Friday, December 7, 2012
Searching for real change (ii)
In my last post I had these words about the need for change...
The need for Change
"I was talking to people who worked with people released from prison. They said "If we get success with one in a hundred we feel good." I find myself frustrated again and again with people who will not change. I see heaps of people just existing in lifestyles that are sad and causing more and more problems for themselves and others. Making news at the moment is that Party Pills are tested on animals! Also there are real problems with people who have various sorts of party pills, just talk to emergency workers about this. Binge drinking is also a major problem in New Zealand absorbing the resources of police, ambulance and hospitals. Why is it that we can't have a good time without these things? I encounter workers who rip off their bosses with bogus sick days and others with questionable ethics. We have religious and ethnic intolerance throughout the world, that could escalate. We have a growing gap between rich and poor within nations and between nations. This gap brings about deep problems and issues. I have been stewing on what directions could be taken to help bring constructive change. First lets explore some historical responses."
I then went on to mention a couple of historical attempts at renewing the morality within society. I am very much thinking aloud here and exploring my thoughts... that's one of the values of blogging.
"Oh no! Another religious ranter!"
When I re-read my last post I suddenly thought that readers could possibly think that I am a member of the "Moral Majority" or some fundamentalist religious person who would rave against "stuff". One approach by such groups has been to do this sort of judgmental ranting. It is easy to find right wing religious groups who rant against homosexuality and gay marriage and see these things as morally decadent. There are others who rant against divorce and push a certain style of family life - forgetting the the Bible has within it a whole range of "styles of family" even among the "heroes of the faith". David and Solomon had a great time, and even Abraham enjoyed a freedom that would get me into trouble. Among these there are those who want us to go back to "the husband is the head of the house" lifestyle. Others rant against premarital sex like it was the evil of all evils. My grandmother tried to scare the hell out of us by ranting against the evils of alcohol. I have known Christians who have seen dancing as a sin and a sign of decadence eroding the morality of society. I could go on, there are heaps of examples of people who try to change morals by ranting against those they see as "sinners". I hope I am not one of these!
The problems run deeper
I of course am concerned that couples find it necessary so frequently to divorce. I would like happier families than we have. Though I am not a prude, I also am concerned at sexual promiscuity that seems prevalent, because I think it devalues personality and causes harm. I too have concerns about our abuse of alcohol and drugs. However, I do not see that judgmental ranting approach as really getting to the heart of the problems we face. In fact, rather than being a constructive response I see it as adding to the problem. Many of the issues facing our society stem from people struggling to truly value themselves and others. For example people abuse alcohol because of self-esteem issues. Ranting against people, labeling them as sinners ultimately adds to the problem, people devalue themselves more. I recall a film where a right wing religious detective was forced to work with a prostitute. From memory she commented, "You and I are just the same." "How?" the detective said quite shocked at the comment. "I don't think sex is important so I don't care who I have it with. You don't think sex is important so you inhibit it." Both were essentially devaluing a precious gift of life. Religious ranters are in danger of doing this, rather than being life-enhancing they can be devaluing a precious gift. One of our basic problems also is that there are deep divisions between people, walls of suspicion, prejudice and fear of "difference". Ranting against people, classifying people as "in or out" only increases these divisions. As soon as people know I am a minister or chaplain, I often have people eager to tell me that religion is a negative factor in society, causing hatred and problems. Religious people often race to religion's defense. "Of course" we think, "the modern Church is not like the Church of history, with burnings at the steak, inquisitions and crusades." But perhaps we do the same sort of thing in more respectable ways, but still greatly contribute to the hurts of society?
An approach to changing the morality of society must be attractive to people of various religions and no religion, deeply value human personality, be life-enhancing and draw people together into a sense of belonging and solidarity.
No, whatever else I am, I try not to be a ranting, judgmental Christian, seeing morality as being wrapped up in external "sins". Jesus ranted against the righteous-living religious leaders of his day, and also suggested that prostitutes could enter the Kingdom of God.
I'm still thinking... watch this space.