I used to argue with Catholics at the grocery store. I was sixteen years old and a fiery Baptist. I remember attempting to convince an elderly Catholic cashier to abandon the Church for the freedom of my Gospel. There was an exhilaration that came in those days as a young man whom ignorance had blessed with the ability to see things in black and white. There was great comfort in being right and having the truth. It was relaxing to know that the others were wrong and I was right.
There’s something about “being right” where you can create your own spirituality around it. It’s about knowing the answers to everyone’s questions that inflates your ego just enough to make it feel like you’re walking lighter. Your thoughts are pervaded by the correct answers, and the examples of how other people are wrong. There is a consuming self-referential celebration of certitude. Sometimes it bursts forth in prayer: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men (Lk. 18:11). Above all, it relishes in correcting other people for their faults both on faith and morals.
This is the spirituality of being right. I have succumbed to this intellectual pride all my life. Through the grace of God I went to college and my fiery Baptist theology was put to the test, and fortunately it folded like a house of cards. I was confronted with the tension between pride in my own opinion and the unassailable arguments to the contrary. My black and white vision of the world was confronted by a world full of color. This made me feel uncomfortable, but also sparked my curiosity about the beauty of truth. A new force compelled me outside of my comfort zone: a painful yet persistent desire for truth, and nothing but the truth.