Friday, March 23, 2012
The Place Of Church
The timing was good—around the anniversary of 9/11—to read R. Kirby Godsey's new book, Is God a Christian? (Mercer Univ. Press, 2011). It's a great question, requiring us all—Christian, Jewish, Muslim—to ask some important questions about identity, otherness, and theology (a subject of interest to me for a number of reasons, including the fact that I'm writing on the subject as well).I must first reflect on the implicit humility in the "wife" illustration. The understanding on the view of another, the willingness to acknowledge it is to step outside of oneself and to understand on some level their view. That is the root of humility - the view of the other.
He's saying that to truly and deeply love Jesus, to be rightly and fully committed to his message and mission, Christians must resist the temptation to let the boundaries of their own religion define the circle of God's embrace. Christians must do this, not as an act of compromise with pluralism, but as an act of faithfulness to Jesus, who proclaimed in word and deed that God's love does not push anyone outside its infinite circumference.
One thinks of a relativist wife who says, "Yes, I married John, but he's just another man, and all men are the same, so it didn't really matter who I chose." In contrast, one thinks of an absolutist husband who says, "I married Jane, which means that I consider all other women to be ugly, stupid, and abhorrent." But Godsey's idea of covenant commitment allows one to say, "I have given my heart to my spouse, and I love my spouse as I love no other person. I assume you have the same kind of devotion to the subject of your love."
Secondly, I am forced to wonder how much our internecine battles hold back Christ from really reaching the world. I know, that is an old liberal canard, but sometimes even liberal have a point - even if they take it too far. Should I let me love of my wife stand in the way of anyone else getting married because the wife they select is not as good as mine? Can't we find a way to promote marriage?
We seek truth but if we are honest, we can never find it wholly and completely. Our congregational and perhaps denominational affiliation is based on reason and community, but reason often only produces part of the truth and true community is flexible.