Sunday, December 05, 2004

more politics

Todd noticed this guest opinion piece in our local paper yesterday. I really liked it and felt like it asked some good questions about “Christian ethics” and the person of Jesus. On the same page, just above this article was this cartoon. It took my breath away. It is a disturbing image (in the prophetic sense) but a good match for the article.

Where are all those comments?…I was under the impression we were community of people passionate about Jesus and Politics ;)


lisa g said...

OK, Geoff, you asked for comments. Here's mine.

Of course I like this article. It echos my opinions on the matter. My opinions that I often fear to state because I will be labeled an extremist or maybe people will just think that I am not being considerate of other's who share opposite views. Some may even say that I value being right more than I value unity of the group. And, there is the possibility that all of these things are true, as there are many ways in which I can still be sanctified. That's why I hesitate to share my opinion. Especially on a blog where it is recorded in public view for the world to see. And, I must admit that the only reason I'm probably doing it today is because I'm tired and cranky, and in that state I seem to care a little less about who I'm angering with my opinion. I will probably regret this tomorrow (or at least have quite a bit of anxiety about it).

Anyway, here's my critique of the article. I appreciate his mention of the so called moral values of the religious right not seeming to agree with the values Jesus shows in the scripture. I think sometimes I'm even more bothered by them being referred to as "family values". One of the reasons for this is that I have been part of a few meaningful conversations with some gay friends of mine, and I have heard them express hurt and anger that these values don't apply to their family.

The marriage ammendment is the issue of the 2004 election that has distressed me the most, and it also seems to be the least discussed by the church, including ours. That is my complaint of this article as well. Where is the mention of the homosexual in all of this?

I have a group of gay friends who started and run an organization that delivers meals to HIV+ individuals in this community. One might have a picture of this service being for their gay friends, but in actuality, it is more often to those of lower income that struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. Those who are often considered to be outcasts. They spend their time, at great sacrifice, serving the poor and suffering, often with little appreciation. Now,I'm sure not all gay people live such lives, but this is the experience I have had.

Furthermore, I don't want to talk them up as if they were saints. They smoke, drink, and probably do not attend church. They make a lot of distasteful sexual jokes and use foul language. I'm sure many people could hold up their lives and point out how sinful they are. Also, something that makes my heart ache even more, is that they often seem to lack joy and peace.

So, I guess I also want to say that I don't want to sound too sure of my opinion here. But, often I think that Jesus would be living more like this group of sinners than most of those of the church who claim to be living like him today. But, that is where I need to admit my uncertainty. I do struggle with this issue and would love more open discussion about it.
I also admit my own extreme bias which leads to difficulty being objective in conversation because these are people I care deeply about.
I am hurt, angered, and saddened at the alienation my friends feel from society at large and the Christian church due to the condemnation from the religious right in the name of moral values.

This is the end of my ranting. Please forgive me if I have offended.

sherry said...

Todd – thank you for pointing this article out to us. I appreciated your post Lisa. It certainly is one of the more difficult social issues facing the church and communities like ours. As you reflect, it seems to be quite helpful that you are in personal, week-to-week relationships with the group of people who are not only marginalized in many ways, but who are most affected by the legislation in Kentucky. It is good that you are humble enough not to offer cheap, quick answers. I have none. In reading your post however, I did think about what Jesus commanded. I'm not a biblical scholar by any stretch, but I know Jesus was clear and straightforward about serving the “least of these.” I don't think he qualified those ethical instructions with any conditional statements like - "care for the least of these as long as they are not offensive," or "judge them first and then decide on their worthiness to receive mercy and grace." And, I imagine that into whatever social context Jesus spoke back in the first century, his listeners and followers must have bristled and wrestled with the group to which his commands to be servants of love applied. I am challenged to think more about the differences between serving in the name of Christ and supporting lifestyle choices, and how that influences my actions, or failure to act.

geoff said...

thank you Lisa. i appreciate your candor and the gentle-urgency of your comment. i really thought your critique of the article was insightful. it seems that your observation about the way Jesus afflicted the comfortable religious folk (like us?) might need reimagining within our context....and it seems to me that you have identified a certain group in our society who are mostly estranged from the comfortable religious folk (us?).

