Domestic violence

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Domestic violence.

The term seems rather subdued for what actually happens.  The reality is that one person physically beats up another person.  There is physical violence against another human being.  There are other forms of abuse – emotional, mental, etc.  But today I’m focusing on physical abuse.

A person beating up another person.  Let that sink in.

Often its men doing the violence to women – women who are close to the men.  These are wives, girlfriends, daughters, etc.

Often the men are alcoholics or abusers of other drugs.  Often the people have been in some kind of relationship for a long time and the abuse and violence has taken place over a period of time.

And the women stay.  That’s always the part that doesn’t make sense to most people.  Why would someone stay in an abusive situation?

For some, it is shame – what would people think if they knew what was happening?  For others it is protection of people or things – what will happen to another loved one or something cherished if they leave?  For others it is feeling trapped – where will they go.  They have no one to turn to.

If someone opens up and tells you they have been hit, beaten, injured on purpose, or abused by someone close to them – be present for that person.  Often they won’t want to call the police.  Another option is Domestic Violence Services – or some equivalent in your community.  Do a google search – I’m willing to bet there is something like this in your area.  They can talk with someone who is trained, and should be able to get the person to some kind of emergency shelter to get out of the abusive situation.

Domestic violence happens for a number of reasons – all complex.  It’s a combination of a thirst for control over another human being – mostly from people who have little control over their own lives.  It comes from alcohol and drug abuse.  It comes from people who are jerks and worse.  It is the epitome of broken and sinfulness.

And it shouldn’t ever be tolerated.  No one deserves to be beaten or abused.  At the very least, establish communication with someone who is being abused if they won’t accept help.  You may be their only link to safety and sanity.  Use it to keep urging the person out  of the abusive situation.  Be their advocate.  Show them that you care about them.  Domestic violence happens way too often.  It shouldn’t.

 

 

The “Christian” lament of degrading culture

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When I drive, I listen to the radio.  There are times when I get tired of listening to music, so I scan, listening for something that might catch my attention.  I can usually count on “Christian” radio to grab my attention.  I usually stop to listen.  Not to be reaffirmed in my faith, but rather to see what I’m up against and what I may need to preach about – usually something that isn’t in line with what ever it is the hosts of these shows are talking about.

The fact is, most evangelical radio programs drive me nuts.  I listen though for a few minutes from time to time to hear what bad theology is being spouted off over the airwaves.

At any rate, the program I stopped to listen to was talking about culture and Christianity and lamenting how the culture has moved away from what the bible teaches.

My question is this – what is it that the bible teaches?  I get what the host of this program was saying, but I think it is misguided.  It’s the assumption that the culture was in alignment with “biblical” teachings not so long ago, but has some how drifted off of that recently and is in decline.  I argue that this has never been the case.

What teachings exactly was the host referring to?  I don’t know because he never cited what teachings he was referring to.  I can make some assumptions, but that isn’t really being fair to the host.  Maybe he’s thinking in terms of biblical family values.  But the problem with that is defining what that means.  That’s more a slogan than something that can be defined using the bible.

When I read the bible and think of it in terms of culture, what I hear is recognition that culture is sinful and broken and that God is the one who will move us to something new – resurrection, restoration, renewal, and transformation.   That’s because culture is made up of people and people are broken.  In the bible we read stories of murder, rape, slavery, war, violence, idolatry, manipulation, slaughter, division, broken families, lying, control, power, etc.  This is what culture is full of for bible times.

Is this what the host is referring to?  Of course not.  I think what happens is that people take a rose-colored lens by which they think of the past.  That the past was this pristine time when the culture was God-fearing and no one sinned.  But this isn’t realistic or accurate.

But it’s not all bad news.  The bible is full of other things beyond the list above – that God doesn’t abandon the culture, but because of God’s love for the world – all the world, not just humanity – that God continually comes to us, encounters creation, and brings about transformation.

The culture isn’t moving away from biblical teaching now any more than it was in the past.  The bible recounts the reality of human culture – that it is broken.  Rather, what the bible teaches is how God is active in the world and calls on us to live and be different, yet in the world.  To not accept the ways of the world, but to be different – a beacon of light in a world of darkness.  Not to change the culture by trying to manipulate it and bend it to our will, but rather to live differently and in relationship with one another, invite others to this new life, and in so doing, others will come and as a result, a new culture will come into being.  It’s not about confrontation and battle.  It’s about Jesus not accepting the status quo as legitimate and instead offering an alternative life-giving model in which to live into.

Costa Rica Currency

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One of the things I love to check out is the currency of a country that we visit.  Foreign currency is so much more colorful and artful than US currency.  I love the design, the sizes, colors, pictures, the feel of the paper, etc.  The images alone tell a story – a story of what’s important to a culture.  For Costa Rica, the animals are important.

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Sanity reigning…are you sure?

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After the Alabama US Senate race, I saw several articles claiming that sanity reigned.  But I have a difficult time taking a sigh of relief.  The other guy won by about 1%.  Let that sink in a moment.  And if the write-ins had voted for Moore, then he would have won.  I’m not sure that qualifies as sanity reigning.

