Two weeks ago I was atop a beautiful horse named Pistol, trailblazing a scenic mountain in Carbondale, Colorado. My two young guides were telling me their dreams of marrying ranchers and working with horses for the rest of their lives.
Today, I maneuvered my Prius around scooters, old men on bikes, and a billion other cars bustling around the streets of Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
The first few days I was back, my driving skills had noticeably gone rusty – having suppressed my driving instincts for the month I was gone in the States for fear of getting flipped off by drivers unaccustomed to my “moves”. I had a few surges of adrenaline and heart pounding episodes as my brakes squealed and I avoided, you know, hitting people. A week and countless errands later, I’ve regained my deft movements and finesse on the road.
Here’s the thing: human beings are unbelievably remarkable at adapting. Sure, the jarring cultural dissonance knocks the wind out of me at times, and the process of acclimating to a seemingly upside down society requires breadth of time and energy, but we as a species come equipped with an astounding resilience to confront change. For evidence, look to stories of immigrants who uproot families and transplant their way of life to foreign lands.
Why then, within the world of ideas, religion, and faith, is there such a pervasive fear of change? This fear manifests itself in comments like:
“Oh, that’ll take you down the slippery slope,” and
“Don’t blow with the prevailing cultural winds of today”
or sentiments which seem to suggest faithfulness equate a heel grinding resolve to maintain a certain position. Sometimes I feel like, in some circles, to change your mind is tantamount to the worst offense – a breach of integrity, weakness of faith, and the dirty word: compromise.
This is not to say our current generation doesn’t have a problem with perseverance and commitment – I think we do (I know I do). It’s just this phenomenon of vilifying change which is a bit troubling. Because it seems to me, a thoughtful awareness of the shifting societal landscape inevitably leads to a change in the way we relate to ourselves, to others, and to God.
Not all change leads to compromise. Sometimes the slippery slope doesn’t end in the fiery pits of hell. Perhaps conversion is a life long journey of turns and turn-arounds. It’s not always a bad thing to change our minds, even on important issues of faith. Like my close calls in the traffic of Taiwan, sometimes change is required to avoid, you know, hitting people.