Blog Archives

The Future is no Scarier than the Past / Old Age has its Perks

 

at 18

at 18

at 20

at 20

 

 

 

jeep_elf3

at 36 with my family

 

at 75

at 75

I finally figured out that all the people I ever was from infancy on still live inside me. It makes for an interesting group most days. And if I don’t like how I feel today, I just return and watch the world when I was having a better time. Young people actually seem impoverished, because they haven’t got a clue about the riches we old guys carry around within us. I wouldn’t trade, because we can go back and be their age inside our memories, but they can’t come forward and enjoy the pleasures of a party without having to drive miles, spend hundreds or pay later with a hangover.
We do know more dead people and we have seen more tragedies up close and personal, so sometimes we hover protectively over our grandchildren. But we can look back at the past and our track record helps us trust that grace will continue to get us through even the hard things the future may bring.
As bad as our world seems in 2015, anyone having experienced life even in America for almost eighty years has witnessed a lot of rough history. Though we now know more about the evil in the world than we once did, the evil was always there. I find when I focus on the evils we haven’t overcome, I fear for coming generations. But when I look back even just on the changes in the world that I have experienced personally, I become more hopeful for the future.
Is having an armed presence in your school any more terrifying than living in homes with blackout curtains for fear of enemy bombers in the nineteen forties or huddling in a school hall during practice warnings of atomic attacks in the fifties. Is the number of families in this generation with members lost fighting in foreign countries anywhere close to the number in the second world war? Is fear born of lack of information as severe now as it was when we huddled around a radio to listen to news of Pearl Harbor or the beaches of Normandy. Children still die or are crippled from disease even in first world countries, but nothing like the numbers in the years before the polio vaccine. Are the numbers of African Americans isolated in ghettos, killed by police, harmed and held back by prejudice anywhere near the numbers in the fifties? Are all the top jobs in the corporate world still held by men? Are people still dying from aids at an alarming rate even in the first world? No matter how horrifying terrorists are today, have they managed inhumanity on the scale of Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, or even Harry Truman at Nagasaki?   The answer to all of these is no.
Yes, there are new diseases, new dangers, new stresses and new groups struggling for equality. It is obviously not heaven on earth, but humanity is a work in progress. Our track record gives us reasonable hope that we will find ways to overcome more and more of these problems in each era.
Age, if we look at even our own life span’s historical picture, can give us a perspective.

The Self-Destruction of Christianity

Martin Luther didn’t plan to start a new religion. He hoped to renew the heart of Christianity. But from the time when the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion, the church had appropriated the power structure of empires and monarchies, claiming the God given right to rule, complete with the assumption of a monopoly on truth. The shepherd’s role was transformed into that of a tyrant with absolute power and no accountability. Christianity’s history quickly became one of violence against dissenters.

Even now, when violence is rejected, the lack of dialogue and openness to growth in our understanding of the gospel has become the root of the ongoing splintering of Christianity, So we continue to waste our time and energy fighting among ourselves.

Few institutional religions have adopted a democratic structure, so they become stagnant through lack of diversity and through power structures devoted to preserving the status quo. As chaotic as democracy is, it gives even the least of its members a voice and the hope of change, so that diverse people with extremely divergent views can remain united without the violence that tyranny provokes.

If humanity is evolving, so will our understanding of our relationship with God and one another. Jesus listened to diverse voices, not only responding to the needs of the outcaste and foreigner, but even allowing them to challenge his assumptions about his mission.

Unfortunately, the power structures with vested interests in institutional religion generally have kept Christianity as the rear-guard of the status quo, rather than as leaders in social change and spiritual growth in unconditional love. We still throw stones at the prophets in the name of God.

The tension between the value and rights of the individual and the good of the community calls for on-going dialogue. We witness the break-down of Christianity over and over as each new call for inclusion of those different from the majority occurs. Institutional Christianity has become about power and preserving the status quo. It is no longer the answer to our human search for meaning. Secularism isn’t destroying Christianity. Christianity is self-destructing.