luther-posting-95-theses-560x366Last week my wife and I were in Houston, TX visiting kids and grandkids. They live in a lovely area in the northern part of the metro area, bountifully supplied with walking paths and woodland areas. (Which could be the reason they call the area The Woodlands, now that I come to think of it!).

On our second day there we decided to take advantage of the wonderfully warm weather and headed out on a walk. It was about 66 degrees, so we dressed “accordingly,” which for me meant a pair of shorts and a long-sleeved T-shirt.

As we walked, we kept noticing people walking past us who were VERY bundled up… wearing zipped-up coats and stocking caps and full-length pants. It seemed a little comical to us and we shared a joke about the terrible “cold snap” Houston was experiencing that day.

Temperatures in the mid-60s! Yikes!

All of which triggered a little reflection on the relativity of the whole experience of weather; you know, the way that one person’s “warm” can be another person’s “cold” and vice versa, depending on which part of the country you grew up in.

To take that a little farther we might pause and ask ourselves how many other areas of our life are colored by the “relativity effect.” For example, I know that my definition of “good food” is heavily relative… shaped by where I grew up, but also by what I became accustomed to in my childhood home. “Good music,” “good art,” and just plain “fun” are also judgments that are shaded by lots and lots of subjective, relative, personal factors.

We can use this whole relativity thing as a means of engaging in hours of energetic, good-spirited conversation on where you find the best barbeque, or chicken wings, or beer, or why (or why not) Avatar is the greatest movie ever made.

But what happens when we start looking at the effect of relativity on topics that are a little more foundational to life on the planet? I am talking about topics like Truth… or Justice… or Good… or Evil.

Are these – should these be – relative?

Those are really two different questions. Should they be relative? No. Probably not.

Are they – in practice – relative?

Unfortunately they usually seem to be.

I define MY truth as the truth that is most personally reassuring to me.

I define MY justice as the justice that causes the fewest disruptions in the orderliness of my world.

In that context, if you tell me that you are experiencing oppression or the denial of essential justice in your life, I would respond by telling you to “suck it up,” or “get over it and stop crying.” And what I mean by that is, “Things in my world are working just fine, thank you very much.”

As a white, middle-aged, heterosexual, educated, American, male, clergyperson I have to admit that I hold a big stack of advantaged cards in my hand. There are few if any places where I have ever personally experienced the sting and outrage of systemic injustice.

But I also have to admit that just because it hasn’t happened to me doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

It does exist. I’ve seen it. I’ve heard about it. I believe it.

And so today, as we celebrate Reformation Day 2016 – the 499th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation – let’s celebrate the blow against relativity it also represents.

Let’s celebrate the ability of a privileged German clergyperson to step outside of his narrow experience of the world and act on behalf of those who knew only oppression and injustice at the hands of the church.

Let’s celebrate the idea that we move closer to the Kingdom of God on earth when we CONNECT our reality with the reality of others and see that there is really no difference in the two.

Let’s celebrate the fact that there is not MY truth and YOUR truth… there is not MY justice and YOUR justice… there is not MY good and YOUR good.

There is just good. And justice. And truth.

And while we are at it, let’s pledge to believe our sister when she tells us that she has been hurt by a lewd comment or a thoughtless remark or a prejudicial decision. And then let’s do for her whatever we would do for ourselves in that same situation.

Let’s pledge to believe our brother when he tells us his race, or his faith, or his sexual orientation has cost him a job or a clean criminal record or a mortgage or a fair shake. And then let’s do for him whatever we would do for ourselves in that same situation.

Let’s celebrate Reformation Day (and every day, for that matter) as CONNECTION DAY. And then let’s use it to remind ourselves to do something every day that strikes a blow against a subjective, relative view of the world.

As Paul reminded us: “… in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself… and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” (2 Corinthians 5:19, NRSV).

Be reconciled. Be reconciling.


  1. October 31, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    Our Rez Downtown small group just finished reading “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson. Here is a clip from it:

    “We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others.”

    The book is a difficult read but so helpful in understand true justice. Relatively speaking. ツ

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