Last night I saw Sheryl WuDunn, co-author of Half the Sky, speak at a local college. While it was fun to see one of my journalistic and humanitarian heroes in person, what I found really interesting were the questions people asked her during the Q&A following the presentation.
Perhaps the college atmosphere played into it, but many of the questions were veiled criticisms of what she had left out of the book. We have decades of feminist theory and scholarship–why hadn’t she included that? Would she please talk about the root cause of poverty, especially in the global south? How has colonialism played into failures in foreign aid? The term “patriarchy” was never used in the documentary–why not?
It struck me that Christians aren’t the only ones who sometimes value ideas above effectiveness, politics above pragmatism. Like the woman at the well, we defensively attempt to move the conversation from matters of personal relevance and responsibility to our pet political or theological theories–things we usually can do nothing about. It’s all too easy to take pride in our knowledge, to stand up in front of a crowd and show off our familiarity with deeper issues of the subject at hand, scoffing at the simplicity of those who are just. Helping. People.
How contrary to the way Jesus was! Sitting in the auditorium last night, it became easier to see why Jesus entrusted his message and his mission to humble people with open hearts, instead of religious, educated people with all the right intellectual qualifications.
Of course intellectualism has its place. After all, Paul, the apostle who wrote most of the New Testament, was emminently qualified–a well-educated but hard-hearted religious zealot who saw the light, and brought the good news to the masses–God isn’t just for the insiders anymore!
Paul was willing to lay down his deeply cherished cultural convictions and religious traditions for the sake of Christ and Christ’s people, counting his personal piety, academic accomplishments, and all those things his world said were important as so much garbage, compared to knowing the person of Jesus Christ.
It made me search my heart–in what ways to I value religion over relationship? Principles over people? Theory over action?
So today my prayer is that I will not be fooled and distracted by the things this world considers important–by the intellectual asides, the doctrinal debates, the development theories–but that I will love Jesus more and more, and that his love will overflow into the world through me.