Distracted Musings

I’m sitting in a coffee shop trying to read some C.S. Lewis (Out of the Silent Planet, specifically). But my mind will not focus. I read three pages. They were a good three pages, but I couldn’t go on. I’m so distracted by everything: the dozens of topics flying around in my mind and the random stimuli here in my favorite cafe. In front of me, there is a rather attractive, but seemingly bored out of her skull, girl who has been texting or playing on her phone incessantly for over an hour. Her expression hasn’t changed once.

Behind me, I was overhearing two people on what seemed to be a first date. I’m pretty sure of this because if they had known each other previously, they would have likely known the answers to the questions they were asking… and would have felt more comfortable letting there be a few moments of silence. Of course what strikes me most about them is that the girl is someone who sent me a message on a dating website last week. (Don’t judge me for being on a dating website. I can quite easily find a date–but when you’re as picky as me, it makes sense to use your resources. That said, I’ve had much more success re:dating in real life).

At any rate, they seemed to hit it off. Good for them. I hope it works.

I’m tired. I’m so tired of this dull barely-existing-ness. I’m the most unfulfilled I’ve felt since I was in high school. I need a jump start. I am angry at myself.

 

Social Justice, Glenn Beck, and the Religious Right

Recently, a Mr. Glenn Beck managed to stir some controversy (surprise) by telling people to leave their church if they held a certain teaching—he also compared these churches’ doctrine to Nazi’s (fascists) and Communists.  Beck, a member of the Mormon Church, and a popular conservative pundit is often admired by members of the religious right for his political stance and accepted despite his religious beliefs.

What was this teaching that he so passionately denounced? Social justice. Yes, according to Glenn Beck, churches that teach that we should take care of the poor and help the underprivileged are teaching a doctrine similar to a Nazi or Communist politics. Nevermind for a moment that fascism and socialism are often considered to be on opposite ends of the political spectrum (he tried to address this issue in the same spiel), Beck had the audacity to compare a racist and totalitarian system (Nazis) and an atheist system (Marxist Communism) to churches that preach sharing with your neighbor in need and loving all people regardless of their background, teachings in line with what Jesus called the greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-39).

Some members of the religious right have been quick to defend Beck’s statements, including the chancellor of my Alma Matter, Liberty University. I’m not sure if these individuals are defending Beck are doing so because they actually think he is correct politically, correct biblically, or if they would go to bat for anything he might say just because he’s a leading voice parallel to their own.

Now, in the interest of some self-disclosure, I don’t consider myself a liberal—my theology is very conservative and I accept the inerrancy of Scripture (for at least the original manuscripts) and my voting record is riddled with (R) selections. I’ve noted in the past that I tend to lean libertarian, though I don’t embrace the movement without hesitation. The argument for why I lean that way is for another post, however.

Here, I’m more concerned about the partisan nature of Christians concerned about politics.  At some point in the past, theologically conservative religious leaders aligned themselves with the Republican party, for presumably noble reasons, such as championing moral standards—e.g., stopping abortion (in fact, many Christians use a litmus test for their vote on this very issue, regardless of record on other issues of importance). Unfortunately, when you make a pact like this, official or unofficial, you begin to assume that the you ally is right on other issues as well, becoming less critical of important matters all in the name of promoting that moral agenda. This begins to look a bit like Stockholm syndrome—where a captive begins to identify with a captor and accept them as a friend; now, I wouldn’t want to carry that metaphor too far, but some of the concepts still hold—out of a perceived need for preserving morals in America, many Christians have accepted the catalog of Republican agendas.

Many of the leaders in the movement of churches promoting the concept of social justice are calling out Christians for blindly accepting that form of political decision-making, which if carried out to its logical extent, could cause problems for partisan-based personalities and politicians. If Christians begin to vote based on overall principle instead of one or two issues, it could eventually end the concept of a political “religious right” that votes exclusively Republican and the beginning of a “religiously right.” Note the difference—instead of voting based on partisan affiliation, voting would be based on actual tenets of faith, which may or may not align with a specific party. Obviously, Republicans wouldn’t want to lose the votes of conservative Christians as they form a very substantial bloc. This concept terrifies someone like Glenn Beck because he wants people to vote for a certain party. If Christians start to believe the Republican Party isn’t their savior, they lose votes (and incidentally, Beck loses an audience). Many leaders of this movement for social justice, such as Jim Wallis or Shane Claiborne, still hold to some of the beliefs that Christians see as most important (e.g., being against abortion), but they encourage Christians to vote as someone more loyal to the Kingdom of Heaven than to the “Republic for which [the American flag] stands.”

