"For now we see as if through a flawed pane of glass..." (I Corinthians 13:12)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Certainty vs. Trust

The longer I live the more I realize that faith has more to do with trust than with certainty.
I grew up in the years during and immediately following World War II when, as with most American families, church was the center of our life: Sunday morning and evening and Wednesday evening, and I was active in the “Royal Ambassadors”—a wonderful kind of faith-based

Monday, August 25, 2014

Polishing My Halo

I remember hearing about a young minister who preached her first sermon. It was well-received, and the people responded with enthusiasm.
The next Sunday she preached the identical sermon. The people seemed puzzled, and the elders huddled. They decided she was young and inexperienced, and they just needed to encourage her.
But when she preached the same sermon again on the third Sunday, the elders took her aside. "We want to help," they assured her. "We know that you're inexperienced and may not have but one sermons; so what can we do to help"
"Oh, I have other sermons," she said. "And as soon as I see evidence that you've heard this one, I'll move on to the next one."
The longer I live the less I feel truly understood. In fact, the longer I live, the less I sense that many humans understand each other. It’s hard to disagree with the graphic posted here.
 Many folks seem to think they already have all the truth, and anyone who disagrees is wrong, and must be corrected. Too often their attempts to correction are filled with hostility and words of hate (although hatred is universally denied). Antagonism usually increases when there are political implications.
Let me polish my halo a bit before I say that I think I’m a good listener. It is my intention to listen to any and all perspectives on a given issue. As a result, I have been known to change—or at least modify—my perspectives regarding some issues.
To be sure, I hold strong convictions about most subjects. On the other hand (hold on a second while I adjust my halo), I recognize the difference between “conviction” and “truth.” I’ve said and written many times, “I believe in absolute truth, but I don’t believe any human or human community is capable of perceiving truth absolutely.” I don’t see much evidence that many others are aware of—or care about—any distinction between “truth” with their perception of it.
Still, I feel compelled to keep trying to articulate my convictions, maybe as much for self-understanding as for sharing with others. I’ll keep trying. Maybe I’ll be either heard or corrected. Either is acceptable.
Labels, parties and philosophies notwithstanding, my political position is simple: it’s about people—all people—having unencumbered access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and to everything those ideals imply. I believe our government exists to implement the goals and aims of the Preamble to our Constitution: “…to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”
Too often the details of implementation get hidden in the quagmire of political ideologies that serve as smoke screens to hide an intention not to reach out to people. Some of those ideologies indicate a callous lack of caring. Others assume that recipients of assistance are undeserving. Some are based on a political philosophy that says government should not be involved in anything other than infrastructure and national defense (Constitutional Preamble notwithstanding); and some emerge out of a political and economic perspective that puts budgets and spending above the needs of people.
Many who oppose public assistance would defer that task to faith-based and private sector entities. Theoretically, I agree. Tragically, human needs exceed the resources of faith-based entities, most of which are declining and struggling to survive. Many private foundations and individual philanthropists deserve headlines and kudos; but their combined efforts and resources also are insufficient to make a general difference; and many of them bypass the human needs that exist outside the specific focus of their efforts.
I understand that public assistance programs are abused, and that undeserving people take advantage. But I have seen convincing evidence that such cases represent a small fraction of the total, and that most abuse and fraud is done at the administrative, rather than the distribution level. To withdraw all such assistance in order to stop fraud is a cruel slap in the face to the vast majority of recipients whose needs are valid.
I would rather insure that every human need is met, even if in the process a significant number of undeserving persons receive resources, than to see one person go without needed medical care, food, clothing, shelter and a fair living income for work performed. I don’t care who gets it done; but I do care who obstructs its accomplishment.
My politics places people above any political or economic ideology, and I simply don’t care which organization, agency, ideology or party offers the most effective means of meeting human needs.
I’m working through my eighth decade of life, and my observation consistently has been that those who popularly are labeled “liberal”—for all their faults and human failings (and there are many)—are more willing than those who popularly are labeled “conservatives”—for all their virtues and merits (and there are many)—to meet human needs by whatever means are available.
I think that’s part of what it means to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility… promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” and therefore I believe that’s part of what the government is created to accomplish.
And that’s the way I see it through the flawed pane of glass that is my world view.

Jim