Success Doesn’t Wait for the Bad to Get Good, it Forces the Good to get Better

Modern Evangelical Christianity seems hung up on the perception that the “bad” are taking the world in the wrong direction. They could learn from Theologian Roger Williams and basketball star Michael Jordan, that there is always “bad” and it never gets “good”…the “good” have to get “better” to realize success

Michael Jordan…he was always good, but boy did he get better!

The year was 1636, and the Puritans were experimenting with a Utopian “City on the Hill” (later known as Boston) in which the Church controlled church and state, using a Biblical model. This model was not altogether bad, as it had moved past the corruptions of the Catholic Church (selling indulgences, paying others to read and pray for parishioners, too much idolatry and usury), and administered a type of justice, at a time when civil authority was weak. Enter Cambridge educated Reverend Roger Williams (also a student of British law) who felt that the Puritans were “not separated enough” from the Catholics. He suspected the Puritans were trying to interpret the minds of their citizens, when only God had that authority. He further felt that the Puritans were not being fair to the Native Americans, and had largely failed in their experiment to be a single authority. Subsequently, he was cast out by the Puritans, and with the help of the Narragansett Indians, founded Rhode Island, a haven for Christian free thinkers. Later, he laid the foundation for our First Amendment, and the “Separation of Church and State”. The Puritans had their chance to create a universal authority, but they blew it…Roger Williams could have settled for being a good Puritan and converting the “bad” Indians, but at great personal cost he chose to almost singlehandedly rise to another level, and thus the “good got better” and our Country subsequently prospered. (Barry, et al., n.d.)

Michael Jordan was drafted by the Bulls in the early 80s, and he was surrounded by lesser players. Though he soon became a superstar and scored many points, his teams did not win championships. Honestly, it was too easy for the opponent to double team him, since his teammates couldn’t pick up the slack. He spent many years complaining to the management that although he was great, the team couldn’t win because his teammates were not good enough. But then a funny thing happened, as he decided that as great as he was, he could get better. He began to learn new moves, he started diving for balls and playing in practice like it was a real game. He began demanding more from his teammates, while better incorporating them and rewarding them for success. Management did eventually make his teammates better (notably bringing in Scotty Pippen), but it was Jordan himself getting better that made the difference, as the Bulls won the first of six championships in 1991. This is now a sports axiom, as Olajuwon, Bryant, Curry, and James have all “taken their game the next level” to become champions. (NBA.com Staff, 2020)

Roger Williams created a haven for religious tolerance in 1638 Rhode Island. He didn’t always agree with the opinions of his neighbors but he protected their religious liberties…he took it to the next level

There is a lesson learned here for Evangelicals. You incorporate the Republican party line that “Government is not the solution, it is the problem”, but in fact government only exists because you screwed up. Government is the consensus device that you should have created in the first place. If you really don’t like government, you should create common ground with other religions, perhaps starting with the concept that Islam, Judaism, and Christianity all worship the Old Testament. Then you should progress to a system of coherent ethical principals that are in the Bible, but interwoven with a bunch of strange hypocrisies (which frankly need to be removed, or printed in red ink with the proviso “red ink denotes ancient text that is not to be taken literally”). Your need to take the Bible literally clashes with sensibility, which then creates a need for government to reconcile, since government has been forced to be the consensus device. Let’s say your son comes home from college and says “I hate you Dad, and by the way, I’m gay”. According to Leviticus, you have the license, if not the duty (on two fronts) to kill your son, but of course that would neither be appropriate nor within our government’s laws. SO WHY IS THAT IN THERE? The really damning thing is that if you say “well, that was not meant to be taken literally”, it sort of means all bets are off…you admit that some of the Bible is apocryphal, so exactly what is and isn’t to be believed?

There is plenty of meat in the Bible, surely enough to create an ethical society, but Biblical mysticism gets in the way. Modern Evangelicals have recently been in the habit of pulling Biblical interpretations out of their Holy butts, things like the 10,000 year timeline of humanity, specific end of days predictions, QAnon conspiracy theories, and re-virginizing after a seven year wait. Why not just stick to the basics, that we are doomed to sin, and it’s ok as long as we admit that we sinned and try to get better? Frankly, why not just take the Ten Commandments, and add another 5 from Jesus (let’s see, faith, humility, forgiveness, redemption, not being quick to judge?) and focus on getting people to live by all that? In other words, the government doesn’t really want all this work, they are only doing it because you faltered. They would be delighted if you took away the clutter of gay marriage, gun control, and drunk driving, since THE CHURCHES SHOULD HAVE FIELDED ALL OF THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE. Some days, church leaders should look in the mirror and channel their inner Roger Williams or Michael Jordan and ask “we keep calling out the wicked but the wicked always seem to persist…maybe we church people need to take ourselves to the next level if we want to win”. That next level might include setting better examples, better outreach to the meek (poor and sick), Pacifism, and freeing yourselves from confusing hypocrisies.

Look Evangelicals, we’re trying to be your friends here. You’ve got the tools to win, you are just not using them, since some snake oil salesmen started putting mud in your ears about 100 years ago. The clues as to the depths that you’ve dropped is 1) when Donald Trump became your savior (he basically being the embodiment of all that is unholy) and 2) when some of your churches didn’t fully disavow first slavery and next Jim Crow laws and lingering racism. You may get another chance someday (at the rate government is being weakened) to run our country, and this time don’t make it into the “Handmaid’s Tale” or “Stepford Wives”. Remember that Roger Williams had the courage to be a religious libertarian, coexisting with beliefs that even he was uncomfortable with, in the name of freedom. Remember that Michael Jordan only won by setting the ultimate example, and not by criticizing his teammates or opponents. Remember that both succeeded by following the ultimate example, the example of Jesus Christ.

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Vern Scott

Scott lives in the SF Bay Area and writes confidently about Engineering, History, Politics, and Health