Bobbi Keese posted a reply to my previous post on Facebook, and while I started to respond there, it became clear that Facebook’s character limit didn’t allow for a reasonable response. As a result, I thought I would copy her response out and reply to it here.
very good points. what is you [sic] personal plan of action? what can we do to improve? a change of such substantial size is daunting. does it start with us and how we live our christian lives? do we teach by example to others? when asked these questions, what will you say?
I do not believe there is a simple or singular answer to these challenges, but I do think any substantive change begins on an individual level, and then spreads to groups of individuals.
For many of us, this begins as an open and honest evaluation of our own thoughts, feelings and actions:
- I may not be a racist, but am I the inheritor of racist attitudes which surface occasionally, even if only for a moment? Why is it that I feel just a little bit of tension when a large semi-threatening looking minority walks toward me? Rationally I know nothing is going to happen, and I’m able to suppress that thought very quickly, but the reality is that it’s there, at least on some level. How does that affect my reactions to minorities and my views about their place in the community of faith in which I reside?
- How closely do I tie my political agenda to my religious views, and vice versa? Marriage is a good example of where this can become sticky – there are many male/female couples who don’t have any sort of spiritual union at all. Why do we oppose homosexual marriage because marriage is a bond between a man, a woman and God, yet we don’t oppose millions of heterosexual marriages that have nothing to do with God? And after all, if we’re really interested in protecting marriage, shouldn’t we be spending our time, effort and energy outlawing divorce instead? (thought: Is it because divorce, for most Christians, hits a lot closer to home than homosexual marriage?)
- How consistent am I in the ways I apply scripture in forming my theology? Do I find that I have differing standards for passages of scripture depending on whether they confirm or discourage a particular practice which I support or oppose? If I exclude certain practices due to lack of explicit biblical reference, yet allow others because of “necessity” or “expedience”, am I really being honest and fair in my application of criteria to determine what is “necessary” and what isn’t, and is the practice of deeming certain practices (but not others) “necessary” and thus allowing their continued use really fair and consistent at all?
This parade of questions is likely to lead us to some very uncomfortable places – often uncomfortable because the questions and answers challenge both the views we have about ourselves and our own “righteousness-of-sorts” and the religious structures in which we’ve heavily invested. Change in either of those areas can be profoundly disconcerting. While I do think there *are* answers for the questions I posed in the previous post, I think one of the largest problems facing Christendom today is the complete ignorance among the “average Christian” that a) such questions exist at all and b) they’re fairly convicting. It often does not help that when people become aware of these and other “non-traditional” questions, our clergy frequently tend to react violently to stamp out any further thought and questioning, and people who continue to ask questions are often shunted sideways, quarantined, and never heard from again.
If our generation demands that theology be lived out in our lives consistently, then it is my sincere opinion that parts of our theology are in dire need of reform. We must take a hard look at what our religious traditions actually say, how we enact and apply what is said in the actual practice of our daily lives, and any disconnects between the two. I think this begins on a personal level in evaluating our own beliefs and ideals, but I also believe our churches will have to wrestle with their own discrepancies in doctrine and praxis and restructure one or the other (or likely both) if they are to survive. As we all collectively wrestle with these ideas, we must keep in mind not only the abstract minutiae, but the practical implementation of our ultimate decisions – can we consistently apply whatever doctrinal and theological standards at which we arrive, and more importantly, what are the broader (and sometimes very messy) implications implied by said application. Only when we have communicated our theology authentically with our behavior will we have a credible voice in secular or spiritual discourse.