Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Sound of Silence

“Hello darkness, my old friend, 
I've come to talk with you again, 
Because a vision softly creeping, 
Left its seeds while I was sleeping, 
And the vision that was planted in my brain 
Still remains 
Within the sound of silence
- Paul Simon, “The Sound of Silence”

The vision that was planted in my brain, lo, some 44 years ago now, was based on love and inclusion. It was based on a fundamental (not fundamentalist) assumption: God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. That little term “world” was significant to me, and helped form some important assumptions:

· God’s love transcended national borders, and attempts to limit God’s love along nationalistic lines should properly be considered idolatry. God’s love = good. Idolatry = bad. That’s where black and white entered my thinking.
· God’s love crossed and transcended racial and ethnic boundaries. If God showered his love upon the red and yellow, black and white (to quote a well-known Sunday School ditty that kids have been singing for decades), then I had no business, as someone who claimed to follow God’s son, excluding anyone for those reasons. Indeed, I had no business doing anything other than extending the love of God which had been extended to me.
· God’s love encompassed those who are different from me; different cultures, different languages, different beliefs and values, different social organizations. Different was not bad. It was good. It was evidence of God’s all-encompassing love.

Let me note that this is nice theory. I fail at it. There are days when I am challenged to love my own wife and kids, and they are dearer to me than anyone else on the planet. But one thing I don’t do is redefine the theory to fit my failure. I don’t conclude that my failure to live God’s love is okay with God. I don’t justify the abdication of my responsibility to carry that love to those who are different from me by claiming that God really doesn’t want me to love the people of the planet; all of them. That would be living a lie. Instead, I engage in an old-fashioned and now outmoded Christian notion called repentance. I tell God I’m sorry for my failure. I ask for help – divine and/or human, I’m open to both – to do better in the future.

It has come to my attention, oh, a few thousand times in the past four years that much of the Christian Church in America doesn’t actually believe this – doesn’t have a clue about its history and teachings - when it pertains to neo-Saviors. Up until, say, 2015 or so, Christians were reasonably consistent in being opposed to and standing against people who called Nazis “very fine people,” paid off porn stars and Playboy models, tried to ban people from other countries and other religions, insulted dead politicians on almost a daily basis, lied pathologically, caged toddlers, threatened to jail political opponents, and called the free press “the enemy of the people.” One could have concluded that at least a few of those “God so loved the world” sentiments might have kicked in and that thinking, praying people might have realized that that fundamental belief was utterly incompatible with what they were witnessing. And once upon a time Christians would have stated that. They would have uttered sentiments such as, “This is wrong. This is deeply inconsistent with what we believe. We’re opposed to this because it contradicts our most deeply held beliefs and values.”

Ah, but that was so long ago. At least four years. Meanwhile, I’m living in the past. Sadly, the 44-year-old vision that was planted in my brain still remains. But it is impossible to ignore the silence. It is deafening. It drowns out whatever feeble excuse the contemporary Christian Church in America offers to rationalize its own denial and inaction.

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