I have always been suspicious of that second sentence. Usually it is the obvious second sentence that is preceded by the unstated first sentence.
“We hold these truth to be self-evident” is a great second sentence. The problem is that it is often put forward as a first sentence. People just start with “We hold these truths to be self-evident… that all men are created equal.” It is a wonderful sentence. The problem is that there is something unstated that goes before it. The first sentence there is “After we killed the original inhabitants, stole their land and imported free labor from Africa …. We hold these truths to be self evident…”
So often what appears to be a first sentence is really a second sentence and the first sentence goes unstated.
Last week Peter Rollins showed up in LA and talked about why ‘Its not the size of the wand that matters … its the magic that is in it.’ In that talk he pointed out the danger of of a different kind: not understanding the (assumed) second sentence. This is particularly relevant to fundamentalist thinking.
The sentence is ‘We trust God’. The implied second sentence is ‘but we still lock up the church building when we leave and arm the security system.’
Or ‘I trust God’. The second implied sentence is ‘still lock your car doors’.
‘I pray for the headache to go away’ is followed by the implied ‘I take the aspirin to help’
Rollins says (around minute 26) that what is tragic is when somebody believes the first sentence too much and doesn’t pick up on the implied second sentence. Like when a child is sick and the community prays for them to be healed, the dad takes the kid home and doesn’t take them to the hospital or give them medicine and the kid dies.
People are always shocked and horrified that the parent took it too far. Yes, we pray for healing. Yes, we have faith. The implied second sentence is that we also partner with modern medicine – and I would add – even thanking God for the advances is technology and unlocking the potential (often of plants) for medicines.
The tragedy is when someone doesn’t pick up on the implied second sentence and takes the first sentence way too seriously. It’s that damned second sentence that will get you in trouble.
Part of what I love about Rollins’ project is that he helps expose the invisible or unstated second sentence so that we, as communities of faith, are not assuming something that should not be assumed and then stating it appropriately so that everyone is on the same page and it is not invisible or hidden.
Admittedly, the danger is that it might take some of the magic out of it. I acknowledge that. The tradeoff, however, is that we can be honest about what is really going on and move forward A) together and B) with integrity. I think that the tradeoff is worth the risk even if we do lose some of the magic.
- Bo Sanders