We need some good thinkers.
To be a good thinker requires you to first be a good person. We seem to have a shortage of both.
Churches should help people become good, so they can become good thinkers.
We are pretty much failing.
Stay with me on this one.
I was changing clothes in the locker room of my fitness center last week. A friend engaged me in conversation about the Obama Inaugural. He plans to attend.
Another fellow joined in and said, "Well, I guess we will have four years of fried chicken, watermelon and collared greens."
He laughed and waited for us to join in. I guess I looked at him with one of my looks.
"Let me risk self-righteousness," I finally said. "I am going to pray for the health and safety of the man God has set over me in order that I might live an orderly and quiet life. As for the racial stuff, bluntly, that just does not do anything for me and, honestly, it is very, very sad."
There was thinking going on in the room then and just after but the good thinking was over for the time being. You can begin from the very bottom of thought but it is really hard to build much of a platform for growth.
"Well, my pastor told me that one about the fried chicken and watermelon," he added, lamely.
"I surely hope that is not true," I answered him, not with as much anger as sadness.
A church can be a positive social influence if it can help pull the stinger of racism, materialism, isolationism, et al. If we can start our conversations from a higher platform there is a real chance to be salt, light and leaven for the world. A church can help us be good thinkers by helping us be better people. A real church can help us move beyond the superficial cliche to the follow-up question.
For instance, the current economic global economic crisis is being treated superficially. The church is not helping much.
The global recession is being treated as though it is an economic issue rather than a political crisis. We watch governments bail out this industry or try to stimulate that portion of the electorate. This has failed repeatedly in history because economic vitae does not emanate from financial/monetary matters. In fact, the crisis is not economic but political.
My Christian economist friend Dave Arnott says:
Beliefs shape values.
Values shape politics.
Politics shape economics.
The present proffered propositions to calm the markets and engorge the global economy go right by the beliefs, values and politics portion of the equation to the economic finale, as though we can construct the roof without foundation or walls. We can build the roof on the ground but we cannot live under it without stooping or banging our collective head.
We will need to rebuild the global infrastructure with certain thoughts in mind. They are mostly Biblical kinds of thoughts, if we were to understand the Bible as a guidebook for living godly lives rather than as an escape map from hard times.
For instance, we might (Biblically) insist:
- The global infrastructure be rebuilt to recognize the dignity of labor. The first act of God in the lives of Original Man and Woman is to create them as beings to fellowship with God. Included in that sphere is labor. God gives Adam something to do and Eve shares in the delight of the work. Creation of capital itself is not necessarily good apart from honest, meaningful labor.
- The global infrastructure be rebuilt to reflect basic human need. DDE built roads and bridges and dams so that people could get from place to place. The new infrastructure will be constructed for the 21st century and will have to reflect the infrastructure needs of today; energy, health, water, food and care for the aging. We will have to do more than help people get from Point A to Point B geographically. We will have to help people get from the cradle to the grave with a meaningful life in between.
- The new infrastructure will have to be built to resist evil rather than embrace it for partisan purposes. We cannot afford man's inhumanity to man in a world where inhumanity can be taken anywhere in the world in less than 20 hours. We will beat our swords into plowshares or we will risk extermination and starvation.
The church ought to be positioned to make a difference because of its natural concern with belief, values and social policies. The church can be the Church, the now global, soon universal, Body/Bride of Christ, presently mired in time, intended for eternity and needed to show those also mired in time how to live in eternity. The Church can help people find a life of meaning for now and hope for later.
Or, it can remain just the church and be mostly a topic for locker room conversation. The choice, one assumes, is ours to make.