Saturday, 11 June 2011

In an Imperfect World

Napoleon BonaparteImage via Wikipedia
I read Lesley’s blog today and it got me thinking.  I think yesterday, somewhere I mentioned that I was looking forward eagerly to the Parousia inferring that things will never be ‘perfect’ in this world.  However, of course, this should not stop us striving for better things now.

I love Lesley post in so many ways, not least because it resonates with my own direct experience of the church.  I have fought for too many years to promote the notion that we can allow one another to be different without feeling threatened, earlier in life on an ecumenical front, but latterly within the Anglican sphere.

The rise of fundamentalism, of every kind, in our church and the knee jerk tendency towards ‘cowardice’ or ‘self preservation’ shown by so many of us is due largely to the failure of us to understand two things.

We are taught by Christ to show both tolerance towards one another and humility. 

Tolerance is a complex thing and worth considering, for it allows us to live together without feeling that we have to ‘give up’ our own standpoint.  It requires courage, self control and a willingness to respect others.  It will not offer triumphalism, self righteousness and conquest, which is why it is out of favour today.  If the church did not feel so beleaguered in our modern society, if it had more faith in God, then tolerance might have a chance.

Humility is one of the hardest things to grasp, especially in our church, especially for those in authority.  Fundamentalism brings our church so very low, it debases the humanity of others and fills the perpetrator with pride and self justification. It is very attractive indeed as it provides a simple and a quick fix of endorphins and often adrenaline. It is popular with many of us and is often favoured by the young.

Humility, on the other hand requires sacrifice, thoughtfulness and therefore hard work, and may easily lead us into painful situations that we are called then to endure with courage and prayer.  Humility is not popular in this world and it is not favoured by ‘leaders’.  It is misunderstood as weakness and as failure.  In fact humility is one of the strongest statements of faith anyone can make.  It depends on how it is done.

Humility is defined by the one you show humility to.  In a Christian that should always be to God, to His will.  Humility is revealing the truth of humanity, it is admitting that ‘I am not certain, I am not perfect, I may be wrong’, but always addressed to God, not to another person as such. That is simply humiliating.

Today church leaders and people in general are ‘flexing their muscles’ and the world is filled with worry, nothing appears to be fixed and all around us challenges and changes abound.  It has always been like this, historians can testify to this ‘truth’ more or less.

In this situation we can look for easy ways out.  Hitler offered a very attractive ideology to the people of Europe and many grasped at it, some still do.  The catastrophe of the Great War in Europe could not have happened without the easy to grasp notion of a grotesque distortion of national pride, something we see in every nation today.  Napoleon promoted a simple plan of a United Europe, and many simply followed, fired up by a misplaced sense of loyalty to a cult figure.  This same blind following happens in Zimbabwe today, and it has its resonance in Western Party Politics. All these times and all these ‘ideologies’ failed to understand the essential ingredients; tolerance and humility.

Tragically, death, destruction, violation and debasement follow when we abandon Tolerance and Humility.

Armed with these weapons then the Waxhaw massacre, the Gnadenhutten Massacre, the Praga massacre, the Peterloo massacre, the Tripolista massacre, the Waterloo Creek massacre, the Bear River massacre, the Amritsar massacre, the Simele massacre, the Katyn massacre, the Babi Yar massacre, the Setif massacre, the Shell House massacre, the Quana massacre, the bat Mitzvah massacre, none of these, and too many more massacres would have happened.

The church is not immune to loosing its way and massacres are part of our history too.  We do, we will, but be should not underestimate the dangers of simple answers and misplaced loyalty, of fundamentalism and an abandonment of tolerance and humility in our own church.  It is not so big a step to move from hating the sin, to hating the sinner.  It is not so big a step from keeping quiet about a small thing to keeping quiet about a bigger thing.  It is not so big a step to make between believing God is right to believing you are right.

If the Church of England’s leaders and its legislators cannot offer us the example of tolerance and humility then do not loose heart for…..

The Holy Spirit goes where it will.


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1 comment:

  1. Excellent and inspiring blog Mr C - I wholeheartedly agree. -
    Tragically, putting people in positions of authority is often the most effective way of removing any humility they may once have had.
    Your mention of Napolean in this context makes me want to listen to Beethoven no 3. But no time now as I have a sermon to write!