Featured

Christians and Politics: Asking Questions?

Where is our hope? Where is our allegiance?

I do not believe the Christian Church in America has figured out how to live politically involved and serve Christ first. As I said to my mother the other day, I do not believe the best book on engaging politics as a Christian has been written yet. Nor do I believe that the church as a whole has ever truly ‘figured it out’.

                This is not an indictment against the church, but an example of Christ faithfulness to his people despite their flaws. Regardless of the church as a whole, or societies stereotype of the church, Christ remains faithful. This is true even in my own writings, thoughts, opinions, and life choices. I hope that I speak with the grace of truth and may contribute well to the conversation of, “How should we then live?”

                Generally, the Christian should be aloof in politics. That does not mean un-involved, it means involved with a disconnect of hope or belief in governing bodies. The Christian faith and call transcends cultural, political, or socio economic standings. Regardless of whether you live in South Africa, Communist China, the USSR or the USA your job is the same: Follow Christ. Be kind, put others before yourself, feed the homeless, take care of the widow, be a father to the fatherless.

                In the USA it doesn’t matter if the president is democratic, republican, or has purple skin: Follow Christ. The question is, what does following him look like in these contexts? In Africa one who is trained in Nursing may need to provide free medical services. The same nurse living in Orange County, CA may choose to not “work off the clock” especially for those who have insurance. A refusal to help in one case would be a failure to put others first. The failure to say no in another may be a foolish use of time.

                How do we discern what to do? That is the subject of my next several blog posts. But think on these questions:

                Am I afraid of the current political climate? If so, where does that leave my faith in Christ as King?

                What do I spend most of my time thinking about, talking about, or doing?

                Is the political position regarding a policy or leader going to help or hinder a life lived for others?                 Is my obsession with politics preventing me from seeing the good deeds that are set before me?

Muslims, Fear, and the Church

My passion is helping to connect the church to the world. Unfortunately the church has stood with many parts of culture that are fundamentally against Christ. These are often subtle and we miss them. I am thankful for several of my good friends outside of the Church to remind me of how we are, or are not, portraying Christ.

The gospel and Christ’ calling is more about what we are supposed to ‘do’ than it is about what we are ‘not to do’. My next several postings will be on the church as they can more effectively live out the gospel as a positive endeavor, rather than a negative calling out against something.

I was outside of a church recently when I was approached by a young-ish man. He loudly pronounced that he was not a threat and he dramatically emptied his pockets of his cell phone, wallet, and keys. Threw off what could be called a jacket and tossed down his hat and proclaimed that he was harmless to everyone minus an upside down cross tattooed on his neck. I ignored the gesture, ended my phone call and introduced myself. His name is Jason. He was drunk and coming off of a meth high.

He felt the need to proclaim that he was not a threat because he had been called an ‘Arab’ ‘terrorist’ or ‘Muslim’ before. Normally I would have glossed over this. But recently I read an article by Aziz Ansari giving a brief overview of his experience with racial and religious tensions. Although he himself is often greeted in the street by individuals wanting an autograph (he plays tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation). His immediate family on the other hand has experienced a much different response. They are often called terrorists, immigrants, told to go ‘home’ and other rude or fear inducing public remarks. Specifically he details the fear he had for his mother’s safety just after the attacks in Miami.

He specifically details in his article that Donald Trump’s campaign has increased the fear and tensions he has perceived. Whether it has increased or just brought to the surface what is already there is irrelevant. There is a systemic problem as it relates to the church. This hyped up fear of terrorism and Muslim extremists is pushed mostly by right wing conservatives. A vast majority of whom are Christians. What I want to focus on, and I pray that my reader can readily listen, is the Churches response to Muslims and Arabs in our country.

Here is my central point: Christians should never in any form be a part of spreading fear. There is no Scriptural basis for fear within ourselves or spreading fear to others. Specifically, we are called to only fear God, and to be a neighbor to all we come across.

Muslims should never reasonably fear for their safety from Christians. Even if a terrorist is a terrorist that claims to be a Muslim, what have we to fear? We have Christ who conquered death. Should we spread the fear of God? No. We preach Christ, him crucified and risen again. Fear is not of faith. Christians live by faith. If we perish in the process of spreading Christ’ love, then so be it.

The same is true of homosexuals, transgendered, hippies, pot heads, metal heads, nymphomaniacs, strippers, gang members, prostitutes, pimps, etc.

The Church as God’s voice to the world needs to be a place of safety for all others, with self-sacrificing reasonable caution. Should a twelve year old girl have spoken with Jason? Of course not. But any other college or high school male could have. If I become a victim of a very small pool of people intending violence at a church, then so be it. Christ calls us to fear him alone, so let it be far from the church to cause people to fear anyone but God.

Thankfulness

In my last post, I talked about my lack of faith, and calling upon God to help me, not in some transcendental psychic communication sort of way, but by whatever means he chooses.

Long ago I shared a post with the video that is at the bottom of this one. The basic summary of the video is that we can choose our attitude. If we write down at the end of each day three things we are thankful for and describe two positive experiences we had that day, we can change the way we see the world.

I tried this for a little while. But then gave up. I wanted so badly for so long to get back to the person that I used to be. I used to be so happy all of the time. Thankful to just be alive. Constantly asking myself how I can love the next person. Then life happened, I didn’t respond well, and a few sad events later and my internal monologue now has a really bad attitude.

Furthermore is the issue of who to be thankful to. As a Christian, I should be thankful to God. But what if I can’t see God’s hand in what I am thankful for? Yes, everything that exists is because of God, but does that mean we should ascribe thanks for the fact that the toaster didn’t catch on fire this morning? Is that an act of God? It seems trite to thank him for things that he may really not have that much care in (in future posts I will talk about the little things and God’s hand).

