jesus, politics, justice, mission & life

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Over the past week, my Facebook feed has been lighting up with primarily conservative bloggers whose bylines read something like “Christian conservative, mother, and wife. [Name deleted]’s purpose for writing is to inform, anger, and unite “We the People” or “is an independent journalist that spends much of her time researching and writing articles of patriotic and Christian interest.”

Aside from the fact that these writers completely invalidate their objectivity (I’m all for christian authors but when you tell everyone up front that you have a viewpoint and you are only looking at the story from one lens, the story will never be complete), it’s a gross blending of two concepts that shouldn’t be blended: christianity and patriotism. These two things are not equals, not related and when combined, often times equal the idolatry of nationalism. I’ve recently found myself frustrated with bloggers and writers who write about christianity from a lens of country first – like these two things live in perfect harmony. However, anyone who has dug through scripture should know they do not.

Rarely in these stories do I see any citing of facts – the news they promote is not found on any news outlet and the opinions spouted are rarely backed up by scripture. In fact, some of these stories are lined with ads for “Impeach Obama” or a new conservative SuperPAC. To them, if you have broken a religious or moral rule, not only are you not a Christian, but you are unpatriotic. We have to be mindful that Jesus has drawn a clear line between himself and the world. You can be a loyal follower of Jesus and be unpatriotic.

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In David Flower’s “How Worship of the American Flag Changed Everything,” he states, “Saying no to flag worship dethrones the American Jesus and it exposes our cultural Christianity.” 

Unfortunately for the writers whose bylines I cited above, and the many like them, their articles don’t amount to anything of lasting value. Their articles are not based in facts or objectivity. In fact, they aren’t even based on scripture or Jesus. Their articles have turned in to stories that are made to build and anger a base. Not only do I believe they are useless but I think they are dangerous.

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How we respond matters

A lot of things events have sparked my desire to return to blogging recently. I’ve realized that most of my comments are best left to a blog setting as engaging in facebook/twitter wars seems misguided and pointless. Though there has not been a single issue that brings me back to this page, the issue at hand is the Phil Robertson comments.

To get this out of the way, I believe friends of mine have covered the legal and first amendment side of this. Robertson’s first amendment rights have been protected. He hasn’t been charged with a crime nor thrown in jail. However, there are consequences to what you say. And as there is a group of people out there who were offended by his comments, A&E has the right to do whatever they want. Over the last week, I learned how few of my friends actually understand what the first amendment actually is.

Let me start by saying that it is close to impossible for me to feel bad for a wealthy, white, straight male for losing his reality show gig, no matter what the reason. Next, it is definitely impossible for me to believe that a Christian is being persecuted in America. Little frustrates me more than Christians claiming persecution in America. I’d like to see people drop the idea of Phil Robertson being persecuted and take up the mantle for those who are being persecuted for their beliefs across the world. To be harsh, if you are one of those getting hyped up and petitioning for this issue, you need to reallocate your time. Real persecution is happening across the world. It is happening in Africa or Southeastern Asia, not here in the United States. Quite the opposite actually, Phil Robertson has gotten his message out louder than ever. Not only does (did?) he have his own reality show, his interview was just published in GQ and retweeted and shared millions of times. I’d say persecution is nonexistent here and I would imagine both the Duck Dynasty team and A&E love the publicity from this mess.

However, the primary thing this situation has made me think about is how we, as believers, respond…particularly on social media.

We, as Christians, need to think about things before we respond. Social media often makes it seem like the first to the party is the best, however, it is the words that are well-thought and compassionate that are the most important. The way many conservative Christians reacted to this was embarrassing. They pounced on the opportunity to attack the sin without really thinking about the issue or reading how offensive some of his words were.

It does not matter if you didn’t find the comments offensive. What matters is that some did. It has become fashionable and cool to be offensive as a Christian. I know many believers, including myself at times, who believe something along the lines of “Jesus was offensive, so I should be too.” I would counter by saying that Jesus was always first and foremost loving. I would also ask how that train of thought works in your personal life. If you are married, do you really say, “I don’t care if it’s offensive, I’m going to say it because it’s true.” That doesn’t work. You wind up hurting your spouse and you get absolutely nowhere (I speak from personal experience). In your personal relationships, has being offensive ever moved the relationship into a better place? For most of us, that answer is on. If we aren’t doing that in our personal relationships, why would we ever do that to someone who is already hurt? Their is a place for bluntness. But we, as a Church, largely missed an opportunity for a conversation with people who were hurt by Robertson’s comments.

