There is no irony that Martin Luther King, Jr., a pastor, coined the terms “sincere ignorance” and “conscientious stupidity.” The church is overflowing with both. On bad days, I fantasize about quitting my work and going into marketing, or the fashion industry, or something unapologetically tone-deaf to justice.
King expanded on what this conscientious stupidity in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
“The white moderate… constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’… paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom… lives by a mythical concept of time and… constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
This comes up again and again. Of course climate change is bad. Of course we should do something about immigration. Of course poor people need help. The church can make these kind of vague statements, but so often, it stops short of the payoff “…and let us change ourselves so that this evil might change.” It settles for “somebody more intelligent than me ought to fix that.” Or “what a shame.” It settles for sincere ignorance of how to go about with social change. Continue reading