How are we influenced?

American exceptionalism today – the same as or similar to American “messianism” of the mid-nineteenth century… right before the Civil War? Yes, I think – and what it does, negatively, to the religion, the common perception of it all, and the spiritual welfare of Americans.

Professor Mark Noll in his book, “The Civil War as a Theological Crisis,” writes about the debates going on between pro- and anti-slavery theologians and biblical scholars leading up to the Civil War. The following quote comes from his analysis of Moses Stuart, considered one of America’s most competent biblical scholars of the time, a Reformed theologian, and how Stuart allowed his American citizenship (American messianism/exceptionalism) to overwhelm his scholarship and common application of scripture.

According to Noll, Stuart was compromised and thus blantantly inconsistent – his advocacy for slavery within his sense of “America” clouded his exegesis to the point of believing in the scriptural allowance of it. Are we are doing the same, today, in allowing notions of “America” to infringe upon and cloud what we are supposed to be and do as citizens of a different kingdom? We (many of us who claim Christ) make an idol of this nation-state and this notion of American exceptionalism. (This need not infringe upon the imagination of the American Ideal grasped by so many around the world and often forgotten by us, the supposed holders of it.)

From Noll, dealing with the specific debate over returning escaped slaves to their owners:

“Stuart, however, did not seem to feel that escaped slaves – considered as either Christians or potential Christians – had a higher claim on fellow believers than did Southern slaveholders considered as fellow American citizens. Rather, by overriding his commitment to standard Reformed theology, Stuart’s strong sense of American national messianism constrained his interpretation of Scripture. Even for this rightly honored defender of strict biblical exegesis, race exerted a powerful sway. White fellow Americans counted far more than black fellow Christians. Analogical Israel meant more than Spiritual Israel. A dubious theological warrant (treating America as the chosen people) exerted more force than a strong theological warrant (including blacks in the fellowship of the Church.” (Noll, p. 61)

The comfort of continuance

In the book I’m reading, two people are having a conversation by a river – the aristocratic fisherman and the cleric.  It picks up, here, “There was a silence. The river went on flowing and in the meadows the cows continued to graze.”

In the midst of unexpected, perhaps uncomfortable silence, in the midst of trouble, in the midst of confusion, in the midst of heartache – the rivers flow and the cows continue to graze… and it is a good thing, a comforting awareness.  There is continuance. There is a new day.

Marwage…

So, I’m reading through Genesis. I find it funny how certain segments of God’s crazy Church talk about “Biblical marriage.” So far, without commentary or condemnation within the text, the only marriages I’ve encountered are incest (Abraham married to his half sister Sarah by their father, etc.) and polygamy (Abraham married Hagar to have Ishmael, etc.). Not only that, but Lot’s two daughters get him drunk to have sex with him (their father) to keep the bloodline going. And, of course, this is how “marriage” is throughout Scripture.

I always find it particularly ironic that those who cry for the internal integrity and infallibility of Scripture (which I understand) twist it for their sociology-political or personal interests (which I don’t understand). But, there is nothing new under the sun and the willful ignorance at best or the compromised intentions, the dark hearts at worst, of men are always with us.

Sex and Post-Christian

I came across this article in “The American Conservative” website.  To be honest, I’m unfamiliar with the website or what I presume is the print magazine.  This article, “Sex After Christianity: Gay marriage is not just a social revolution but a cosmological one,” by Rod Dreher brings up some interesting thoughts.

I find in the author’s analysis a lack of consideration that gay marriage may actually add to and encourage the same kind of communal commitments that are not individualistic.  Marriage necessitates a giving up of a completely centered self.  The equating of homosexuality and the desire for gay marriage with the relinquishing of a cultural propensity for the common good is wrong, I think.

I agree that the sexual revolution of the 1960’s changed nearly everything related to ideas of marriage and sexual ethics.  I do think that the sexual revolution open more widely the doors of possibility for acceptance of same-sex relationships.  Yet, heterosexual marriage was even more impacted by the sexual-revolution than were notions of acceptance of same-sex relationships.

