Headline: American Mosque plans to bless assault rifles, associates them with the coming of Allah

Tags

, , ,

Yesterday I read an article about a mosque in America that is planning on blessing assault rifles and associates these weapons with the will of Allah so that infidels can be crushed.  And the mosque is near a school.

What is your reaction to that?

Are you upset?  Do you feel anger at these people?  Are ready to fight?  Are you thinking about how we should nuke them before they get us?  Do you want to burn the mosque down and deport people? Are you sitting there calling them names?  Do you feel fear?  Do you feel the urgency to take action to prevent a tragedy?

Let those feelings linger for a bit.  Allow them to do their work in you.  Fully embrace those feelings that are besieging you.

Feel the righteous indignation.  Let it burn through your body.

Now what if I told you that I misled you a little bit – by changing just a couple of words.  Change mosque to church.  Change coming of Allah with the second coming of Jesus.

That was the real story that I read.

Read it here – http://www.pennlive.com/news/2018/02/pa_church_plans_to_bless_assau.html 

Has your reaction changed from when it was a story about Muslims?  Now that it’s about “Christians” do you have the same reaction, the same anger, the same fear?  Are you ready to take action?  Or are you less worried because it is a fringe “Christian” church that is blessing assault rifles near a school.

If your reaction is different – why?  Why is it ok for a “Christian” church to bless the means of violence and death, when we are told that God will return and beat swords into plowshares?  Why is it that we have hardly a reaction to when a “Christian” church plans to gather a whole bunch of people who feel so threatened by the world that they need to protect themselves with assault rifles?  Why is it that we don’t speak up when “Christians” take up arms and declare they are doing the will of God – a will that focuses on wrath, death, and destruction?  Why do we willingly stand by as “Christians” who buy into bad theology, try to usher us into some kind of apocalyptic war of destruction?

Why?

If you believe that God is only a God of wrath, then I’m telling you right now – you have got a lot to learn.  How do you match that up with Jesus?  You know the one that our entire religion is based on.

How do you match up your claims that God is going to bring destruction upon the world with Revelation 22 where God renews, restores, and transforms creation, and then comes down from heaven to dwell with us for all eternity?  How do you match up your claims that God wants us to seek out violence and destroy God’s enemies with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew?

Yes, the Old Testament is full of wrath and anger and fear and death and destruction.  And yes, much of it is done in the name of God, supposedly by God’s orders.  This is where people make arguments like this church doing a blessing of assault rifles.

Yet, do you ever wonder, how could a God who is so wrathful and vengeful and willing to order genocide because of having short fuse be the same as Jesus?

This isn’t an argument for two different Gods.  That would be heresy.  Instead, it is an argument about hermeneutics.  It’s an argument about the reality that we have had human editors of the bible that carry their own agenda.  That doesn’t mean that God is absent.  It means that the essence of the bible is that it is a story about God’s relationship with humanity and the rest of creation.  A relationship that is broken because of sin.  A story of God always coming to us – to forgive us, to offer grace, to transform us.

Yes, God has wrath – wrath about sin.  God is a God of justice.  And God is a God of love and forgiveness.  We can’t ignore these aspects of God.  Nor should we.  And we, who are Christians – the very people who claim Jesus’ name – should not ignore Jesus either.  Jesus didn’t pick up an assault rifle.  He picked up a cross and carried it to death in order to defeat death.  Not through armed rebellion, but through self-giving and self-emptying love.  That is a blessing to us.  Thanks be to God.

Hellbent on us vs. them

Tags

,

America seems hellbent on forcing people into choosing sides. Us vs. them. This is not new though. It’s been here since the founding of the nation. It’s just that at times this desire for separating and the forced choosing or placement on a side is more prevalent than other times.

Which is really amazing when you think about it. We are a nation that prides itself as the land of freedom and choice. Yet, when it comes to important decisions that affect our society and culture we are forced to pick between two flawed choices. Offering a third option doesn’t even register as a legitimate or rational option for so many.

Are we really for choice and freedom then? Are we open to actually allowing people to present other alternatives? Or are we so concerned with conformity that we mouth the words of freedom and display the symbols of freedom and yet demand conformity to the established choices presented?

We are told that we have to pick a side. If you pick one side, it automatically means you have to be against anything from the other side. Even if the two sides switch positions on a issue. That’s fine, you just adopt the argument they were using. It’s not about the issue after all. It’s about something deeper.

