What we try to live by here…
Someone the other day asked me what principles guided me in founding the Thomas Society, both at Ohio State and on the web. After a lot of thought, I really boil it down to the following principles. I thought I would share them with all of you.
Honesty- As I ranted a few posts ago, I hate it when Christians are dishonest or try to use dishonest means during “evangelism”. It doesn’t work with people, intellectual or not. A few years ago, I was in a conversation with an atheist and I basically fudged an answer to one of his questions. He called me on it and I had to admit I didn’t know what I was talking about. This was a huge lesson for me. Being dishonest while you are trying to talk about Jesus is a bad, bad idea. So, what I train my students to do and keep reminding myself is to be honest if we don’t know the answer to something. We are to admit when we just don’t know something. In these sort of convesations, it becomes incredibly hard. Why? Because of the next principle we are committed to:
Powerlessness- St. Paul tells us in Phillipians 2 that Jesus made himself weak for us by taking a human body. It’s a verse that has become our theme at the Thomas Society, and we seek to embrace our weakness. You see, in these sort of conversations, a lot of the time it becomes about winning the debate. We plow each other over with arguments, facts, data, etc and so on. In doing so, I have seen Christians (including myself) try to win respectability through power plays and trying to dictate the terms of the argument. At the Thomas Society, we try to just let people dictate the flow of the conversation and questions, not our prepackaged agenda. In doing so, that puts us at a disadvantage in the convesation because it could go anywhere. It forces us to give up power and make us the last principle we live by:
Humility- Let’s face it, it’s hard to be humble. It’s hard to stop being ego centric, in fact, most of us, Christian, atheist or otherwise don’t do it very well. And, its doubly true if claim to be smart. The thing that I have seen among intellectual Christians that disgusts me (and I include myself in that) is that we seem to try to hard. We have this sort of, “look at me! Look at me!” mentality. As in, Look how creative we are, look how smart we are, blah, blah, blah”.
I think it flows from a latent arrogance and self satisfaction of thinking we know more than other people. I think Christians often treat Jesus as the ultimate secret, as in, “I know a secret you dont, nyah, nyah, nyah”. And it just makes you want to hit them in the mouth and ask questions later.
At The Thomas Society, we really try to seek out ways to show humility, to avoid Jonah’s error of self righteous satisfaction. We don’t do it very well, but we try.
So, this is what we hold to. Feel free to hold us to it.