AWOL from the Christian Culture War.

“Let them vote ‘no’ to this ordinance, and ‘yes’ to the reign of the kingdom of God,” Pastor Charles Flowers said at the rally. He said this right before joining the crowd in booing Eric Alva, an openly gay Marine staff sergeant who became the first U.S. soldier injured in Iraq when he stepped on a landmine, spoke in favor of an ordinance that would protect people against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity at a San Antonio City Council meeting on Wednesday night.

Sigh. I find the culture war exhausting, distasteful and confusing. I am overcome with the cloud of war and have become convinced that the people who sit in the Christian War Room drawing up plans and maps are fighting for the wrong causes for all the wrong reasons.

So, as of today, I am going AWOL. I am out of here. I am trading in my faith fatigues for flowers and my Bible bombs for hugs.

In reality, I actually defected in my heart a long time ago, and have expressed my dissent and disagreement with the Christian Culture War Machine long and loud on many an occasion. The difference today is that I am declaring my independence and leaving the ranks.

I mean why do people who claim to follow Christ want to fight a war that Jesus never asked them to fight?

In Jesus’ day many people were looking for the Messiah to come in and politically and militarily take over and set up a physical kingdom right then. Many people were actually quite disappointed to find out that Jesus was not interested in removing Caesar or even the Sanhedrin from power. Almost as disappointed perhaps as some might be to learn that Jesus has no interest in impeaching President Obama.

Jesus was also faced with a woman caught in the act of adultery (an offence according to Jewish law that had very specific and dire consequences) he did not stand on the side of the powers that would have chosen to see this woman stoned to death. He stood on the side of the woman and extended radical grace to her. The men who accused her were testing Jesus to see if he would uphold the law. He did not. Do you think there would be the same level of disappointment  on the faces of people today when Jesus stands by the side of a woman who chooses abortion and extends radical grace to her?

When people were upset by the company Jesus kept and the parties he attended, when they called him a drunk and a sinner, he didn’t stop to please them. He didn’t cut them off either. He simply continued to be who he was and let people make their own decisions about him. I try to apply this principle on Facebook when people disagree with me. I have yet to sever ties with friends who disagree with me, I continue on being who I believe he calls me to be and allow people the freedom to choose to sever ties or stay friends. I always hope for the latter.

Jesus, though he was able to call down the power of heaven to free himself from the cross, instead chose to absorb the hate and give back forgiveness. I am afraid there were people there who were disappointed that he did not call down the fire and wipe out “the enemies”. Even people who had lived with him and had heard his teachings. How often are God‘s foot soldiers caught up in forcing people to conform to what they believe by passing laws which do nothing to change people’s hearts?

*side note: This isn’t just happening here at home. American Christians are also instrumental in influencing laws in other countries. A prime example of this can be found in Uganda’s Anti-gay Legislation, which you can read about here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/04/world/africa/04uganda.html?_r=0

As far as I can tell, Jesus was/is on the side of the lepers, the women, the overlooked, the underestimated, the ones who drink too much, say too much, feel to much. He also was/is on the side of the privileged, the zealot, the religious, the goody-two-shoes and the ones who are just too tired to go on. He loves us all. His kingdom is a kingdom of peace. His law is a law of love. His righteousness is a free gift that is neither bought nor earned by any of us.

My allegiance is to this king and this kingdom. Not to some misguided war machine that is dedicated to fighting against the people they were sent to love. Too often they have used Jesus himself as a weapon and his words to wound instead of heal.

The very people Jesus intends to be the Red Cross to a dying and imprisoned world; who he sends to deliver the good news that their imprisonment is over and that God is not holding their sins against them; instead point to the bars and make sure the prisoners knew their captivity is their own damn fault.

Here is the commission I believe Jesus offers and I gladly accept: Ambassador of the God who came near. I will willing and joyfully serve as the Minister of Reconciliation for the one who took all the wrath that humans could dish out and said, I choose love.

What if you came with me?

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A Facebook friend posted a status today that said, something to the effect of, “Sometimes you just have to trust that evildoers (I believe he actually said wrongdoers) will get it in the end or you would go insane.” (paraphrased)

This is a sentiment I have heard over and over my whole life. Every time someone does something ranging from merely inconveniently bad (stealing our wallet/phone/car, et al.) that we can’t do anything about to the flat out horrifically evil (the Castro brothers of Cleveland, Ohio) that we can’t think of a punishment awful enough for, we say something like it. We like to think that God‘s punishment will be worse than anything we could dream up. We say things like,

“Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.”

