Space to Grow Wisdom

Calls to action on compelling issues land in my inbox every day. Setting priorities for use of my time, money and voting power requires focused attention – and wisdom. This week we learned that some of the messages we receive may be manipulated by powerful forces, with the goal of capturing state power and public resources for their own purposes. Analysis of data obtained from electronic connections and clever marketing are used to prey on personal fears and dreams. If facts need to be distorted to achieve power, it is excused, sometimes in the name of God. That adds another layer of complexity to the need for discernment to exercise our roles as Christians, citizens and consumers wisely. 

Test the spirits, says Paul, to see if they be of God. Not easy to do these days. One route is to follow your passions or intuitions. It is good to feel strongly about something, but history reminds us that Christians sometimes passionately supported unjust and harmful practices. In addition to discerning between good and evil, God also wants us to be wise and clever, using God’s gifts strategically as investments that return good value for the Kingdom. 

The wrong page?
Sometimes I reflect on what Jesus would make his priority if he came to Canada today. I also look at what church leaders are saying – and when they are silent. Silence is powerful. I am reminded of that when I participate in public forums on environmental issues, poverty or human rights and the question comes: Why aren’t church leaders speaking about this? I find it hard to counter assessments that the church speaks loudly when it is defending its own interests as religious rights but seems silent when the rights and well-being of others are threatened. My grandchildren tell me churches are “on the wrong page” because they do not see churches providing moral leadership on the critical societal decisions that are shaping their futures. 

I think they may be right. If I wanted to sideline the influence of Christians and increase the power of greedy, self-centered market forces, a good strategy would be stirring up internal dissension to silence church voices on the issues that determine the direction of society and divert attention to highly emotional personal issues that are going to be resolved through other avenues – pretty much what I see happening. 

Spaces for Discernment
Some moments in history are catalytic: emerging forces come together for new direction or destabilize into war. Our time seems like that, with the coming together of ecological destruction, automation, income disparity and racial tensions. At times like this there is a need for community spaces of discernment where we can go with Bible in one hand, news feeds in the other, and ask hard questions without being accused of heresy – where we can also draw on science, history and community insights to find the wisest ways to use our role as citizens in troubling times. One overture to the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) this year reflects this need and calls on churches to lead in this area of discipleship. The same need exists outside CRC church walls. Creating spaces to grow civic wisdom could be a ministry of service to the community as well.  

  • Kathy Vandergrift, a public policy analyst, brings experience in government, social justice work and a Master’s Degree in Public Ethics to her reflections.

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