“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” 1Cor 13:1-3

The social and moral ills created by freedom without responsibility cannot be solved by faith without responsibility.
It seems to me that much of the appeal of the Christian right to its followers is a sincere desire to cure some of the ills of our society. To a large extent they are right. There is an unacceptable amount of pornography, violence, and many other moral and social issues in our society. The problem with our society is that we have lost any sense of responsibility for our freedom. The founding fathers didn’t include freedom of speech in the constitution to promote pornography. These freedoms, along with all of our other freedoms, were created to provide a safeguard against tyranny, and came with a responsibility to use that freedom wisely and for the benefit of others.

However, the social and moral ills created by freedom without responsibility cannot be solved by faith without responsibility. I am not using responsibility in its meaning as a burden or obligation. I am using responsibility in its alternate meaning as a calling or a commitment. When we became Christians we made a vow with God, the new covenant, to follow Jesus as our lord and savior. Faith without responsibility, on the other hand, ignores the teachings of Jesus for other goals. Faith with responsibility involves bringing the individual into the equation and putting that individual above dogma. It is caring for the sick, the poor and the lonely. Faith without responsibility is judgmental and intolerant, and puts power over the needs of individuals. Faith without responsibility ignores the lessons of the Sermon on the Mount concerning humility, loving your neighbors, and turning the other cheek and replaces these lessons with arrogance, pride, and intolerance.

What I am about to say is going to surprise some people, but I am not writing now about the Christian right, but about some of us who disagree with them and their tactics. Several things I have read from a number of sources have caused me concern that some of us may have fallen into an equal but opposite version of faith without responsibility. When we try to fight fire with fire by being condescending ourselves, or by feeling superior, or by assuming the worst about them, we have also stopped following Christ. When Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-42), it was because when we repay evil with evil, evil still wins. I understand the frustration that everyone feels because I feel it myself, but there is a difference between criticism that is (hopefully) based in biblical values, and condescension and superiority. Anyone who has experienced this from someone from the religious right can explain the difference.

We are still required to love others, even when we disagree with them, as part of our commitment to Christ. That is faith with responsibility. For example, I think James Dobson leads people astray because when telling them to “focus on family”, their attention is taken away from focusing on Jesus. I don’t feel superior to Mr. Dobson. I don’t say this because I want to prove that I am right and he is wrong, but because I fear in my heart for the people who have forgotten Matthew 10:37-39: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

We all get frustrated with some of the things we hear on the news, but faith with responsibility requires us to remember to love them first because only then can we develop a Christian community. To do anything else is to become equally responsible for the polarization that is dividing Christians. We know how to do this because 1 Cor 13: 4-7 shows us the way:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

At one time or another, we’ve probably all thought that the religious right should remove the plank from their eyes before looking for the splinter in ours, but from time to time we should also remember to check our own eyes, and hearts, first.

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