Thursday, June 07, 2007

Moral Superiority

When I was a boy I was brought up in an Episcopal church in the South. I loved that church, its members and the priest. Many years later I still think of him. He was a successful minister of a rapidly growing church. He was rewarded by being made the evangelistic bishop of Wyoming—a place where there were few people and where he could do no damage, preaching to sheep and cattle. One thing about him—he was not political. Neither were the cattle he was left to minister to.

Now look at the Episcopal Church in America. Highly political, very politically correct, full of leaders with huge egos, and congregations that are diminishing in size. It seems its impending failure is unimportant as long as the egos get all the attention they need and as long as politics are the Church’s message to the world. I feel like weeping for the Episcopal Church which has become a testimony to the things that are temporal.

Episcopal leaders aren’t the only ones to seek what they understand—the political—and avoid the religious, which remains a mystery. I suspect the ministers of such churches are not confident in their calling or they wouldn’t have scrambled after each popular cause that came down the pike.

I recall the story of the leader of a Methodist church who was given a Viet Cong flag in the early 1970’s and conducted a march through the streets of his conservative town bravely flying the flag of Communists. A large portion of his membership fled to other churches in the area and never returned. So the minister wrecked his own church and no doubt feels morally superior to those who left, even thirty years later. After all, the “right thinking” people stayed, didn’t they? That feeling of moral superiority must be important to some.

One thing the Judeo-Christian ethic teaches us about moral superiority is that no one has a monopoly on it. The insignificant widow in the Bible who gave two small coins, gave all she had, which was far more than the significant wealthy people gave. And the widow wasn’t giving out of a desire moral superiority, she was giving out of a sense of love. I, for one, am not sure how love fits into the moral superiority scheme of things.

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