“He/she will get their’s in the end.”

“I hope he/she burns in hell.”

But what if there was another option?

What if wrongdoers are in the end made to understand their wrongdoing and then transformed into who they were always meant to be? Wouldn’t that be better? Isn’t that a more satisfying and complete defeat of evil? Is not the love of Christ enough to consume even the vilest offenses of the worst of humankind and transform the evildoer into something beautiful? Who they once were would cease to exist and who they always should have been would be all that remains. Doesn’t that type of justice also account for the wrongs done to that person that contributed to their descent into darkness? Don’t get me wrong, I agree that here and now there must be consequences to evil behavior and there are some acts so heinous they are difficult to even comprehend. I understand that some people cause a legacy of pain so deep that we as humans cannot see a way to redemption. But isn’t that why we are not fit to judge? Is not our love incomplete? As I said in an earlier post,

People always say you should fear his [Jesus] judgement as he will be the judge on the last day. Personally, I think you should be super relieved and overjoyed that he will be your judge. If he is anything like he was on earth (which was the exact representation of who God is), he will find ways to forgive that you cannot even imagine. He will judge with mercy and compassion. This is the man who came to save all. Who died for all. He took the full weight of all the worst the world and humanity has to offer and he absorbed it and he looked it in the face and he pronounced love and forgiveness.

Why does this idea, that the evil could be redeemed and made right, make so many people mad? I think it because most of us hurt so badly for the people (sometimes others, sometimes ourselves) that the evil have wronged that we just don’t see how it is fair for them to receive mercy. Not now; not ever.

Jesus once told a parable about about some workers. He said he told the story to reveal a little bit of what the kingdom of heaven is like. In the story, the owner of a vineyard hires groups of workers throughout the day. In so doing the groups all work different amounts of time. At the end of the day, he pays all the workers the same amount regardless of how long they worked. Some of them get angry, and think they should get more for working longer to which the man in the story says this, “‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”

I worship a generous God who forgives (thank goodness) when I would not, who loves when I cannot, and died for all regardless of what they had done or would do. He has set about making “all things new” and “restoring all things”, including humanity. Can you imagine a world where (insert the name of your favorite bad person here), instead of growing up to lead people to death, destruction and hatred, grew up to lead people to life, wisdom and love of the other? What if all their gifts had been used in the cause of love instead of hate? Wouldn’t that be a better world? What if in the end God gives us that kind of world? What if he lets us experience that kind of love? What if the people known to be most evil were transformed into who they always should have been? What if swords are really turned to plow shares, what if the lion does lay with the lamb? What if it is like none of us were ever damaged, or hurt or never damaged and hurt another? What if all evil is consumed by good, death is swallowed up by life and we each become who we were always meant to be? What if love wins?

What if as it says in 2 Cor 5 (*see footnote at the bottom of the post), Jesus actually died for ALL? What if God, through Jesus actually was reconciling the WORLD to himself? What if he really isn’t COUNTING THEIR TRESPASSES AGAINST THEM? And what if, what if God actually wants to make his appeal THROUGH US? As far as I can tell from the passage, Jesus, by dying secured victory over sin and death.

My husband pointed out an N.T. Wright quote and response he read online yesterday when he was proofreading my rough draft of this post. I thought it fit right in so I am going to share it.

The Quote:

“This is what happens when people present over-simple stories with an angry God and a loving Jesus, with a God who demands blood and doesn’t much mind whose it is as long as it’s innocent.“ You’d have thought people would notice that this flies in the face of John’s and Paul’s deep-rooted theology of the love of the triune God: not ‘God was so angry with the world that he gave us his son’ but ‘God so loved the world that he gave us his son’. That’s why, when I sing that interesting recent song ‘In Christ alone my hope is found’, and we come to the line, ‘And on the cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied’, I believe it’s more deeply true to sing ‘the love of God was satisfied’.”       –N.T. Wright

The Response:

It is not the wrath of the Father against the Son, much less the wrath of God against Himself, that is satisfied on the cross; but the justice of fair-togetherness: God willingly shares in the suffering both of sinners and victims alike. God doesn’t punish Himself, the Father isn’t punishing the Son (and especially not for something someone else did that the Son didn’t do!); but God is sharing in the suffering of punishment.

