Faith in action and faith inaction. Faith in what? Action in which direction? Examining our faith will uncover differences between the faith we hold and the faith we express. What is our theology, and what is our theology in practice?
Dubious and dangerous religious, social, and political beliefs are receiving a lot of attention these days. Several of them create an unhealthy atmosphere and promote values that are anathema to the Christian faith. Since Christians are called to be peacemakers and advocates of justice and equality, it is imperative that we examine our theology and our theology in practice. Healthy and helpful responses to the harsh realities of life can be found through sacred conversations.
Among those harsh realities are: economic and social injustice, the persistent impacts of slavery, and problematic Scripture passages. These factors have been and are being used to justify violence toward vast swaths of innocent people based on their sexual orientation, gender, skin color, faith, nationality, and religion, the ideologies promoted by people trapped in their own hate, such as those of white supremacists, and how to counter them, and not knowing who or what to believe.
It can be risky to examine the relationship between our theology and our theology in practice. We will discover positive and negative inconsistencies along the way. It is not easy to discover we have been wrong. It is harder still to come to grips with the pain we caused because we were wrong. Furthermore, we might wonder if we will alienate people or lose a friend if we explore these tough questions too much. Yes, these things might happen.
However, and here is some great news, if we live by the courage of our convictions, and approach others with calm respect, we might not lose anything, nor lose as much as we gain! Friendships and trust will be forged and deepened. Insights will be gained. The thought that, “I can do only so much” will turn into, “Look at much we can do!”
It is my hope that we will be able to dedicate some time to an examination of our faiths and our faith; that we will have the courage in numbers to ask, “What do I believe? Why do I believe it? Are my beliefs consistent with my values? Are my values consistent with the teachings of Jesus? Is my understanding of Scripture more or less on target? How do I live my values and my faith?
If you are interested in asking these questions, please let me know. A study group to talk about these things would, I believe, help many of us rework our beliefs and act more in line with them. We will never reach complete synchronization of our theology and theology in practice. However, we will learn from each other, the Scriptures, and people who study the issues.
To give us some “food for thought” here are three websites for your perusal.
A search for “Public Issues” on abc-usa.org leads to numerous articles including: “Taskforce on Race and Race-based Violence Issues a Letter for Action”; “International Ministries Issues Resolutions on Anti-Semitism and Anti-Muslim Prejudice”; “ABCUSA Board of General Ministries Endorses National Call for Reflection, Prayer, and Reconciliation”.
The Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, makes available “Issue Monographs” under “Mobilize” at bpfna.org. These Issue Monographs are onGang Violence, Gun Violence, Climate Change, Human Trafficking, Moral Injury of War, Migrant Justice, Racial Justice, and Justice for Indigenous Peoples. In addition to these Monographs, there is a link to “The Bible Speaks About Peace.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center (splcenter.org) has information on Fighting Hate, Teaching Tolerance, Seeking Justice, and the Civil Rights Memorial.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear . . .” (1 John 4.18a).
Rev Jim Sinclair
Pastor Jim is the minister for First United Baptist Church