I hate tomatoes.
I always have. I don’t know why.
They’re disgusting. They’re wet, nasty chunks of blegh. They pollute everything with their slimy seeds, so that even if you pluck them off your burger or salad, you still end up tasting them.
Actually, tasting the flavor isn’t the problem. I love ketchup and
pizza sauce; I even like tomato soup so long as it’s smooth liquid
instead of being filled with pieces.
I used to hate peppers the same way I hate tomatoes—for as long as I
can remember. I would find diced green peppers in an omelet or larger slices in some oriental dish then set them to the side of the plate in revulsion. Tabasco sauce? How about Tabasc-NO. Peppers, I felt certain, were the worst… almost as bad as tomatoes.
Salsa was pure hell, chunky style.
Then one day I tried some Tabasco sauce on a bit of meat cooked on a campfire, and it was amazing. A few years later, I had no option but
to eat a meal with diced green peppers mixed all throughout. They
added a great flavor to one of my favorite dishes, and I had to
reconsider my ridiculous food aversions.
Sometimes the things we “know” with absolute certainty from a young age are actually false. Sometimes, we’re just reinforcing mistakes we’ve made or bad beliefs we’ve accepted as fact–to the extent that we’ll actually argue with people about them.
It’s pretty stupid, but it feels so sensible at the time.
I found myself in that position (yet again) last week when a friend
used the word, “cretin” in a way I thought didn’t quite fit. “That’s
not what that word means,” I proclaimed.
(As a writer, of course I know all manner of important things about
words and their meanings, both subjective and literal.)
Maybe from context clues, kid’s cartoons, or childhood assumptions, I took “cretin” to mean something along the lines of “villain” or
“Is that what it means?” my friend asked. “I thought it meant ‘idiot.’”
To the Google-machines!
He was right. The answer flashed onto the screen.
Cretin. Noun. 1. (informal, offensive) a stupid person (used as a
general term of abuse).
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines our modern use of ‘cretin’ as:
“(informal) a stupid, vulgar, or insensitive person: clod, lout”
Google also showed us the Urban Dictionary definition: “A person that is: brainless, stupid, child-like, and full of pointless information
that makes no sense and appeals only to other cretins.”
Now, I won’t recommend Urban Dictionary as the go-to for defining
words—especially while at work, where your network usage might be monitored or scrutinized. That said, their definition struck home for me in an unexpected way.
How often does my faith get wrapped up in child-like arguments and
pointless information? How much do I get wrapped up in nit-pick
debates about politics and living out the Christian faith? How many
discussions quibbling over theological details have I dived into on
Facebook? How many tweets have I fired back in response to a
disagreement over something that doesn’t matter?
In the Church, we find so many reasons to disagree and dispute, to
decide and deride and divide. We split into denominations as often as we split hairs. We say nice things about how “those believers are
pretty good and all,” but we know deep down that they’re missing out on so much (which, thankfully, God has revealed to none other than us).
I wonder at the division over politics and other issues in our
country, and then I realize how often we have the same mentality and spirit operating within the Church. At worst, we demonize the other denominations, highlighting all their faults and flaws while hiding our own. At best, we engage in lengthy dialogues about minor details – which method is best, what style is ideal, what personal subjective preference should everyone take as objectively superior, and so on.
As I considered how wrong I was—while feeling absolutely convinced I was correct–about the meaning of ‘cretin,’ I wrote the following in my journal:
Am I a cretin about the things of God? Do I focus my attention on the little details that matter nothing in the grand scheme of eternity? Do I focus on whether tongues is this or that, whether one can say or sing “Reckless Love” and be theologically sound, whether the Trinity is best described in this or that complex explanation instead of a simple albeit imperfect analogy? Do I get wrapped around these silly details while missing the point of the much greater matters?
I think of the Pharisees and their tithing of mint, cumin, rosemary, and whatever else… And Jesus looks at them like, “Yeah, ok, you do those things, and that’s great. But how about justice, mercy, compassion? Have you thought about doing THOSE things?”
Are we a bunch of religious cretins today?
Are we missing out on something God has provided for us to enjoy or called us to do?
Are we standing around debating which is the proper oil to use in our lanterns, while the Bridegroom passes by?
He sets a table for us, a wonderful feast to which we’ve been invited.
Am I in a tizzy over how the silverware is placed or the quality and
color of the tablecloth?
Am I pushing away the plate like a child, scrunching up my face
because I just KNOW that I hate tomatoes?