When I was a teenager, I would mostly read one side of an issue. On the rare occasions that I did venture forth to read another side, my mind would be in defensive mode: I would try to refute what I was reading.
Why was I like this? One reason was that I liked the perspective
that I held, and I did not want to change. Another reason may have been
my Asperger’s, which I did not know about at the time, but which still
played a significant role in who I was. I one time heard that people
with Asperger’s like for things to be monochromatic: for example, they
prefer a room that is mostly one color, or plain, or simple, rather than
one that is complex. When I was in college, a student saw my room and
remarked that it looked “plain.” His room had all these posters and
pictures and bumper stickers and what not, whereas my room did not have
those things; mostly, it was a white wall. I guess that I was similar
when it came to my worldview, back when I was an adolescent, that is: I
wanted it to be simple. I wanted to know what I believed. And maybe
that wasn’t so bad a thing back then, when I was a teenager. My beliefs
gave me an identity. They were a place of refuge for me. Maybe I did
not need a lot of uncertainty in my life back then.
In college, I got rather bored with my certainties, and so I branched
elsewhere. Complexity can be interesting. It can be more entertaining
than thinking that one already has all the answers. In college, I
needed more of an intellectual adventure than I had in high school.
This specifically played out in my religious studies, as I sought out
other ways to read the Bible, ways that differed from my fundamentalist
I was thinking of something a couple of days ago. I was reading the
Book of Ezekiel for my daily quiet time. Ezekiel says a couple of times
that, when the Israelites return to their land, they will loathe
themselves on account of their sinful deeds (Ezekiel 20:43; 36:31). I
thought of a book that I read as a teenager: John MacArthur’s Vanishing Conscience.
MacArthur is a Christian pastor, and in that book he was arguing
against Christians who preach self-esteem—-preachers like Norman Vincent
Peale and Robert Schuller. MacArthur referred to those Ezekiel
passages. As a teenager, I loved to read John MacArthur. I liked his
writing style and his glib arguments against those with whom he
disagreed. One of his books, Anxiety Attacked, helped me
whenever it was time for finals, and I was anxious about taking the
tests. But I wondered: suppose that I, as a teenager, had branched a
bit beyond reading MacArthur? Suppose that I had actually read Robert
Schuller and Norman Vincent Peale? Maybe I would have had a more
balanced view of God and the Christian life—-one that was not so
“But why ask ‘What if?’, James,” some may ask. “You can read Norman
Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller now!” Indeed, I can. Some of their
books are actually on my bookshelf. The thing is, where I am right now,
I crave deeper books. And I want to make the most of my reading time.
I may still read Peale and Schuller someday, though. Something about
me: I have a whole lot of head knowledge, but there is not a whole lot
of wisdom, specifically knowledge about how exactly I should see myself,
life, and other people, in a manner that is helpful and productive,
that is. Maybe some fluffy Christian living or positive thinking books
are an answer!