“The illusion is thinking that, by changing a system, an ideology, or our external circumstances, things will change. No; freedom is . . . realizing that…Love is not a symbol or an ideal; it is a living power. . . . “*
As a young, wet-behind-the-ears campus minister at a state school with a religion/ philosophy department, he visited a white, evangelical professor one day and got a dressing down. As he entered the small office, he noticed the shelves upon shelves of books crowding in upon the professor. He was invited to sit in the claustrophobic space.
Not having all the degrees as the professor, he sat intimidated as the professor, who knew the chaplain’s social action agenda, set out to correct the chaplain’s erroneous, theological perspective.
The professor stated simply that changing the world started with changing hearts, one heart at a time.
The upstart chaplain said, “Well, that will take more time than anyone has. As a white, highly educated person are you not grateful for the social systems that allowed you and your family to move freely and take advantage of life’s opportunities? Have you not sought to provide your family with the best possible circumstances so that they might take advantage of the possibilities life has to offer and haven’t you done that out of love?”
“Of course. What does that have to do with faith?”
“Faith is doing unto others what we would like to have done to ourselves, right? Life is lived within systems. Isn’t providing systems promoting justice, mercy and peace living out the command to love others as you love yourself? Changing systems to reflect the love of God is not an illusion. Within just systems, people experience the dignity of being valued and move more freely to make decisions for themselves and their loved ones.”
“Well, how is that bringing people to Jesus? ”
“Well, that’s not my job. I’m just called to love them in the name of Jesus as you love your family because we are all God’s family. I guess the rest is up to the Holy Spirit.”
The professor then could just as well have said, “Class dismissed!”
And the chaplain could just as well have responded, “I’m sorry. I didn’t think I had signed up for one of your classes, professor.”
As it is, the chaplain rose, scanned the shelf upon shelf of books crowding in
on the professor, said thank you and stepped out into the fresh air.
*from something I read and with which I disagree