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Digging your own wells: In faith and life

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I have often, in penning these articles, spoken of being the son of a Southern Baptist pastor. This entailed attending services at least three times a week, not to mention being held to a higher standard than my friends and school mates. It should come as no surprise that I would be a Christian and later go into full-time Christian ministry.

Along life’s way I grew in maturity, gained an advanced education, but far more importantly, I was taught by a wise professor the art of employing critical thinking skills. One might say, “Give a man the answers and you make him dependent for a lifetime on others for his truths, his answers. Teach him to think critically, independently, and you have freed him for a lifetime enabling him in seeking and finding truth for himself.”

Simply defined, critical thinking is the analysis of facts to form a judgment. The U.S. National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defines it as, “… the intellectual disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing or evaluating information gathered from observation, experience, reflection, reasoning or communication as a guide to belief and action.”

Sound reasoning declares that my Baptist preacher dad’s well of Christian faith could not be passed on to his son by birth. I would have to dig my own well of faith with my own shovel!

Over the many years I spent working with college students, I would challenge them to figuratively lay out all their faith beliefs on the table and then identify which were theirs or those of their Christian parents. It was always the beginning of them digging their own wells of faith using critical thinking.

Unfortunately, we seem to be living in a day when so many want others to do their thinking for them and prefer everything to be described in terms of either black or white, good or evil, with no shades of gray.

Please stay with me as I ask each of you reading this article to follow and answer the following questions which are designed to take you to a different sense of self-realization and how you view others and the real world.

Did you request to be born in the United States? Did you request to be born male or female? Did you request to be born heterosexual? Did you request to be born white? Did you request to be born into a Christian family?

If you have a grain of honesty you understand the correct answer to each of these questions. No human being on the face of this Earth has the power of choice these questions present.

If so, what do these questions say about how you view yourself and those fellow human beings born in Syria, Japan, Nigeria or India and born into Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism? Did they request their place of birth, race or gender any more than any of us?

How should these questions impact how we understand ourselves and our world filled with a diversity of our fellowman? What gives those of us born in the United States and Christian the right to boast of any level of superiority?

It was the noted Greek philosopher Socrates who said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” It was Jesus who admonished us to, “Love others as you love yourself” and to “love your neighbor.” Maybe the problem in our nation today is that we find that we neither love or know ourselves or our neighbors.

Personal growth and change do not come easy. However, the rewards are an enriched life that can embrace a world filled with the beauty of diversity.

Edward “Ned” Walsh of Princeton is a retired Baptist denominational worker who served as executive director of Johnston County Habitat for Humanity from 2004-08.