Friday, June 27, 2008

ON BEING "OLD SCHOOL"

Country singer John Conlee has produced some great songs. I don't like all country music just like I don't like all gospel music. The lyrics and beat have a lot to do with whether I like a song regardless of the genre.

"The Old School" is a Conlee song that tells the story of high school love that is lost as she goes for a career after graduation and marries for money while he drives a truck and raises a family. Her marriage fails. His thrives. Reunion time comes. She asks for a dance. As they glide across the floor an exchange is sung this way by Conlee...

"It could be like old times..you ask if I understand you..well yes, I'm afraid I do..you say everyone does it. I don't care if they do.
I'm of the ..old school."

In that sense the "old school" is the old-fashioned way of viewing immorality and the keeping of marriage vows. I say 'hooray' for the old school and for John Conley. [Although he's just singing about it at the moment.]

But if you move the "old school" idea out of the realm of morality and placed it along side the "new school" comparing it to new ways of thinking about things that are merely cultural or things the bible doesn't speak with total clarity on, it isn't that simple. The "old school" isn't always right because it's old and the "new school" isn't always wrong because it's new.

Also, in the issues where the scriptures do speak, often new insight into the meaning of Greek words, a better understanding of the context of a passage or better understanding of the historical situation may enable one to move from an old school of thought and embrace a new school of thought and be honest, biblical and correct in doing so. [And it not be heretical at all]

With that in mind, I want to look at what I perceive to be "old school" "new school" ways of thinking about several issues and try to track why I personally may have moved from one school to the other or, in fact, stayed with the "old school."

Take a simple thing like manners. The "old school" of thought has caused me to open doors for women, rise when a woman joins us at a table or our group and remove my baseball cap inside a building such a restaurant or church facility.

The "new school" of thought is different. At a Starbucks recently I held the door open for a young woman and she glared at me as she said "I can do it for myself." It was obvious to me she had felt the indignity of inequality heaped upon her by our culture in the home or workplace and certain actions shouted out to her that she was considered less as a person, helpless and feminine in gender to boot.

Add it all together and the sweet little helpless thing needed a man albeit momentarily. [And don't forget it was a male who was saying it by this door action. But she was not having any of that.] My response to her was literally an embarrassed 'sorry, I'm of the old school.' I don't think she cared where I went to school or how long ago it was.

The fact that my gesture had a different purpose and intention behind it was fine for me to know.. but it didn't help my moment of interaction with her.

Now. I could say that I was right [old school] and her new way of thinking [new school] was destroying manners in our society. The truth is it was a cultural moment and no right or wrong way of doing or thinking was involved at all. Just different ways of doing and thinking.

If I had gotten angry or had shown my displeasure with her or projected myself to the head of the table [above her] in my assessment of character based on that exchange, I would have effectively declared war on her and her culture of new thought and that declaration of war would be known by all because my attitude would leak...profusely. For me to ever impact her and her culture with the gospel would be practically impossible were I to persist in that attitude of war.

One more example. Removing your baseball cap. I'm of the "old school." I still find it difficult to wear one inside a cafe, I do...but it has taken a while to experience freedom in doing so. I still can't keep it on in a church building. I think it shows respect to remove it in a church gathering and there may even be some sense of a scriptural atmosphere in it's removal although no clearly stated command to do so can I find. But it feels right to me. It's my generation I'm sure. We're "old school" you see.

Young people today are of a "new school" of thinking. A baseball cap is like their pants, no matter how dirty, they are never to be removed except at night to stand them in the corner til the next day. When a young man leaves his cap on in church I can tell him to "take it off in the house of God" as one deacon did to one teen-ager who responded, "sir, this cap is ON the House of God." [Better theology than the deacon's don't you think?]

In elevating an "old school" of thought on manners as that deacon did to an ought/should/must, it may be that another declaration of war is sounded on the enemy [new school/cultural thinking] and a door is heard slamming shut to the gospel being effectively shared with a young man and much of his generation.

