I’m feeling extra opinionated at the moment. Maybe it’s because I can’t focus my energy into writing a paper on Johann Arndt which should be sub-titled “Why I Hate Pietism.” Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but I grew up in it and I’m irrationally reacting against it, which (if we are honest), is how most of theology is done. This, of course, is not even close to my point.
I find that there is much fear today over seeking like minded friends. The (post) modern man must stretch him/herself thin with contacts and relations. This was never possible before the advent of the interwebs, so social networking sites are a major impetus for this mindset. The goal, it appears, is to be more inclusive and tolerant of other people. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not of the ilk who wish to be intolerant just because the culture wants you to be tolerant (you know who you are). Nor do I think that tolerance is an end in itself. Tolerance simply means that you’re not going to kill someone over some difference. But, I am getting sidetracked. My critique is more about the idea of purposefully seeking the company of those who think differently than you. On this issue I fundamentally and whole-heartedly disagree. Now, such endeavors have their place, but I do not think it should be one’s primary aim. Instead, if one wants to grow into a better human being, he/she must seek the friendship of like-minded people. Why, you may ask? Well, don’t interrupt me, I’m getting to that. I have found in my experience, which should then be synthesized and commercialized and imposed upon everyone else (see your local Family Christian Bookstore soon!), that I have become a better person primarily through deep relationships with like-minded people. Now, I am not forgetting about God in all of this for that is not my point. I am arguing against those who believe that surrounding oneself with like-minded people makes one a worse human being. Anyways, the key is depth. You see, when you surround yourself with those who think differently, the relationship can only go so deep. To paraphrase a quote of George McDonald: it’s the froth of life, and inch deep and then mud. With similar minded friends, however, one must delve deep before he/she discovers the differences. That one must delve deep means that one must invest him/herself in the life of the other. It also means that when the differences arise, there is a common foundation upon which the relationship can stand. It is not some ideal or movement, but the concrete experiences of true friendship. This, slight differences can never shake.
Therefore I propose that one seek out like minded friends. Tolerating people of different views can never be imposed (except for the killing part), it must be worked through. I do not tolerate the people who disagree with me, I (here I’m being honest) just ignore them. It is my closest friends whom I tolerate, but only because the relationship is deep. Indeed, I dare say, I tolerate them because I love them.
For a more enjoyable defense of what I propose, read chapter three “On Mr. Rudyard Kipling and Making the World Small” in Heretics by G. K. Chesterton and chapter three “Friendship” in The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis. Though, I have not read these in a while so it is quite plausible that they disagree with me completely, but I do not think that is the case.
I shall end with a quote form the aforementioned chapter by Chesterton.
The globe-trotter lives in a smaller world than the peasant. he is always breathing an air of locality. London is a place, to be compared to Chicago; Chicago is a place, to be compared to Timbuktu. But Timbuktu is not a place, since there, at least, live men who regard it as the universe, and breathe, not an air of locality, but the winds of the world. The man in the saloon steamer has seen all the races of men, and he is thinking of the things that divide men–diet, dress, decorum, rings in the nose as in Africa, or in the ears as in Europe, blue paint among the ancients, or red paint among the modern Britons. The man in the cabbage field has seen nothing at all; but he is thinking of the things that unite men–hunger and babies, and the beauty of women, and the promise or menace of the sky. Mr. Kipling, with all his merits, is a globe-trotter; he has not the patience to become part of anything.
G. K. Chesterton, “On Mr. Rudyard Kipling and Making the World Small,” in Heretics (New York: Barnes and Noble, 2007), 22-23.