The Social Gospel Is Unkind

The Social Gospel Is Unkind May 22, 2018

This is a fascinating article. I haven’t read it with perfect attention, so in no way am I prepared to endorse it all, the dignity and reputation of Scientific American not withstanding. But I think its a pretty fantastic counterpoint to the Bishop Curry sermon of, now, eons past (boy the news moves too fast for me). You don’t have to wander around the Bible to refute the theology of Bishop Curry. A vague glance at a scientific article will provide all that’s necessary (or most of it).

The article, which I expect you clicked on and read even more carefully than I did, is titled, “Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Yourself.” The ten things are, in order,
Your perspective on yourself is distorted.
Your motives are often a complete mystery to you.
Outward appearances tell people a lot about you.
Gaining some distance can help you know yourself better.
We too often think we are better at something than we are.
People who tear themselves down experience setbacks more frequently.
You deceive yourself without realizing it.
The “true self” is good for you.
Insecure people tend to behave more morally.
If you think of yourself as flexible, you will do much better.

If I were going to distill this list down to a single point and then spin it in a bible-ish direction, it would go like this. You’re Not Good. If that’s too harsh, I could say, You’re Not As Good As You Think You Are. With a variation of, You’re Not That Powerful and also You Will Screw Up A Lot As You Go On In Life and also Some Of The Things You Do Will Be So Terrible There Will Be No Way For You Yourself To Fix Them. When you think you are doing good, very often you will actually be doing evil. When you think you are acting kindly and generously, your ignorance will often undermine the imagined kindness of the thing you are trying to do. You are just not that awesome.

And this is why the Michael Curry gospel of, “Change the world with your awesome love,” is so devastating. It places you in the eternally precarious position of having to bring about the work of God on earth by the power of your feelings and emotions which are, in themselves, deceptive, weak, and guaranteed to lead you astray. Love God, love yourself, and while you’re at it love your neighbor is an unkindness to you and to the world because you can’t. Even if you wanted to, which is a dubious proposition, you can’t.

But someone else can. Not another ordinary person walking around, driving and driving and driving down the miles of highway we all have to cover most days just to make a buck and survive, sitting behind our screens in our ergonomically terrible desk chairs eating food that’s bad for us, pressed on every side by bills, anxiety, discouragement, and isolation. Not even Harry and Meghan who, I am sorry to say, will blunder in their exalted position. They will do and say wrong things sometimes. They will be selfish even when they don’t want to be. They will think they can see but they won’t really be able to see. They may be fit and healthy and beautiful and kind, but they have a great way to fall if, and really when, they lose their footing. They will not be able to love each other and themselves and God and their neighbors sufficiently, not only to bring peace on earth, but even to get themselves into eternal life. Suggesting that they will be able to is unkind.

No, this other person who can see from one corner of the cosmos to the other, who has brought you into existence by his Word, who is powerful enough to keep you alive forever, he himself is love. His love gathers up your failures, sin, deception, blindness, insecurity, and weakness and puts it as far away from you as the east is from the west. He takes your death onto himself and dies instead of you, when you should have. When you trust him, he gives you himself. He gives you his True Self, which is better and stronger and more far seeing and truthful than your true self which fails a lot more often than you could possibly bear to see.

You are not good and you are not love. But God is Good and He is Love. This is the kindness, deepest, richest, most beautiful thing any of us can say, one unto another. If you find yourself faced with your own ruination of yourself and your life, you can still turn to Jesus and be saved. You can say you are sorry. You can admit that you didn’t know. You can accept that you were wrong. And God, being merciful and kind, desiring that none should perish, will accept you and apply the blood of his Son to cover all your unrighteousness. Turn from yourself and live. That single pivot, toward the love and mercy of a Good and Kind God, will change the world. It will overturn every measure of who you are, it will restore your broken and crumbling corner of the cosmos, and it will reverberate all the way out to eternity. If love is all you need, this is the only love that will do it.

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