Central Faith Questions
We were walking into Borders across from the Water Tower Place along Michigan Avenue here in Chicago. Martha and I had just seen “The Constant Gardener” together over at the Esquire theatre on Oak and I sort of offhandedly share a thought as it came to me. What are the central faith questions that voices of Christ should be speaking? What is the Evangel that the world has yet to hear? Are the Five Spiritual Laws really such a threat to the devil in America? I came to this conclusion: The central questions of faith that are pertinent to disciples of Jesus surround whether what we claim to be true, [namely that 1.) every human being is truly made in God’s image, 2.) God desires a relationship with every human, 3.) that he intends to make humans truly whole and truly human and 4.) place us in loving relation to every other human] is what we intend to live by and share with ALL humanity.
I’ve heard the term humanization thrown around a fair bit, usually only by academics. And I’m sure it means different things to different people. When Walter Wink writes about becoming truly Human in his “biblical study” of the term son of man and its implication for a new humanity [The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of Man] it is clear he means something different than say Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s reference to “being conformed to the Risen One. . .a new man before God” in his Ethics. These men are of two entirely different species of thought, and I fear Wink has something wholly other in mind when he refers to Christ. As hard as I try the more I read of Barth the more I can’t understand any relevance for American liberalism. But then again reading Barth clearly shoots holes in American conservativism as well.
I’m reading Bonhoeffer’s Ethics as Formation again (from Ethics) and also have in hand Jean Vanier’s Becoming Human and also Humanization and the Politics of God by Nancy Duff, which by my reading is the closest thing to Bonhoeffer that an American Theological Ethic has ever produced. Do I need to go into Lehmann and Bonhoeffer’s connection?
In searching for a practical historic and political application I heartily recommend Andrew Bacevich’s American Empire and Jonathan Glover’s Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century. Robert F. Drinan has written a wonderful book on his work in the UN titled The Mobilization of Shame: A World View of Human Rights. These are not happy books (though Drinan offers a lot more hope in his book). America has been living with a lot of guilt for a long time and its fool hardy to think that as Christians we don’t share in that guilt. In our preaching do we as Christians share in our nations guilt and then confess our sins and seek forgiveness and healing? Or do we think that the gospel has very little to say to our national and international history?
This year Baker Academic released a book edited by Ronald Sider and Diane Knippers titled: Toward an Evangelical Public Policy: Political Strategies for the Health of the Nation. It was a huge leap forward for naming what Evangelical public policy will involve. With articles from a very diverse church and politick background the book reveals the Evangelical landscape of thought for all its flaws and strengths. My personal impression was that there were many more flaws, weaknesses, and embarrassments than strengths and that many writers were far too generous in their assessments of our contributions. Richard Cizik’s glowing hagiography of the NAE was the case in point. He spoke so lovingly of his organizations long history of keeping the faithful white, right, and in the light. As I read it I was red with rage toward how the organization was so blatantly racist, anti-Catholic, and almost singly responsible for allowing televangelists the free reign they have on the airwaves now to take money from whomever they want without restriction. That’s our heritage to glory in?
Gushee and Hollinger’s chapter on Ethics revealed nothing of substance or interest to me. They survey all the different denominational expressions of Ethical study but the study in and of itself was typified as very dry and unengaging. Show me how an Evangelical Ethic speaks to the world situation! In all honesty I’ve picked this book up and laid it down repeatedly since it came out in the spring. The voices it represents bring more pain than interest at this point. I know the book is important, but I find much more help outside the Evangelical community than in it. I’m sorry to have to say that.
Well I still have a lot of reading to do. I wish I had more folks to dialogue with on this.