The Right Rev. Steven Charleston recently gave two McMichael Lectures at St. Paul, Fayetteville. The Morning News reports:
He takes a positive view of conflict, seeing diversity of beliefs and human passion as strengths.
“In the midst of our frustration and debate, we are, in fact, becoming the community God called us to be.”
God created humans with free will, Charleston said. Christians must combine faith and common sense to forge a future that serves the whole.
That doesn’t mean coming to agreement on issues that divide us, Charleston said. Often, people think of resolution in just such a way. They advance their position over and over in the hope others finally will see the light. Yet proponents of the other side have the same hope.
“We need to develop a larger vision,” Charleston said. “When will this be resolved? When will they see it our way? Maybe never.”
Reaching consensus on a deeply felt issue such as abortion will likely never happen, Charleston said. Yet the impasse itself points to a course of action.
“We have an inalienable right as humans to have dignity for our opinions, to be respected for our opinions, no matter what,” Charleston said. “That’s what I bought into when I became a disciple of Jesus.”
People don’t have to resolve the debate. Rather, they need to develop an ethic of respect that transcends differences.
“Do you respect the dignity of every human being?” Charleston asked, slowing the flow of words to ask the question again. “Can men and women live and work together even when we don’t agree?
“This is the question of the century, the trajectory of where we are headed as a human race. So many people answer ‘no.'”
Fear is rising in the world, the bishop said. There’s a renewed mentality of “us” versus “them.” He reviewed centuries of hatred, bigotry and war in the name of God and the repeated hope that humanity has passed that stage of evolution.
“Hello, welcome to this century where religion is back with a vengeance,” Charleston said. “Welcome back to the same sad history we’ve played out for hundreds of generations.”