Baltimore (Take Two)

Choice photo

I’ve heard many arguments on the topic of choice.

That people have a choice.

That our circumstances/situation/environment shouldn’t (really) dictate our choices.

Now I’ve always appreciated the good-long-standing debate about whether it’s nature (a DNA predisposition) or nurture (the environment).  I think it’s intriguing to think about whether I am the way I am because it’s my genetics or because of the people/experiences as a child.

However, the choice argument is basically negating both…

I’ve heard family members tell me that I’ve done “better” than they expected.  They didn’t mean this in a condescending matter.  They meant it to be uplifting.  They understood that losing a parent, having financial hardship, and an emotional unstable home usually produces a very similar situation.  They understood “apples fall close”.  Whether it’s nature or nurture could be debated, but what wasn’t debatable was that we tend to experience a very similar life as those that bring us up.

The few that don’t are the outliers to the majority.

Kids listen with their eyes.

Parents correct when their kids deviate from the “norm”.

What is socially acceptable and, more importantly, what we should expect, are learned psychologies.

So I see a lot of people on social media, that are very predictably a product of their parents/environment/experiences, yelling at others that do likewise.

To me, I see people that are a product of generational blessing yelling at those that are the product of a generational curse.  The only difference are those in Christ that express gratitude/humility for their blessings and mercy/passion to those that don’t.  To those that espouse CHOICE, you have two outcomes, PRIDE or SHAME, and neither are a Fruit of the Spirit and byproduct of being saved by grace.

….and yes, I espouse grace because it’s either in my nature and/or a product of my up bringing.

Baltimore (Take One)

When you think of the rioting, do you think of this?

baltimore-riot

Or do you remember the one in 1861?

Baltimore_Riot_1861

Do you think of them as fighting tyranny?

AS

Like the Arab Spring…

Or maybe when it signifies the fall of suppression?

berlin09-1

Like the Berlin Wall.

Or maybe when the riots, protests and violence take down a monarchy?

French

Like the French Revolution…..which inspired others to revolt.

boston-tea-party-3

There are usually two responses to rioting and protesting.

One group that sees and understands because they can relate to the oppressed.

The other that can’t empathize at all because the systems/structure are security to their privilege.

In the past, we have dealt with the issues in different ways.

Sometimes it’s repression. (see China)

Sometimes it’s concession (see USA 1960s).

and today more than ever…..distraction.

However we should never be surprised because power/authority/privilege are always megaphones and magnifying glasses of sin.

(whoever holds the conch will always abuse it, Scripture and History repeats this over and over)

Always remember that one’s man terrorist is another man’s Freedom Fighter.

“I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning!”

-Jesus

It’s hard for me because I’m against the violent and unjust, and I’m not sure who is which at times.

I’m a racist against racists.

The-propagandists-purpose

I confess this to you.

I realize that puts me categorically in place to get criticized (but the only way for that not to happen is to sit down, shut up and eat my vegetables)

Now I may publically attack racism that comes from white men*, but I don’t like any racism.

(*I have authority to speak on this because I grew up around a bunch of public/closet racist white men and now that I am a white man, I have to fight what is latent in me.  Every time that version of me rears it’s evil presence, I either pimp slap it or lead it into the light to be exposed for what it is – sin.  The “pimp slapping” is less effective I might add.*)

The Truth is it’s in all of us, and the “let’s ignore it or act like it’s in the past” crowd would rather point the finger elsewhere, make a political point, and act like it’s because of other “things”.

It’s not.

Most of us group together in a very tribal way with those that look and think like us.

I’m no different.  I have to work at spending time with all types of people.  It’s hard for most of us, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth striving for.

I’m not going to change anyone’s mind here, but this is rather a confessional striving in my life (and those closest to me).

I love the Huxley quote because I see people try to paint groups with one brush and it’s almost always a group that they have never really understood and subsequently are afraid of.  It’s okay to be afraid initially but it’s not okay to spread it.  (or share it on Facebook).

                “There is no fear in love” 1 John 4v18

I wrote as a confession so….

  • I confess that I’m a racist against racists.
  • I’ve seen the pain and destruction it has produced and it makes me angry.
  • I don’t like them and may God soften my heart.

Rudy Rasmus and I once grabbed a bite to eat (and maybe a beer) and he pointed out to me that maybe our theology is wrong because when put into practice it separates us. 

Not just on Sunday, but Monday through Saturday as well.

