Virtue: The Church You Want to Join, Page Three

   Who am I to say what is right and what is wrong? To say it differently, who determines what is good and virtuous? Our culture decides for us on various biases. If we feel, we probably only follow the mores set out by our culture. If we think and feel, we may question inwardly, how right and wrong stack up for ourselves and our peers.

   What is a just society, for instance? For one party, a just society is one of liberty, wherein persons can rise or fall on free market principles. Hence, limited government with certain specific duties is preferable.

   For others, a just society is one able to recognize necessity and move to meet those necessities. It is famously known how, during the Great Depression, the President in the White House casually remarked that no one had yet starved to death (as far as he knew). Unfortunately, this comment came as persons in the Southwest were boiling down tumbleweeds for supper. Persons seeking virtue argued from necessity, as persons decrying price gouging during hurricane recovery have done in this century.

   Still others, of both parties and some independents, argue for a social order set on justice, by which they argue for civic virtues. Civic virtues include responsibility, accountability, load-sharing and self sacrifice. These are the virtues of a just society, a good society, which, in distress, pulls together to solve problems and settle disagreements.

   I know what you are thinking. I agree.

   None of this verbage above sounds much like the churches I see.

   In fact, it does not sound a great deal like America just now. Let me illustrate. We are ten years into an armed conflict in the Middle East. Thousands of dead and tens of thousands injured and the national treasury drained. Some terrorists deterred, a few military strong men deposed (and hung). I suggest a disproportionate level of suffering for this conflict falls on the middle and lower middle classes.

   When a portion of a struggle falls hardest on one segment of society, falls there and lies there on the prone bodies of one class, you have to question the virtue of, well, the rest of us.

   You cannot argue with me that America is on a war footing. If you do not listen to the news much or have an associate in the military, you would not know our people are dying at alarming rates.

   Is this liberty, necessity or justice? At best it is necessity but the necessity may be not much more than the fact we seem to have no exit strategy. We are there because we were there.

   Simply put, to return to the virtue of the Church, the Church is not much help.

   Let me offer one brief insight and then a seed of a plan.

   Prior to most Spiritual Awakenings, the Church lies dormant, mostly ruminating on its privileges. When a great calamity occurs or looms apparent the Church may recover its prophetic mission and let slip the lambs of peace. In so doing, the Church often excludes itself from a privileged place in its society.

   I suggest we will not have Spiritual Awakening, lively churches or a just society, if the Church spends her time insisting on her privileges. Comfortable living is not the goal of the sojourner.

   I suggest, moreover, the internecine warfare of the past thirty years in national baptist life failed to produce a more just or active Church, let alone to sow seeds of virtue in the secular culture. Simply put, the leadership we let lead failed. It is now time for a pruning.

   A good friend and deeper thinker points out to me pruning often occurs naturally. Dead limbs fall off living trees. We ought to try to guide the pruning, to graft on the wild branch to the staid old tree. There can be new growth from outside and from within.

   Pythagoras and Aristotle cautioned against taking action not based on a broader philosophical context. Action for the sake of action is not worthwhile. In a fully integrated world, it is not enough to "do something, even if you do it wrong." We would need, instead, what Bonhoeffer meant when he urged his native Church to take "…responsible action in a bold venture of faith."

   In this plan, we decide how and when to act, out of a yearning for liberty, or a pang of necessity or of a broader craving for virtue, which is justice in fact and just in theory. We will need, first, to purge out own hearts. It is not enough to oppose evil, if we become what we oppose.

   Opinions stated here are my own, not those of the church I serve, or of any other person or organization.





4 thoughts on “Virtue: The Church You Want to Join, Page Three”

  1. Let’s let the living live and let the dead die. In so doing we will not move at a speed that I approve of, surprisingly God has never required my approval to move forward. I, on the other hand, have learned to move in His timing and actually be more productive.

  2. Amen, and amen. We say that we oppose consumer culture, yet we look alot like business as usual. Maybe we should spend a year meditating on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, while simultaneously serving our communities. Perhaps we’ll look more like Jesus.

  3. Here, when you write,
    ‘Civic virtues include responsibility, accountability, load-sharing and self sacrifice.’
    I might add individual initiative and follership. And when you write,
    ‘It is not enough to oppose evil, if we become what we oppose.’
    I add
    Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!

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