This is not normal or rational. It has been going on for a long time, so it might seem normal, but if we are honest with ourselves we would recognize that we are complicit in all of this.

But not everyone complies with this. Nor should you. Complying with this mentality is similar to being forced to decide how you want to be killed – by hanging or by gunfire. Why would anyone willingly participate in this decision. Yet it seems that many are willing to do just this.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are other options. But we have to be willing to let go of a broken mindset and system.

Are you willing to go against the grain? Or would you rather maintain a broken idea because you fear the consequences?

In presenting this, you can see how easy it is to fall into this mode of thinking and see it as normal.

But it is not. There are more options. They are right there waiting to be embraced and tried. I dare you to think differently.

Apocalypse!

Tags

, ,

Does the word apocalypse send a shiver down your spine? Do you envision scenes of death and destruction all around? How about pain and suffering? Maybe you envision scenes from popular Hollywood movies.

When you type in definition of apocalypse in google you end up with a definition that talks about the ultimate destruction of the earth.

I looked this up because I wanted to see what people would see when they search for this. The definition made me a bit upset. Upset enough to actually give feedback.

I wrote a short feedback and submitted it. I don’t expect a change to occur, but I couldn’t just let this definition pass without comment.

Apocalypse, at it’s core, is made up of two Greek words that mean an uncovering or a revealing. That’s hardly death and destruction at the end of the world.

This popular notion of death and destruction is simply bad theology that had seeped its way into the culture.

Why some Christians want to latch onto the idea of a God who is pissed off to the point of throwing a major temper tantrum is beyond me, especially when it’s not accurate.

Revelation is often cited. But people who hold the destruction angle seem to misunderstand the book, or cherry pick things out of it. They see the wrath and destruction, but miss the whole point of the book. Revelation is prophecy. But understand what prophecy is. It is not set in stone that something had to happen. Rather it is stating what will happen if things continue to progress as they are going. With God, there is always room for repentance.

When we read Revelation 22 we see a different narrative. It is a narrative of hope and a message of Gospel – that God will renew and restore and will ultimately abide with us and creation forever. This is a message of hope, not destruction.

Apocalypse should not create anxiety and fear for us, but rather joy and anticipation. The fulfillment of time will be the fulfillment of what God has been doing throughout all time – coming to us and creation to abide and dwell with us. God with us. God came to creation in the Garden of Eden and God will come back to walk with us in the renewed creation. Thanks be to God.

We are in a wilderness

Tags

Iceland_349

Wilderness is a barren wasteland where there isn’t much shelter.  It’s easy to get lost in the wilderness.  It’s easy to wander for miles and miles.

And in so many ways, this seems like a good description of what our political landscape is right now – a wilderness.  We are wandering, lost.  We are lost and have no clue what to do regarding mass shootings.  We offer phrases and sayings of what should be done – “pass another law” or “arm more people.”  Yet, those phrases have to be turned into something practical.  And when that happens, it gets really complicated because of everything these ideas impact.

We are wandering as a nation.  Not sure what we stand for or what we want.

And we refuse to look at the non-material aspects that have an impact on these type of situations – that our culture finds violence, death, and destruction acceptable, and even something glorious.  Yet how do we match that up with a desire to stop mass shootings?  Dare I say that these shootings are just another symptom of a large mental illness – the mental illness of our culture that values violence, death, and destruction.  Yes, a mental illness that we willingly participate in.

I see memes about other countries that have banned this weapon or that weapon and how their violent crime rates dropped significantly.  I’m glad for them.  And usually in these memes we hear just a sentence or two about how the culture no longer accepted violence as a reasonable option.  The sentence usually just gets dropped in as something insignificant.

Except, that is the most important part of any of the solutions presented.  If the culture no longer accepts violence as a way to deal with situations, then that will drive decisions.

But American culture hasn’t adopted this mode of thinking.  It used to.  But it now accepts violence as a way to handle problems.  We are bombarded with this message in many ways every day.  The culture proclaims a gospel of violence to us – demanding that we worship at the feet of the god of violence, that we make offerings, and that we offer sacrifices to this god.

We see it in our entertainment, in our food, politics, work, pornography, drugs, human trafficking, and more.