Unnecessary

most-pointless-things-ever-made-996586757-nov-8-2014-1-600x400

A while back, while working in the institutional organization behemoth of the United Methodist Church, I wrote some stuff deconstructing the church.  The truth was:  I was having a field day throwing rocks at every stained glass thing I could find.  I thought if I could breakdown enough stuff, people would start looking around and notice that shit is broken.

But they didn’t.

They just saw the immaturity (which was valid) and discounted my intuition of the institution on the basis of the immaturity.

I was mad.  So I left.  I packed up my notes, my sermons, my experiences, and my voice.

It’s taken some time to regroup and part of me doesn’t want to regroup.  Organizing anything around God seems to absorb egos, preferences and judgments.  It’s like a sponge for the most rootedness of our fallen-ness.  When I see it being practiced, I see politics, bigotry, and greed.

What I don’t see is freedom.

I see sheep looking for rules, 3 steps to _______, and quotations of religious “leaders” that are out of context to justify our prisons of personal perception.

It’s a weird, sick gravity that keeps us returning to the desert.  Maybe we are destined to wander until we understand that God is enough.  Maybe there is a biblical cyclical force that we have to understand to understand what God is doing.

It’s easy to see it in older churches just because there more evidence that religion is now the “fruit”, but I can smell it in church plants and in missional communities as well.  It’s an aroma of “we need to do this”.  It’s subtle and can be slowly subversive, but it’s an attack on faith.

Even Laodicea was fruitful at one time.

I’m not against boundaries and disciplines to a degree, but just because they are useful doesn’t make them necessary.  You can understand and experience God without any of them.  I’d even posture that those that disagree haven’t completely arrived themselves.

Maybe there are non-negotiables, but I doubt it.  I’m not doubting God as much as I’m doubting people and their “authorities”.

Maybe I’ll write more on the extensive list I’ve written in the past…

Or maybe it’s unnecessary because people who are religion “pushers” know that they aren’t the freedom fighters.

Pious Bias

meryl_streep_nun_pious_woman

If you are disciplined, then you’ll love religion.  You’ll love rules.  You’ll love being better at it then others (if you don’t “get it”).

Now there is no problem with being disciplined.  It’s a gift (or a personality type).  I’m usually striving to be more disciplined myself.  Being disciplined has many benefits as it breathes life into maturity and selflessness if done for the right reasons.

The temptation is to slowly come to the conclusion that what you or I’ve mastered is necessary for others.  Instead of appreciating the progress we’ve made, we regress.  Gratitude should be the byproduct of discipline, not announcement and/or pushing others to do likewise (directly or indirectly).

People declare that they aren’t religious or a rule pusher but you’ll quickly find that they have their non-negoliables.  And that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean God agrees.  God was constantly breaking laws and then the religious leaders shortly after (and still today) are trying to say that He didn’t go against the law.

The pious need to believe that God doesn’t break the rules so they bend the theology…just a bit.

Being disciplined with our words, thoughts and actions is great and noble, but if we are doing it in hopes of getting others to follow us, or to have authority over others, OR BECAUSE WE THINK THEY NEED US TO BE….we may have a little idolatry of self working it’s way through the bread.

We need to be grateful for where God has given us discipline and let the gratitude/thanksgiving be the fruit of our discipline.

“How you know your preacher is in it for the money and power?”

This is a quick list.

You’re Pastor…

  • Has a jet.
  • Has a TV program that asks for donations.
  • Has his/her picture on a billboard.
  • Sells his/her books to his congregation or uses his/her platform to sell their books.
  • Has their name on everything.
  • Collects fee from outside the church for personal needs (this is subjective…but not hard to filter).
  • Would be considered successful compared to the average member of their congregation.
  • Doesn’t preach sacrifice and/or suffering.
  • Preaches sacrifice but doesn’t sacrifice.

It’s a harsh list, but it’s honest.

We don’t want to follow poor preachers because we can’t idolize their lives…so we make most of them* rich.

*Most of them = the preachers where the majority of people are going.

Playing Dum

Dumb and Dumber (Screengrab)

Playing dumb is a interesting phenomenon to me.  It’s like the antithesis of curiosity.

As I’m growing up and as I’m raising adults, I’m starting to realize that this is a learned behavior.

  • Maybe it’s a defense mechanism.
  • Maybe it’s an internal masseur that helps us deal with the hard facts of life.
  • Maybe it’s an effort to ignore the Truths of those that we violently disagree with.
  • Maybe it’s just a conscious decision to “wash our hands” of any accountability.

