But when I saw the signs the little kids were holding up, I felt grief, but I also knew that there was a much bigger, more mainstream debate at stake. What I'm trying to say is deep and translucent and to put it into words is like trying to fence in a fog bank.
Okay, I will try and start. Someone out there can probably say it better. The universal Christian message is that sin entered into the world and tainted everything. It also put distance between us and God. The Garden of Eden story implicates that God is then at war with Satan, but in my opinion does not implicate that God is at war with mankind. We, even the unregenerate us, are not God's enemy. In my concept of God, I don't see Him, stroking his beard and in with a face of both anger and glee, stomping the wretched little humans under His feet like fire ants because we have sinned.
In my concept of God, He is overflowing with grace. Like Jesus looking down on Jerusalem and wanted to pick up the confused, wayward people, like chicks and put them under his wing, that is how I see God seeing us--even when we've failed. In my view, if God ever did get the notion to smite someone, He would smite the TV evangelist and the leaders of this Baptist church who corrupt these innocent ones.
So I think there is an issue closer to home and more practical in our churches. I don't like the part of Amazing Grace where it says "A wretch like me." When I've suggested that to others, they see it as arrogance on my part. I do like the ideal of Amazing Grace and I am in deep need of that grace every minute of every day. But when I call myself, or anyone "garbage," a "wretch," "scumbag" etc (and I've heard all those used in the context of the Church, with people talking about sinners) I am calling God a scumbag, garbage maker. He is not. I look at the earth, the plants, the animals and all humans still carrying that same God-given majesty. It is the same thought as C. S. Lewis had when he talked about the fact that if we really understood how wonderful (or cruel) our fellowman was, we would be tempted to fall down and worship them, or run in terror (in the later case).
Hebrews says that we are made just a little bit lower than the angels, and for just a while (during our earth dwelling). Humans are glorious. Our brains are glorious. Our talents are glorious. There is nothing to be ashamed about making those statements. If I made a clay pot, one of great artistry, and then the pot (think of the animation Beauty and the Beast here) could talk and the first words out of its mouth were, "I'm a wretch!" I would be hurt. Giving glory to ourselves, gives God, the created, the glory.
I'm not at all talking about the comparison game. Where we, in a desire for increased personal worth, push others down to push ourselves up. That usually goes, "Yeah, I made X amount of money last year because I'm so good." I'm talking about a universal praise of creation, including us created beings. It too has nothing to do with being soft on sin.
It came to my mind a couple of weeks ago when we had someone play the piano and sing at church. It was beautiful. Then you could tell that there was a social awkwardness afterwards. A few people clapped. Many didn't. Then the pastor came up to the microphone and said, "Oh please clap," and everyone did. From the Victorian age it was believed that to clap was to give the artist the praise instead of God. My view, to clap is to give God praise because of the gifts he's given us.
I noticed that both in the Islamic culture of Norther Pakistan and the Buddhist area of Nepal, they had the same attitude. The kids who weave the beautiful wool rugs in Pakistan (a small one is beneath my laptop as I type, which I got during my first trip to Pakistan in 1982) or in Nepal when the painters made these incredibly beautiful paintings, they were forced to, a) make an intentional mistake and b) never associate their personal name with their artwork. It is from the same mentality.
I'm reading a book on the Renaissance right now because my son, Ramsey, and I are using frequent flyer miles to go to Florence in two weeks. As I'm working my way through the Renaissance, there was a point (about 1200) when artists started signing their works. Before that, it was deeply frowned upon, as lowly man taking credit and being proud. But eventually the artists took credit for what God had given them.
So, when I talk like this, my Evangelical friends call me a "Humanist." I am not, in the true sense of the word. I don't, for a moment, suggest that we create our god in OUR image, which is the crux of Humanism. Nor do I hold up ourselves, the way we are, as the standard for how we should be.
But I will let this thought rest for a while.
I'm still in the middle of about 70 hour weeks right now, working full time while trying to create a business. I hope to be back here more often in the near future.