What I’m talking about is bigger than just voting

changetreeI voted last Tuesday.  I voted on who would be the next governor of New Jersey, on some local issues, which included local school board members, and whether or not we should raise the minimum wage to $8.25 per hour.

As I read through State Question #2, the one about raising the minimum wage, I thought to myself, Of course I’m voting yes to this, but are we serious, here?  What kind of difference is that really going to make?

Give just a second’s worth of thought to this:  If someone works 40 hours per week at $8.25 per hour, that grosses them $330 per week.  After taxes, we’re talking about $250 per week, or so.  Who can live on $1,000 per month in New Jersey?  You’re going to be very hard pressed to find a place to rent for less than that anywhere near where I live.

Here’s my point:  The kind of systemic change we need was not found anywhere near the ballot box in this last election.

Ok, let’s go… here’s what I’m talking about…

Allow me to borrow an analogy from a talk I heard Dr. John Dominic Crosson give, not too long ago.

We all know what a well-run household looks like.  Instinctively, we know the difference between a well run home and one that is poorly maintained.  In fact, when I was a public school teacher, we were instructed that, if we suspected one of our students was being abused in any way, we were obligated, by law, to report this student’s situation to the authorities.  Apparently, we should know abuse when we see it.

So, if you were to see a household where there were ten children, and five of them were starving, under dressed, and deprived of education, while the other five were overdressed, overfed, and going to the elite, private schools, would you not feel compelled to call the authorities?  Would you not, at least, feel that the household in question was in need of some serious intervention?

What if nine of the ten children were overdressed, overfed, and attending the elite, private schools and only one child were starving?  For that one child, wouldn’t we scream loudly that something terrible was going on and demand the situation be fixed?

I had a “Facebook discussion” with a couple of people not too long ago about justice and what it means with regard to God.  Their firm stance was that justice refers almost exclusively to the punitive.  As such, God would be “just” to send us all to “Hell” but has chosen instead to offer a way out of this terrible, inevitable conclusion to each of our lives.  That way, of course, is by believing in Jesus and accepting him as our savior.

But what does it actually mean to “believe in Jesus” and to follow his “way”?

What has become increasingly clear to me as I ponder my faith is that the way of Jesus means far more than affirming a set of beliefs.  In fact, affirming a set of beliefs is the least important thing when it comes to following the way of Jesus.

Christians see Jesus as the decisive revelation of God, meaning Jesus is seen by Christians as what a life filled with God looks like.  When we look to the life of Jesus, we can see very plainly the things that concerned him, the things he was passionate about.  At the same time, then, we can see the very things that concern God and what God is passionate about.  We see the character of God when we see the character of Jesus.

Jesus was concerned with the Kingdom of God–what the world would be like if God were King and the ruling, domination system authorities were not.  What would that world look like?  It would look like a world where everyone had compassion for one another, where we met each other’s needs, and where everyone had enough.

The justice of God is not about the punishing of evildoers in the end, but, rather, about the distribution of God’s gifts so that everyone would have enough.  Clearly, it does not mean that everyone should have the exact same thing.  What it does mean is that everyone should have enough of the necessities of life, what we must have to live–our “daily bread.”

When a system is set up in such a way that an entire family could go bankrupt as quickly as a father or mother gets into an accident or gets cancer, and racks up hospital bills that drain the family of every bit of savings because they don’t have adequate health insurance, there is an injustice in the system.

When rent in a decent neighborhood with decent schools costs $1,200 dollars per month and minimum wage in the same town is $8.25 an hour (net less than $1,000 per month), do those numbers add up to a just situation?

When 1% of the people control over 98% of a nation’s wealth, how can that nation claim to be just, let alone a “Christian nation”?

What I’m talking about is a system that is truly set up with the whole of the community in mind, not just the elite.  What I’m talking about is a system that focuses its resources on education, job training, and shrinking the enormous gap between those who have more than enough and those who constantly struggle to make ends meet.  What I’m talking about is a complete reform, and that was not offered on the ballot last Tuesday.

What I’m talking about is bigger than just voting.

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t like what’s being said, and I’m changing the conversation

change-the-convo-1I have several gay friends.  If you know me at all, you know that to be true.

I’m also a Christian.  If you know me, you know that to be true, as well.

Lately, though, I’ve wondered if I’m about done with the term “Christian.”  I don’t think I want to be known in that way anymore. I think I’d rather be called anything but what that term has come to mean in America.

Why in the world would I say such a thing, you ask?  Well, let me tell you a story.

The other day, a friend of mine (who happens to be gay) shared an article on Facebook about a certain waiter’s recent experience at a Carrabba’s restaurant with a “Christian” couple.  I won’t go into the details of that story.  You can read it here.

What struck me immediately was what an affront to Christianity this couple had been, and how I instantly felt the need to apologize to my friend, who had clearly been extremely hurt by association, on behalf of all reasonable Christians.  I realized he was hurt by association, and that’s when I realized, so was I!

