Friday, October 26, 2012

Fridays on Faith and Politics: What's the Point?

This is like, the 94th installment of this series on faith and politics. OK, it's actually only the fifth, but it feels like the 94th, so it's a short one. You can read the other installments here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

We've covered a good bit of ground so far. I'm not sure that we've really come to any conclusions, but I think we've generated some interesting questions.  And, speaking of interesting questions (awesome segue, right?), I have another one this week:


Photo Credit
 What's the point?

Now, I don't mean this in the kind of fatalistic "there's nothing we can do about it anyway" kind of way that it's most often used, but I'm really genuinely asking is, as Christians:

What is the actual point/purpose/reason for our participation in electoral politics?

Why do we do the things that we do in the political sphere? What motivates us to check a particular box for a particular candidate or initiative? What ends are we hoping to bring about through these particular political means?

But perhaps most importantly, do those ends include helping people experience the Love of God? Do they include helping to bring people into loving relationship with God? 

Or is there something else driving us?
A desire to be right, maybe?
A need for security?
Power? Vindication?

Why do we do the things we do? 

I caught a lot of flack during the Chick-fil-a fiasco earlier this year for asking similar questions. I was wondering aloud, both here and elsewhere, how the mess was in any way advancing the Kingdom of God. What I observed was that most of the people giving the flack didn't have friends in the LGBT community that were deeply hurt by the way many Christians were speaking and acting. In a way, I suppose that's informative about the answer to the question of motivation as well, because when you put a face on an issue, whether it's sexuality or poverty or war or whatever, your motivations tend to change. When you think about politics in terms of people instead of abstract principles, things can look very different.

Jesus had some ideas, I think, about the way we should approach the world (which, I think, is inclusive of our political activity).
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
So here's a challenge. Let's think about why we (I say we, because I'm challenging myself here too) make the political decisions we make. Let's take a look at who we are in community with, and how that affects our political decisions. Let's try to see the outcomes of our political decisions in terms of how they affect actual people with actual feelings and actual dreams.

Let's try to Love God and Love others the best we can in our politics.

Let's try to seek first the Kingdom, and worry about all the other stuff being added later.



So talk to me. What motivates you in your politics? How do you work the notion of loving God and loving others into your political calculus? Or do you see them as separate issue maybe? If so, how do you reconcile the two when they seem to conflict? Let me know what you think.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

On Peacemaking: Keeping the Darkness at Bay

I'm guest-posting over at The Smitten Word today. Folks, Suzannah Paul is one of the good ones, and one of my very favorite bloggers.  I'm really honored to be a part of what she's doing this month as she's publishing a post a day about practicing peace. I highly recommend you read the whole series.

Here's a bit of my contribution for today:

"What kind of person does that?" and "Who wants a murderer for a father?"

I threw the questions like stones. She sat and listened while the darkness washed over me.

She had seen me at my darkest before. I was fully in it, and she could tell. Eyes dead and lifeless, voice cold and distant, this wasn't me, it was that cold, deep darkness. This was every terrible thing I had seen and every terrible thing I had done wrapping itself around me and choking the life out of me. I could not see, feel, hear or remember anything but this darkness that had become my constant companion.

But she was ready.

She stayed. And she listened. She saw me. She heard me. And when she opened her mouth to speak, the Holy Dove came to rest on her shoulder as she said,

"You. Are. More."

She went on, and her words were light and life and comfort and healing and all of the things that I hadn't felt in nearly a decade, and in that moment, in pushing back that darkness and making room for the light of redemption to shine in and reclaim what had been lost to darkness, as the One himself said,

she was a peacemaker.
she was a Child of God...

Head over to The Smitten Word to read the rest.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday's on Faith and Politics: Lives Matter.

This is the fourth installment in this series on faith and politics. You can read the previous installments here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 5

I realize that the title of this post might have misled some of you into thinking this post was about abortion. That one still may come, but this isn't it. The debate this week is supposed to focus on US national security and foreign policy, so I thought it might be a good idea to tackle that in this week's post. Fair warning, I'm pretty passionate about this topic, and I'm not going to beat around the bush: this post is going to be a little different than the others.

Me in Iskanderiyah, Iraq circa 2004

Lives. Matter.

All of them.

The fact that I was lucky enough to be born here in the United States does not make my life more valuable than someone born elsewhere. Nothing about the United States makes protecting innocent life at home worth shedding innocent blood abroad. When we deny this fact, we are denying the very essence of personhood that the Imageo Dei, the image of God, imparts to each and every one of us.

If I had to pick one policy arena that I thought best exemplified how Constantinian Christianity has served to silence the prophetic voice of the Bride, it is this one.

If there ever were a place where the idols of Nationalism, Patriotism, and Exceptionalism have supplanted the person of Christ on the altar of our hearts, it is here. 

If there ever were a time when Christianity had so fundamentally lost her way that her politics wholly replaced her faith, it is now.

There is very little in US foreign and national security policy that reflects the self-sacrificing, other-exalting cruciform way of Christ. Unsatisfied with the Lamb of God and Prince of Peace, we've placed our faith in that earthly surrogate whose name is "conquering king."

We have traded the truth of God for a lie, that our lives matter more than those in other countries, of other races, of different faiths, cultures, and tongues are somehow less human than we are. In our dehumanization of the Other, the lie is made complete, and the Gospel of radical, enemy-loving grace is lost to the false gospel of fear and vengeance.

