Persecution

Yesterday, I posted a link to an article by Rachel Held Evans on walking the second mile. It was re-posted by a few people and generated several comments on the different people’s posts.

One of the themes I saw in the comments was the idea that serving at a gay wedding is equivalent to “bowing to an idol of sin” and that Christians shouldn’t be forced to do so. I spent some time thinking about this. I began to craft a response in the Facebook comments, but I quickly realized that I was writing too many words to be a comment1. I decided to make it a blog post.

For the sake of this argument, I’ve decided to just take the following assertions at face value2:

Let’s say all those things are true. Christians being targeted for their beliefs and sued sounds like legitimate religious persecution to me. What should the Christian response be?

Should we try to change the law to prevent this persecution? Should we hire lawyers and defend our constituional right in court? Should we take a public stand for our beliefs and “fight back” against the culture?

Here’s what Jesus has to say:

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5:11-12

We’re supposed to be persecuted. If we really believe that serving at a gay wedding is a compromise of our moral beliefs, then we should graciously refuse and then welcome the persecution (e.g. lawsuits) that comes our way without fighting back. Not fighting back probably means settling out of court and paying whatever amount of damages are requested (if not more). Again, Jesus said, “…if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”3

We need to remember that those of us who are called to follow Jesus are called to follow him above all other things. We should be Christian primarily and American secondarily. It is very American to want to stand up and defend our rights, but the Christian response is to lay down our lives (the rights go with our lives). The American founders fought their oppressors, our founder told us to love our enemies.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

  1. I must confess that I tend to skim over comments that get broken out into paragraphs. 

  2. Although there is much that can be debated here. 

  3. Matthew 5:40 


The terrorist as rock star

Dave Winer:

…they show us our fear of ourselves. The realization that we equate youthful and sexy appearance with benevolence. Our value system fails. The input does not equal the output. Does not compute.

Go read the full blog post (it’s not very long). This is a brilliant assessment of both the outrage over the Rolling Stone cover and our misplaced cultural values.


One Grain More

This is just brilliant. With the new Les Misérables movie, I’ve often thought of resurrecting Les Buffet, but I’m not sure I could best this.


Influence

I don’t like national elections. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in and understand their importance. In fact, I think it’s great that every citizen gets a vote in choosing national leaders. The problem I have with national elections is that it over-inflates the importance of our national leaders. They trick us into putting our hopes and dreams into one candidate. The one candidate who has all the answers for the economy, military, society, etc. It’s easy to get caught up in this contest, even if you try not to.

It happened to me this year. I didn’t like either candidate. I felt neither one of them represented me, so I checked out. I voted, but did so almost begrudgingly.

I began to believe the lie that I had no influence in this world.

The truth is, every one of has influence. Influence works like a radio signal. It’s strongest when your right next to the tower, and the further away you get, the weaker the signal gets.

-> How to Save the World Part I: Spheres of Influence <-

I have the most influence on those closest to me: my family, my friends, my coworkers, my neighbors. I have the least influence on those I see or speak with rarely.

What am I doing with this influence?

When you believe the lie that you have no influence, you absolve yourself from any responsibility to this world and those around you. Once you accept the truth (that you have influence), you must also accept the responsibility.

I want to spend some more time unpacking this concept, but first I think we need to live with these questions:

  1. What is the scope of your influence?
  2. What should you do with it?

2012 Big Tex Choice Awards Finalists Announced

UPDATE: Descriptions Added

The finalists will compete for two awards (most creative and best tasting) on September 3 (Labor day).

They Fried What?!?


History Never Sits Still. Thus Neither Can Our Politics

Lee C. Camp:

…everything is so very polarized that it seems, at worst, that there are only two possible positions, or at best, that there is only a single continuum between two possible positions. If the daughter comes home talking about non-violence, and the mother is a supporter of her government’s wars, then the daughter must be a damn communist, too.

…as the theologians have increasingly explicated, “the powers” get made manifest in a variety of institutions, -isms, systems, and structures. “The powers” are created for good (per the letter to the Colossians) but overstep their bounds, and rather than serving humankind, get “hell-bent on their own survival” (per Walter Wink) and thence begin to enslave and oppress.

