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Starving in the Midst of Plenty
by Bruce Newman
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People who live in physical ghettos know it. The ugly surroundings wonít let them forget. People who live in mental ghettos donít always know it. (The word ďghettoĒ comes from an island near Venice where Jews were forced to live.) A mental ghetto doesnít have to be ugly. It just has to be the only thing youíre used to. Itís where youíve forced your thoughts and beliefs to live. And if youíre always around others who are used to the same thing you may never feel compelled to allow your thoughts and beliefs to ďleave the nestĒ even though itís best if they do, just as it is for your 18 year old. Iíll get back to this shortly.

Here is how things generally work out on the strictly material level. NASA or the military creates something. Twenty or thirty years later it trickles down for usage by the average person who may know nothing (and usually doesnít care) of how it came to be. The Internet began in the sixties as a network of computers in the Defense Department. Doesnít matter if you knew that or not but itís the reason you now surf the web from the comfort of home. Itís probably one of the few good things that have ever trickled down to us from a government office.

Things operate the same spiritually speaking (from a human standpoint). Years ago men like Luther, Calvin and Wesley used Scripture to release Christian beliefs from the ghetto, opening them up and showing their interconnections and relationship to Christ in order to bequeath the resulting freedoms to man in general, Christians in particular. Christians are recipients of what has trickled down from them. However, they now walk around labeling themselves as Lutherans, Episcopalians, Pentecostals, Methodists, Catholics and so on (though Catholic Christians donít consider themselves as a denomination but a communion). Nothing wrong with that as long as the label bearer does not allow the label to be the wall that defines his or her mental ghetto. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case for the most part.

There are many reasons why this is not good. The world is unified in its opposition to the knowledge of God while driving itself mad because it canít escape that knowledge. With each passing day it works to revoke an area of Christian freedom, and it does so without regard to any labels Christians like to use.

For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us. Ė Eph. 2:14

Well, Christ may have broken that wall down but we enjoy rebuilding it, and we do so with the same zeal with which Nehemiah rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem.

Why could a man like Dennis Rader, the notorious BTK killer, (BTK stood for bind, torture and kill) be president of the Congregational Council of his Lutheran Church while he killed people undetected for 17 years? Because the Western Church, though it has been good in bringing out the understanding of the foundations of Christian belief is very weak in spiritual formation. The Eastern Orthodox Church (which is closer to Catholics) is much stronger in spiritual formation but weak in other areas. But who will take the time to check them out and learn from their strengths?

Protestants (do they even know what they protest now?), by bearing that label, are wordlessly saying that they agree with, in principle if not in content, what is bequeathed to them by Luther, Calvin, Augustine, Wesley, and others. The spring of Catholic doctrine trickles down from the Council of Orange, the Council of Trent and the teaching body in the Catholic Church called the Magesterium. The Council of Orange (1500ís) was strongly Augustinian, which it shares with Protestants. In fact, most of Catholic teaching (once you check it at the sources) is not in major disagreement with Protestant teaching. It is the wall of partition we like to keep up that magnifies the disagreements into the mountains of contention they really are not. But when you factor in that the average Catholic understands the roots of their faith about the same as the average Protestant understands theirs, well, the whole cycle perpetuates itself.

The thing is that you donít have to go to the library and check out a stack of books to know these things, nor do you have to spend a lot of money on Amazon.com like I do. A lot of this knowledge is available on Wikipedia for the time it takes to read it.

If we are instructed to add to our faith knowledge (along with virtue, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness and charity, 2 Pet.1 1-11) I fail to see how we can be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15); a weighty reason, a broad reason, easy to be entreated as all knowledge from above is (James 3:17), unless we actually do the adding in spirit and in truth.

Of course each person in his ghetto will always have ready a supply of stock answers manufactured by those appointed to supply them within the ghetto walls. That doesnít mean they are all bad or untrue answers. But the Holy Spirit told Peter, through a dream, not to call unclean what God had cleansed. Immediately Peter relinquished his prejudice and accepted Godís amendment.

Would that we would do the same more often.

Read more articles by Bruce Newman or search for other articles by topic below.

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