You mean I can actually call myself an evangelical?

8 05 2008

Evangelical Manifesto.





Salvation as Liberation 1

24 04 2008

One of the reasons that I get frustrated with the evangelical American church is the truncated view of salvation that we have.  Our view of salvation is generally limited to “admission into Heaven.”  A lot of people pay lip service to the fact that salvation is more than that, but the lip service doesn’t play out in real life.  We say, for instance, that coming to Jesus will make your life better.  What we mean by that is you go to church now, whereas before you weren’t going to church and you were miserable.  The trouble is, just as many people inside the church are as miserable as those outside of the church.

It seems to me that the problem stems from our selfish, individualistic view of salvation.

In the Old Testament, salvation is a term used to describe YHWH’s salvation for the community of Israel.  Salvation occurs when the people of covenant practice righteousness and justice.  And in the Old Testament, righteousness and justice are deeply connected with how the nation acts towards the hungry, the widow, the downtrodden, the alien.  If the rich neglect the needs of the poor, if the powerful do not seek justice for the weak, YHWH gets mad and it doesn’t go so well for Israel.

What would happen if the American evangelical church took on the notion of salvation as social justice?  How do we act out the principles of social responsibility that are so deeply rooted in the covenant of the Old Testament?  How do we rationalize the New Testament call to care for the “least of these” with American material wealth?

These are all things that I’m struggling through, and issues I want to see the church take up both on a large scale and in local congregations.  I wish the call to end poverty struck a chord with more Christians than the call to abolish homosexual marriage, for instance.

In short, salvation is a promise for the people of God.  Yes, it is a promise for the individual, but only insomuch as they are a part of the community of God.  That might strike some nerves in our individualistic, materialistic culture, but I think that it’s true.  Liberation from oppression is a task that the people of God must pursue if they are to experience the full nature of salvation.  Because, you see, salvation is not something that I get out of following Jesus.  Salvation is something that YHWH gives to his people.

Salvation is liberation, and liberation is salvation.





Struggles

7 04 2008

I am losing faith.

Not faith in God. Not faith in Christ. I have as much faith in the way of Jesus as I ever have. It’s probably safe to say that I have more faith in the way of Jesus than ever.

I am losing faith in church. I am losing faith in Christians.

I know, I know: Christians are imperfect people. They’re no better than anyone. But Jesus said that the way that the world knows who we are is by our love for one another.

And churches split. Christians kill. Christians advocate for war. Christians ignore poverty. Christians ignore the environmental crisis. Christians lead the way in hatred of homosexuals… You get the picture.

At the same time I know that this isn’t the whole picture. I know that there are wonderful people doing the work of God in the world.

So what are we to make of the church?

My experience with the church is a mixed bag.  On the one hand, I have developed life long relationships based on truth, forgiveness, love, and hope.  My wife and I have enriched our relationship through the church.  We have seen many examples of what it looks like to live in a loving, self-sacrificial kind of marriage.  Many people in the church have invested in my life – from my youth minister, to my high school buddies, to my college minister, to people who volunteered with me in the youth ministry at WHBC.

But then there’s that other hand.   One of the basic problems in my experience is that church is entirely focused on the sustainment of the institution.  From tithing to programs – everything rests on “growing” our particular “family of faith.”  There has been little to no focus on impacting the surrounding community.  Sure, we want people to come, only so long as they come to our church and “get saved” in our church so we can grow.  And I have met the meanest people in church.  There are people in the church who hate.  You know, the ones who never have anything good to say.  Everything is negative criticism.  Not to mention the deep political divides within the church.  The church is more divided in terms of right and left than the American political sphere – you have fundamentalists, mainline liberals, emergent, reformed, catholicism, etc., and virtually none of them work together.  Blah.

I could keep going, but you get the idea.

In all of this, I have been struggling over the past few months about what it looks like to actually be the people of God, to actually participate in the life of the Kingdom.  And I can’t get over the feeling that the Kingdom of God does not exist in the traditional, institutional church of America.  Maybe I’m wrong.  I hope that I am wrong.  It’s just a feeling that I have.  And I certainly don’t have any answers.  I just have questions (and sometimes I don’t even have questions, just illegible inward emotions that drive me crazy).

And in all of this, I have been struggling with my place in the church.  I used to think that I was going to be a youth minister for 10 years or so, and then possibly do something else in the ministry.  I can’t go back to that.  I can’t bring myself to work for a system that is so fundamentally flawed.  But I’m still called.  I know that God has called me to “ministry,” as cliche as that sounds.  So I have no idea where to go from here.

I have a feeling of disgust towards church.  I can’t put my finger on it.  I don’t have any answers.  I just know that I can no longer live in the status quo.





Maybe terrorism isn’t so bad…

3 04 2008

Sally Kern, a representative in Oklahoma, said that homosexuality is a bigger threat than terrorism.

Yes.  People strapping bombs to themselves and blowing up large numbers of people.  Not quite as scary as some man I don’t know who happens to be sexually attracted to another man.

God is going to punish us to be sure.  Who knows?  Maybe his punishment for homosexuality is terrorism.  Perhaps Rep. Kern should have made that connection.

This is the kind of thing that makes me hate conservatism.  I mean really, what good does that kind of a statement do?  And it’s not just the statement; it’s the whole way of thinking that just doesn’t make a lick of sense to me.  Do you honestly think that if we were able to outlaw homosexual lifestyles it would get us somewhere?  Do you honestly think that homosexuality is a bigger problem than terrorism, a bigger problem than drug abuse, than violence, than poverty?  Really?  What it would really solve if we were able to pass legislation that outlawed gay marriage?

Oh wait… we have passed such legislation, and our problems remain.  Good job, fundies.