I think same-sex marriage is a conservative position, as well as a progressive one.  I have yet to find sociological studies of any substance (within technical definitions) that show that promiscuity, infidelity, hyper-individualism within sexual expression, etc., benefits the individuals involved or the common society.  Yet, that is separate from same-sex relationships in and of themselves and whether same-sex marriage is a help or hindrance for the common good.

Anyway, here are a few paragraphs commenting on sociologist Philip Rieff’s ideas that I think should be considered on matter one’s position on same-sex marriage.

Though he might not have put it quite that way, the eminent sociologist Philip Rieff would probably have said yes. Rieff’s landmark 1966 book The Triumph Of the Therapeutic analyzes what he calls the “deconversion” of the West from Christianity. Nearly everyone recognizes that this process has been underway since the Enlightenment, but Rieff showed that it had reached a more advanced stage than most people—least of all Christians—recognized.

Rieff, who died in 2006, was an unbeliever, but he understood that religion is the key to understanding any culture. For Rieff, the essence of any and every culture can be identified by what it forbids. Each imposes a series of moral demands on its members, for the sake of serving communal purposes, and helps them cope with these demands. A culture requires a cultus—a sense of sacred order, a cosmology that roots these moral demands within a metaphysical framework.

You don’t behave this way and not that way because it’s good for you; you do so because this moral vision is encoded in the nature of reality. This is the basis of natural-law theory, which has been at the heart of contemporary secular arguments against same-sex marriage (and which have persuaded no one).

Rieff, writing in the 1960s, identified the sexual revolution—though he did not use that term—as a leading indicator of Christianity’s death as a culturally determinative force. In classical Christian culture, he wrote, “the rejection of sexual individualism” was “very near the center of the symbolic that has not held.” He meant that renouncing the sexual autonomy and sensuality of pagan culture was at the core of Christian culture—a culture that, crucially, did not merely renounce but redirected the erotic instinct. That the West was rapidly re-paganizing around sensuality and sexual liberation was a powerful sign of Christianity’s demise.

It is nearly impossible for contemporary Americans to grasp why sex was a central concern of early Christianity. Sarah Ruden, the Yale-trained classics translator, explains the culture into which Christianity appeared in her 2010 book Paul Among The People. Ruden contends that it’s profoundly ignorant to think of the Apostle Paul as a dour proto-Puritan descending upon happy-go-lucky pagan hippies, ordering them to stop having fun.

In fact, Paul’s teachings on sexual purity and marriage were adopted as liberating in the pornographic, sexually exploitive Greco-Roman culture of the time—exploitive especially of slaves and women, whose value to pagan males lay chiefly in their ability to produce children and provide sexual pleasure. Christianity, as articulated by Paul, worked a cultural revolution, restraining and channeling male eros, elevating the status of both women and of the human body, and infusing marriage—and marital sexuality—with love.

Christian marriage, Ruden writes, was “as different from anything before or since as the command to turn the other cheek.” The point is not that Christianity was only, or primarily, about redefining and revaluing sexuality, but that within a Christian anthropology sex takes on a new and different meaning, one that mandated a radical change of behavior and cultural norms. In Christianity, what people do with their sexuality cannot be separated from what the human person is.

It would be absurd to claim that Christian civilization ever achieved a golden age of social harmony and sexual bliss. It is easy to find eras in Christian history when church authorities were obsessed with sexual purity. But as Rieff recognizes, Christianity did establish a way to harness the sexual instinct, embed it within a community, and direct it in positive ways.

What makes our own era different from the past, says Rieff, is that we have ceased to believe in the Christian cultural framework, yet we have made it impossible to believe in any other that does what culture must do: restrain individual passions and channel them creatively toward communal purposes.

Rather, in the modern era, we have inverted the role of culture. Instead of teaching us what we must deprive ourselves of to be civilized, we have a society that tells us we find meaning and purpose in releasing ourselves from the old prohibitions.

How this came to be is a complicated story involving the rise of humanism, the advent of the Enlightenment, and the coming of modernity. As philosopher Charles Taylor writes in his magisterial religious and cultural history A Secular Age, “The entire ethical stance of moderns supposes and follows on from the death of God (and of course, of the meaningful cosmos).” To be modern is to believe in one’s individual desires as the locus of authority and self-definition.

