As I’ve mused in previous years, this is often a difficult time of year for me. As Thanksgiving comes and goes and the holidays roll upon us, I find my values confronted in all sorts of awkward ways. While most of our country spends the last month or so of the year merrily spending and giving all with good cheer, I grumpily mumble to myself about my inability to live out my convictions amidst this mass of Santas. This year though, I’m gonna start earlier. I had some regrets in past years and I’m hoping to try and begin addressing those by being more active this year regarding my convictions. And it starts with this brief post on some of the ways I intend to do that.
- Mention Buy Nothing Day and Encourage Others To Participate - The day after Thanksgiving begins this insane buying frenzy. Buy Nothing Day is simply an opportunity to refuse to join the consumerism train and creatively oppose it. Last year my brother and I thought about doing something but we passed, maybe this year will actually try it…
- Make a List – As much as I try and avoid it, there are people who will buy me things and there are actually things I would like to have. Making a list, a modest one, will give the opportunity to fulfill both their need to give and a few of my wants. Look I just started one (don’t you go and get me everything now).
- Speak up Politely and Informatively about Consumerism – With a little prep work (remembering statistics, avoiding harsh criticism) I think I could carry on a good casual conversation about the issues of consumerism and Christianity that impact my views about the holiday season. There’s even a cool video about it (cool videos convey so much more then my incessant rambling).
- Start Thinking about Gifts to Give Others and Make Some – In my Scroogish attitude I tend to overlook even the opportunity to be creative in my giving to others. I’ve done a cool thing or two in the past, but this is really an opportunity to show others you care, so I’ll take some time and be creative.
I think that’s a decent start for now. I’d really like to figure out how to begin to teach my daughter that this season is about giving to others, just like every day and month and year of our lives. For now, it’s all about baby steps.
I attended a rally downtown speaking out against Prop 8 that passed in California on Nov. 4th. I carried a sign that said “I’m a Christian Against Christians Hating and Oppressing Others.” It has been my experience, that regardless of the motivation or intent of Christians who take strong stances against same-sex marriage, the perception (and I’m afraid it is often an accurate one) is that Christians hate and want to oppress people who practice homosexuality. And so I went, if only to let those at the event know, that not all Christians feel that way. I was glad to be there.
In dialogging with others about the event, I fleshed out some thoughts that I thought I’d share here. I already posted my views on prop 8 and other same-sex marriage bans here. These are additional thoughts, I’d like to hear your thoughts as well regarding this issue and topic.
Regarding why I protested a bill that was voted in by a state majority:
As you well know, just because the majority of people believe something, doesn’t make it right.
And while I agree it might be a decent way to choose nation’s leaders, I don’t believe Christians voting against allowing a secular government to grant legal rights to committed same-sex couples is an appropriate Christian response.
Voting means the … majority of the people who voted agree or disagree with what’s voted on, it is not necessarily a moral compass. I encourage you to stand up as a voice in opposition to injustices when you see them. I encourage you to come along side people who have been oppressed and hated (and this in the name of Christ) and show the what true Christ-like sacrificial love looks like.
Regarding whether I think Christians who voted for Prop 8 are hateful and oppressive:
I believe there are Christians that with no hate or ill intent voted against same-sex marriage, I’m not out to judge the motives of those individuals.
Rather, I’d challenge you to ask every homosexual person you know, who will answer you honestly, if they have ever felt themselves at the receiving end of hate from Christians. I have yet to meet a person who does not have multiple stories that one can only describe as hatred (but don’t take my word for it, ask individuals yourself).
As to the oppression, I think my answer would be similar to above.
What are your thoughts on this issue?
I’ll be the first to admit, I can get pretty caught up in the political scene and scandals this time of year. The latest news story, the terrible “what if’s”, the deep ideological questions and more, all draw me in (which is not all bad). The danger of this, for me, has come when I lose sight of my allegiances.
I consider myself a follower of the teachings of Christ, though it’s a miserable attempt at best, I live my life trying to follow those teachings. In doing so, I swear an allegience first and foremost to another kingdom, the kingdom of God. Before I am a US citizen, I am a citizen of the kingdom of God. (Try not to get too creaped out by that statement. If you want to know what that looks like lived out, read more of my blog). All Christians, those who follow the teachings they read in the Christian scriptures, swear alligience first and foremost to the kingdom of God. Yet, we often, and especially during election season, forget that. We lose our creative abilities to live like Christ, radically and subversivly living his kingdom on earth.
Personally, I believe voting is like brushing your teeth. We all know “cleanliness is next to godliness” (It’s not really, and that’s not in the bible, but humor me for a moment). While we recognize brushing our teeth and taking regular showers is important, it’s not something we as Christians, pastors or churches spend a whole lot of time on. In all my years of church attendance I’ve yet to hear a sermon on personal hygiene. It’s something important, and something we should do, but we don’t spend a lot of time and energy on advocating for it. Instead we take care of our hygiene and move on to more important things like loving our neighbor as ourselves and living the kingdom here on earth and being the church.
