One thing that the current heated political/religious debate indicates is just how little faith many in our society have in their fellowmen. This low opinion of others is trumpeted in the rush to arm ourselves, in the summary dismissal of the 47%, and in the weekly religious rhetoric which insists that those outside the church are willful God rejecters and rightfully damned.
To a large measure, the religious rhetoric, to which I refer, drives this entire alienation/segregation/denigration worldview. The institutional Christian church teaches that men are basically no good, and there is little room to trust them, consider them worthy, or even tolerate their company. One needn't wonder then if those who embrace such theology dismiss their neighbors as stupid, slothful, criminally inclined, and basically beyond redemption. A lack of faith in other human beings just naturally follows this line of thinking.
In light of the above, it is poignantly ironic to see the church's teachings about the need for faith. Of course, the faith they always speak about is supposedly faith in Jesus and, by extension, in God and His work in and through Jesus. Somehow we have been lead to believe that we can demonstrate a transformative faith in God and simultaneously reject the basic worthiness of the creatures made in His image.
Jesus came to express God's love for all mankind, according to church doctrine. Is that fact an indication of God's low opinion of men? Did such indicate that God did not believe in humanity's potential to be transformed by His expression of love? In reality these questions boil down to this one- did God expect His plan in Jesus to be successful? Did He believe in mankind and the power of what He was accomplishing in Christ? Did God have faith in mankind and in Jesus?
In reading about Jesus we see just how often he totally embraced the rejected "low lifes" of his day. In doing so he placed his own signature on their value. This is no sign of a lack of faith in their ability to live meaningful and productive lives. Again the church may quibble that Jesus merely served the downcast in order to make them aware of the opportunity He represented to upgrade themselves to worthiness. For me that concept does not explain the motivation for the type sacrifice Jesus made. Yes, the Bible says that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, but that does not prove for me that Christ died for the unworthy, those he did not have faith in.
There is another ironic development among some in the Christian evangelical community, a development which further highlights how little, many in the church, think of others. The new church effort is an implied rejection of the basic idea of human transformation through the Gospel. Instead it embraces the idea that true Christians must change the world, not through spreading the Gospel message, but rather through taking over the seats of power within society and re-structuring our society from the top down. It is tantamount to a complete rejection of Jesus, his work and message, and any reflection of faith in him. To admit by implication that the Gospel cannot and will not transform mankind is certainly no sign of faith in Jesus. You cannot claim Jesus and work to transform the world in ways that directly contradict what He taught.
No matter how you cut it, dismissing and denigrating our fellowmen cannot be a mark of faith in God or Jesus. Considering men as basically unworthy and beyond hope, as the church teaches, can never be the motivation to actively work toward spreading a powerful transformative message. One has to have faith in the message in order to work in its spread. If I don't have faith in the message, I can't truthfully, sing "Oh How I Love Jesus". After all, he is the messenger who brought the message which I don't really believe can accomplish its intended purpose, namely transforming the world.
So I am left with a choice. Do I place my faith in God and Christ or in church theology and its program of the moment, the latest way to make God's plan happen through human effort? I think the decision is an easy one.
One final note is in order. The basic problem in all this discussion of faith is the church's whole concept of salvation and transformation. In reality Jesus was not about the hocus-pocus, flip the switch type salvation the church teaches. Men are not one way one moment and a split second later miraculously changed. Transformation under the auspices of Jesus is a life long effort.
And, yes, real change in human lives does involve recognizing individual responsibility for bad behavioral choices. However, accepting personal responsibility works within the context of knowing that I am too worthy to operate unworthily. If I believe I am valuable to God, that is the motivation to step up and live life abundantly, the way God intended. The emphasis of personal responsibility is real but is not an excuse to ignore the vastly different random life circumstances which greatly impact and limit the choices which many can make. Simply saying "Buck up, Shape up, or Just suffer", as the church message implies, is way too unrealistic to define the God ordained plan for a humanity worthy of divine Love.