It’s Designed That Way

I’ve been having more and more conversations where I find myself saying something to this effect: “It’s not broken. It’s designed to work this way.”

These conversations have been about a variety of topics – finances, politics, the institutional church, media, and more.

We often have an idea about how something is supposed to work – an ideal really. We look at a situation and think that someone, somewhere saw the same thing we did and what they made isn’t working like it’s supposed to. Only that belief is more often than not just something we made up in our heads. An unreasonable expectation – something not based on any evidence, but really about our preference and how we think the world should operate.

Last week I celebrated another birthday. And the thing that struck me about it was the number of ads that were sent me wishing me a happy birthday. I know full well that these companies don’t really care about my birthday. What they see is an opportunity to try to make a connection that might cause me to part with my money for a service or product that they offer. It’s designed to work that way. Business is tough and so any upper hand that can be had over the competition will be tried.

And you can see this play over and over through so much. You think that politician that you follow so closely really, really cares about you? I will say, the closer the politics are to the local level, the better the chance that the politician actually knows who you are and therefore might actually care because of that relationship. I’m not talking about those folks. I’m talking about politicians that we don’t actually know personally yet so many seem very devoted to.

Do you think our political system is broken? Or is it working exactly as it was designed to work? When we add laws and rules that implement restrictions and make it harder for people to vote, the system does just that – make it harder for certain people to vote. It’s designed that way.

Or take the tax code. It’s designed to work the way it does. It was written with certain people in mind so they might benefit from it being a certain way. It’s not broken at all. It’s working the way it was designed to.

And when we look at religious faith, I think the same thing goes. There’s a large segment of Christianity that thinks religious freedom is about the freedom to impose their beliefs and ways on others, to force others to comply. And they create institutions to implement these beliefs. They attempt to have influence with decision makers to who can codify these beliefs. It’s designed to work this way.

Any time there is a cruelty, violence, and fear, take a deeper look. What are the systems in place to ensure those kind of results? I’m willing to bet that those are the outcomes that the system was intended to produce.

This is the year of the Gospel of Mark. And this Sunday will mark the halfway point of the Gospel. Throughout the Gospel we see Jesus being rejected and pleaded with to leave. We see a variety of people who are sick and outcast, unable to be a part of the community. We see religious authorities and secular authorities doing whatever they can to ensure the status quo is maintained. Jesus tells the disciples over and over again to expect to be rejected and to not be surprised if they are met with cruelty, anger, and violence. Jesus knew how things were supposed to work. And his very being rattles those expectations. And he refuses to play along with the expected roles thrust on his too. He refuses to answer violence with violence, which would only give the violent system an excuse to be cruel.

We shouldn’t be surprised when God’s way is rejected. The world’s systems are working exactly as they are designed to work. And that’s why we have hope. Because hope doesn’t ignore or pretend this isn’t the case. Hope looks it square in the face, calls it what it is, and then has the audacity to say “it doesn’t have to be this way. There is another way. And the best is yet to come.”

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