In the first book Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien makes a very wise observation. The hero, Frodo was adopted by his uncle Bilbo who lived at Bag End in Hobbiton. Frodo was from Buckland, on the other side of the river from where most Hobbits lived. All the locals felt that Bilbo did the right thing in bringing Frodo to live in Hobbiton, as those that lived in Buckland were strange folk. Later, Frodo is moving back to Buckland and the locals there thought it was the right thing because those people in Hobbiton were strange folk. Yet both groups were Hobbits. It never ceases that people who do not live where we do or act the way that we do are always considered suspicious.
I last blogged about how our silence about others who did not look like us were prone to be cast as suspicious. When considering others as suspicious we make what has been labeled as “An Error of Attribution.” It goes something to the effect of:
When we are late for work it was because we unexpectedly got behind a school bus or garbage truck. When our co-worker is late for work it was because they slept in or did not leave enough time to get to work.
We tend to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt that we are good people, but it is others who are not to be trusted. Unfortunately, this has never been so true as it has been within Evangelicalism. Any other movement of God is considered suspicious and cannot be trusted.
There are two scriptures that are not contradictory but are to be held in tension with one another:
- Matthew 12:28-30 ESV – 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
- Luke 9:49-50 ESV – 49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”
In the first instance Jesus is commenting on the fact that those who do not agree that a key principle of the Kingdom of God is to cast out demons when encountered are not in line with the Kingdom. In the second instance Jesus illustrates that it is not necessary to part of a central “in group” to cast out demons.
The unspoken theolog of the evangelical movement is that one can not be pro Jesus without being evangelical. Anything else is suspect. It is the error attribution that our theology says we are right with God instead of Jesus determining that we are right with God. When we are right with God, the fruit of our lives will bear that out regardless of what movement we may be part of. It is not necessary to be part of an “in group” to be right with God.
The boomer and xer have determined that the millennials and zoomers are strange folk because they do not want to live in Evangelicalism. Likewise, the millennials and zoomers look at previous generations as suspect because they do not live where they do, in Exvangelicalism.
I was conducting business in a small town by stopping in some potential new business customers while there. No one questioned my motives. A black coworker was pulled over by the police and questioned for doing the exact same thing I was. When mentioning this to the church they responded, while on one hand they did admit that it was unfortunate they also responded “You have to admit he did look out of place.” They refused to see that we did have people from other races living throughout the area for the last 250 years. The town in question was also a stop on the Underground Railroad, but they only saw their community as white. No one wanted to address this issue as being unnecessary, unwarranted, and a sign of systematic racism. So, they said and did nothing to correct this. And now they wonder why their church is not attractive to the millennials and zoomers. Their congregation is slowly dying off, as millennials and zoomers value inclusivity.
The other side effect of this behavior is that our unwillingness to confront these issues is what gave birth to violent protests that have now rocked our country and created a whole secondary set of issues that will take years to resolve. No one wants to admit that their inaction contributes to a problem, or worse yet, passively supports the problem.
We need to learn to love much my friends with just not words, but our deeds as well. To not love others who are not part of us is indeed an Error of Attribution.