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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Speaking Truthfully: Good News From Christianity

It is fascinating how God brings the messages we need, when they are needed ... and we are able to hear them. Such has been the case for me over the past few days. I have been appalled with all the terrible misbehavior of our politicians and pundits, making gross generalizations about groups of people, turning them from humans into "the other," those less than human things upon which we may heap violence or make war. I am horrified by the violence in the streets, especially the racially motivated hate crimes and murders, sadly including horrid cases committed by those we have entrusted to serve and protect.

My faith, I'm an American Baptist by the way, tells me I must speak up. I must find ways to add my voice and my beliefs in the ways of the Prince of Peace, along with my actions for peace, into this bubbling fray. I was pushed today during a visit to a local church (thriving and filled with powerful outreach programs) by the sermon. The minister told his congregants to stand up for what is right, for what the Bible tells us is truth, even if those around us do not like what we have to say. It was a useful message. Unfortunately, it took a very conservative turn that was quite harsh. Considering he was using an Old Testament passage as his text, it was also confusing when he implied a Jew was at risk of hell. Jesus was wise to claim the right to judge for himself and not to leave the judgment of people's immortal fate to human beings, I found myself thinking. About half way through the sermon, my wife took one of my hands to stop me from drumming my fingers in rising irritation. (Truth!)

That reminded me of the quote from Matthew Fox, an American Episcopal priest and theologian, and what he had to say about how we view, and act upon, our faith. Fox wrote:
There are two Christianities in our midst. One worships a Punitive Father and teaches the doctrine of Original Sin. It is patriarchal in nature, links readily to fascist powers of control, and demonizes women, the earth, other species, science, and gays and lesbians. It builds on fear and supports empire building. The other Christianity recognizes the Original Blessing from which all being derives. It recognizes awe, rather than sin and guilt, as the starting point of true religion.* 
Give me awe every time ... like these galaxies.

I will forever and always be on the side of awe and blessing. I think the assessment of conservative Christianity may be a bit harsh, but it has its place. But truth telling must be tempered. Truth cannot be used as a weapon of spiritual destruction. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians (knowing full well there are some humans who like nothing better than to employ cruelty under the facade of telling the truth out of "love for someone and for their own good" with a wicked gleam in their eye). Paul wrote, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” So, I will be speaking out and acting for justice, arguing against gross generalizations that demonize others, and working hard to present my faith to anyone interested--a faith that speaks of blessings, revels in the awe of God's love and creation, and works hard to uplift humanity and be good stewards of all creation. I'll be mindful of Paul's warning to make sure my truth-telling lifts up and builds strong community and does not tear down. When truth needs to be spoken to power, it will ... to build.

Have a blessed and truthful day.

For more on what Matthew Fox had to say, see: It is a provocative message, truth be told.  

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