Every age has its blind spots. Today, we wonder how earlier generations of Christians could justify their complicity in slavery or the overt racism of colonialism. Future generations will certainly wonder about the church of today. Some of the church’s preoccupations will probably make sense, but others will raise questions. Here are a few things I imagine our great-grandchildren might say.
Did they forget the sovereignty of God? Why did the church accept the culture’s idolatry of wealth and power and avoid witnessing to the glory and greatness of God? Did anyone raise a voice to confront church members’ own addictions to wealth and luxury? Why were they not out front in confronting humanity’s blasphemous misuse of creation?
Was Jesus the centre of their faith? How could the church treat Jesus as if he was only a pawn in their political and cultural struggles? The attractive and simple message of Jesus is always the most important asset of the church. How could they forget that this humble human being, God incarnate and crucified for all, is the ruler of all?
What happened to Bible reading? Why did the Ten Commandments disappear from church teaching? Did they do anything to counteract the breakdown of family life?
Where was their compassion? How could a church ignore the volatile and dangerous growth of the disparity between rich and poor? How could they watch so many people struggle and die in misery, especially those in their own countries? When their style of church fellowship-big buildings and big program-could no longer survive in marginal areas, rural and urban, they did not have enough imagination and faith to provide the gospel and pastoral care to those who couldn’t afford their style of ministry.
What about conscience? How could they ignore the violence and poverty afflicting women and children? The spread of slavery, human trafficking and brutality toward women and children was well known-were any voices raised against it?
Were they alert to the voice of God? With Christian faith exploding around the world-in Asia, Africa and among indigenous peoples-why did this not influence their churches? Wouldn’t more awareness of God’s voice have solved their often lamented declining membership?
I pray that we all become something quite different.
Mark MacDonald is national indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada.