jenk: Faye (knowing)
[personal profile] jenk
So I read this Mark Driscoll column on money and God. I liked that it disses both the prosperity and poverty gospels. AKA, it's not about how much money you have, it's what you do with it.

What I didn't like about it was the repeated use of the word "righteousness", and the expectation that humans can be righteous in their actions. I don't always know that I'm doing the right thing. Sometimes I do, but even then, I know I'm not God, that I'm working on partial information, and that I'm really just doing the best I can with what I do know. But I think what really rubbed me the wrong way about "righteousness" is that word has been used by too many people in my past who talked about their righteousness while they put me down. And (at the time) I was someone they saw as a "sister", as someone who was also "righteous"! Never mind how they denied the worth of those who were different or "sinners".

And so I learned to be wary. I learned to be careful of assuming I knew what was right and wrong, that I was capable of judging, and most especially to be careful of thinking myself righteous. I became very careful with facts and reporting - which did help me in testing, a lot, tho it didn't always help me in dealing with customers ("What do you mean 'you think'? If you don't know, can I talk with someone who does?") Eventually I did realize that self-confidence can be different from arrogantly assuming I know what's right. But even now, I read about an "opportunity for each of us to evaluate whether we are acting righteously with how we obtain and dispense the little or great wealth we have" and I have trouble with the word "righteous". I'd do better with "wisely" or "faithfully" or "biblically", but "righteously" - "righteous" scares me. It reminds me of Peggy Senger Parsons' years-ago experience with a crisis pregnancy center:
The lady asked if my pregnancy was planned, I said no. She got really nervous. She started spilling statistics. She made some presumptions. I thanked her and tried to leave. She got more nervous. She tried to set up a video. I declined her offer, thanked her again, and got up to go. She actually blocked my way to the door and said “I’m not supposed to let you leave without showing you “Silent Scream.” I escaped. She yelled after me –“Please don’t kill your baby!” I didn’t, of course, and I also never got near these people again or the churches that supported them.
I read this account as the "righteous" actions of a concerned woman, implementing the "righteous" policies of the pregnancy center. Yet for Peggy, those actions were upsetting and unhelpful. She also tells of her experience with a previous unplanned pregnancy at Planned Parenthood:
The doctor (nurse practitioners were unheard of in those days) could see my unhappiness. He sat with me for a few minutes. He listened to me. He made no judgments or suggestions. When my words and tears had run out, he asked me if I wanted to know about my options. I told him that my option was to be a mother, because aborting a healthy fetus did not fit into my faith, values or ethics. He smiled, and he said, “I think you will make a fine mother” and he told me where to get free pre-natal care, and about a program for free food for pregnant women, and where the free counselors worked. I was very grateful for his listening, concern, and advice. It helped.
Google brought up an excerpt on righteousness from the New Dictionary of Theology. It begins: "The basic meaning of ‘righteousness’ and its cognates in the Bible [...] denotes not so much the abstract idea of justice or virtue, as right standing and consequent right behaviour, within a community." This is a new idea for me, and one worth thinking about. Translating "acting righteously" as "acting in a Christian manner". It's also not how contemporary English defines "righteous", which may help explain why this is a new idea for me....
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