Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sioux Falls columnist discovers that "the young" see liberal religion as hollow, fallen humanity as reality

Matt Okerlund's column in today's Argus Leader blew me away. It bears the reality of what Jesus tells the church in today's Gospel, that our notions of our own goodness are deceptive:

Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, `God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, `God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted." Luke 18:9-14

Okerlund writes,

"In the high school literature class I teach, we've been reading "The Road." It is a novel about a man and a boy living in a post-apocalyptic world.

It is a dark story. Everything in this world is gray because everywhere - in the air, on the ground, in the water - there is ash. Nothing lives but humans, and like their surroundings, most of them are ruined.

I find 'The Road' harder to believe than my students do. That man could blow it to such a degree does not blow them away. That he could be so foul does not strike them as far-fetched, and when I ask them why, they tell me man has a history - past and present - of poor behavior, and at his core, he has but one concern: himself."

I was surprised when Okerlund quoted the iconic Archbishop Desmond Tutu's progressive Christianity, and it didn't play with the students,

" his book 'Made for Goodness,' the man who helped to end South African apartheid writes of human beings: 'We are fundamentally good. When you come to think of it, that's who we are at our core. Why else do we get so outraged by wrong?'

Evil, suggests Tutu, is the aberration. 'The norm,' according to the archbishop, 'is goodness.'

My students are skeptical of that. Such notions are not the world they know..."

Our early service at Good Shepherd uses the traditional English of the Prayer Book tradition, and I found the old "Comfortable Words" just that today - God's comforting response to who we are, and our true hope:

Hear the Word of God to all who truly turn to him.

Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and
I will refresh you. Matthew 11:28

God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,
to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but
have everlasting life. John 3:16

This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received,
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
1 Timothy 1:15

If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus
Christ the righteous; and he is the perfect offering for our
sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole
world. 1 John 2:1-2

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