…to those who foolishly idealize “the free market,” we insist that the powers of darkness are cunning, baffling, and powerful, and that they do in fact co-opt the supposedly free market for purposes of greed and grasping which corrupts and controls as much as any tyrannical dictator. Or to those who foolishly idealize “the welfare state,” we insist that the powers of darkness are cunning, baffling, and powerful, and that the over-weening bureaucratic mechanisms of control do in fact limit creative human creativity, and create dependence.

The centralization enacted by Joseph for the good of the starving Hebrews provided the very bureaucratic tyranny that served to enslave those same Hebrews. History never sits still. Thus neither can our politics. If we find ourselves lumping together into one mass group of political enemies anyone who disagrees with us (as in the irrational conclusion that a pacifist must be a communist), the perhaps we have become enslaved to the powers which use a binary, polarizing view of the world to create enemies, stratify communities, and breed hostility, precisely for the good of the corrupt powers, but never for the true good of humankind.


A Restless Patriotism

Richard Beck:

I’m a mess when it comes to the Pledge of Allegiance.

So I’m trying to walk this line between being socially appropriate, respectful to others (particularly to those who have lost loved ones in war), deeply grateful, and yet holding onto the belief that the Pledge of Allegiance is inherently idolatrous.

The problem is that it’s a pledge of allegiance. If it were a pledge of respect, love, or gratitude there wouldn’t be a problem.

Can’t I just say Love and Thank You without pledging allegiance?

But he’s not really talking about the pledge, he’s talking about the Christian response to war. Within Christianity, you find two opinions of war. One believes that some wars are just, the other that no war is just. Logically, if some wars are just then some wars are also unjust, therefore the “just war” Christians and the “pacifist” Christians should find themselves united in their oppositions to some wars.

But the trouble isn’t with the theory. The trouble is in the practice and implementation. … Just war Christians and pacifist Christians rarely move in concert, despite everyone recognizing that this should happen from time to time. And it might ought to happen most of the time.

So what’s the problem?

First, it could be the case that every war declared (and undeclared) by the American government has been a just war.

The second possibility is that American Christians aren’t spiritually capable of resisting the patriotic call in a time of war. That is, when the patriotic call comes it is so powerful that Christians will make any rationalization necessary to fit the current conflict into the mold of just war criteria. At the end of the day, all wars are just wars because they are American wars.

…I think even the most politically conservative Christian would have to admit that this could be a real temptation. And if that is so, then we finally get to the point of this post and back to the Pledge of Allegiance.

My question is this: What skills do we need to practice–today–if we are to be ready to face this temptation?

And to clarify once again. This isn’t about saying there are no just wars. I’ve granted that part of the argument.

This is about something different.

It’s about creating the ability to notice the unjust one.


Who moved the goalpost?

Dan Bouchelle:

All this happened despite the fact that the language of “salvation issue” and “go to heaven” does not even appear in scripture. These matters are never the concern of Jesus or the apostles. Jesus was concerned about God reigning on earth as in heaven, or to put it another way, the Kingdom of God.


Short-Term Missions: The Ugly

J.R. Goudeau:

Without long-standing relationships, divided by race and socioeconomics and even age, it’s very difficult for a short-term mission trip to avoid the trap of poverty tourism. The point should not, should never be, enlightenment for the privileged on the backs of the poor they came to serve. … Difficult, but not impossible.

This is a very thoughtful post backed by personal experience. I do think that short-term mission trips can be a very good thing, but those embarking on such trips should be mindful of these thoughts.


Imagining Healthcare for All

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

This real alternative is not the result of a grand strategy to reform our nation’s broken health care system. It was the fruit of a community trying to be faithful to Jesus. It started with a pastor praying in his hospital bed and some regular church folks talking about how they could share their money.

I love this. The government is going to do what it will do, and we can exert whatever influence we have over it, but we should not rely on them to do the right thing. We should be like Jesus and love our neighbors, poor and rich alike.