A human universal: We learn and grow the most when we are uncomfortable, when our current ways of thinking are challenged.
My husband exploded with rage across the breakfast table. He was reading the Sunday Telegraph, a British newspaper, and had just learned that HarperCollins publishers are “rewriting” most of beloved British mystery novelist Agatha Christie’s books to remove “objectionable language.” See the story here.
As in “God forbid that anyone become even the slightest bit uncomfortable by reading fun mysteries through the cultural eyes of a British woman writing in the 1930’s.”
My response, “Then we had better start re-writing the Bible ASAP.”
Now, I’m not making an equivalence between Agatha Christie and those who wrote the Bible. Not in the least my point. The point is: being “uncomfortable” is absolutely essential to learning and to growth toward emotional, intellectual and spiritual maturity.
Spiritual growth comes from being uncomfortable
Seriously, people: think about the greatest learning experiences in your life! When did you learn/grow/expand your brain/deepen your soul the most? The times when you were totally unchallenged? When comfort surrounded you? When everything was set up to your satisfaction?
This is a human universal: we learn and grow best when we are uncomfortable, when our current ways of thinking are challenged.
We grow into greater maturity when we have to figure out how to integrate the way others think and interact with the world into our own worldviews.
We learn when we discover we need to abandon childish ways where all answers are given and all decisions are made for us and trade that safety for the often-scary challenges of surviving in a very, very difficult world. If we don’t make those moves, we stay mental and spiritual children.
Is that really what we want? To find a world so intellectually and spiritually “comfortable” that we never have to consider that we might actually be wrong about something? To live in such padded rooms that we gain no capabilities to leave that space and see what is outside the door?
This need to be uncomfortable to learn is one of the main reasons why travel to unfamiliar places becomes the best educational vehicle available, far better than any schoolroom. Yes, it can be exhausting to be in an environment where we hear languages not our own, where we encounter utterly unfamiliar foods, customs, family arrangements, marital and religious rites, clothing, transportation and weather.
Nothing is where it is “supposed” to be, nothing is what we think it should be. And that is exactly where we all need to go periodically if we want to become fully human, fully-equipped, spiritually-mature people.
So, Agatha Christie (and Ronald Dahl and goodness knows how many more) used expressions and offer viewpoints that many of us today find unacceptable or even horrifying. But that was their world, and what they saw.
The glory of human growth is that now we can see where some of those things were absolutely not affirming of the full humanity of others. How wonderful that we have reached that milestone! But without knowing what people saw and believed before us, we will never be challenged to consider that we also don’t have it fully “right” yet.
Someday, people will look back on this time and be horrified by certain current trends of thought and theology as well. Does that mean perhaps we should just go ahead and erase all current written work in our haste to erase all previous ways of seeing the world that we don’t happen to like at the moment? Shall we indeed erase history so we don’t have to be “uncomfortable?” God help us.
Don’t want to be uncomfortable? Better erase Jesus.
And if we are going to erase everything that makes us uncomfortable, then, truly and absolutely, we must erase Jesus of Nazareth. Everywhere he went and each time he taught he left deep discomfort in his wake. Why do you think it is necessary to crucify him? Because, for heaven’s sake, he made nearly everyone, but especially the powers-that-be, both political and religious, wildly uncomfortable.
The Bible indicates that nearly everything this itinerant carpenter person Jesus said or did challenged the status quo. He called misfits to be his disciples, healed on the Sabbath, he told people to LOVE THEIR ENEMIES, for heaven’s sake. Really?
And these things are just the beginning. He embraced the power of the younger brother we want to call the “prodigal son” rather than rejoicing in the self-righteous rule-following older brother.
And, that worst of all possibilities, he let a “sinful” woman wash his feet with her tears while the “righteous” ones sat around appalled that he would permit himself to become unclean in such a disgusting manner. He called out the rich and the powerful and exposed their hypocrisy for all to see. Nothing like causing discomfort.
And that discomfort so frightened and enraged them that they did the first century equivalent to our current “rewriting” binge: they sought to erase him from life and from memory.
How did that work for them?
For a little while, it likely did. The transformational Jesus movement went underground, whispered from ear to ear, communicated by secret code, limited primarily to the underclass, the lost and belittled of society.
And then it grew so large that the powers-that-be could no longer ignore it, so they co-opted it and tamed it and turned it into a reflection of their own power-hogging, riches-gathering selves, leaving it corrupted beyond all measure.
But periodically, a new wind blows through, people discover Jesus again, learn once more of the freedom to be found there, along with the mandates to care for the least of these, recognize that in God’s holy place, the last do become first, and once again, all are welcome to the table. But they, too, will be eventually silenced, canceled if you will.
So, here’s my initial proposal: Boycott HarperCollins. Start there. Find other publishers that are wiping out the voices of the past and tell them to take a hike. Pass legislation that requires publishers to put in large print on the front of those “cleaned-up” books that they have worked hard to erase the voices of the original authors.
Do more. Get rid of these ridiculous school board members who insist that they, and they alone, have the right to decide what children can read. And especially get rid of any educators or religious leaders who are afraid to make people uncomfortable.
Let’s instead cherish the opportunities to be uncomfortable, to learn something new, to leave behind cherished beliefs that do not serve spiritual growth. Time to stop this nonsense.
Or . . . Just go ahead and erase Jesus and be done with all his nonsense. It’s your choice.