Thursday, February 10, 2005

Sham Compassion...Absurd Activism...Trendy Past Time

Every day when I take my girls to school I see a lovely mural on our school wall with a big placard attached "Painted by united churches in Soul in the City 2004". I have heard some great stories from colleagues that were involved with 'Soul in the City' and 'Festival Manchester' etc... so I don't want to appear critical - but there is always the danger of 'Soul in the City' type events becoming a 'missional dole in the city' once the lights have faded and everyone has gone home!

Catherine Booth in an era of philanthropy was rather scathing on Church activity on one occasion speaking on "Sham Compassion and the dying love of Jesus Christ" she pointed out "...benevolence has come somewhat into fashion of late....".

I wonder if she really saw such acts of love as a sham? I wonder if she really saw it as a distraction to the 'real mission' of out and out evangelism of the early Salvation Army? I wonder if she really saw it as a waste of time? Or did she see something different? Did she identify the missional blindspot, the maintainance of the false dichotomy of mission but from a different angle?

Reflecting on Jacques Ellul's lament over "absurd activism which plunges blindly ahead" Ringma notes :-
"Christians who once defined the Christian task in the narrowest of terms - preaching the gospel - have rediscovered that proclamation and practical service belong together."But warns, however "activity is not enough". It must have the welfare of others in view more than our own dreams of what may benefit them."
It got me thinking that there could be a danger of allowing mission to become a trendy ecclesiastical past time that makes us feel good.

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