Thursday, December 30, 2010

Scraps of Thought

It’s been a heck of a year hasn’t it?  
The biggest disappointment has been the ongoing lack of civility in our public discourse.  Both Democrats and Republicans seem to believe that the American people value posturing at the expense of action.  Acting like spoiled children on a playground, without adult supervision, folks on the left and right are constantly sticking their tongues out at each other and making creepy faces as they mark their territory.  All the while the people they serve are getting more and more frustrated.  Thus, the huge turnabout in the recent congressional elections.  Frustration is going to the ballot box.  
Unfortunately, the posturing still continues and I don’t see it getting much better when the new Congress is seated.  I can’t understand why so few win/win compromises can’t be reached.
The economic downturn is making itself felt in a variety of ways.  I’m running across more and more people who tried to make good decisions throughout their life but got caught in a vice grip of unpleasant circumstances.  Some are close to losing everything.  It’s infuriating to know that good people are suffering the consequences of the decisions made by those who don’t seem to have any moral underpinnings at all.
Spiritually, it’s still a mixed bag. I sense many are still adrift in our culture.  Of course, there are those who are on a journey of faith that’s pretty exciting to watch. Bravo. Others are turning their back on orthodox expressions and are buying into what is called Moral Therapeutic Deism.  It’s tenets were discovered by Christian Smith from the University of Notre Dame after interviewing over 3,000 teenagers.  I think what he discovered is pervasive in the adult world of faith and isn’t just an adolescent belief system however.  It’s been around for a few years now and it’s interesting stuff.   Some of you might read these and think ... ‘What’s wrong with this?’.  From my perspective there’s plenty that gives me pause for concern.   Here are the tenets of MTD.
  1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.
I sense a gap between a biblical view of faith and what appears, at first glance, to be a fairly narcissistic life credo with a pretty superficial notion of God. Nonetheless it’s a helpful viewpoint to keep in front of me.  It can help me enter into faith conversations in more encouraging ways.   A good exercise might be to go through all five of these tenets of MTD and gauge your own belief against them.  Would be interesting to hear what you’re discovering.
2010 wakened me to the ways in which the diversity of the world is right at my doorstep. I’m one of those folks who welcomes such things even if does make life harder.  The reality is that my grandchildren will find themselves a minority race in the USA before they die.  How we live into the new realities of race and culture will help pave the way for their journey.  Will we live in fear of our changing world or will we embrace the possibilities?
2011 is almost before us. There are so many place to engage and make a difference.  There is no end to the number of issues needing the attention of good people.  Will we enter the fray? The tendency is to hunker down and count our blessings.  Counting our blessings is always good.  Hunkering down might be beneficial for a season but standing on the sidelines of life isn’t a good thing. My prayer is that each of you would find increasingly good ways to put your life into motion.
Happy New Year.


Anonymous said...

Why do the tenets of "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" sound just like modern American Judaism? Seems to me this concept is distinctly aimed at attacking a Jewish frame of thought.

Mike said...

I don't usually respond to anonymous posts but will make an exception this time. If anything, this research has been used as a critique of the Christian faith.

I don't think anyone in the MTD research corner is trying to attack American Judaism. I'm sure deeply committed, religious Jews might share the same worries about the evolution of their faith ...away from the Scriptures and tradition and into the realm of feelings and inclination.

Blessings, Mike