The Peanut Butter Principle
Monday Night, January 24, 2000
You know, one thing that tickles me as I view the religious landscape is that humans are SO inclined to defend the turf of their comfort zones. I know I have no room to talk, but it’s funny anyway, all right? : ) Ten million flavors of dogma in christian circles and so much fear of change. So much fear of laying aside things that are no more than human tradition. And why? Why do we cling, chanting in unison, “The old is better, the old is better! Don’t confuse me with the facts!”? Why are we so fearful and tenacious in defending things illogical, unfruitful, and unBiblical?
It’s because of peanut butter.
I know, you already knew that. But for the sake of everyone else, I’ll lay some more groundwork so we’ll all be together on this.
Let’s consider a computer analogy. In this generation, most are aware that computers can calculate and manipulate things, whether graphics or data or text or music. Also, computers “remember” things. This “memory” can be retained, even if someone pulls the plug on your computer to plug in the vacuum cleaner. That is, it can be retained if the information (email or graphic or spreadsheet) was “saved” to the “hard drive” or some other storage media. The information, whatever it may be, is generally saved using magnetic or optical storage technology. Essentially, the information is “printed” on a hard drive, floppy drive, CD ROM disk, DAT, or some other medium for later access. The information is written there and, barring the HIGHLY unlikely event (ha) of a computer crash, it can be recalled on command at some later time.
So much for computers. What about you and me?
How do you explain your memories of thirty minutes ago, five years ago, or for some, fifty or more years ago? Where are those memories stored? Explain your “hard drive” to me. How do you remember these things, technically speaking? Where is that information exactly? If someone were to dissect your brain, would they find the memory of when you were seven years old and snuck out the window of your auntie’s house to play with the dog, when you should have been taking a nap? Scientists have, on a molecular level, discovered great wonders in DNA in the brain, but they have never discovered a memory in there anywhere. If they dissected your brain, would they readily locate that special memory you have of the smell of chocolate chip cookies, fresh out of the oven? Or would they locate your fear of heights, or of being overweight or lonely? Would they find your fondness for mountain streams, crackling logs on a fire, skiing or golf? Where would they locate the section of your brain where they could see how you feel about your mother? Could they find the dream you had last night, or the goals you had for your life when you were 15 years old? Could they find why you desire those goals instead of ten thousand others? Could they locate why you are jealous of others? Where is the location on your hard drive in your brain where they could identify your loves, the things and people you have confidence in, the things that bring you peace? Where are your fears, the things that launch you into being confused, disoriented, disappointed, anxious, or angry? Where are the things stored that you perceive as “needs”? What about the “belief system” that you consider such a part of who “you” are, where is that, exactly?
Of course, God is involved in “who” you are. But, because GOD certainly isn’t responsible for all of the religious and political carnage of the ages, and since He is the God of Peace and of Order, we must look elsewhere for an explanation for all of the bizarre fears and contortions that exist. We must look for another explanation for all of the biases, illogical or unBiblical beliefs that everyone has but “me”! All of these things—the memories, the hopes, the fears and taste preferences, rationalizations and thoughts—are “stored” in a tiny bit of chemical energy in your brain, as a direct result of your diet and your set of experiences. It’s the peanut butter! Doesn’t that help us to understand the complexity of human perceptions, relationships, and communication to know that your feelings and convictions are stored in the chemical energy of your Fritos, peanut butter sandwiches, your chocolate ice cream, and your tuna casserole? While certainly acknowledging readily and gratefully that we are created in God’s image and that He has implanted a soul and a spirit within us, we must also be honest about this fact:
Much of our perception of an event, a word, or our opinion of a matter is defined by our experiences and our intellect and how our life has previously interacted with some circumstance or another. We have so many memories stored away, faulty definitions and emotional biases loosely embedded on a couple of milli-volts of chemical energy on the hard drives of our brains! These preferences and “convictions” are seldom as much “God” as we would like to think they are! This is precisely why Jesus has told us that only the little children can see it properly. The rest of us are trying to protect our turf, salvage our pride, and escape our fears or previous bad experiences. We are defining words, ideas and observations by a little bit of chemical energy stored in some category on our brains’ hard drives, instead of with total softness and honesty.
Let’s be fair. No one is unbiased, as much as they would like to be, or as much as they think they are. Our reactions to things are frequently not based on the superior intellect, knowledge and wisdom that we think they are, but rather based on some set of definitions or observations from previous good, bad, safe, or dangerous experiences. Our perceptions of “truth” can be highly prejudiced by rumor, speculation, and hearsay. Our perceptions are frequently mired by fear of the CONSEQUENCES of that truth, so therefore we don’t WANT it to be truth, thus it isn’t truth.
A child who has been badly burned from a fireplace coal or the burner on a stove will cower in fear from anything that resembles that which had previously harmed them. Even a harmless toy, light, or photo that in any way resembles what once caused the child pain will cause a needless, but very convinced reaction.
