A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Irreconcilable?

Recently a speech by Bob Edgars, head of the National Council of Churches was highlighted by the Prodigal Sheep. In it he speaks of two different Christianities which constitute "two voices that are not reconcilable".

While I know the culture wars and the church break ups make it next to impossible to see how reconciliation is possible, it does disturb me that the head of one of the largest and oldest ecumenical organizations in the country can use such language.

That is what an ecumenical agency is supposed to be. They exist to broaden the conversation, to bring opposing sides together, to increase the possibilities of cooperation if not some form of church unity. How does one go from that to speak of the "irreconcilable"?

It raises a question of whether the NCC performs that function or if it's role in the public life is more social justice in nature. It's not that the latter can be ignored. Especially not in this time with torture and secret prisons. We need that voice more than ever.

But I worry about what groups exist that are in a position to bring opposing sides together. If we believe that God affects reconciliation, whether in the ministry of Jesus or in our world today, working for such an end seems key for the church in a divided world.

3 Comments:

At 6:47 PM , Blogger quakerdave said...

I have to tell you, I think Edgar is right.

As a progressive and a Quaker, I really don't see how I can reconcile what I believe with what, say, a Southern Baptist fundamentalist, who is a biblical literalist, believes. A person of that persuasion is going to say the same about me. I might love this person as a human being and a brother or sister in Christ, one of God's children, but we're never going to be able to see eye to eye on most issues, whether they are spiritual or political.

 
At 4:13 PM , Blogger prodigal sheep said...

Reconciliation is about bringing people together in relationship with one another (and the divine). Reconciliation ultimately requires that those being reconciled with one another (a) want to be reconciled and (b) view one another as equal partners in the process.

I can't be reconciled to you if I consider myself to be redeemed and you to be irredeemable. In order for me to experience reconciliation, I need to let go of attitudes, prejudices and theological positions which privilege my humanity or spiritual experience over yours, treat yours as invalid, or view you as someone to be forcibly converted to compliance (if not agreement) with my point of view.

To use a much worn analogy, it might have been possible through some miracle of God for the Nazis to be reconciled with European Jewry - but in even beginning to do so the Nazis would have to have rejected that which made them 'Nazi' in the first place, and stopped acting like Nazis.

Likewise with Christian extremists who cannot be reconciled with their inclusive brethren without throwing off the shackles of intolerance and exclusivity. There will always be those who insist on remaining outside the inclusive vision of the kingdom. Their voices are irreconcilable with our own, by their own choice. The don't seek reconciliation, only judgment.

I think Edgar is simply pointing out what has always been the case: There are many who say "Lord, Lord" to which Jesus would have replied, "I never knew you." Progressive Christian voices have an obligation to expose the mean-spirited cant of the religious right as incompatible with real Christian faith and practice, and to demonstrate through our own speech and actions the greater truth we have found in the message of Jesus.

 
At 1:54 PM , Blogger Daniel said...

James 3:18 (NLT) And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness.

Why can't people like this just shut up about the irreconcilable differences and focus more on the fact that as Christians we have more in common than difference. We're all called to the same mission, even if liberals choose to minister to people the conservatives wouldn't speak to.

 

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