Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wrong, Right, and Left

Over at D'Ma's blog, she's got a couple of quotes which I love.
"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." - Mark Twain

"One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things." - Henry Miller
Having had the luxury of international travel; Central and South America for work, and once to Europe for vacation.  It really is an eye-opening, perspective-changing experience.  In South America in particular, one of the most obvious differences is traffic.  INSANE!  Insane!

The photo is from Lima, Peru, at a pretty major intersection.  Is there a stoplight?  No.  There is a man standing in a slightly elevated platform in the median directing traffic with a whistle.  If I was driving instead of riding in a cab, I would have completely driven past him without noticing.

Then there was Buenos Aires, where I had to get from the national airport to the international airport via cab.  Apparently, the cab driver thought I wanted to fly from airport to airport, because I swear we caught air multiple times.

And just recently I went to Tijuana, Mexico.  They've got a number of traffic circles at their major intersections; large circles with multiple lanes.  It seemed to be pretty common for people to crisscross multiple lanes to get out of the loop at their desired street.  In the U.S. there would be accidents galore, swears, and honks, but there wasn't.  Drivers just took it slow, and let people cross as necessary.

It struck me that traffic is a lot like religion.  We all buy in to the traffic laws and driving etiquette of our native countries (at least to some extent).  When we see how some other country handles their traffic (like when we see how some other church handles their worship), we start to think that it's not right, it's not appropriate, or perhaps it's even crazy.

However, if you take a moment, and stand back from it all, you can learn something.  You can stop focusing on the gross differences, and start to focus on the finer details of why it works for them.  You begin to understand that there are several approaches which can work in determining what is wrong and what is right.

But most people do not venture outside their home church, let alone outside their own country.  Or if they do change churches, they go with the one that they like the best.  Their perspective is limited.  Right and wrong becomes rigidly defined.  Everything else is foreign, awkward, or even wrong.

Whereas traffic is a sort of a civil engineering problem with no truly ideal solution, religion is not the same way.  Religion has a right way and a wrong way; mans' way and God's way.  Yet if all of these different approaches to worshiping God really work, then the absolute is dissolved.  Black and white becomes gray.  Religion becomes a matter of social engineering; a matter of cultural norms and marketing.  With that being the case, you have to wonder just how True it all is.


  1. They have those traffic circles in England, too. I was confused the whole time about who had the right of way. But you're right. The people slow down, they're much more courteous drivers than here in the States. They watch for each other and yield to each other. What a concept!

    In the Southern Baptist tradition there isn't a lot of gray. They're right and everyone else is wrong. They don't come right out and say the others aren't Christian, but it's highly suspect.

    If, like me, you start to travel outside of that region into other areas you discover beautiful cultural differences and things start to migrate to somewhere in the middle between black and white. Once in that gray area you begin to realize that maybe it's not all it seems and start to explore into other areas outside of the dreary drabness that is black, white and gray and find a whole new life.

    Thanks for the link!

  2. Well said. :-) We could learn a lot from the more easy-going and gracious traffic of other countries. Well, maybe a "lot" is a bit strong, but there is something to be learned. ;-)

    It's sad that Southern Baptist has pretty much become a cliche for exclusivity.

    Yeah, there is a whole world of gray, and a full spectrum of other colors. Journey on! :-)

    You're welcome for the link.

  3. For me, I got in an accident in all that traffic. I finally got out of the traffic but I continue to suffer from my injuries. Because of that, sometimes all traffic, whether chaotic or controlled looks like a hazard to me.

  4. It can be hazardous Zoe, but that doesn't mean that it's dangerous. Just use the proper personal protective equipment, and look both ways before crossing the street. ;-)

  5. I run into people who tell me every major religion has some truth to it. That statement itself might have some truth to it. It's a little bit like saying that every nation's traffic laws have their own advantages.

    Yet, the trouble is, it ignores the fact that every religion is only a little wise and a lot foolish. That is evident once you get into the historic details of each religion.

  6. I know what you mean, Paul, good point. The "truths" across religions seem to be the common ones, the parts which tell you to treat people with respect and justice. But you've got a whole lot of baggage with those religions which is unnecessary at best and contradictory to those truths at worst.