The acts of Christianity that this couple demonstrated were nothing of the kind of Christianity I want to be associated with.  If their beliefs are the true ways of the faith, I want nothing to do with it.  If their “God” is the true God in whom I live and move and have my being, then I firmly and defiantly announce that there is no God.

So, that’s where I was.  That’s where my mind and heart had gotten to the other day when I read my friend’s post.  I struggled quite a bit with what to do and how to feel.  Then, I changed my mind.

I still feel the same way about not wanting anything to do with the Christianity of the Carrabba’s couple, but I’m not going to give up the name “Christian.”  I refuse to let the name of a movement that is so vitally important to the world be co-opted by those who are too ignorant to live by the precepts of the one for whom the movement is named.

Instead, I vow to change the conversation.

Now, I fully understand that there are those (many of whom are my friends) who will say to me, “Scott, you can’t just pick and choose the kind of Christianity you want. You’re practicing a “buffet-style” version, where you pick what you like and disregard the rest.”

To that, I say, “Look again!”

Look again at the Scriptures.  Look again at the ways of your faith and the ways of Jesus.  Look again at when the Bible was written and to whom it was first given.  Look again with your heart. Look again with a new set of lenses.  The lenses of many are dirty, scratched, and in need of a new prescription.

If you believe your lenses go all the way back to the first century, I’ll ask you to look again.  Do they actually go back to the 19th century?  Dig deeper.  Look harder.  Get uncomfortable.

Ask yourself not, “What is it I believe?” but, rather, “What am I doing? What is my contribution to this world, this creation, this life?”

I’ve grown very tired of defending the experiential reality of Jesus and what that means in response to Facebook posts like my friend’s while my secular-humanist friends go about actually living it. They challenge me every day to ask myself, “What are you actually doing to make the world a better place?”  For that (and for many other things), I owe them much thanks!

At the same time, though, I’m not ready to chuck the name of the one in whom I believe. I’m also not going to sit idly by while acts done “in the name of God” and bullying rhetoric thinly veiled as “God’s word” trample upon and undermine the very mission and message of the one who came to redeem us all.

I’m not asking anyone to believe the same way I do.  Work things out for yourself.

But, I will stand up for my faith.  I will not remain silent while people starve and freeze at night and long for justice and call out for God to do something.  God has already done something–he made you and he made me, and he has called us.  God has called us to participate in a life where God’s ways and our ways are one and the same.

Every time a “Carrabba’s couple” speaks and acts the way they do, the message gets distorted.  It’s like they somehow got to the end of the line in a game of telephone gone horribly wrong.  The message they’ve come away with is not the one it was at the beginning, and I’m not okay with it.

I’m sick of what’s being said, and I’m changing the conversation!

Follow Scott on Twitter: @scotylang

I know that I don’t know what I don’t know…

blindnessOk, so you’ve got your “Salvation” worked out? (whatever that means)

You’ve got the answers and it’s your mission, given to you by God, to help others find the way that you have found?

I’m sure I can hear you now…”I don’t think I’m better than anyone else!  I’m just trying to humbly do what God has asked me to do in this world.  I want as many people to go to Heaven as possible!”

Ok, I hear you.  Fair enough.  And, frankly, I’ve heard it all before.

But, what if you don’t know what you think you know?  What if there is a deeper calling that is welling up inside you, and you keep tamping that voice down farther and farther because it is actually becoming a threat to your security?

What then?

Could you dare to see differently than the way you’ve been seeing?  Could you dare to be blind so that others might see?

What follows is a really interesting story about what it means to be blind, but not blind in the usual way.  Most stories of enlightenment move from darkness to light, from blindness to sight.

In this story, one might reflect on what my own children inadvertently (ok, sometimes it’s inadvertent and sometimes it’s not…) remind me: the older and wiser I get, the more I realize how much I don’t know.

Enjoy…

 BLINDNESS

Near Jerico, a great scribe was sitting one day quietly reflecting by the roadside.  As he contemplated life and faith, a large a noisy crowd stumbled by.  The scribe became so intrigued by all the activity, as this was a relatively relaxed and quiet place to sit.  So, he called out to one of the passers-by.

“What’s happening?”

The man he addressed didn’t stop, but shouted excitedly, “Jesus of Nazareth is approaching the city!”

The wise man had heard much talk of Jesus, and so he eagerly joined the crowd.

After some walking, everyone came to a halt, and silence descended upon the crowd.  As the scribe looked up, he saw Jesus walking through the masses, talking with people and healing them.  As he watched, a cry welled up from deep within him, and he began to shout, “Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner!”

Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but the scribe shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

As Jesus came near, he stopped and asked the man to approach.  When the scribe came near, Jesus touched him and said, “Your faith has healed you.”

At that moment, the scribe was blinded and began to cry out like a fool.

When all the people saw what had taken place they were horrified, but Jesus paid no heed to them.  Instead, he put his hand on the shoulder of the scribe and whispered, “You will be blind for a while.”

To this, the man replied with a smile, “Oh Lord, it does not matter in the least, for the moment you touched me I saw all that I ever needed to see.”

Story taken from, “The Orthodox Heretic” by Peter Rollins