To be accused of being narrow minded is considered to be among the biggest and baddest insults which can be levelled at an individual in our Western culture. The thought is that being narrow-minded implies that one is not open to new ideas because you must obviously think you already know all there is to know. The common fear of having such a ‘rigid mind’ is that some believe that it means one is not open to change because of some deep seeded ignorance, which can only lead to fanaticism. But is this true?
A few years ago, there was an interview between Oprah Winfrey and Tom Cruise about Scientology. Oprah was clearly skeptical of Cruise’s religious beliefs, but she then asked the million dollar question: “You don’t believe Scientology is the only true religion, do you?”
Of course Cruise answered the question as Oprah would expect, denying that Scientology claimed to be the only true religion, (apparently only conservative evangelical Christians are foolish enough to make such a claim). After making that clarification, it was obvious that Oprah’s tension immediately lessened.
It’s taboo in our modern culture to say that another person’s alternate lifestyle, religion, or different perspective is wrong. However, one exception to that rule seems to stand out, which is that It seems perfectly acceptable to be intolerant of those who claim they know the truth, in particular, evangelical conservative Christianity.
However, whenever you accept one idea over another, you’re simultaneously closing yourself off to that other idea by consequence. Happens all the time and it happens to everybody. In fact, for someone to claim that Christians are narrow minded is in itself a narrow minded view because that individual making that claim believes it to be true and so rejects the counter view that christians are open minded. See the irony? So if I say that 2 + 2 = 5 and you come along and say that no… it equals 4, are you narrow minded?
Imagine that researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton Canada this very week discovered the ‘pill’ that could instantly cure all forms of cancer, painlessly and 100% effective every single time it was administered. I couldn’t imagine anyone accusing them of hatred or bigotry or of being “cancerphobic” if they made the claim that this was the final and only treatment for cancer that anyone would ever need.
Or imagine you and I in a deep conversation while standing 50 feet away from the edge of an 1500 foot cliff with no guard rails. Suddenly we see a blind boy of about 10 years of age walking slowly toward the edge with no idea of the danger he is in. What if he called out and asked, “Which way should I go?” And I answered, “It doesn’t matter, go any way you like?”
I know for a fact that you’d call me an idiot. If I care about him even in the slightest (as I would because he is a fellow human being), I’d yell at the top of my lungs, “Please stop! Don’t take another step. I’ll come and get you.” And then I’d run over as fast as i could, take him by the hand and lead him to safety. Love compels me to speak the truth and act it out.
Even knowing this, we can tend to get defensive when someone calls us ‘narrow minded’, because it suggests that we aren’t open to ‘new things’, that we are closed to ‘new and innovative’ ideas and as such we are the ‘ignorant ones’ of society.
I think though, that what most people consider being narrow minded is in reality being closed minded, the two often being confused with each other and used interchangeably as though they are the same thing. However, they aren’t the same thing. In fact we should be open minded when it comes to ‘questions’ and to ‘new ideas’, and we should be scientific in much of our approach to life. We are to search things out and to seek out truth. But if those new and innovative ideas lead to wrong choices, or hurtful consequences, or simply a wrong answer (as on that math test), then I’d suggest that being narrow minded is actually the best place to be.
I am not saying that Christians are better, smarter, nicer, more deserving, chose better, or anything else in and of themselves compared to non-Christians. They are Christians only because Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, has given them new hearts of flesh, renewed minds to understand, and new and true eyes to see Jesus for who he is. As a result, It then is natural for those Christians to accept the narrow way that Jesus laid out.
And Jesus’ ways and his words are always narrow, because he never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. And even when his ways and his words make us feel uncomfortable with our broad ways of thinking, that should bring us back to focusing all of our attention on him. Once we have done that, and have been brought back to a place of narrow focus, he opens the eyes of our hearts and we begin to see more broadly (from an eternal perspective) than we ever have before.
So are Christians narrow minded? Absolutely! Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” – Matthew 7:13-14.
If you want to find your way to God, you have to travel the one and only course Jesus laid out for humanity. Other roads might look attractive and might seem like shortcuts, but only one ‘narrow’ road leads to heaven and brings us into a right relationship with God. And the truth is that the Love of Christ should then compel us to let the world hear about our narrow point of view, because in the end, it opens us all up to so much more of what God wishes us to know.