Tag Archives: Social Justice

The Return of the Truth

(It’s been a long time since Ive posted. In fact, its been four years (How telling??). A lot has happened in those years- and a lot remains the same. I apologize for the silence, but the truth of the matter is that its more complacency on my part than anything. A confession: I got comfortable in the status quo of equal rights, healthcare for all, and having a black President. And in the face of continued injustices somehow I are complacent…For that I pray for God’s forgiveness. There is still too much to work for and to not be coopted into normalcy. For things are NOT normal…

I am reactivating and recommitting my self to the spiritual practice of my writing. The clarity of thought and purpose of thinking, and the calling to stand for what is moral, Godly, and true. Some are called to march, others to be arrested, others still to be run for office….I have always been called to teach, educate and empower. This blog is a means to the end.)

 

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“But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.” –Daniel 3:12-18

 

In our house we listen to Christian contemporary radio station. It’s one in our home 24 hours a day. Our children love the music, and for my wife and me, (two theologically educated clergy persons), the messages are more theologically consistent than most of the gospel music being played. The music and messages that are on the station are often found to be in more evangelical churches and that is fine because they speak a truth that we can affirm in our house. Occasionally, the station has guests on to talk about inspirational topics our to simply encourage listeners on certain topics.

This was the case this past Friday. In the aftermath of a most divisive election and on the day of a deeply unpopular inauguration, the station had a Christian counselor to come on  and to talk about strategies to heal and restore relationships.(- good topic right? sigh) When responding to the question about what we are to do as Christians in the aftermath of the election, the guest put forth the classic answer of Christian conformity- “we are to pray for our leaders as the Bible instructs.”Citing Daniel and Paul, the guest went on to say our prayers for our president’s success mean we are being faithful to the Bible.

I was infuriated.

Livid that such a perversion of the faith could be on my “theologically consistent” radio station, I started yelling at the radio in the car.

“How stupid!”

“Thats the best answer you can give??!!”

The truth is that the Bible offers dueling views on our role as people of faith in relationship to government. Sometimes the text tells us to stay and pray for the powers (Jeremiah’s message to the exiles). At other times it tells us to stand up and fight for the oppressed (Moses against Pharaoh). While the guests comments weren’t wrong, they didn’t tell the whole truth. Protest, resistance and standing up for God in the face of impending death is very much a faithful response to government as much as “praying for our leaders”. The above text from Daniel demonstrates that for us.

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These three boys who are coopted into the Babylonian governmental service still know the truth of their heritage and faith. Their names and identities were coopted for the purposes of social control by Nebuchadnezzer, but they knew who they were. And while they could do many things for the government of the king, they would not blaspheme their God by bowing to another. Therefore, they resist.  The speak truth at the risk of their lives. They exercise a faith filled response-trusting God over the king or any political system.

Beloved, people of faith have failed. We have failed. Faithful living is not conformity. It never has been and it never will be. To be faithful is to be radical according to our societal norms. We as American Christians have lost our saltiness, and traded it for prosperity and stability.

As faithful people, we are not Democrats or Republicans, conservatives or liberals, red or blue. Those are the definitions that society imposes. Our job is to resist those and any other attempts at categorization. We are people of the Way of Jesus Christ. The Way that always finds a different path. The Way that risks all to save all. The Way that reveals the visions of truth in a world full of lies. I’m back now…let the work begin.

 

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Filed under Christian Church, Christianity, Civil Religion, Community, Old Testament, Political Theology, Prophetic Accountability, Uncategorized

An Inconvenient Truth…

The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The prophecies they gave you were false and misleading. (Lamentations 2:14, NIV)

Some years ago we were all informed (or misled depending on your view) about the importance and significance of the effects of global warming in our world. Led by former Vice President Al Gore, the work of the documentary centered on providing obvious and direct evidence to the fight against global climate change and its effect on our way of life. The title “Inconvenient Truth”, reflected in part the obvious nature of the change in climate and our full willingness to ignore the signs and implications the movies brought to the forefront. The reaction to the movie further substantiated the title of the movie.

The reality is that this title is very much an existential statement as much as it is a catchy title. The life shaping and life defining moments in our lives are often outlined through ‘inconvenient truths.’ These are the kinds of truths that we know instinctively yet do not enact because it cost too much to our personhood to change. Inconvenient truths disturb us and tell us that everything is not okay and the reality we painted for ourselves is frankly…….false. They are experienced in relationships when we’ve already known for sometime that a relationship is not good for us and yet we remain forconvenience and safety instead of doing what we know to be healthy and fruitful. They are experienced in daily economic decisions when we knowingly make decisions that cost us more in the long-term (and the short-term) just to satisfy an immediate desire. Inconvenient truths are present in all our lives and nag at our very being while we do everything we can to ignore it and get rid of it. That is why it is inconvenient.

