Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Church and Discrimination

Historically, the traditional Church becomes discriminatory. Discrimination among Christians is based on many authorities. These authorities are limiting factors in understanding the universal principles of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". Many Christians would say that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" were misguided goals of an individual's life. I would like to take them one by one and discuss what I believe is the wisdom of our Founding Fathers.

Life. Life is a human universal. Without life, we can not pursue any other opportunity. Life is experienced by the individual. Therefore, individual life must be protected, first and foremost. But, how is life defined? Life can be defined by it's physicality, as well as it's "abundance". If life is limited to the physical aspects, without supporting its abundance, life seems futile. The futility of life is found when man ceases to have "rewards" for his labor, or hope for his goals. While life's rewards and goals are aspects of a flourishing life, life cannot be realized apart from proper government that recognizes the individual's right to pursue his own ends.

Liberty. Government, such as we have in America, encourages engagement and recognizes everyone's right to pursue life's abundance as they deem fit, within the boundaries of law. This is how liberty is defined. But, traditional Christians do not support an individual's right to pursue his own ends, as Christians define life as a commitment to the "cause of the Kingdom of God" (how is the Kingdom defined?), or as a self abenagtion of life, itself. Life cannot be enjoyed for its own sake. It must have a purpose (or function of the church?)! Liberty is not the message of traditional Christian faith, as it is always about God's will and not the individual's will.

Happiness. As Christian faith is about "loving God first", Christians do not affirm seeking "happiness". Happiness is based on circumstances in the material realm, which undermines "faith" in a trascendent reality. The transcendent reality is more important than the real world and life of the individual. Acesticism has been understood as a form of "sanctification" by some, just as it did in Judiasm and other religious faiths. Ascesticism does not affirm the life of the material, but the spiritual. In fact, asceticism denies affirming life's "here and now".

Christian faith has been defined by tradition's doctrine, by Scriptural texts, and by Church authorities, but has never affirmed tolerance of individual difference. This is the reason why so many churches split over how they understand their faith and its commitments. This has happened historically and is still occurring. Churches are defined by their definitions of right (and wrong), while individuals seek after what is true for themselves. What are the values that are most important to uphold and seek?And Why? These are important questions for the young adult to evaluate in coming to terms with what his own passion is and what he wants to commit to.

Progressive Christians are more open to change than the traditional ones. The dilemma for progressives is where to draw the line to maintain a "group identity", where the traditional Christian has all of the elements of his faith defined for him. Progressive Christians base their faith on reason. Traditional Christians base their authority outside of themselves. The question for the Church is whether the Church should see itself as an institution established by God that is not to be questioned, or as a social structure that needs to challenge itself often in its understanding of faith, reason and what that means....otherwise, Christians will be discriminating and not even recognize it, until much too late....

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