Saturday, September 22, 2012

Our Leaking Faith

Dave Coolidge recently acknowledged his privileged friendship with Jim Williams, dating back to college days at AC/AU where they were fellow members of the Booster Club. Dave’s acknowledgement also informed us about the passing of our longtime colleague in Church of God ministry, Dr. James E. Williams.

My earliest acquaintance with Jim probably resulted when he accepted a staff position on our former Division of World Service. Jim had already served thirteen years in pastoral ministry before returning home to Anderson, where he served the church for another thirty-one years.

His passing leaves a vacancy in his position, but we remember him for his humility, his positive smile, and his professional skills. As I pondered the family’s loss, and the departure of another of our Ministry-seniors, I was struck these words of Dave Coolidge: “Though he and his medical team had battled valiantly, Jim finally succumbed to lung cancer (which had come as a big surprise to Jim when it was first diagnosed because he was a non-smoker).”

We all give thanks to God for this our friend Jim. Yet, my mind went off in another direction, and I frankly felt a wee little resentful. I am happy to have achieved five years beyond Jim’s lengthy span of eighty years. Granted, he achieved his three score and ten years. No complaints; yet, I cannot help thinking about how difficult it is for us to correlate our beliefs and behaviors into a pattern of consistent faith.

We Church of God people are fundamentally a non-smoking people. We believe our bodies are temples of God’s dwelling place, and that we have a stewardship to God to be proactive for good health. We do not hesitate to proclaim our belief in what we call “Divine Healing“; we often pray and ask God to answer our prayers for healing and health.
Moreover, we believe the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, or so the Psalmist suggested. In spite of our beliefs, we are hardly surprised when one in our midst dies from lung cancer. Many people die of cancer these days, cancers of all kinds, and from a variety of causes.

I find it difficult to reconcile our theology with the inconsistency of our beliefs and behaviors. For example: few of us question why so many die from cancer and why we are so unwilling to take corrective measures about known carcinogens. I suggest we are very inconsistent in our issues of faith.

Smoking is a BIG no-no; yet we accept the rights of corporations to produce, market, and sell those carcinogens. Although there are far fewer smokers today than yesterday; we are told “passive smoking” is equally or more dangerous than the habit. That leaves many of us helpless to avoid over exposure.

On the other hand, it is more difficult to get a hearing on other carcinogens, like those that pollute the air we breathe, or the water we drink, or that contaminate the food we eat. If we support governmental measures to minimize air and water pollution, we are told that adds to production costs, it costs jobs, and it really is not a function of government.

I have to admit that all sounds like gobbledygook to me. Government is obligated to hire soldiers and policemen to protect my safety as a civilian, but government cannot protect the health of my family without being oversized and interfering in free enterprise. I cannot advocate for such things without being labeled a Socialist, a liberal, a left winger, anything but a Christian, especially a socially responsible Christian.

This opens large areas for us to dialogue about as Christians. It could mean becoming more involved in transforming our culture. It could call for personalizing our faith and subjecting our political views to stricter biblical interpretations - if we are not too closed-minded.

As for Jim, I have no way of knowing why he died of lung cancer. I don’t know that it was caused by anything he breathed or ate; I don't believe he smoked it. I can accept that he died of that cause just by the fate of a long life, but how can I accept the fact that we continue to allow financial interests to sell known carcinogens for profit; that we allow them to pollute our air and our water (to say the least), but we dare not dialogue about it in church because that is politics, and politics do not belong in the church--so someone told me.

It is politically incorrect to advocate for clean air, clean water, or to say that a product that harms people more than it helps them is unethical to sell. As a matter of personal faith, at what point do people become more important than profit? Can people of faith support political views that are inconsistent with their faith, and still be consistent as Christians? Do we have a leaky faith?

From Warner’s World,
I am,
full of questions I wish someone would answer for me.

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