“Everybody’s opinion is valid,” said the teacher as she parroted the curriculum. It was one of those happy-feely Monday’s where the school was trying to help us love one another, accept differences, and play nice. We likely would have sang Kumbaya if it wasn’t so offensive to the atheists.
One of my wise-cracking friends asked what I thought was a pretty solid question. “What if my opinion is that no other opinion is valid?”
I don’t remember her answer. And I didn’t really care, nor did the kid asking the question. We just wanted to laugh. But I actually think that he had a good point. What if everybody’s opinion really isn’t valid?
Opinions on Opinions
At it’s core an opinion is a judgment about something that may or may not be grounded in fact. Opinions range from things like favorite candy bar to what we should do about health care.
In one sense I actually agree with the teacher. Just because my favorite candy bar is a Snickers doesn’t mean that people that enjoy a Butterfinger are inferior. These type of opinions are more a matter of preference than anything that is really founded upon fact. They can’t be anything more than an opinion.
There are other types of opinions that actually can be something more than an opinion. Someone probably has a correct answer but because of our finite and sinful understanding we aren’t able to grasp that answer. Questions about health care would fit into this category.
Now what has happened in our great nation is that we have flattened the distinction between these two types of opinions. Every Joe believes that his opinion on health care is just as valid as anybody else’s. And he probably has that opinion because his teacher told him that on a Monday when they almost sang Kumbaya.
To prove that all opinions on matters like health care are not valid, consider my opinionated solution:
I propose a four step process. Step one is to move everyone with chronic health problems to Wyoming, with the rule that they can’t take their possessions with them. Step two is to force every doctor named Thomas (first or last name) to move to Wyoming with them, they can only take their doctoring equipment. In the third step we will build a bubble around the state of Wyoming. Step four will be to take all of the stuff they left behind and pay the non-Thomas-named doctors to treat us.
Now what if I forcefully argued my point with people that actually have knowledge about health care? My mantra would be that everybody is entitled to their opinion and mine is just as valid as their opinion. That’s ridiculous, isn’t it?
Opinions and the Church
Why does this point get muddy once we try to carry it into the church? Saying things like, “Everyone’s opinion isn’t equally valid” feels so elitist. It feels like telling people to just shut their pie hole, pay the bills, and do what the pastor says. That makes me sick to my stomach.
But if we understand it correctly it’s not elitist, it’s just reality. My mechanic’s opinion about the dying goat sound coming out of my engine is more valid than the opinion of my Uncle Marty* who skims through Hot Rod magazines once per year.
Yet it still feels wrong when we try to make the same point in the church. After all, every Christian does have the Holy Spirit. And as a good Baptist I believe in the priesthood of every believer. I also believe that every member is not merely a valid part of the body of Christ but a vital part of the body.
But let’s be honest. The body functions much better when the opinion of the foot carries more weight than the opinion of the elbow in all things “walking”. The same Holy Spirit that we all have has apportioned to us various gifts and personalities. There are things that the arms do that the eyes can not. So what if it’s true that there are some things in which you and I really don’t know what we are talking about? Maybe the church would function better if feet gave all of their energy to being feet and not opining about what the arm ought to be doing.
Yet, Google has made everybody an expert on every subject. Perhaps the church ought tobe subversive in this area and pursue humility. Such a humility would seek to know what we are called to know and leave the rest up to other parts of the body. Opine on areas where we know something and realize that our opinion ought to carry little weight in everything else. After all it is the way of the fool is to take pleasure in airing his opinion (Proverbs 18:2). As if it always matters and needs to be heeded. But the way of the wise is to seek truth and understanding.
P.S. This is why I haven’t aired opinions on many topics. This doesn’t make me a sycophant it just means I’m not in the position to have an opinion that actually matters.
*I don’t actually have an Uncle Marty. I’ve always wanted one because I’m sure he’s cool, with all his magazine skimming and such.