What percentage of the people believe the country is headed in the wrong direction? What percentage of your denomination believe the church is headed in the wrong direction? How did we get on the wrong track? Sound familiar? I have encountered countless friends and bare acquaintances who, with moistened eyes, trembling lips or glaring anger have made these bold assertions. Maybe you have also.
I have some questions of my own. What direction is the wrong direction? What would be the right direction? What track are we on, and where does it lead? No one ever seems to know. Lately I’ve been asking the direct question; exactly what is the direction we are headed, where will it take us and why is it wrong? The general response is a blank stare, a few mumbled er, ums, and a change of subject.
I have no doubt that those with a quick “wrong direction” answer really are feeling some social or political unease, even anxiety. But that doesn’t say much. My guess is that there are a couple of things going on here. One is the ease with which generic wrong direction assertions can be used to cover up socially unacceptable prejudice and bigotry. Another is that there are many who cannot articulate what they mean because they are too lazy to think it through. Others may simply be too ignorant. It’s a tempting answer because it’s a simple answer.
Are we on the right track? Which track? The nation, the church, our families, even our selves are all on many tracks going in many directions. The right direction? We are going in many directions with many intended destinations, and experience suggests that most likely we will end up somewhere else.
When asked if I think the nation is going in the right or wrong direction, my answer is that I haven’t a clue, but I do have some anxiety about America’s future. Pushed too hard to the right and we could end up a picturesque economic backwater with large population of marginally educated poor people dominated and ruled by a small population of the wealthy.
When asked if I think the Church is going in the right or wrong direction, my answer is a confident both, and at the same time. About the Church I have no deep anxiety. It is, after all, God’s Church and I think she can handle it.