Saturday, May 19, 2012


One of the few things that is sacred in my daily schedule is dinner. This probably comes from my childhood where my dad came home precisely at 5 PM and we ate dinner at 5:30.  This happened Monday through Friday regardless of rain, snow, sleet, or freezing rain. It was carved into the DNA of our family and was as predictable as the sun rising in the morning.

I want to have dinner at a predictable time every day. Yes, guilty as charged, call me creature of habit, but I want to have dinner at the same time every day. It doesn't matter if I'm at home, or on the other side of the country, I like to eat dinner at the same time every day.

We sat down for dinner the other day when, at the appointed time (and you know what's coming) the phone rang. No, it wasn't someone wanting to replace our roof, fertilize the lawn, save us money on our auto insurance or put aluminum siding on our house (as exciting as all those options are) it was a political survey.

Now I don't know about you, but I want to participate in a political survey during dinner about as much as I want my annual physical where the doctor probes every, and I mean every, orifice of my body. All I can think about is pain, discomfort, and total irritation at someone probing into my political psyche.

But perhaps in a moment of weakness or guilt, I took the phone into the other room and decided that I would willingly participate. I asked how long it would take and I was assured it was only a few minutes. So, I screwed up my courage and positive attitude to address the questions.  The person giving the survey was named Rachel. She was delightful and very patient with me as I asked "what was that question again?"

The survey started out with very general questions, as all surveys do, trying to warm you up in order to make you feel comfortable so that when they get to the important questions regarding your political underbelly, your guard is down.  Rachel asked and I answered in a delightful banter back and forth for the first 5 min.

Then the questions decidedly turned more personal and controversial. She was very patient as she explained the difference between:
  • Absolutely agree
  • Positively agree
  • Strongly agree
  • Somewhat agree
  • Somewhat disagree
  • Strongly disagree
  • Positively disagree
  • Absolutely disagree
  • No opinion
  • Somewhat no opinion
  • Strongly no opinion
  • Positively no opinion
  • Absolutely no opinion
  • I don’t care
  • I don’t give a damn

After a detailed 45 minute grilling about my political hopes and dreams, Rachel uttered those immortal words, "we’re almost done I need just a little bit of information." So, she wanted to know things like my age, sex, race, income and all the standard questions we're familiar with to profile us. Then she started to ask about my "religious" beliefs and affiliations. After choosing to be profiled as a Christian, she gave me a list of greater refinements to choose from. I'll let your mind wander about possible options that were presented to me, but at the end she listed fundamental.

I have to tell you, the hair on the back of my neck started to rise at the thought of the word fundamental. How do you react to that word? Would you characterize yourself as being fundamental? Do you think of that word has been positive? Negative? Neutral? If someone labeled you as fundamental, how would you feel?

Our culture labels someone being fundamental in very negative tones. They are thought to be old-fashioned, restrictive, despising anything new, regressive, hating everyone and everything that does not exactly agree with that.

Now I want you to sit down and take a deep breath because I'm about to say something that probably is going to upset you. You may or may not agree, but I doubt that you will have no reaction. Please remove all sharp objects and anything from which you might harm your computer, yourself or another human being.

Everyone is a fundamentalist.

We all have thoughts and beliefs that guide our daily lives. We all have a set of rules, presuppositions and lists of what is right and wrong. We not only think certain things are right or wrong, we know they are.  We will defend them to the death and oppose anyone or anything that looks to change or challenge our view.  This is the essence of being a fundamentalist.

So, if were all fundamentalist the question becomes is there a right view? Are there any absolute, unmoving truths that we can base our life on?  The simple and straightforward answer here in North America is definitely "NO".

If you have any question about our culture not believing in any truth, don't believe me. In our "salvation by survey" culture, CNN interviewed a number of people on the street. The overwhelming results showed that the answer was no. Even studies performed by the Barna Group, an independent survey organization, decidedly show that our culture does not believe in absolute truths[1].

The culture, news, media, Internet, friends and neighbors all know with certainty that there are no absolutes.  If you wonder about this, go ask someone. I know this sounds weird, but sneak a question into your conversation and say, "I was reading this blog the other day and it said I needed to asked you this question. Do you think there's any absolute right or wrong?”

We have seen the poisoned fruit of rampant fundamentalism throughout history. Take a look at Nazi Germany, Communist China, Cambodia, and military governments in Africa for proof. In each and every circumstance, the government was right and the rights of individual were cast aside at the cost of millions of lives.

You may be thinking that fundamentalists are a fairly new phenomenon. But you may be surprised to know that Jesus ran in to fundamentalists and his reaction was stunning. He called them "hypocrites, snakes, children of serpents, blind guides, fools, full of greed and self-indulgence, [2]” Not exactly the way to win friends, influence people or to be politically correct. Jesus had very little patience with people who demanded blind obedience to their particular view of the world with no room for grace, love and forgiveness.

However, Jesus had tons of grace and forgiveness for people who knew they were wrong. We see Jesus welcoming Matthew and Zacchaeus (hated traitors and tax collectors[3]), touching and healing lepers[4], receiving gifts and worship from prostitutes[5]. At the end of his life, after being tortured and crucified with indescribable pain, he prayed forgiveness on those who were murdering him[6].

In looking at all the possible truths and people to believe in, Jesus is by far the most loving, forgiving and attractive.  We don’t have to “fix” ourselves or “earn” his love because he knows that we can’t.  Jesus said that he was God in very clear words and actions.  He took our pain and brokenness on himself, renewing us and giving us what we truly need – forgiveness, grace, a fresh start and power to change.

When Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth[7]?” He was standing right in front of him.  Jesus is right in front of us, offering to give us exactly the same thing, ultimate truth, ultimate love and a new life.  Now that’s a fundamental that I can believe in.

Chet Gladkowski writes on contemporary topics that impact our lives, culture and faith. - email, Facebook & Twitter - blog
GladAssociates - YouTube

[1] The Barna Group, “Does Absolute Truth Exist”
[2] Matthew 23:13-35
[3] Matthew 9:9, Luke 19:2
[4] Matthew 8:3
[5] Luke 7:37,38
[6] Luke 23:34
[7] John 13:38

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