Monday, September 22, 2008

Christian Elitism

My favorite lunch break pastime is zipping over to the the local deli for a salami sandwich and Diet Pepsi and then getting my political news fix on Real Clear Politics.

Last Monday, I read an article by Russ Smith titled "The Audacity Of Defeat," which explored the affect an Obama defeat might have on the American psyche. Smith recalls the impact of Kerry's defeat in 2004 and references a piece that Joseph Berger wrote for The New York Times the day after that election. In "A Blue City Bewildered By A Red America," Berger interviewed several disillusioned New Yorkers including Dr. Joseph Zito who said:

"I’m saddened by what I feel is the obtuseness and shortsightedness of a good part of the country - the heartland . . . New Yorkers are more sophisticated and at a level of consciousness where we realized we have to think of globalization, of one mankind, that what’s going to injure masses of people is not good for us."

Roberta Kimmel Cohn agreed:

"New Yorkers are savvy. We have street smarts. Whereas people in the Midwest are more influenced by what their friends say. They're very 1950's . . . When I go back there, I feel I'm in a time warp."

In his own article, Smith jokingly adds, "But who says New Yorkers are elitists?"

This got me thinking about the ugliness of elitism. The two quotes above make my blood boil. I hate how they stereotype, demean, patronize, assume motives, and box people into categories. Yet as much as I loathe elitism, I can be quite the elitist when it comes to other Christians.

If someone reads a Christian book that I don't think is up to par, I judge. If someone listens to Christian music that I don't particularly appreciate, I judge. If someone loves a speaker who I don't always agree with, I judge. I display the same pride, smugness, and assumptions about people's motives that I loathe in the quotes above. Although it was a rather light-hearted political piece, Smith's article held up a mirror to my own elitism and I was convicted to the core. And I'm working on putting those elitist thoughts to death when they start flitting about in my mind.

Anyways, just thought I'd share. This is a blog after all. And aren't awkward personal confessions really what blogging is all about?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In many ways it is a shame that the word "elite" is now used to demean. Merriam-Webster says that elite is "the choice part," "the best of a class," "the socially superior part of society," or "a group of persons who by virtue of position or education exercise much power or influence. While I would question New Yorkers claim to any of these definitions completely, I do remember vividly a dialogue between one of my professors and the class. While working on my doctorate in music the professor asked the class what we would say if someone called us "elitist." Having all been raised in a culture that placed the term on a low lever, and because of a fear of this professors wrath, silence followed. His answer has stuck with me throughout these many years. He said, as a response to the claim or accusation, to say "Thank you." You see, at least in music, we all were earning the right to claim an elitist position. Not in theology, not in religion, not in anything else. But in music, yes, we (I) are elite. Does that however give us the right to demean others who do not have the skills and knowledge to clearly understand music? Of course not.

Theology and religion, like music, is primarily an emotional affair, more about how it makes us feel than any deep analysis. Both are important, and both have validity, but to shut down the conversation because the other has defensible positions opposite of yours is not valid.