Archives For Culture Change

faith-politics

“Love is the only aspiration big enough for the immensity of human community and challenge in the 21st Century.” ~ Krista Tippett

When I look at the way we do politics in the U.S., and in particular the way my fellow Christians and I engage with it, I can’t help but wonder what Jesus thinks about it all. I wonder how each of our words and actions in the political arena affect him. If he were given the stage at one of our televised debates, I wonder what he would say to his followers about this current election, about the candidates, and about the way we’re all handling it.

That is, if he’d say anything at all. I mean, Jesus’ life in the flesh happened under the tyranny of Roman rule. Israel was an occupied nation, and it would be ludicrous to think that Jesus didn’t witness blatant acts of injustice against his countrymen on a regular basis. He most certainly experienced oppression himself. It was the Roman overlords, after all, who ultimately killed him.

Despite all this, in the years of his public life, Jesus seemed to go out of his way to avoid talking about his Roman oppressors. His message was stubbornly non-political. In some ways, this must have seemed ridiculous to a lot of people living back then, or at the very least naïve. How could you speak out in favor of the Kingdom of God, and not speak out against the Kingdom of Rome? Yet when people spoke of their disdain for Roman oppression, Jesus spoke of loving your enemies (Matthew 5:38-48). When the religious leaders of the day tried to make Jesus take sides in the political debate, he rebuked them and refused to be pinned down (Matthew 22:15-22).

Maybe he thought getting into politics would only cloud and confuse his primary mission. Or maybe he saw that the message of hope he had come to share was for the Romans too.

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guy-overlookingglory

“Beauty is not a luxury.” ~ John O’Donohue, Beauty

There’s just so much beauty. It’s everywhere. There’s so much, it hurts. If you look at it for too long, your heart will break. It will break wide open like the husk on a grain of wheat, and you’ll be utterly undone.

Maybe that’s what we’re all here to do. Train our eyes to see the beauty, then let it break our hearts. Maybe that’s the way the whole world gets healed.

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guy-churchpraying

In the outstanding PBS documentary series “God in America,” researchers provide compelling evidence to suggest that the United States was founded in large part on the concept of a national “contract with God.” That is, the underlying belief that we as a nation were called out by God to form a “more perfect union,” a union founded on certain commitments we would make to God, and as long as we held to those agreements, God’s blessing and favor would always remain on us.

The researchers go on to suggest that our national belief in that contract remains strong even today, in spite of the country’s ever-increasing secularization. It’s a fascinating exploration of our national story, one that I encourage every American to watch (regardless of your belief system). I especially recommend it to Christian faith leaders, as I think it provides great insight into the national narrative of the United States (i.e. who we tell ourselves we are), and how that works both for and against the work of God’s Spirit among us.

But nations aren’t the only ones to believe they have a contract with God. Most individuals I know do as well. It’s subtle, and we don’t often look at it directly, but for almost all of us, the contract is there, buried deep in our psyche. And once we really see it, it quickly becomes clear that it runs almost everything we do.

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churchiniceland

“Being well-taught is not the same thing as being transformed.” ~ Ruth Haley Barton

When the world looks at the Church, and maybe particularly at the leaders of the Church, you know what they’re asking themselves?

Certainly they’re asking about what we believe or who is Jesus and all that. But what they’re really asking underneath it all is this:

Do I want to be like you? Do I want the life you have?

And frankly for most of the Church there isn’t much about who they are or the life they have that’s very appealing to people.

That’s the elephant in the room for Christianity today.

LuvYo

“Those who are at war with others are not at peace with themselves.” ~ William Hazlitt

As I mentioned in my previous post, too often our efforts at self-discipline are motivated by feelings of self-hatred and self-rejection, rather than love or self-compassion. Any discipline fueled by shame, I said, cannot produce freedom. It leads only to a soul divided, at war with itself, continually bound in a struggle that can never be won.

To continue that thought…This internal war with self is what inevitably leads to war with others as well.

Here’s how that happens:

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gaysandxtians

When I was in high school, one of my good friends came out to me as gay. And because I was a Christian, I broke off all relationship with him. I did this because I believed this is what I was supposed to do. At least, that’s what I told myself then.

But the deeper truth is, I did it because I was afraid. I was afraid he wanted to have sex with me, and if he did, I didn’t know how to handle that. I was afraid his influence might corrupt me or draw me away from my faith. I was afraid of what my Christian friends would think of me if I kept hanging out with him. Despite how coldly and abruptly I broke off our friendship, he was never harsh with me, and never judged me for my decision. His last words to me? “Anytime you need anything, call me.”

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3rdworld

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” ~ Mother Teresa

The old morality tales don’t work anymore. The world has got too big for them. And we, perhaps, have grown too small.

It used to be loving your neighbor was a relatively simple matter of noticing the need of the old widow two doors down, and doing what you might to meet it. Or seeing the mother overburdened by her children since her husband got taken by the war, and making the choice to take her in as a part of the family without really giving her any say in the matter.

To be a good neighbor is still all that (thank God), but it’s not just that anymore, because your neighbors are no longer just the people living on your street. Now, thanks to technology and social media, the whole world lives at your doorstep, which is to say billions of souls ~ the vast majority of them far poorer than you are (if you live in the West), many with no water, or toilets, or education, or meaningful opportunities to explore their potential as image bearers of God. It’s so overwhelming to try to take it all in that we invented a term to describe it:

Compassion Fatigue.

And yet, the world is here now, daily knocking on my television screen, buzzing on my phone every hour, and I cannot pretend any longer that the way I chose to live my comfortable life has no effect on how those souls on the other side of the world have to live theirs. Suddenly, I find compassion dangerous, because I know if I really let it take hold of me, it might completely unravel the life I have so carefully crafted for myself.

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