For sinners, the suffering is punishment. For God, the suffering is love for the sinners. (And abuse by sinners, too, willingly allowed by God. The sacrifice on the cross is a highly complex action. The intention isn’t complex, though: love for everyone, sinner and victim alike. :) )  –Jason Pratt

I do not claim to know for sure who all will be saved. But as Christine A. Scheller said in her article about Dallas Willard who passed away this week,  “A consequence of Willard’s academic honesty is his unwillingness to state who’s in and who’s out spiritually, which bothers critics who worry that he is a universalist. He says he doesn’t believe anyone will be saved except by Jesus, but he adds, “How that works out, probably no one knows.”

I like that. I like to at least consider that there will be more people in on this thing we call redemption than we think.

Perhaps in the future when I am confronted by wrongdoers (as my friend called them), I might change my responses to, “Won’t he/she be surprised in the end?” and mean surprised by forgiveness.  Or maybe, “Vengeance (repayment exacted for an injury or wrong) belongs to God” and remember that God tells me not to repay evil with evil. And rather than say, “I hope they burn in hell,” perhaps I will learn to say, “I hope they become who they always should have been.” I’m not there yet. I have a ways to go. What if you came with me?

*For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all,that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Response

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Have you seen this meme? It has just hit facebook and is all up in my feed. Here is my response…

Yes, I am a follower of Jesus.
I believe the truth contained in the Bible and in THE TRUTH who is Jesus Christ.
I support my homosexual friends and their right to marry the person they love.
Yes, I love all people.
Yes, I am still friends with people who disagree with me.
No, I am not judging you.
Yes, I am trying to persuade you to love like Jesus.
Yes, I will stand up for your right to free exercise of your beliefs as long as they don’t infringe on someone else’s right to practice theirs.

I will never call you a name but I will point out where your practice lacks grace, mercy and compassion. I will not remain silent as you say that I do not respect the scriptures or that I do not believe “the truth”. I will not remain silent when people God loves are being told they are not welcome in his family. I fully support your right to speak what you believe, and I will continue to speak what I believe.

* Due to demand I turned this into a meme of my own which you will find below. Please feel free to share it.

mymeme

 

Blown away by love.

ImageThe events of the week are enough to make your heart burst. I don’t have to tell you again what they are do I? No my lovelies. I will not do that here. Your heart knows. My heart knows.   It knows that there is just too damn little precious, swiftly passing time. If tragedy serves any purpose at all for the living it must be (in my estimation) the cruelest reminder to love. Love now. Love big. Love deep. Love radical. Extend grace where it is not deserved. Hug a stranger just because they look like they need one (ask first). Give to someone and expect nothing. Forgive. Forgive. And Forgive. Again. Even the one who has hurt you in the worst way. Extinguish your hatred. Hatred of the other, the different, the them. Who are “they anyway”? Aren’t they us? What is it that is keeping you from loving? If you are going to let those fucking bombs, that damn fire destroy something why not let it blow down the walls we have constructed to divide ourselves from each other? Why not love in the most radical way possible?

Me? I am a follower of Jesus. In my estimation the most radical lover, the most radical forgiver, the most genuine, least judgmental person who ever walked this earth.

Sidenote: People always say you should fear his judgement as he will be the judge on the last day. Personally, I think you should be super relieved and overjoyed that he will be your judge. If he is anything like he was on earth (which was the exact representation of who God is), he will find ways to forgive that you cannot even imagine. He will judge with mercy and compassion. This is the man who came to save all. Who died for all. He took the full weight of all the worst the world and humanity has to offer and he absorbed it and he looked it in the face and he pronounced love and forgiveness. BOOM!

If there is anything we must do in the face of inexplicable tragedy, inexplicable betrayal and inexplicable hate in order to be like God it is to absorb all the flying sharp pieces of ugliness and hate and judgement and to fire back love, explode forgiveness and blow people away with inexplicable grace and mercy. It is his way. It is the way of life. Let me tell you, this life is too damn short for me to hold on to the shit. Today I defiantly choose love. Won’t you join me?

Choice
Pieces of you
Free Hugs

 

The Bible trumps the law of the United States?

HI heard a conservative radio personality say this yesterday when I turned the dial to am to hear the traffic report. Wait? Whaaaaat???

