Sunday, November 28, 2010

Making Much of the Differences and the Commonalities

There are two entirely different ways we can react to other points of view. We can focus in on the differences, or we can rejoice in the commonalities. We can take issue with how some viewpoints represent a rejection of God, or we can recognize that the areas of agreement proclaim that we all live in God’s world and have no choice but to participate in His truths.

Some Unitarian Universalists (UUs) believe in a God; some don’t. Nevertheless, they have a statement of faith, which they term “Our Right Relations Covenant.” I was surprised that I was in agreement with the great majority of their precepts. Here are some of them:

1. “Assume good intentions. Trust in and speak well of one another. Give the benefit of the doubt. Examine my own intentions.

2. Foster an environment of compassion, generosity, fellowship, and creativity. Smile and be welcoming. Share in the responsibilities of the congregational life.

3. Express appreciation and gratitude…Empower others.

4. Promote fairness and decency. Speak out against injustice.

5. Act with respect and humility when I disagree with others.

6. Be forgiving. Be open to hope.”

Why are there such blatant areas of moral agreement? Because we all partake in the same moral laws! However, conspicuously absent is any mention of “God.” Although this statement encourages us to “seek out understanding and wisdom,” the “Covenant” is reluctant to communicate what truths these entail. Instead, it seems to relegate truth to merely a personal choice:

• “Speak the truth as I experience it with kindness, care, and respect.”

This hesitancy about treading on God’s domain and speaking in favor of His truth was also reflected in the preacher’s masterful sermon on “Thanksgiving.” He spoke of the necessity of thanksgiving, even in the midst of loss, using the example of the Mayflower Pilgrims who lost 47 of their company of 102 during their first winter. They celebrated their first Thanksgiving during the following harvest. The preacher eloquently reasoned that while their survival had produced thanksgiving, thanksgiving had also been responsible for their survival. While he acknowledged that both life and thanksgiving are a gift, he never mentioned the gift-Giver.

While I found that I could agree much of his eloquent message, I was also keenly aware of the missing parts. How could the Pilgrims truly have been thankful in light of the tragic deaths of 47 of their own, without the assurance that their brethren had gone to a better place? Without God, such thanksgiving could be interpreted as self-centered and insensitive to what others had lost.
As a gift is not complete without the gift-Giver, thanksgiving is empty, meaningless, and even offensive without the One to whom we must be thankful, no matter how much psychological benefit we might derive from this mental attitude.

Should I be troubled about this omission or should I rejoice in the many areas where we humans agree? And there is abundant acreage of agreement. Because this is God’s world, He and His truths are inescapable, however much we might want to escape Him! We can only flout His moral truths at great expense to ourselves. In fact, the personal expenses are so high and painful, that we continually find ourselves having to make excuses for our moral lapses.

Clearly, the UUs make just as many moral judgments as we do. To make such judgments, we have to acknowledge that there are transcendent moral laws, which are either satisfied or violated by our conduct. But why follow them or preach them if there is no law-Giver. Laws cannot be justified without a basis or rationale for them. Although we may preach law without mentioning God, law implies a law-Giver as much as a gift implies a gift-Giver. We can’t hide from God, not really.

An atheist might object to God, but everything he does points to God. Everywhere he turns, he runs into God. While he declares God irrelevant, because natural laws have been able to explain scientific phenomena, he fails to see that these transcendent, immutable, omnipresent, and omnipotent laws all point back to the law-Giver. While he denies God, he inevitably agrees with the things of God. He may not preach God with his lips, but his legs cannot keep off of His paths.

Should we respond to the differences or the similarities – the words that acknowledge God or those that reject God? We need to do both! While a focus on the differences will produce important critical distinctions, a focus on the commonalities reminds us that our God reigns, however much the tongue may protest!

No comments:

Post a Comment