A couple decades ago, I came to associate the churchian use of the expression “riding his hobby horse” with narrow-minded preachers and writers and editors of slanted periodicals. These guys were said to have “hobbies”—preoccupations that amounted to masses of material, filling way too many sermons and pages of books. For a given person, a ride on the “hobby” topic might not have been balanced with other, more important topics, or the stance (trot? gallop?) on a topic might have seemed dumb. Sometimes, the ride taken on a hobby horse appeared to be childish, as though it were not a real thing being ridden. In all cases, when so-and-so had a theological “hobby” he was pursuing, it was not a good thing that so-and-so did so.
I wonder every now and then whether I myself could be rightly accused of theological hobbies. Probably. I do have topical areas that I tend to return to a lot. (Is having many hobbies a good thing?) There are several different toy horses labeled “hobby horse,” and there’s quite a cultural history with these odd objects. Whether my hobbies are strange preoccupations or just entertaining motifs I’m not sure. I try not to let them lead to imbalance, but at times, it might seem that I am doing little but taking a childish ride on a hobby horse.
The sheer weight of some topics will keep me from worrying too much about the accusation of having a hobby. In other words, some things are just so important that I don’t care how hobby-ish they might seem to others. For instance, I have spoken and written volumes about the Kingdom of God, about authentic worship, and about responsible reading and interpretation of scripture. The insistent, convicted (if not prophetic) voice within simply will not allow me to stop putting my foot in the stirrups on some of these steeds.
Other topics are not very significant, when seen in perspective, making them less deserving “hobbies”:
- mistaken ideas about Sabbath
- inaccurate construction of possessives, plurals, and possessive plurals
- whether music is shown on a PowerPoint screen
Some topics and practices might fall somewhere in the middle:
- Hierarchical clergy-laity systems
- False or overblown denominational egos
- Communion practices
I may vigorously affirm (or vociferously object to) this or that practice or doctrine, but I do try to put things in perspective, even when practices are ill-advised or just plain dumb.
Speaking transparently, I will in my next post invite readers to consider again one topical area that may be a hobby for me (not as significant an issue as many others I write about): Churchianity’s affirmation of the practice of tithing. Which category does it fit into—the central, the important, or the sideline concerns?
While the tithe per se is no longer applicable to believers, some form of it is assumed by nearly all established churches, and I actually believe that any over-emphasis on my part is okay, compared to the potential harm done to God’s purposes by assumptions of tithing. This periodic “ride,” if you want to call it that, is for the sake of others, and it gives no pleasure to me. Still, I may be a little imbalanced. You be the judge.
To be continued . . .