I’m not telling you what issues you should be voting on; I’m telling you that lying in bed with a political party is moral adultery—we are the bride of Christ and no one else deserves our unconditional devotion. If you are voting for the candidate that you believe is most in line with your beliefs, then God bless you, but one must be able to distinguish their faith from political party.

Returning to the matter of social justice and the role of government, some Christians have suggested that it is not the responsibility of the government to provide for the poor, but the role of the church and individuals. Jerry Falwell Jr. suggests that Jesus taught that individuals should help the poor and not elect governments to do so. Some say that God established three institutions, each for different purposes: the family, the government, and the church. However, there is fault in this logic. God did not create the Church at the same time as he did family or government. The family came first and, very soon thereafter, governments were established (cities were being founded by the second generation in the book of Genesis). The church was founded thousands of years after governments were established.

The one example we have of an ancient government that we have in the Bible that was directed by God himself is Israel. Now, Israel often rebelled, of course, but I’m sure we can agree that they were God’s people and that they should have served as an example of Godly government if they would have actually did what God told them.

Here’s the thing: the government and the religious establishment were intimately intertwined. There were different offices for people to fill (e.g., priest and king), but the government was responsible to enact the will of God, which would have been discerned through the religious establishment (I don’t use the term “church” here because it didn’t exist). Was it the temple/church or was it government that God warned to look out for the poor? In fact it was both at once. Laws affected every facet of life and many were designed to watch out for the poor and keep them from being exploited. Need examples? How about the law that allowed for gleaning (which was instrumental in the story of Ruth), the seventh-year rest for the land, the year of Jubilee, and many more. To further my point, I don’t think the concept of a “free market” is necessarily wrong (I certainly benefit from it—though I can think of reason to argue against it too), but it is completely secular in origin. In ancient Israel, it would have been a bit ludicrous.

If you don’t think that the poor are exploited and held down in our society, then you have never really seen America. Do some take advantage of government programs when they don’t really need it? Yes, some do, and I think such programs need to be revised and streamlined, but the American dream is a not a real possibility for many people. The church should be reaching out, yes, but that doesn’t by any means mean that the government bears no responsibility—one of the chief purposes of the government, even according to the Bible is to protect its people. This is especially true if the government has some responsibility in the exploitation of the underprivileged to begin with.

The church was established in the midst of pagan government, but nevertheless believers were told by Jesus and by Paul and Peter, to respect the government’s authority, because God allows them to be in place and to have their authority. Our current government system, thankfully, actually allows its citizens to have an influence in policy. Unfortunately our current political parties give us the option choosing the lesser evil between aborting babies and starting unjust wars and neglecting the poor.

Muse(ings) 9: Wit and Wisdom

When a pretty girl pays you a compliment you are much more likely to believe it than if… well, anyone else pays you a compliment. That is, if you are a guy–I suppose it might work differently if you are  a girl, but since I’m not one I won’t jump to conclusions.

I have a class ongoing this semester that I don’t particularly like, but it does give me a chance to whip out witty remarks to my fellow backrow classmates. Now, I’m not usually a backrow guy, but for this class an exception is merited–I needed an outlet for my laptop. It’s like Charlie Brown’s teacher is my professor–all I hear is “whah, whah, whah.” I’m pretty sure that it’s all anyone else hears too. I would share some of the witty remarks its enabled, but they are much funnier on the fly.  He doesn’t seem like a bad guy though.  He probably doesn’t eat babies. I do suspect he might like bad music like Nickelback, but hey we can’t all have decent taste. But man, the material is a killer.

But nevertheless, perhaps we can explore some noteworthy wisdom.

Dialogue activate. (Names and place have been changed…. And statements have been occasionally paraphrased to make me sound way cooler than I really am. Unless you think they’re poorly written–then they’re typos).

Friend:  Hey, can I ask you a guy point of view question?

Me:  Sure, but I have my own drum beat, of course.

Friend: This friend of mine last night asked me if, when a girl uses a wink smiley, it means she is flirting. Do you get that vibe from girls, too? I told him it depends on the girl.

Me:  Definitely depends on the girl. Not all guys can tell. Even the most discerning of us get it wrong sometimes

Friend: [Laughs] Wow.

Me: Wow? [laughs] Also, the hotter the girl, the more the guy would like to believe she is flirting

And that my friends, is truth. But a word to guys–wanting something to be true doesn’t make it so.  Beware of digital flirting. Assume that she’s flirting with you if you don’t want her to and that she isn’t if you do want her to. If you want to verify the opposite hypothesis, explore the matter in real life, not Facebook–and especially not twitter.

What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me. [A Muse(ing) 8]

“Love is a peculiar thing, it’s kind of like a lizard. It wraps it’s tail around your heart and crawls into your gizzard.” Those are the wise words regarding love that my father taught me from a young age, and while I’m not quite sure what it means, I know it’s profound and semi-true.  Love doesn’t make sense. Love is crazy. Both Francis Chan and Michael Bublé say so–perhaps they should collaborate on something.