Gradually the West lost the sense that Christianity had much to do with civilizational order, Taylor writes. In the 20th century, casting off restrictive Christian ideals about sexuality became increasingly identified with health. By the 1960s, the conviction that sexual expression was healthy and good—the more of it, the better—and that sexual desire was intrinsic to one’s personal identity culminated in the sexual revolution, the animating spirit of which held that freedom and authenticity were to be found not in sexual withholding (the Christian view) but in sexual expression and assertion. That is how the modern American claims his freedom.

To Rieff, ours is a particular kind of “revolutionary epoch” because the revolution cannot by its nature be institutionalized. Because it denies the possibility of communal knowledge of binding truths transcending the individual, the revolution cannot establish a stable social order. As Rieff characterizes it, “The answer to all questions of ‘what for’ is ‘more’.”

Our post-Christian culture, then, is an “anti-culture.” We are compelled by the logic of modernity and the myth of individual freedom to continue tearing away the last vestiges of the old order, convinced that true happiness and harmony will be ours once all limits have been nullified.

Injustice, fasting

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to cloth them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here I am.”
(Isaiah 58:6-9)

In these days, I sometimes have knee jerk reactions toward the “social service crowd” or the “political activism group” within the Church. (I’ve done social service and political activism, BTW.) I do so, I believe, because there has been the tendency to replace relationship with God with the doing of things.  The way the institutional church, and here I’m thinking primarily of Mainline Protestantism, has gone about all of this is often far more anthropocentric than theocentric, and I think this has greatly lessened our intimacy in relationship with God and thus the power that should be behind our doing of stuff.

Another part of why I have this knee jerk reaction, and coming out of the anthropomorphizing of Christianity, comes out of the notion that if one overthrows systems or institutions or other such things that then the evil is put away and the people will flourish.  Overthrow evil, exploitative, unjust capitalism with egalitarian, virtuous, good socialism and all will be well.  Overthrow “godless Communism” with “God-ordained democracy” and a glorious future will be realized.  Any such things will work. 

The problem is that people believe that the system, the institution in and of itself is where the evil resides.  I content that it isn’t any of that.  The evil resides in the hearts and minds of the people who inhabit the systems or the institutions or the bureaucracies.  Overthrow capitalistic systems with socialistic systems and you will still have just as much, if not more, corruption, injustice, greed, exploitation, etc. because the hearts and minds of the leadership, the workers, everyone, are still unmoved, unchanged, or unredeemed.

If we want to overthrow evil, injustice, exploitation, and all the like, then we must change people – one heart, one mind at a time.  The kind of change we require as Christians is not attainable by our own effort, but by the renewing of our minds and hearts by the Spirit of God.  So, to protest against systems, to yell and scream for the downfall of the bureaucracy will get us no closer to a justice, peaceful society.  If successful, there will simply be a change in the group of people who do the exploiting, etc.

Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party Movement are all fine – people participating in our democracy, which as a former Social Studies teacher, I love.  But for the Christian, we fight against what Isaiah spells out as true fasting not by attempting to overthrow the system, but my working for the change of the individuals within the system.  If the people become virtuous, the system will be redeemed.

It is far easier to rail against the machine and raise a fist in protest that to come alongside another person who needs to know freedom and peace inside so that they have no need to exploit others.  It is very difficult to go about the long and hard work of helping people into new life. If is sometimes embarrassing to some when we say, and this is our job as Christians, that Jesus has enabled us to have that new kind of new life – of freedom, of generosity, of graciousness, of peace, and to acquire the ability to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. This is very messy work, this healing of the heart and soul and mind of individuals.  But only in this will our world be free of injustice, strife, and hatred.

Now, and here I’m thinking of my days in American-Evangelicalism, when we spend all our time praising Jesus and coming nosey/kneesy in prayer yet ignore the injustice, the homeless, the plight of the oppressed, then our oh so pious fasting means nothing.