What has struck me by the political discussion I’ve engaged in these past couple months is the passion so many Christians have about issues, and those issues are factors in their voting process. My earnest hope and prayer is that on Nov. 5th that same passion is translated into action by the churches and Christians on those same issues. I’d love to be a part of the movement in the church that takes that passion about pregnant women and babies and translates it into graceful compassionate churches that love the people, woman, babies, men so passionately. I’d love to see the same relationship building involvement by Christians and churches in the GLBT community. My fear and disappointment is that is not what I’ll see, may I be proven wrong.
I’ll close with a seven minute video by John Piper. A pastor and preacher who has been extremely foundational in my Christian faith. He is a phenomenal theologian and eloquent speaker and he summarizes his election reminder far more thoughtful then I:
(I’ll post a four minute version tomorrow for YouTubesday. But it’s worth a listen. Also, for the record, I don’t necessarily agree with everything John Piper says or believes.)
This might seem like a slight tangent from the topic of politics, but I assure you it is not. I’m kind of hoping someone else can lend some insight into this.
After reading the gospel and finding no way to reconcile “love your enemies” with going to war, I started looking for some theological insight that would make sense of how we as a religion had come to this point. Someone suggested a fascinating book called, The Powers That Be, by Walter Wink, which contained this brilliant quote:
Christianity’s weaponless victory over the Roman Empire resulted in the weaponless victory of the empire over the gospel. A fundamental transformation occurred when the church ceased being persecuted and became instead a persecutor. Once a religion attains sufficient power in a society that the state looks to it for support, that religion must also, of necessity, join the repression of the state’s enemies. For a faith that lived from its critique of domination and its vision of a nonviolent social order, this shift was catastrophic, for it could only mean embracing and rationalizing oppression.
It was this “victory of the empire over the gospel” that had been nagging at me so much. It seems that we’d been given an opportunity at power, military power through our voting, that we chose to embrace rather than relinquish.
Where this plays out today is the constant talk you here about “protecting our freedom” not just on news and from politicians, but from pulpits and pastors. Another terribly theologically incorrect statement. As Christians, we believe true freedom comes through Christ, and that freedom is not furthered nor protected by military might.
And yet, as much as I insist on the above statement, it is only ‘lip service’ to an idea, because whether I ask for it or not, the military is ‘protecting my freedom’ by violent domination over it’s enemies, which runs completely counter to the gospel I insist to believe in.
About four years ago I was reading the paper in a small town in Minnesota. I read an article by Congressman Mark Kennedy entitled: “The Great Experiment” which discussed the sacrifices many soldiers had made to make this country what it is today. I felt the need to reply in this letter to the editor that you see below. I’ve left it unedited, but I’ll include further thoughts at the end. Surprisingly, the local paper published my letter the following week:
The Failing Experiment
I want to first of all thank Congressman Mark Kennedy for his article concerning this country’s “Independence Day.” There is certainly room for celebration and many of the historical facts he pointed out are worth noting and esteeming. Unfortunately I fear Congressman Kennedy missed out on the whole picture of the American Experiment and I feel the need to complete, or at least add to his summary.
It is true our Experiment has succeeded because of sacrifice, but whose sacrifice? Let us not forget the genocide of the Native Americans – from whom we took and still keep this land. They sacrificed many lives to our “Manifest Destiny.” Even today the effects of this sacrifice are felt and if you dare look, they are still seen. Our brothers and sisters of the human race live on small, infertile plots of land that we’ve forced them to, and the effects of injustice for hundreds of years can be seen clearly today. The Native Americans sacrificed.
Let us remember that the fourth of July is Independence for only part of the citizens of this country. It wasn’t until December 1865 that the denial of freedom (slavery) was abolished by law in this country. And we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that this is a reality today. It takes only a brief look at the statistics to see that even since the Civil Rights movement of the sixties, we are still discriminating against people because of their skin (look up red-lining, the education system, and the demographic layout of most cities). It was on the backs of our brothers and sisters of the human race from Africa that this country began to thrive. It was their sacrifice for which they currently still have never reaped full benefits.
They sacrificed as soldiers too, Africans, Mexicans, Japanese, Native Americans – only to return to a “free” nation where they were discriminated against and treated as less than human. Remember the sacrifice of the American citizens of Japanese decent forced into Internment camps in the Desert. Remember the replacement of slaves with sharecropping and cheap labor from Mexico which we discriminate against yet desperately “need” in order to keep our way of living “affordable” for us.
There are many more groups that have been sacrificed to this American Experiment, but only one more I will note in this summary. They are half the population and for years have fed, clothed, cleaned, and cared for generations of American men. Women, they celebrate their independence on August 26, 1920 when the law at least extended to them the vote. They, like these many other groups, are still fighting for the freedom we will celebrate July 4th.
Celebrate your freedom on Sunday, but open your eyes to reality. Freedom even in America is only for the privileged, unless we choose to make it for everybody. Freedom will never come at the barrel of a gun. It will take sacrifice, sacrifice from you and me, not our lives, but our love. Will you sacrifice with love for that freedom you so enjoy to be extended to all people?
There is probably much more to say on this Independence day about the current state of affairs in our country, but I’ll leave that mostly to your own reflection. Let me only remind you that we celebrate this day while Guantanamo remains operational, are nations attempt to spread “freedom” is showing tragic and horrific results, and racism, sexism and much discrimination still lies unaddressed in our society.
Celebrate the 4th, but please do so with these words in mind.