I can imagine two groups likely to disagree with my assessment: those who feel that C3 is not unique in its independent thinking and, therefore, should not be singled out for praise; and those who feel that so-called independent thinking is wrongheaded, so no praise is warranted.
To the first group, I ask that they make themselves known; I’d like to know more about you. To the second group, I direct the rest of this column.
What are the people of C3 doing to elicit such public disapproval from so many? Foremost is that C3 often challenges conventional religious doctrine while seeking new ways to understand the human condition. This leads to a diversity of spiritual views with none being labeled as the ultimate truth.
Outside of C3, questioning certain Christian doctrine for many is a religious and social taboo. Blind faith is admired, while real inquiry and rationality at best are cast as impious and at worst as Satan’s work.
What’s interesting is that mainstream Christians also doubt and question, perhaps without realizing it. Today, the vast majority of Catholics have used birth control with minimal guilt despite their church's admonition against it. The sacrament of marriage rarely requires a wife’s pledge of obedience to her husband. Every prosperous person I know ignores the pronouncement that his or her chance of entering heaven is less than a camel going through a needle's eye. Few, if any, of us sell our possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow Jesus — even vows of poverty bear no resemblance to the real thing.
Thankfully, we ignore Paul’s edict for slaves to obey their earthly master. We no longer ask the village to stone our disobedient children. No one believes in unicorns despite the Bible’s references to them. And no one thinks that if we dig a hole deep enough we’ll reach hell, or build a tower high enough and we’ll reach heaven.
Christians have not disengaged their brains. They know it makes no sense to continue slavery, the secondary status of women, or having a large family that one cannot afford. Over the centuries, science has conflicted with literal church doctrine regarding the creation story, evolution, the age of the earth, etc.; and, in each case, science continues to find more evidence to support its claims, not less.
With little dissonance, most Christians ignore areas of settled orthodoxy that make no sense or are morally questionable, and heed those areas that seem just and reasonable.
Protestantism started with knowledge. The printing press allowed access to the Bible in one’s native language, enabling Luther, Calvin, Wesley and others to insist that the church allow the laity to read the Bible for themselves, to have unfiltered knowledge. Everyone has benefited from this achievement. Sadly, however, praise continues to be directed at those who express no doubt or curiosity, calling them true believers, while using Doubting Thomas as a counterexample.
Christ’s progressive and wonderful worldview is pervasive at C3. Even though the Golden Rule is almost universal among world religions, Christianity focuses on it as few have. Treating the least of our neighbors as we would treat Christ, turning the other cheek, forgiving those who have done us harm, and many others teachings have profound significance.
Yet, one doesn’t need to be a Christian to see the truth and value of these moral standards. One doesn’t need the carrot of heaven or the stick of hell to induce good people to act rightly. It is not a person’s belief in Christ that sets the good apart from the bad, but the actions and intentions of the actor. Christ pointed to the Samaritan as an exemplar — an outsider, yet the embodiment of goodness.
By the way, despite the different approach, there is a sizable group at C3 whose beliefs are very traditional and who would easily fit within any congregation in town. These people come to C3, in part, because inquiry and doubt are not seen as disrespectful, and their personal beliefs are accepted.
C3 recently held a compassion fair (open to the public) a few Sundays ago. Thirty-six booths were set up by members of the C3 community to share the work of organizations to which they belong. It ranged from opening libraries in the inner city, to restoring of lakes suffering from invasive species, to hospice care. Good people doing good things.
How should C3 be treated in this community? It’s simple: Ask yourself how you would like to be treated, and then treat C3 and Ian Lawton that way. It’s the standard for all good people.
— Tribune community columnist Dick Kamischke is a member of C3 Exchange, but he's expressing his personal views in this column.