But, as I mentioned in my last post. If God is communicating with us in any way he chooses, then should we not be thankful for each good event that happens to us? In some way shape or form, Gods hand was in that. If someone smiled, I believe that the other person is in the image of God and I can be to God for their image. Give him worship. At the very least, I can be thankful that God is helping me to be thankful for things! Or allowing me to notice.

In short, I don’t have a complicated treaties of how I know that God is in everything, and I still don’t believe he is involved in everything. But as a child can be thankful to a parent for creating the environment that he can play in, even if he bought the toys with his own money, so I can thank God for my life that I am living. Especially when that life includes answers to my prayers.

Doubt, and Faith

I doubt God. I have difficulty, very often, believing in his goodness. Although I know all of the theological answers, the sin in the world around me forces me to ask, why? What purpose? The sin that affects my heart causes me to ask, why? Where are you?
I don’t see him in events surrounding sin, and the ripple affect that it has on my life. MY LIFE. I have a hole in my heart from hurt and pain. I want it filled. I want it answered. Rather than see answers, I see more pain. I am too focused on that current pain to look forward to what God has. I want my answer now, I say as a true instant gratification American. Justice, now.
I want to see God. I want to see him act and change the world around me. Not just tell me in a book it will happen some day.
So I turn to people. They are here, they are present. But then, the hurt in my heart doesn’t just ask for a shoulder to lean on, or someone to walk with. It demands to be filled, and to have an answer. So rather than relate with another I find myself taking from them. Their energy, their emotional stability, just to satisfy my need. This obviously causes problems.
I blame myself for these problems. But I am God’s creation, and he has supposedly guided my life? So I ask why, and I do, as I have always done, the same thing to him as I do to everyone else. I demand an answer and I demand a healing to my soul. I don’t relate, I don’t listen. I don’t just tell him and watch.
Watching. Listening. Waiting. I do not do that very well. So I doubt. I don’t see God as present. He must be aloof. Watching from above. Waiting to see if I ask enough. Then, then he will come to me in a voice. Then I read a book, have a realization that I am not being grateful, so I begin thanking God for what I have. Of course, it wasn’t God who taught me that, I read it in a book. So I keep waiting for him to speak.
Of course, he doesn’t.
I get hurt.
I want healing.
The cycle continues.
My arguments get more and more idiotic. I remember telling a friend once, “The worst part about my argument with God, is that right now, I think I am winning”. Never a good place to be.
I even admit and often joke that it is hard to tell whether what I am feeling is something I ate, or the voice of God. I recently was at a bible study, left early because I get up for work early, but then went back for the prayer portion. When asked why I was back I said, “Well, I think that God told me to come back. That or I just wanted more attention. I really can’t tell which”
I don’t know what did it. What changed my thought. But I suddenly caught myself in this bitter trap of disrespect and ungratefulness. So I finally began to thank God for things. Then I had an emotionally devastating event occur. I called out to God. But for some unexplainable reason, it was different this time. It finally clicked, the connection between God and my world. I asked God, “Please refine me and purify me, guide me in your paths by any means necessary, people, nature, dogs” I was running, and passed a peacock. It was beautiful.
In asking this way, I am living in faith that God will answer. And I am removing from myself the excuse of, “that was just a coincidence” God can work through anything. I must be thankful to him for all good things, for his hand is in all things we do that are good, for that is part of his image.
In reality, I do know where this clarity came from. It was a gift, from God. And that is something that I do not doubt.

Life Worth Living: Purple vs Green part ii

Life Worth Living: Purple vs. Green part ii
Purple. Green. Yellow. Purple. Or green. Why should I like purple or green? Or purple instead of green. I often wonder why people like anything. If I was an evolutionary naturalist, it would make sense for me to question such things.
After all, according to evolution, every aspect of a person is the sum total of all of the random chance that came before me. My emotions are merely the sum total of my biochemistry, (genealogical input) plus the stimulus I receive. If I like purple, it is because I have been condition that way. If I believe that it is better to work hard than be lazy, it is because of my upbringing. A romantic evening is all random chance and physics.
However, I am not an evolutionary naturalist, I believe in a living Holy God who deeply loves his people. He has given them the whole expanse of creation to enjoy, and has given His only Son in order to draw us into a perfect relationship with Him. But I get hung up on the eternal focus. Why bother with the imperfect when the holy awaits? After all, we already established that the wicked will prosper and the righteous will perish. Children will cry, and lovers will be broken.
But here is the catch, here is what I cannot escape even though I feel that I am often running. Christ’s love finds us, his creation, in our sin and imperfection. God did not wait to love us until we were made perfect. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were imperfect. He is also continuing a good work in us until its completion in the day of Christ.
Even though the world is broken, as the tears of a single child make it that way, it is still meant to be loved. God knew his creation would fail, and become imperfect. Yet he made it anyway. He also knew that his creation would cause him deep pain, as to love deeply is to be hurt deeply. And he still chose to create us, and love us.
I feel a call to love everything God has made. To run in the wind and enjoy the sun. To climb, (or kiss) trees and enjoy the sunset. To laugh at nothing like a little child simply because Christ has chosen to love, and one of his gifts is the world around us. Imperfect, but enjoyable because he is working redemption despite the brokenness.
And yet. As I look at a beautiful morning sunrise, that slowly changes the clouds from pink, to purple, I am afraid of that love. The love that I have no control of. It is there because it desires to be there. I cannot earn it. I cannot make a claim on some higher principle that it should always love me. But I must rely on the Love of God Himself. Just as God swore by himself to Abraham, and Abraham trusted him, I must make the leap of faith that his love will not leave. And in that peace, I can enjoy his creation.