Cutting Off The Culture-War Addict...

I just joined a group on Facebook that highlights a shocking/frustrating/utterly-ridiculous letter released by Focus on the Family, and implores Christians to come together in rejecting and denouncing James Dobson and his organization's tacky, loveless, fear-mongering tactics.

The Facebook group is called 'A Christian Bipartisan Rejection of Focus on the Family's Letter from 2012.'

* * *

Focus on the Family Action recently put out a hypothetical letter that outlined what America would look like from the perspective of a Christian looking back on an Obama presidency from 2012. The letter starts off by saying, “Many Christians voted for Obama – Younger evangelicals actually provided him with the needed margin to defeat John McCain – but they didn’t think he would really follow through on the far-Left policies that had marked his career. They were wrong.” Here are just some of their scenarios Focus on the Family paints for us:

  • The Supreme court leans liberal, 6 to 3.
  • Terrorist attacks have occurred in 4 US cities.
  • Christian doctors, nurses, counselors, and teachers have either been fired or quit.
  • Iran perpetrated a nuclear attack on Israel, drastically reducing the size of its borders.
  • Pornography is freely displayed.
  • Inner city violent crime has dramatically increased due to gun control.
  • Russia has occupied 4 additional countries.
  • Gas tops $7 a gallon.
  • Euthanasia becomes commonplace.
  • Blackouts occur throughout the country.
  • Homosexual marriage becomes law in all 50 states.
  • Campus ministries, Christian adoption agencies and Christian schools nearly cease to exist.
  • Home school families emigrate to Australia and New Zealand by the thousands.
  • Bush officials are jailed and bankrupt.
  • Taliban-like oppression overtakes Iraq and death of American sympathizers reaches millions.
  • Homosexuals are given a bonus to enlist in the military.

As you can see, Focus on the Family Action has abandoned reasonable appeals and resorted to shameless tactics of fear mongering. They have abandoned the belief that voters can make informed decisions and have instead appealed to fear as their fundamental motivator.

As Christians, we stand appalled and ashamed at such tasteless demagoguery. We believe that civil, educated, and compassionate dialogue should and can occur with the active engagement of our faith, but believe that Focus on the Family Action has, in this letter, stepped far outside of reasonable boundaries into pure sensationalism. We believe that such thoughtless expressions coming from an organization that purports to represent Evangelicals continues to mar our legitimacy and voice in the public arena, and damages our basic Christian witness.

The original letter can be found here:
http://focusfamaction.edgeboss.net/download/focusfamaction/pdfs/10-22-08_2012letter.pdf

It can also be found by going to the original Focus on the Family Action page on the right side under "Election Coverage":
http://www.citizenlink.org/focusaction/

Christianity Today also has a description of the letter here:
http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctpolitics/2008/10/an_obama_admini.html

Join this group, but more importantly please let Focus on the Family Action hear your voice by contacting them through email at
citizenlink@family.org or through http://www.matthew25.org/fotf_response.php


* * *

Sad to say, I'm not shocked anymore by tactics and communiques like this from the Evangelical community. I still try desperately to call them my sisters and brothers, but this sad letter is simply par for the course...

There's a point where family members of addicts must choose to stop supporting and enabling the addicted person. That doesn't mean they stop loving him. It doesn't mean they aren't family any more. But until the addict understands the destructive, isolating, intolerable impact of his behavior, all that family support, kinship and community do is provide a buffer that softens and even numbs the pain of the addictive cycle.

American Evangelicals of conscience must make intervention in the meth-like deterioration of Christian virtue through fundamentalist culture wars. If the intervention doesn't work, then we must also have the courage, fortitude, and tough-love to stop answering the phone when James Dobson calls, out of money and in need of a fix. Or a signed ballot measure. Or a picket sign.

He's Emergent (but doesn't care)

My online friend A.D. Hunt (www.theophiliacs.com/) wrote a post last month that I keep meaning to highlight. It's called "Why I am Emergent: From a Guy Who Really Doesn't Care."

Hunt really highlights an experience similar to mine:


...on the recommendation of a friend I read Blue Like Jazz. It was a refreshing book; and I still recommend it to people; but by that time I was already there. His jokes about beer, swearing pastor’s and weed were funny and not uncomfortable for me. In time, because everyone else was doing it, I read Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christian” and Rob Bell’s “Velvet Elvis” and had a similar experience...


