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Absolutes: Black and White and Pink Elephant All Over

April 23, 2010

There are times when “black and white” is a good thing. Little children really need them. “Never talk to strangers.” That’s a good absolute black and white for a child to have ground into their bones. “Mommy and Daddy love me.” Another absolute black and white nugget of information every child should be able to claim and believe unquestioning.

And yet, most of us wouldn’t want that same child to continue to cling to the “never talk to strangers” philosophy as they mature. We want our kids to develop into thoughtful friendly young people with enough intuitive sense to know who is okay to talk with and who should be avoided because of really bad vibes. Absolutes have just flown out the window.

I’m betting you can think of a situation where the mommy/daddy scenario might prove less than absolute, too.

If absolutes rarely remain absolutes, why do we base so many of our religious beliefs on absolutes? From my studies of history and personal experiences  in my own life, absolutes have rarely if ever remained absolutes. I see this most clearly in religion, but it shines through in every other aspect of life as well.

I see these discrepancies in so many places. When I do, it’s hard for me to leave them alone. They are like a scab, inviting me to pick at it to see what’s really hiding underneath. Rest assured, my examples aren’t limited to one particular belief. Far from it. However, there are a couple of groups that stand out in my examples, because they are the ones with which I am most familiar.

Here’s a great one. Prior to sometime in the late 1960’s, it was absolutely forbidden for certain people to eat meat on Fridays. But they could eat fish. Which….isn’t a meat? And then, a big meeting of key players was called, and it was decided that it was absolutely okay to eat meat on Fridays. Absolutely. I think. Except the whole time I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, we had fish sticks at school on Fridays…..religiously….only I had no idea back then.

And one near and dear to my heart…..the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God, protected through the millennia (is that a word?) just for us. It is absolutely complete with everything we need and we absolutely must follow it.

Okay. I’m good with that. Now, which ONE of the Bibles is the divinely inspired Word of God, protected through the millennia just for us? Is it the 66 Book version, or the Catholic version? or is it just the New Testament? or what about the Apocrypha? and the Gnostic books? How is it that they are useful for studying, but were found to be “uninspired” enough to make the cut when all that stuff was compiled? And who was it that decided those things? And when? Because I’m hoping most of us realize that those 66 books weren’t originally inside a pretty leather binding as one big book. They were individual writings and translations of writings and translations and transcriptions of writings. And so we have the absolute and definitive final and complete black and white Word of God.

Really? You’re sure about that?

Then there’s this one. We absolutely MUST worship exactly like the first century Christians did. Absolutely. No mention of instruments there, so none here. Yep, we are just like them….absolutely. But they were doing some cool stuff back then like healing the sick and speaking/praying in tongues, and meeting together daily, selling all their belongings to give to the poor, and…, and…, and we are absolutely just like them, except for that stuff, because that stuff isn’t appropriate for today. Absolutely inappropriate and unavailable.

And we absolutely must meet for worship three times a week if we want to be pleasing to God. It absolutely must be twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday. Or it might could be on Saturday evening in case our services are too full to hold everyone on Sunday….because that makes God happy. Absolutely.

There are so many more examples.

I think by now you get my point. If there is one thing that has changed in MY life in recent years, it’s the realization that absolutes don’t exists. There are only possibilities. Absolutes tend to create barriers and walls, animosity, exclusivity, and hatred. Jesus took almost every absolute that had been created by the religious organism of the day and blasted huge holes in them. He replaced them with one and only one absolute.


Shifting one’s paradigm from an absolutist philosophy to one of love and possibilities radically changes a person’s life and a person’s religious perspective. Absolutists use words like abomination. If you hear that word, congratulations, you are in the presence of an absolutist.

Someone who sees possibilities instead of absolutes will tend to be more like Jesus, extending love and acceptance while being open to the fact that just maybe we don’t know everything about the mind of God.

Someone yesterday made the statement that a person is either a conservative Christian or a bleeding heart liberal, but that it is impossible to be both. I have a problem with that statement. It is absolutist. It is sad. If it is true, I don’t want to be a Christian.

Instead, I’d rather be a seer of possibilities, a believer in something much bigger than myself, and a giver of unconditional love.

Instead, I’d rather be a follower of Jesus.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2010 8:23 AM

    Angie … Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13, nothing trumps love. Nothing. I don’t have all the answers, but I do believe there are a few absolutes. But when it comes to absolutes, I believe there are only a few. There are LOTS of grey areas, but few black and white areas. Paul mentioned a few in the first few verses of Ephesians 4.

    Also, I must say I’m frustrated with some who call themselves conservative Christians yet act nothing like Christ. Their tone, hatred and venom spewed towards our elected officials (ie President) has been damaging to the cause of Christ and very unChristlike.

    • April 23, 2010 8:36 AM

      Thanks for your insights, Trey. I just went to Eph 4 to see what it says. “* 18*They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” That one really grabbed my attention, as did “*31*Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Lots of other good stuff in that chapter.

      Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go work on washing away some bitterness with a good strong dose of love. 🙂

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