Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Church Will Not Change the World Unless...

Last Thursday, I had a powerful, genuine, moving spiritual experience, something I haven’t had for a long time.  A small group of passionate people gathered together and sang and spoke over the injustices happening around us, and we mourned and raged at the lack of real, compassionate response.  We celebrated a safe space for people of all ethnicities, political beliefs, genders, and sexual-orientations.  Hope was offered that the tragedies of this life don’t have to continue.  We mourned that Freddie Gray would’ve turned 13 that day had he not been killed.  We talked about mental health issues and celebrated that people can find hope outside of their depression or bi-polar or schizophrenia.  And at the end of the night, I and others like me left feeling like we could change the world.  I felt on fire!

Do you know what is sad though?  This experience didn’t happen at a church.  This wasn’t a Christian event.  In fact, a good majority of the people present were probably atheist. It was a punk rock show.  And I left feeling like maybe punk rock could change the world because it was willing to stand up for something real, for something right and to call its congregation to action; for some reason it embodied Jesus’ ethics without even believing in Jesus.

The problem is, I’m not so sure that the church in America is going to change the world because it does not have the courage to live like Christ over and against the way that popular Christianity is choosing to live.

In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus tells a parable of two builders, one who wisely chooses to build his house on a foundation that can withstand a strong storm, and the other who chooses to build his house on a weak foundation which will be destroyed by the wind and waves.
He uses this parable as the capstone of the entire Sermon on the Mount to say that it is the wise person who hears these words and founds his or her life on them by following them.  Anything else will lead to destruction. 

The question we are left with is, do we follow or not?  It’s really a simple question, but our response carries immense repercussions. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Jesus Does NOT Care About Your So-Called Gun Rights

On June 17th, our nation bore witness to another mass murder at the hands of a person who should not have had access to a weapon.  Predictably, the internet is also bearing witness to another flood of gun-supporters advocating that it’s not really about guns and that stricter laws won’t do anything useful aside from turn our nation into some authoritarian Marxist paradise led by Herr Obama (see crazy fantasies of a dystopian future).  At this point, I cannot imagine what it would take for gun-advocates to concede, even a little, that America has a gun-problem.  Yes, these shooting deaths are is related to mental health, no, they weren’t using automatic weapons, yes, people will access guns illegally if they want to, and no, a total crackdown wouldn’t solve all of the problems.  But for crying out loud, waving our 2nd amendment flag surely isn’t changing anything!  You do know what the definition of insanity is right?  Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.    

But this post isn’t simply about gun-control and gun-violence.  This is directed at CHRISTIANS who believe that it is their God-given right and duty to bear arms, and that nobody, especially the government, can take those rights  away.

I want to let you in on a little secret…are you ready?

…Jesus doesn’t care about your gun rights!
 In fact, Jesus doesn’t care about guns at all, except that they are an expedient method of violence and death which serve as tools of the enemy to bring about division, destruction and tragedy.  Although I would imagine that he is extremely disappointed that for a large percentage of Christians, guns and the kingdom of this world is trumping peace and the Kingdom of God.  Nowhere in the Bible does it suggest that a person has the right to take up arms against their fellow person, or to own weapons to protect the lives of themselves or others.  Not one single time does Jesus command us to encourage a culture of violence so that we can own the freedoms of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” (where is this found in Scripture again?)  And Jesus certainly never asks us to tout what we believe to be personal freedoms as Americans and Westerners at the clear expense of the lives of others, especially the innocent (i.e. children).  (By the way, I find it fascinating that those who are the most vehement supporters of the right to bear arms, which has indirectly caused the massacres at Sandy Hook and Columbine as well as all of the accidental shooting deaths of children across America, are also rabid pro-life missionaries, whose stance is that all children have the right to live, except if that interferes with the right to bear arms.)

Friday, June 5, 2015

What I'm doing with My Summer Vacation.

So, less than a month ago, I graduated from Ashland Theological Seminary with my Master's of Divinity.  This degree was ultimately a six year journey through various levels of heaven and hell through which I believe I have become a richer (spiritually speaking, not fiscally obvs) person.  Since then, several people have asked, "What are you going to do now?"  I find this question to be funny; it makes sense to ask a high school graduate what they might do, or even someone graduating college.  I on the other hand, am married and 5 years into my career at Oak Grove.  So what I am going "to do" is continue on this path. (When I'm asked this question, I can't help but feel liking I'm being asked the recurring, cyclical question and answer from "Pinky and the Brain")

On the other hand, I haven't not been a student since I was six years old.  For 23 years I have been a part of some form of educational institution.  It is part of my identity.  Because of this, the question then becomes very real and very valid.  What am I going to do now?

In some ways, it is difficult to know how this change will affect the way I view myself.  Right now, I'm on summer vacation, which would've happened whether or not I graduated.  It probably won't be until the fall that I begin to feel the emptiness (joy) of not registering for and attending classes.

But part of the reason that I was so bent on attending grad school and finishing my degree even though I moved several times during and transferred through different schools is because I am driven on bettering myself.

What am I going to do now?  I will find different ways to better myself.  I recently took up yoga, which has been a fantastic relaxation exercise.  I also purchased a road bike and am working towards increasing my mileage each time.

Recently I finished a book entitled "The Year of Reading Dangerously" by Andy Miller.  (It's fantastic by the way, I would highly recommend it.)  The premise of the book is that the author decided it was high time to pull down all of those books from the shelf that he had been intending to read for years and just finally DO IT!  By sheer will, he managed to read 51 books in a year, including such mammoths as War and Peace and Middlemarch.  It really was an incredible feat.

This got me thinking, I have a whole shelf of books that I have all kinds of intentions of reading.  But as long as I just let them sit there, they become pretty dust collectors.  So I decided to take a cue from Miller and come up with my own "List of Betterment."  My goal this summer, then, is to read:

1) "The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Graham
2) "Silence" by Shusako Endo
3) "The Autobiography of Malcolm X"
4) "The Handmaiden's Tale" by Margaret Atwood
5) "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac
6)  "Dr. Zhivago" by Boris Pasternak
7) "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking
8) "Trainspotting" by Irvine Welsh
9)  "Slow Food" by Carlo Petrini
10) "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo

I admit it's a pretty ambitious list, and I realize that I'm incredibly good at creating lists that I never complete.  But I'm feeling pretty motivated this time around.

So far, I have completed #1 and #2.  It was quite the transition from a lighthearted book about friendship and loyalty between animals to a historical fiction novel about martyrdom of Christian missionaries in Japan and wrestling with the silence of God.  But both were excellent.  I am currently 2/3 of the way through #3, which has been eye opening.

So there you are, that's my summer vacation, and "what I hope to do" following grad school.  It's another leg the journey of my life; I certainly have not "arrived" nor do I plan to anytime soon.  But I find that all experiences, good or bad, shape me into who I am becoming and allow me to see the world in new lights.  May you find what you will "do" too!