I’ve got to go to work.  No time, at the moment. to proof read and make corrections.  That comes later…

Fetishation of Social Media

An article on the HuffingtonPost, by Arianne Huffington, entitled, “Virality Uber Alles: What the Fetishization of Social Media Is Costing Us All.”  Below are some paragraphs that I thought summarized the gist of the article…

Going viral has gone viral. Social media have become the obsession of
the media. It’s all about social now: What are the latest social tools?
How can a company increase its social reach? Are reporters devoting
enough time to social? Less discussed — or not at all — is the value
of the thing going viral. Doesn’t matter — as long as it’s social. And
viral!

The media world’s fetishization of social media has reached
idol-worshipping proportions. Media conference agendas are filled with
panels devoted to social media and how to use social tools to amplify
coverage, but you rarely see one discussing what that coverage should
actually be about. As Wadah Khanfar, former Director General of Al
Jazeera, told our editors when he visited our newsroom last week, “The
lack of contextualization and prioritization in the U.S. media makes it
harder to know what the most important story is at any given time.”

Our media culture is locked in the Perpetual Now, constantly chasing
ephemeral scoops that last only seconds and that most often don’t matter
in the first place, even for the brief moment that they’re “exclusive…”

Michael Calderone about the effect that social media have had on 2012
campaign coverage. “In a media landscape replete with Twitter, Facebook,
personal blogs and myriad other digital, broadcast and print sources,”
he wrote, “nothing is too inconsequential to be made consequential…

“We are in great haste,” wrote
Thoreau in 1854, “to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to
Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to
communicate.” And today, we are in great haste to celebrate something
going viral, but seem completely unconcerned whether the thing that went
viral added one iota of anything good — including even just simple
amusement — to our lives…. We’re treating virality as a good in and of itself, moving forward for
the sake of moving.
“Hey,” someone might ask, “where are you going?” “I
don’t know — but as long as I’m moving it doesn’t matter!” Not a very
effective way to end up in a better place…

“But as Twitter’s Rachael Horwitz wrote to me in an email, “Twitter’s algorithm favors novelty over popularity.”

“Indeed, to further complicate the science of trending topics, a subject
can be too popular to trend: In December of 2010, just after Julian
Assange began releasing U.S. diplomatic cables, about 1 percent of all
tweets (at the time, that would have been roughly a million tweets a
day) were about WikiLeaks, and yet #wikileaks trended so rarely that
people accused
Twitter of censorship. In fact, the opposite was true: there were too
many tweets about WikiLeaks, and they were so constant that Twitter
started treating WikiLeaks as the new normal.”

So, the question remains: as we adopt new and better ways to help people
communicate, can we keep asking what is really being communicated? And
what’s the opportunity cost of what is not being communicated while
we’re all locked in the perpetual present chasing whatever is trending?…

These days every company is hungry to embrace social media and virality,
even if they’re not exactly sure what that means, and even if they’re
not prepared to really deal with it once they’ve achieved it.

Or as Sheryl Sandberg put it,
“What it means to be social is if you want to talk to me, you have to
listen to me as well.” A lot of brands want to be social, but they don’t
want to listen, because much of what they’re hearing is quite simply
not to their liking, and, just as in relationships in the offline world,
engaging with your customers or your readers in a transparent and
authentic way is not all sweetness and light. So simply issuing a
statement saying you’re committed to listening isn’t the same thing as
listening. And as in any human relationship, there is a dark side to
intimacy.

“The campaigns can sort of distract reporters throughout the day by helping fuel these mini-stories, mini-controversies,” said the New York Times’
Jeff Zeleny. Mini-stories. Mini-controversies. Just the sort of
Twitter-friendly morsels that many in the media think are best-suited to
the new social media landscape. But that conflates the form with the
substance, and we miss the desperate need for more than snackable,
here-now-gone-in-15-minutes scoops. So we end up with a system in which
the media are being willingly led by the campaigns away from the issues
that matter and the solutions that will actually make a difference in
people’s lives. 
[emphsis mine]

Read the whole article.

What might this say for the Church and its obsessive, and at times pathological, preoccupation with social media?  Are the same observations written in this article true for us?  I hear from so many sources of younger people that older leadership in charge simply do not and will not listen (see the bold paragraph, above).

