Being Wrong and Right!

I just started reading a new book I bought “You Don’t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right” by Rabbi Brad Hirschfield. Here are some great ‘food for thought’ pieces from the first chapter…I am starting to enjoy this writer. 

“Faith can become something that’s narrow, limiting, an either/or that is rigid and un-yielding…I don’t think that’s true faith. In fact it may be precisely faith’s opposite, an extremity of doubt that boomerangs into strident belief” (Hirschfield, pg 17) 

“Fanatic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt; it is when we are not sure that we are doubly sure” (Richard Niebuhr, pg 17) 

“But I have come to know that the true meaning of faith is not to be found in these sureties or in a single absolute, but in competing absolutes” (Hirschfield, pg 18) 

“People often ask me about the effort it takes to keep kosher and observe the exacting prescriptions of Jewish Law. I don’t think it is difficult. I love doing it, and it never feels oppressive. But here’s where it gets complicated. It’s a choice, but also an obligation. It’s a choice about choicelessness” (Hirschfield, pg 33) 

Anyone care to comment about the quotes? C’mon – let’s start a conversation! I do believe you cannot be wrong…and that’s a great thing these days!


8 thoughts on “Being Wrong and Right!

  1. I agree with every one of those statements. It is something that I think most of us in faith struggle with to varying degrees. It is a stretch to get some believers to realize that everything does not have to be put into an either or context.

    I think this started in the Christian community when the word relativism became tantamount to a swear word. To insinuate that some truth might be relative would get you marginalized within a church, if not booted all together.

    The thing is, I think some truth is relative. I think people of good conscience and intent can hold competing perspectives and both still be right – from their point of view. I think scripture is full of this. John the Baptist was called to certain vows and disciplines, and for him they were truth. I believe he would have been in error to then go and try to make everyone else accountable to his peculiar call of God.

  2. I run into alot of resistance with my ‘gray’ thinking. I cannot keep a black or white perspective. Leaving things up to ‘subjective’ or personal ‘the way i see its’ causes distress among those who cannot think outside thier boxes of marginalized thinking and ideals. Some people have to have the legal ‘isms’ to function. It’s safe for them there. It also take away the need for grace. Interesting post.

  3. “I think people of good conscience and intent can hold competing perspectives and both still be right” (Andrew)

    What about if they were, let’s say, Muslim and Jewish? Can we, as a Christian peoples, accept the other views and work with them?

    “Some people have to have the legal ‘isms’ to function” (Tara)

    I agree, some people to have to do this – and this is usually based in a certain type of theology they learn from that church. For example, Catholics think every other church is not ‘the church’. Now the ‘other Christians’ think they are in ‘the church’ and the Catholics have it ‘all wrong’. But both sides are very sure of their position – and for good cause – they studied it. But all I can see is ‘they are both too narrow’.

    Your point also speaks to the truth said by Niebuhr – “it is when we are not sure that we are doubly sure”. Doubt is honesty encapsulated – and is part of any person’s faith. We cannot be 100% certain what we believe about God is 100% accurate – I find holes in various theologies all the time and within myself. It makes me humble to think this way – I am not the answer on all life’s problems or theology of how God looks. I got some of the recipes for the meal – I just don’t have it all figured out…and that’s where the need for many counsellors comes from.

  4. “It’s a choice about choicelessness” (Hirschfield)

    This point by Hirsch really hits at the heart of everyone’s faith – we have teachings to follow – that we both choose to follow and are obligated/commanded to follow. This really spoke to me because that’s the contradiction in faith I know exists – but could never word it correctly. We are in faith(s) that command things but we also have to choose to do them.

    For some this creates the ‘either/or’ mentality – while for others in creates in them an open-ness to the process. Depends on the focus – on ‘choice’ or on ‘choicelessness’. I focus on choice because I was created with ‘it’…not to use it as an excuse for sin – but as an excuse for mercy.

    I have friends from many faith traditions that I both blog with and hang around with – and I respect the views of each one – seeing the value of other faith systems. I get into theological talks with First Nation tradional holders (also friends of mine) and with a Jewish lady about the meaning of her faith (a friend to this blog) – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    What I see in the whole thing is something I truly value ‘treating others how I want to be treated’…and in essence ‘loving my neighbor’ (usally via acceptance and convo). But I have learned to see that if I think my faith is the ‘only path’ – well – none of that would exist…I would just be me and my church cronies. That makes some happy, but it never make me happy – it made me disgusted (in all honesty). The people that need our love exist in places we haven’t journeyed yet…and I realize the people I need to meet exist in places I haven’t journeyed yet…now that is Abrahamic faith.

  5. “What about if they were, let’s say, Muslim and Jewish?”

    “I” think I can (although I have to confess to knowing little about Islam). Can Christian peoples? I guess that depends on which Christian peoples we are referring to. 🙂 I think everyone has some level of struggle with the “other”, whoever that may be. I think taking on a level of civil discourse is something we are all needing to learn; regardless if it theism, politics, neighborhood issues… whatever.

  6. “Fanatic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt; it is when we are not sure that we are doubly sure” (Richard Niebuhr, pg 17) ”

    Being raised Roman Catholic, I view orthodoxies of all kinds as the lowest common denominator of people who have not found a religion but joined a potentially dangerous club. That would make me a heretic. People in think heresy is a bad thing, but it comes from a Greek word meaning “to choose.” Why is it wrong to choose? I view people as arrogant when they declare that their choices are closed and they have this “God” business figured out. Those who aren’t through choosing are then, by definition, heretics.

    Heretics, then, are the only ones to, by definition, have the power to choose between the competing absolutes. i love this description! rawk on!

  7. Luke,
    “Apikores” is the word for heretics in my world. I am considered a heretic by many Christians and by at least some factions of Orthodox Judaism as well. One of my favorite female authors, Eve Rosenbaum, wrote a piece about being an apikores. I quoted part of it in a post last year. I think you’d like it as well.

    In tenth grade I fall in love with a new word: apikores. I’ve heard it before, I know what it means. But this is the first time I’ve taken it for myself, felt the letters as they coat my tongue. I don’t say it out loud – this is not the kind of word you can say when people are near you. It’s the worst insult. It’s the one thing you should never say to anyone.

    Mrs. Leibman talks about it in Humash class one Thursday. She says, “Girls, I don’t want you to think a person who is an apikores is dumb. These people are smart by nature. They study the things we study and they have questions, they challenge the rabbis for answers and they choose not to believe. They don’t fall out of religion because it’s hard or because they’re lazy. They move away from religion because they choose to. They are not satisfied with answers, they think there is a better truth waiting for them out there. They throw away religion because they are not satisfied with the answers we know to be true.”

    I want to be an apikores; I covet the word, the notion. It is not simply to be a nonbeliever. It is to consciously reject religion, to value one’s own opinion over what should be taken as fact. An apikores is more dangerous than the average secular Jew. An apikores creates anarchy. I start to wonder if I’m smart enough to become one. Do I accept things too easily? Do I push for answers when I’m not satisfied? I can’t ask Mrs. Leibman these questions, she doesn’t like me and this isn’t the lesson I’m supposed to get from her lecture. I trace the word in my notebook, give it shape, texture. I cross it out when Ahuva looks over at my paper. I cover the letters with black ink. (From Yentl’s Revenge)

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