jesus, politics, justice, mission & life

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“But God is still on the Throne!”

“God is still on the Throne!”

“Jesus is still Lord!”

“God is in control.”

All statements I’m having trouble with the day after election. Not because they aren’t true – they are – but because of why they are being said and who is saying them.

As Donald Trump neared the presidency last night, Christians began using these exclamations. In my estimation, some uttered these phrases in efforts to help comfort those who voted for a losing candidate or perhaps repeat it to themselves after electing our most unfavorable President.

But saying a phrase like “Jesus is still Lord” is easy when you don’t have to bear the burden of the evening’s results. It’s easy when the racism and sexism only affects another. Yet, we have embraced those prejudices, normalized them and voted for them! It is a privilege to have no fear, no despair and no anxiety about the upcoming four years.

“God is in control” removes the right to feel pain. Minorities, LGBTQ, immigrants, Muslims, women and all of us deserve to feel the pain of this moment. Those phrases remove the right to mourn, to lament and to be somber.

We grieve that the white American Church chose fear over love. They chose power over the Holy Spirit. They chose self-preservation over the other, the beggar, the stranger and the hungry.

I believe that “Jesus is still Lord” but He is mourning.

 

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exploring privilege

Chicago and Oklahoma are very different places. Not just in the pace of life or the weather. But in more real ways like wealth disparity, racial tensions, gang violence and major failings in public education.

My experience on these issues has been extremely one-dimensional. I have an awesome family that gave me every shot at success. I’ve grown up in predominantly wealthy communities and went to affluent churches. I went to schools and universities that lacked diversity. I grew up in a well-to-do family and never felt out of place or unsafe. I have a nice sales job that I’ve always wanted. I’m largely thankful for all of it.

However, over the past months I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the privilege in my life. Whether it me that I am male, white, American, Christian, straight, wealthy, etc. There are numerous ways that I have been given advantages in the world and have had opportunities others work a lifetime to be able to hand to their children.

Over these months, I have made it a value to expose myself to different voices with beliefs, income and skin colors that differ from my own. I’ve enjoyed reading, following and listening to leading voices in the Black Lives Matter movement, those struggling at the border, the abandoned women and children, the hungry and broken panhandlers and the countless protesters fighting to be heard and recognized around the country and the world.

It’s not about agreeing or disagreeing; nor is it about right or wrong. It’s about understanding and acknowledging the different realities those around us live in. Being exposed to these stories and experiences opens my eyes to the different realities we live in. It allows us to better understand the struggles and oppression people are fighting against. It allows us to fight against the racial discrimination and economic injustice that pervades Chicago and the world. I’m convinced if we don’t look outside our own narrative, we will always be stuck in our own experiences and not be able to emphasize with others. Being stuck in our own story keeps us turning a blind eye to the injustices we see around us rather than stand in the gap and fight oppression.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to explore how my privilege has affected my views and beliefs. I have a feeling it has affected more than I know. It has likely touched every area of my life.

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Bruxy Cavey from the Meeting House

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NPB

I enjoyed President Obama’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. The backlash from many Christians (some that I greatly admire) is hard to understand. I don’t understand how believers could defend – or would want to defend – the Crusades or the Inquisition. You just can’t. They are two terrible atrocities carried out by Christians.

Reading the entire transcript of President Obama’s speech, I found his speech to be a good one. He spoke about humility, injustice and peace. He went in to how troubling it is when religious groups commit acts of violence in the name of God. It’s hard to see people take a paragraph out of context and run with it. His comparison of what ISIS is doing in the Middle East to the Crusades rattled some Christians, but it doesn’t make it less true. Acting in offense, as many have done (even going so far as to downplay past atrocities in essence saying “Yeah, but what they are doing isn’t as bad as what we did”) is a dangerous game.