A man with no knowledge of electronics can look at a circuit board and it cannot be distinguished in any way from another circuit board, designed for a totally different task. It gives off no information to him as he looks at the various components, while another man can readily distinguish both the task the board was designed for, and the manner in which that task is being accomplished on that board. To one person, the “picture” means nothing, and to another it speaks a thousand words; it is bursting with declarations, hints of color, creativity, and genius. This totally different ability to “perceive” a vast, secret, silent universe from exactly the same set of “facts” is an amazing thing! Accept the fact that if we can be blind to the facts in the seen realm, such as with circuit boards, we just might be missing a TON of color, creativity, and genius in the unseen realm as well! And that’s GOOD! There are so many more rooms in Father’s Mansion to be explored. Let’s not stop in the entranceway and call that the House!
To understand ourselves, others around us, the Kingdom of God, the Scriptures and our Father, we’ve got to recognize that the same phenomenon exists within us. We can all look at a set of “facts” or Scriptures, and frequently arrive at totally different conclusions! Sometimes this occurs because of what we are afraid of seeing based on the cost, or based on previous bad experiences with what looks similar to us. Sometimes we simply don’t have the experiences or the “equipment” physically, intellectually, or Spiritually to see what others can easily see. And, just because WE can’t see what a circuit board really is, doesn’t mean that no one can. It really is okay that not all of the parts of the Body are eyes. We don’t have to see and understand everything in order to go forward with what others can see and understand. It’s okay to develop convictions when the Truth is NOT “relative.” God does have but one Mind, and He is not like shifting shadows. It is simply that we are not GOD and our finite chemical perceptions are so easily fooled that it does not behoove us to protect “the empty traditions handed down by our forefathers.” Not even when we are comfortable with those traditions or ways, and our forefathers were good guys!
Why is this worth discussing? Here’s why. Everything that is outside of your personal set of experiences is not automatically wrong. Everything that is not based on comfortable traditions and building is not a sect or heresy. Everything that is “diffi-cult” is not “cult,” just because someone somewhere doesn’t care for what Jesus taught in Luke 9:57-62, or someone somewhere had a bad experience. Truth can’t be defined by what you are trying to avoid, or by what you are trying to get. Truth doesn’t change to accommodate your hurt feelings, wounded pride, or desire for revenge. “You can’t fire me, I QUIT!”
Instead of protecting ourselves and fearing words that sound like other words, things that look like other things, and accusing the unknown territory of what God is really after as He prepares the Bride for His Son, why not instead, just relax a little? Why not try to learn everything we can, and change everything that we possibly can in order to walk together “in agreement” with Him? Why hold on to the past and define our existences by what is comfortable, rather than by what is “new every morning.” That’s where God is found, you know.
So, practically speaking, the next time you are faced with something that is outside of your experience of what “church” has been, could you take a step back and ask yourself some honest questions? Instead of a quick or harsh reaction, calling names, the fears of the unknown of “life” without bible classes, programs, hired leaders, youth groups, building, budgets and the like, maybe you and I could take the time to allow for the fact that our “hard drives” may have been “mis-programmed” at one time? And, maybe the loss of security or loss of income (for some) or new levels of personal responsibility and accountability are the fears that we will be tempted to “filter” truth through? Maybe the loss of friendships, family, the high price of being rejected, or the pain of remembering others’ experiences such as these has more effect on what you consider “truth” than you thought. Perhaps your convictions, stored in emotional energy bytes in your brain are not as unbiased as they need to be in order to be most useful to God, and in most intimate relationship with the Spirit of Christ.
Maybe, too, if we understand “the Peanut Butter Principle” we’ll have the time to cross some barriers relationally and all TOGETHER press towards Jesus and His Truths. They’re not heretical swine and cult members, necessarily. Maybe it was lunch that did it. Or maybe they’re right. Give it some time and find out.
Maybe above all, this is a call to humility and flexibility. There are really good reasons for both.
Instead of being insulted by what needs to change, as if we’re protecting the honor of our deceased faithful relatives, perhaps we should have the courage that some of them had to forge new Territory and recover the Ancient Paths. Sometimes, as in Nehemiah’s day, “The rubble from the ruined walls seems too deep to be able to build.” But, even so, the Promise is for those with faith to “See Him Who is invisible”...that “the Glory of the latter House will exceed the Glory of the former House.”
If we are to ever see this, we MUST accept a new wineskin for the new wine, without cowering in fear at some past generation’s waywardness. We cannot stay where we are and ever hope to see anything more than the Laodicean expression of christianity that is so prevalent today. We can trust Him that He has, as always, “saved the Best Wine for last.” Our ability to see it, embrace it, and join in all that He has for us will require that we put our fears, prejudices, previous opinions, and all of our well-thought-out definitions aside in order to start fresh without bias. Let’s form around Him, His current Thoughts and current Feelings instead of our own. After all, apart from His Grace our feelings are not much more than last week’s peanut butter, usually.