Or Why I Listen to NPR News Even Though I’m Not Liberal and Read Desiring God Even Though I’m Not Reformed

On occasion, I meet a new friend and quickly discover we are much alike. We have the same opinions on major issues, we love God and the Bible, and we parent in similar ways. Such people are easy to love and fun to hang out with. They encourage us to be better versions of ourselves through reinforcement of our values. That’s important.

Other times, I meet people who clearly value different things and have different opinions than me. While they may be entertaining, we don’t “click” like we would if we were more alike. The other person may not respect the Bible or be a Christ-follower. She may have been raised in a different part of the country where people just don’t think like we do here in the south, honey. He may be pursuing an alternative lifestyle.

When I meet such people, I have two choices. I can back up, build a defensive wall, and blow off that friendship because it occasionally makes me uncomfortable. Or I can lean into the friendship, listen to the heart behind the person’s opinions, and expect to learn something. Maybe I learn my opinion was off-base. Maybe I learn my friend doesn’t have all the facts. Maybe I learn I need to research and pray about what I’ve been thinking/believing (my worldview) so I can express it better.

I don’t want to stagnate in
my faith or in my opinions.

As you can see, I chose the second option. I don’t want to stagnate in my faith or in my opinions. People who think differently challenge me to push into my faith and culture:

  • to the reasons why I believe something,
  • to what the Bible really says,
  • to my unconscious prejudices and biases,
  • to the separation of (southern) churchianity and real Christianity.

I want that. I need that!

God delights in our inquiry
and relishes dialogue with
the one who seeks Truth.

I grew up in a place and time where no one questioned the veracity of the Bible and where people were embarrassed to admit they didn’t go to church. In my college years, I met people and sat in classes that challenged my faith. You can read more about that here, but I discovered one of the best ways to grow in my faith was to ask questions of it, to push and pull on it from every direction. I came to understand that God delights in our inquiry and relishes dialogue with the one who seeks Truth. I also lost any fear of challenges to my faith because…

Rhetorical question: If God isn’t big enough to handle any challenge we or our modern culture can throw at Him, then He’s not really God, is He?

It would be easy to insulate
myself, to listen only to those
who agree with me, and to let my
faith petrify in its current state.

Which brings me back to the subtitle of this post. Why do I spend time ingesting information with which I may not agree? As a Bible study writer and otherwise stay-at-home mom, I don’t have many opportunities to meet new people, especially people outside my cultural bubble. It would be easy to insulate myself, to listen only to those who agree with me, and to let my faith petrify in its current state.

recycled glass terrarium jar  from Plow & Hearth (no affiliation–just a picture)

You know those tiny terrariums with little cacti and grasses in them? Have you ever seen one of the plants grow enough to break out of its clear container? Me either.

I don’t want that. I want to keep thinking. I want to grow.

I listen to the morning and afternoon news on public radio because it’s liberal,* because it pushes me to think about what I believe and to freshen the cultural aspects of my faith. I read the Desiring God blog and other reformed theologians because of the excellent scholarship but also because my beliefs don’t exactly line up with theirs.* I must compare my opinions, dig into Scripture, and then reinforce or reject the theological aspects of my faith.

There are other healthy ways to grow in our faith: Bible study (You know I love this one!), prayer, listening to sermons, reading books, and fellowship with other believers. In all those, however, it’s easy to avoid the uncomfortable challenges that come from opposing points of view. Do we intentionally select books that challenge our faith? Do we purposefully choose the controversial Bible passages? Not often.

I know I could do much more to “expand my horizons” and shatter my built-in assumptions, but these two steps are easy and accessible. Listening to NPR and reading theologians from other faith tracks gives me a small, daily dose of challenge to keep my faith fresh.

The unorthodox way I keep my faith fresh: busting my own cultural bubbles. via @Carole_Sparks #NotAboutMe #bias (click to tweet)

What about you? What do you do to keep your faith sharp in our modern culture? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!


*Honestly, NPR isn’t that liberal. I’ve heard far more extreme viewpoints. Desiring God’s blog only occasional talks about Calvinism, etc. Most of their posts are evangelical but otherwise theologically neutral. I’m not as outside-the-box as I may appear, once you take time to listen.

7 thoughts on “Lean In, Listen, and Learn

  1. Love this! I also have a big listener of NPR and not a liberal at all. NPR is intelligent. It exposes me to issues in our country and around the world that other people aren’t talking about. Yesterday I was fascinated to listen to their coverage of the opening of the Bible Museum in Washington D.C.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re completely right, Rachel. I learn about so many big and small issues that other media outlets overlook. I missed the segment about the Museum of the Bible, but I’ll go back and find it because I like to know how thoughtful people in the secular world view
      faith issues.


  2. Carole, I have admired your willingness to dig in to current issues and investigate how faith intercedes. I felt a kinship from afar with someone who also wants to wonder and not argue, respect and not divide. I pray many people read this. In Christ, Julie

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I read another FMF post this week about our society being too “offendable.” I love that you are actually doing something yourself about it and taking the time to listen to other points of view. I love listening to the news coverage on NPR as well- I feel like it makes me more informed than any other news radio would. And I too, am not a liberal :). Great post, Carole!

    Liked by 1 person

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