“Well, if you friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you!?” this common expression (or variations of this) is used by mothers and fathers on their children. Its broadest meaning is: “Think for yourself—because even the best crowd can be dead wrong.” Parents and guardians continually walk that line of being the objective voice to a (naturally selfish) growing-up person.
Then you’re an adult, and no, you’ve not done something as dumb as that. Even then, are we beyond the need for a voice of clarity and truth speaking into our lives? My experience is no; in fact it seems to take no effort to pick up attitudes, prejudices, assumptions, and opinions which if I thought about them, I’d realize they were wrong-headed, dumb or even deleterious. Group think sticks to me just by walking through a crowd—it’s that effortless, and unnoticed. Then we have the Big Questions—God, religion, death—things which are hard to think about clearly and hardly anyone pays attention to any more, much less gets instruction in. I have no way to evaluate it except through my own experience, but we’re far more likely to get our opinions on the Big Questions from our crowd. CS Lewis, as an accomplished academician, had first-hand knowledge of this danger:
“You see, I know now. Let us be frank. Our opinions were not honestly come by. We simply found ourselves in contact with a certain current of ideas and plunged into it because it seemed modern and successful. At College, you know, we just started automatically writing the kind of essays that got good marks and saying the kind of things that won applause.
When, in our whole lives, did we honestly face, in solitude, the one question on which all turned: whether after all the Supernatural might not in fact occur? When did we put up one moment’s real resistance to the loss of our faith?” ( C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce)
We all face this kind of danger, every day, all around us. We are socially inclined (which is needed and good) but we often get the wires crossed between our own selves and the group. Then there is that little beast in us–the one that loves approval from the crowd–which is insatiable. And the beast is fed the bigger its stomach stretches. We consume peer opinions as if they were handed down from the Mount, not bothering to distinguish good thoughts from the ones the herd thinks. Our theology or worldview or questions about BIG stuff becomes the tangled mess of wires, but they’re ok, because they are our mess of wires and it’s familiar.
The danger exists for everyone: Christian, non-Christian, agnostic, atheist, and all other religious persuasions. Christ was no meek and mild Savior in this respect.
Christ is not solely Divine Love but Light of Light and Divine Wisdom—resulting on strong clear pronouncements, and “so inflammatory in His language that He was thrown out of church, stoned, hunted from place to place, and finally [given the death penalty] as a firebrand and a public danger. Whatever His peace was, it was not the peace of amiable indifference; and he said so in many words that what He brought with Him was fire and sword.” (Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos?). However offensive He may be to some people, others to find His truth-telling a fresh water fountain of trustworthiness springing out of an ocean of private opinions. When He likened Himself to a house built on rock, this is what He was referring to: the trustworthiness of truth in the Loving Son of God.
As God the Son He continually called out people on faulty faith, faulty thinking but He was also the walking Face of God to the world, untangling the wires of confusion…and He still is.