Friday, July 24, 2009

On Being Affirming

My church denomination is very concerned about justice, fairness, and affirming. These are good things, especially in a time when everyone seems to want to crawl into their own corner, crouch down, and cover their ears. Or, they want to point their fingers while huddling together with those who are like-minded and few.

We come to the question of Affirmation. What is it? How we do it? Can we have restrictions while still affirming people? For example, I heard a very wise man admit--to his own fault--that his church was handicapped accessible in all places: except in the pulpit. He said that this was to his shame. He said the same about a man who is divorced. This latter comment caught my attention. Now, I'm not saying someone who is divorced should never be able to stand behind a pulpit to preach. That's not the point here. However, my ears perked up at this one, because I ask, Are there no standards at all regarding affirmation? Must we, in order to be in keeping with the ideal of affirming others in their dignity as humans loved by God, allow everyone to preach from a pulpit, for example? Must a person be allowed to do so given any and every circumstance? I'm about to tread upon the ground of intelligence-insult here, but it is only to make a point. Therefore the next question reads, What if the man is a vile person? (Must we never say a person is vile, in fact?) Would a rapist be allowed to preach? You see the direction in which this travels...

And some more questions...

Who is welcome? How do we affirm? Indeed why do we affirm? Is it possible to affirm without qualification? Yes, but only if we have no moral law. If we are to affirm every person in every situation, then by logical necessity we must by default allow Adolf Hitler and Hugh Hefner to preach behind our pulpit. But now we are insulting the intelligence of our readers, for we know this is a repulsive idea! What should we do, then? Well, it seems clear that we must have a standard, and we must have an ethical code of conduct. The question is where is the boundary drawn? Are there qualifications for preaching behind a pulpit, for example? Should any and every person be allowed to do so? By logical necessity and under the auspices of an ethical code of conduct, we must have some boundaries.

Just what those boundaries are, is the task before us, but let us not say that there aren't any.

A hint of a thought to close: could someone affirm Adolf Hitler? This may sound shocking, but it is actually possible to affirm a racist, or some other vile person. Christians can affirm people in this way, that they are made in the image of God, and worthy of dignity by virtue of that fact. It is unequivocally true that we must do a better job at affirming people, not just to boost their self-esteem, but because it is a Christian ought. A Christian ought affirms people in that, though they are indeed messed up sinners, so are we; even more, they are worthy of love, dignity, respect and a whole host of other blessings by virtue of the imago Dei.

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