Whatever it is, it’s a disease.

“I didn’t know”

“I wasn’t shown/taught/told how to _______”

“I wasn’t aware of their background/wisdom/experience”

“I was born with these views taught to me”

“I don’t understand why liberals (or conservatives) think _________”

Beware of following people that repeatedly use these statements.

There are (many) times when it is impossible to know everything about everything before acting or speaking, but curiosity should precede actions and the tongue.

(This phenomenon is exponentiated by technology.  The curious begot more curiosity and knowledge.  The “playing dumb” crowd share more half truths and state that they didn’t know the whole story…but that’s not their fault… it’s the fault of the propaganda that they expose themselves to.)

God is with you… whether you like it or not.

japan-railway-paper-weight_large-1

I was reading through some Dietrich Bonhoeffer sermons and came across one titled “God is with us”. (link)

The Truth about this sermon is that God is always with us…whether we know it… and whether we want it.

The uniqueness is how “it” is felt.

If you are at a funeral and looking for God, it may feel like a rock holding you in place among the turmoil.  Like a paper weight that keeps you from being blown away.  If you are not looking for God, the same thing may feel like a weight that won’t you escape your mortality, the consequences of this life, and the Truth/Meaning of our existence.

If you are walking away after an abortion and are looking for God, it may feel like conviction and forgiveness.  If you are not looking for God, it may feel like guilt and judgment.

If you are doing something that is routine and looking for God, it may may feel like honor and duty.  If you are not looking for God, it may feel like boredom and may be mind numbing.

There are many scenarios that we can encounter or forget God, but it doesn’t affect the presence and power of God.

Some would argue that “we are ridiculous to see God in worst of situations”, but I would contend that it’s ridiculous to not see Him.  People feel the Presence of God and that Presence is trying to draw all of us back to Him.  It’s just that it feels like resistance (which has many forms) if you’re facing the wrong direction and affirmation (which also has many forms) if you’re facing Him.

With Humility.

Gatekeeping

Gatekeeper

Do you know who the gatekeepers are?

  • In your organization?
  • In your family?
  • In your school?
  • In your religion?

These are people (and sometimes processes) that are designed to provide a barrier or to protect something.

“Gatekeeping” is NOT always a bad thing,  If you want to get to my children, mama and papa bear might fight to protect that.  If you want to talk to me at work, and you don’t currently work for us, you are going to have to see a receptionist or my voice mail.  There are times when it’s logical and purposeful to get stuff done.

But….

There are times and cases where the gatekeepers are doing it for less benevolent purposes.  In my experience with the Church, they are constantly using these people/processes/devices to keep a barrier that has no Biblical backing.

  • Some bar women because Lord knows men always get it right.
  • Some bar homosexuals because Lord knows that infidelity, child molestation, or other sexual sin isn’t an issue with straight pastors.
  • Some bar people based on socioeconomic things (ie. seminary/finances/capacity for Greek)
  • Some bar for a lot less controversial things

Some of these barriers were created to protect people but they don’t really work.  Bad orthodoxy and orthopraxy come from straight men trained in seminary.  (Truth: Authority doesn’t come who you are)

These gatekeeping devices are designed to keep “wolves” out, but they don’t.  And sadly, many times they end up keeping out the types of shepherds that the Church is thirsty for.

If you look at a congregation, a denomination, or a religion and see where they are struggling, you’ll find who they aren’t allowing to have a voice*.

*voice is more than just speaking in this manner*

The Loudest of “Boo’s” Come from the Cheapest of Seats

booing-crowd-boo-sign

You have critics.

We all do.

I can guarantee that any of my work that is public will get some criticism, which sometimes is in the form of passive aggressive behavior.

The critics are those that are chipping away at whatever you are trying to accomplish or whatever ground you’re trying to gain (even if it’s something internal).

What I’m finding is it’s those without “skin” in the game that yell the loudest.  It’s those that have replaced the work with criticism and have somehow convinced themselves that the criticism is the work.

We are tempted by this behavior.  Everyone has the ability to tear down and the internet gives all of us a platform.  There are even forums that are created to draw this opinion out of us where we have no authority to speak.

Constructive criticism is a great tool and should be wielded wisely.  It can create tension that helps change.

I guess my question is “Can you really give legitimate constructive criticism when you are removed* from what you’re criticizing?”

*Removed is subjective, but most people are smart enough to see where they aren’t really “in the game” but just a chest beating gong of “I’m right and you’re wrong”.

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