Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Problem with Boxes

So, a big-time public relations executive, Justine Sacco, lost her job for . . . putting people into boxes.  Phil Robertson, star of the reality show—Duck Dynasty—lost his job (well, temporarily suspended) for . . . putting people in boxes.  Whenever people are looked at in certain ways, or labels are placed upon them, they are being put into boxes.  In doing this people are negated and limited in sharing who they are and what they have to offer.  Robertson and Sacco are not the only ones who do this . . . we are all guilty of putting others into boxes . . . shoot, we are guilty of putting ourselves in boxes!  The problem with boxes is that one size does not fit all people . . . they are usually generalizations that are often far from the truth. 

Think about it . . . all Democrats are . . . all Republicans are . . . people with disabilities are . . . elderly people are . . . all politicians are . . . liberals, conservatives, and middle of the roaders are . . . blacks are . . . whites are . . . Native Americans are . . . religious people are . . . Muslims are . . . Jews are . . . Christians are . . . poor people are . . . women are . . . men are . . . jocks are . . . and, on and on and on the list could go.  Name your group, place them in a box, and fill in the blank as to what they are.  We all do it . . . the only problem is that we are not important or famous enough to be constantly monitored as to what we are saying . . . but, we all do it.  We all place people into boxes.

I have spent a lifetime fighting getting placed into a box.  One of the boxes I fight being placed in is the box of being a minister.  No matter how hard I fight being placed in a pastoral box, I still end up in the box.  It is a box with a lot of assumptions as to what a minister is . . . most of which, I am not.  Once people get to know me they often tell me I did not fit into any of the asumptions of what they thought a minister was about.  But, I still know that I am stuck in that box.  Whenever it is pointed out that I am a minister, the room becomes quiet, the drinks disappear, and I begin fielding questions about the virginal birth, Jesus walking on water, and homosexuality . . . as if I am the end all authority on all topics religious and theological.  I’m not.  I am not a biblical scholar . . . I am not a theological savant . . . I am not all that reverent.  After people get to know me they usually view me as fairly irreverent . . . not what they are usually expecting of a minister.

That is one of the problems with boxes . . . boxes come with assumptions and generalizations.  All ministers are the same . . . all black people are the same . . . all homosexuals are the same . . . all Indians (Native American or from India) are the same . . . all Republicans are conservatives, all Democrats are liberals . . . all politicians are the same.  They think the same . . . talk the same . . . act the same . . . live the same.  The sad thing about this whole “box” dilemma is that we so readily buy into it . . . we buy into the expectations . . . and, we live in the generalizations.  Our society thrives on this economy of boxes . . . every box has its place and purpose.  We are all guilty of this idea of boxes.  We, as humans, are a lazy sort . . . we look for the easy way out . . . we look for the loopholes.  M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, says that laziness is the whole root of sin . . . and, it all started with Adam and Eve taking the easy way out instead of waiting for God.  We believe the assumptions and generalizations . . . and, that is what gets us into trouble.

This is not something new.  In 1962, Malvina Reynolds—a folk/blues singer-songwriter and political activist, nailed this phenomena in her song Little Boxes.   The song became a hit for her friend Pete Seeger in 1963.  The song is a political satire about the spread of suburbia and its conformist attitudes.  A university professor once said that he had been lecturing about this idea of conformity for a whole semester, and the song that says it all in one-and-a-half minutes. 

The satire comes in the fact that reality says that boxes don’t work . . . we live in a world that is filled with diversity . . . God did not create any two of the human exactly the same . . . we are all different and to throw everyone into boxes defeats God’s purpose.  That is what was wrong with the statements made by Sacco and Robertson . . . they lumped people together and placed them in boxes.

As I stated earlier, we humans are a lazy sort . . . we take the easy way out.  It is easier to lump people together, throw them into boxes, than to actually take the time and have a relationship with them.  It is easier to live with the assumptions and generalizations than it is to know and understand the truth . . . hey, that is what makes good advertisement.  Yet, the bottom line is that this is not God’s will . . . this is sin, plain and simple . . . it is taking the easy way out.  Taking the easy way out has created this mess we call our society in which we place people into boxes . . . usually boxes that are way too small to hold the reality and truth of who those people are.  When this happens we make stupid statements like Sacco and Robertson made.

Both Sacco and Robertson have the right to believe whatever it is that they want to believe.  They have a right to express their opinion, after all it is an opinion and it belongs to them.  This is not an issue about expressing an opinion, it is an issue about using generalizations and assumptions to categorize and place whole groups of people into boxes that do not fit into the individuality and diversity of God’s creation of the human race or design of the Kingdom.  If we are to be scriptural we must remember that the Bible begins with acknowledgement of the fact that the human race . . . male and female . . . was created in God’s image.  Each and every human being is a chip off of the ol’ block that is God . . . and, as such, is deserving of love and respect for who God created them to be. 

The problem with boxes is that there is not a “one size fits all”.  To put people in boxes is to negate God’s gift of individuality and diversity . . . it is to ignore the many pieces of the puzzle that make up the face of God . . . that expose the kingdom . . . that makes us all a part of God’s family.  The problem is that boxes are just a ticky tacky way to live life . . . they all look the same.  We know the truth . . . none of us is the same.  God designed us that way . . . the adventure is seeing how the many individual and diverse pieces go together to fulfill God’s will.  That includes Sacco and Robertson . . . let’s not put them in boxes . . . that would be too easy and wrong.


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