Obama didn’t say Islam has no problems and he has condemned the actions of radicals many times. Some have used the excuse that the Crusades happened 800 years ago so it isn’t applicable. My answer to that is that Jesus died 2000 years ago and that is very much applicable. When Obama mentioned Christian’s high involvement in the Jim Crow laws, it’s simply not enough to say how there were some Christians who did the right thing. We can find heroes in all faiths who have done the right thing when it is hard to do or unbelievers who have fought for civil rights, human rights and other freedoms.

Greg Boyd points out that our violence may be worse:

“In fact, for followers of Jesus, the violence perpetrated by “Christians” throughout history ought to be considered far worse than the violence perpetrated by ISIS or any other religious group throughout history, precisely because this violence was done in the name of Jesus. Whereas other forms of religious violence harm people, Christian violence also brought – and still brings – tremendous harm to the kingdom of God. While the church is supposed to attract people to Christ by the beauty of our Jesus-imitating self-sacrificial love, violence in Jesus’ name drives people away and justifies their hatred and unbelief.”

Finally, I think the primary reason I feel differently then many Christians on this speech is that my expectation of the President is different. I love our President and am often proud of him but I do not look to him as my King. He is a leader in the kingdom of this world, the kingdom of America, the kingdom of Caesar. I can’t expect him (or any leader in the government – Republican or Democrat) to pursue the ways of Kingdom of God because they are pursuing the Kingdom of America. Jesus is the King whom we are to follow and his Kingdom looks vastly different than the kingdom that President Obama (or Bush, Clinton, Reagan, etc) has worked for.

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MLK Day

Though Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of racial quality has by no means come to full fruition, it is a widely accepted idea across the world. However, his value of human life and his call for nonviolence in the name of Jesus is often forgotten. With that said, I’ve listed some quotes from MLK that I believe align with Jesus’ gospel of peace.

“I’m committed to nonviolence absolutely. I’m just not going to kill anybody, whether it’s in Vietnam or here.” Jesus choosing calvary love and hanging on a cross rather than call upon Heaven to fight an earthly battle.

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.” Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15

“Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” Those who live by the sword die by the sword, Matthew 26.

“Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and enables the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.” In the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter strikes the servant of the high priest with his sword, Jesus rebukes Peter and  touches the man’s ear to heals him.

“At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.” Jesus as the Prince of Peace.

“It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.” “Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.’”

 

 

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Ferguson Decision

I sat down to write my thoughts on last night’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson. And honestly, I don’t know where to start. There are just too many things to say and ultimately, I do not feel qualified to speak for two primary reasons.

1. I’m white. Because of that, I do not have the understanding or the experience of a person of color in America. Their are things I do not understand about how they feel and what they are going through. To pretend otherwise would be naive. I don’t know what it feels like to not have my voice heard, to feel ignored and to lose a member of my own community that will see no A warning to my white friends who are overly vocal on this issue – Speaking on this issue from a place of authority is irresponsible and damaging. No matter what your perception is, a white person cannot have a full understanding of what last night’s decision meant.

2. I wasn’t in Ferguson. Because I wasn’t there, I have no idea of the tension, the hurt and the anxiety that was felt last night. I was not around the mothers and fathers, the son and daughters or the Ferguson community last night. I don’t know the inner-workings of that community and the cultures that exist in the town. I don’t know what it is like to live in a small town where the National Guard has been called in to. To a larger point, I have never been a part of a community or area where black people have a distrust of police (this last point is not for debate. You can disagree if they should live in fear of police but that fear certainly does exist).

3. I don’t know the actual events that transpired between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson. No one does. This fact alone should disarm people who claim Wilson’s guilt or innocence without a second thought. None of us know for sure what happened so it is hard to have a full story. I am confident in some truths though:

  • Michael Brown did not deserve to die.
  • This case deserved a trial. Taking off political and racial blinders, this should be obvious. Remember, this is not to say that Darren Wilson is guilty but when a human is killed, they should have a trial.
  • The actual events between Brown and Wilson matter, especially to the family and to Ferguson. But blowing this out to a larger context, similar events are taking place all over the country and last night’s decision did nothing to stop it.