Inspiration is not in short supply, nor is the time to write, but I don’t do it. I don’t do it because I’m scared. I’m scared that my writing is in vain, I’m scared that this will be the writing that proves I’m not a good writer, I’m scared that my words are meaningless after all. But love; love conquers such fears, doesn’t it? I mean, I’ve never read that love specifically conquers that particular fear, but isn’t it supposed to drive out “all” fear?

I’m afraid of so much more than writing though. I’m afraid of love itself, because it doesn’t make sense. Sure, I’m talking about the glamorous, amorous sort of love, but I’m also talking about  down and dirty, gritty, self-sacrificial, everyone else first, serving love. Real love isn’t about me, after all. Love is for everybody else. And love is something I don’t know how to do in practice. I’ve served others at times, though never adequately, and I’ve even been “in love” whatever that means. I’ve felt the pain of losing love, both of best friend and of best girl. But love can’t really be lost, can it? Real love comes from the Creator, and flows from an incessant supply.

I need to tap into that wellspring. Because love never fails.

Muse(ing) 7

My church was packed today and it was beautiful. We had 97 comfortable blue seats, and kept adding folding chairs to the back as people piled in. It was the first time our church broke the century mark, and that means we need to start thinking about how we grow, not just trying to grow.

A few weeks ago, we were running around 40 people.

We are a young church. I think over 85% of the congregation is connected to Liberty, either as alumni or students.

Our rapid growth is mostly thanks to the influence of word of mouth among Liberty students. But we’re doing other things to make sure people know we’re here. We just filled two backpacks per grade (pre-k through 5th) with a year’s worth of school supplies for the local elementary school, which has a number of less-than-wealthy families’ kids. This past week, for the second time this summer, a number of people gave out free coffee and donuts to people who were commuting in the morning (God bless those that helped… they started at 6:30 in the morning). There was a cookout at a local park near the inner-city where they gave out free food a few weeks ago, and at the beginning of the summer, we had a block party for inner-city kids to enjoy.

Also at the beginning of the summer, I began leading a small group bible study–well, technically a book study: Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. It’s shifted and grown into a lovely bunch of people whom I love and for whom I hope I can give something worthwhile.

As a shock today, I was asked, along with two others, to be a consider being a deacon. I’ve been praying that God would let me be grow more involved in the church, and here’s an open door for me to do so. I’m not giving my response right away; I’m going to pray about it for a couple days, but I must say, I’m quite excited.

My heart is church planting, and this a chance to get involved with one in a very real way. God is on the move through the love in our church, and that is truly awesome.

Muse(ings) 6.5

A coffee shop and conversation on a Monday night. There’s a storm brewing outside and it makes the coffee better somehow.  Behind the counter, she can hold a conversation with anyone. At the counter myself, I can write anything I want. It might get read, it might not. I can share it, I can keep it hidden; it doesn’t matter. What matters is that life is vivid. It is vital. Literally. And I mean literally literally. I have to say that, because literally, like love, is overused and abused as a term. Life, love, and vitality. All go up in flames. Burning like calories.  If the calories don’t burn you just get fat. And if you get fat, you have a hard time running. You get lethargic and everything becomes stale.

Don’t let things get stale. Stale bread, stale coffee, stale life. It’s crumbles and tastes terrible.

Muse(ings) 6

Muse(ings) 6

Classes begin in a week. I’ve spent just under $500 on textbooks. My new job responsibilities start in a few days. I’ll be a GA for my own class.

The territory I’m in is unfamiliar but exciting—maybe it’s exciting because it’s unfamiliar. I’ve been watching my former RA/RD colleagues update their twitter accounts in real-time as they go through leadership training at Liberty. It’s strange not to be a part of it. I once envisioned becoming an RD, but for each of the past two years I’ve stopped just short of applying.

I couldn’t go on in student leadership for a variety of reasons. I needed to have opportunity elsewhere. I wanted to be able to get involved in a church, specifically a church plant. I wanted to have different ministry avenues that were not limited by the constraints that come with being an RA. I wanted to be able to travel a little bit more. I wanted to get away from living with freshman on a dorm.

But really, what I wanted most was an atmosphere in which I could relish in honesty. Not that people in OSL are dishonest—but there is a limit on how open one can be in an environment rife with rules. I want to be me, to have accountability with someone who can’t fire me. I want to be honest with my struggles without fear. Truthfully, I probably could have been more open than I was, but not with my perceptions.

My prayers are with those who are still in that ministry. It’s a fantastic opportunity. Don’t waste it…. And don’t have any fear. Be real, be honest, and start a revolution.