Saturday, November 27, 2010

Distinctions We Can Do Without

Call me thick, but sometimes I don't get how conservatism and religion became such intimate bedfellows. And, before I go any further, isn't there something kind of gay about that word? Bed-fellows. I'm not sure the folks who pontificate in the name of moral preservation would like it very much. But what else can we say? Bed-fellows-fellas (male and female) sounds like an orgy in the making and that would be offensive, though one can never be quite certain, I suppose. Maybe we should just call them intimate associates, how's that?

Now, before I go even further, let me tell you what's got me all churned up about this today. I was reading my favorite inspirational author and he reminded me of Jesus' inclination toward paradox. You know about paradox, it's what you get when you find two doctors together in the same place at the same time. I know, it's a silly joke, but I like the play on words and figured a smile wouldn't hurt, and since Jesus has been called the Great Physician, it's not too far off-topic.

When I mention him and paradox in the same sentence, I'm referring to his proclivity for acting contrary to the expectations of what I think we can fairly and safely call the Religious Right of his time. Hanging out with social outcasts and welcoming them into his circle of friends didn't earn him Brownie points. Yet, he did so because he was interested in redeeming those whose flaws were so glaring they couldn't hide them if they tried. And if they did, someone else would probably point them out. It seems like nothing got his juices flowing faster than the presumption of religious or moral superiority.

If he was walking around now, I have an idea he'd be considered pretty darned liberal and, of course, he was essentially accused of that back then. Now, if his way of being in the world set him up to be so labeled, and if it's reasonable to suggest he'd like those who claim to follow him at least try to act like him, why don't they? When the one who established the basis for their faith dispensed with social convention and political affiliation when these were irrelevant to his purpose, why do some place so much importance upon them?

There was a time -- about a hundred years ago or so, that's not too long, is it? -- when the impetus for social justice was driven by religious conviction. We see its residue in the form of Salvation Army bell ringers this time of year. Somewhere along the line, the "social gospel" got assigned to mainstream, so-called "liberal" Protestant denominations (e.g. Episcopal, Presbyterian) and the "religious gospel" to groups such as the Baptists. So, here's the real kicker: Jesus made no such distinctions (nor did the Early Church, by the by). Caring for others and accepting them on no other basis than their admission of need was an outgrowth of loyalty to him. Some distinctions we can do without and this is one of them.

What I'm driving at is, I think many issues that have become religiously-charged recently, have no business being such and the sooner we get honest about that, the better. Arriving at solutions is easier when we stop using the Bible as a club. Besides, if I take my faith seriously, I ought to be more concerned about others as persons of worth than whether they conform to my particular views on morality. Put another way, I think my attitudes and convictions, if they're real at all, ought to be geared toward redemption and healing. There's enough pain in the world already without my adding to it.

(Creative Commons image by FadderUri via Flickr)
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