As a whole, Christians did not counter Robertson’s comments (whether in agreement or disagreement) with love and compassion. Too many of us responded in protest, frustration and fighting for a television star who doesn’t need us fighting for him. I don’t really care about the over-arching message. Like I said, the presentation matters. Especially over social media.

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thoughts while watching the election

As I watch the election coverage wrap up and most networks make it appear that President Obama will win, I have to remind myself that Jesus is King.

I’m not saying this out of anger or frustration that my guy lost.  On the contrary, I voted for the President.

I’m saying this because more than rejoicing that the politician I voted for won (unless something drastic happens), it’s important to live in the reality that we are citizens of Heaven.  It’s not just a nice thing to say or a fun, spiritual thing to quote, it’s true.  We are citizens of the Kingdom of God and God is King.  He is in control.  It is Jesus who we place our hope in, whom we trust and find our identity.  And he has charged the Church with being the most powerful force for good in the earthly world.  He hasn’t charged America to do this, he has issued this challenge to His Bride.

 

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Why Super PACs are destroying their own candidates

Four years ago, I remember watching commercials that ended with “I’m (insert candidate’s name here) and I approve this message.”

I haven’t heard that as much this time around and I don’t intend to.  I’m blaming this on the rise of SuperPACs.

In 2010, the rules changed.  Businesses and corporations could now give unlimited funds to a SuperPAC in efforts to support a candidate.  Rather than President Obama or former Governor Romney having to raise money, they can mostly rely on these SuperPACs to raise funds for ads on television, radio, the web, etc.

So far, I don’t have a problem.  It is weird that the majority of the leaders are former campaign aids of the candidate.  It is sketchy that almost half of the money donated to Super PACs comes from under 25 individuals.  Something does seem off when candidates have no control over the Super PAC that supports them (i.e. Romney’s rebuttal to Gingrich at a recent debate claiming he hasn’t seen all of the commercials from Restore Our Future Now campaign that supports him, implying he cannot control what they say).

There are some troubling facts above but the thing that is most distressing to me is this:  Most Super PACs actually function to tear down and destroy an opposing candidate rather than to build up their own candidate.  That’s not too big of a surprise in a hyper-aggresive political climate, but Super PACs, with the funding of billionaires and businesses, could take this atmosphere to new levels.

Though Super PACs are new, political action committees are not.  They were present and played a role in the 2008 and 2004 elections.  I believe they are the reason that so many of us have the mindset of “voting for the lesser of two evils” in an election.

We no longer hear the good side of any candidate.  We only hear the negative things.  We don’t hear about all the great things a candidate has accomplished anymore.  We only know the darkest and dirtiest things about them – and we hear them often.

I don’t have research or statistics to back this up, but it is my gut feeling that all of the negative ads we see – all of the lampooning made from Super PAC heads on the news, the ads and all of the false information and rumors they leak – actually turn us off to the whole thing.  All of that negative spin actually makes us dislike all the candidates.  And not because an ad said something terrible about them – but because we can feel (perhaps unconsciously) how gross and sinful the act of tearing each other down is, no matter what the cause.

Florida’s primary was the most negative campaign ever.  It’s likely to steep to lower places and the Super PACs will lead the way.

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Hoping not to make a similar mistake ten years later

Christians have been split on their thoughts towards Osama bin Laden’s death.  For the sake of simplicity, I’ll put them in the “love your enemies, do not repay evil with evil, our fight is not against flesh or blood” group and the “I will triumph over my enemies” group.  Anyone who reads my blog or knows me most likely knows where I stand on it.  But in case you are not one of the five people who regularly read my blog or know me, I’ll just say that I don’t think the angels were rejoicing over bin Laden’s death and there is no rejoicing over a child of God spending eternity away from the Father (I’m no arbiter, but that seems like the case).  If you want to get a better idea of my thoughts on bin Laden’s death, check out Drew Caldwell or Charles Kimball.

But the larger question on my mind is what happens next to believers in the United States?  Where do we go from here?  And what do we rally around?

The events of 9/11 were horrifying but the works and lies of the Enemy in the aftermath of the tragedy were equally devastating.  In any time of mourning or sadness, anger or bitterness, a longing for justice or vengeance, the thing we need is the love and the peace of Jesus.  But ten years ago, when we needed to choose Jesus, the Enemy snuck in and gave us patriotism and the pride that goes with being a citizen of the United States.  It seemed nice at the time.  Patriotism allowed all of us to come together as a unit, to comfort each other and feel connected to each other…things we all like and want.