Already being there isnt a bad thing. It's nice to resonate with something out there - connecting with a group or movement that validates us in some way. Emergent has been that for me, too. But there has to be something after Emergent, doesn't there? Not a conclusion. Not a resolution. But continued emergence!


Hunt writes:


I don’t want to constantly be talking about ‘who we are.’ I helped plant and fail a church, and for years all we could talk about is who we were and who we wanted to be. It got so incredibly boring and infuriating talking about it that it was part of the reason I left. That part of the ‘conversation’ is one that I just don’t care about.


I feel the same way. I don't want to keep talkin about "who we are." Isn't that a tad narcissistic? When do we move to "WHAT WE DO"? Or "HOW WE LIVE"? Or "WHY THIS IS GOOD" and "WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN" and "WHY JESUS IS STILL CHANGING US"? I've said it before, but soul-patches and faux-hawks and candles and accoustic guitar aren't going to change the world. Love changes the world. And I believe that Jesus Christ is a singularity of incarnate love in human history and human experience.


For all that, however, Hunt also points out why he is Emergent, and why he believes the conversation is vital:



  • There needs to be a safe space for questions, legitimate doubts, non-confrontational conversation, ambiguity and grace. By (I believe) the grace of God, the EC has opened that space up. (I know Mainline, you’re tempted to say you can do that there, with that smug look on your face. No you cant’. Everything gets boiled down to heated and dirty exchanges over homosexuality and “inclusivity”... )
  • Critique of both right and left is needed in the Church, and EC is at its best, able to do this.
  • In my opinion, many attempts by Evangelicals to contribute to the EC are not brave enough to cope with the secular age. It is still strangely similar to just updating the clothing and relevance. For my buck that’s just not good enough. More radical changes are needed...
  • In my opinion, many attempts by the Mainline to contribute to the EC are not confessional enough. Gays aside, until the Cross and Resurrection are returned to the center of even our ‘enlightened’ care for the poor we are kind of not going anywhere. Let me be clear. 1 – Pentecostals and Nazarene’s were ‘ordaining’ women before you were. 2 – Evangelicals and Catholics were helping the poor, um, since the beginning. You did not invent social justice, get over yourself. 3 – You are no longer the only ones doing critical study of the Bible and theology. Time to get off the high-horse and participate in the larger church with humility...


    All that to say, I am Emergent. . . sort of

    Click here to read more.


Ha! I love it. Thanks Anthony (Hunt)!
Peter

Hmmm... 30. So now what?

I turned 30 on Monday.

I went to get my hair cut, and told the stylist, "I don't want to keep doing this spiked up bangs thing. I can't keep dressing like an 18-year-old. I turned 30 today."

She laughed out loud and yelled across the salon, "Hey Janet, they're letting 12 year-olds be 30 now!"

Then she gave me the same stupid spikey-hair-in-the-front thing I keep doing. And so it goes.

I went to the doctor yesterday and he put me on blood pressure medication. Not because I'm out of shape, but because it might help my migraines. It still made me feel old. I know that I'm not, but 30 ain't 20, either.

Today a friend said, "Straight people don't bother me, as long as they act gay in public." I thought that was funny.

What else? After last week's gut-wrenching posts about the nature, purpose, and inherent goodness (or otherwise) I must confess, I'm spent.

I've been thinking a little bit today about the difference between personal and communal salvation. In the Third World, the notion of a communal salvation is much more prevalent (Ethiopian Orthodox, for example) than our Americanized personal salvation. Not that personal salvation (and spiritual relationship) is wrong or bad. But it seems to really reflect our hyper-individualistic, consumer orientations: me, me, ME!

Going to the gym tonight. Jen's back has been hurting, and so does mine. Will probably be drinking Ensure before the week is out.

Close to Quitting Christianity... (?)

Ok. Maybe not really. I'm not sure.

A few days ago I had a conversation with a Christian man that really left me uneasy. He was talking to me about his first marriage and its failure. It left him shattered, searching, and so he read to learn more about himself and what went wrong. He read and read and found wisdom. So he shared some of it with me, and to be honest, some of it was resonating at first: he realized that the problems had been in him - in his unwillingness to change, to give, to listen, to work hard...