As I continue to read and think about last night’s decision, I will add my thoughts.

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“I do discuss it, just not the way people want me to”

Carl Lentz is super trendy these days with his Hillsong Congregation in NYC. With the celebrity sightings at his church and the hip factor, I have not known what to make of the church. But with all of Hillsong’s recent media coverage on the topic of homosexuality, they have been hard to ignore. First, influential leader and Hillsong Church’s pastor Brian Houston opened the doors by not refusing to take a stance on the subject. Then Carl Lentz took it a step further and welcomed gays into his church.

Below is the comment from Lentz that is getting a lot of buzz:

“Jesus was in the thick of an era where homosexuality, just like it is today, was widely prevalent.  And I’m still waiting for someone to show me the quote where Jesus addressed it on the record in front of people.  You won’t find it because he never did,” he said.

That’s true and points to the Christian culture’s obsession with making their voice heard on the issue. And though I like that quote, I love this one:

“I do discuss [homosexuality], just not the way people want me to,” he says.

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The media often baits pastors or church leaders in to taking a side and regardless of their stance, they are likely to get blasted from those holding an opposing view. Almost weekly, a new pastor or congregational leader feels the need to tell everyone they can about how they feel on the subject. However, it is not a topic that should be debated on the airwaves of cable news or through religion magazines. It’s an internal subject. When Christians fight in the public arena, they often lose attractiveness to those they are fighting about.

The other thing Lentz and Houston refuse to fall in to is this yes or no, right or wrong, black or white narrative. Houston says it this way, “the real issues in people’s lives are too important for us just to reduce it down to a yes or no answer in a media outlet. So we’re on the journey with it.” Critics will be quick to call this a cowardly comment. They will talk about the church going soft and how this is just part of the decline of Christianity in the US. But I think it’s a strong and powerful statement. Houston is saying his Church’s doors are open for people to work their issues out. His church is a place where everyone has a story and that story often cannot be simplified to a “right or wrong” comment by a pastor.

To be clear, there are sins. I don’t believe the Church should accept sin as the norm. But more than that, I believe that Jesus went after those that the pharisees and sadducees discounted because of their sin. Today is no different.

Lentz, Houston and Hillsong have already received push back from other religious leaders and that is not likely to stop. But I hope they don’t back off from their stance. The church they lead is more likely to foster discussions of sexuality and be inclusive of all people no matter their sins.

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when fear turns in to anger

http://newsok.com/man-beheads-coworker-in-moore-fbi-called-in-for-assistance-in-investigation/article/5345835

There was a beheading in Oklahoma today. My initial reaction is just shock. It is crazy that crime and hatred like this can happen so close to home. Inevitably, people I know will be affected by this and it’s impact will reach far beyond the food processing plant the event occurred at.

In the proceeding hours since the horrific event, responses on social media have been quick to jump to (often incorrect) conclusions and over the top statements. Over the next 48 hours, this event will turn in to a political one where one side will use this event to back up their worldview (Muslims are dangerous, the Quran teaches to kill Christians, etc) and the other side will work to spin the story a different way (this event is completely unrelated, etc). But both narratives are incomplete and lacking.

Above all,  our first response should be to mourn with those who mourn. I hope the community around the Hufford family can show God’s comfort and peace to them. However, the problem with the politicizing and attacking responses mentioned above is that it comes from fear. When an event this evil happens, facts are often ignored, faith is rattled and people cling to make sense of the event. Statements like “All Muslims are dangerous!” “They want to kill Christians” and calls to load up on ammo and to fight back stem from hatred towards others. But I think if we trace that feeling of hatred back, what we find is anger, and even deeper – fear.

The second reaction is off because it is a reaction to that fear, anger or hatred.