The enduring aspects of the Church in her liturgies, her patterns-of-life, and her foci mitigates against such trendy irrelevancies, yet many of us seem to think that everything must change now, often, and quickly, for its own sake, or we will be become irrelevant. Too often we think that which has endured must be sacrificed for the sake of trendy popularity. We willingly sell our patrimony for a bowl of desperately sought affirmation.

If you pay attention to what younger people are actually saying (in the aggregate), even if it isn’t what we want to hear, we might learn something that actually helps our situation. What I hear and see in the arrogate, and tell me otherwise form sources other than your own opinion, is that younger people are seeking after time-tested substance that is proven by its ability to endure and survive over time (and over time doesn’t mean over the last 30 years). We are tired of the chaos of constant change devoid of substance.  What is sought are examples of real lives that demonstrate a sense of proven surety built on consequential relationships focused on something other than self.

Virality doesn’t give such things – the type of things that give meaning to one’s life and a sense of true accomplishment and worth.

Ash Wednesday… to go

A colleague of mine, Fr. Robert Hendrickson, writes in his blog, The Curate’s Desk, about the recent phenomena of “Ashes-to-Go” that seems to have caught on in our Church. I think he is correct in asserting that this type of quick and temporary experience does not actually allow people to experience the power behind the form, or the act of having ashes placed on one’s forehead. The power comes from the fullness of the RIte, from the intentional, persistent, and slow working within us by the Holy Spirit as we give ourselves to the effort.  Without such intention and effort, having ashes placed on one’s forehead can be simply an activity, like putting on blush, although for a presumably understood (but not likely so) different purpose.  Here are a few paragraphs from his blog… a full read is well worth it!

“I worry that we are sharing only the mark of our separation from God
rather than our conviction that God dwells ever with us and that this
very dust that we are may be hallowed, sanctified, blessed, and even
assumed. This reconciliation of ourselves to God brings with it the
welcome to live in the fullness of the Christian life. We are given the
hope that “being reconciled with one another,” we may “come to the
banquet of that most heavenly Food” and receive all of the benefits of
Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. Ash Wednesday is not about our sins
alone but about our life in and with the Triune God who calls us into
true life – a life free of the mark of death.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 22:  Marked with a c...

@daylife

“This simply cannot be communicated in a drive-by encounter. The sign
of death is decisively stripped away in the Sacrament – it is that
encounter with the Christ made known in the Body at the Altar and in the
Church that is the point of Lent as we are brought into Communion and
community.

“My worry about Ashes-to-Go is that it reinforces the privatized
spirituality that plagues much of the Church. “I” do not get ashes. “We”
get ashes so that we may know ourselves, as a Body, to be marked for a
moment but saved, together, forever…

“On the plus side, I think it is absolutely vital for the Church to
find ways to engage the changing world. This may be one such way – yet I
cannot quite get comfortable with it. I am increasingly leery of the
Church’s desire to find ways to make the work of the Christian life
easier or faster – especially as it pertains to this most sombre and
needful of seasons.

“My hope though is that Ashes-to-Go really can become an entry point
and that those who receive these ashes will be drawn to the Church in a
fuller and deeper way. Perhaps this brief encounter can catalyze some
movement of the Spirit that calls the recipients to newness of life. I
look forward to talking with my friends about their experience of the
day and pray that their efforts have shared something of the fullness of
the Christian life.”

Change is afoot

An interesting article/book review the Guardian (UK) – see below.  Some may say what is described in the review isn’t an encouraging phenomena, but for me I see it as the continued, subtle change beginning and progressing within the culture.  The realization of the eventual outcome is still years off, I think.

As I continue to watch the forward movement of our culture (in all its current horrendous and glorious states), I can’t help but notice subtle changes in the persistent assumption by so many is that religion is doomed, that it is only truly believed among the uneducated and emotionally challenged, or some such assertion. I can’t help but notice signs that counter these anti-religious attitudes.

Taking a long view of history and trying to learn from it, there is always a waxing and waning of religious belief and action that involves that bastardization of and reclamation of honest Christian belief and practice.  In places like the “Western” world, the active belief in and practice of religion in on the wane – we are in the midst of a period of bastardization of the Faith that has progressed in earnest over the last 100-years or so., and profoundly so in the U.S. over the past few decades. Much of the misgivings among the general population toward organized religion is the fault of those who claim to believe, even as their example fails terribly, say, of Christ’s call to believe and live a certain kind of life reality.