In the past few weeks, we as nation exposed two very basic inconvenient truths. These truths have been with this country for a very long time and yet we have done what all people and nations do when faced with inconvenient truths….hide from them. The reality of war is the first truth; not just war but all that goes along with it. Specifically, that war is more than ugly it is horrific and its effects last for generations. This first ignored truth is personified through the life of Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales and the shooting of 16 civilians (if unfamiliar, see here). Regardless of your view of the soldier and national policies of defense, the inconvenient truth sheds light on something that has always existed and that we have attempted to redefine. General W. Tecumseh Sherman once  said “War is Hell”, and how right he was. General Sherman’s sentiment was as much true in the burning of Atlanta during the Civil War as it is true in our present day. The reality of this hell is not altered by the use of drone airstrikes, precision guided bombs and surgical strike teams. The images and memories of war live as much with the soldiers and “enemies” alike.  Lives are taken and psyches altered permanently. We can ignore it and convince ourselves of alternate stories, but truth’s inconvenience will always rear its head, usually at the most inconvenient moment.

 

The second inconvenient truth deals with the failings of our “more perfect union”: we exist as a divided society. This division is along three simple lines: sexuality(to include gender), class and race.  Any one of these in any society is divisive and causes a great deal of tension. In the US, all three of these are of great consternation and problematic for the one who exists in any (or all) of these categories in opposition to defined ‘norms’. The sad part is that most Americans have convinced themselves that we do not have a race or class problem, and that women, gay, lesbian and transgender persons can all co-exists in harmony.  In the face of the hallucinogen of American Exceptionalism, there are moments of inconvenience that show that all is not well in Oz.

The violence toward gay, lesbian and transgender persons all belie our challenges with equality of sexual identity. The political climate of constantly legislating women’s reproductive health as well as the basic disparity of pay for women reveal the failure of male dominated systems (of thinking and of industry) to recognize the power men enjoy. The killing of Trayvon Martin is another instance in the long horrific history of racial prejudice and fear in the United States. The last event in particular is egregious and outrageous. Read the following account by ABC NEWS:

“Martin, a black high-school junior, was making his way home with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea on Feb. 26 when George Zimmerman spotted him, called a non-emergency dispatch number to report Martin looked intoxicated, followed him, and then minutes later after an altercation, shot him.

Zimmerman, 28, who is white, claimed self defense. 

The night of Feb. 26, Zimmerman made a non-emergency call to police before fatally shooting Martin, in which he told a dispatcher, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good, on drugs or something.”

(ABC NEWS full cited story here)

This teenager, (a high-schooler) is murdered because of fear and gross prejudice. Mr. Zimmerman is innocent until proven guilty, but that is only if he is ever placed in the  criminal justice system. To date he has not been investigated for murder. Self-defense killings (not that this was) is still a murder. Lives are taken and psyches altered…….permanently. Trayvon Martin is not the first to die and his family is not the first to grieve because of the reality of racism in a country that continually redefines reality. I am also afraid that he will not be the last. 

We wonder why many in our society are so quick to “play the race card”……Because it is reality. This is not a game, it is an inconvenient truth. The fact that we are so quick to do nation building, KONY 2012 and all of the other novelties point to level of inconvenience that race generates in our country. Even if we conveniently elect an African-American President.  The failure of anyone in law enforcement to conduct a proper homicide investigation and seek justice for all parties belies the level to which race is so much a guiding factor in our social mores and normative behaviors. Yet, we believe that if we continue the mantra of equality then speaking will make it so. Hardly….

Selah….

 

As Jeremiah does in the passage from Lamentations, inconvenient truths unabashedly show the reality of the world. Jeremiah speaks after the fall of Jerusalem reminding them of the failure of convenience in conveying the truth of their situation. As a prophet, his message of destruction was consistent and in opposition to all the other prophets who spoke words of comfort and hope- a convenient portrayal that denied the truth of their situation. How things have changed…… not so much?!

Ultimately though, Jeremiah’s message and admonition discloses an even greater reality- inconvenient truths are Divine. They are messages and moments given by the Divine to the created. They are the Divine in us calling us to be the image of God in creation, bringing us to account. They are the moments that call us to be greater than our choices. These moments are the  God-moments that speak to our souls and offer us a different way. Thank God for Inconvenient Truths

The sin is that so often we think it too hard to live into that Divine  reality. Yet, if we believe the God who so often interrupts, then surely this same God’s reality (no matter when and how it comes) is attainable, if only in part.  After all, visions of truth are so often inconvenient to their visionaries…….

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Filed under Christianity, Discipleship, Hope, Old Testament, Political Theology, Prophetic Accountability, Sacred Memory, Social Justice, Trayvon Martin, War