Over at Faith Commons, Bill, in a discussion of Brian McLaren’s book A Generous Orthodoxy, quotes John R. Franke, quoting Yale theologian Hans Frei, “‘”Generosity without orthodoxy is nothing, but orthodoxy without generosity is worse than nothing.”‘” (I hope I got the nested quote levels right.) I think that’s a lot of hooey. I don’t believe that orthodoxy can ever be truly generous. Generosity requires at least the implicit admission that those who disagree with you might have a point. But orthodoxy requires that any deviation from the straight lines it draws must be corrected. The whole point of orthodoxy is that it defines what’s right, and what’s not right is just wrong.
Frei’s condescending dismissal of “generosity without orthodoxy” is typical orthodox thinking. My experience leads me to believe that generosity of any sort is always something. Really something! And some of the most heterodox people I’ve met have demonstrated the most unflinching and consistent generosity. Not only material generosity, but a generous acceptance of lifestyles different from theirs, and of opinions they could never reconcile with their own vision of things.
I thought it might be appropriate, in considering generosity and orthodoxy, to re-cycle my own distinctly heterodox appreciation of generosity as a god worth worshipping in her own right:
Welcome god Generosity into your life, and give the god a high place.
Lives informed by Generosity are warm and rich to the end, while lives that are not so informed turn miserly and cold. Listen to the god and know things important and hard to know.
Informed by god Generosity, know what, of all you have to give, is yours to give most gladly and personally.
Know too, for it would be false to inform you otherwise, and Generosity is no false god, that any gift you give must be given freely to be worthy of the giver and the gods in the giver’s life. While there is great reward and certain reward in every life informed by Generosity, no single gift may claim just its reward. Giving in the spirit of god Generosity does not anticipate return or demand gratitude, and those who can so give, deeply and true to themselves and the other gods in their lives, most elevate all those and all humankind.
When you are uncertain about the need to give, or the worth of those who call to you for help, or the consequences of the gift (no generous act anticipates reward, but every act still gathers consequences), listen to the god, be informed by the god: know that you may give when the need is great and you are able, that you will not be played for a sucker, and that you must be careful in your giving, lest the power of your generosity upset some delicate balance and cause harm where you meant none.
But know that there is never harm and only good to be generous in spirit: in any contest to applaud the honest winner, though you would have wished the outcome otherwise; when you are triumphant, to lift those whose best efforts challenged you and give them honor for their effort; and when there is no contest but just this daily round, to give way to those in haste, to give a hand to those who are burdened or stuck, to give slack to those who are stretched too thin, to give comfort to those who live with pain and sorrow, to laugh with those who joy and weep with those who grieve, to lavish praise on beauty and bright action and hard work. Each day, you must decide how much you may give without hurt and how much hurt you can bear, to give what is called for. Let your decision be informed by god Generosity: know that you are strong and will be stronger when you have given of your strength; know that you have much to give, and your wealth will grow when it is shared.