My sister Maria and I had sold cold pop outside my parents’ home for forty-five cents a can for most of the summer to raise enough money for us to go to church camp, and there we were. It was at some point in the middle of the week. The whole camp had assembled and the leaders told us about the game we were about to play: Take this piece of paper and walk down the road toward the pool.
One by one, we each took the walk down the road. My turn came. As I walked down the road, I met two counselors. “Okay, just down the road are two more people. Don’t talk to them, no matter what they say. They’re going to try to deceive you.”
Being a wise young evengelical, my ears perked at the word “Deceive.” Isn’t Satan a deceiver? I assured them I would follow their instructions and went on down the road, where I met the two counselors playing the evil demons bent on my deception. They were, like the other two, very nice, but I knew they were going to try to trick me. I may as well have been wearing blinders and had my ears stuffed with cotton balls.
Another traveler showed me his paper. The two evil demons had drawn a cross on it. I knew they were up to no good.
We arrived at the fence around the pool, where a fifth counselor waited. “Show me your paper.” I did. “You’re outside.” My companion showed his. “Go in.”
The group inside the fence was rather small, and the group outside, large. Those inside were as certain they were in heaven as those of us outside were convinced they were in hell. After all, they were trapped inside a fence.
After what seemed like forever, the leaders arrived and told us the truth: Those inside the fence, who had disobeyed their first instructions, were in heaven, and we, the dogs who only did what we were told to do, were in hell.
The pastor preached a message that evening. I have no idea what it was about, but I suspect he pointed out how few people had ended up in “heaven.”
The irony of this story is that the group that I started with in real life, the group that told me not to listen to the deceivers, were Christians.
The lesson may better be learned in reverse: Listen to the “deceivers.” Have an open mind. The truth can stand up to scrutiny. And whenever somebody tells you not to listen to another person’s perspective because they’re going to try to trick you, consider the possibility that their motive may be to prevent you from realizing that they don’t think the beliefs they’ve tried to ingrain in you will stand up to scrutiny. And if they don’t believe it, why should you?
“The Truth” and “The First Story You Hear” aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but if you don’t hold the first story you hear up to scrutiny and examine other perspectives, you’ll never know whether they are in your case. You’ll just believe they are the same, and live in the fear that some deceiver will trick those you’ve persuaded with clever-sounding arguments and pesky “facts.”
Disclaimer: I’m still a Christian, and still figuring out exactly what that means. I’m just not that kind.