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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Christian Ambition

The advent of Christianity two thousand years ago (then called atheism, because its adherents rejected the gods and followed a man) transformed the pagan world at its deepest levels and helped give birth to Western civilization. It put progressive values like selflessness, honesty, integrity, humility, mercy and charity at the forefront of man's thinking. It paved the way for science, medicine, free-thinking and education.

Above all, it taught that every human being has intrinsic value and dignity regardless of status or social class.

(Yes, a lot of terribly evil, and mostly politically motivated things were done in the name of Christianity as well. But even a dim man might well ask, "what did the violence of the inquisition, or the manipulation of the institutionalized church have to do with Christ's teaching?!")

But Christianity also taught that we are responsible, not only for our own lives, but for the welfare of all mankind. Caring for our neighbors, for the less-fortunate and ultimately bringing about God's "shalom" (peace, harmony, equality, sustainability, etc.) on earth was to be our overarching task.

I believe that these non-intuitive values (such as selflessness or honesty) have the same power today to bring transformation into the lives of people, communities and even whole nations. (The global economic crisis, for example, all boils down to--I believe--a fundamental breakdown in trust.) People who live by these values are the building blocks of successful societies.

My ambition in life, therefore, is to live these values out as best I can, to spread them wherever I go, and to put them into practice in very practical ways. It could be something simple like buying someone a sandwich on the street. Or it could be something more radical, like teaching orphans in Sudan to read & write. It could be encouraging a friend, or it could be raising awareness about social responsibility in business, here in Holland.

I want to live my life and do what I can to make the world a better place--the place that Jesus himself helped us to glimpse.