“Evangelical” in American cultural usage right now is a term that is full of landmines. Michael Gerson, an evangelical writer, is a voice that calls out the challenges often. In a current column with the Washington Post, he reminds readers of what true evangelicals used to be like:Continue reading “Being truly “evangelical””
Rod Dreher isn’t enamored with the election of Donald Trump. While it’s a possible side benefit that Trump may actually appoint conservative judges and justices, Dreher isn’t going to be sidetracked from the idea of the turn that has already happened in American culture. Continue reading “Losing political clout may save the American Church”
The group I am with teaching in Ethiopia visited an Orthodox Church and monastery yesterday. It was a visit revealing both the beauty and tragedy of Orthodox Christianity. I have studied Orthodox Christianity over the years and have a deep appreciation for the beauty that led to the liturgies they now have. Were it not for the Orthodox Church, we would not have settled major doctrines like the person and deity of Christ, or come up with concepts wrapped in a word like “Trinity.” Continue reading “The beauty and tragedy of Christianity”
You know why it’s easy to get hits on a blog post? Headlines and hashtags.
Content rarely matters.
But I strive for both because I like “hits,” and the illusion of people actually reading this stuff. So, this post really IS about the “next culture war.” David Brooks has written a very challenging column for today’s New York Times. Basically, it’s a call for social conservatives, especially evangelical Christians, to give up the fight on “social issues” that pertain to the sexual revolution. (Honestly, you need to read the column. I’m not doing it justice with a quick summation.)
But if evangelicals give up that fight, what in the world will we do? The interesting thing about his advice is these are things we already do, at least in our church. The problem with all that is this: we’re not good at making headlines. We just go do this stuff and then let the culture beat up on us anyway by making headlines about what we aren’t.
Should that keep us from doing what we’re already doing? Of course not. Should we take a photographer with us and post more pictures of how compassionate we are on Facebook? Probably. (Okay, I’m kidding.)
This is what Brooks would like to offer for social conservatives:
The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.
Now, on a pure “social conservative” level, this just won’t happen. Politically, it’s a minefield. If social conservatives actually went into poor areas and tried to establish programs to, you know, actually help people, it takes away from their brand that says, “If you’re poor, you get yourself out of it. Go get a job!”
And, quite honestly, because there is a still a vast remnant of evangelicals still tied to the Republican Party, it may still take some time for this to take hold. Small steps are being taken. Evangelicals (especially megachurches) are good at “events.” So, there is a shift away from a “evangelistic crusade event” to now days where they bring in huge loads of gifts like clothing, food, health check ups, etc. to do a one day event, get word out, advertise it, make sure the media shows up for some pictures, then pack up and go home. It’s a step.
But beyond that are local churches that do exactly what Brooks is describing. We’re just small, don’t take a lot of pictures, and don’t know anyone in the media. It shouldn’t keep us from getting up in the morning and doing what we do.
If bigger evangelical churches joined in and would leave the media trail at home, there would be a better impact. But if not… we have to keep working in these areas to bring what is GOOD to a community.
The wonderful things I find working with schools is there are so many Christians in those schools. Teachers and administrators who are working in the HARD school districts to do something well for broken families. And when churches show up to actually HELP with their goals, a good synergy can happen. Don’t show up with your agenda. Show up and ask how you can help their agenda. You’ll find surprising answers along the way.
This culture war is more Albert Schweitzer and Dorothy Day than Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham; more Salvation Army than Moral Majority. It’s doing purposefully in public what social conservatives already do in private.
Let us live out light in the midst of darkness. Let’s mentor some students. Let’s volunteer on a regular basis at a food shelf. Quit doing as many events and push that money toward supporting a local project already doing some good work!
And along the road, amazing conversations will help. Along my own road, it’s not only been conversations I’ve been able to have to see a life changed, but it’s that my own life has been changed.
Let’s go live light. Let’s go be salt. And see what happens in the next 20 years or so.
Several years ago I had the privilege of hearing Dallas Willard speak for a week at a local seminary. One thing he said even quite a few years ago still stands out to me today, showing how prophetic his ministry truly was in an age of bumper sticker theology.
“I don’t want to be known as the white male heterosexual leading authority on spiritual formation.”
Yet, we keep dividing, and sub-dividing, and slicing and dicing to further separate people and THEN we can decide if something is a “good idea.”
It’s heart breaking.
Just when I get introduced to a good blogger, he goes away.
But I sure understand his reasons.
Modern liberals and conservatives continue to control the discussion. Those of us who think otherwise are marginalized because we refuse to accept the power and influence of those who are members of the extremes.
I get that completely. And I play that game. Not with my content, I hope… but with my headlines and tags. I am not going to lie.
I know my normal “stuff” doesn’t get read. It doesn’t get “hits.” I don’t have angst. I grew up in a fundamentalist atmosphere, turned into somewhat of a moderate, moving from a die-heard conservative to a raging “moderate,” and that stuff is just plain BORING.
People want shrill.
And my blog the other day about Hobby Lobby proved my point. I got huge numbers on my “hits.” I got ONE person commenting. And when there wasn’t a fight to be had, even that dried up.
I hope Bevere comes back. His next post said he might.
But I sure understand his frustration.