Eventually though, we see U.S. flags next to crosses at the local church.  We start believing that part of being a good Christian is being a good American.  We begin to think that God favors the U.S. and would surely bless us over any Middle Eastern country.  Over the last ten years, we (the church) have incorporated a piece of patriotism into our identity as a christian.  I’m convinced that the outcome of this confused identity has bred not just a sense of exceptionalism in our country, but also a fear of Muslims both in our community and across the Earth in the Arab world.  It wouldn’t be out of line to say the church of America’s fear of Muslims has turned into racism.

All of this begs the question:  What does the church of the U.S. do now?  It would be easy to continue down the road we already began paving for ourselves.  We could gather around and celebrate an enemy’s death.  We could rejoice over the Kingdom of America being safer.  Or we could continue to live in ignorance and fear against some of the Arabs and Muslims around us.

But actually, all of those are bad ideas.

The thing we have to decide now is what Kingdom we belong to and what lens do we choose to see bin Laden’s death through?  If we opt for the lens of the Kingdom of America, we give the Enemy access to slip in and feed us false idols like patriotism.  But if we choose the lens of the Kingdom of God, then we get the Father’s eyes.

So let’s not make the same mistake we made ten years ago.  Instead of uniting against someone or uniting with a temporary Kingdom like we did after 9/11, let’s find our unity in Jesus this time.

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election reflection

After watching and observing the results of Tuesday’s elections, I’ve had some time to think about what all these new men and women in office could mean.

I tend to lean left on many issues.  The way I arrive at my values and thoughts sometimes differ from that of other democrats or liberal-minded people but I often arrive at the same conclusion.  So initially, I was a bit disappointed with the elections.  The GOP party will take over the House of Representatives and John Boehner will succeed Nancy Pelosi’s Speaker of the House position.  But after giving the elections more thought, maybe it’s a good thing.  A bitter, cold and unproductive culture has been created amongst the current politicians in Washington.  Most republicans feel as if democrats are passing laws that are leading the United States into a decline where socialism and welfare are accepted.  Most democrats believe the republican base doesn’t offer any suggestions and feel as if they have to pass everything themselves because the republicans have no new or innovative ideas.

Maybe getting some new blood (both republican and democrat) will be helpful.  I’m hoping the new members in both the House and the Senate will take it upon themselves to change the culture and hopefully provide motivation.  Surely, the GOP party will learn from the democrat’s mistakes of losing touch with the people they represent and work well together.  More than legislature, taxes or spending, I want to see a culture shift.  Rather than fear-mongering and hateful rhetoric, I’m hoping the incoming politicians will get humble fast and work together.

To continue, I think the American model of government has its strengths and flaws.  However, I do not think our federal government is at its best when one party dominates the three branches.  I’m not sure of the effect partisanship has on how the branches work together but I’m hopeful that the GOP taking the House is a good thing.  I’m even more hopeful that those who were awarded new jobs Tuesday will focus more on changing the culture around them than any bills or legislature.

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Time to get back on the horse…

…hopefully very soon.

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The Top 10 Albums for Summer 2010

In honor of Summer starting up, the following are the top albums I will be listening to over the next season.  Some are a few years old and a couple were just released; however they are all reminiscent of summer.  So whether it’s driving around with the windows down or swimming at the pool, I suspect the following albums will fit this Summer.

In no particular order:

1. Band of Horses – Infinite Arms
2. Ryan Adams – Rock N Roll
3. Broken Bells – Broken Bells
4. Jakob Dylan – Women & Country
5. The Roots – How I Got Over
6. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Remixes)
7. Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record
8. Counting Crows – Hard Candy
9. The OC: Mix 1
10. Paul Simon – Negotiations and Love Songs

Comments?  What will you be listening to?

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Luke

After being in house church with Luke for three years, I finally got my turn to live with him.

Living with Luke is interesting because he is a completely different person to live with than he is to be around once or twice a week.  In past years, I always saw him as shy, calm and soft spoken – of course he would occasionally snap a witty comment if it was too good to pass up, but even then, it was a rarity.  I remember being excited to live with him but nervous that it might be hard to break his quiet shell or that he may get offended easily with childish humor.  I thought he would sit in his room and study and live up to the academic genius most knew him as.

Courtesy of Kelli Fairbairn

After living with him for a month or so, my worries had shifted.  Instead of him being offended by my humor, he was encouraging it and pushing it to new levels.  His poor study habits and tendency to skip multiple classes a week rubbed off on me.  His subtle and sneaky ideas of pranks and jokes took our friendship to new levels.

We clicked in a lot of these areas.

