Wednesday, December 01, 2010

At the Margins of Morality

"The Church exists today as resident aliens, an adventurous colony in a society of unbelief."
- Hauerwas & Willimon, Resident Aliens, 1989, p. 49.
"The church in the West may have to get used to the idea that its own centre in God, from which it goes out to others in proclamation and compassion, is actually a position of social and cultural marginality. This may improve its witness to the Christ who was himself usually also found at the margins." - Bauckham, Mission as Hermeneutic, 2010, p. 7.
Chris recently blogged about Christianity being at the margins of society. As western society continues to sojourn further and further away from Christendom, the Church is decreasingly at the centre of society. The Church's social and political powerless position not only mirrors the first three centuries of Christian history; it also may help the Church be faithful to it's life and mission.

This is not an easy process for the Church. Not that it should be - we do follow a crucified Messiah. But of interest to me recently has been the way public perception has shifted when it comes to the Church and morality. Whereas once the Church was seen as a moral guardian of society (and it's members were mock for being wowsers and holy), it is now seen as an immoral, corrupting force on society. The Church - and Christians more generally - are seen to have started wars, indoctrinated children, thwarted intellectual progress and destroyed cultures the world over. The Church has constantly been on the back foot for at least the past 50 years over issues of sexuality; in debates in Australia and around the world, it is the Christians are portrayed as immoral and out of touch.

For the early church it was their refusal to observe their civic duties that landed them in hot water (sometimes literally). Like our brothers and sisters 2000 years ago, we find ourselves at the margins of morality. And like them, we are disciples of the same crucified and resurrected Lord. But what will it look like for us to cling to him in our own position of "social and cultural marginality"?

Photo: Alison Moffitt

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