Loving, or Right? Loving AND Right?
At the risk of getting into the kind of theological debate I once ended a thriving career in order to avoid, let’s talk. There’s a new book floating around Evangelical circles, Rob Bell’s Love Wins. I have not read this book, but I adore Rob Bell. He’s one of the only preachers I still sometimes listen to via his Nooma series. And he’s among a scant handful of teachers who sometimes still makes me think there might be a place for me in my former profession.
The gist of this book is that maybe it’s not all about theological correctness and saying "the prayer" before you die so you can escape hell and get into heaven. Maybe God is love. Maybe love wins.
As you can imagine, people who are concerned about hell are concerned about this message. They don’t want people to burn for eternity. They want to know what is right and wrong, and they want to you to know it too. Because damn it, the consequences are dire. It's nice, really, given that world view. They just want to keep you safe.
I do not personally believe in hell. Like the Pastor Carlton Pearson (This American Life :: Heretics), I believe there is enough fall-out right here on earth for our greed, for our selfishness. We create our own hell in the here and now.
To be fair, this means I must also let go of the traditional concept of heaven -- a far more discomforting thought. I believe there is something bigger than us. I believe we go on, in some form, after we leave this corporeal body. And above all, I believe in love. In fact, Love is my religion.
A long time ago, almost a decade ago now, when my faith began to shift, a wise friend once said to me, “I’d rather be loving than right.” At the time we were part of a the team running a church that was “open but not affirming” to the GLBTQ community. Meaning, we’d be nice to gay people but we didn’t really approve of their “life style.” My friend and I disagreed with this approach, and we were struggling to find the language to explain why we needed to live in opposition to our community’s position. We were tired of the debate around who was right -- the conservative theologians or the progressive theologians. We didn’t want to argue within the four walls of the church. We wanted to extend the loving hand of Christ to the world outside. Moreover, we saw so much Christ-like love in our gay friends -- oftentimes, more compassion than we saw within our own selves -- that the dissonance was deafening. So we decided, “I’d rather be loving that right.” Right ceased to be the standard. Love became our banner.
I happened to quote that on the Facebook page of one of my favorite Anglican ministers and someone else replied “I’d rather be loving and right.” I get that. You want to be loving. And you want to love right.
But here’s the thing. What is “right” in a global, post-modern context? When we know now how truth changes across cultures. When quantum physics has shown us how much we do not yet know. When absolutism has -- for the most part -- been abandoned as a relevant philosophy. Is "right" still black and white? How much “right” can we really access? And does it ever change?
What if there is no spoon?
I am not ready to say there is no right or wrong, that there are no absolute Truths. But I know this: My religion -- whatever it is, whatever mix it is -- has not cornered the market on Truth. No one religion does. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrian, Neo-Pagans, Wiccans….we are all just humans grasping at something far larger than us, using myth and metaphor to describe what our minds cannot fully ascertain nor our language fully hold. Some stuff we get right. Some stuff we mess up. Royally. But if Love is the North on our compass, we cannot go too far wrong.
What if today we focused on being loving rather than being right? What if we took as our truth, “It was in love I was created and in love is how I hope I die.” What if you left “right” sitting on the curb and held hands with love instead? Where might it take you? How might you then live?
Rachelle Mee-Chapman is a formerly ordained minister who offers care for creative souls at Magpie Girl. She hosts an online soulcare community at Flock, dedicated to helping women "find a spirituality that fits." Join her for exclusive tips and presents by clicking here.
Photo Credit: _nezemnaya_.