw a teenager trying to look cool with an e-cigarette. “How stupid!”
The judgmental prayer recited in a Jesus story starts whirling through my mind: “Thank God I’m not like the tax collector — or like Palin, or Sterling, or that ditzy woman.”
Discerning right and wrong is part of life. Jesus confronted the authorities for their injustices. Waterboarding enemies and racist comments don’t belong in the Jesus corner. High heels may be neutral, unless they are overpriced Gucci. The danger comes when we point a finger at someone and then start feeling superior.
Jesus understood how easy it is to miss our own stupidity and sin but to quickly point out others’ imperfections. He said, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye” (Matt. 7:3-5).
Seeing that big plank in our eye isn’t always easy. We have ways of justifying what we do. We miss seeing that we aren’t all that different from those stupid people.
When I preach, I aim to not be boring — which, if I’m honest, is a misguided aspiration. I understand Palin’s desire to please a crowd.
Sterling and Bundy are harder to understand. The tricky thing is seeing our own biases, hearing ourselves talk about those people who live on that side of town, or who think like that. We want to be part of the in crowd, so we create an out crowd.
Jesus welcomed outcasts. He socialized with rich tax collectors. Would he have coffee with Sarah Palin or attend a party at Donald Sterling’s house?
As Jesus followers we are invited to stop worrying about who is the greatest. We are called to quit comparing ourselves with others. We’re reminded we don’t need to label other people stupid to feel good about ourselves.
Let’s share with each other our stories of ways that we once had cloudy vision but now see with transformed lenses. Let’s find ways to help each other. Let’s keep practicing repentance, encouragement, correction and forgiveness. They are best packaged together, wrapped in compassion.
When I hear Sarah Palin labeling those offended by her remarks as “overly sensitive wusses,” I wonder if Jesus saying “love your enemies” makes him an overly sensitive wuss. I wonder if loving your enemies includes not calling them stupid.
Jane Yoder-Short attends West Union Mennonite Church in Parnell, Iowa.
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