Lesson 7: Where do we go from here?

Dorothy's ruby slippersWhere do we go from here? I thought I might have come up with some new proposal, program, or opening by now. Instead, I feel I am pretty much where I started. That is not to say I am frustrated; only that I have come up with nothing new.

After much reading, I have found many insightful analyses of where we are now and how we got here. Just about every one of them ends up advocating conversation as the solution. However, none expresses much hope for getting anywhere. Our public discourse reflects what has happened for many in their private lives. They find they can no longer talk even with family and friends, no matter how much they try to be fully present.

On top of that, as some of you have noted, the voice of our kind of Christian is hardly recognized in the present circumstance. The sources of information have become so large and so few that what we say is lost in the volume of conservative voices featured in the media.

So where do we go from here? David Brooks spoke of the need to turn to a kind of heart knowledge. I think he means we are not going to find a solution in politics, science, philosophy, or doctrinaire religion. We have what we have always had, nothing more. We are called to practice love in hopes of opening hearts. St. Paul was pretty emphatic about that when he wrote that we can speak like angels, know everything there is to know, do all good works, but we still are nothing without love.

St. Paul is talking about compassionate love that does not rise above or walk around pain but rather enters into the suffering of others. That kind of love has the potential for being redemptive in the present circumstance for several reasons.

First, it does not insist on its own way. Its intention is not to win an argument by pointing out the evil in the opposition. It does speak the truth as best it knows it to power, but its main goal is working together.

Second, it is careful about avoiding self-deception. Christians cannot speak of salvation without acknowledging their own part in the sin of the world. Lately, too many avoid any mention of evil, thinking it leads to self-doubt. The situation calls for some self-questioning. It is time to put away those “I’m okay, you’re okay” sermons and carefully articulate what it means to love compassionately in our society.

Third, compassionate love addresses the fear that scholars report is prevalent in our society. The best way we can help people overcome the fear that their way of life is threatened is to demonstrate that we are not out to get them by sharing their lives now and promising to share their sufferings in the future. Love does cast out fear.

Fourth, it includes forgiveness that constantly gives others and ourselves another chance. We desperately need that to open up the future.

In many ways, this is like first-century Christianity, or for that matter the role of faithful people throughout the scriptures. We should remember the Word of God we find in the Bible was not popular when originally spoken. As Jesus reminds us, they killed the prophets. We are in for the long haul and should not expect early or easy results. However, like the poet, Richard Wilbur maintained, “love sees what is true.”

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