Now if you are a Christian and I know many of you are, this may sound like a no brainer to you. “Of course the Bible supersedes the law of the United States! Or any country. And it should!”, you say. Well, I respectfully say, it absolutely should not. Before you go spray painting a big ol’ H for heretic on my chest, hear me out…

I do not worship the Bible. I worship the living God. The Bible is here to make known Jesus, and Jesus makes known the Father. The Holy Spirit convicts me of my sin and righteousness and teaches me (among many other things). When you tell me that the Bible supersedes the law of the United States, and that we should strive and work to make “what the Bible says” law. I start breaking out in hives. I mean, as my husband so eloquently asked this morning, “My question to you is, whose interpretation of “the bible and the Word of God” should “trump the laws of this country”? David Koresh’s? Pat Robertson’s? Mine? Yours? And how would this actually work? Congress passes a law, and then we appeal to the Supreme Court because we feel it conflicts with the “bible and the Word of God”? Please explain how you feel this is workable.” Or maybe would we need to set up some sort of Christian Sanhedrin or Sharia Court to hear such matters?

Are your sirens going off yet?

Believe me this isn’t just about gay marriage. It is about some citizens wanting other citizens to be forced to comply to something they feel is “biblical”. I have several problems with this.

  1. Since when do even all Christians agree on what is and is not “biblical” (see Rachel Held Evans take here: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/11/17/my-take-the-danger-of-calling-behavior-biblical/ )
  2. When did Jesus ever say, “Hey guys, let’s force the Romans to do this stuff too! Let’s overthrow this government and put my face on the money!!” ???? Oh wait, he didn’t.
  3. When did Jesus ever force anyone to do his will? or even obey his commandments?
  4. In fact weren’t his harshest words reserved for religious leaders who shut the door in other people’s faces, practiced institutionalized hypocrisy and forced people to carry burdens they would never lift themselves?
  5. Wasn’t our country founded by people who didn’t want to be told what they had to believe or to be forced to worship in a certain way? Weren’t they fleeing places with nationalized religions?
  6. Theocracies are dangerous. My belief is that there will only be one perfect theocracy and Jesus will sit on that throne. No human is fit to rule in his place.
  7. In America we embrace the principles of liberty and justice FOR ALL regardless of religion or race or gender. I am fond of saying it is either liberty and justice for all or it is liberty and justice for none.
  8. There is no unless in the above statements, it doesn’t say…God loves you unless you are not a Christian or God loves you, unless you are gay. Additionally, our pledge of allegiance does not say liberty and justice for all (except gays or except blacks or accept women). It says, with liberty and justice FOR ALL.

After all my lovelies, people have used the Bible to justify all kinds of things I (and I am guessing most of you) find unacceptable today (Slavery, women as property and all manner of other abuses come to mind). The cause du jour for our time happens to be marriage equality. People are fond of saying, “I just believe what the Bible says. It is crystal clear” or they use phrases like “traditional marriage” . Let’s explore those statements through the following graphics:

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traditional-marriage

Many of my Christian friends think that “redefining marriage” will somehow tarnish marriage and make God angry. Listen, my marriage is holy because Kent and I choose to have God in the center of it. It is not made unholy by some other heterosexual couple being married who do not choose to have God at the center of theirs nor by any homosexual couple who do not. (or by others divorce or  infidelity or abuse etc. etc.) Incidentally, I neglected to mention a second ago, the Christian LGBT couples who choose to have God at the center of their relationships. A dizzying prospect? Here, sit down my lovelies, I will get you a cold glass of water.

A homosexual couple (or other “sinful” couple) marrying only affects one marriage, their own. This is the United States. We allow all types of people to get married for all types of reasons who commit all types of sins (I do not believe homosexuality is a sin incidentally), we recognize the marriages of all faith traditions, including non-christians! Gasp!! I just don’t see how or why free people do not understand this concept.

