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World needs the church as a movement

I’ve been thinking about George Orwell’s book 1984 these days. It isn’t a book I’ve picked up since high school, but some of the themes sound more and more familiar.

By Mike Denton - Conference Minister

It’s a description of a dystopian world where the boundaries of class are solidified by societal structure, propaganda, and oppression; all defined as boundaries that helped give protection and care for the citizens. There is always an existential threat at the door that helps rationalize it all.

Those controlling the limits have their actions justified by a control system that—they say—holds back chaos and death. Within this context comes one of the enduring quotes from the book.

The slogans of the ruling party are, “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

We’re in a precarious moment. These fictional ideas have become a larger and larger part of our present reality. We’re in a time of perpetual war that seems to be required to keep the peace.

We’re told that freedom comes to those who give up privacy, resources, time, and ideals.

We’re told that truth is limited to our immediate context and experience, or the opposite; that our immediate context and experience means nothing.

The Church gets wrapped up in this, too. We confuse living out our faith with nationalism. We confuse loyalty to our institutions with allegiance to God.

Out of comfort and convenience, we sometimes separate our religious way of knowing from all other ways of knowing.

Peace is peace. Freedom is freedom. Knowledge is knowledge. All these things aren’t worked out in isolation but in relationship. We still have to call for and work for peace in a long season of unjustified war.

As valuable as loyalty is, freedom is more significant and critical, and its limits and vastness have to be negotiated mutually and fairly. We might not always like what we hear and become uncomfortable when a different understanding comes from outside of our social, political, religious, or vocational sphere. However, we dismiss the meaning behind the articulation of that understanding at our peril.

Our faith is comforting but not always comfortable. Our faith becomes weaker in isolation but stronger through interaction.

I continue to believe the world needs the Church. Not as a force insisting on its way but as a movement that dares to love God, the world and all God’s people.

It is in that daring that we can strengthen peace and freedom as well as be open to the truth behind new knowledge.

Peace is peace. Freedom is freedom. Knowledge is knowledge.


Pacific NW Conference United Church News - © April 2022


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