Yet, here and there there are signs that this is changing, not because suddenly the example of Christians in places like the United States have suddenly become all virtuous and full of integrity – at least in this country we are at the height of religious hypocrisy and disingenuous-ness – but because people are beginning to look beyond the ridiculous people who claim they perfectly embody the Faith that God dictates.  They are looking back to the historical figures of Faith who lived out lives that do seem to be examples of the kind of life and belief that Christ calls us to. They seek out current figures who strive to live out such lives, even as they don’t gain headlines and notoriety. The current leadership in most Christian denominations, and this is a generalization, are now irrelevant to the furtherance of the Cause of Christ in the United States.  The institutions will be reformed, but by the force of the “market place” – by which I mean people will vote with their feet and will be drawn to that which is authentic and real. Once the people leave and all the money is gone, things will change.

So, I came across this book review in the Guardian (UK) by entitled, “Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton – review: A banal and impudent argument for the uses of religion”. While the presumption of those who deign to the supposed usefulness of religion, yet do not believe, gain a little more attention it is a sign to me that the crass anti-religious force is waning. In its place will be a slow realization among many that religious faith, that the Christian Faith, may have something to offer other than social control of the masses.  Anyway, here is a couple paragraphs from the review:

“God may be dead, but Alain de Botton‘s Religion for Atheists
is a sign that the tradition from Voltaire to Arnold lives on. The book
assumes that religious beliefs are a lot of nonsense, but that they
remain indispensible to civilised existence. One wonders how this
impeccably liberal author would react to being told that free speech and
civil rights were all bunkum, but that they had their social uses and
so shouldn’t be knocked. Perhaps he might have the faintest sense of
being patronised. De Botton claims that one can be an atheist while
still finding religion “sporadically useful, interesting and consoling”,
which makes it sound rather like knocking up a bookcase when you are
feeling a bit low. Since Christianity requires one, if need be, to lay
down one’s life for a stranger, he must have a strange idea of
consolation. Like many an atheist, his theology is rather conservative
and old-fashioned.

“De Botton does not want people literally to
believe, but he remains a latter-day Matthew Arnold, as his high
Victorian language makes plain. Religion “teaches us to be polite, to
honour one another, to be faithful and sober”, as well as instructing us
in “the charms of community”. It all sounds tediously neat and
civilised. This is not quite the gospel of a preacher who was tortured
and executed for speaking up for justice, and who warned his comrades
that if they followed his example they would meet with the same fate. In
De Botton’s well-manicured hands, this bloody business becomes a
soothing form of spiritual therapy, able to “promote morality (and)
engender a spirit of community”. It is really a version of the Big
Society.

“Like Comte, De Botton believes in the need for a host of
“consoling, subtle or just charming rituals” to restore a sense of
community in a fractured society. He even envisages a new kind of
restaurant in which strangers would be forced to sit together and open
up their hearts to one another. There would be a Book of Agape
on hand, which would instruct diners to speak to each other for
prescribed lengths of time on prescribed topics. Quite how this will
prevent looting and rioting is not entirely clear.”

(Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton – review: A banal and impudent argument for the uses of religion by of the Guardian UK.)

I’m Christian, unless you’re gay.

Dan Pearce writes this piece on his blog, “sdl.” It is worth reading!  It is about, after all is said and done, how we live out the calling of Jesus Christ – how we are and are not living up to the example and commands of Jesus. Here are a couple paragraphs to give you a taste.

Why is it that sometimes the most Christlike people are they who have no religion at all?

“I have known a lot of people in my life, and I can tell you this… Some of the ones who understood love better than anyone else were those who the rest of the world had long before measured as lost or gone. Some of the people who were able to look at the dirtiest, the poorest, the gays, the straights, the drug users, those in recovery, the basest of sinners, and those who were just… plain… different…

“They were able to look at them all and only see strength. Beauty. Potential. Hope.

“And if we boil it down, isn’t that what love actually is?

