Polite and pious

The "rhythm and law of God, perceived in Scripture and creation" used to shape life, but times have changed, says the author.
The "rhythm and law of God, perceived in Scripture and creation" used to shape life, but times have changed, says the author.
Published March 9, 2016

Our lives are increasingly controlled, in every aspect, by economic and technological factors. Broadly speaking, culture is so infused with these considerations that it is difficult to see them clearly. For all but a few of our elders, our waking and sleeping are shaped by the dictates of a rather unforgiving pattern, crafted by an economically based technocracy. This is now the air that we breathe: it appears to be our life and death.

It may be hard to remember that it wasn’t always so. If you are young enough, a time when it was not so is unimaginable-location, community and family used to control us much more than today. More important, it was the rhythm and law of God, perceived in Scripture and creation, that we said was the most important element in shaping life.

When the church was more a part of the way things ran in society-at our best-we worked toward the common good. We applied our understanding of the rhythm and law of God as a pastoral comfort and ethical guideline for our members’ individual lives, as well as their participation in a larger reality where church and society were often seen as the same.

As conditions have changed, we have not changed our basic strategy. We still help people; but under the changed conditions, it now seems that we are more about helping people cope with the strain of technocracy rather than shaping them in the truth and life of God.

Yes, it would be very hard to challenge the basic direction of things these days and still have a goal of serving the common good. But is the common good best served by each of us hopping on a ship that is steered by technocracy and the culture of money? We are to have life, and live more abundantly, says Jesus, but does that mean we are to be fitted out to succeed in an environment shaped by assumptions and values that are at odds with our Saviour and ruler?

Love God, first and above all, and your neighbour as yourself. This Word should challenge us right now, as well as our society. It should shape our preaching and our living, and put us at odds with the way things are.

As I look at much of what we say, it seems that we only ask each other to be exceptionally polite and to be as quietly pious as possible, as we succeed by the rules that our broader culture says are non-negotiable-ignore the poor (some would say to blame them), succeed by satisfying greed and measure accomplishment by material acquisition and occupational attainment rather than moral behaviour. We know that isn’t the truth and we know that isn’t the way to true happiness. We know that Jesus confronts it. I really believe it is time to preach it and live it again. Only God can save us; only in God are we to find peace.


  • Mark MacDonald

    Mark MacDonald was national Indigenous Anglican bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada from 2007 to 2019, and national Indigenous Anglican archbishop from 2019 to 2022.

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