[UMC] certitude ≅ extremism

a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.  



Serial narration


A series of 3-minute readouts [28, counting this one] regarding the United Methodist Church [UMC] and getting unstuck (beginning here) …. (reset’ here) (here) …. (last weekis meant to be generative, not definitive. Non-absolutism is key to “The 95% solution.” 

—Scriptural underpinning for ‘The 95% solution‘ (getting unstuck) is Isaiah 43.19Micah 6.8John 17; and 2 Corinthians 5.19-20




Intersections clarifying absolutism/certitude

Carey Nieuwhof wrote an article that aligns at a few spots with my ‘[UMC] getting unstuck’ serial narrative… a link to Nieuwhof’s missive: “The Evil That Passes for Good in Christian Leadership.” 

For instance, I’ve said that in the UMC, our ~5% group [extremists at the far ends of the exclusion/inclusion spectrum made up of both “traditionalists” and “inclusivists”] expresses the kind of toxic certitude that Nieuwhof describes:

“And yet that’s exactly what a meaningful subset of Christians seems to applaud these days. The more certain you are, the angrier you are, the crueler you are, and the more your stock increases among certain Christians.”

In the piece, Nieuwhof also writes:  

The Christian faith is a curious thing.

On the one hand, you carry a conviction about who Jesus is and an affinity for core beliefs that Christians have had in common for centuries.

On the other hand, Christianity is a belief system.

As Tim Keller points out …, both belief and unbelief require, well, belief. Everything is a faith system, and no one can be 100% certain about everything or it would not require faith. God, it seems, actually requires trust from his creation.

From a different angle, last week’s missive, “Christmas in Mark?,” most likely challenges those who are caught (to one degree or another) in Nieuwhof’s first category/point, i.e., regarding certainty and belief. We’ll come back to this in a moment. 

Cross-pollination, i.e., convenient certitude…


Beau of the fifth column” (Justin King) makes YouTube videos about current events and politics. A couple of weeks ago he made a video regarding how his topics intersect with church decline — i.e., he explains church decline.
What he’s talking about isn’t really partisan; however, there are problematic partisan aspects of what he’s talking about and it does seem to resemble what I’ve seen some UM clergy express. [Yikes!!]
Embed from Getty Images
Of course, it’s far more complicated than Beau’s six-minute-video can express, but he’s not wrong regarding the aspect he raises, and his claims on this merit consideration, self-critical reflection and discussion.
“I wasn’t aware that God’s favor depended on the mid-terms.”
“He used us!”
“No, y’all used each other, and that’s the problem.”


My first question to Nieuwhof would be: “How do you define ‘belief system?'”
We’ve recently been talking about patterns and ‘belief systems,’ too. Two weeks ago, I quoted Edward de Bono:

“A belief is a perceptual framework which leads us to see the world in a way which reinforces that framework. This circularity is a very natural function of a self-organizing patterning system, so beliefs are very easy to form. In a sense ‘belief’ is the truth of a perceptual system.” [IARYAW, pg. 212]

And, I wrote:

“I never would have seen it if I hadn’t of believed it myself.” —Yogiism

“The Takeaway”

WNYC‘s program, ‘The Takeaway,’ aired an episode last Wednesday that intersects with our ‘getting unstuck’ narrative in a few ways. For instance, in one segment, journalist Rachel E. Gross [author of Vagina Obscura: An Anatomical Voyage] describes a practical example of the same circular-dynamic of belief that we’ve discussed:


A huge theme in this book is that you only see what you expect to see and you can’t see what you aren’t looking for. That mostly comes up when we’re talking about these older, usually male, anatomists who are looking at female bodies and expecting to see something. They expected the female body to be reproductive, to be mostly about the uterus. To not really have that big a capacity for pleasure or for active dynamic processes going on.

The remainder of the interview makes it plain how outrageously parochial those expectations really were/are.

Another example from an earlier segment, zoologist Lucy Cooke [author of Bitch: On the Female of the Species] describes how ‘certainty’ and legacy thinking have seriously limited our view: 



And, one more Cooke clip may inform/adjust your thinking:




All meant as grist for your contemplative mill. 


(series) tl;dr 

The patterns we already identify and hold (our belief systems) vector our perceptions (i.e., bias) and so they limit the patterns that we are able to perceive. Certitude only catalyzes these dynamics. Further, zealous certitude is extremism, and it is toxic, i.e., in our case, producing blindness that’s built into the rhetorical structure of the denominational discourse.

Next week: [UMC] patterns and change [4]. [this post ~775 words (3-min. read)] 


Your thoughts? 


One thought on “[UMC] certitude ≅ extremism

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