Religion is about learning to get along with one another. Over simplification, definitely, but I believe it to be true. The Buddha saw great pain and suffering and sought ways of finding a healing message. The Prophet Muhammad sought ways to provide guidance and order. Indigenous people the world over seek ways to give order to the people and meaning to the world in which they live. Order for society is a great motivator and religion brings order. People, inspired by a sense of the sacred, seek that order and bring their knowledge to bear to give Sacred meaning to the world around them and order comes from chaos. (Genesis)
When Moses led the Hebrew people out of the oppression of slavery under the Egyptian Pharaohs, the people did not know how to behave after finding their “freedom”. He had an unruly and disparate group on his hands and he need to find a way to bring order to the chaos. He did so by coming up with 10 simple rules to live by. The same basic rules that every kindergarten child is taught: (Exodus)
– Respect your teacher.
– Don’t look to anyone else but your teacher for instruction.
– Don’t talk back to the teacher.
– Recess is the time for letting go the pent up frustrations, use it.
– Respect those in authority over you.
– Don’t hurt one another.
– Don’t hit on your neighbors girlfriend/boyfriend.
– Don’t Steal.
– Don’t lie.
– Don’t want what is not yours.
Okay so Moses put it into a little more grandiose language but you know what; it pays to learn the basics. There is one more thing we learn in kindergarten – work it out – compromise and figure out a way to make it work with one another, then and only then can the game proceed. When we were kids and mom sent us into the backyard to play she did not want to referee our disputes. We learned, through trial and error to work it out with each other, to compromise in order to make the day proceed. We, and I mean we as a faith community, have an obligation to teach and preach and encourage people to follow a set of guidelines that lifts up the importance of pursuing the common good. If the “common good” is that the game be played, we cannot allow the “bully” to dictate the rules and demand his/her own way and stop the game while s/he pouts. That person must be taught that they either play with everyone or they don’t get to play.
Progressive Christianity can answer that call to mission in a positive way. Unlike evangelical conservative we are not going to ‘lay down the rules’ but we are going to lift up the importance of the common good.
Generally religion focuses a society on the common good by lifting up the rules by which we play the game. For the Hebrew people Moses laid down the law. The succeeding 2,000 years saw the ridiculous over-legalization and legalistic interpretation (Leviticus) of those simple laws and finally Jesus came on the scene to re-focus everyone’s attention. (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John)
– Hey folks it is really just all about caring for one another! (Jesus put it more formal)
That’s it. Really. That’s all there is to it if we could only follow that one rule the world could be a better place by far. Society would do well to collectively seek the common good which is the focal point of neighbor love.
The past 2,000 years have seen a transformation of society away from focusing on what is really important and into a mode of worshipping the messenger. Jesus did provide a ‘way to salvation’ but salvation is found in a society that works well together when the blessed are lifting up the oppressed and the oppressed strive also to work for the benefit of all. Salvation is a way of life loving one another, not a ticket to a glorified hereafter. Salvation, in the way Jesus taught it and I mean it here, is a way of life that benefits all people, builds a better world where all can find, or have the opportunity to find, meaning for their lives. It is the message of “love for all” that is the sacred entity and was not ever meant to be the messenger.
Our “God,” that is “that which we worship or hold sacred”, is the rule of love, the message not the messenger.