The blind men and the elephant in the room
I’m mating elephants with this post. I’ve led the elephant from the famous parable to the metaphorical elephant in the room with the goal of conceiving a better understanding of something very important. That is, the willful avoidance of the biggest, most consequential factor before us when dealing with and discussing the issues that divide us. Abortion, homosexuality, human rights, etc. cannot be properly and rightly evaluated if this factor is ignored.
God is the divine elephant in the room whom we do not or refuse to see. If he exists, and he is not merely the god of deism who created everything and then left us to ourselves, he figures prominently in every one of these issues about which we disagree and debate. But for one reason or another, many will not acknowledge his very sizable presence.
You’re likely familiar with the parable of the six blind men and the elephant. Here’s how I described it in a previous post when I used it to argue for reasons why some people choose to be blind to the truth.
“Six blind men are standing next to an elephant and touching different parts of the elephant’s body. The one touching its tusk thinks, “This is a spear.” The one holding its trunk thinks it’s a snake. Another grabs an ear and believes he’s got a fan. A fourth blind man wraps his arms around a leg and thinks it’s a tree; another leans on the animal’s side and “sees” a wall; and the guy on the end grabs the tail and figures he’s holding a rope.”
The point I want to make this time is that God, represented by the elephant, looms large over virtually every moral and societal issue we argue over today, but many if not most of us choose to ignore him. Like the blind men, we nevertheless bump into different “parts” of him and mistakenly identify the whole from an inaccurate conclusion about the part.
So analogously then, here’s what I think the six different elephant parts represent in a world where the God who is sovereign and to whom we owe our allegiance and obedience is effectively denied or ignored.
- The sharp, pointy tusk causes pain, so that’s the rejection of a belief in God because of the reality of pain and suffering in the world. This leads many to avoid him completely.
- The elephant’s long trunk, with which it smells and probes, represents what some see as God’s nosy and unwelcome intrusion into our lives. They rebel against his claim on their lives and reject his absolute right to have a say in what they do.
- I see the elephant’s fan-like ear symbolizing those whose lives have not been rocked by frightening storms but have been marked instead by the gentle breezes of a comfortable life. Life is good and they feel no need for God.
- The stout legs which look and feel like tree trunks stand for a naturalistic worldview which sees the theory of evolution as rendering God unnecessary. Never mind that this view leaves them with no leg to stand on when arguing for what’s right and wrong.
- The animal’s massive side which feels like a wall is the unwelcome hindrance to going my personally preferred way. It is the impenetrable, unchangeable barrier of God’s law and righteous decrees.
- And the tail is mistaken for a rope which rings for the butler. God for some is primarily a being who exists for the sole purpose of providing for all our wants and needs, responding ready to serve upon being summoned. And who can be disregarded otherwise.
If the God of the Bible is real, our current conflicts over abortion and gay rights are destined to continue and intensify if he is kept out of the conversation. If we really want to resolve them we need to turn our attention to the obvious, to all who want to see, elephant in the room. We need a national conversation on the truth about God…does he exist…what is he like…what does he require of us? Nothing we fight for and argue about matters more.