Our Christmas Eve service was packed and overflowing into the lobby. It’s always gratifying to see that many people still interested in an old-fashioned church service. Congregationally, we sang “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “Joy to the World,” and “Till We See Christ,” and a ladies trio rendered a fabulous arrangement of “Silent Night.” I wanted to tell the Christmas story in a way that could maintain the attention of those who are familiar with the narrative. The approach was to concentrate on the innkeeper, Herod, the Chief Priests and scribes, the people of Jerusalem, and the Romans, all of whom missed the first Christmas. Reasons were given for their absence and applications made to modern society. From my perspective which is, of course, decidedly jaundiced, the entire service was about as non-offensive as possible unless the historical truth of the Incarnation and its necessity for salvation from sin gouged the conscience.
Most experienced preachers exercise little thought toward those who are nodding their heads in agreement but choose rather to identify those who are in need of further persuasion. Body language of the annoyed is a dead giveaway concerning an attitude of resistance. One such millennial was in the service under obvious protest. Visiting family during the season does have its hazards. After observing the excruciating pained facial expressions and determining it probably was not due to extreme constipation, I decided to use a scientific illustration that is irrefutable in the corridors of logic. No change---the suffering continued with no apparent willingness to even consider some hard, cold facts. We have two emergency room nurses in our church; I prayed their expertise wouldn’t be necessary.
Later in the day a family member asked the said recipient of misery how they enjoyed the service. The response was one of the classic dodges that is intended to end the conversation before it starts…”Well, I have my own thoughts and beliefs about it.” Because I have the social graces of a water buffalo, when given the opportunity, I ignore these barriers of defense with something like…”That’s great, and since I am in the business of belief, I would like to hear about yours---say on.” If the protestor can be prodded into a discussion, facts are almost always missing only to be replaced with emotional rhetoric. This assessment is based on fifty-one years of dealing with people.
Interestingly, similar techniques are utilized when the subject of politics are approached. Religion and politics both suffer from artful employment of speech intended to cover ignorance of the subject. Mr. Webster defined ignorance as “Want, absence or destitution of knowledge; the negative state of the mind which has not been instructed in arts, literature or science, or has not been informed of facts.” It should be noted that ignorance is not always synonymous with stupidity. Some highly intelligent people choose ignorance, but usually feel it necessary to provide a smoke screen to disguise their lack of information.
One has to look no further than the halls of Congress for examples of this debility. Leading Democrats have stood in front of collaborating T.V. cameras denouncing the Tax Reform bill, but have yet to site specifics. Please tell us, Nancy, how the poor will be hurt when 34.2% of all IRS filers pay no income tax. This number is only likely to increase and by the way, of the 30,417,609 who paid nothing, they received $89,614,869,000 in cash back. Ignorance of these numbers by members of Congress and the media is a chosen empty-headedness. The Apostle covered the bases when he wrote: “But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” ( I Corinthians 14:38) Paul had obviously come to the conclusion that there is no hope for some blockheads. Of all the various kinds and stripes of ignorance, the willful variety is the most devastating. Samuel Johnson said, “Ignorance, when voluntary, is criminal.”
Daniel Dembowski’s modern history class at Wyoming Area High School in Luzerne County, PA, came up with an instructive lesson as a result of an experiment it conducted. Armed with copies of a document and a petition, students sought signatures in public places in support of the views expressed therein. Of 558 persons approached, 342 had no time or gave excuses; 29 agreed with the ideas but would not sign, and 143 signed. Another 44 identified the document for what it was: America’s Declaration of Independence. The percentages of this small exercise are reflective of the modern American society. The majority prefer to remain in clouds of darkness while some will agree with truth when faced with it, but only a minority have enough previous education to identify the source.
On a lighter note of demonstration: the clerk in Wahr’s Bookstore in Ann Arbor told the University of Michigan student, “Here’s a book that will do half your work for you.” “That’s great,” said the student. “Give me two of them.”
Students in a psychology class at San Diego State University were asked to name their most valuable asset. Two wrote down intelligence, and both misspelled it.
Ignorance has something to be said for it. It gives rise to about nine-tenths of the world’s conversational output.
Perhaps Mark Twain provided the best summary when he said, “I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know.”
Those who possess that ability are the ones that God can help the most. He has the answers that we do not!