The values that hold us together?

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A new/old journey has begun/continued, not unlike the modernist/orthodox journey of the early 20th century with Reinhold Niebuhr’s realist orthodoxy (shedding the utopian vision of earlier evangelicals but clinging to the pillars of evangelical fundamentals). In my D.Min. studies I am taking a class with the snarky title: “Why Church Matters in an Age of Narcissism”, taught by the equally sarcastic but profound Rev. Lillian Daniels. I am scrambling to finish the readings before our class meets at the end of May, and being met by all the questions that have swirled in my mind for years but have been unable to articulate well (thank you writers more efficient and articulate than me!).

I am fascinated by the questions and doubts that have peppered the 20th century American Christian journey, and now the 21st century continuation. With recent postmodern movements like “Emergent” Christianity (basically a group of disenfranchised evangelical conservatives that felt the evangelical voice no longer spoke to their lived experience), we Christians are trying once again to envision a new/old world infused with our experience of presence of God without kidding ourselves about the realities of what has been called “the human condition”—namely, that we are prone to selfish advances of egotism and self-righteousness that put us at odds with what God is trying to do here.

Those of us still formally connected to worshiping faith communities (less than 30% of Americans I last read) we cling to the truths of our faith (though variously understood) and the reality that in so many ways the world (e.g., people) has changed very little in thousands of years when it comes to human behavior and desire.

So how to shape a faith life that at once lifts up the values we hold near and dear (that is, the values Jesus held for faithfulness to God, reaching out to the marginalized, standing with the poor and seeking to recognize the value of every human being as a child of God…at least how I understand it), without having to shed the realities of our arrogance.

President Obama was slammed by many Wall Streeters and many evangelical Christians when he said last year that none of us made it on our own, primarily, it seems, speaking to his fellow 1-percenters (the god of self-sufficiency defends herself against the ever challenging reality that we are dependent on one another more than we would care to admit—who made your clothes or built your house or works on your car or harvests your food?). Can we use our perceived self-sufficiency of which we cannot seem to rid ourselves (despite it’s fallacy at the base of our mutual existence) to grow further in our understanding and exhibition of a mutually beneficial way of life? And how to invite others, even athiests, along this journey of lifting up the values that bind us together without getting caught up in the doctrine and dogma that divides us?

Am I even asking the right questions? I’m sure there are deeper questions to be asking. As our country spins itself into ever more disparate factions, is there nothing that still binds us together, liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican, progressive and traditional? I confess my own arrogance and ignorance in even asking these questions.

2 thoughts on “The values that hold us together?”

  1. Great article. I like how your blog addresses issues that are outside the box.

    As you know, some people’s religious values are quite firm. Which is why most of us eventually learn to not bring up religion (nor politics) in casual conversation. I like UPC where we are free to share our thoughts and questions within an open, non-judgmental atmosphere.

    Regarding the statistic of 30% of Americans being formally connected with worshiping faith communities, my experience is that perhaps half of them (the 30%) are there mainly for the fellowship that comes from being a member. They don’t seem interested in discussing theological issues. Or, are there because their parents were of faith, and they are trying to follow in their footsteps.

    Changing topics, I also wish the left and right could play together better. The only thing that seems to binds us together is when we are attacked as a country.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Tom, I didn’t get a chance to respond to your comment. First, thanks for commenting and for your kind words. As to the reasons why people connect with a worshiping community, the reasons are as varied as the number of people. However, I imagine most folks are there for some sense of fellowship or connection. In fact, I believe it is in living connections with others that we most profoundly experience the ongoing presence of God. Yes, there are the mountain top experiences, by they are rare and momentary, whereas ongoing fellowship is ongoing and plentiful. The vast number of folks I talk to share some sense of hunger for connection as to why they are part of a worshiping community.

      And ditto on the left and right playing together better. It’s kind of sad that it takes an attack to bring us together, and then it is only momentary. And even sadder, the knee-jerk reaction policies that come out of that initial fear-based togetherness are often not the best for the long-term health of our nation or the world. 🙁

      Anyway, thanks for the comments.

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