Change: Difficult But Necessary (On The Road to Easter, Part Two)

Dear Kathryn:

Even before I hear from you with your next question, I’d like to say a bit more about the notion of change in general. To do that, I’m including here something I wrote a few years ago in the subject. I call it, “Change: Difficult But Necessary.” I hope you find it helpful. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Best,

Arthur

A Man for All Seasons is a glamorized movie portrayal of the life and death of Sir Thomas More, the Lord Chancellor of England who opposed Henry VIII when the king broke away from the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century. In one memorable scene, Sir Thomas is approached by a young man seeking More’s consent for the man to marry his daughter.

Although he will eventually give the couple his blessing, More refuses the suitor’s first request because of what More perceives as the young man’s spiritual instability, since the man has recently converted from Catholicism to Lutheranism.

Addressing the young convert, More says, “Two years ago you were a passionate (Catholic) churchman. Now you’re a passionate Lutheran. We must pray that when your head has finished turning, your face is to the front again.”

I’m fairly certain that many who have known me over the years feel that way about me. To them, my movement from Christian fundamentalism (the tradition in which I was born) through Evangelicalism and Anabaptism (where I spent more than twenty-five years in ministry) to Anglicanism (where I currently reside), is a clear example of head-spinning insecurity. But is it?

Granted, I have changed my mind about some things over the years. Haven’t you? In all of your life, have you never been introduced to some new facts or a different way of doing things Change (4)that made you re-examine your earlier beliefs and ultimately effected a change in your thinking and/or your behavior? And if you honestly believe that you have never changed your mind about any of your core beliefs or anything essential to your worldview, I have one question for you. Why not?

Is it reasonable to believe that, out of all the billions of people in the world, only you (and the comparatively small number of people who share your life experience and your consequent belief system) are fortunate enough to have been born in an environment which has enabled you to comprehend “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”

We all know people whose beliefs about religion, politics, and everything that shapes their worldview and their system of values, are virtually identical to those of their parents. Few of us would want to admit it, but it just might be that our most cherished beliefs about the meaning of life or about how society is supposed to function or about how our system of economics is supposed to work may simply be a product of our genes and our cultural upbringing—a combination of nature and nurture—similar to our preference for country music or our dislike of cottage cheese.

I would be tempted to believe that myself, except for one thing. Some people change. Some people come to the place where they acknowledge that their family or their tradition or the particular cultural milieu in which they were born is not the repository for all that is good and Change (1)right and true. That is my story.

I have come to recognize that truth is bigger and more comprehensive than what I was taught growing up. That doesn’t mean that what I was taught was wrong. Some of it was wrong. But much, very much indeed, of what I learned—at home, in school, and in the social and cultural contexts of my life—was and is true. But it wasn’t always the whole truth. How could it be? How could any single family or any single church or any single cultural context comprise everything worth knowing or believing or experiencing?

The question many people ask, at lease subconsciously, when they realize there is more to know and experience than they had earlier believed or that there is a different perspective to consider, is this: Is it worth it to change your mind, especially if the change puts you at odds with friends, family, and colleagues who don’t agree with your new point of view?

Change is never easy, and sometimes, as I have learned from sad experience, it is really difficult indeed. The consequences that follow a significant change of mind—especially one that leads to a change of behavior or association—can be severe and costly. But consider the alternative. Virtually all of the progress that has been made in our culture—politically, scientifically, and technologically—is the result of people being willing to change their minds. Apart from that willingness, irrespective of consequences, blacks could not vote, human travel would still be earthbound, and the cause of disease would still be a mystery.

Yes, I have changed my mind about a lot of things over the years. Some of those changes have yielded unpleasant consequences. But I remember the quote, variously attributed to Winston Churchill and John Maynard Keynes among others. When the great thinker was criticized for changing his mind on some matter, he replied, “When I am confronted with new information, I change my mind. What do you do?”

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Here’s what others are saying about my autobiographical novel, The Long Road from Highland Springs: A Faith Odyssey. (Tap the title or the cover image to go to the book’s order page on Amazon.com.)

“In Eric Kouns’ debut novel, a man looks at the progression of his religious faith as he tells Capturethe story of his life. Kouns has created a character called Arthur Lough, whom he identifies as his ‘alter ego,’ as a way to examine his own doubts and struggles. His reflections are consistently compelling. This is a personal novel that presents an engaging examination of doubt, change, and faith.” –Kirkus Reviews

“This is an absorbing memoir… the tender story of a life tormented by disappointment and depression, yet sustained by the unshakable hope for the kingdom of God.”   –From the back cover blurb by David Swartz, Assistant Professor of History at Asbury University and author of Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism.

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