We watched countless awful movies.  Not the kind that are laugh-out-loud bad, but the kind where it takes real perseverance to finish.  We even tried to start a blog about it – naturally, the blog failed.  We thought of endless gags to get under Robert’s skin and always wondered what Andrew Steinle was actually doing in his room.  We theorized as to why one neighbor had an ambulance at his house three times a week and another stayed out until three in the morning swinging away at his punching bag.  Together, we successfully prayed that Winter would last longer and that the cold weather would overpower the sun.  We shared ideas about politics and discussed how much Jesus actually cares about what is going on in the world.  We would often explode into laughter after someone said something that Luke and I took in a “different” way.  On his last night in town, we did a pub crawl of the worst bars in Norman.  And though Luke enjoys Blu and the Library, his humor is revealed by doing karaoke at Bill and Dee’s or ordering a drink at Ol’ Blue.

It’s without doubt that I wasted more of my life with Luke Chitwood than anyone else in the past year.

I saw Luke dive into community this year too.  He’d always been a vital part of our house church but this year he began to make relationships with people from different house churches too.  He was an excellent supporter of Jill and I.  And as the year went by and we developed more trust in each other’s friendship, we both began to open up about God, girls and whatever else life was throwing at us.  I saw his diligence in making time for God everyday.  Even when we visited New York City in February, he made a point to meet with some people from a church he was interested in.

New York City is a perfect fit for Luke.  It’s huge.  It’s a fast moving city.  It has cold winters.  It has unending culture.  It’s a good fit.  Teaching is a good role for him too.  He’s served the kids in our house church well and has worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters while he has been in Norman.

So Luke, when you remember Norman, I hope you’re greatest memories are of the Chiller station, the Blue Bonnet and tupperware.

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Let’s be Matthews and Simons

We are living in a pretty partisan time.  Over the past few months, we’ve seen left-wingers and right-wingers ripping each other’s heads off over health care reform, taxation and Afghanistan and it’s fair to expect the same controversy with the departure of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and the appointing of a new judge.

But as crazy and aggressive as the political environment is now, I don’t think it is as heated as it was when Jesus walked the Earth.  The first century world that Jesus lived in was crazed with politics.  Instead of Republicans v. Democrats, it was the Jews v. Romans.  The Jews were upset that the Romans seemed to have power over them and their was this constant tension and disagreement.  When Jesus roamed the Earth, he was asked (often in hopes of tricking Jesus) which “political” side was the right side.   Why else would Jews have asked Jesus if they should play by the rules of the Roman government?

On top of that, Jesus had guys following Him around who sat on both sides of the aisle – so to speak.  His disciple Simon was a zealot.  Zealots could be equated to modern day liberal.  They wanted to overthrow the Roman government and saw it as oppressive.  They despised tax collectors.  And who was the tax collector?  His fellow disciple…Matthew.  Tax collectors were the conservatives.  But it’s more than that…this is like a socialist and an ultra-conservative like Newt Gingrich.  They had no problem submitting to the government because they often benefitted from it.  Tax collectors were often wealthy and were employees of the government.  But Jesus calls both of them and they follow him for three years.

I can only imagine the conversations that Matthew and Simon had throughout their years of travel and meals together.  It’s logical to assume they talked about every hot button topic and new laws passed down pretty frequently.  The crazy thing is that Jesus never commented on those topics.  To our knowledge, he never sat them down and went through what was right or what was wrong.  Neither Matthew nor Simon had to get their political beliefs right before they played an active part in Jesus’ ministry.  That’s really something when you consider how politically opposite of each other these two guys were.  It doesn’t seem likely that Matthew and Simon simply tolerated each other.  They were brothers in Christ and devout followers of Jesus.

I’m praying for the heart of Matthew over the conservative folks and the heart of Simon over the liberal folks.  Wouldn’t it be something if instead of partisan arguing, even over issues like health care, Roe v. Wade, our relationship with President Karzai, etc., our eyes were kept on Jesus.  We shouldn’t be discounting others from the Kingdom or questions someone’s faith or loyalty to Jesus when they sit on the opposite side of a social or political idea than we do.  If Jesus didn’t care, neither can we.

As Simon and Matthew spent more time with Jesus, I’m betting their political ideologies were shifted from liberal and conservative to Kingdom of God.

I think we should stop focusing on issues.  They have their place.  They are okay to talk about and discuss.  But when we stop searching out what the Kingdom of God holds on these issues, things get rough.  I believe that when we set our eyes on Jesus and what his Kingdom holds, political and social differences will fade away.

Thoughts?

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