Fear is like a seed. When you allow fear to be deposited in your heart, it spreads it’s wings and becomes anger, hatred and arrogance. It does this to protect itself.

1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

In a situation that has similarities to today’s event, in John 13, Jesus is in this situation where he is telling his disciples, his closest friends, that their Savior and the person they gave up their life for is about to be killed. When you think about everything that means to them, they had to be freaking out. The thing they had given their lives up to follow was about to be crucified. This wasn’t part of the plan! He was supposed to save them and become a ruler! I’m sure they were concerned about their friend Jesus, but at some level, they had to be thinking “I gave up my live for this guy. I’ve made a fool of myself. If he dies, I could be right behind him.”

Later in John 13, Jesus predicts Peter’s denial of Him. In Mark 14, after Jesus is arrested, Peter angrily calls down curses on himself and goes on to deny his Lord three times. Peter’s fear leads to anger.

But then Jesus does something awesome. He says “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1). He tells them to find peace. He does this because he knows that if fear sifts in to his disciples, it opens the door for anger and hatred. He goes on in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

Like most of my posts, this leads to the question of what is our response? If we let fear control our response, we will react with hatred towards those we don’t understand and direct our anger in the wrong place. If we let peace control our response, knowing that we are part of the Kingdom of God, we respond in love and a righteous anger when injustice occurs.

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Convention on the Rights of the Child

As children are the face of this ongoing debate revolving around immigration, I noticed a tweet by David P. Gushee, whom I have really enjoyed following:

“Did you know that US, Somalia, S. Sudan are only nations not to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child?” (the embedding was not working)

It really peaked my interest in to what the Convention of the Rights of the Child entailed. It is a convention of the United Nations outlining the rights of a child throughout the world. You can find the treaty here.

T. Jeremy Gunn also has a very in-depth look at the article and examining it’s history in the US. It was created in 1989. Altogether, 194 countries have signed the treaty, with only three members of the UN not signing: Somalia, South Sudan and United States. If we aren’t signing it, you would think their would be something very troubling with the treaty but here is a general sense of what the Convention calls for (via Amnesty International, amnestyusa.org):

  • Freedom from violence, abuse, hazardous employment, exploitation, abduction or sale
  • Adequate nutrition
  • Free compulsory primary education
  • Adequate health care
  • Equal treatment regardless of gender, race, or cultural background
  • The right to express opinions and freedom of though in matters affecting them
  • Safe exposure/access to leisure, play, culture, and art.

It can often take years to ratify treaties. However, this was presented to the US in 1989 – the same year Seinfeld debuted. It’s been 25 years. Many conservative groups including the Christian Coalition, Family Research Council and Focus on the Family have led the charge in opposition against the Convention. They have been key in spreading misrepresentations about the treaty, largely based around the parents not being able to fully parent their kids and the UN having a say in parent’s decisions.

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Psalm 146:9

With children currently at the front of the immigration issue that has become so heated, I find myself confused why this is an issue at all. Especially to followers of Jesus. I realize that many U.S. citizens shutter at the idea of a social program that their taxes support going towards children from another country. It would also be silly to ignore the hints of racism involved – that maybe some are just against non-caucasians becoming Christians. I wish we had time to do this by the book and make sure we could get before a judge and document their arrival to make them official citizens. New immigration judges are being brought in to help the process but yet we still have swarms of Christians protesting bringing children into our country when turning them away could often mean rape or murder for many of these children. I have lost count of times I have heard or read “it’s not my problem,” on the internet. As believers of Jesus, it is our problem.

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I believe we have to take our blinders off and quit looking at children through the prism of nationality. Looking at the below verses, I just don’t know how we can ignore these children.

Psalm 146:9 says “The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.”

Or Matthew 10:42 says,”And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”

Or James 1:27 states, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Based on the above scriptures, I would say it is our duty to protect these kids rather than leave them stranded in dangerous, sometimes lethal, conditions. I think Jesus would absolutely say this is our problem.

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