In Galations 5 it says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Why, in God’s name, do people want to keep themselves or others under or put themselves or others back under a yoke of slavery when they have been set free? In the U.S we embrace the idea that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness“. Neither God (he gives us all free will) nor the U.S. Constitution gives you the right to deny these pursuits to your neighbor. You don’t have to agree with someone in the United States to afford them equal rights. Heck our country was built on that premise and that is why eventually this will prevail IMHO. As my Friend Matthew Paul Turner’s Facebook status read yesterday (and I like to think he is right), “Marriage equality will happen. It’s only a matter of time. This country has proven over and over again that it is indeed capable of changing courses, righting wrongs, reversing bad decisions, and siding with freedom, equality and democracy. We’re sometimes slow to get started. We’re sometimes blinded by our ignorance and fear. But we always eventually see the light. And once that light starts to crack through, you can’t keep it from shining. You can try. But you won’t prevail. Because in America, freedom always wins out in the end. It might take us a little longer to get to the finish line. But we will get there. And we will get there together.”

As far as “making God angry” I don’t believe that anymore but you can read all about that in my earlier post Why was God mad in 1927 or Was Jesus enough?

Good Stuff for Spring Break

beach-readsI know. I know. I have been M.I.A. for waaaay to long. I sadly have not had time for writing but I have had time for reading. Here are some I think are worth reading from the last few weeks to see you through the Spring Break holiday.

Enjoy my lovelies. I’ll see you on the other side.

Will Evangelicalism Last

For one thing “Truth” is not rational abstraction — a concept, doctrine, or idea you can write down — especially not one which you conveniently have right and everyone else conveniently has wrong. Truth-as-a-rational-abstraction constitutes a denial of the incarnation (and big chunks of the New Testament). Doctrines and theologies can point to the truth but they are not themselves the Truth. The Truth has been revealed to us in and through Jesus Christ. Truth is a person. Jesus is the Truth.

How Being a Pastor Changed My Thinking on Homosexuality

Several things clicked at once: These guys had burdens placed upon them by others(people like me) that had nothing to do with Jesus. Jesus said his interpretation of religious Law, his yoke, was easy and his burden light (11:38). His opponents, the religious leaders, accused him of abolishing the Law (5:17) and ignoring their pet scriptures about holiness and who was “in” and who was “out.” The fundamentalists of Jesus’ day were threatened by his message of an easy yoke, and they made his followers out to be “abolishers of the law.” In response, Jesus  commanded his followers to out-love, out-pray, and out-give his detractors (5:21-7:27).

Is Abolition Biblical?

I wanted to share these initial thoughts because I think it’s important to remind ourselves now and then that we’ve been wrong before, and that sometimes it’s not about the number of proof texts we can line up or about the most simplistic reading of the text, but rather some deep, intrinsic sense of right and wrong, some movement of the Spirit, that points us toward truth and to a better understanding of what Scripture really says. 

But That’s What the Bible Says

And this is the sad thing.  That we’d rather live with cognitive dissonance, believing that women are somehow equal but yet somehow lesser– or that they are to be restricted for no reason, but that God is still just– than to believe it’s possible we’re misreading our Bibles.

We’d rather restrict women and have the Bible be “clear” than admit that we just might be wrong.

How Sesame Street is Undermining Biblical Values

I know, you might think I’m overreacting, but the Bible is very clear on the role of bears in human relationships. They are meant to be voracious killing machines. I mean, the ONE COMMAND God gives specifically to bears is to “Arise and devour much flesh.” This attempt to anthropomorphize and humanize bears strikes at the heart of everything the gospel teaches about bears.

Feminism and Me: When I cannot cook but I am still a person

The first time I began to wonder if perhaps the evangelical narrative of gender roles I’d absorbed needed a little tweaking, I was 19 years old and finishing my first year of bible college, and I was in love with him. I sometimes like to think that he was in love with me too (a story for another day), but only to the extent that a heart as superficial as his could possibly be. One morning after a particularly intense cup of coffee the night before, I woke up to a novel in my inbox which basically boiled down to “I like you but you are unsuitable because you are initiatory in your relationships with men and also you cannot clean or cook.”

Jesus is my favorite feminist.

Not only in the message,
but in the messenger.

He chose her.

He commissioned her.

He gave her the privilege of delivering the very first Resurrection sermon.

To a room full of men.

CHASE AND THE ONION MAN

You and I, we have a lot of love to share. Maybe that man doesn’t have much. Maybe we offered him some today. People who behave badly still need love.

The Bible Isn’t The History You Think It Is

The situation not unlike a modern newspaper, which combines news with opinion, puzzles, comics, etc. The news can be accurate even if the comics are not. The same is true for the different parts of the Bible.

I stopped guarding my heart ten years ago.

All relationships invite our hearts to walk through disappointment and joy, the more intimate the relationship, the greater the capacity for both those things.