He read a book that changed his life. I can't remember the name now, but he explained this crucial point: "To make a marriage work, you have to define masculinity. You have to identify what masculinity means, and what you need to do as a man. This book, this amazing book says, if you don't define masculinity, your kids could end up queer!"

I think it was the most intense response I've yet felt against anti-gay language. It got me right in the gut. The way I felt when my high school English teacher told our class, "Jesus wasn't a Christian, he was Jewish." I know, I know, but I didn't get it at 14. I obviously knew Jesus was Jewish, but "not Christian?" I still remember how outraged I felt. That's the way I felt on Friday when this man lamented over "kids ending up queer" because gender roles aren't being concretely established.

I did eventually figure out Jesus was Jewish. But I'd rather stay outraged about this one.

Here's the problem: for most of my life, conservative, transitioning, emerging, and whatever-I-am-now, I have continued to immediately identify myself with other Christians. "You're a Christian?! Oh, I'm a Christian!"

Which suggests we believe in the same things...

Like what? Like Jesus? Like faith, hope and love? Like redemption and forgiveness?

Or like judgment? Like fear? Like anger, guilt, indignation, moral outrage, disgust, xenophobia, homophobia, apocalyptic fear of being left behind, you-name-it!

Because that's not what I hear when I hear "Christian." So it's not what I MEAN when I SAY Christian.

But I've been burned a few times lately. I don't like making negative changes in response to negative people, but maybe it's better to make sure clarity (truth) comes with disclosure.

Maybe there's no point in saying "Christian" or "Jesus" without establishing what those words actually mean.

Maybe I'm overreacting, but the outcome for me is that I'm going to think twice about identifying myself as a Christian. I don't want the baggage and bruises that come with it. I don't want the club memberships and political affiliations either.

It's weird to be feeling these things. I've always believed so strongly in the redemptive, trancendent power of the Body of Christ (fellowship of believers) but personal experience is dulling some of those concepts. It's making me less interested in affiliating myself with a particular culture of belief. And I think that's unfortunate.

GALLUP: More Americans "Pro-Life"...

Oops. I wrote this post on the 15th, when it was actually new news. Found it as a saved draft I had forgotten. Enjoy...

* * *

This is really interesting: for the first time since Gallup began asking the question in 1995, more Americans are calling themselves "pro-life" than "pro-choice."

I wonder if there's some link to the economy - i.e. when times get tough, people revert to more traditional values? Maybe it's easy to be esoteric or progressive when you're not worried about feeding your family...?

Gallup results show that the predominant change is in Republicans and conservative-leaning independents, who are becoming more consistently pro-life. Liberal Americans have not changed their stances, or numbers. So, does this mean further polarization?

However, it changes the reading a little when Gallup breaks down the question, finding that despite 51% calling themselves "pro-life," only 23% of Americans say they think abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. So a large portion of those identifying as "pro life" still see abortion as an important and necessary right in some instances.

The Gallup article concludes:


With the first pro-choice president in eight years already making changes to the nation's policies on funding abortion overseas, expressing his support for the Freedom of Choice Act, and moving toward rescinding federal job protections for medical workers who refuse to participate in abortion procedures, Americans -- and, in particular, Republicans -- seem to be taking a step back from the pro-choice position. However, the retreat is evident among political moderates as well as conservatives.

It is possible that, through his abortion policies, Obama has pushed the public's understanding of what it means to be "pro-choice" slightly to the left, politically. While Democrats may support that, as they generally support everything Obama is doing as president, it may be driving others in the opposite direction.

Click here to read more at Gallup.com

As a Christian: Am I Better For It?

The last few days I've been discussing the nature of what Christianity actually produces in the world. My friend Nate pointed to a fabulous Times article that really surprised and inspired me. It's an atheist, advocating for more Christian evangelism in Africa:


But what I've been asking myself for awhile now is: am I a better person because of Jesus?

I know for certain that there have been times in my life where I "took the high road" so-to-speak, because of my Christianity. Had it not been for my spiritual/religious convictions, I may have acted differently.

But here's the rub: I can identify just as many (if not MORE) instances - and periods - in my life, where I was a far worse human being because of my Christianity. Don't get me wrong: I don't think the truth of Christianity, or the heart of Christianity, or the spirit of Jesus - or the Holy Spirit - ever made me a worse person. But Christian culture did. Expectations I placed on myself, and expectations of others within my religious context, did. Christian pop and James Dobson and the 700 Club and all sorts of Christianized voices surrounding me, did. And I let them. I accepted what I was told about Jesus - about God - about the Bible - about myself - as absolute truth.