Drone your enemies. Bomb those who persecute you.

The Nation is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?

Blessed are the warfighters, for they will be called heroes.

Hundreds of thousands have died at the hands of the United States in the last decade. I was so invested in the lie, that I enthusiastically volunteered to participate. But when you've heard the screams of a little girl caught in the middle of an artillery barrage, or smelled the burnt flesh of a little boy whose house was bombed for belonging to a "combatant," or when you've watched the remnants of what moments before was a man's body attempt to crawl away from the aftermath of a drone strike, you start to understand that, perhaps, things aren't as they seem.

If there is one area where our faith should absolutely influence our politics, it is this one, yet this is the area where we seem to work hardest to suppress and ignore the implications and obligations of our faith.

Lives matter.

All of them.

Including those of the soldiers you so willingly send in your stead.

Monday, October 15, 2012

On Love and Legacies

I'm posting over at A Deeper Family today about how, even when our loved ones pass on, their legacies can live on for generations.

It was cold. 
I remember that. 
I think unseasonably cold…or maybe it wasn’t cold at all; maybe what I remember as cold was just the bitter reality that I’d be burying my grandpa the next day. 
The family came to the church for the visitation first, and in spite of the cold, we loitered outside the church, perhaps believing that as long as we didn’t step through that threshold, it wouldn’t be true. On the other side of those church doors existed a world where my grandpa wasn’t alive, and as long as we stayed outside, it was like time itself was paying its respects by graciously standing still, letting us live in this world, the one my grandpa inhabited, for just a moment longer. 
But this world wasn’t real anymore. What were real were those doors, the smell of oak and incense in the church, and there in the front, the casket. That was real. So I mustered all of the stoic resolve my early-20's self had, and stepped through the door.
It gets better, I promise. Click through to read the rest. 


Friday, October 12, 2012

Fridays on Faith and Politics - The Inner Dialogue of a Political Basket Case

This is the third installment in this series on faith and politics. You can read the other installments here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 4 and Part 5.

So, the first couple of weeks were pretty general philosophical questions about the nature of our role as Christians in the political sphere.  I'm not sure that we really settled anything except perhaps that what we do in the realm of electoral politics matters, but perhaps not as much as the rest of our lives. As my friend Aaron pointed out in his comment last week, politics is more than voting, it is the sum total of our engagement with the polis. So in that sense, perhaps it is who we are on a day to day basis that matters much more than our actions in a voting booth.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On Faith, Fire, and the Kingdom of God

I'm honored to be guest-posting for my friend Brandon Andress over at Outside the Walls today. I'm talking through my own personal struggle with having the life that I lead line up with the words that I speak.

For me, [talk is] especially cheap. Words and ideas are my job, my hobby, my life, but you know what? They don’t cost me anything. I can talk myself into a corner and talk myself right back out again without ever putting any real skin into the game.
There’s a story in 2 Samuel where God directs David to build an altar and make a sacrifice. A citizen offers to give David wood and oxen for his sacrifice, but David replies with what has become another (unfortunately) common cliché:
   “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God offerings that cost me nothing.”
These words, these ideas, these silver-tongued pleas for justice spoken from the comfortable confines of the high hill of privilege, are the sacrifices that cost me nothing, and they seem to burn hottest when fueled by my own righteous indignation.

Click through to read the rest here, and be sure to explore the rest of Brandon's writing if you haven't before.  You won't be disappointed.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fridays on Faith and Politics - Trolley Car Politics

Photo Credit
It’s time for another installment of Friday on Faith and Politics! I know, you’ve been waiting with baited breath, right?  Right??  So let’s get right into it, shall we?  (You can read the other installments here: Part 1, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5)
This week, I’ve had quite a few conversations about politics, and there seem to be a few themes that run consistently through all of them, namely picking the lesser of evils, single-issue voting, and completely abstaining. Being the insufferable deconstructionist/analyst that I am, I couldn’t help but see a common ethical thread running through all of these. In each case, we’re treating voting for a political candidate as a singular, discrete action, and we’re looking for absolution for whatever decision it is that we make in that moment.
I’m sorry, but I just don’t think we get off that easy. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

On Pastor Appreciation Month (though probably an a-typical approach)

Just a short one today. I'm tired. Cut me some slack.

So, lots of bloggers are doing the whole "31 days" thing, where they write about one topic every day for the 31 days of October.  Well, kudos to them, but in the immortal words of Bob Dylan,

"It ain't me, babe."

I am jealous of this cat. It is sleeping and
looks supremely comfortable. Photo Credit.

One could say that I have a lot going on. One could say that I, perhaps at times, take on a bit too much. One could say that, but then one might get one of my infamous cold, blank stares.  Seriously though, I wish I could commit to something like that, but a full-time job, full-time school and all-the-time parenting of Things 1&2 make a commitment like that one...well, let's just say difficult.  I think that if I were to try to write every day for a month, the amount of sleep I would lose would probably shave a couple of years off of my life, and let's be honest, I like being alive, so it's really not worth it.

However-comma-space

It is also pastor appreciation month.  Now, one post about a specific topic for the month?  That's something I can get behind. So this post, now that we're finally getting around to it, is about pastors. 
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