Over-arching question:  Why is it that Christians feel the need to enforce their morals/beliefs on others?  This isn’t a new concept (think Spanish Inquisitions).

Why can’t the church just be the church?  Why do we have to be hateful bigots?

Final question: which is more immoral – to live a lifestyle of homosexuality, or to live a lifestyle that is characterized by demeaning others who you don’t agree with?





Blog Action Day was yesterday, but yay for the environment!

17 10 2007

I’m slow at these things.

Blog Action Day

We need to do all that we can to protect our environment.

In celebration of this momentous occasion, I will be jamming to Jack Johnson’s “3 R’s” off the Curious George soundtrack.





We Don’t Celebrate Halloween’s Brand of Violence, We Celebrate Jesus’ Brand of Violence

16 10 2007

‘Wal-Mart for Jesus,’ aka Mardel, doesn’t sell Halloween costumes. They just have Christian “dress-up” stuff (seriously, I received an add in the mail yesterday). Halloween is too offensive. We don’t use that word. Halloween has demons and goblins and vampires and ghosts and other things that are contrary to Christianity.

But dressing up like a Christian crusader is not offensive. It’s okay to kill the infidels who don’t believe in Jesus like me.

Crusader

We need to teach our kids that violence and war is fun and silly and goofy and light-hearted. And that a long time ago there was a nice and devoted group of people who tried to “to take back the Holy Land from the infidels.”

We need to to take back America from the infidels, too!

Let’s teach our kids to be soldiers for Jesus!

All that peace-making talk in the Sermon on the Mount just isn’t all that useful. I mean, really, who actually “turns the other cheek?” What good does that do us Christians? It certainly doesn’t get us ahead in the competition for prominence in today’s world. So I say we forget all that peace-making talk in the New Testament and turn back to the good ol’ days of war-mongering in the time of Joshua and the Judges! And rather than look to Jesus as our example, let’s look to the Medieval times where chivalry was the rule of the day!

careful disclaimer: I’m sure the people who created these costumes meant well, but, geez, we need to think these things through….





Is This God?

11 10 2007

I was sitting in Truett’s chapel exactly one week ago at the Parchman lectures as Dr. Ben Witherington III talked about the fact that Lazarus is most likely the beloved disciple in the gospel of John (yes, Lazarus, not John) when a thought, or an idea, or a prayer, or something like that came to mind.

It had nothing to do with John. Err… Lazarus.

Anywho, I’ve been struggling lately with exactly what I want to do with my life. I know I’m going to “be in ministry,” but that’s awefully vague, and frankly, I’m not even sure what that means (since, in fact, all Christians are called to be ministers of the gospel). And this is why I’m at Truett.

I’ve been thinking about youth ministry, and, I am somewhat sad to say that youth ministry is not my long term calling (sorry, Western Heights). God has surely taught me this much.

I’ve also thought about teaching in some capacity within the church, and this sounds pretty cool. And I’ve even thought about going and getting my PhD so that I could possibly teach on a university or seminary level.

But for some reason a thought entered my head at the Parchman lectures as Dr. Witherington did his thing. I had to write it down. I don’t know why it even entered my brain because I was actually quite focused on what Dr. Witherington was talking about, and this had nothing to do with what he was saying whatsoever. Nor have I thought about it at all in terms of my own life goals…

Social justice.

Christian ethics.

Peace making.

Suddenly, an excitement came over me. This is what I want to do! Immediately, I thought about the implications of this. How could I pursue social justice, Christian ethics, and the concept of peace making in terms of my life practice and in terms of applying my life practice to broader social issues? This works nicely with my previous aspirations of furthering my education, but now I have a focus. I’m now thinking that I want to pursue a ThM with a concentration in ethics either at Fuller or Princeton, and then pursue a PhD somewhere, somehow. But these degrees are not degrees simply so I can have degrees. I really want to serve God, to discover what it means for the church to be an agent of social justice and peace because, frankly, in its most popular forms, the church is not acting as an agent of peace or justice.

So now, a week later, I’m turning ideas over in my head, and all of these ideas are seeming to be confirmed by random events this week, and I don’t know if this is merely some kind of self-fulfilled prophecy.

For one, I talked with my wife, and, of course, she was supportive and even excited for me as she always is.

Then, I talked with my good friend Cruz about it, and he was really excited.

Then, I got this Relevant Magazine package that we receive for our youth ministry at the church, and it was filled with items that focus on the social action of the church. Most notably, it had Brian McLaren’s new book, Everything Must Change (of which I will speak of soon), which I read in two days on my trip to Jackson and which even further got me thinking about social justice and peace-making. Additionally, one of the magazines in the package features an outstanding article, “Belief to action: Taking your group beyond conversion to discipleship.” And finally, the Robbie Seay Band’s new CD was included in the package, and it explodes with a message of action.

Another weird thing: as I was at Union doing the whole recruiting thing, I had the privilege of speaking with a student who was concerned with ethics and social action. He told me about his desires for ministry, and I was floored because it resonated so well with what had come to my mind this week.

Finally, this weekend Baylor’s Center for Jewish Studies is hosting an international conference entitled: Interfaith Journeys on the Road to Liberation. The conference is focused on liberation theology, and it has brought speakers and theologians from around the world who have experienced and practiced liberation theology. Today, I went to a luncheon for this conference and was privileged to hear Dr. Allan Boesak speak. Dr. Boesak was/is a Christian leader in the liberation movement in South Africa, and his message today was absolutely amazing, again confirming what I have been thinking about all week long – the need for the church to stand up for justice and peace.

If God is in this, I suppose my excitement will continue, and I suppose that doors will open along the way. If this is indeed of God, and I think that it is, then I will certainly jump in head-first and never look back.

We’ll see, I guess.