rockinlibrarian: (love)
Yeah, I know, I just posted two days ago, but the second reading at church got me fired up and I have to follow it, by, you know, DOING.

This was the second reading, James 2:14-18 (I'm linking to one translation and copying another-- I THINK this one I copied is the one in our missalette, but either way, you can compare translations and see I'm not making it up):
What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
But some one will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.


Conservative Christianity apparently likes to ignore this passage, and that's a very big problem. Why is the "Christianity" we so often see in the news linked to people who talk up their faith all the time but only ever USE that faith to HURT others? Why is it linked to people who DON'T welcome immigrants and refugees, who DON'T comfort and/or defend the imprisoned, who DON'T feed and clothe the poor? Who, in fact, talk about how the poor just aren't working hard enough and if they'd only just pull themselves up by their metaphorical bootstraps they'd be fine? Yeah, exactly, Just go in peace and be warm and filled. JUST DO IT and if you can't that's obviously your own fault.

I used to be a lot more patient with conservatism. In many ways I still am conservative. But here's the problem with conservatism: what it IS, by definition, is saying "The way things have always been is the way things ought to be. CHANGE will only bring problems." This doesn't automatically make a conservative attitude BAD, because sometimes this is true. But it's not ALWAYS true: sometimes, MANY times, The Way Things Have Always Been is only how it ought to be for YOU and the people you know and love. Your privilege blinds you to the PROBLEMS with the way things are.

One of my favorite songs is "Dialogue pts 1 & 2" by Chicago. Here's the lyrics, because there's a lot of them and it's too long to copy into this post. Anyway, when I was younger I identified a lot with Peter Cetera's character there. I thought it was nice of the guy for pointing out that things really weren't SO bad. I'm an optimist, you know? And I'M doing okay.

And it was only the other day that I was listening to this song and it finally clicked. He's not being optimistic, he's BLINDED BY PRIVILEGE. He "always thought that everything was fine," and throughout the eponymous dialogue he keeps trying to hang onto that, onto his feelings of comfort and security that the questions of his friend are threatening to pop. It's a FORCED optimism. EVERYTHING IS FINE JUST THE WAY IT IS LALALALALALALA.

Except it's not, and by the end he realizes he's been "numb," even as his friend takes comfort from his apparent optimism. But that's GREAT. Because all that privilege and optimism can come in handy for FIXING the problems. That's why everyone starts singing that "we can make it happen" at the end. The privileged guy is needed. He has resources. He just needed to WAKE UP and accept that his own little bubble of reality isn't ALL of reality.

See, the only reason Christianity and Conservatism are linked in this country is because Christianity has been the dominant religion in this country for most of its (the country's, not Christianity's) existence. So if you are a Christian BECAUSE you are conservative, you're not really challenging yourself. It's just a dogma you talk about, a label you accept, because it's the way things have always been in your world. That is not what Christianity IS though. It's not about upholding the status quo. It's about ACTION.

The Gospel reading today further highlighted this notion of Just-because-it's-always-been-this-way-doesn't-mean-it's-good. "You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do...For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it."

This is what it means! We privileged folks have to let go of our comfortable denial of the problems among our fellow human beings! We have to wake up and reach out and BE Christ in the world, Christ who absolutely did NOT use "that's the way it's always been" as an excuse to not heal just because it was the Sabbath, to exclude women from his teaching, to stone sinners to death. The way it's always been does not trump the way it ought to BE. We can't pound the Bible and go on about what good Christians we are and what sinners everyone else is if we're not truly LIVING as Christ for others, and that means mercy, acceptance, generosity, hospitality.

I'm sick of Christianity being co-opted by hypocrites. In some situations the conservative way IS the Christian way, but not here, not now. Here and now Christians need to step up and make sure our fellow human beings actually HAVE food and clothing, that they actually HAVE the ability to go in peace.

Time to show the world that Christianity IS a liberal religion, by showing our faith through ACTION.

Date: 2015-09-13 08:47 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] colliemommie.livejournal.com

Historically speaking, this is such a dividing line between Protestants and Orthodox/Catholics. Protestantism tends to use "salvation by faith alone" as a rallying cry, while the Orthodox and all the Catholic Rites are in the "faith without works is dead" camp. Culturally and temperamentally I'm a big believer in works. To cherry pick another verse, "by their works you shall know them".


The problem, if such it is, is that Christianity is primarily a philosophy. One is Christian because of what one thinks. Judaism and Islam, on the other hand, are primarily legal codes. One is a Jew or a Muslim because of what one does. It's very interesting, but it contributes to a lot of the "I'm Christian and you're not" crap that some sects try to pull.


Thanks so much for sharing this today...the Ukrainian Catholic Church isn't on the same reading schedule as the Romans, so we had the passage from Galatians where Paul is humble about his bad handwriting. I'd much prefer the reading from James!

Edited Date: 2015-09-13 08:49 pm (UTC)

Date: 2015-09-14 12:36 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] rockinlibrarian.livejournal.com
Hee, somehow the contrast between "sorry for my handwriting" and "DO GOOD, YA POSERS" is cracking me up.

I admit Protestant "WE are Christians and CHRISTIANS do things THIS way!" has always frustrated me, even beyond the hypocrites and into that "Are you Catholic or CHRISTIAN" territory. I don't know how many times I had to explain that to Protestant friends growing up, "No, we're ALL... ugh never mind." But I think part of me posted this for my conservative Catholic relatives, because they get sucked up into the political stuff and I think, "Are you SURE the Christian Right is REALLY speaking for you and your beliefs?" And historically U.S. Catholics USED to be primarily liberal! And my dad still is, in stubborn opposition to most of the rest of his family. :D

I think of the song "They will know we are Christian by our LOVE," and wonder at how many non-Christians tend to only know "Christians" (sorry for the quotes) by their hate. Like the commenters below said, works come FROM living faith. If someone knows God, truly, that love will spew forth as works. If it isn't, they need to do more LISTENING in their prayer time. They've gone and made God in THEIR own image instead of vice versa.

YESYESYESYESYESYES

Date: 2015-09-13 09:54 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] angela gayan galik (from livejournal.com)
One might say (re faith without works being dead) it's not that we need to ADD works to faith for a complete set so to speak, but faith that is alive NATURALLY flows into works.

Yes! Yes! Yes! Great post. :-D We CAN do it together.

And the Chicago reference point is awesome as well, just sayin.

Re: YESYESYESYESYESYES

Date: 2015-09-14 12:44 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] rockinlibrarian.livejournal.com
I kind of regret not trying harder to include the "works flow out from true faith" point in here. It might be more welcoming/inclusive to, as [livejournal.com profile] colliemommie points out, Protestants who live by "All you need to do is BELIEVE," and would therefore argue against my Catholic mindset. But I think this stuff is still important for them to look at, as a clue that maybe they need to work on the genuineness of their Faith if the works are NOT flowing naturally from it. That maybe they've created God in their own image instead of being open to listen to what God is really telling them.

I appreciate your appreciation of my Chicago reference.

Awesome post

Date: 2015-09-14 11:41 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] amy ea mcchesney (from livejournal.com)
Very thought provoking! Totally agree with Angie too, true Christianity should naturally flow into works. The difference between true Christians and posers.

Re: Awesome post

Date: 2015-09-14 12:46 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] rockinlibrarian.livejournal.com
Yes, if people REALLY believe, they're open to that flow of love. If they're not then I think it's people who spend their prayer time telling God what to do instead.

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