“I realize in school they told you to do it, but it’s completely irrelevant now. In fact, it’s actually incorrect these days,” I say.
“Well, maybe that’s your opinion since you design stuff, but this is how I’ve always done it and I’m not going to change,” she says.
“It’s not just my opinion, the MLA Handbook, The Chicago Manual of Style and others have adopted it and stories have appeared on news sites, such as Slate (which has a particularly good article here).”
“I don’t really care. I think it looks better this way and I think you’re being too picky.”
You wouldn’t expect people to be so stubborn about using one space after a period instead of two, but there you have it. In this day when computers and their amazing use of fonts overwhelmingly dominate everyone’s life, people hanging onto their dogmatic chant of “two spaces” that are inevitably traced back to sitting in class in front of an IMB Selectric typewriter – with their little ball of characters that you could pop off and switch to a different font.
It reminds me of the haunting cry from the newspaper boy in the movie Better off Dead: I want my two dollars! (or spaces in this case).
It’s a type of stubbornness I see when people discuss the Oxford comma – you know, that comma you’re supposed to put before “and” at the end of a list.
People cite absurd examples, such as the sentence: I had eggs, toast and orange juice. They say without a comma separating toast and orange juice it would imply the orange juice was on the toast. I chock most of these examples up to poor sentence structure. In the case of orange juice on my toast, well, you have to use common sense sometimes. If you said the sentence out loud, nobody would be confused, so why should it be confusing in print?
And if there really was orange juice on my toast, I think I’d have a few choice words to say about it, not merely a casual mention.
But people cling to how they were taught.
Things like an extra space or the tiny, inoffensive comma suddenly get people seeing red. It’s as though you’re threatening their very existence.
Not surprisingly, people are similarly stubborn when it comes to religion. The traditions we were raised with, the type of music played, the procession of the service can be real deal breakers if they’re messed with.
These days people cite acceptance of the LGBT community as something they refuse to change their stance on.
Sometimes it’s not so drama-filled.
Sometimes it’s that they started playing guitar during the service (because you know how awful different music can be). Sometimes it’s truly petty things, such as changing the start of Sunday School by a half hour or asking people to use different envelops for their offerings.
“But that’s how I was taught,” they say.
If you look at your church, you’ll see what I’m talking about. There are folks who must have things just so or they immediately complain, act like the sky is falling and threaten to leave the church if something isn’t done about it.
Fortunately churches do change and recognize that society does as well. When was the last time you heard a sermon on Ephesians 6:5-6: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling” or 1 Corinthians 14:33-36 that stated how women should be silent in churches?
Whenever I find myself relying on “that’s how I was taught” to justify my actions I know it’s a flimsy excuse.
As a parent it sounds dangerously like a child saying “because” when you ask why they didn’t clean up the spilled milk, or broken vase.
“Because” doesn’t make us stronger as Christians either.
Look to Matthew 22:36-40: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.
Instead of “because,” perhaps we should spend a little time asking ourselves if we’re loving to God and to our neighbor when we face change. Are we putting our opinions in the forefront of God and our neighbor?
Change can be a scary thing, but not changing is far, far scarier.