Theologizing on Dave Balter mini-essay in the “What Matters Now” project – “Dumb"

A long time ago, starting a company that made software for computers was dumb. Microsoft and Apple may beg to differ. A company that manufactured cars: dumb. Putting a college yearbook online: dumb. Limiting updates to just 140 characters: dumb.

Here's what's easy: to regonize a really smart new business concept as just that. What's hard is recognizing that the idea you think is just plain dumb is really tomorrow's huge breakthrough.

But what makes dumb, smart? The ability to look at the world through a different lens from everyone else. To ignore rules. To disregard the 'why's' and 'how's' and 'never-succeeded-befores'. Then you need conviction, and the ability to stand by that conviction when other (smart) people look at you in the eye and say, "no way, nuh uh."

So, how do you tell a good dumb idea from a bad dumb one? Good dumb ideas create polarization. Some people will get it immediately and shower it with praise and affection. Others will say it's ignorant and impossible and run for the hills. The fiercer the polarization, the smarter your dumb idea.

Of course, dumb can just be dumb. You just have to be smart to tell the difference.

This essay evoked in me a question as to why we in church leadership, generally, are afraid of the word polarization? Jesus polarized people - boy did he ever! Mother against daughter and brother against brother as the scripture goes. I want to share a quote from a favorite thinker of mine James Alison:

"Someone who begins to believe in the living God automatically begins to lose faith in the inevitability of things, in fate, in the sacredness of the social order, in inevitable progress, in horoscopes and so on, because the moment the imagination and emotional and mental structures begin to absorb what is meant by the vivaciousness of the Creator God who brings into being and sustains all things, all those other elements start to be revealed as part of a dead sacred order, as attributions of divinity and thus fixity, to things which are human, which are structured socially, culturally and economically, and are for that reason dependent upon human responsibility and potentially mutable through the exercise of that same responsibility."

Beyond being one of the longest constructed sentences in known existence, this quote speaks about the polarization the Gospel creates. The Gospel takes us on a process characterized by the collapse of certain sacred structures. Specifically, the Gospel leads us down a path that calls us to abandon anything which contributes to the sacrifice of others. The Gospel leads us down a road that calls into question ANYTHING that leads us to victimize anyone/anything. Which might even be something that we, at this point, would consider foundational to our religious tradition. It might lead us down the path of abandoning some traditional and popular understandings of why Jesus died.