by Kenneth Justice
~Many years ago the pastor of a large Evangelical Christian church confided in me, “Kenneth, the majority of my congregation is racist“.
The church met at a historical church building situated in a massive multi-racial ghetto; 99% of the congregants who attended the church were white people who drove in from the suburbs.
The pastor’s confession really upset me, “Why don’t you preach a sermon on racism then?” I asked
“Because I would be afraid of losing my job….and I have a wife and children to support” he said
The pastor felt as though he was caught between a rock and a hard place; the congregants were the one’s who contributed their tithes and paid his bills. The pastor’s entire fiscal situation was dependent on placating and pandering to his congregants; if he said something that pissed them off he feared losing his job.
For me at the time, I was a pretty idealistic young man; “if people are racist you confront them to their face and tell them to get their act straight or f*** off!”was my attitude. Is that a little bit too ‘un-Christian’ of me? Of course, it was easy for me to tell the pastor to do that…..I wasn’t the one whose paycheck was on the chopping block if the people got pissed off.
So much of life feels as though we must pander to people;
—) We are careful what we say to our boss or clients as we don’t want to rock the boat
—) We tiptoe around relatives in order to not have to deal with a massive argument on Thanksgiving
—) Politicians pander to lobbyists and special interest groups in order to keep a steady stream of money coming in to their coffers
Its funny how people can seem so nice and friendly as long as you are pandering to them. But say something that rocks their world and you will find out how they will really treat you.
Its sort of like a panda bear; they are these majestically beautiful black and white creatures. We create little panda bear stuffed animals for children to hug and play with……but if you happen to get on the wrong side of a real life panda bear you will find out that they can be just as vicious and terrifying as any other wild creature.
Every day that I write I am faced with a question; do I pander to my readers or do I tell them what I really think about something? If you are of the mind that “Kenneth writes some pretty controversial articles” and that I have balls of steel….you should see all the articles I write and don’t publish; perhaps I’m not quite as gutsy as you think.
For every article I publish; there are five others that I simply don’t have the guts to post to the public. I am just as human as the next person and I don’t have some natural desire to piss people off. So am I guilty of pandering to people? I’m not sure. Am I guilty of being less-than-authentic because I don’t publish everything I write? I’m not sure.
The reality of the situation is that if we go around like little Napoleons telling everybody what ‘we’ think is wrong with them, the world, or whatever….than we risk alienating ourselves from a lot of people. The simple fact of the matter is that not all of our opinions are right. There are many things we believe with all of our heart…..which are simply false; we are not little gods with inerrant knowledge about everything.
Even when it comes to my Christian faith; I hold out the possibility that I could be wrong about things. If I’m not willing to admit that there are some ‘truths’ which I hold dear….that may actually not be true…..than how can I honestly say I am a truth seeker?
Isn’t this the problem we see with so many people in the religious community? Whether you are a fundamentalist Christian, Muslim, Hindu or fill-in-the-blank; too many people begin their equation with; “I am right about everything“…..and they have then successfully closed the door on any potential intellectual or spiritual growth that could have taken place in their life.
Even an atheist who says, “It is impossible that I am wrong about the non-existence of god” is demonstrating a pretty closed-minded attitude in which they’ve successfully closed the door to any positive communication with others.
Just as I the Christian should admit that I could be wrong about god existing…an objective atheist should admit that they could be wrong about god not-existing…..right?
When it comes to writing for public consumption we have to find that happy medium between laying bear all of our radical thoughts and ideas….and writing an intellectually honest piece that leaves the door open for positive conversation to take place.
I’m still trying to figure out that balance….but I hope that I am not guilty of pandering to pandas.
I can smell the aroma of a fresh brew of coffee…..time for another cup,
Categories: Culture & Society