A 1% victory means that an accused pedophile was just a few thousand votes away from being an US Senator.  That’s really close in my book.

As much as the articles on news sites want to declare that there was unity and rationality, there isn’t.  A 50-50 divide is not unity.  We have two sides in a battle who can’t and won’t accept a common definition of what is news and where you can get facts from.  And the casualties are those of us who look at both sides in the battle and quote the Stealers Wheel song – “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right.  Here I am.  Stuck in the middle with you.”

And we’re being run over by extremists who are telling us that we have to choose sides.  Yet, we look at these options, and we just shake our heads in disbelief mostly because the hypocrisy of the parties is astounding.

So how do we go forward?  I start with prayer.  I pray for Doug Jones.  He has his work cut out for him.  To connect with the people of Alabama who mostly voted for him because he wasn’t Roy Moore.   I also pray that he doesn’t become a pawn for a political party.

I pray for Roy Moore – that he would go into retirement and not be heard from again.  I pray for the voters – that they see themselves as something more than just having their identity attached to political party, or even nation, but as children of God.

I’m also a believer that prayer changes things.  And that starts with me.  So I start with prayer.  And I write.  I’m open with my doubts, my cynicism about politics and partisanship.  I’m open with my opinions.  That doesn’t mean that I’m always right, and quite possibly I’m wrong more often than not.  I’m okay with that.  Being right isn’t what’s most important to me.  It’s walking with people in their struggle to make sense of the world.

How else does prayer change me – It means I pray for those I don’t like.  It means my trust is strengthened in God.  It means that I keep following Jesus and his way of relating to the world.  It’s a much better option than anything the world has to offer.

Alabama US Senate seat live reactions and thoughts on Christianity

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It’s 9:57pm on Tuesday night.  I’m paying attention to the results of the US Senate election in Alabama.  As of the time of this writing, Roy Moore is winning by about 30,000 votes with 71% of the results in.  The race is tightening as the final numbers come in.

And I’m wondering what is going through the minds of people – how are they reacting to this?  I’m wondering how people are sitting with what looks like an US Senator Roy Moore.  I’m especially curious about the folks who are struggling with this result.  One interview of Roy Moore that I saw had the host saying that he was clearly a polarizing figure.  I think that is something everyone can agree on.

It’s now 10:05pm – 78% of the vote is in and Roy Moore is ahead by only 20,000 votes.  The race is tightening.  The anxiety level of people is also tightening in around people – squeezing them in a death grip.

I’m wondering what an election of Roy Moore to the US Senate will mean.  I’m wondering how I am to pastor in an age in utter contradiction – the calling of many elected officials to resign over sexual harassment and misconduct, yet the potential election of someone accused of pedophilia, supported by the leader of his party who is also accused of sexual harassment.

Now it’s 10:09pm – 79% of the vote in.  Roy Moore is winning by only 15,000 votes.

Regardless of the result of this race, it will be close.  This is symbolic of the country at large – very divided.  Far too many people attaching their identity – who they are as a person – to a partisan political party.  How sad.  This is not healthy.  This is dangerous.  We are so much more than just donors and votes for either political party.

10:12pm – 83% in.  Moore has a lead of approximately 13,000 votes.  The race continues to tighten.

How is it that Christians can be more attached to party ideology and party label than to Christ?  How is that Christians can swear their allegiance to party and consider it their salvation and the salvation of the nation, rather than the Savior?  This isn’t an accusation against one set of Christians – it applies across the spectrum.  What does it mean to be Christian in America in 2017?  We have candidates who claim the label of Christian.  And several of them are resigning from office for sexual misconduct.  Others are denying allegations and sticking it out.  Christianity, it seems, is often just a tool for the obtaining of power.  Especially when it isn’t lived out.  But maybe that’s a bit harsh.

10:16pm – 86% in.  Moore is ahead by about 2,500 votes. If the trend continues, then Doug Jones will take the lead by the next reporting of results.

Is a Jones victory a victory for Christianity?  No.  It’s a victory of Doug Jones.  It’s a victory for one of our two flawed political parties.  And it’s a loss for Moore and for Trump.  Why do we insist on a system that creates only winners and losers?  When there are only two options and two results, then everything get’s lumped together with it.  Some will claim that Christianity lost.  Some will say that Christianity won.  The reality is that Christianity isn’t on the ballot.  It’s not a tool for political power, even though it often gets used that way.  This goes against everything Jesus taught.  It’s what got him killed by the Romans.  He wouldn’t be a pawn in the power plays of the Temple leadership and Roman authorities.  He didn’t accept either one as legitimate.

10:21pm – 87% in.  Doug Jones is ahead now by about 500 votes.

I’m curious about the reactions now.  Is there shouting and cheering in the Jones camp and wailing and gnashing of teeth in the Moore camp.  Having been through many campaigns, I know these feelings well.  Especially when I’ve done strategy and managed campaigns for candidates that aren’t expected to win.

