Thursday, January 24, 2008

Virtuous Ignorance

Being charged with being an ignoramus is no compliment. I think of Michael Savage savaging a ignorant caller with such an epithet. (He is usually right when he does so--at least when I have heard him.) However, some ignorance is virtuous. One should cultivate being an ignoramus in a number of areas.

Curiosity is often a sin. For example, you don't need to see the person lying on the side of the road being attended to by first responders. It is none of your business. Use the golden rule: Would you want people staring at you if you were in that condition?

You should be ignorant about what is in the realm of others' privacy. There is no need to know, so you should not know. One's medical history should not be public knowledge. "Thou shalt not covet anything of thy neighbor's (that you don't need to know)." But with the cell camera, the internet, UTube, and more, privacy is harder to preserve. Of course, no one can hide from God, but that is a different matter. Only God can know everything virtuously. See Psalm 139.

It is likewise not virtuous to make known or to know unflattering, but irrelevant, things about others. That is the realm of gossip, a serious sin in the New Testament. Think of how much of American popular culture feeds on and starves without gossip? What dysfunctional, idiotic, or criminal things have Brittany, Paris, etc., ad nauseum, done now? You shouldn't want to know. You may know too much. Try to forget. Make more room for virtuous knowledge.

I could go on, but please add to my categories and give specifics.


Jeff S. said...

Don't peek over at the person next to you as they contribute to the offering plate in church.

Or how about when papers are being returned in class. Does curiosity get the best of you and you look for other's grades? (I am guilty)

Recently I found out you could search County's websites to pull up home purchase records and see what people paid. Although this is considered "public domain," it still seems a bit invasive to actually do so.

Stephen said...

I have to say that my heart is going out to Britney Spears right now. A lot of us rightfully rail against the liberal media. This same media has been merciless in its 'coverage' of Britney's decline. And you know what? We Christians haven't done a very good job of displaying grace. A lot of us liked her years ago when she had that clean image of virginity. When she lost that and embarked on her downward spiral, not only did we denounce her, but we contributed to the demonization of her by the press. All I'm getting at is: let's show that secular media what Christianity is all about. Let's reach out to her, not necessarily by saying, "Hey Brit! Come join our prayer group!: because that might not happen right away. But let's show them what grace is, not be condoning her behaviour but by loving her and showing that love publicly. Hopefully she will get wind of that. Of course, she doesn't deserve it any more than the vagabond on the street but hey, a public display of grace to a known celebrity, at a time when celebrities are royalty and Christians are 'suspect' to say the least, may have wonderful ramifications. We need to reach out to Brit because in doing so, I think we can get the message of grace out there!

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...


Good points there. Thank you. Many things are legally available to the public, but still immoral to investigate. One might legally go to strip joint and immorally see naked women, for example.

The offering plate can be deceiving, too. Joe may put $3 in the plate one Sunday and then mail $200 to the church the next week. If Sue looked at what Joe put it, she might think Joe was cheap, when in fact Joe gave much more without using the plate. And so on.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

Believe it or not, I have prayed for Brittany and other celebrities, although I have no acccess to them. My point was that we should not engage in gossip. I hope some Christians can show her the way to truth and sanity in Christ!

Hovey said...

A personal temptation I face at times is to keep tabs on the lives of the people living in my apartment complex - as if the ins and outs of their daily lives, possible disputes and daily habits reallly helped me care about them as people. Again, its that curiousity that I don't need to satiate. I've seen a couple episodes of "Desperate Housewives" (yes, another thing I should probably be ignorant of), and see another way in which my culture encourages me to be incredibly intrusive into the lives of others. We almost treat it as our personal right to know all the details of what is going on around us. But, unless one actually cares and loves that person, and is actually invited to partake in life with them, it is not righteous to claim knowledge of their private life for one's own pleasure.

And what about the way we treat church leaders? I think our abilities to scandalize and sensationalize people's lives (just as we do our celebrities and stars) probably causes them to retreat from their congregations because they are afraid of what we'll do to them if they let us see that they are actually a plain human being, just as in need of Jesus' forgiveness as the next person.

Craig Fletcher said...

I think the temptation by the sin of curiosity is indicative of many of our societal issues you've talked, blogged, and preached on Dr. G. People want to know what other people are up to because there own lives lack substance and deep meaning, so they look outside for this. Much of it has to do with not knowing Christ and therefore having a God shaped void that cannot be filled otherwise, and much of it has to do with being hypnotized by TV day in and day out.

I'll admit two things personally, one good, one bad: 1) The bad: I used to be curious and engage gossip, but once I met the Lord (age 27, 9 years back) this slowly started to leave me because I had a totally changed worldview and had much more to ponder on, and 2) while sure, I'm still guilty of this at time, it is MUCH better than before. I also coach friends and family along these lines: Don't look, don't worry, keep your eyes on where they belong. It is actually relieving. It replaces anxiousness with calm and reduces undue complications. Stop caring about things that aren't yours to care about.

Stephen said...

Dr. G, you are of course, correct. My apologies for going off on a bit of a tangent! I had logged on to the Internet and was immediately bombarded with the latest Britney headlines on the MSN home-page. Perhaps I should make the Constructive Curmudgeon my default home page!

And yes, by golly, I do believe that you pray for her. I hope that more of us do.