A Moderate Wall
a blogbook by Brad Duncan
The Berlin WallWhat could the future hold for a global Christian church after the dividing wall crumbles like the Berlin wall? What new structure could emerge, that is still fully Christian in its identity and yet not poised in opposition to the world outside, not trying to either defend against it or to rise up to dominate it? For this thought exercise, can you think of other structures in our society that prosper by embracing diversity rather than isolation? Could the church appear more like a diversity-welcoming contributor to the world around it, a productive member of its global community? Like a flourishing city, could the church be at its best when it engages with surrounding communities for mutual benefit? Could the church actively campaign to attract people with vastly different backgrounds who are willing to join for a common cause? Could it garner support for making the world a better place and weeding out injustice wherever it may be found, all in the name of Christ? Could it partner with the world around it to alleviate suffering and to extend the hand of love and compassion, to glorify God by following Christ in word and deed?
This dream is a possible future of the church, if it will give up wall-building, and instead seek peace with the outside world, replacing hostility with hospitality, replacing protection with active welcome. However, this dream requires cost and is not without risk. We must give up certain comforts to live with greater diversity. We must give up being right all the time, for one thing, and approach the search for truth with a greater degree of humility, allowing disparate views of the same scriptures, principles and human values. Unity will not come from a common creed. It will come from common circumstances. We are all together in this struggle of life as God's children, and we must make the most of it. Religion, traditions, and identity are all just tools to help us find God and to find our true potential as humans. We must rise above differences, and embrace commonality. For those of us that are already members of the religious elite, it means that we must give up our preferred status. In analogy to the times of Christ, we must be equals with prostitutes and tax-collectors. In our times, maybe that means being equals with people of other religions, people of various sexual identifications, people of other countries, classes, and cultures. Who in our world could truly claim superiority over others? Those that have tried it have been proven woefully wrong (I don't need to name examples here). Who in today's world is the most worthy of God's love and love from their fellow humans? Who can honestly believe themselves to be the elite at the expense of all others? Surely our world view and human intelligence no longer supports such outrageous fantasy, such beliefs that all people are not created equal with all others.
A Bridge of Peace
It is time for the church to pave the way, to lead by following the example of Christ, and to point others toward the way of PEACE with all others. Like the kingdom of Kog, we must use our gifts from God to build bridges and roads, rather than walls. We should never use truth to dominate others. We should use truth to guide us in building God's true kingdom in this world by following Christ in the way of peace. To do so, we must give up our elitism and embrace the common man.
Organized as an institution of peace, the local church could achieve much more in the kingdom of God. Consider how this type of church could function in areas of community, compassion, acceptance, and seeking God:Community
Ironically, when we spend all of our energy protecting our community from outside intrusion and maintaining the status quo, we actually spend too little of our energy investing in one another. Imagine how the church could function if its primary focus was on people. Following Christ and worshiping God, by caring for one another. What do people need? They need authentic friends, who will listen, who will share their lives together, and who will step up to help them when challenges in life arise. People do not need so much to be shepherded and policed by a hierarchical leadership structure or a rigid institution. The institution does not love people. People love people. We cannot just appoint some staff positions and pay those people to do the loving for us. Community is about living out the kingdom of God on Earth.
Furthermore, people do not need to be told what and how to believe, they need to be encouraged to believe, and to think for themselves. Faith is grown in the fertile soil of questions and needs. Give people freedom to seek God and to share their journeys with one another, and they will find God in a more authentic way than if they are given doctrines and prohibitions. The way of peace is a way of freedom. In my opinion, to function as a community, a church does not even need a creed, a statement of faith. It does not need lists of doctrines and prohibitions. It needs to unite people behind a common cause, not enforce standards of membership. Uniformity is not a goal to be sought after, but is a sign of failed community.
In the way of peace, the focus on people loving people extends equally to those outside the church. We should invest in people. The church should stand up against injustice, where ever it is found, and bring compassion to those that need it. By stopping the investment in building walls, the church will have more resources available to establish community programs, care for children, help the hungry, advocate for those lacking basic health care and education, work to liberate those in bondage, and be a safe haven for the hurting and oppressed. This type of mission is not a pipe dream. There are many organizations in our world who are already successfully doing these missions. Some of them affiliated with religious organizations, and many of them not. The global Christian church is a massive and powerful force. If it united around the cause of compassion, it would change the face of the world for good.
Why doesn't it do that now? What is worth investing in so much more than Community and Compassion? Maybe our preoccupation with building walls takes too much of our energy, leaving only a small fraction available for caring for others.
Without the wall to divide people, the way of peace is able to accept people with differences. Churches should have an active welcome policy. People that may not think they fit in should be readily reassured that they are always welcome, with no strings attached, and loved unconditionally. What better way is there to show people God's love? When we ditch the prohibitions and statements of faith, and instead declare active welcome to all, then we also benefit. We learn from those differences. We grow and prosper. We tackle the real challenges that come with diversity, like disparate classes and cultures and ways of seeing things. We teach our children to be tolerant, understanding, even open-minded. Like when we go off to college, we benefit from meeting all kinds of people that we don't agree with or don't readily understand! The church can be a mixed up collage of people, rather than a place of homogeneity. The church should teach that judgment is a sin that leads only to treating people poorly. Instead it should teach that acceptance benefits everyone, and is the way of God. God accepts us the way we are, not waiting for perfection or conformity. God's love does not have strings attached. It is unconditional Otherwise, how could God ever love us, much less like us! If God can love humans, so can we.
Finally, the way of peace leads others to relationship with God. By removing our obligation to protect God from sinners and outside intrusion, we can focus on our need for God. We can seek God in the lives and eyes of hurting people, in our compassion for them. We can seek God in listening to others that struggle spiritually and who seek truth and answers. We can worship God by building a kingdom of goodness and kindness. We can seek God authentically and without reservation, when we abandon the religious red tape, the fights over doctrines, and the need for institutionalized worship. When it comes to spirituality, we should focus on one thing, just one thing: God and humans, loving each other.
The way of peace allows this kind of focus on people and seeking God by abandoning the walls that divide people, by tearing them down and building bridges to connect people to one another.