10:24pm – 89% in.  The results keep flip-flopping.  Moore just had the lead again, and now Jones does again.  This time by about 9,000 votes.

If Jones pulls this off, I wonder how he’ll govern knowing that people weren’t necessarily voting for him as they were voting against Moore.  Six years can come and go quickly.  And it will be difficult for a Democrat to represent a very Republican state.  Then again, it just emphasizes the fact that we have a sickness in our country – partisan identity.  Party becomes more important than anything else.  Not healthy.

10:27pm – same results.

The analysts will all be asking the same question – what does this mean for the 2018 election cycle.  You see, in the world of politics – a world in which the people who live and die by politics and campaigns – it never ends.  It’s a continuous campaign.  It never ends.  One campaign just leads to the next.  There is no end game.  It’s a continuous game.  Policy isn’t about helping people.  Policy is a tool for fundraising to help your candidates raise money so they can try to get more votes.  The end game, if you wanted to say there is one, is the obtaining of power.  But for what purpose?

10:30pm – Doug Jones was just projected to be the winner.

Wow, what an election night.  Most people will say something to the effect that now the hard part begins – governing.  Wrong.  Tomorrow Doug Jones’ re-election campaign begins.  Now, the next election begins.  Now the 2018 mid-term election begins.  Now the 2020 presidential election begins.  Now this election and that election begins.  It’s always about the election.  It’s a perpetual election.  It’s perpetual fundraising.  All for the purpose of obtaining power and preventing others from obtaining power.  But to what end?

And for Christians the deeper question is this – what is our identity going forward?  Is it attachment to political party?  Is it to continue fooling ourselves that the parties can be controlled and used to further our theology?  Or do we wake up to the reality that the parties will use Christianity and Christians as long as we are useful idiots.

Tomorrow is a new day.  What will we do with it?  Will we advance the agenda of a political party, all the while telling ourselves that we are advancing Jesus’ mission in the world this way?  Or will we will participate in the unfolding of the kingdom of God?

There are going to be more Roy Moores in politics.  And there will be plenty more rationalizing of candidates, what they say, how they act, etc.  There will be Christians who confuse their identity as Christian with political party loyalty.  And there will be much more hypocrisy – allowing forgiveness for one’s preferred political party and its candidates, but hell fire and brimstone for the other party and its failings.

How will the world know Christians?  Will they know us by our political or ideological identity?  Or will they know us by something far more radical and different?  Will they know us by our nationalism and patriotism and America first-ism?  Or will they know us by something else?  Will they know us by our blaming the country for this ill or that?  Will they know us by our excuses?  Or by something else?

In John 13:35, Jesus is quoted as saying: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Love isn’t some nice slogan.  It isn’t some kind of tool to be used to further some agenda or fundraising plea.  Love is far different.  Love is living in such a way that you aren’t focused on the response.  You just go and love.

Are issues just issues, or are they more?

Are issues just something to be debated and to pick sides on?  Are policies just inanimate things to be debated in a vacuum?  Are issues so ambiguous that we can separate them from the people that they affect?  Do we really believe that issues and policies only really affect some people and not all people in some way?

When an issue comes up in public debate, it’s rather easy to rationalize an argument – even ones that seem irrational.  Humans are really good at rationalizing their reasoning for supporting or opposing something.  Just listen to any of the recent debates that fill our airwaves and social media feeds.

Sexual orientation, sexual misconduct, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, transgender people in the military are just a few “issues.” If these issues only remain at the level of issue, then they stay in the realm of partisan politics and are often weapons in a game of power.

In debates on these issues, it is easy for people to end up in the for or against camp, make their arguments in what seems like a vacuum, and go on living one’s life.  Because when something is just an issue, it doesn’t have any impact on your life…supposedly.  It’s just another issue to be debated that affects faceless, nameless other people.

An issue is something that can be simplified into two clear sides – right and wrong.  End of discussion.  Anyone who seeing things differently is wrong.

But the problem for the issue comes when issues become humanized – when a face and a life are attached to the issue.  Things change dramatically then.  It’s no longer abstract without any effect.  It’s not a person we are talking about.  And the way an issue is decided impacts a life – a real person’s life.  But then we also start to see that it’s not just one person’s life that is impacted, but many.  Maybe we are open enough to realize that our own life is impacted too as a result – we either build a wall of separation keeping anyone different from us away from our privileged life, or we tear down the wall and see those affected as more similar to us than we recognized before.

When we talk about people, as opposed to issues, we see the messiness of the situation.  We see the gray.  We see the brokenness of life.  It isn’t pretty, or easy, or have a tidy solution wrapped up in a bow.  People’s lives are impacted.  And people’s lives go beyond simple black and white solutions.

Issues are nice to debate, they can even be fun.  But if we leave it at that, then we aren’t seeing the whole issue.  We are missing the most important part – people.  There’s more to issues than being right.  There’s people’s lives at stake.