The Irony of Christian Celebrity

What if a desire to “make an impact” is just a form of grasping for immortality?

What if a quest for influence is actually another way of chasing fame?

What if efforts to “expand the Kingdom” are really monuments to our entrepreneurial skills?

What if, in the name of building platforms to proclaim the Gospel, we have elevated people into Christian celebrities?

What if we’ve added God to an already crowded house of idols—the idols of fame and success?

 

Mad Men (and Women) of Christianity


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I know we are way behind but my husband and I just started watching Mad Men from the beginning on Netflix. Last night after watching the second episode, Kent turned to me and said, “Do you know why I like this show? Besides the great acting, writing and to-the-t period stuff?”
“No,” I said, “What?”
“This show is a perfect illustration of what people mean when they say they want to go back to the good old days. It’s how guys like Driscoll and Piper wish it was.”

I have been thinking about this ever since he said it last night.
At the time my mind immediately went to another blog written by Ben Ponder, editor-at-large for mediarostra.com which I read a while back. In it Mr. Ponder asserts that,

“Family” is the euphemistic code du jour for “Evangelical Christian.” “Focus on the Evangelical Christian” and the “American Evangelical Christian Association” didn’t have the same zing to them as their familiar twins. The watchword for these organizations is the preservation of “traditional family values,” which are, in a nutshell, white American family values from a period of 1939 to 1964. The family values constituency longs for a return to the virginal time before the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Vietnam War, the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, John Lennon, and Rock Hudson made the world a more complicated place.
When I read the Bible, I get the distinct sense that Jesus wasn’t interested in saving the nuclear family from a windy onslaught of liberal opinions. I rather get the impression that he was concerned with diving headfirst into the unvarnished messiness of the human condition and saving us—as individuals, as families, as communities, as people—from our own unhinged self-absorption and festering lovelessness.

I also remembered a scene from Modern Family which I told you all about in The Will of the People. The scene takes place between Jay and Gloria.

“Jay: This weekend we’re going up to Pebble Beach. I’m gonna meet a bunch of guys I played high school football with. Man, those were the good old days.
Gloria: Yeah, unless you were a woman, black, Hispanic, or gay.
Jay: But if you were a straight white football player you couldn’t have a bad day.”

I am sure most of the folks nostalgic for a time gone by prefer to think of it like Leave It to Beaver where everything is clean and sanitized and the worst you have to worry about is Eddie Haskel and his mischievous ways. Mad Men is a more unvarnished look back that doesn’t gloss over the messiness of life. Honestly lovelies, neither is a perfect picture. They are both fiction. However we are talking about a real period of American life that is often pointed to by christians in general and evangelicals in particular, as a time when things were simpler, better and frankly closer to what God intended. After all, the marriages and families I see in the Bible look just like the Cunningham’s on Happy Days. 😉

Personally, I have no desire to go back to the way things were.

Christian Piatt wrote a great article about a year ago titled: GOP Nostalgia? Only Christian White Men were Better Off Back Then in which he said in part,

The fact is that, unless you’re a white, Christian, straight male, there’s little to look back to and say “yeah, I was better off back then.”… To call for a return to the good old days is, in some ways, a marginalization of those for whom history has meant progress. For the majority of Americans today, turning back the clock means losing ground, acceding power or opportunity and returning to a time of greater imbalance and division.”

Sadly, the church, whom I love seems to be stuck in a nostalgic longing that is really nothing more than a mirage. It offers the illusion of a cold drink of water but for many they find only a mouthful of sand and the scorching wind of shame. Heck even some of us raised in the church who know how beautiful and life-giving our communities truly can be, all to often have found our mouths filled with sand rather than the cool and refreshing living water.

Those who feel their privilege slipping away continue to grasp at an unhealthy nostalgia responsible for keeping the church on the wrong side of history way to often. It is what makes and has made people justify slavery and segregation or oppose women’s suffrage, a woman’s right to own property, interracial marriage, women in church leadership and gay marriage. (Even when people believe they are excluding people because of unrepentant sin I still call B.S. as we often hold the door open with a big smile for people who continue to stumble when it comes to gluttony, lust, gossip and lying while slamming the door in the face of homosexuals under the guise of “unrepentance”.) When people perceive their place of privilege is slipping away, rather than rejoicing that others will share in the freedom and forgiveness which they have enjoyed, often defend and set up barriers that push people further away from Jesus. Once again, someone else addresses this issue of priviledge much better than I can. I encourage you to read The Distress of the Priviledged by Doug Muder. He explains it like this:

As the culture evolves, people who benefitted from the old ways invariably see themselves as victims of change. The world used to fit them like a glove, but it no longer does. Increasingly, they find themselves in unfamiliar situations that feel unfair or even unsafe. Their concerns used to take center stage, but now they must compete with the formerly invisible concerns of others.

