Sunday, August 31, 2008

Excessive Confidence.

"...a disease shared by the Christian religion.. ..excessive confidence." - Brian McLaren 'Everything Must Change'

At first read I gave a slight 'hm..' and kept on. But then I came back and read it again. Lightbulb moment. And as my mind went through the process of taking the words on the page and applying them to tangible events in history, it was like playing connect the dots. Accept every time I connected a dot I just shook my head in disgust.

Throughout history kings, dictators, presidents, white supremists, and those who have held power and privilege have wrongly used faith as justification to push their own personal agendas. They’ve perverting scripture and Jesus to defend their own rationale or to protect the status quo. And what's scary is what they practiced and preached was not only tolerated by those that followed, but accepted and adopted as truth. And what’s even scarier is the level of certainty in which they carried it out.

Hitler viewed Jesus as a 'fighter' and that his greatest moment was when he was a fighter and not a sufferer. He also viewed the eradication of the Jews as 'fighting for the work of the Lord'. Scary..

White supremists held the stance that Africans were descendants from Cain, and that the mark that God left on Cain (Genesis 4:15) was ‘black skin’. In Genesis 9:25-27 Noah curses his son Ham (father of Canaan) and states that he will be a slave to his brothers. Thus giving them Biblical justification for their racism and enslavement of Africans. Real Scary..

Some broad instances include the crusades, the holocaust, witch trials, slavery, and abortion clinic bombings to name a few.

Philippians 3 talks about how our confidence should be in Christ and not in our own flesh, and it preludes with a stern warning to ‘watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.’ The same ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ that Jesus warns us about (Matthew 7:15).

My point is to not be a downer or a pessimist but I think the confidence that we are supposed to have in Christ needs to be revisited. The message and teachings of Jesus need to be revisited. We need to look at God’s word with a fresh perspective. We need to look to Christ alone for direction and strength.

We need the pray for wisdom and the ability to discern what we hear and read from others, and not just agree with it. We need to approach podcasts we listen to, books we read, opinions of others, politicians we like, etc with skepticism. Not to be postmodern, or to be an elitist, or to be one that cannot trust anyone or anything, but rather someone who can guard themselves against those wolves in sheep’s clothing that Jesus warns us about. And take what we hear and read and hold it up to scripture and prayer to determine its validity.

Our confidence should come from Christ alone, and not in our, or anybody else's, opinions/interpretations.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

'...the Mainstream?'

Recently I was asked a question that completely caught me off guard, but not because I didn't have thoughts on this particular topic, but more so because it came at a time when the topic of conversation revolved probably around something trivial like sports, so literally out of the blue...

"What do you think it'll take for African-American youth to join the mainstream..?"

And my immediate response was, "What exactly do you mean by 'the mainstream'?"

And after further conversation it was broken down into much more manageable 'PC' kind of questions, questions that revolved around education, gangs, housing, culture, etc.

I don't exactly remember where the conversation went from there, but some of the questions that spawned are ones that I've been struggling with for the last couple of years. These questions paint with a broad brush so there are obvious exceptions, but for example, why do minority and poor youth end up at low performing/low funded schools? Why is the draw to join a gang so powerful? Why do minorities and the poor live in deteriorating communities? Why are schools, neighborhoods, and the workplace still for the most part homogeneous? The list goes on and the list is long.

The mainstream Christian would argue that the absence of Jesus is the reason issues such as these exist, and that if 'Jesus' were present in their lives and in their communities that it would alleviate these issues. Or that the problem is systemic so it’s the Governments job to find the solution. Or that this is simply a matter of personal responsibility. Or it’s just the way the world is and despite our efforts evil and brokenness will remain.

Ultimately the answers to these types of questions aren’t quick and easy. Often times when you dive deeper and seek answers you will end up with even more troubling questions.

Despite your stance on the source of the ‘solution’, here’s another question to ask yourself if you haven’t already, what does Jesus have to say about this?

Is our sole purpose as followers of Jesus to get as many people on our boat as the world sinks? Or does following Jesus mean getting our hands dirty with the injustices of today?

I believe a personal relationship with Jesus and following him has everything to do with fighting injustice and defending the poor. But at the same time it's dangerous to minimize the personal, redemptive, healing, and transforming power that Jesus has in our individual lives.

The Christian faith should be holistic, integral and balanced.

(See Isaiah 1, Matthew 9:12, Matthew 25:31-46)

take a read, chew on it, let it simmer. more later..