And anything "other" made me angry. Because I was told to be angry. Many of us have been literally told to tap into the darkest parts of ourselves and exploit those baser instincts on behalf of a "gospel" that looks more like war.

I still don't think I was ever a genuinely cruel or wicked person. But I was not better for Christianity all of the time.

Today?

I honestly can't tell you if I'm a better human being because of Christianity. I love Jesus - and I think love itself is redemptive. I love people, but I'm not sure that would be any different without God. Maybe only others can judge what the fruits of my life really are, and really have been.

And asking for that kind of feedback scares the hell out of me. Not just hearing the negative, but also hearing the positive. So I'm not asking for it. But I WOULD like to know how YOU feel: do you see your life as radically changed by Christ? Not just your beliefs, but your very day-to-day living.

I know there are lots of folks who will say "yes." And I'll believe you if you tell me that. But I'd challenge us all to really think about Christianity in comparison/contrast to our own internal moral code(s). You might be a pretty nice person without Jesus. Or you might not.

I realize none of this deals with the issue of "salvation," which is paramount to many Christians. And I'm not saying that question isn't important. But let's try to think of salvation as a process, rather than a point in time. Let's also look at salvation as corporate, communal, and having a direct impact in the salvation of the world and all of Creation itself, rather than just your own ethereal soul (I know, you might not like that, but indulge me...)

Love Without the "BUT"...

In yesterday's post I wrote:

Most kind people would be kind as atheists, Buddhists, or Christians. They'd be kind no matter what. So what is Jesus actually doing? What CAN Jesus actually do? Can we start from scratch? Can we deconstruct and rebuild a new kind of Christianity that FIRST and FOREMOST seeks to build a new kind of human? I want to be a new kind of human. A better kind of human. In Christ, yes, but in the world for God's sake...


What would the fruits of this look like?

Romans 5:8 reads, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Christ died for his enemies. Will we die for our enemies?

Romans 13:8 reads, "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law." Do we love everyone? Do we cancel their debts to us?

Romans 13:10, "Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." Love fulfills the law BECAUSE ("therefore") it does not harm its neighbor. Are we living and interpreting the law as a mandate for kindness to others?

Of course we've heard 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 plenty, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." Do we understand that when we subvert these fruits of love, we are in fact not loving (proud, rude, and easily-angered are common complaints about Christians)?

Here's the big problem with Christian culture and foxhole theologizing: we insert 'BUT' into every place LOVE is identified. It's like an obsessive-compulsive habit. We can't speak about love without saying, "but that doesn't mean..." such-and-such is ok. Or that I support this-or-that. Or that God is ok with... or that I'm supporting...


  • I LOVE YOU BUT YOU'RE WRONG.
  • I LOVE YOU BUT YOU'RE A SINNER.
  • I LOVE YOU BUT YOU NEED TO SEE THINGS THIS WAY...
  • I LOVE YOU BUT I CAN'T CONDONE THIS.
  • I LOVE YOU BUT I'M NOT WILLING TO BE UNCOMFORTABLE FOR YOU.
  • I LOVE YOU BUT THIS IS THE WAY I WAS RAISED.
  • I LOVE YOU BUT YOU'RE QUEER.
  • I LOVE YOU BUT I WON'T IGNORE THIS...
  • I LOVE YOU BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN I LIKE YOU.
  • I LOVE YOU BUT I WON'T ADJUST MY CULTURAL LENS.
  • I LOVE YOU BUT I WON'T CHANGE.
  • I LOVE YOU BUT I WON'T COMPROMISE.
  • I LOVE YOU BUT I'M RIGHT.
  • I LOVE YOU BUT I don't know what love means. And I don't know how to live it. And I don't know the first thing about sacrifice. And to be honest, it all scares the hell out of me because I've never heard ideas like yours. So maybe this is a first step...

If we can't say "I love you" without adding "but," then we probably shouldn't be saying "I love you" in the first place. And that first place is the starting place.

Oh yeah, and there's one final thing: "Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Mark 10:21. Damn...

Common Courtesy & Better Humans...

