Thursday, May 04, 2006

Grace IS an Agenda

I graduated from Baylor University a long time ago. They’ve had more than their share of ups and downs in the past few years and where they wind up is yet to be seen. Got a new Prexy and the Board make-up is significantly changing. Whether the “moderates” or “fundamentalists” win the battle for control of the University (and its soul) is anybody’s guess.

I’m an Episcopalian and have been for more years than I want to count. We too have had more than our share of ups and downs in the past few years. Where ECUSA winds up is yet to be seen. General Convention is this June and it will tell a lot about whether we will stand together or stand apart. In addition I watch national politics, which at best has been rancid kettle of fish for quite some time.

So my point is?

At Church Sunday past, I was visiting with a Baylor Law professor about Baylor politics. We agreed that whether “the Baylor” I graduated from and love will remain or be lost is yet to be determined and I suggested that the same could be said for the Episcopal Church. We then mutually opined that national politics is as ugly as it can get likewise; and that where we’re heading at Baylor, in the ECUSA and nationally is not a good direction, no matter which side you support. I know that folks hold strong opinions regarding all the issues of each of the aforementioned areas of interest but it seems in our zeal to defend personally held beliefs, we’ve lost sight of common decency as well as the common good.

Read a blog recently and became aware of "Witness Magazine" which was recommended as just "a good Christian publication”. An article therein referred to The Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) indicating it was some "shadow organization" attempting to sway ECUSA, PCUSA and United Methodists to a militant conservative viewpoint. I looked at both of these sites and ultimately came away with the opinion that both are operating from positions of “agenda”, in opposition to each other. The little time I spent convinced me that as long as people continue to champion their personal held beliefs and not those of Christ; we’re all going to remain in a hole that just gets deeper and deeper. And it will all be done under the guise of “religion” in some fashion or another.

Robert Farrar Capon (in Kingdom, Grace, Judgment) writes:
“What role do I have left for religion? None. And I have none left because the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ leaves none. Christianity is not a religion, it is the announcement of the end of religion. Religion consists of all the things (believing, behaving, worshiping, sacrificing) the human race has ever thought it had to do to get right with God. About those things Christianity has only two comments to make. The first is that none of them ever had the least chance of doing the trick: the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sin … and no effort of ours to keep the law of God can ever succeed … The second is that everything that religion has ever tried (and failed) to do has been perfectly done, once and for all, by Jesus in his death and resurrection. For Christians, therefore, the entire religion shop has been closed, boarded up, and forgotten. … The church, instead, is in the Gospel proclaiming business. It is not here to bring the world the bad news that God will think kindly about us only after we have gone through certain creedal, liturgical, and ethical wickets; it is here to bring the Good News that ‘while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.’ It is here, in short, for no religious purpose at all, only to announce the Gospel of free grace.”

I realize there are “issues” regarding human behavior and sin that aren’t addressed in the preceding passage; but the point I am pursuing is that if we would all pay attention to Fr. Capon and begin operating from that understanding of grace (both the right and the left), life here might just become a little kinder, gentler and more agreeable to us all.


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