I'm not saying we can't establish boundaries and even request young men to remove their hats in church, but it might be wise to do so on a cultural or personal basis rather than a right/wrong moral basis. If we're angry, judgmental, or condemning of their actions...it leaks...as I said.

I might request that for the worship hour hats be removed out of respect for our gathering unless there is a personal reason or conviction against removing it which would be understood and respected as well. In such a case, feel free to not remove it.

Were I to do this, I probably would do it regularly as a teaching moment when someone's hat isn't an issue much as I do my statement "crying babies are like good intentions, it would be a help to everyone if they are carried out immediately." Or I might choose to not make a big deal about it at all. But, as I say, it's hard for me not to. "Old school" remember.

Someone may be wondering why I even mention such mundane matters as manners. It is to establish a principle of relating to people who are different in cultural attitudes. They are not the enemy. If I consider them to be, that carries over into major things rather quickly. People are important and my view of a lot of things is not the right view because it's mine and is of the "old school." It has to pass muster with whether or not my view is, in fact, something clearly biblical or whether it is my "old school" cultural thinking and is still just that.. cultural. If just cultural...things have a way of changing and it may be legitimate to move from the "old school" to the "new school" of thought and not bankrupt your christianity.

Caps on in church is mundane perhaps. But styles of worship? Marriage? The pulpit and politics? Preaching exegetically or topically? Do we tend toward making sacred certain things that are not.. in fact.. and may even be just cultural? [Just a different one than the present.] We may be unnecessarily declaring war on our culture if we are not careful and hinder the gospel because we wind up being more committed to an old school of thought than we are to Jesus and His message.

In other words, I could be baptist in a certain view of things and think of it as christianity and it not be biblical at all. Just some of my "old school" baptist thinking that is, in fact, only cultural. Old culture.

Bottomline? I would say.......

People are important. Maybe more important than old baptist culture even.

We're not at war with people and their ideas automatically even if they aren't christian and we are or they aren't baptist and I am.

It is possible to be "old school' and more cultural than christian and not even know it.

While accusing others [splinter in the eye] of embracing culture into their christianity, some of us may have a 2by4 in ours. More later..


Paul B.

14 comments:

Bob Cleveland said...

(Note to self: Paul Burleson's gone to meddlin'...)

I face this sometimes, too, Paul. I open doors for women but in the last few years, I notice a lot of them open the door for me. And they smile. I haven't thought much about why, up to now, but now I guess I will.

I recall one time I showed courtesy to a very pregnant young lady a a deli counter, and then later by letting her get ahead of me at the checkout counter. She was so gracious that I was encouraged all the more, in my possibly condescending manners. But, as I mentioned to her, I treated ladies with the respect I was taught as a child, and not according to how others had been taught.

I may have to re-think that.

But I'm still walking on the curb side of the sidewalk, if I'm accompanying a lady.

Paul Burleson said...

Bob,

That's funny.

I'd say keep showing respect just don't get in a stew like a lot of baptist preachers I know do when some of the younger generation don't share your view. But you already know this. :)

Kevin Bussey said...

I've never had a women get upset that I open doors for her. We are trying to teach Jacob to do it.

I am old school when it comes to the believing the Bible is God's word. I'm new school when it comes to the methods of teaching it and reaching new people.

Paul Burleson said...

Kevin,

You will..but keep teaching him. It's the best way IMHO.

I too am old school in believing the bible IS the Word of God. But I'm sure seeing some new school thoughts in what the bible says and means. Baptist tradition used to trump [in the card playing sense] my understanding without me even knowing it. The text speaks to me now and it's fun being berean again. [Which will ultimately lead to being biblical instead of__________ fill in the blank.]

Good to hear from you. Stay in touch.

Anonymous said...

