Not long ago I heard recorded words spoken long ago by Dr Martin Luther King in which he alluded to the many people in the pre-integration South who mentally opposed the injustice being perpetrated by society on the black population but never had the courage to stand up and say so. Dr King, in his words, sympathized with these people, expressing empathy for the plight of those who feel socially and culturally compelled to participate in activities which are the societal norm but which at the same time are repulsive to them. Dr. King intuitively understood that men and women in a larger society are under tremendous pressure to conform to accepted attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Consequently, such conformity does not mean that all or even most people actually believe that such behavior is right and proper. In my opinion, this observation is a very powerful insight into the motivation behind much aberrant human behavior.
The bottom line is this: people often go along to get along, as the old saying goes; and, in the process, great damage is done and change for the better is delayed indefinitely. Change is often traumatic, and societal changes are the most painful kind, requiring the relinquishment of longstanding assumptions and the complete re-working of corporate attitudes. As a consequence, the opponents of change have a great advantage over those who would propose such change; and a few opponents can easily overwhelm the more numerous proponents. The stability of the present situation can often be sold as better than the unknowns associated with trying to improve. Such is the reality faced by anyone who suggests a new course for society.
As I pondered Dr King’s words, I could not help but consider how this same observation could potentially be made about much that passes for indisputable church doctrine in the so called Christian community. Every church member, of whatever stripe, who sits silently in the pew on Sunday, hearing a repugnant message of anger, conflict, separation, exclusiveness, righteousness by procedure and doctrine, divine vindictiveness, and the virtue of outward piety, should understand that their presence in that forum lends their tacit approval to that message. Just as Dr. King suggested that many in the southern society of his day were not honestly segregationists, I suspect that many church members of our day are not real Orthodox Christians, accepting and internalizing the destructive message inherent in that doctrine. As in the example of the old South, it will take great courage for these church “non-believers” to stand up and be counted. However, it might surprise them to actually see how many in their company are like minded but just haven’t ever admitted so.