When We Get it Wrong

I’m posting these thoughts a bit late for The Day, but in the light of the past week’s multi-faceted discussion on same-sex marriage all across this site, I wanted to share a bit about one of the underappreciated messages of Easter that is particularly dear to me.

Lots of folks across the RedState community have shared their Easter thoughts. I found these two, from the front page, particularly moving. Today I’d like to share mine with anyone who cares to read them.

One thing I think gets lost – on both a spiritual and political level, and across the entire left/right spectrum – is Easter Sunday’s message of grace for being wrong.

In the Gospel of Mark, chapters 8-10 describe the time in Christ’s ministry when He began to teach His followers about the end of His earthly journey . . . He described his death, burial and resurrection in stark detail, multiple times.

His disciples reacted with misunderstanding, disbelief, and even open rebuke.

When everything Jesus described came true, on the third day after His death – the morning He’d predicted His own resurrection – instead of a throng of followers excitedly awaiting his anticipated return there were . . . a few despondent mourners who showed up to anoint his buried body.

They blew it, and Luke 24 shares the wonderful story of their dejection, turned to disbelief, turned to joy.

Sometimes we just flat out get things wrong, and when we do, God doesn’t reject or give up on us. He gently, kindly works in our hearts and minds to urge us back onto the right path.

We tend to forget this in both our spiritual and political discussions. We are quick, of course, to remind others when they get things wrong, but we’re not always so quick to remember that we’re just as human ourselves. We tend to think that “wrong” is a malady suffered by “those other people over there.” We, the enlightened, don’t have to worry about such things.

“We” are “right.” “They” are “wrong.”

Eh, in reality, probably not.

I wrote a diary post late last week that Erick bumped up to the front page. It is what I believe.

Some of what’s in it is probably wrong.

This is, of course, where a lot of people across the site who spent a great deal of time and energy this week reassuring me of how very off base I was, are (if they happen to be reading this) saying to themselves, “well, yeah!”

Erick wrote a passionate and reasoned response to my post, and many others engaged in the comments of both pieces. Some of what he, and they, wrote is probably also wrong. We are all just trying to muddle around and find as much truth as our finite human minds can grasp. None of us is going to somehow, accidentally, stumble upon absolute truth – and even if we did, our finite minds wouldn’t be able to grasp it.

And God has grace for that . . . just as he had grace for the people who got that first Easter wrong . . . just as He had grace for the early believers who muddled through as best they could, seeking His face as they worked together to figure out what life should look like in the new world He had ushered in.

I learned again how easy it is to be confidently wrong during the course of this RedState discussion, when I made some assertions about Erick’s position on the Defense of Marriage Act, which turned out to be utterly mistaken and based in a complete misreading of something he’d written. As a result, I had to apologize to him and rewrite part of a post on the subject.

But as Christ demonstrated on the road to Emmaeus on Easter morning, being wrong is not the end of the story. As He walked along the road with His confused and dejected followers, He gently, patiently reminded them that much of what they thought they knew was wrong.

As Ronald Reagan famously said of liberals, It isn’t so much that they’re ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so. Truth be told, the same can likely be said of every single one of us. The occasionally-conservative David Brooks wrote a column a couple years back about our remarkable ability to think too highly of ourselves. It seems there are a host of biological and sociological reasons behind our self-deception, and it turns out we are, as a species, imbued with an amazing capacity for overestimating ourselves.

. . . just as Peter overestimated himself as he listened to his Lord predict how the disciples would scatter upon His arrest. (Mark 14:27-31).

Turns out there was enough grace for him.

And could anybody have possibly gotten the meaning of that very first Easter Sunday more wrong than a young Pharisee from Tarsus named Saul?

There was enough grace for him, too.

So what?

For me, this means trying to learn what I can from whomever I can, because just as nobody is right all the time, nobody is wrong all the time. I have a dear friend who is a far-left liberal with self-described socialist tendencies. He and I don’t agree on very much at all. But there are still things I can and do learn from him . . . yes, even when it comes to politics.

It also means that I share what I believe . . . but there’s nothing saying I’ll still believe all of it tomorrow, or next week, or even a few minutes from now if you make a convincing case that I’m wrong. There are a few things of which I am certain, but most things I believe are merely my best understanding of how the world around me

That understanding, it turns out, is in some ways quite different from a lot of the folks who frequent this site. And to me, that’s one of the great things about conservatism. The discussions here over the past several days have reinforced, for me, the reasons I am a conservative, and the reasons I enjoy this particular site. The Left
likes to caricature conservatives as suffering from “epistemic closure,” and living in an “echo chamber.” But as the left marches increasingly in lockstep toward its desired set of policy solutions with less and less regard for the means of getting there, the vibrant conversations about how best to proceed – or not – on a given issue for the sake of the country are happening on the right, in places like RedState.

As we have those discussions, each of us is going to be right on some points, and wrong on others.

Instead of discounting what others believe, attributing ill motives to them or writing them off, let’s enjoy the process of discovering the truth alongside each other. Sometimes we may only get there in fits and starts, but we can still do so with the understanding that we all want what’s best for this Great American Experiment of ours, even when we have very, very different ideas about what that looks like.

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