Monday, April 14, 2014

An Open and Closed Case

My friend Michael King, Dean of Eastern Mennonite Seminary, said he's often blue in the face. In his words: 

But "the open" find it hard to be open to "the closed." And "the closed" see it as violating their stand to be open to "the open." So I can preach until I'm blue in the face (and my face is often blue) that Christians will be open to treasures in perspectives other than our own. Yet the "closed" will hear me as imposing an openness that closes them out, as demanding they play a game rigged against them. Should they in turn insist our divisions can heal only if I yield to their One True Truth, I'll likewise experience the game as rigged. That's the riddle. (Michael A. King, Painholders on holy ground, The Mennonite, Feb 2014)

There's an upside to this. We don't need the weaknesses of both the open and the closed, we need their strengths. The conservatives' strengths are in their faithfulness to a wisdom that's been tested through generations. A conservative will dare to confront, even to offend. What motivates them is their appreciation of how desperately evil humanity can be. Hear hear!

The liberals' strengths are in their ability to reach out to learn from other sources of wisdom that have also been tested through generations. A liberal will dare to change. What motivates them is their appreciation of how desperately ignorant humanity can be. Hear hear!

The spirit of God carries both, and in spades. 

Not just daring to confront: daring to offend while weak, while powerless, while giving up power to dominate or control.

Not just daring to learn: forgiving offenses in order to forge a relationship where room for the offender can be negotiated.

To be fully human we must incarnate the spirit of God. This is the heart of the gospel. It's a matter of life and breath.*

*trademark, the American Lung Association.
photo credit: mugley via photopin cc