Lesson 10: The Love Narrative and Conventional Wisdom

Make Love Not War graffitiMany of the best Christians I know have been accused of not knowing how the world operates. In truth, every one of them knows all too well how things work. They just think Jesus shows a better way.

Conventional wisdom that passes for sophistication nowadays is really pretty cynical and fatalistic. It believes science’s ability to measure and analyze things has proven everything in the universe is completely indifferent to any moral standards. Even more significant, it thinks the theory of evolution indicates survival of the fittest is the pattern written into nature. Few admit, perhaps even to themselves, that they think this way, but I sense these are the primary assumptions undergirding our modern lifestyle, even for those who worship every week.

This conventional wisdom has created a climate of fear in which self-defense and win-at-any-cost competition have become our highest priorities. The first stance is justified by pointing to the threat of terrorism and the second by raving about all the wonderful things competition has supposedly made available. Both accept victims as collateral damage in our endless war and our economic system.

As I write, it becomes evident that this is just the latest version of the same-old conventional wisdom. You can almost take for granted the Christian message will always be the opposite of the narrative being spoken by the authorities in any society. You can also pretty much assume there will always be an establishment religion that supports the authorities even when they are indecent. No matter how much they use biblical language to cover it, these churches define salvation in the same way that society defines success.

Both conventional wisdom and conventional religion call for blind faith in their claims. The first asks people to trust in some invisible hand that builds the common good from the fierce competition resulting from every one fervently seeking their own profit; the second, in a hidden plan in which anything that happens is surely God’s will even though it appears to exploit many people. Neither really believes the biblical lifestyle is relevant, because the love on which it is based is in short supply.

A Christian love narrative flies in the face of this convention. It does not accept its wisdom but proclaims a gospel that transforms hearts and society. It describes a better way to overcome the violence that breaks hearts and communities. It offers an honest critique of our political and economic systems. It provides a foundation for human meaning and purpose beyond the efficiency of science and evolutionary theory. And it inspires the courage to share and co-operate in the pursuit of a common good that truly cares for every one.

A Christian love narrative has always acknowledged that we live in a penultimate situation in which the Kingdom of God is not fully present. However, this has never served as an excuse for ignoring loving actions but rather as an urgent call for them as they are the way we participate in God’s mission that uses love to overcome evil.

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  1. John Myers says:

    Conventional wisdom. Two words that really don’t go together. True wisdom demands critical thought, which goes against ‘convention’ by definition. Today, thinking outside the box is as rare as I’ve seen in my days. The conventional ‘box’ is where the popular media and culture reside – despite the ignorant bliss they place themselves in as they parrot what are (in effect) ‘flat earth society’ positions someone else told them was true.

    Well, some might say – John, that’s pretty harsh. Is it? Our overly narcissistic society has turned inward as we stare at our FB feed (the statistic is 43 minutes of each day on average per person). I heard an interesting analogy. There is a difference between being a football fan and being a football player. Timely, analogy, right? As society continues to turn inward, we must be opposite – we must be the player in this world. The one who challenges conventional wisdom, unafraid to take our message of Love and Hope to a broken world.

    Our Bible Study group just finished 1st Thessalonians, which is the oldest known scripture based on Apostle Paul’s journeys to the Gentile world. We had much discussion about the incredible effort that must have taken place to bring the message of Christ to that world. These people were products of a secular society based on wealth and power. To them comes a message of Love, Hope, Eternal Life, and caring for your Brother and Sister as you worship the One True God who made us all. So, we have Paul bringing this message to these people. Paul, a Jew, one the chosen people, who is now fervently spreading this news to all people. Yes, Christ’s Message is for ALL people. In the world of that time, you can’t get much further from ‘conventional wisdom’.

    There are many parallels in our current world. We need to draw on Paul’s examples and be fearless as we face ‘conventional wisdom’, showing a broken world that there is a better way.

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