Standing Together in the Wrong Place

I’m all for unity.  I dislike conflict.  I dislike exclusion and hate-filled rhetoric.  I may disagree with someone passionately, but I hope to never demonize that person, but rather to take issue with the issue, not the person.  I won’t be perfect in this, but I take that goal seriously in every interaction.

With the exception of ranting at idiot drivers.  God has a loooooooot of work to do on me in that area still.

So it strikes me at one level as sort of a no-brainer that various faith communities would work together to minimize and eliminate hateful discourse, and this example of such a commitment is, at that level, wonderful.  But it’s such a no-brainer that it really seems superfluous.  There are no particular action items.  Nothing tangible.  Just a vague assertion that hateful talk is bad.  Which it is.  Depending on how you define hateful, of course.  And if that’s all this included, I wouldn’t have much of an issue with it one way or the other.

My concern is in the last paragraph before the signatures.  That’s where it moves from a warm-fuzzy statement by people of various faith backgrounds, some with extremely different understandings of the universe, to a statement of intent and purpose.

Namely, this:  We pray for a society based on love, acceptance and respect for all humanity. As we work for that day…

I’m not working for the day when we create a utopian society based on arbitrary, self-defined concepts of love, acceptance, respect, etc.  I can’t work for it, because I’m part of the problem and will continue to be the fly in the ointment until the day I die.  I need a Savior to create this utopian paradise for me, and He creates it by killing me and raising me to life again.  Unless He does this in me and for me, I won’t ever be a part of a utopian society because I won’t fit in.  I’ll insist on defining things on my terms, and my terms are flawed and even my commitment to my flawed definitions is subversive and self-seeking.  And in case you think that this is my problem and that the rest of you are going to be very happy in your self-defined utopia, I’d encourage you to review human history to see how close we haven’t gotten to anything even resembling a utopia.  It’s not just me that would be standing on the outside looking in.  You would be too.  All of you.

This video has a  Christian comedian appearing on a Christian show.  At about the 1:20 mark, he summarizes what he thinks the work of the Christian church is – “behavioral alteration”.  Getting people to act better.

This is not the work of the Church.

The Church’s work is to point out to people that they are dead and in need of life, and pointing them to the Son of God incarnate, Jesus the Christ – the only one who makes this very thing possible.  It is not the work of the Church to alter behavior, or to create a utopian society.  Because those things are not humanly possible.  It is the Church’s job to remind people of this.  Not soas to dissuade them from being better people, but so they never mistake what they think of as moral or ethical progress for being killed and made alive again through baptism and faith in what the Son of God, Jesus the Christ, promises.

There are plenty of people and ideologies that claim to want to create a utopian society as described (vaguely) above.  It’s ironic that the one ideology which holds at a foundational level that this is impossible to do, is the one ideology single-handedly responsible for some of the greatest implementations of mercy and love and care in all the world and human history.  Ironic that the religion that insists the world will not be a completely better place until it is conquered by the God who created it, is the one religion that has sought to better the world as it is here and now more than any other.

Without any need for a multi-faith statement of purpose.  By, in fact, rejecting all other faiths as incorrect or misguided (just as they, logically, reject Christianity on the same grounds).

 

The fundamental problem that this group wants to confront isn’t a matter of behavioral modification.  It’s not a matter of better education or healthcare or all of the issues we can and should deal with as people of faith.  It’s about who we are at our core.  We can teach people to act better, and there is limited value in that.  But unless there is a solution for what bubbles underneath, sin,  it remains only that, an act.  And eventually, the veneer or the self-discipline wears off and all hell breaks loose.

 

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