I spent the weekend out of town for a funeral, and Jen and I found ourselves in and out of restaurants, cafes and assorted Starbucks, for much of the time. Maybe consumption is a distraction from grief, which is a problem in itself, but I'm not going there today.

What each of us was acutely aware of throughout the weekend was the general nastiness of the people we came in contact with. Sometimes it was customers we stood in line with. Sometimes it was employees or restaurant staff.

I'm a pretty friendly guy. I smile a lot. Even when things suck. And I work in service, so it's perpetually shocking to me when folks are so awful to other human beings. Especially when we need kindness the most.

I watched a young woman throw a tantrum at Starbucks because the barista didn't properly mix the caramel into her iced caramel white mocha: "did you stir the caramel into the drink while it was still hot, like I asked you to?"

"Yes, I did."

"Well you need to do it again."

Really? For $3.00, what exactly are you expecting? It's even worse when people at McDonalds complain about the quality of their food. Really? You want them to remake your $0.99 burger? What exactly do you think your $0.99 is paying for?

We're a nation of whiners, addicted to convenience and self-satisfaction.

I know I'm guilty, too. But I rarely complain about the quality of a product, or even about food. I just want to be treated like a human.

What if Christianity was a religion that produced better human beings? As much as I'd like to support my own religion, I must say: it's not. It's not a religion producing better human beings. Not with any regularity or consistency. To be sure, there are good human beings who are Christian. My life has been blessed again and again by wonderful, lovely Christ-followers. But I've met just a handful of folks who could demonstrate that they are truly better humans (not stricter, purer, cleaner, or more religious, but more human) because of their encounter with Jesus Christ.

Most kind people would be kind as atheists, Buddhists, or Christians. They'd be kind no matter what.

So what is Jesus actually doing? What CAN Jesus actually do?

Can we start from scratch? Can we deconstruct and rebuild a new kind of Christianity that FIRST and FOREMOST seeks to build a new kind of human?

Or am I missing the point, and way too annoyed at the waitress who made Jen and I feel like second-class sh*t because we pass for 20-year-olds?

I want to be a new kind of human. A better kind of human. In Christ, yes, but in the world for God's sake...

Scripture Ends In A Marriage...

Tomorrow my wife will speak at a funeral. She's reading this poem from Brian McLaren's The Last Word, and the Word After That:

Scripture ends in a marriage.
This is the end to which all
Things tend, the end which makes all
Things new...
All that mars love ignites, makes ash.
But faith, hope, love survive. Love
Is the Last, best word, the end
Into which all will bend, and
Then begin again. The next
Word and the new will be love
As well: for love never ends...



The hope-filled truth is that death is bookended, unavoidably, by life. Life gives way to death gives way to life.

Scripture ends in a marriage. Life ends in truth. Goodness ends in goodness.

Gay Scientists Found The Christian Gene!

Ok, I apologize for posting two videos, back-to-back. I'm a lazy blogger!

But my friend Al sent this to me and it's GREAT! Thanks Al!


SEBASTIAN'S VOODOO... Beauty in Sacrifice...

Great video here, with some very evocative imagery. Now, I'm not comfortable making direct parallels to Christianity with the vid (I don't think human beings are captive "voodoo dolls" being pricked by an anthropromorphized devil - and I'm not suggesting the filmmaker is saying that) but the Gospel is certainly a story of self-sacrifice for others.

I think you'll enjoy.

The Midgets of War...

I found this Stafford poem at the library today:

The Midgets of War
The midgets of war have loud hollow guns
That make a tremendous roar,
But the giants of growth aim trees at the sun
And build homes for the midgets of war.
~ William Stafford, 1945


Gripped me. "Loud hollow guns."

What sorts of tremendous roars have I filled the air with? The blogosphere? Your ears?

We are a violent animal, even in attempts to do good, hubris and ego roar behind good deeds.

Pancreas made a list...

A few days ago, Pancreas commented on a prior post:

Tomorrow night I'm going to be teaching about non-negotiables, looking at Paul's understanding of Christian freedom, the NT understanding of the Law, and examples of cultural engagement biblically...

The question in my mind is this:
Given what I see in scripture with respect to how Christians should engage the surrounding culture are there some non-negotiables? Are there things that no Christian should do and things that every Christian should do?