Paul,
Manners never go out of style..it is thinking of the other person more than yourself. I still open the car door for my wife...every time. I walk on the curb side, I hold the door for ANY person coming through. My Mother taught me that and heaven help me should I NOT do it. Mom is 83 and still strong enough to "tan me". Thanks for the excellent talks on the blog. Keep it up and get well soon.
Ken Colson
Montana

traveller said...

Paul,

Well, the surgery certainly did not do you any harm. Your head and heart are still working great!

I think it is both old school and new school that people are far more important than culture. That's why we open doors and why we will let guys wear a hat in the church building.

It just seems there are always a few folks who like to think the culture is more important than the people.

Paul Burleson said...

Ken,

It was good talking to you live and in person on the phone the other day. Let's do it again soon.


Traveller,

Good words all.

My continuing concern is the sense I get when reading some blogs writers or hear some preachers and see that their reaction to and condemnation of much of what people say is on the basis of it being a sell out to cultural thinking. They do this based on a misundestanding of their own standard that is not, in fact, biblical at all. It is just as cultural as what they are railing against but they don't see it's just another generation's culture written into dogma and calling it christian. You get it as do others in my comment section, but so many out there in baptist life don't.

All this seems so clear to me...but, hey, maybe I'm from Mars after all. [If I am..you're out there with me.] :)

Alyce Faulkner said...

I'm glad your back and well.
Please open the door for me all you like. I love it
But-something I've been making an effort to do recently and has nothing to do with male/female culture. I open doors for everyone. Mackey and I eat last at the house, we have been purposely serving as God gives opportunity. I just don't see manners as a gender issue, our new gender is holy, we're trying to act like it.
Looking forward to August-get well!

Paul Burleson said...

Alyce,

"Our new gender is holy and we're trying to act like it." What a great statement. Sounds "new culture" to me, maybe like "Kingdom culture." Well said.

See you in August.

Paul said...

Paul,

This post reminds me of something Alan Roxburgh wrote when he said, "the maps within us aren’t just so much baggage easily discarded as if they are no longer needed. We can’t just discard our epistemologies, or maps, and pick up new ones on a whim. It’s far more complex than that."

Sometimes I fear that one of these days I'll be one of those guys who's gotten so stuck in his ways that I can't seem to see any other. Then I read you and I'm filled with hope that I can both grow older (not that you're old! Just older than me) and still live with a refreshing humility, especially in the ever-growing ways that I understand who God is, who I am and what this life together is all about. Keep it up!

P.S. Two-a-days are just around the corner!

Paul Burleson said...

Paul,

What a gracious comment. My hope is that the essense of it will, in reality, be found in me. While I'm not sure of it's presence, I do long for it to be there as do you.

What you've described sounds like real life to me. May it become real in both of us until we are face to face with Him. Thanks.

Paul Burleson said...

Paul,

In reference to your "two-a-days start soon." Because your sensiblenesss shines through every time you comment I'm sure you had reference to the greatest football program in America. The Sooners of the U. of Ok.

You're right. They start soon. I've already gotten my season tickets ordered and Mary and I will celebrate the fall with our ritual on Saturday home games. We go out three or four hours early, eat more than I care to say, meet people, [such as Paul Littleton a Pastor in the Tulsa area and Carrol Marr a Pastor in Ft Worth whose son is on the OU team] and generally have a great time with all the wins that happen every season.

If you [blogger Paul] ever attend let me know and a hamburger is on me.

Paul said...

Paul,

Oh, I attend. Maybe I should be using first and last name here, but this is Paul Littleton and I've enjoyed one of those hamburgers on you several times now! Hope to see you at a game this year!

Paul Burleson said...

Paul,

My stars. I thought it might be you but when I clicked on the name nothing came up. I was being safe rather than sorry. In fact, I thought another Paul had joined the ranks of great thinkers and football fans like Paul Littleton and Paul Burleson. Didn't realize it was you. My bad.

I'll buy the first burger this year. :)