This gospel is proclaimed to us.  But it is a false gospel.  It is a gospel that ends in death.

Thankfully, it is not the only gospel.  There is another Gospel that proclaims Good News in spite of this false gospel narrative.  A Gospel that identifies death and violence for what they are and says that death and violence do not have the final say.  A Gospel that proclaims boldly that a different way of living and being is unfolding – a transformed way.  A Gospel that says that after death there is resurrected life.

This is the Gospel that I proclaim and hold dearly.  It gives life.  It gives hope.  It drives us out from our places of comfort into a world of fear and anger and offers something the false gospels can’t.  It offers a future.  And a present that are much better than anything this culture or world could ever offer.

“That’s what Christians are supposed to do…”

Tags

, , , ,

“That’s what Christians are supposed to be doing…”

This is the phrase a non-religious friend of mine said when we were talking yesterday.  We were talking about ways to tackle homelessness and I had the opportunity to share with my friend what the good people at St. Stephen Lutheran Church were undertaking – doing ministry over at the Flying J – making sure people had access to showers, laundry, and food.  We spoke for several minutes about some other opportunities we were considering and the many possibilities that existed to make an impact in the lives of people who needed help – including getting people connected with resources and professionals that could help them.

That’s when my friend said those words that caught my attention.

And revealed something insightful to me as well.

How are we Christians known and what are we known for?  Are we known because of a sect of Christianity that seems more concerned with aligning with political power – if so, then we have our focus in the wrong place.  If this is the most important thing that we Christians do, then there is something seriously wrong with our Christianity and with our faith.

I don’t buy the notion that Jesus died for our sins so that we could align ourselves with one or the other political party in the US in the 21st century and treat our political opponents in a very non-Sermon on the Mount way.

The old hymn says that they will know we are Christians by our love.  Not by our politics.  Not by our fear.  Not by our separating people into us and them.  Not into our allegiance and loyalty to a party, politician, or nation.  By our love.

Love acted out.  Love that this lived out.

It is time for Christians to act like Christians again.  Let me alter that – there are many Christians who do live out their faith and love.  They just don’t get the attention that many other Christians do who are more interested in making stupid comments about how we shouldn’t vaccinate our kids or that God is punishing some portion of the country through disasters because we don’t hate homosexuals enough or other such nonsense.

They will know we are Christians by our love.  They will know we are Christians by the care we give and offer the poor and outcast.  They will know we are Christians by using what we have been giving to help those in need.  They will know we are Christians by how we feed people.  They will know we are Christians by how we value people – all people.  They will know.  Why?

As my friend so eloquently stated – “That’s what Christians are supposed to be doing…”

It’s just so obvious.  It’s obvious to someone who isn’t even a practicing Christian that this is what Christianity is supposed to be about.  Why isn’t it obvious to practicing Christians?

As we heard in our Gospel lesson from this past Sunday – Jesus said.  “The time has been fulfilled.  The Kingdom of God has come near.”  The time is now for us to act like Christians.  God’s Kingdom is at hand.

Guns

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Guns.  The mere mention of this topics causes a rise in anxiety level for many people.  Many others automatically start thinking of one-liners, defenses, attacks, and more – they know there is going to be a fight.  Still others are so attached to these issues that they become a part of their very identity and used as part of how they describe who they are – any discussion whatsoever on these topics is considered a questioning or an attack of the person.  Isn’t it interesting that something that can be used for violence creates anxiety, fear, and anger at the mere mention of the word?

And still others, although a much smaller minority, if I had to guess, hang their head in sadness over the intense division that we face in the United States.  How exactly are we “united?”  What exactly are we united about?  I don’t see it.

Two days ago there was another shooting in a school.  The next day there is debate about guns.  There is debate about whether it is appropriate to have a debate about guns.  There are some who call for “common sense” or “reasonable” gun control.  I don’t like those terms.  I think they do more damage than are helpful.  Image being on the other side of any issue and you hear your opponent talking about “common sense” or “reasonable” legislation on your hot button issue.  How do you like just being called unreasonable or without common sense because you don’t agree with your opponent?  How does that advance us any closer to a solution?