Jesus was always close to offending people around him, even his dedicated followers (like us!) I hope we learn to take offense and, by God's grace, fall to our knees. when we claim Jesus is on our side, we must be very careful. we don't own the agenda (left or right), we belong to a transforming reality.

You are teaching me about this issue and i look forward to learning more. peace to you and thanks for your service on behalf of our community and the wider people of God.

james said...

Reports of Christianity's death have been greatly exagerated. I agree with the thesis of the article: Followers of Christ have strayed from the teachings in the New Testament, and more importantly from the lifestyle into which Christ calles us. Several in America have missused the teachings of Christ in order to gain temporal power, as well.

Yet, I found the rest of the article a bit weak. Most of the paragraphs consisted of rhetoric, while his main points seemed to imply alot of presuppostitions about the motives behind the Republican platform (especially Christians that fall into the catagories the writter has established).

The first six paragraphs, Mr. Mercier, either makes fun of those on the right or makes general statements with nothing backing them up (not to mention bit of bad history: the second great awakening happened in the 18th century, and coincidentally spurred on a great movement of social justice through the church, not the federal government).Mr. Mercier then begins to take quotes from Christ a lays them out as inditments on the current administration and those who agree with it.

These statements are clear critiques of current Christianity, but he does not explain how.
He continues making general statements about what the pres. would do to Jesus.

The closest he comes to reveal an arguement is to trivialise the fight to end abortions ("a low-rent moralizer preoccupied with what other people are doing with their bodies").

Yes, morality has been reduced to a rediculous level. One the one side, if you maintain a 1950's Americana, where Christianity is the norm, you both virtous and moral, yet on the other, if your open to normalizing all lifestyles and tolerant (except of those whom you those trying to conserve a nonexistent past) your moral.

My assumption is that Communality is exploring a Third Way, in which the bar is raised. The morality of the public sphere creates a freedom froms the constraints of power, but our morality in Christ, demands obedience unto death with love, grace and justice always providing the lenses by which we view the world.

This article seems too mean spirited (I'm sure I could use a Jesus quote here, or at least Paul), the conversation it's created is great. I'll try and keep my own rhetoric in the background.

billy said...

This is a very interesting article to say the least. Perhaps its an example of what Paul Tillich called "reverse prophetism," where cultural elements from outside the church rise up to challenge it and call it to higher ground. Whatever it is, I think its probably wise to listen carefully to what this man is saying, and consider his claims in the light of the fact that he is, at least to some extent, searching for the truth about Jesus...........

Blue November said...

Despite the straw-man style of some of the argument that James points out, I did appreciate the "challenge" and calling out of the church. I liked the questions:

> Where in America is the Jesus who sides with the poor and the outcasts?
> Where in America is the Jesus who disdains those who wear their piousness on their sleeves?
> Where in America is the the Jesus with the prophetic voice, the radical who dares to tell the powerful what they don't want to hear?

Perhaps in our lives together, we choose to be (and/or to find?!?) that Jesus in our choices of involvements (Kentucky Refugee, Movable Feast, etc...) and our work (Radisson, YMCA, Hospice, etc...) and who we spend our time with (addicts, criminals, heck... even each other :oP ).

I think one of our (ok, *my*) most difficult challenges comes in living that third question, namely offering the societal prophetic voice criticism in Brueggemann style (to reference the famous theologian). How do we articulate a voice which dares to challenge the powerful both in criticizing and energizing those who hear?

TP said...

