Kevin’s Conversations: Doubting the Benefit of the Doubt
My immediate thought was, “Oh No”. Oh no, what might have happened now that’s causing another famous pastor to resign? What might the scandal or moral failure be this time? Do we really have to go through this again?
Much to my relief as I read the article, I saw that there was no scandal or moral failure. Tim Keller was acting on a plan that apparently had been in place for quite a while at the church and was moving onto other opportunities in Christian ministry. But just that quickly, my cynical side kicked in. Yeah, that’s what they’re saying publicly, but what really might be going on? What might they be covering up? We’ve certainly seen this act before.
It’s a shame that I think this way. Or is it a shame that one has to think this way? How much of it is wrong on my part for not thinking better of people and automatically suspecting wrongdoing, or still having some suspicion of wrongdoing even when the message is that everything is fine? And how much of it has been failures in the church, especially the prominent parts of the church, that has rightfully taught me not to trust? Is it wrong that I am so quickly suspicious of the famous and powerful and popular segments of the church? Because there are certainly well known Christians and churches and ministries that have carried themselves well and are not deserving of these reflexive suspicions. Others, on the other hand, however…….
In real life, I am one who usually gives the benefit of the doubt. I usually think good of people and am not quick to judge or to suspect them of unscrupulous motives. I usually need to see a pattern of fishy or wrongful behavior before I deduce someone to be untrustworthy. Even in my real life church and ministry experiences, I have not had many instances were people have wronged me or where I have witnessed church and/or ministry leadership embroiled in scandal or improper behavior.
And yet, when I see the headlines that Tim Keller is resigning, a man of whom I have a generally high opinion, my mind automatically goes to, “What happened now?” And even when given an innocuous reason for why he is stepping down, I am still suspicious that we’re not getting the whole story.
Now, I am not necessarily looking for a psych evaluation to explain why I think this way. I’d rather not have all my inner secrets exposed here by some psychology expert who can unmask all my depravities and explain how I end up thinking the way I do. 🙂 But I bring up this topic because I suspect I am not the only who thinks this way. And I genuinely wonder if it is improper to think this way?
Why is it that I am ordinarily trusting of people, yet when it comes to big time Christian churches or pastors or ministries or “industries”, my inclinations are very much different? It’s not like I haven’t seen or know of “ordinary” people and “ordinary” pastors and “ordinary” churches who have failed at times. But to be honest, my cynicism goes beyond just famous Christians or churches. I have a similar distrust of politicians and my distrust of most “news” media is ever more growing. These are not exactly normally laudable associations to group with churches and pastors and ministries.
So am I wrong when I hear that a well-known pastor resigned that my mind automatically goes to the scandal possibilities? If I heard the same about the pastor at the little church down the road, my mind wouldn’t go nearly as quickly to the same subjects. Is it wrong when I hear a big-time Christian ministry pushing some new big promotion that my mind quickly goes to, “I wonder how they’re benefitting on this one?” And what of others who may join me in similar thinking? Do they have better or worse reasons for thinking the way they do?
Should I be able to give the same benefit of the doubt to the famous pastor or the large Christian ministry as I would the neighbor on my street or the small little ministry of a few people working out of the small to mid-sized church around the corner? Are there good and/or justifiable reasons why I do not? I’ll let the community hash it out.