There are others who will raise the standard of the Second Amendment and claim that the way to deal with shootings is to arm more people in the schools.  The argument is that since many schools are gun free zones, all it means is that they are sitting ducks.  Is arming more people the answer?  Is increasing the potential or the means for more violence a way to deal with the threat of violence?  Is becoming more militarized a good direction for our culture?  What are the unintended consequences of such an action?

We are completely missing the issue at hand.  We seem to think that material solutions solve all of our problems.  We seem to believe that if we just pass this one piece of legislation, then people will stop doing evil things.  If we just arm everyone, then there will be enough deterrents to make it stop.

And we miss something deeper.

That the material solutions – legislation, guns, or anything else, are only one small part of the equation.  They will remain small as long as we continue to turn a blind eye on the non-material – the spiritual.  That doesn’t mean we should just sit around and wait for the next tragedy that is coming.  That doesn’t mean we just express “thoughts and prayers” as though that’s all that needs to be said.  Prayer isn’t some passive thing that we do, something that gets us off the hook from a responsible response. Prayer is supposed to cause us to get up and do something.  Otherwise, it is just empty words, from empty faith.  What’s the point of having a faith that doesn’t cause us to be so uncomfortable and inconvenienced to do something?  What is the point of having a faith that doesn’t afflict us in our comfort?  It’s worthless and it isn’t faith at all.

Our culture is a culture of sin, brokenness, and mistrust. I don’t mean this in the traditional, conservative, religious-political way.  I’m not arguing that we are sinful because we engage in this or that activity.

Rather, we are sinful.  Period.  As a result things happen because of that brokenness.  Sin is ultimately about broken relationships.  I think there are four broken relationships that impact everything else – our broken relationship with God, with ourselves, with others, and with the rest of creation.

If we think we can mend these broken relationships by using only material things, we are mistaken – fatally.  Sin always ends in death.  Death of a relationship, death of a life, death of hope, death of meaning.

I don’t know the answer to problem we face regarding gun violence.  I do know that it goes beyond a piece of legislation though.  And it does involve legislation too.

But, if all we do is pass another gun law, we are fooling ourselves if we think that will stop the violence that happens in our nation.

We have a culture that doesn’t value life – gun violence is a symptom of this.  It’s just one symptom though.  And treating the symptom doesn’t result in a cure.

We willingly consume food that is detrimental to our health and our bodies.  We do it because they cost less money – our money is more valuable than our bodies and our health.

We willingly consume entertainment that glorifies violent death and destruction of people and creation.  We consume this same entertainment that sees others as pawns in a game and useful agents meant to offer us pleasure.  We do it because we need a way to relax.

We willingly make abortion an option for women who, for whatever reason, feel that terminating a pregnancy is the best option for them.  We do it because paying someone to get rid of the problem is easier and cheaper than surrounding a woman and her family with the resources and care she needs to bring new life into the world.  That would take a lot of work, and require a change in our culture.  Besides, it’s fun to get caught up in arguing about the exceptions.  We don’t have the time or energy to talk about how to create an environment where better options exist.

We willingly create and participate in a “health” care system that is really more focused on sick care rather than health care. We do it because focusing on health takes more effort, requires us to be vulnerable, and has upfront costs.  And it would require us to change.

We willingly fight about “issues” in the abstract because if we really thought about the impact of those issues on real people, it would be too much to bear.  It’s so much easier to fight about issues, than deal with people’s lives.  We might feel guilty or shameful for what we support and oppose.

We willingly fight about immigration and foreigners in this country and what laws should be in place and how many of “them” should be allowed in.  Is it 5,000,000, is it 1,000,000, is it 0?  Does it matter?  Those are just numbers on a screen – not actual lives.  It’s easier to keep things in the abstract.  It’s easier to build an expensive wall so that we don’t have to even look at our neighbors – we can feel safer, even if the wall does more to trap us in our own yard than keep others out.  But gosh, we need to feel safe because we are fragile and live in fear apparently.

We willingly fight about race – a human construct that on the surface is ridiculous, sinful, and screams brokenness into our culture.  We aren’t willing to hear from those who have been oppressed because our experience has been just fine, thank you very much – so what are they possibly talking about?  It’s easier to fight about race, than to listen.  Listening would mean we would have to be open to change and then actually change.

