As I write this, I'm preparing to attend a family night event at the church where I'm pastor. We're to watch the Christian movie God's Not Dead.
I vowed in an April column I wouldn't see God's Not Dead. I usually can't abide films made by Christians for Christians. I find them vapid and pandering.
But in a recent meeting of my congregation's deacons and elders, our administrative deacon, Genean, who puts together these family night programs, announced she'd chosen this month to screen God's Not Dead.
Clearly, she remembered my column.
"Paul thinks he won't like it, but he will," she said, smiling. "It's a good movie."
That, as we say in the religion world, was that. I'm the pastor, so I have to attend and enjoy myself, despite myself.
This development was typical of how events often unfold at our church.
My parishioners politely hear me out when I voice my opinions. Some of them read what I write in the newspaper, too. They all endure my sermons.
The way our church governance is set up, on the exceedingly rare occasions when we can't reach consensus on, say, a major administrative issue, I have the final say-so.
Mainly, though, nobody takes what I say as the law and gospel just because I say it. They accept it or dismiss it based on their own lights. They do what they think is best.
Yet they continue to love me even when they decide I'm mistaken.
I hesitate to admit this, but it's probably a wise approach.
They've managed somewhere along the line to recognize that, although we're all trying to serve the same Lord, none of us is the Lord, including me.
Being human, we differ on matters large and small, on our tastes in films and our views on politics and even on certain Christian doctrines.
That's probably the way it should be. The Lord calls all kinds.
For instance, for his own original merry band of 12 disciples, Jesus chose Matthew the tax gatherer, a traitor collaborating with the Roman government that occupied Judea, and Simon the Zealot, part of an underground resistance group dedicated to violently overthrowing those same Romans.
Imagine the, um, discussions those two must have had about politics as they traveled about spreading the good news. But they learned to cooperate.
Similarly, today it's not necessary we agree on every issue. It is necessary we trust God, trust each other's intentions, love God and love each other.
We're all human. We're all then, by definition, a tad squirrelly. A few of us are more than a tad squirrelly.
But we're all God's family nonetheless. Sometimes we need to voice our disagreements — then just shrug at our brothers' and sisters' foibles and go on.
Not long ago, in our weekly Wednesday evening adult Bible study, we worked our way through one of St. Paul's letters in which he spends a fair amount of space admonishing women to keep silent in church services and to submit to men.
As we approached those specific passages, I grew uncomfortable. I wondered how the study group's participants, especially the women — several of them highly educated professionals, and political liberals — would respond.
It turned out the consensus among men and women alike, liberals and conservatives, was that St. Paul was just plain wrong on this topic.
Nobody in the circle got mad at anyone else there.
Nobody, including the women, even got too torqued at St. Paul.
He meant well, we agreed; he was, no doubt, an anointed apostle who revealed brilliant mysteries under the Holy Spirit's inspiration. But he also was a product of his times, personality and culture — just as we're products of ours.
Live and learn, St. Paul, the group said. Live and learn. Let's move on.
Eventually, maybe all truths will become perfectly clear to everyone.
Or maybe, when we get to the next world, the Lord will tell us flat out whether in the grand scheme watching God's Not Dead was or wasn't worth our time. Maybe he'll disclose in a cosmic Power Point lecture whether St. Paul was correct about women — or, as my parishioners and I suspect, mistaken.
But we don't know at this minute.
So we simply agree to disagree, whether it's with each other or a dead apostle.
I'll grant you, it's not always comfortable having people around you who don't see or do everything your way. They challenge you to defend your views. They create static in your attic, to borrow a John Prine phrase. You can't coast by with just regurgitating, undigested, the three talking points from your favorite radio pundit.
It could be that's exactly why the Lord puts such different folks in our path: To force us to think. After all, he gave us brains for some reason.
God is a great big God. He thinks great big thoughts. He paints great big pictures.
Maybe he wants us to get ourselves a bigger sheet of paper, a bigger frame.