April/May 2016 - Vol. 85

cross shining in middle of
Embracing the True Light
by Martin Steinbereithner

We have seen the True Light! We have received the Heavenly Spirit! We have found the True Faith! Worshiping the Undivided Trinity, Who has saved us.

Every Sunday there is a line we sing in the liturgy in my church, the words of which are above. Many readers will twitch when they see them, they seem so arrogant, so self-assured, so politically incorrect. How can anybody claim to have found the true faith, to have embraced the true way to live? This smacks of certainty, monolithic belief, black and white thinking which many of us thought we had left behind. Isn’t it exactly this kind of thinking which leads to intolerance, fundamentalism, paternalism and other kinds of evil and dark philosophies?

Ever since the past century plunged the world into totalitarian regimes we have shied away from anything that smells of certainty, that seems to claim for itself to be true. The writings of Jacques Derrida, Lyotard and others have helped to articulate our instinctual feelings that what is true for you should not necessarily be true for me; if it were, then some of us would be right and others wrong, and that is only a step away from oppressing those who err. Enlightened souls have left such dogmatism behind, allowing each other to believe what we think best.

What that raises, however, are not only theological or philosophical questions. It puts to us very bluntly the question how long a society can survive that has as a logo the question mark of uncertainty? Martin Luther King said, “If a man hasn’t found something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” It captures the insight that convictions, values held dear, are what motivates people to sacrifice. If such values evaporate, then so does the ability and willingness to sacrifice.

I am struck how  many people admire the heroes of World War II who  stood up to Nazi ideology, both within Germany (such as  Bonhoeffer) and outside, such as Winston Churchill. But those acts of heroism were dependent on those people thinking there was right and wrong, and wrong had to be opposed.

I now live in a country where it is considered evil to voice opinions about the value of life, the boundaries of marriage and the God-given purpose of sexuality. Even if one has no intention to legislate that such views need to  be upheld by the  government, let alone to try to  change  the minds of those who think differently, such certainty is considered  pernicious and  opposed to democratic values. Even in Christian circles the greatest evil (according to a recent Barna study) is no longer murder or adultery, but the failure to recycle.

If confronted with the question whether there is anything worth fighting and dying for, many Westerners would say “only our comfort and ease”. This lack of conviction makes our societies very easy prey to those who are on the other end of the spectrum, such as fundamentalist Muslims. But even without those external threats, I believe that it is impossible to pass on any kind of value to a next generation, if it is no longer politically correct to believe in anything; and maybe that is why we prefer having dogs to children.

If we look at history, it was always those forces that shaped a culture which had convictions and confidence; at its best, Christianity was such a force that changed empires, not by power, but by martyrdom. At its worst, it abused of political power to shut down those who believed differently. So I shall dare to continue singing that line on Sundays, hoping that some of us maintain our convictions and are ready to die for them.

                                                    SteinbereithnerDr. Martin Steinbereithner is from Vienna, Austria. He is a life-long member of the Servants of the Word, a international ecumenical missionary brotherhood of men living single for the Lord. He currently resides in Chelsea, Michigan (USA). He is the director of Communications and Development for the Servants of the Word. Previously he worked for twenty years in campus ministry in North America, Lebanon and England and for over the last ten years with Christian communities in the Middle East, Poland, Russia, Belgium, Germany, Austria, France, the UK and Africa.

Martin holds a doctorate in organizational behavior and non-profit management. He is a research associate of the Nonprofit Research Group at the Vienna University of Business and Economics and consults with various faith-based non-profit organizations.

Personal Website: http://tinostein.blogspot.com/

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