I could go on.  But I don’t have to.  In each of these “issues” we, our culture, are oriented towards sin and brokenness.  We are oriented towards death.  We devalue and dehumanize our opponents and make them enemies because we have made being right and being comfortable an idol that we worship.  We fear change because of what it will cost us.  We don’t want to be uncomfortable or inconvenienced.  We would rather talk.  We’d rather scapegoat and blame others for the problems we face.  We’d rather be lazy and take the easy way out of the responsibility that is right in front of us.

Two days ago was Ash Wednesday.  I love Ash Wednesday.  It is a day in which I am reminded of the prevalence of death.  Death is smashed right in my face, on my forehead.  It’s not just ashes of something that was alive that is now dead.  It’s not just the reminder that I too will someday come face to face with death.  It is the recognition that we live in a world that is oriented towards death – it is besieging us constantly.  It is in our face, on our screens, in the words we choose to use, in our digestive systems, in our skin, in our relationships, and our money.

It is in the idols that we worship.

But Ash Wednesday is more than just a reminder of how prevalent death is – it is also the declaration of something else.  It is the declaration that we cannot over come death on our own.  No matter what we do or how hard we try, we will not defeat death. There is one only who has defeated death – Jesus.

Jesus brings a promise – a powerful promise.  A promise of resurrection.  But in order to experience resurrection, we have to experience death.  That could mean literal death of our bodies.  But it also means death in other ways – death of organizations, relationships, jobs, etc.  And death of things that we hold really close to us – our identities with human made constructs and ideas, our passionate desires to be right and to be recognized as being right while others are wrong, our focus on separating people in to those who are with us and those who are against us.  These need to die before we can experience resurrection.

I pray we have the openness to kill these things that need to die.  Yes, kill them, before they kill us.

The Good News of Jesus is that death does not have the final say.  It is merely a stop on the way.  We fear death because we think it is an ending – a permanent ending.  Yet, Jesus says no.  Jesus promises resurrection – renewed, restored, and transformed life.  Better life.  Better than we could ever imagine.

Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow him.  We know what our crosses are – the things that we are clutching so dearly.  The things that will ultimately kill us.  The cross is an instrument of death.  Are we bold enough to allow it to do its job?  Are we bold enough to actually trust Jesus’ words and promises?  We we bold enough to allow these things that we clutch to die?

Or do we fear resurrection?  Do we fear what transformed life would be like?  Do we fear not being in control?

A promise has been made to us.  Do we trust it?  If so, how do we respond today?  How will you respond today?  I start with prayer and it pushes me out of my comfort zone to go and see the humanity, the very essence of life, that is around me.  It pushes me out with open eyes in uncomfortable ways in inconvenient times to see what is around me and to respond.  To bring life, hope, grace, and forgiveness because these have been given to me.  It is my prayer that you become so afflicted by violence, tragedy, homelessness, drug addiction, prostitution, human trafficking, porn addiction, alcohol abuse, racism, sexism, nationalism, and other sins that besiege us that you respond.  It is my prayer that you are made so uncomfortable and inconvenienced by these things that the only option you have is to respond to eliminate these things in your context.  It is my hope that your thoughts and prayers are not empty, but that they pour salt in your open wounds and cause you to get up and go.

Food stamps vs. food boxes – it’s more than about food

Tags

, , , , , ,

I read an article in Fortune magazine about the Trump Administration that started like this:

The Trump administration wants to overhaul the longstanding food stamp program, replacing it with a box of canned goods that it has likened to Blue Apron—a high-end meal kit service.

Source: http://fortune.com/2018/02/13/food-stamps-blue-apron-americas-harvest-box/

On the surface this doesn’t sound like a big deal.  If you’ve never had to be on Food Stamps, then you probably buy into the idea that people on Food Stamps abuse the benefit by buying beer and lobster, etc.  You’ve probably heard horror stories about this.

Here’s the main stated reason why this is being done:

Mulvaney claimed that the change would allow the government to save nearly $130 billion over 10 years, as it would lower government costs because it could buy the products at wholesale prices.

It’s about the money.

I would argue that it won’t save money in the long run.  The biggest reason is something I can’t quantify or point to direct evidence.

This gets into bigger issues than just feeding people.  If that’s all it were about, then great, let’s do it more efficiently and save money and get people food. The only problem with this line of thought is that nothing is in a vacuum.  Feeding people isn’t just about making sure they get food.  We have to look deeper.  Why is someone in such a situation that they need assistance in feeding themselves?  It’s not a nice, simple solution to this problem. But we Americans are really good at just throwing money at a problem and thinking that if we solve the material want or lack, then all will be well.