“Don’t get me wrong. I know a lot of incredible Christians, too. I know some incredible Buddhists and Muslims and Hindus and Jews. I know a lot of amazing people, devout in their various religions, who truly love the people around them.

“I also know some atheist, agnostic, or religionless people who are absolutely hateful of believers. They loathe their religious counterparts. They love only those who believe (or don’t believe) the same things they do.

“In truth, having a religion doesn’t make a person love or not love others. It doesn’t make a person accept or not accept others. It doesn’t make a person befriend or not befriend others.

“Being without a religion doesn’t make somebody do or be any of that either.

“No, what makes somebody love, accept, and befriend their fellow man is letting go of a need to be better than others.

“Nothing else.

I know there are many here who believe that living a homosexual life is a sin.


Okay.


But, what does that have to do with love?


I repeat… what does that have to do with love?


Come on. Don’t we understand? Don’t we get it? To put our arm around
someone who is gay, someone who has an addiction, somebody who lives a
different lifestyle, someone who is not what we think they
should be… doing that has nothing to do with enabling them or accepting
what they do as okay by us. It has nothing to do with encouraging them
in their practice of what you or I might feel or believe is wrong vs
right.


It has everything to do with being a good human being. A good person. A good friend.


That’s all….

My request today is simple. Today. Tomorrow. Next week. Find
somebody, anybody, that’s different than you. Somebody that has made you
feel ill-will or even [gulp…] hateful. Somebody whose life decisions
have made you uncomfortable. Somebody who practices a different religion
than you do. Somebody who has been lost to addiction. Somebody with a
criminal past. Somebody who dresses “below” you. Somebody with
disabilities. Somebody who lives an alternative lifestyle. Somebody
without a home.


Somebody that you, until now, would always avoid, always look down on, and always be disgusted by.


Reach your arm out and put it around them.


And then, tell them they’re all right. Tell them they have a friend. Tell them you love them.


If you or I wanna make a change in this world, that’s where we’re gonna be able to do it. That’s where we’ll start.


Every. Single. Time.


Because what you’ll find, and I promise you this, is that the more
you put your arm around those that you might naturally look down on, the
more you will love yourself. And the more you love yourself, the less need you’ll ever have to find fault or be better than others.  And the less we all find fault or have a need to be better than others, the quicker this world becomes a far better place to live.


And don’t we all want to live in a better world? Don’t we all want our kids to grow up in a better, less hateful, more beautiful “world?


I know I do.”

Read all of the post.

Think on such things – try to come into the idea that the Way of Jesus Christ is so contrary to this American culture of ours! It matters not how much the left or right or liberal or conservative or Roman Catholic or Evangelical or Anglican or Protestant or Independent wants us all to believe that THEY (their group, their belief system, their denomination, their church) have it all exactly right and so lovingly warn everyone else that if they don’t get on board they are going straight to the Lake of Burning Fire for all eternity -crispy critters.

We are blind. Why? Because we are fallible, because we see in part, because we know in part, and because we will not know fully until we get on to the other side.  Why, then do we have to pretend that we or I or s/he or us are exactly right?

New Order?

Henry Kissinger and Chairman Mao, with Zhou En...

Henry Kissinger speaking with Chairman Mao.

The following quote by Henry Kissinger in his recent book, “On China,” relates to the reasons for the profound one year change from near-war animosity between China & the U.S. to both governments preparing for Nixon’s historic first visit to Mao’s China. This is the “It” that begins the quote.  What lessons can we learn for our dealings with the prevalent proclivities we find in our antagonistic and animosity filled culture and the Church’s engagement with it?

“It did so by sidestepping the rhetoric of two decades & staying focused on the fundamental strategic objective of a geopolitical dialogue leading to a recasting of the Cold War international order.” (On China, Kissinger; p. 234).

Is such a reordering possible in our two-decades old U.S. Culture War that has perverted our governmental processes and the Christian Faith in the U.S.? 

What should we sidestep? How do we do it?  What remains of the enduring “strategic objective” of the Church – for those who claim Christ who desire to find a way beyond the hubris, the anger, the bitterness, the spitefulness, the willful ignorance, the vengeful attitudes and actions that subsume so much of what is the Body of Christ, today?