And, quite frankly, I think I’ve reached a point where I’m just plain out of words. I have no desire to be shrill. I just want to lift up Jesus, not as a conservative or a liberal, but just let Jesus shine and do my dead level best to walk in faithfulness to what I see of him in Scriptures.
So, I go off to do that.
And maybe I will find more words to share. But I’m pretty sure they won’t be shrill. And if they make both “sides” mad… even better.
But I think I’ve just run out of words.
I grew up in a great political era. Honestly.
My family was very aware of the news and it was discussed at the dinner table. I was a political geek, knowing the names of the Supreme Court justices, the leaders of the Congress, and many key cabinet leaders in the sitting president’s cabinet.
I knew key world leaders. Key events interested me.
It was also the time of the Moral Majority and the big issue was abortion. Political action was part of life growing up for me.
Political action is still an interest, but it isn’t life.
Do I still believe in right actions? Yes.
Do I still believe there are actions that bring blessing and actions that bring curses… or consequences? Absolutely.
I fundamentally believe there is a way that is God’s best in our lives that will bring us incredible freedom, blessing, and some definition of abundance that doesn’t always include multiple houses, cars, and planes.
I also believe fundamentally that outside the work of the Spirit the fundamental understanding of just how that blessing works can be “hit” from time to time, but living in it, with the understanding of eternal blessing, is nigh impossible.
Over the years I’ve come to an understanding that working from the outside in is a fruitless effort. We act from the inside out.
I don’t say, “You can’t legislate morality,” because I deeply believe morality is legislated all the time. Someone’s deep belief in how the world, or at least a culture, should work gets pushed ahead into legislative and legal action. We legislate someone’s morality all the time.
But that is not the issue for me. The issue is the Kingdom of God. The issue is the beauty of Jesus and the pursuit I have in treasuring Jesus. It is the pursuit of my life and I want to draw others into pursuing his beauty as well.
So, for me, culture wars are just crazy now. They will still go on and I can easily say it’s not just conservatives that wage that war. It is liberals, and now it is their turn in winning. But, that is life.
The parable that has helped me understand I need to hold these issues in this world more loosely is the parable of the wheat and the weeds.
When Jesus explains this parable later in Matthew 13, he essentially says the Father will work this all out.
I still vote, even though I hold my nose to do so more and more. I still have deep held opinions on every action we take as Americans and still voice those opinions. But disagreement over abortion, gay marriage, food stamps, healthcare, etc., is not going to send opponents to hell… or heaven.
It is the heart and life that follows Christ, treasures the Kingdom, and obeys that will find itself harvested and saved. THAT is what I most cherish.
In the meantime, at least according to this parable, we are growing in this mess together. You may think I’m a weed. I may think you’re a weed. You may think I’m just weird… and I you.
But I want to treasure Jesus and I desire for others to simply treasure Jesus. He will sort this out in the end and we will all be wonderfully (and sometimes painfully) surprised.
Okay, it won’t be “post” because this thing won’t go away for awhile.
But these are my thoughts.
As believers, we have gone from “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us” to shouting so loudly at each other we can no longer hear the Holy Spirit, let alone each other.
Not only are we not listening to each other, but by NOT listening to each other we are definitely not listening to our Head: Christ.
I can say, “That goes for ‘both sides,'” but I really need to say it goes for me.
In the famous line of G K Chesterton when a newspaper asked what in the world is wrong with humanity, he responded as I wish to respond right now.
This isn’t a post about “just war theory” or pacificism. It is about a far more important war.
Peter describes it as the war that is waged against our very lives as believers (1 Peter 2:11, CEB).
We are good at waging real war. We are good at waging virtual war. This week we’re REALLY good at waging cultural war.
But here is this sober call from Peter. This is a place where I really like the Common English Bible. In this verse believers are described as “immigrants and strangers” in this world.
Immigrants. All of us who are believers.
And… there is war. The war to be waged is not physical in the sense of military. It is not virtual. It is not even cultural. It is spiritual. It is against a world that will simply be at odds with the allegiance of the Kingdom. Those allegiances will get tested.
So.. how do we “wage” this war?
v. 12 (CEB): by living honorably. Live such a good life in front of unbelievers that if they defame you, it is only for doing what is good.
v. 13 — We wage war by honoring human institutions. In Paul’s day it was to the emperor. The call was to submit to an oppressive government. Even in that day, even in that government, there was a place for what government did as a function of society.
v. 15 — We wage war by quiet submission.
v. 17 — We wage war by honoring everyone. We wage war by loving the family of believers. We wage war by fearing God.
Funny way to wage a war.
This passage has quieted my spirit this week. While we’re in an uproar over the symbolism of a chicken sandwich… along comes this passage that reminds us we have a different war to wage. In all honesty, I do not like this passage. It calls me to examine something beyond what is visible. It is a call to carefully examine what wages war within me. I’d rather stand in line for a chicken sandwich.
Christianity is not for the weak of heart. It is not for those who want pat answers in their lives. Following Christ has its consequences. It has its battles. We follow Christ, we are engaged by an enemy who wants to take us down. It’s serious stuff. Waging that war is far more vital… far more important…
Living honorably among people in our culture takes true power in the Holy Spirit. This culture won’t always like it. But we are called to stay faithful. This is war.