Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Call to Clergy and Communities of Faith

A call to clergy and communities of faith

If we are on the dawn of a second wave of the civil rights movement, communities of faith had better be engaged and leading as opposed to sitting on the sideline. Pastors, ministers, clergy of all kinds of all faiths must assert their public positions to be voices of peace and love and change. They must motivate their congregants to find meaningful, productive, and transformational ways to do the same.

If clergy and communities of faith remain passive onlookers, what they will be passively onlooking upon is leadership taken by those who spread violence, stir hearts of people against each other, of people who have no higher calling but resolving their own angst at the expense of others. These are leaders whose logic can amount to nothing more than blame and their actions and leadership will take on the base and senseless actions that blame necessarily requires - revenge. Will we stand by and watch revenge take root? Will we let revenge and counter revenge spiral completely out of control? Will we let this day pass and it cost us two or three more decades until we can find a way to heal through all that revenge and try to move forward again? 

If this is not the dawn of a second wave of the civil rights movement, then clergy and communities of faith should make it one. The energy is there. People are in the streets, literally, demanding some meaningful direction. Millions more people are in their homes awaiting the very same direction and leadership.

Letting this moment pass without action IS an expression of leadership. Letting this moment pass and hoping for things to just calm down and get back to normal is in itself a serious political and moral statement that the world in which we live is normal and good. Things are not normal and good. We do not live in a normal society. We do not live in a normal culture. We do not live in a normal America. We live in an American where shooting people is controversial, not horrible to everyone. We live in an America where rioting in the streets makes sense to far too many people. We live in an American where taking sides and protecting one's own smaller interests at the cost of someone else's interests makes sense. In short, division is what is normal in America. Standing by and hoping for things to return to how they were is an active and aggressive stance for division, for future violence, and for more of the same. 

If communities of faith have struggled for relevance in a culture that is trying to ignore them, then here is your chance to show what you are made of. Here is your chance to demonstrate your calling, your mission, and your ancient-future truth of peace, love, and reconciliation.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Paul's Privilege Smackdown

I just read the book of Galatians. Whoa! The apostle Paul is not messing around. He is pretty serious about the whole "you can't work your way to Heaven" mantra. He pounds away at this message over and over again.

One of the most important things he tackles in this letter is the idea that doing the right thing or things that are deemed in certain circles as right are not what matters. These things do not make you better than anyone else. It is merely an attempt to assert privileges.

He specifically addressed one of the most important cultural issues of the day for Jews - circumcision. This tradition dates back to their father Abraham. For them it was the identification of proper faith. It is not easy for 21st century Americans to relate to circumcision as some holy thing, but we might relate to "going to church," reading the Bible, or some other good thing that seems to mark purity of faith. Don't get me wrong - these are great things, but not things that make us great. Make sense? What Paul said was all of that meant nothing if there was a void in loving others. While the topic of circumcision is not very relatable, the process of bypassing true love of others by some privilege asserting behaviors is alive today.

Asserting some level of cultural privilege necessarily gets in the way of loving each other. In Paul's most revealing and striking statement on privilege, he unambiguously attacks privilege by saying that "There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male or female for all are one in Christ Jesus." One, two, three, Paul takes on three of the most significant categories of privilege and destroys them: ethnicity, gender, and power.

Finally, Paul is completely transparent about his motivation for being so strong with his words. He is dead to himself and alive in Jesus. He gave up all of his religious privilege to follow Jesus. He was on the fast track to leadership in the Jewish religious system. Proclaiming a faith in Jesus was a career killer for him. He gave up status and most likely wealth to side with the minority, to side with the Greeks, to side with the poor - the very thing he was eager to do.

Paul's rhetoric is so powerful and so relevant, even 2000 years later.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

On the Injury and Healing of Innocence

So much has been said of the loss of innocence and how it cannot be regained. It is narrated as though a death happened and a new and darker way of being has begun with the prior, lighter and better way gone permanently.

It is our of exposure to the dark, the dirty, or the sinful murder innocence and puts it in the grace forever.

In such a narrative the one who lost the innocence has lost it completely and cannot make claims of innocence any longer. It is as though they are themselves lost forever, permanently stained, and have gone beyond the reach of anything that could redeem them.

I do not believe this narrative. It is a lie.

Innocence is not an all or nothing reality. Exposure to some dark stuff or even experience in the darkness is not some instant death of innocence. Innocence, in my understanding of it, is not easily killed off.

In fact, so long as a person lives, there is innocence. Innocence does not die while the person lives, but instead it can be injured. And anything injured can be healed, attended to, or adjusted to.

We do not walk this earth with or without innocence; we walk this earth with an amount of injury to our innocence.

Is it true that someone cannot unsee what has been seen? Undo what has been done? Unfeel what has been felt? Yes, all of these are true. But that does not equate to a loss of innocence, but rather a relative injury to innocence.

If I believe innocence is lost, there is nothing that can be done. However, if I believe innocence is injured, then the question of healing and way to heal begins to take on significance.

Healing innocence come at believing that innocence is injured, not dead. What comes next is believing in the state of being made in God’s image – an inherent reality.

Spiritual genetics dictates that we have one and only one father. Therefore all are by definition created in God’s image and therefore inherently innocent. It is the injury to innocence that must be addressed, not whether there is any innocence left living.

The next step is to know the injury. I saw this. I did that. I felt this, this and this. Whatever it is must become part of awareness.

The next step to love God and to love others as God would have us love ourselves. Sometimes injuries to innocence stifle loving other people, loving God and loving self.

Another next step is reclaiming healthy innocence. Seeking to be reminded and refreshed as to what innocence is. This can be pursued in so many ways – prayer, reading scripture, simplicity, hospitality and more.

Another thing to do while healing innocence is to heal with others who are healing. Healing our individual innocence with others helps heal our collective innocence.

Innocence is not lost. You are not lost. It is time to heal.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I am not a person by myself

I take my paint
            And my make-up
            And my brains
            And my muscles
            And my avatars
            And my Twitter handle
And I keep telling the world who I am
            Who I want them to know I am
            Who I wish they would believe I am
            Who I hope someone might get fooled and think I am
                        Someone I don’t even believe exists
                                    But seems better than…

Better than that one in the mirror
Because the mirror can get so lonely
            When there is a stranger looking back

I need your love
            I need it directly from you
            I need it indirectly, flowing through people around me

How in Hell am I supposed to know who I am
            In the Hell of isolation?
            In the Hell of apartness?
            In the Hell of all by myselfness?
            In the Hell of secrecy and hiddenness and loneliness

I am not safer by myself;
I am not even a person by myself.

Help me build me in you and in those you put around me