Lesson 2: The Conversation

neighbor fighting neighborLast week, I suggested one of the big questions challenging the Church is finding her role in a democratic society. For starters, I claimed we had to acknowledge that we are only one among many voices in the public conversation. Perhaps the next step is to examine the nature of the present discourse.

Many claim there is no such thing; just shouting, name calling, slogan slinging, applause seeking, and self promoting. They argue we have lost any semblance of a public conversation about common good and purpose, and now simply engage in an open fight between special interest groups who are each seeking their own advantage.

If the conversation is reduced to election campaigns, this group is quite right. That would place us in a test of democracy almost as threatening as the Civil War. We see now, as then, not both but many sides claiming God’s endorsement. And perhaps, as Lincoln maintained, there is no way to resolve this impasse except to let the violence continue until there is a victor.

A love narrative does not succumb to this fatalism. Believing that love has redemptive and transformative qualities, it calls on Christians to participate with integrity in the grass roots conversation taking place in classrooms and living rooms, barber and beauty shops, churches and clubs, bars and restaurants, offices and workplaces.

Because a love narrative addresses the needs of the situation, it then becomes necessary to understand what confronts us. We find ourselves in the throes of post-modern culture that interprets everything with suspicion, and that includes first and foremost Christian love. Freud, Nietzsche, and Marx have convinced even those who have never heard their names that any altruistic action is really a cloaked effort for self-aggrandizement.

Our initial response must be to realize our words and actions are witnesses to the Gospel that are meant to attract others to the good life offered by Christ rather than to avoid conflict. We probably should include our attitudes as well, because the mean-spiritedness and self-righteousness of many Christians has led many to turn away when we speak.

The post-modern effect has also convinced many in the conversation that there are no values out there, leaving them free to invent any that serve their group. This, of course, reduces decision making to what I or my group wants. Freedom becomes opportunity for achieving my goals without any necessary respect for the equality of all human persons.

A love narrative is committed to making decisions using faith, hope, and love. This does not entail forcing that on others but does call for demonstrating the worth of these values in the way we participate. A lot of Christians have been advocating a “results ethic” that supports indecency, because it provides what they want. Again, many have turned their backs when the righteous rationalize that the ends justify the means.

Even sadder, many in the present conversation have lost hope. The society has left them with no purpose but to make their second marriage somewhat happy, to prevent their children from becoming addicts, and to save enough money for a decent retirement. In response, the Christian voice must articulate with clarity the biblical visions of the future that promise peace, justice, and sharing around a common table.

The more I have pondered the situation in which we find ourselves, the more I find myself wanting, in some way, to begin each of my contributions with “Beloved.”

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3 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Anne Crawford says:

    I read your post today and was mentally nodding my head (mostly in resignation) going, ‘yup’ that about sums up our current situation (which isn’t very hopeful) and then I read your concluding line about thinking you need to start each entry with “Beloved,…” and the beauty and hopefulness of that one word greeting nearly took my breath away. We do need to be reminded that we are (all) beloved children of God, and by extension, we need to extend that love to others. Next time I start to get all cranked up over something or someone, I’m going to try and just stop and think ‘beloved’ – to remind me of what truly matters. Thank you for such an encouraging word today.

  2. Paul Wildman says:

    Fair enough Fritz however don’t forget our civilisation is degrading even collapsing as inequality explodes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRyuM8KsMPo&feature=youtu.be so these issues and problems will be emergent as cracks and weaknesses in the system emerge.

    I fear these will only get worse far worse as the system implodes – Christians esp fundos who focus uniquely on the individual eg salvation etc, are for me cripples that deliberately miss this and focus on say 20% of causation.

    For many love responses, although a good idea and effective in small ways, will not fix a cracking system – in my view. That cracking system will take out our planet.

  3. Fritz Foltz says:

    I heartily endorse both of these comments and recommend following Paul’s link. The interview is critical to understanding the global situation. My approach is to follow Christ’s call to love in spite of what is happening all around us. Our love might not save the planet but it surely will enrich our our lives and those about us.

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