What I learned in San Francisco.
This last week I took a trip with the family to San Francisco. If you know me, you know that I’ve typically considered California – particularly that part – the equivalent to Sodom and Gomorrah. So I went and I kept a wary eye open. Here’s what I came away with.
While I was running around the Bay Area and Northern California I saw no rainbow stickers on cars. Of the other car decorations (Darwin “fish”, “Coexist” stickers) that typically cause me to bristle, I saw less in San Fran than I see in Ft. Worth. What I didn’t see: drag queens, a bunch of gays doing open PDA, hippies, or angry libs. I also didn’t see some things I usually see in Texas. I didn’t see strip clubs. Nor billboards advertising strip clubs on every freeway. In Texas, if you travel any US or interstate highway for at least 60 miles you’ll drive by at least one “porn shack” (adult video store/theater). I didn’t see any of those either. Also in Texas, if you go in a mens’ restroom (especially in public parks) you’ll find men who leave their phone numbers and sexual requests written on the bathroom wall. I never saw any of that either in Cali. The fact is, I see more flaunting of pornography, strippers, and homosexuality in North Central Texas than I did in Northern California.
The Bible belt appears to be less sexually moral than San Francisco.
I was really expecting someone to comment about my accent (especially as I realized how many times I say “fixin’ to.”) Everyone I did talk to was friendly and helpful. Those that weren’t originally from Texas seemed cool with Texas. Whether in Tahoe City, San Francisco, or the wine country. The only person conscious of my accent or my home state was me.
It made me think of how things are in my Bible Belt town and Bible Belt circles. People that go to various churches in my town can’t even get along with other people from the other churches. That’s why we have 3 Southern Baptist churches that are all pretty much the same format. People within the churches can’t agree on what should be considered “proper” worship music. Think of some of the most controversial topics in evangelical circles:
Contemporary style vs traditional.
Hymns vs praise songs
Arminianism vs Calvinism
Cessationism vs Continuationism
Freewill vs Election
Once saved always saved vs Losing salvation
Us vs Them
All of these – All. Of. These. – are all different views that can be supported by Scripture and argued against by other Scripture. We consider ourselves the bearers of “real truth,” fortifying our doctrine with select verse and interpretations. Meanwhile we’re snuffing out our own light trying to throw water on the other side of the argument. None of those topics I mentioned are without flaws, holes, and misinterpretation. Yet we’ll stand our righteous ground like a Texan holds to his opinion about San Francisco without ever actually having gone there. And, like I was, we probably know we’re not really “right” but we can’t convince ourselves of that.
Am I making sense here?
Often what causes a negative opinion is a bad experience. Some people throw out spiritual gifts like healing and prophecy because they’ve seen them misused by charismatic churches. I’ve heard people who favor traditional worship dismiss contemporary worship because praise songs are repetitive. Another cause of a negative opinion is when we read something that sounds agreeable then filter our Bible reading based on our new ideas. Then we feed ourselves only stuff we agree with, thinking our way is the ultimate truth. If the definition of “doctrine” isn’t “my opinion about what God says, as incomplete as it may be,” it probably should be. After I’m done studying for this test for work, I think I’m going to pick an author who I usually wouldn’t and read one book of theirs.
Since when is it a good idea to develop a doctrine about the Bible, then try to place what is eternal and the very definition of life into our little doctrine box? Instead of tossing the pendulum back and forth, can we not just put it in the middle and leave it there? Or maybe, just maybe, we need to realize that the real Biblical truth lies somewhere in the middle of our polar views.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t know what we believe. We just need to realize that these hot buttons aren’t the complete picture and we need to quit hanging our faith on them. Just like it was completely silly for me to be so judgmental about another city’s culture. As I found out, where I’m from actually had the bigger plank of the place whose speck I ridiculed so much.