Saturday, May 16, 2009

"This is broken"

A few days ago my wife found a video of a conference presentation called "This Is Broken." It was pretty funny, showing all kinds of things people do--signs, policies, instructions--that don't really make sense. It seems there was a website with this title, now moved to another, focusing on "good experience" in business-to-customer relations. Their conferences are geared to helping businesses keep from making stupid mistakes that can drive customers away. But it's gotten me thinking about the brokenness in people, and in our society.

There is a school of thought that everybody is basically good, and if they just get their external problems fixed--poverty, lack of education, poor housing, etc.--everybody will get along fine. In the construction field, where I spent over twenty years of my work life, this attitude translates into "If everybody in the skilled trades is properly trained and licensed, everything will be done right." Well, over the last twenty years I've seen way too much shoddy work done by supposedly licensed tradesmen (not to mention all the car accidents seen and heard of caused by licensed drivers). The sad truth is, people do not always do what they know they should do, on the job and in the car and in a lot of other places, too. In fact, in all areas of life, the vast majority of people fail at times to even live up to their own standards, let alone anybody else's. And it's not just limited to the moral issues; none of us is a smart as we like to think, or as competent as we think we are. (The real problem with Big Government and Big Business is that nobody is really competent to run them!) We really are "broken."

Christianity and Judaism are the only religions that understand this. They teach that man was created good, but fell from that state and now is at best mixed--good and bad mingled in each person. We are now "broken," to borrow the term used in that video, and even the best of us cannot be counted on to do right all the time. And some are so broken they do wrong most of the time--from the petty criminals to the Hitlers, Stalins, and other monsters.

The problem is, most of us do not know and do not accept the fact that we are "broken." We go our merry way, leaving trails of misdeeds of various kinds and extents behind us. But we are, and we need healing. The Good News of Christianity is that God chose not to leave us in our brokenness, but to make a way for our healing. That does not mean the healing is instantaneous--almost all Christians do and say stupid and wrong things, because we are still somewhat broken even if we are on the right road to the healing. Some take longer on the road than others, some make little progress, and some of us take some pretty strange detours. And the healing is not forced on us; we have to recognize our need and accept it, which comes hard for many people. But God created us to have free will, and has chosen to respect our free will even when we abuse it by doing wrong.

So we as individuals are broken; the society and culture we live in are broken; our government and institutions, including our churches, are all to varying degrees broken. The best thing we have in all of this is the hope of healing, but we must put our hope and our trust in God, not in some broken person, party, or institution.

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