So far, here's a working list:

Should nots
1. illegal drugs
2. drunkenness
3. pornography/objectification
4. sex outside of marriage
5. gossip/slander

Shoulds
1. generosity
2. peace/justice issues
3. disciple-making/evangelism

Obviously, both lists elicit a number of other questions... So here's my follow-up thought... What would you take off each list? What would you add? As Christians engage the surrounding culture, what are the non-negotiables that should and shouldn't mark our interactions?
***
My response to Pancreas' list was positive. Although I think creating lists (like this, no matter how noble) immediately freezes concepts into a form of rigidity that becomes potentially harmful down the road when good intentions become stale legalities.

Nonetheless, I have some questions


  • Pornography vs. art?
  • Marriage as defined by the church, or by the state?
  • Do drugs stop being sin when they are legalized?
  • Define "evangelism"
  • Define "drunk" ;)


I'm comfortable with evangelism because I don't view evangelism as something demanding a pre-packaged "salvation plan," but rather loving, outwardly focused living in the real world, that sometimes names God, and sometimes names goodness and truth (which conveniently overlap).
I'm comfortable with disciple-making because it tends to presuppose a relationship - hopefully one based on mutual respect.I'll have to get back to you on additional "shoulds." I'm trying to sidestep some of the culture war fodder that could be here (i.e. gay marriage, whose justice, etc...)

How about YOU? What would you do with this list?

Add to it? Subtract from it? Edit? Throw it away?

Thanks again for sharing Pancreas. Let us know how your study group went!

Eternal Security...

My wife lost a close loved-one over the weekend. With death, I’m always brought back to questions about “destination” and “salvation.” But the strange thing is, it’s NOT because my mind naturally gravitates there during times of loss. In fact, it seems very counterintuitive to question and wonder about a soul’s destination as they pass from this life into the next, because the truth about God’s love and redemption seems so clear when dear, sweet spirits leave us.

The day after, an acquaintance approached Jen in Safeway: “I’m so sorry for your loss. Was she saved?”

Was she saved?

The question dumfounded Jen, because it seemed such a deeply inappropriate query during a time of loss and mourning. Really? I’ve just lost someone incredibly close to me, I am grieving at the loss, and you want to know – effectively – if I think she’s in hell or in heaven?

Is that the right question to be asking? At death, is that even the right priority for us?

Over the last few weeks, a local pastor kept showing up with pamphlets and brochures about “eternal security.” The underlying message was: insure yourself against the fires of hell.

All of this hell talk seems tragically awkward and unnatural to discuss in the midst of pain and suffering on earth. In fact, I cannot reconcile the idea of a loving God looking down on a suffering body and allowing “eternal punishment” to be their final outcome. I can handle the idea of pain and suffering in the world. It’s awful, but I don’t blame God. That question, central to so many atheists and agnostics, doesn’t carry weight with me. But for God to subsequently damn a soul for suffering beyond the corporeal, finite life… well, if Jesus came as a “way,” then I can’t fathom Jesus being a barrier. Stumbling block? Sure. Christ is the ultimate confusion to the self-satisfied and self-convinced, the comfortable and the powerful. But Christ did not come to condemn, but to save.

Just some meandering thoughts on the precipice of mourning. I don’t think I’m trying to explain God into a paradigm that settles well with me, emotionally, so much as I’m confronted most powerfully – at times like these – by the belief I have that God is good and gracious and full of love. Even as I write this post, I hear dozens of arguments against these attitudes, “orthodox” apologetics justifying God’s judgment, the concept of exclusive salvation, and even justifying wrath and condemnation. But those apologetics don’t ring true. They sound like man-made constructs trying to solidify – crystallize – the ineffable.

There may be a hell. God may well allow souls to go there. But I believe - not just because I want to, but because I cannot help it – I believe God will save all that can be saved. All that is good.

Would you be willing to change your mind?

In a recent post I asked if anyone would be willing to risk their own salvation for the sake of others - the way Paul seemed to be when he wrote the letter to Romans.

I want to continue along that line - concerning Christians' willingness (or more commonly, unwillingness) to give something up; to be changed. We talk a lot about interfaith dialogue and ecumenism, but how many "participants" in such dialogue really enter in with openness to change their minds?

