Why I Share Troubling Articles (And You Should Too)
About a month ago, I shared an article concerning one Christian woman’s positive experience with Planned Parenthood (PP). In this article, the author—who is also the subject of the story—seeks to shed light on a predicament lingering within much of conservative Christianity: widespread ignorance and shame concerning sex, especially among young girls. In this article, the author describes herself as a product of a quintessentially conservative Christian environment. Growing up, she, among other things, maintained her purity, distanced herself from Harry Potter, and avoided sexual education. These were the expectations placed upon her.
The ignorance forced upon this young girl was bliss—that is, until it wasn’t. Tragedy, heartbreak, and ignorance would eventually lead this young Christian girl to the steps of a Planned Parenthood (for purposes other than an abortion). At the time, she knew little of the organization other than that it was “bad.” However, the welcoming demeanor and refreshingly “Christlike” care of the medical staff helped reshape her view of the organization. Her story—the article I shared—retold her personal experience: an experience made more painful by the Church, but eased by PP.
After reading this woman’s article, I felt compelled to share her story—not because I believed PP to be some omnibenevolent entity, but rather because the author’s experience was unique and worth considering. Indeed, unique perspectives are like oddly-shaped puzzle pieces: they appear unseemly, and we struggle to place them, but they are integral to a comprehensive understanding of the scene before us. Considering this, I felt it prudent to share this puzzle piece with my social media family. The author’s story could provide helpful insight not only into the entity that is PP, but also shed light on the types of individuals visiting these clinics and the circumstances surrounding those visits.
Or so I thought.
Shortly after sharing this article, I was met with a vast outpouring of ridicule and scorn. I was “unfriended” and was told I ought to be “ashamed.” I was called “irresponsible” and “ridiculous.” But should I? Am I? Is it irresponsible to take into consideration the troubling perspectives of fellow Christians (what, for instance, of Job)? Is the pursuit of a completed puzzle shameful? Did not Christ Himself seek to dialogue with the troubling perspectives of His day, and does John 4 not cast shame on His disciples’ apparent narcissism (Mark 7:1-13; John 4:27-30)?
All this to say: listen and give voice to dissenting and, at times, troubling perspectives. Do so not because these perspectives are particularly profound or because they ought to be adopted without question, but rather because behind every perspective is the image of God and the culmination of a lifetime of experiences you and I—for better or for worse—may never have the opportunity to learn from.
Listening and taking seriously the perspectives we find troubling broadens our perspective, highlights potential biases and prejudices in our worldview, facilitates sanctification, encourages empathy, and—perhaps, most importantly—helps fulfill God’s call to love others as God has loved us (John 15:12).
Consider an all-loving God: does such a Being lament His knowledge of creation or does He cherish it? As it seems to me, the Bible depicts the God of Abraham knowing His creation not merely because He must (though, in a sense, this is true). Rather, God likely—if not necessarily—cherishes the intimate knowledge of His creation. He weeps amid our pain (John 11:35), celebrates our love for others (John 2:1-12), records our sorrows (Psalms 56:8), and understands our perspectives (Psalms 103:14). Why? Because God’s love is expressed through—among other things—the pursuit of intimate relationships. Indeed, God does not love you despite knowing you: He loves you because He knows you.
This is largely because unequivocal love and knowledge exist as two sides of the same coin; one is attached necessarily to the other. Take my love for C. S. Lewis, for example: when I say “I love C. S. Lewis,” I am expressing what amounts to little more than an appreciation for his writing. And though I may use the same words, the utterance “I love my father” carries a drastically different meaning. The difference? Intimate knowledge.
If this is true—and I believe it is—God’s love finds fulfillment through the pursuit of an intimate relationship with His creation not broadly but intimately, which suggests, in part, we all have something unique to offer. If this is indeed how God loves us, in what sense do we fulfill John 15:12 when we consider only those perspectives deemed palatable?
I am reminded of an old meme about President Obama’s “You didn’t build that” statement. This particular meme displays a man standing in front of his business with a sign reading, “I built this without government help. Obama can kiss my [butt]” The irony is made apparent when the author of the meme successfully highlights about a dozen different government services supporting this man and his business (electricity, infrastructure, etc.).
The man in the meme represents a bit of us all, I think. We take for granted the influence of those around us, boasting in our ignorance, and demonize those calling us to consider perspectives deemed unpalatable. If that were you in the meme, what would your sign say? What would you fail to see?
If our current political climate in an indication of anything, it’s that an ideological chasm exists between too many. One side stares at those deemed “other” and proclaims, “If only you could see it from my side” as the “other” stares back and thinks, “I wish they could see it from my side.” Let us bridge the gap; let us listen, and in doing so, love.
“We can only love what we know, and we can never know completely what we do not love. Love is a mode of knowledge…” – Aldous Huxley