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Theological Thursdays: What is ideal, what is possible?

What is the ideal goal in your theology, or in your city?  Is it possible?

Jesus talked about the “Kingdom of God,”or the “Reign of God,” more than anything else, and he used it to describe a community–one on earth.   It described a community where “the first are last, and the last are first,”  and where “swords are beaten into plowshares”.  Martin Luther King, Jr. paraphrased the Kingdom as “The beloved community.”  Clarence Jordan called it “the movement of God.”

In the Kingdom, there is shalom–whole peace–and justice. 

So, apparently, because Buffalo still has poverty, violence, and illness, just to name a few of our problems, the Kingdom has not happened fully here (even though I would be quick to add that the seeds of it can be seen if you look for them–and I choose to live here because I love what is happening in this town).

So we haven’t hit the ideal; should we insist on it?  Dr King said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” but Reinhold Niebuhr prayed, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can change, and wisdom to know the
difference.”

I long for the time when Loaves and Fishes will close because it is not necessary.  In the mean time, is it not better to work to make sure people have access to healthy food to eat and a good place in which to eat it?

Is there a time to practice limited, controlled violence, in order to restrain what seems to be greater violence?

One of my popular theological heroes, Bono, chose to remain silent on the Iraq war, because he wanted as many allies–inlcuding hawks–as possible to work for debt relief in Africa.  Did he throw Iraquis under the bus?  Or did he make a choice to his best with what he deemed most important in the moment?  Would he have been better to cling to an ideal, even at the cost of getting nothing done?

In preservation, poverty issues, in city government, health care, transportation, ecological issues, and just about every other just cause worth fighting for, we need to be aware that sometimes the perfect is the enemy of the good, and at other times, the “good” props up and sustains a destructive system.

And we need the wisdom to know the difference.

I choose to preach the ideal, and believe that it is possible, but only by the grace of God.  “The best we can do right now” should never be confused with “the way things should be”.  And consistently telling the stories that remind us of the way things should be keeps us from being satisfied with “the way things are.”

But I also know that it is beyond me to make the world the way it should be.  I keep the dream alive, but I do what I can–sometimes, even accepting the less evil option–but only provisionally. 

I long for the ideal Buffalo, even as I love the “pretty good” Buffalo.  I’ll keep my eyes on the horizon of the ideal, even if I can only take small steps toward it. 

How does your philosophy/theology navigate between the ideal and the possible?

NOTE: This topic was suggested by a friend via twitter, helping me out with a case of writer’s block.  If you follow me on twitter, maybe you will be the one to save me next time!  

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