The church season of Epiphany contrasts our darker nature reflected in the recent words from our president about immigration. As a Christian, true religion is more about the “least of these” than the great, powerful, and rich. There is nothing profane about having privilege. What is offensive to the Gospel is the dehumanization of the vulnerable people in the world–be they from Haiti, El Salvador, or Africa, or even Norway. Our president at this moment appeals to the darkest parts of our human nature. This nature blames the blameless. It shames the shameless. The darkness of this type of power shreds the bonds that even Christians should have for one another. The survival of the fittest is not a biblically solvent idea and even a potentially genocidal policy. People win when we apply a “survival of the weakest.” This is what Jesus Christ modeled for us. The Incarnation brings a child into the world, not a powerful leader. A scandalous yet orthodox belief is the Incarnation. God entered his creation and now is one with human flesh–Jesus Christ, born a child. Nothing is intimidating and powerful about a newborn baby. This youngster fled, surviving as a time as a refugee in Egypt—as a foreigner! As Herod decreed the death of babies, Joseph took his young family to a place of Gentiles. As we celebrate in the…
Truth is not a sport that wins with the score of popularity or power won. In our postmodern world, we can believe what we want. We can pay a company to spin information or post fake news on social media. Consequences do not matter. We are driven to win at any costs. Knowledge used to be equated with power. Today, popularity is power, regardless of facts or truth. A post-truth, post-fact world is one we have embraced. Faith, not always built upon empirically proven facts, causes many to still sacrifice their very lives. The ISIS beheadings of Christians is proof of this. In America, would our form of Christian faith pass the martyrdom test? Would we survive in our current squabbling? When truth impacts issues of life and death, you would think we would carefully examine it and be open to mastering it. The Bible may not be a scientific book, but we observe historically and currently the adherence to it as a matter of life and death. For us in America, faith exists mostly as a matter of post-truth that must fit our desired behaviors. There are all sorts of truth. There is historical truth, scientific truth, emotional truth and even faith-founded truth. With a new year comes a new challenge. What is truth? And, if we answer that question, will it change our…
Mystery cannot be contained by two dimensions. We seem to escape mystery within the walls of our binary reality. If life was as simple as a switch, we could simply turn off or turn on solutions. In fact, we do that very act every day to choose hot or cold water out of the faucet. We change the channel or swipe to the next stream of content on our smartphones with ease. Choices, no matter how full of first-world sophistication all reduce themselves to a binary question. With thousands of TV shows, hundreds of thousands of songs, and millions of click-bait articles to peruse, the choice is either a yes or a no. The muscle that might have once been used on imagination and wonder is now occupied to manage the firehose torrent of information and entertainment headed in our direction. Our schedule will not allow exploration, however. Reasonable people eventually see that there are more than binary choices in the complex landscape of our planet. We know, for instance, that our universe is in three dimensions and that cultures and climates color our patterns of thought and life experiences. If you happen to see the political postings on Facebook or Twitter this season then you are often led to believe that there are only two choices, regardless of who you may pick. Even the…
A few years ago, a young adult very openly expressed his frustration with worship at church. “Rich, why is it that I feel closer to God at a Coldplay concert than I do at church?” This was a stunning admission, because it represented not just his experience but that of many and perhaps spoke to some doubts in my own mind. However, what came from this conversation changed how I viewed worship in church. Worship at church should either be made more like the secular music out there, if that is truly more spiritual. Or, there is something missing in the worship at church that needed to be changed. I tried the first, making relevancy a goal, but I think that hand has been overplayed. So, I am left with the second idea. What is missing?
With hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees flooding Europe, our response as a nation has at best been tepid. We have 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., but many would rather build walls than talk about how humanely to deal with the small children caught in the political crossfire. This week a 14-year-old geeky student brought a homemade clock to school and was arrested for making a “fake bomb”—four policeman surrounded and handcuffed the confused, slightly built young man. He happened to be Muslim and “looked” the part. Why is it that people not like us bring out our dark side? I believe that fear for our safety seems to trump human dignity. But, should it? Would we put Japanese-Americans in concentration camps if we had it to do all over again?
Old stories such as “Hansel and Gretel” and “Little Red Riding Hood” were meant to put fear into children. Lessons such as Aesop’s “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” were likely to prevent a child from basically ringing the fire alarm for fun. Fear is a motivator. It works. Fear of losing your job can be leveraged to keep you and your coworkers from offering legitimate grievances and used in turn to add hours and workload without additional compensation. From TV news to Facebook posts about the ending of the world, fear sells and gets our attention. Our fight or flight chemistry is amped to the max. It’s a science and it works.
There has been a lot of dialog in the Evangelical world in recent years about a war on Christmas. The cry was to say “Merry Christmas” in defiance to something like “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holidays.” Regardless of the words we use, the war on Christmas is fed from law suits to remove civic-sponsored Nativity Scenes and school prohibitions about mentioning the Jesus of Christmas. However problematic the external forces of our society press against a Christ-centered Christmas it may be our in-house disregard of Advent that sets us back. Could our fight for Christmas be a fight against Advent?
Silencing the modern prophets: Discourse between Christians is not something to be proud of these days.
In the news recently, Michael Gungor made some remarks that caused a backlash and disparaging of his character and even his intent. He said that Adam and Eve were not literal people we all came from, and basically that to think so is like believing in Santa Claus. Yes, I strongly do not agree with that part of what he claims. Even some scientists appear to disagree with him when you consider genetic studies that propose a “Mitochondrial Eve” existed–albeit not one they would claim is the Eve of Genesis. Yes, Gungor’s tone admittedly was defensive. But, why would Gungor not be defensive? Are we able to even talk about our differences without that being the case?
Greg Johnson of On Being Human has been busy lately. Besides his band, Greg and his bandmates work on movie and TV soundtracks, produce artists (even people like me), and have been known to cover a video game tune or two. Murrieta, California has few as talented and creative when it comes to the professional music field.
The ascetics of the early church lived in caves, whipped themselves, and made vows of celibacy or silence. Monasteries were founded. Many of these did some amazing work, from copying by hand the scripture to creating beer for the masses to make something useful and drinkable during the unsanitary Middle Ages. The dark side of monastic life is the whole idea of living in a conclave, removed from the world. To be “holy” literally means to be “set apart” for God. So, why not focus on the “ apart” part of it while living for God? Some brilliant things happen when sequestered to study and learn. University time does this. But, when and how do we forge a path in the secular as we grow in the sacred? And, our times these days are filled with technology that allows us a separate life. Do you live in a virtual monastery?