Religion

Here’s why you should be careful about what you believe. You could be wrong.

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My buddy Bill sent me a link to a music video featuring Paul Thorn, a Mississippi songwriter-singer I’d never heard of.

I receive video links regularly from Bill. We’ve been friends and fellow churchgoers for probably 20 years or more. Like me, he’s a music fan.

This guy Paul Thorn had recorded a very witty song about the indignities of aging.

Bill’s younger than I am, but we’re both in the generational range where such a number can be simultaneously hilarious and, well, poignant.

I was so taken with Thorn’s wordplay I started searching online for additional clips of his.

I wasn’t disappointed. I love this guy.

In various videos, he tends to tell stories as well as sing. Turns out he’s a former professional boxer who once fought Roberto Duran. He didn’t win. That’s how he ended up a singer instead.

His dad was a Pentecostal preacher and his uncle was a pimp. Between them, he learned everything he needed to know.

Anyway, none of that is exactly to the point.

The point is, there’s one Thorn song that expresses my own guiding view toward religion, politics and the world generally.

The song’s called, “You Might Be Wrong.” Look it up.

Thorn says it’s based on a quote by former President Bill Clinton he read in a newspaper: “Whatever you believe, you might be wrong.”

I’d say that’s among the main lessons life is sure to teach you, if you’re teachable.

Whatever you believe, no matter how fervently you believe it, no matter how popular the belief is, no matter how many experts agree with you — you just might be wrong.

Heaven. Hell. The Second Coming. Baptism. The welfare state. Immigration. QAnon. U.S. policy in Iran. Donald Trump. Bernie Sanders. Libtards. Right-wingnuts. Twerking.

Wherever you stand on those or other subjects large and small, you might be right.

But you might be wrong.

About the only certain thing on this planet is uncertainty.

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky eons ago, an especially belligerent evangelist set up his podium just below the classroom where one of my English classes met.

Our building wasn’t air conditioned, the day was a scorcher and we had to leave the windows open. We couldn’t get any class work done, because the preacher below was so loud he all but drowned out our professor.

The evangelist called passersby drunkards and whores and declared they were all bound for eternal damnation. He railed on and on.

We students grew impatient. Some rolled their eyes. Others swore at him disgustedly.

Then our professor looked at us from the front of the room and cocked an eyebrow.

“What if he’s right?” he said.

I was stunned..

It never had occurred to me there was a possibility a guy like that evangelist could have a point. The very fact I disagreed with him meant he was, by definition, ridiculous.

Lest you clutch your pearls in horror, let me add that I still think that preacher was spiritually out to sea. There was little he said then I’d agree with yet today.

But today I’m older. I know firsthand where the professor was coming from. Now, in virtually every situation, I’m aware I could be the one out to sea.

When I look back over my life, I’m saddened by how many things I once held to be incontrovertibly true — that turned out to be false.

I’ve trusted people who were eager to betray me. I’ve distrusted people who turned out to be loyal.

As I’ve recounted in greater detail elsewhere, early in my journey as a Christian, my dad was miraculously, instantaneously healed of Stage 4 cancer. Everyone, including his team of physicians, was astonished. He lived to be an old man without a recurrence.

I saw others healed almost as dramatically, similarly through prayer — healings no one could explain.

I decided it must be God’s will to cure anyone and everyone who was desperately ill, if they’d just ask him and believe his promises.

I preached that with all my heart. I staked my faith on it.

Until it turned out to be wrong. I eventually saw friends pray fervently only to die anyway. I saw my faithful mom die. I watched my beautiful young wife die.

The fact I believed something, that I could cite arguments and examples and even Bible verses to back it up, didn’t make it so.

Our society as a whole, in nearly every arena — politics, religion, pop culture, business — is experiencing an epidemic of arrogance. Maybe it’s always been that way. Maybe that’s basic human nature, pride having been humanity’s original sin.

We could, however, soothe quite a few of our personal and societal problems if we’d quit yelling and instead opt for humility.

If we’d pause to remind ourselves: “You know, I could be wrong. I don’t think I am. But I could be.”

Sing on, Paul Thorn. Sing on.

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