There's a group at Oregon State University (my backyard) called the "Socratic Club." They provide a venue for Christian debate. They get Marcus Borg (OSU emeritus prof) to show up and provide liberal counterpoint whenever they can. Time and again, the auditorium fills up with angry constituents of local evangelical churches. They bite their tongues until the post-debate Q&A, and then lob sneering arguments-posed-as-questions at Dr. Borg, revealing their whole reason for attending in the first place.

I don't agree with everything Borg writes. I don't think I agree with everything anyone writes (including myself). But it makes me think about the classic missionary-mindset: if our predetermined purpose is always to convert others, then how are we to ever grow? How do we change, evolve, and stretch - spiritually - if we never consider other vantages? Other beliefs, paradigms and worldviews?

What if you heard a Buddhist treatise that was so captivating, so convincingly lucid - so undeniably true - that you were moved to steer away from Christianity and toward Buddhism? Yikes!

What if you were confronted with something in Islam that was so beautiful that you become completely enamored with the Muslim faith? Gracious!

If the "danger" of this prospect keeps us from interacting honestly (authentically, with vulnerability and openness) with people of other faiths, then we aren't really be honest with ourselves. Our faith isn't really founded on "faith."

And how in the world can we expect to approach those of other religions with evangelistic intentions, and look ourselves in the mirror?

How can we ask the stranger on the street to consider our gospel, if we won't consider his?

How can we try to introduce our neighbors of other faiths to Jesus, if we refuse introduction to Allah? Or Krishna? Or Elvis or the Buddha? This is the sort of posture that Buddhist Christ-follower Thich Nhat Hanh has chosen to follow.

My personal beliefs aren't quite as radical as all this sounds - that's not the point. I love Jesus Christ with all my heart, but I am still just beginning to understand what that means. The tighter I cling to who I think Jesus is, the more I find spilling out between my fingers. When I hold Jesus with open arms, inviting those around me to share in fellowship, grace, and transformation, I find that my heart grows, rather than contracts. My spirit dances.

Yes. It's scary. It's f***ing terrifying to consider the possibility of a different truth. Other. But we've got plenty of Christians who are fighting to hold established, normalized, homogenized, pasteurized, sterilized, suburbanized, modernized, anglicized, censored for television, family-friendly, "home turf." I find that completely uninteresting. There are real people in the fringes, between faith and doubt, certainty and ambiguity, orthodox and heretical, and those people are a lot of fun to know...

"Grab Yer Gun!"

I've been hearing a lot of gun-talk lately. Mostly, from older men I really, genuinely like. So it's hard to reconcile, and I keep biting my tongue as they say:

"Obama's takin' are guns away!"

"Our dear president is throwing away my freedom!"

I've heard that phrase several times actually: "our dear president." Is there a right wing pundit out there who uses that term for Obama?

Anyway, I shouldn't be surprised. Oregon has always offered a curious cultural dualism: liberals and conservatives, progressive-elite and salt-of-the-earth farmers. To be honest, I can't say I like the cold, clammy liberals with their high ideals, more than the warm, friendly conservatives with their black-and-white worldview and their hellfire religion. I'd kind of like to have it both ways - liberal views and conservative hospitality.

I know: these are GROSS generalizations.

And I digress... gun-talk.

Everybody's scared that Obama's going to take their guns away. Because he agreed that certain limitations were reasonable in certain situations: like gun-plagued-inner-city-Washington D.C.

And here's my conclusion, it might not be popular: if as many white kids were dying of gunshot wounds in America as black kids are, something would be done. But there is a pricetag placed on human life. And we care more about our "God-given-right" to own weapons than we do about creating a society in which laws protect vulnerable youth and minorities in cities and slums we can't fathom from our 10 acres of Central Oregon wilderness (not mine, I rent).

The statistics don't lie: America has the worst violent crimes record among its 1st world peers.

In my last post, I asked who would be willing to give up their own salvation (their "eternal security," their sense of eschatological certainty and spiritual comfort) for the sake of loving people on the fringes and connecting with the real world.

In this post I ask who might be willing to give up their right to bear arms, if it meant saving the lives of children, adolescents, women, elderly - anyone vulnerable to violence? If asking that question leads you to think of quick retorts - apologetics for why guns keep people safer... well, then I guess that's the answer. "Not willing."

Are you angry that "they took your guns?"

I want to try to model a gentler way of approaching the world. I believe in freedom, but not at the expense freedom.

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