Then this morning as lady luck or Sarah Bessey would have it, I woke up to a post which exposes another facet of the mirage with a fierce and brave vulnerability. In Which I am Damaged Goods is a post way too many of us could have written. Sarah shares a time when she was served the sand of shame and judgement rather than the living water of love and forgiveness. She was taught that because she was a woman who had been sexually active she was damaged beyond repair and that she should be thankful if there was a christian man out there who would have her as a wife. While this may seem at first blush unrelated to a nostalgia for an earlier time, rest assured, it is. It is nostalgia for a time when a girl who gets pregnant (not the boy of course) would be sent away “to camp” for the summer or a divorcee would automatically be viewed as desperate, a home wrecker or “hot to trot”. “Oh Myyyyy,” as George Takai would say. With just a few google searches you can find church leader after church leader (including women) who will state unequivocally or simply subtly imply that women’s sexuality and/or women in general are something to be feared, suppressed and even demonized. Tertullian went as far as describing woman as the root of all evil. This is yet another mirage of sinking sand that brings death, shame and bondage rather than life, reconciliation and freedom. A current hotly debated question in the church is, “Why are young people leaving in droves?” Perhaps it is partly because they are tired of receiving a glass of sand when they are begging for water.

Please lovelies, let us remember this, Jesus came not to condemn (John 3:17) but to bring freedom and forgiveness.

This of course is just one example. The non-drinkers exclude the drinkers, the men exclude the women, the heterosexuals exclude the LGBT community, the races exclude each other, the hits just keep on coming and love loses –or so it seems. As a friend of mine (I can’t remember who, if it is you send me a note so I can give you credit) said in a Facebook post this week, many in the church upon arriving at the banquet to which they themselves were uninvited have set themselves up as doorkeepers, judging who is and who is not worthy to enter. Do they not see the irony? None of us were invited –yet we got to come in. And now here they sit callously turning away those whom Jesus would let in. Let that not be me. I say swing wide the doors; Come in. Taste and see that He is good.

As always my lovelies, I remain hopeful. Behold, Jesus is making all things new. He is NOT making all things the way they used to be. He is making all things NEW! Make no mistake, love will win. Look around. There are more and more people who shout and whisper and sing, “Come in! Come in! All are welcome. There is enough living water for us all.

LORD JESUS, May my judgements never push people away from you. Please show mercy to those who having already received grace for themselves would push away others whom you came for. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. AMEN.

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As we were driving home I was reminded of the song Pieces of You by Jewel.  It drove home the point that we are all connected. When we exclude, shame and hurt each other we cut off our nose to spite our face. Any damage we do to each other, we do to ourselves.

She’s an ugly girl, does it make you want to kill her?
She’s an ugly girl, do you want to kick in her face?
She’s an ugly girl, she doesn’t pose a threat.
She’s an ugly girl, does she make you feel safe?
Ugly girl, ugly girl, do you hate her
‘Cause she’s pieces of you.

She’s a pretty girl, does she make you think nasty thoughts?
She’s a pretty girl, do you want to tie her down?
She’s a pretty girl, do you call her a bitch?
She’s a pretty girl, did she sleep with your whole town?
Pretty girl, pretty girl, do you hate her
‘Cause she’s pieces of you.

You say he’s a faggot, does it make you want to hurt him?
You say he’s a faggot, do you want to bash in his brain?
You say he’s a faggot, does he make you sick to our stomach?
You say he’s a faggot, are you afraid you’re just the same?
Faggot, Faggot, do you hate him
‘Cause he’s pieces of you?

You say he’s a Jew, does it mean that he’s tight?
You say he’s a Jew, do you want to hurt his kids tonight?
You say he’s a Jew, he’ll never wear that funny hat again.
You say he’s a Jew, as though being born were a sin.
Oh Jew, oh Jew, do you hate him
‘Cause he’s pieces of you.