Saturday, November 22, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
I am reading "Life Together" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and finding his words a challenge to my own attempts at thinking about the division in the church across racial lines a well as a our outcomes requirements on Christian ministries.
"God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first the accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.
. . . we think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good. Then we deplore the fact that we lack deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others and we consider this lament to be pious. We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from him the little things. If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where this is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness and small faith and difficulty; if on the contrary we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from our expected, then we hinder God form letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches that are there for us us in Jesus Christ.
This applies in a special way to the complaints often heard from pastors and zealous members about their congregations. "pp. 28-29
This guy would not have made it in the church growth era! But what he says rings true to me about my own make-up (visionary) and oft found lack of contentment with the church.
It also bolsters, in a way, my feeling that perhaps in adopting market principles for evaluating ministry we can overstep or over-reach what God has for us.
There is a beauty in serving out of weakness-without-triumphalism that at the heart of the gospel.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Do you hear that loud ripping sound? It’s the church of Jesus Christ tearing further apart around politics, race, and specifically: President Obama.
Here in Chicago, across the city, black conservative Christians (including some who voted against Obama) can be seen weeping, wailing, celebrating, and cherishing the historic step taken this week in the narrative of the United States. Also, across the city and throughout the suburbs are white Christians in shock or dismay, expressing fear, incredulity and sometimes even anger.
Nearby, the white leadership of a local Christian school that prides itself on its diversity (and has a student body that probably exceeds 50% non-white) failed to even acknowledge the election results. “Its not in the history books yet” said one teacher. Black parents are supremely offended.
So how can white Christians be so insensitive to our black brothers and sisters? How can black and white Christians have no comprehension about one another in spite of all the Promise Keeper’s Racial Reconciliation stuff? (Or as a black colleague likes to call it “reconciliation blah blah”. )
We live in a country in which, as Mark Noll has documented carefully, there are no two voting blocks closer to one another in personal standards of morality than white evangelicals and black protestants – and there are no two voting blocks further apart. How can this be?
Even as I write this I am listening to comments about the election, coming from white Christians, that are deplorable. Love is patient? Love is kind? Love doesn’t envy or boast? Love doesn’t insist on it s own way? Love is not irritable or resentful? In relation to our black brothers and sisters I have to say that for far too many in the white church this love is not known today.
“The body is one and has many members. . . the [white] eye cannot say to the [black] hand ‘I have no need of you’. . . But God has so composed the body . . . that there may be no division in the body , but that the members have the same care for one another. . . If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored all rejoice together” (1 Cor 12.)
For the record, my interest here is the body of Christ not supporting any political candidate or party.
To my white Christian friends: yes I’ve read the Huntley Brown Letter. That doesn’t change the fact that more than 90% of our conservative, bible-believing, Christ serving, spirit-indwelt black brothers and sisters LOVE our new president. Out of love for Christ and His bride – shouldn’t we want to know why? Aren’t you curious in the spirit of Christ’s reconciling love? Or is all our talk about biblical reconciliation dead upon its lack of political expediency?
There are many good questions to be asked. There are many dumb questions to be dealt with. There are many bridges to build. Citing Huntley Brown, ignoring the presidential election, remaining indifferent to the history that has been made will only exacerbate our dilemma of a divided body.
One very interesting observation was made about Obama by a white, conservative ideological opponent of his at Harvard University. That is, he is capable of discussion in which he presents an opposing view, learns from those he disagrees with, and doesn’t make enemies with those opponents. Shouldn’t we as Christians be able to do this too?
For those interested please consider the following resources (assuming a preponderance of desire to learn over/against a desire to “battle”) here are some tools:
Book: Divided by Faith, Michael Emerson and Christian Smith
Book: Reconciliation Blues, Ed Gilbreath
Book: God and Race in American Politics: A Short History, Mark Noll
Blog: The Reconciliation Blog (www.http://edwardg.wordpress.com/)
Blog: Beauty and Depravity (http://eugenecho.wordpress.com)
Blog: 17 seeds (http://www.llhdirect.com/17/)
Presentation: Dr. Soong-Chan Rah’s CCDA presentation can be ordered. This lecture that is both professorial and pastoral in nature explores the differing theologies that develop in communities of “suffering” (ala. Marginalized communities) and those of “celebration” (ala. Middle class/mainstream US). Fascinating with HUGE implications for understanding our own theology more deeply. (www.ccda.org).
Discussion/Workshop: For interaction at a personal or small group level please contact Sunshine Gospel Ministries and ask for Lauren Dillon or Joel Hamernick. We will work to facilitate a discussion/workshop, or connect you with a facilitator in your area.
Good discussion topics might include:
· African American Church History
· Biblical Reconciliation
· Black Theology
· How the Imago Dei and Depravity are evident in other cultures
A few good questions: (Disclaimer: It will be very difficult for someone who doesn’t know these answers to ask the them of someone with whom they have no relationship. If you are really interested, go slow, listen long, start where you have relationship credibility, be willing to be vulnerable and to be worthy of someone being vulnerable with you --. Ie. Re-read 1 Cor 13 slowly)
Why would Black Christians who voted for McCain be overwhelmed with joy and emotion when Obama was elected?
Why would someone who is opposed to abortion and gay rights be open to (or excited about) voting for Obama?
What is the personal connection for an African American parent, seeing Obama’s family walk out on that platform with him at the end of the speech in Chicago?
What is the significance and beauty of a black woman being the first lady of the United States (ask this question of a black woman)?
What are the most fun cultural changes that might take place in the white house?!