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DichotomiesThe other day I sat down with a friend and said, “Last night I was completely surrounded by liberals.”

Surprised he said, “But you’re liberal.”

“That’s only when I am with conservatives.”

I am almost always aware of the other side.

I can’t help it.  I just think the other side needs to be considered.  For me, by taking the opposite position, one of two things can happen, both of them good.  You will either convince me by being able to counter my best arguments, or your position will be a little more nuanced, because of mine.

There are not too many things that are black and white–I see the world in gray.

I am suspicious of certainty because to achieve it, one must often over-simplify.

I have been wondering where this tendency to see things from different perspectives came from.

I have concluded that it’s because, between the ages of 1 and 23, I was a Canadian in the USA.

I was keenly aware of my Canadianness  and I celebrated it by wearing a jean jacket with a maple leaf stitched onto the shoulder.  In grade 5, this meant being thrown to the ground by a 6th grader who kicked me in the back with “Sunday shoes.”

In school I was told that spelling the word “color” was right and any other way was wrong.  I knew it wasn’t that simple–that there was at least one entire country where you could spell it “colour” and also be right.

During the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979 I was in high school in Washington.  American culture in general, and my classmates in particular, were furious that the Iranians held Americans hostage.  It was  a simple good and evil scenario.  Being Canadian, I was sure there must be more to the story and I did some reading.  Most of my classmates, didn’t know or care that in 1953 the Americans had removed a government that was seen by Iranians as a people’s government, and replaced it with the Shah, a brutal dictator who would terrorize his people for decades.

My aversion to simplistic thinking affected my faith.  Simple didn’t cut it, and I heard a lot of simple from many Christians.   So when I went to Calvin College in 1980, I doubted that it was possible for me to be a Christian.  For one thing, I thought it was up to me.  For another,  I was under the impression that I had to choose, either to be a Christian or to use my brain.

A lot of the certainty that I objected to was framed in either/or propositions like this one.

It was at Calvin that God reclaimed me.  I ended up in the right classes and I learned that I could use my mind, and still be Christian.  I came to realize that many of the perceived conflicts between faith and reason, came from the insistence that the Bible conform to a scientific understanding of truth and that this understanding was very limited.

Intellectually and spiritually, this was the most important thing that has happened to me.  It’s the reason I became a    Christian school teacher–I didn’t want students to think that they had to choose between faith and reason, but rather that God is the God of reason as well as everything else.

There are a lot of other simplistic categories that need to be explored.  I’ll do some of it here on this blog; that’s why I call it, “Crossing the Line.”

temporal and eternal,

natural and supernatural,

material and spiritual,

nature and grace,

this-worldly and other-worldly,

body and soul,

state and church,

public and private,

social and personal,

profane and sacred,

science and religion,

scientific and theological,

objective and subjective,

rational and emotional,

modem and medieval,

I just completed my degree in Interdisciplinary Humanities at TWU.  Humanities is right up my alley because it complicates everything — its about blurring boundaries.

But, you may ask, “Aren’t some things simple?”

“Yes,” I say, “but I doubt our capacity to know exactly what is and what is not.”


  1. Not being good with computers, I couldn’t find a way to send a reply after reading Your Money or Grace: You Can’t Have Both, a post from 12/22/12. But I did manage to find this reply form in your “About Me” section. I was eager to write you after I read that post, because what you said seemed spot-on.

    A friend just lent me her Flannery O’Connor collection, and because I was trapped in her hospital room while she took a nap, I was forced to read two stories. Finally! I’d been meaning to reread Flannery O’Connor for 21 years, ever since someone gave me A Good Man Is Hard to Find as a wedding present. But the book was shocking and difficult and I put it down. Years later I read a biography of her by a priest who helped me understand some of her themes and motivations, and it made me want to reread her. But the bad feeling left over from my reading of A Good Man kept me from picking her up again.

    This time around, I started with Everything That Rises Must Converge, and then Greenleaf, and it no longer just seemed disturbing. With Greenleaf, for instance, I could see what the author was doing with nature vs. Mrs. May, with her self-righteousness and the real integrity of the Greenleaf family, and with the wild divinity of the bull. I reread the story today and found even more to think about. So I went to the internet and searched for commentary.

    The first 3 articles I read ranged from shallow to stupid, and then I found yours. The picture at the top made me so angry I almost didn’t read your post, but I’m so glad I did.(As it turned out, the picture had made you angry too.) As I read, I was alternately thinking, Thank you! and I love you! Now don’t feel threatened, I’m not really saying I love you. But I did love your commentary. It rang true with my unformed impressions as well as the conclusions I’d already drawn. And it was a lovely bonus that you chose to compare it to one of my favorite political pet peeves: the idea that we comfortable North Americans are responsible for all the blessings we’ve received, and that it would be almost immoral to share with those less virtuous (less fortunate) than ourselves. Thank you!!!!!!! I’ll definitely be following your blog. That is, if I can figure out how to make my computer do that.

    • Jennifer, I am glad that I have written something that you have enjoyed and been edified by. Perhaps I will write something about A Good Man Is Hard to Find — it really is a beautiful story about Grace, even though the family is murdered. That’s O’Connor for you. Thank you for persisting and for dropping in on the blog once and a while. It’s nice to know that there are a few people out there having a look. Shalom.

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