I am glad this article is facilitating this much discussion on the blog. Jen was the one that pointed this piece out to me and as we talked about it over breakfast my interest in it was for the reason Billy pointed out. I think the most interesting points of the article are (a.) the source and (b.) the author. Althought the piece may have poor argument structure, it is located in a very secular newspaper's op-ed section by an author who is a newspaper editor. I think this type of opinion has a lot to offer those of us inside the "Christian Body" whether we agree or not with the full breathe of the argument.
I did a google search for the author and found he had some other interesting op-ed pieces. Here is the link if you are interested:


rsm said...

This article brings up some interesting points, and I do think the author is correct on a good many of them.

That said, this analysis is a bit tired. Yes, I know that much of the "religious right" are hopelessly corrupted with power lust; much too enamored of military force and Wall Street - nothing new here. By contrast, the American Left does better with minorities, the disenfranchised, and is concerned with everyone's (and thing's) rights unless the individual under consideration is an in utero human being (again, no new info).

I suppose editorialists are paid to write, but instead of this partisan piece, I'd rather read a story about the author actually trying to find Jesus in the streets of his city - who knows but perhaps Billy, Geoff or Lisa would be found serving the least of these!

I suppose that is my main criticism: if you really want to find Jesus, go to the dark street, in the manger, among the commoner; that is where he will be. Public figures/politicians/power brokers of any political stripe will pervert the image of Jesus to suit their designs.

With respect to Lisa's concerns about the gay marriage issue, I offer the following: I voted for the ban. It was not because I was voting to "defend marriage" as much as it was to defend language as it has existed historically. I believe that domestic partnership is something that should exist in some form, and that form is the proper substance of public debate. If I am relegated a miscreant or homophobe for my opinions, that is unfortunate. But if my only options in this debate are, (1) surrender to demands, or (2) villainy, I have arrived at a point I encounter almost every night with 3 and 4-year-old children.

On a related note, I read a good article about Bono in this month's Spin magazine while awaiting the orthopedist today. The author of that piece wants to uncover whether Bono, " full of sh*#?" In short, a secular writer in a secular mag comes away with an attractive portrait of an engaged Jesus follower (personally, I'd take it - excepting the personal quirks, of course).

Lastly, despite Geoff's admonitions, I do not wish to offend anyone, either. I have learned so much about God and life during my time knowing the people I know in this group. Tammy and I were going over the financials from 2001-04 for 3rd street last night. It was a bit painful thinking about it all; however, I think it may be one of the 3 or 4 most important things I have done. That would have been impossible without you-all (Southern plural).

james said...

I hope my critiques of the article did not make it seem that I want to champion the cause of his foil, because I don't. I think that if we are to challange this status que bipolar way of thinking, it has to be done with well thought out consise presentations, and not falling into comfortable critiques and falicies of asumptions. Let's continue forging ahead with our discusions. And Geoff, while I agree that the Cross is offensive, I don't think we ought to strive to offend each other in pursuing it.

geoff said...

this is fantastic! thanks to all of you for posting and engaging in the conversation in this way. i hope the blog is a constructive space for our life-together-conversation.

as for 'offence, and 'offending' seems i have unintentially offended. by suggesting we learn to take offence i was hoping to convey the sentiment that Jesus (life, death, and resurrection) will offend people....even his most loyal followers. this is in the tradition of the prophets who "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" and consistent with the gospel story. my suggestion was to reiterate the need for humility in the face of this man from Nazareth and what we might like to imagine he stands for.

re. your comments about the civil-union debate, Scott, i would really love to hear more about the "history of language" when it comes to marriage. my instinct is that a civil society ought promote/encourage long-term monogamy in all it's forms. marriage is a matter for the church to handle, as i see it, because of its sacramental nature. that is, marriage and civil union (domestic partnership?) are not the same thing (heterosexual or homosexual). that is my humble and only partially informed opinion. perhaps we could take some time together (as a community) one evening to talk specifically about this issue - not for mono-tone, but at least harmony. i would hope your 3rd option would be "enter into a gracious, thoughtful, well informed conversation with brothers and sisters..."

thanks again, crew.....i'm glad to be on the journey with each of you.

lisa g said...

