Saturday, July 23, 2005

Email: Self is not a four-letter word [SD]

“Sin is being self-centered instead of God-centered” is a typical evangelical formulation -- that is, dualistic (black or white, God or self, good or bad, sinful or holy). Billy Graham has probably been saying that for 50 years, not to mention previous generations of preachers and Bill Bright’s Four Spiritual Laws written some 35 years ago.

Rhetorical contrast works well in preaching (Jesus: “You are either with me or against me” or “You must love God and hate yourself”), however, lay believers tend to get confused about the practical distinctions between being self-centered or selfish and appropriately tending to oneself. I finally have had to tell some Christians, “So then you shouldn’t eat or sleep or shower, because that’s being selfish.” Anyone who flies in an airplane knows that you put on your own mask before helping others with theirs. Now if there were only one mask, yes, you give it to your child; but western Christians are forever creating or perceiving dualistic choices out of things that were never mutually exclusive in the first place.

Evangelicals have an especially keen, cultic eye for spying divergences from their dogma and excluding “unbelievers” from their community. Catholics (except the most conservative) tend to be better at searching out, including and building on others’ commonalities.


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