I love Pandora. Not the goddess; the software. I love creating ultra-personalized radio stations based entirely on my tastes. I love knowing that because my artists, and somethings like them, are all that will be played, I’ll never be disappointed again while listening to music, and if I am, I can punish Pandora with a “thumbs down” rating on a song and rest assured that my tastes have been even further refined.
As a result, though, I’ve become way less tolerant of normal radio, which forces me to endure tastes other than my own, if only for a mile or two in the car. I usually won’t stand for it and start surfing for something, anything, even sports talk radio, instead of whoever it is who’s style or singing is distasteful to me. Pandora the goddess opened the jar because of curiosity and unleashed evil on the world. Pandora the music software also unleashes evil, but for the opposite reason: it seems to shut down curiosity.
Our entire culture is infected with this fear based lack of curiosity because we’re increasingly retreating into self-referential subcultures. Are you liberal? Read the Huffington Post. Are you conservative? Listen to Glenn Beck. In either instance you’ll find enough fodder to reinforce your world view and never be confronted with the untidy realities that might altar it. Increasingly it appears that this closed-minded fragmentation occurs, not only in music and politics, but churches and theology, much to our shame and loss.
A recent example was the resignation of Bruce Waltke, a brilliant Old Testament scholar, from Reformed Theological Seminary. He made some comments implying that we should be in dialogue with those who believe in evolution because, if there’s evidence for it and we refuse to listen, “to deny that reality will make us a cult”.
The event reminds me of an earlier time, written about here, which includes this: it strikes me how ignorant most Christians are of earlier battles from which we should have learned. The classic example is how the church handled Copernican theory and Galileo. The church had “Biblical truth” and evidence on her side against the “godless” theory that the earth orbits the sun rather than vice versa.
Truth seeking, it seems, should make us fearless of new ideas because after all, we’re committed to truth, not our current conceptions of truth. Is there danger in listening? Of course. We need discernment, humility, and the courage to defend our convictions or altar them. Fail at any point we run the risk of careening down the mountain, crashing in a heap of heresy.
The problem, though, is that there are dangers in not listening as well. The Pharisees didn’t listen, and the killed Jesus, and later Stephen, and later tried to kill Paul. They knew their Bibles, but weren’t open to the possibility that their understanding was incomplete. The flat earth society stopped listening. The church, justifying slavery for centuries, had stopped listening. When we stop listening, we stop learning and are, as a result, no longer open to transformation.
I’m convinced that Jesus is, as he said he was, “the truth” and so I’ll be astonished if my enquiries ever lead me to love him less. But I’ll keep enquiring, because the only other option is to declare that I’ve already arrived, that my understanding God’s Word and the World are perfect. I don’t have the presumption to go there. That others do, and have stopped listening as a result, strikes me as self-referential Pandora theology, and makes me sad.
I welcome your thoughts.