Tonight at supper our nine year old asked Dane, my husband, what people learn in Ninth Grade. Since I had been peppered with questions for an hour and a half straight before this random one, I sat quietly and gave thanks that Dane could take his turn answering. I did actually think about it though and it nagged at me through supper, the Bethany College volleyball game and the dreaded bedtime routine.
Students learn specific things in Ninth Grade obviously, but the biggest thing that they continue to learn is how to think. And we continue learning how to think until well beyond the grades that are denoted by number.
One day during my time in seminary, our professor, Dr. Michael Kinnamon, said that a student had called him and accused him of taking away her relaxing morning-coffee-and-newspaper time. Now when she read the newspaper she got upset! Emotional! She couldn't read the newspaper without crying.
As I remember it, Dr. Kinnamon looked pleased. He said we shouldn't be able to read the newspaper without becoming upset. There is too much injustice on the pages to be able to leisurely read if we think. We are connected as God’s people so whatever is happening to people in Syria, Hong Kong or down the street should be of great concern to us.
There was a big time theologian named Karl Barth who had some things to say about the importance of living in the world and doing so as a thinking, faithful person. Princeton Theological Seminary notes the following:
“Perhaps the most clear statement on the record from Barth concerning these matters comes from a Time Magazine piece on Barth published on Friday, May 31, 1963.
"[Barth] recalls that 40 years ago he advised young theologians 'to take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.'"
I often think of this 'newspaper in one hand, Bible in the other' notion when I look at this cross. It is made out of recycled magazines, not newspapers, but the idea comes through.
Certainly we don’t all claim God as our own or Jesus as the Christ, but if we do say that the Bible has authority in our lives, then we need to care about people near and far. We need to care if they are paid fairly for the work that they do. We need to care if they have safe working conditions.
Sometimes I wish I could NOT think for awhile… that I could shop in the mall without feeling sick about all the people who were treated as slave laborers so that racks of cloths could sit before me for $19.99.
I would rather be a thinking person and feel conflicted than not though. I’d rather be trying to live in a way of God than not.
A retired Presbyterian minister once told me to relax! We all fall short and that’s what Prayers of Confession are for. We had a good laugh. It’s true! We’ll miss the mark and contribute to business models that only care about profit and not producers. We’ll suck it up in all sorts of ways, but may we keep thinking, feeling and making choices about what we buy and how we spend our time that are consistent with our thoughts… as thinking people… who are connected to one another.