Wednesday, October 28, 2009

God is Bringing Goodness; Whether We Believe It or Not

Q: Is there good without God? Can people be good without God? How can people be good, in the moral and ethical sense, without being grounded in some sort of belief in a being which is greater than they are? Where do concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, come from if not from religion? From where do you get your sense of good and evil, right and wrong?

God Brings Goodness, Whether We Believe It or Not

I don’t believe in believe. If ever there has been a word whose theological currency has been exhausted it is “believe.” All I have to do is turn my television to a number local public access channel to find televangelists exhorting me to “just believe” and the goodness of salvation will be mine. It is this tattered and worn understanding of belief which I find to be the crux of this week’s question. ‘Does good only come through believing?”

To this question I must resoundingly respond in the negative. Within my Christian tradition goodness does not come through believing. The focus is not on the works of the faithful, whether that work is believing or feeding the hungry. Rather the focus is on what God does and is doing. And what God is doing is bringing goodness and life in the midst of this world. I believe that God is fully immersed in this world bringing justice, peace, and goodness through those of us who are both saint and sinner, both the dust and the arising.

Yet at the same time, I must profess that what we do believe is important. It shapes the way we view and interact with the world. It is important that I believe that God is fully immersed in this world, because it calls me to full engagement with this world. What we believe determines how we engage the world, but my faith rests in the power of God to bring life and goodness into this world with or without my belief.

As I considered this question my thoughts turned to the Living Room Café. The Living Room Cafe is a non-religious based organization located in Woodlawn on Chicago's south side, and a place where I am occasionally privileged to volunteer. It provides restaurant-style meals, case management, support groups, life-skills training, and financial assistance to homeless men and women. And even though the Living Room Café isn’t an explicitly religious or faith-based organization, it is readily apparent to me that God is moving and bringing goodness through the work of this organization. And at the same time what the Living Room Cafe believes matters. Their belief, that goodness can be found even in and amongst the homeless, marks and shapes their ability to cultivate goodness in the world. God is bringing goodness into the world, whether we believe it or not.


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