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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Let's imagine a creative future with God and each other together. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Theologically, Indiana misses the boat...

A lot of people believe Indiana passed a law that protects "religious freedom." Pundits and bloggers and other folks are spending a lot of time talking about religion, and missing the point. (Religion never solves anything, it either pacifies, opiates, or represses, as critics of religion note.) What could help, however, is conversation about God (we call that theology), but nobody really is doing that. That is why the state of Indiana, and just about everybody else, won't get us anywhere with their laws. Because although they might understand "laws" they certainly don't understand sin.

Sin is the rupture of the relationship between God and humanity that spills out into ruptures between humanity and creation, people and other people, and even brother against sister. And sin cannot be repaired by law. This is a basic Christian tenet. Sin is "repaired" (and I don't care right now which verb you would rather use for your own atonement theory, but feel free to replace mine if you don't like "repaired." It doesn't matter for this argument.) in the power of the Holy Spirit through the death and resurrection of Jesus as the Christ. That's it. No law needed. No law would actually accomplish that repair, because no law can compel or necessitate God's gracious love towards humanity. Only God's freedom to love us in Jesus Christ heals the rupture.

The good politicians of Indiana are trying to repair a broken relationship with something that does not fix broken relationships. It's like trying to fix a computer with a blowtorch. Nothing will be repaired and everything will be destroyed. You can't make a person like another person by making a law. Only grace frees the heart to love another person. And you can't make laws about grace. You can only make laws about laws, and that they seemed to have accomplished. (I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the first logical conclusion of the First Amendment of the Constitution, that a freedom from a state-sponsored religion would lead someone to use their own religious beliefs as motivation for behavior? Why make a law for a law that already is widely accepted in the entire USA, not just Indiana? Politicians must really not have much to do in Indiana.) So although Indiana has understood laws they have missed the boat on sin and grace.

Indiana, and other states like it, will now see religious expressions in ways it has never imagined. Why? Because they have now burdened "the state" to double its compelling evidence to halt aberrant religious expression. More and more people will be able to use "religion" as the excuse for their behavior. Even if the behavior pushes the envelope of community norm. (This is another reason why law cannot repair sin--it winds up destroying the integrity of the community in its effort to appease everyone. If there is one thing Judaism has taught us in the last 4000 years about law, is that there is no law broad enough to appeal to everyone. Not even the First Commandment is enough.)

What does the law mean for the good people of Indiana (or any other places that have such strictures)? It means you're still going to have to love your neighbor...even if the law says you don't have to. Of course, the law says we are to love our neighbor, and we don't do a very good job of following that law either...That's why Christians trust in the power of the Spirit through Jesus the Christ on the cross and from the empty tomb...that's all that keeps the boat afloat. Sin, and all the laws that follow it, are just anchors dragging us down.

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.


Anonymous said...

If a politician or person is trying to keep individuals from exercising the civil rights that they themselves enjoy, then they are not "good" (as the article keeps calling them)

Scott Frederickson said...

The "good" as you note is ironic. But we should always strive for politeness.