Can you imagine talking to yourself a decade or two ago? If I sat down with my 20 year-old self to have a serious conversation about life, meaning, religion, science—it would most likely become a debate. I love that person, but I’m not him anymore.
And I think that’s a good thing. In fact, I’m wary of the person who says nothing about their perspective has changed in a long time. It makes me worry there’s no internal work happening, nothing that brings about any growth.
Change is hard, though, right?
It can come with consequences. Internally, cognitive dissonance is troubling, even painful at times. Externally, groups are held together by a collective imagination, shared stories about reality. To pick at the foundation of those stories is to risk being ostracized, literally or figuratively.
Did you know there is a non-profit called The Clergy Project? Members from all fifty states and forty different countries, from various religious backgrounds, seek private support as their faith changes and the personal and professional fallout follow. There are pastors right now who can’t bring their questions and doubts to their community, for fear of losing their job.
The incentive structure built around all huge worldviews and perspectives supports never dissenting, and it’s why most people only become more locked into whatever they were handed. Why would I risk losing my support system?
There are some that break from the pack, though. I recently listened to several interviews with Megan Phelps-Roper, former member of the Westboro Baptist Church. If you aren’t familiar, they’re most famous for picketing soldier funerals and their hate speech against LGBT+ people.
Megan was born into this family and “church,” but when she was put in charge of their social media, she was exposed to another world outside of her own. She started having conversations with people who questioned why she believed what she believed. Over time, this dialogue gave her the courage to get out.
“When you have children, and indoctrinate these children since the time that they are born, and you threaten them with eternal torment and physical punishment for any sort of pushback… Once they have had that paradigm in their heads for that long, it is very difficult to overcome it,” Megan explained.
Does that resonate? Fortunately, most of us weren’t born into fringe hate groups, but many of us were taught a set of beliefs that have eternal consequences in our formative childhood years.
With tens of thousands of denominations within Christianity alone, they can’t all be right about every doctrinal issue, and so I guess that gets me ultimately to my point.
Regardless of the idea, be it religious or not, never be fearful to explore why you believe it in a non-judgmental dialogue with someone who is safe and agenda-less. And if you don’t have that person, I’m more than happy to be it.
Change is good. Questioning is healthy. It’s why we don’t still use the Bible to justify slavery or the conquest of other people groups. So keep learning, keep pushing, because yourself ten years from now, and our world ten years from now, needs it.