Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Patriots! Never Surrender!

In 18th century western Europe, they coined a term for one who had blind, aggressive loyalty to the fatherland without regard for its underlying principles - freedom, liberty, compassion, faith, service and justice. The term was patriot, and it was actually a term of derision and insult. 

Thankfully, in our day and our country, a more noble meaning is attached to the word. New Englanders and fans of Tom Brady are happy about that. I am too, even as a Cowboys fan.  But I am especially happy because I consider myself a patriot.  I love my country!

Still, it seems that many are working as hard as they can, maybe unknowingly, to devolve the word patriot to its original meaning. There has been a sad decline back to the idea that a true patriot is one who gathers with others just like themselves, circles the wagons and looks out for their own so that what they have is not taken by dark, sinister forces.  The guiding value is an unhealthy, indiscriminant self-interest fueled by pride, fear and insecurity.

So as not to be misunderstood, I am not referring to a particular political party or ideology here. This kind of fear-baiting and marginalization of the other in the name of patriotism functions quite well on both sides of ideological lines.  This degrades and devalues the meaning of what it is to be a patriot in America.  And for those of us who follow Jesus, nothing could be further from the values of the Kingdom which we love, serve as thankful ambassadors, and in which our true citizenship resides.

That said, my prayer is that the tide begins to turn on this one.  And may we who call ourselves patriots in this day remain faithful to our nation's founding principles rather than the weak tribalism of us vs them, and may we never surrender the current meaning of the word patriot back to its ignoble beginnings.  And as we do, may God bless America!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Be Not Judged, Lest You Start Judging Others

Not long ago, Jon Acuff of Stuff Christians Like fame said in a Tweet, "Stop giving your critics PhDs." That's great advice. But I couldn't leave the thought alone. It seems that in our culture, people do other, similar kinds of things that cause our lives to get all junked up. Evidence can be seen, I think, in the popularity of tv shows that feature some kind of contest to find the next singing, dancing, or on-stage performing star. Maybe we like these shows because for a change, we feel like, "Finally, someone other than me is being judged and voted on."

All kinds of thoughts come to mind, but I won't inflict them on you. However, I will ask, does this strike anyone else as a possible signal that we give way to much value - maybe pathologically so - to what we think are the opinions others have, or judgments others make about us? I mean, when you think about it, I doubt anyone is even paying much attention. They are all worried that you are judging them. You're not, are you?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Streetlight Effect

There is an old story that says a police officer came upon a man at night crawling in the street underneath a streetlamp looking for some money he dropped. The officer asked, "Is this where you dropped your money?" The man said, "Oh, no. I dropped it just down there under that car that's in the dark." The officer asked, "Then why are you looking for it over here under this lamp post?" The man replied, "The lighting is so much better over here."

This story is used in scientific circles to describe the all-too-frequent practice of drawing conclusions that go well beyond the evidence available.  But it is worse than that. They know the evidence is inadequate and possibly even irrelevant given what they do not know and cannot observe, test or demonstrate.  But they make their bold pronouncements anyway, and usually in a manner that indicates their findings settle the issue when in reality, the issue may yet to be intelligently addressed at all.

It makes me think of scientists like Stephen Hawking saying he has disproved the existence of God based on what we now know about gravity. Two things. First, what about what we do not know about everything else? Second, if the question of why something exists rather than nothing is answered by "gravity," then what created gravity? Why is there gravity rather than no force at all? 

Hawking keeps trying to move everything into the small little area illuminated by his tiny little streetlight. Because he cannot see outside of this small area of illumination, he imagines what he can see defines everything outside of his field of vision.  He even wants to shrink and move God into that narrow field. But you cannot disprove God by pretending he is smaller than his creation - gravity included. 

The good professor will need to get a much bigger streetlight, or try coming out and looking around in the light of day once in a while.  The left side of Hawking's brain is quite brilliant. But like so many others, he needs to discover his right brain and trust that it has the capacity to discern truth in very different, yet powerfully complementary ways.  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Living in the Extremes

A recent Twitter post of mine read;

Grace or Justice? Forgiveness or Accountability? Support or Challenge? Embrace or Remove? Some want balance. What about both extremes?

While it may sound a bit odd (it does to me as well), let me explain it like this. If you have ever tried to balance anything on your finger, and the weight of the object is centered directly over your finger, like a yard stick standing on end, the job of achieving balance becomes difficult. If, however, you turn the yardstick sideways where more of the weight is extended away from the center of the object, It is much easier to keep the object from falling off you finger and crashing to the ground.

My post simply asks the question, what would happen if we moved through life pursuing the values of Scripture in their most extreme forms? Rather than think that seemingly opposing values must mitigate one another, what if God was not confused when calling for radical compassion and radical justice to be lived out in the same life? What if God wanted us to radically separate ourselves from any hint of sin, and radically embrace a sinful world and its inhabitants? What would that look like? Would it be more likely that we would not always be wobbling back and forth and have an easier time keeping our lives and our understanding of God from crashing to the ground without resorting to embracing weak, politically aligned ideologies to defend us?

Okay, if I ask the question I should give the answer, right? Well, what if we should radically pursue answers, and be radically content if they remain elusive? If you want to share your thoughts about how to live, or the value of living on the radical extremes, feel free.