Except that is not the case.  The reason why government will never be able to solve hunger is because it refuses to see a person or family holistically.  It refuses to acknowledge the non-material parts of a person.  You can’t solve hunger or poverty or violence and focus solely on the material.

There is more to a person than the food they eat, the house they live in, and the job they get paid to do.

There are things that are not tangible too.  Things that we can’t measure or control – but we can influence or create an environment where the non-material is allowed to grow and flourish.

The biggest flaw with changing the food stamp program to a boxed meal isn’t the fact that the food will be less healthy – that’s a material issue.  That’s measurable and there is truth to that.  There won’t be fresh fruit, veggies, or meat.  It’s the fact that families in poverty are in poverty because, for one thing, they have limited choices.  When we take away a family’s or a person’s choice in what they will eat, we are not empowering them to make choices for themselves.  We are making them more dependent on others to make choices for them.  Meanwhile we feel good about providing the material things they supposedly need – regardless of what they want or really need.  We are dictating to them how they are to run their lives.  The effects of this are not good.  When someone’s choices are limited or they lose all their choices, it doesn’t turn out well for that person or family.   That is not how someone moves out of poverty.  That’s how they stay trapped in poverty longer.

This isn’t an argument to say that the food stamp program is great and works perfectly.  It doesn’t.  It doesn’t work effectively because it also is solely focused on the material need and ignores anything outside of that.

One of my all time favorite books is called “When Helping Hurts,” by Scott Corbett and Brian Fikkert.  Here’s how they describe poverty:

Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable.  Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings.

pg. 62, “When Helping Hurts”

And their answer to what to do about it:

Poverty alleviation is the ministry of reconciliation: moving people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.

pg. 78, “When Helping Hurts”

If our only goal is to make sure that people have enough material things, we will never relieve poverty or hunger or any other challenge we face because they problems don’t exist in a vacuum and go beyond the material.

There is more to people than just the material.  And as long as we ignore this fact, we will not really be helping people.  And we will all suffer the consequences as a result.

This is the opportunity for the church.  We aren’t government agencies, and we aren’t like other non-profits.  We should certainly work with these organizations – they can provide things that churches can’t.  But churches can do things that government and non-profits can’t or won’t do – touch on the non-material side of life.  We can touch a person’s spirit, their reason for living, their broken relationships, and offer resurrection – transformed life.  That is what makes churches unique.  We have the best news in the history of the world – a message of resurrection and transformation.

I’m willing to bet when we share this message, when we live out the message, when the message is communicated through the material help that we provide, then people will want more.  They will want to hear more.  They will want to be a part of community that lives our resurrection.  They will want to experience resurrection.

Remember you are dust…

Tags

, , ,

…and to dust you shall return.

These are the words spoken on Ash Wednesday.

I love Ash Wednesday.  I love Lent.  I love Holy Week.  It’s my favorite church time of the year.  The season of Lent forces us to deal with things most people would rather not face.  it forces me to deal with realities about who/whose I am.  It forces me to deal with my limitations and brokenness.  And to hear words of grace that I desperately need.

It starts with Ash Wednesday.  We are told that we are going to die.  Not only are we told we are going to die, but the message is forced on us – it literally is put in/on our face.  Since our culture is afraid of death, we need to hear this.  Many people are moving away from having funerals where a body or ashes are present to a memorial service or a celebration of life or something of this nature.  I understand this – we’d rather not deal with death.  Death is not a fun topic.  It sounds so final.  Yet, the Good News is that death does not get the final say.

As we go through Lent, we hear about how broken we really are.  We hear how desperately we need Jesus.  We can’t do this on our own.  And thankfully God provides the means.  The Good News is that death does not get the final say.

Then we come to Holy Week.  As we progress through the week, the story gets grimmer and dimmer.  It seems as though all hope is lost.  There is betrayal and handing of Jesus over.  There is brokenness and sin.  There are many lasts.  There are many ends.  Yet, as we go into Easter, we experience the end of the ends – a new beginning.  Resurrection!

We have to experience death before we can know resurrection.  This is the Good News.  Death does not have the final say.  God has the final say.  And it is good news for us.  The best news in the history of the world.

Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.  Remember you are dust, but God will not forget you or God’s promises to you.  Remember you are dust…

Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy

Tags

,

Orthodoxy is having the right beliefs.

Orthopraxy is the right practice.

Which is more important?  Which leads to the other?  Does rightness come from the belief or the action?  We might has well be asking which came first, the chicken or the egg.  Theologians have been arguing about this for centuries.

It comes down to this – do you believe the right thing?  If so, then you will carry it out in the right way.  Or…

If you carry out the practice in the right way, then it will impact your beliefs mostly because as a human you are drawn to have your actions and your beliefs in alignment and to be congruent.

But which is more important?

The challenge for this question is that either can end up being a type of idol.  In orthodoxy, we can end up making demands on people to comply with our version of orthodoxy and anyone who doesn’t fit in is damned.  You end up with purity tests that people need to pass.  You end up with the sins of certainty, pride, and being right.  Relationship is considered secondary.

In orthopraxy, we can end up with a relativistic belief system that swings and sways in each moment, grounded in feelings that can leave us rudderless, and potentially left believing nothing and everything.  You end up with an idol of works – who cares more than others?

So which is more important?  Neither and both.  I would argue that each informs the other.  You can’t have just orthodoxy – or maybe I should rephrase that – you shouldn’t have just orthodoxy.  When you only have orthodoxy, there is no movement to actually carry out what you claim to believe because it is secondary and not as important as what you believe.  We see this lived out in religious circles and in politics.

At the same time, you shouldn’t just have orthopraxy.  When you have only orthopraxy, the question because why are you doing what you are doing?  What is the cause of the movement and action?  What is the intent?

Instead, it is healthy to have both.  One informs the other and the other informs the one. Our beliefs should inform our actions and our actions should impact our beliefs based on what we are experiencing.  It is the marriage of theory/ideals with practice/reality.

As with most things in life, it is usually not a good idea to choose one option at the expense of the other.  Typically there is a middle ground that taps into the best of both worlds.  And it is in this middle place that I think orthodoxy and orthopraxy meet, impact each other, and allow us to better carry out our callings.

Faith – Vulnerability = Extremism

Tags

, , , , ,

I was recently at a wellness retreat.  The main speaker wasn’t able to come due to flight cancellations.  The staff scrambled to adjust and did an excellent job considering the circumstances. In place of the speaker, we got to hear about Dr. Brene Brown and her work on vulnerability.

During one of the presentations we heard Brown’s equation:

Faith without vulnerability equals extremism.

This is very insightful.

Being vulnerable is seen as being weak in our current culture.  Yet, the opposite is true.  Vulnerability comes from a place of strength.  Those that are weak wall off others.  Those that have self-doubt keep people out of their lives.  Those that have low self-confidence shut off from others and keep things at the intellectual and abstract level.

We live in a culture is based on weakness, although it wants to claim that it is strong.  When you push to eliminate opposition and conquer others, you aren’t starting from strength – you start from fear.  Fear is a sign of weakness.

Our culture claims that no matter what you do, it will never be enough.  It starts from scarcity and weakness.  It sends the message that you aren’t good enough.  You aren’t extraordinary enough.

This isn’t healthy, nor can it sustain long-term.

What would it look like to come from a place of strength?  It would offer an environment where vulnerability was encouraged.  Being vulnerable is the core essence of life.  Jesus was vulnerable throughout his life.  Vulnerable to the point of death.  It takes someone with a great deal of self-confidence, self-knowledge, and self-love to go that far.  But it doesn’t end with self, or else that would just be selfishness.  Instead, because of that strong foundation, Jesus was able to turn outward, to empower others, to offer words of forgiveness and healing, to share Good News with the broken.

The church’s message is counter cultural to its core.  It’s a message of vulnerability.

Greatness doesn’t come in walling people off, it comes in letting people into your life.  being stone faced and hard-core in everything isn’t a sign of strength.  Rather, it is a sign for help.  Demanding compliance doesn’t show strength, it shows how weak you truly are.

Faith isn’t blind and it isn’t all just about belief.  Faith is meant to be lived out.  And that means being vulnerable.  It means being vulnerable to the point of seeing how faith is a gift given to you because you need it.

Faith without vulnerability is extremism.  And it’s destructive.  And it ends in death because it is empty and worthless.