Thoughts from Pastor Don | Matthew 25: How do we go from them to us?

Dear Southminster Family and Friends,

As progressive Christians, we believe that only love can cast out hate.  I can not tell you how many times I have quoted Jimi Hendrix: “when the power of love overcomes the love of power, then we will know peace.” I even helped our youth paint that line in the youth loft.  To the depths of me, I want to believe it.  But this year has tested that belief.

I recall reading the “Lord of the Flies” by author William Golding (1951) as a teenager and I have recently found myself making connections with it and the modern day––especially to the image of violence that lives just below the civilized surface in our culture.  The book is a grim and pessimistic portrayal of human nature.  The “darkness of the human heart,” to use the author’s phrase, is revealed when a group of boys from a British boarding school, shipwrecked without adults on a deserted island, descend into violence.  The “civilized” veneers are quickly peeled away and their violent human natures emerge.  Three of them die before they are rescued. 

In the face of so much hate being promulgated today, I find myself asking the question that I had once resolved so many years ago:  Is human nature primarily evil or primarily good?  Will love eventually cast out hate or are we just being naive in the face of all the evidence to the contrary?  For the month of February, we will be taking a deeper dive into Matthew 25.  If you recall, we introduced this theme back in August 2020 when the Session decided to become a Matthew 25 congregation, a designation in the PCUSA for churches who are committed to vitality, eradicating systems of poverty and overturning systems of racism.

How we answer the question of human nature will determine whether we believe that our efforts will make a difference.  History has shown us that most Christian believe in the “Lord of the Flies” description of human nature.  Violence and xenophobia are pervasive. Hatred and fear of “the other” are natural. And the survival of the fittest is innate and legitimate.  So then, what is the use?  Why become a Matthew 25 church if change is not likely to occur?

All I can say, in spite of all the doubts that have crept into my view of the world these past few months and years, I just can’t let go of hope for another reality.  I recall reading in the Guardian this past year of another version entitled: The Real Lord of the Flies.  The article went on further to describe six boys shipwrecked, agreeing to work in teams, drawing up a strict roster for garden, kitchen and guard duty, solving quarrels by imposing a time-out, and sharing responsibilities.  As a group, they began and ended each day with song and prayer.  The Guardian concludes: “It’s time we told a different kind of story.  The real Lord of the Flies is a tale of friendship and loyalty; one that illustrates how much stronger we are if we can lean on one another.”

I will never be able to disregard this version of the world or the truth that love, cooperation, equity and loyalty also makes up “human nature”.  For us as progressive Christians, in fact, this latter version is the more “natural” of human behaviors.  And so we commit to being a Matthew 25 church and telling a different kind of story: The Real World as God intends.  A place where the power of love wins.  A place where equity and cooperation dominates––where everyone has a place at the table.

I look forward to seeing you in worship on Sunday––we will celebrate communion (please prepare by making bread/grape juice readily available) and discuss the question: Matthew 25: How do we go from them to us?

Peace and Grace to all,

Pastor Don