I appreciate your comments. I apologize if I made it sound as if anyone who disagreed was a homophobe or a miscreant (by the way, I had to look that up). Maybe I failed to communicate my uncertainty or desire for discussion. While I don't know you very well, I do trust that you are a kind and thoughtful man, and I would eagerly welcome your reasons for such a decision.

I often do not speak up for fear of being labeled, and I do not want you to feel that way either.

I think often I could be compared to your 3 and 4 year- olds. I feel so immature with so much to learn. If I speak up on something, I know that it reveals all I have not thought through. But, I'm not sure of another way to grow. I guess I would ask for grace from you and our community in this process. Hopefully, we can begin to trust each other more, so that as people share different opinions, they will not be labeled, as we are all seeking truth through Jesus.

rsm said...

Sorry for this, but short response(s) in order.

1. To Lisa: in my post there was no intent to reference you (or your friends), only something your post piqued in me. I simply wanted to respond to a line of thinking I see in the most vocally strident on this issue (i.e. those oft quoted in the media), which I do not believe reflects the gay community as a whole. I, too, have mixed feelings on this issue and am not comfortable with either polar position. But I do apologize if other intents were taken.

2. To Geoff: no offense, so to speak, in your speaking about offense. Bring on your 3rd option. BTW, being no linguist, I'll probably dissapoint you in that discussion.

Again, sorry for clogging the blog.

lisa g said...

So, on a different subject...

Scott, what really struck me about your last post was that it was written at 12:38 am!!!!

How do you function that late at night and work all day? Is that something you learn, or have you always been a night person?

I struggle to stay up past 10, and I sometimes worry that I won't be able to cope if I ever work in a hospital.

Just wondering...

rsm said...

chock full of nuts coffee...the answer to almost any small problem.

Anonymous said...

"Where in America is the Jesus who sides with the poor and the outcasts? Where in America is the Jesus who disdains those who wear their piousness on their sleeves? Where in America is the the Jesus with the prophetic voice, the radical who dares to tell the powerful what they don't want to hear?"

"Is he in the pews that fill every Sunday morning with the smug and complacent? Is he in a political party that fights for tax cuts for the rich while neglecting the needs of decent, hard-working Americans? Is he among the "God-and-country" demagogues who push an idolatrous nationalism and who see military service as the supreme form of sacrifice?"

"Your questions might not end there. You may observe that other things are missing from our fashionable "moral values" rhetoric. "

"You may, for example, notice the absence of any critique of an economic system that turns Jesus' birthday into an opportunity to jump-start consumer spending. Or any critique of corporate control of the public's airwaves, which helps ensure the culture is saturated with sexuality and violence that appeal to the lowest common denominator but generate huge profits."

The truth is that Christmas isn't even our Savior's birthday. It is the celebration of the birth of the sun, not the birth of The Son. If Mary had a full term pregnancy, Yahshua was probably born near Passover or near The Feast of Tabernancles. Based on the word given Zacharias, John's father, during the order of Abihu (which occurred only 1 week, twice a year), Elizabeth would have become pregnant shortly after, and Mary six months later.

If Christmas appears to have very little to do with Jesus, perhaps it is because it never was about Jesus in the first place. This idolatrous celebration infects not only Christians, but Jews as well, who erect Hanukah trees and pay homage as they bow before it to place their gifts under it.

I used to endeavor to keep the Christ in Christmas, but now I want to take it out. In our culture, if you don't celebrate Christmas, you aren't a Christian; but, how can we as Christians celebrate pagan dieties, put materialism on a pedestal and do it in the name of YHWH?

Christmas is the symbol of the modern church. I yearn for the true Church emerge. Thank you all for thinking outside the box.