Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

As the election nears, the rhetoric for politics continues to build.  Commercials, lawn signs, and Facebook posts encourage us to vote and vote early.  Enthusiasm grows as some proclaim that this could be the most important election of our time… well, at least since last time.  As I watched the presidential debates and the commentary thereafter, I began to reflect on not just my civil duty or responsibilities, but on my Christian duty.  I began to ask myself a barrage of questions:

What does it mean for me to be a faithful Christian in the midst of this election?

Which policies are most relevant to my Christian convictions?

And should I, as a faithful Christian, even vote?

I believe this last question is one of grave importance… and it is one that most Christians I have talked to gloss over. Christians MUST think about such important matters thoroughly and understand the ramifications for whatever choices they make. In this post, I do not intend to endorse one political party or candidate over another. Nor do I intend to endorse the idea that Christians should or shouldn’t vote.

This is for you to decide.

I have spent the last few days researching and coming up with ideas that I feel could be valid Christian responses for both options.  This list I came up with is in no way comprehensive, and if you have more to add, please let me know, and I will add it to the list.

Since I believe the majority of Christian opinion in America is that one should vote, I will begin my listing with that perspective.

 Yes, Christians should vote.

  • There are countless people living in this country who do not have the ability to vote or voice their concerns about the laws in this country, yet laws are being made that directly affect them.  Across America, there are immigrants, unborn children, and prisoners who cannot cast their ballet, but they have voices that do matter.  Christians can stand in the gap and vote on behalf of a friend who cannot vote. This is not the only way in which a Christian can advocate for the voiceless, but voting is one way in which this can happen.
  • Christians cannot simply disengage from the world.  Christians are already taking advantage of the millions of ways that government is part of our lives.  We drive on roads, pay our taxes, and attend schools.  The government is already enmeshed in our lives, and some Christians believe that voting is just one more way that we “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”
  • There may be some elections where one candidate may cause more violence and destruction than another.  In a sense, Christians may vote for the lesser of two evils. Some Christians (rightfully so) might find it problematic that Christians would vote for any sort of evil at all! However, in a less than idyllic world, some Christians find this to be the best option.
  • There are occasions when those in government work to affect great change.  In such circumstances, the person who is elected into office really can sometimes affect policy. This means that, if a politician intends to keep his/her promises, your vote for that person would matter.
  • There are those in America who have been persecuted and made unable to vote in the past, so the voting of some (specifically women and African-Americans) is a re-enactment of civil rights. This reminds the powers-that-be that those whom they have often tried to oppress are still counted as human. This is truly “sticking it to the man” for the ways in which “the man” has tried to manipulate the system and silence the oppressed. By this, I do not intend to imply that all women and minorities should vote, but this is certainly one Christian way to understand voting.
  • The two party system in America has a vast amount of problems. By voting for a minority party (like Libertarians or the Green Party), Christians can bring awareness to the neglected issues in two party politics and allow silenced voices to speak on a public stage.  Maybe with enough votes and support, America will hear from these minority positions during presidential debates.
  • Finally, you get a sticker for voting, and everyone loves stickers.

No, Christians shouldn’t vote.

  • Christians have a communal understanding of faith and life, not one based on individualism. Voting is an individual, and somewhat violent, act that does not allow us even the opportunity to look our opposition in the eye and dialogue.  We vote behind closed doors, in secrecy.  We often refuse to even tell others who we voted for and why.  This does not open dialogue and avenues for communion.
  • Voting means participating in a system of perpetual violence. Every president in the history of America has given the charge to kill someone, whether through war or political assassination.  Often, these wars have not fulfilled the requirement of being a “just war” (the minimal requirement for a traditional Christian acceptance of war).  Therefore, voting for a candidate is likely casting your vote towards the death or violent mistreatment of other humans (by war, assassination, drone attacks, wrongful and untried imprisonment, etc.). If there are any who choose to vote based on Christian values, how could you ever get behind such violence?
  • Christians should devote themselves toward reconciliation, not a system that is so divisive, explosive, and often silences the minority. There is one thing that this election is clearly teaching us – the politics in this country are getting more and more divisive.  The two mainline candidates disagree on nearly every issue.  Yet there is no work to reconcile these differences.  Rather, voting is an attempt to overpower your opponent.  What would it look like if Christians worked to bridge the gap of divisive rhetoric and worked to reconcile a country tearing at the seams?
  • The powers that we are voting into office to help the oppressed are often the same powers that are oppressing. The reason that many are impoverished, without medical care, or without the ability to know and experience life is because the people that we have put in power have put laws into place that would do just that.  Too often, we divorce the facts that people are oppressed because the same powers that claim to help them have been oppressing them. It seems counter-intuitive to give power to a person on behalf of someone else who is oppressed.
  • The best and most promising movements of American history only happen secondarily by elected officials. Rather, these movements came from oppressed and inspired individuals who rose up and demanded change.  Civil rights movements did not happen from votes cast by individuals but by pressure and non-violent resistance put on those in power. In fact, there is reason to believe that offering the ability to vote has historically quelled the masses demanding real societal change.  Feminism and civil rights action dropped significantly from social consciousness once women and minorities were given the right to vote, but the gaps of disparity are still mightily present.
  • Christians believe all real change comes from the church, not the government.  Campaign promises are often empty.  Much of what these presidential candidates promise isn’t even feasible. Voting based on these promises is a false reality. Rather than investing so much time and energy on that which is illusory change, the church ought to invest their time, money, and energy on being the Church. Imagine what justices could be done in the world if Christians had only half as much passion toward the Church as they did in government.
  • Voting serves “Constantinian” values.  Constantine was a 4th century Roman Emperor who converted to Christianity and began to rule Rome as a conquering Christian empire.  This means that all that the empire did was stamped with a Christian label, even when the empire directly contradicted the words of Christ. The goal of Christians “voting their values” is implicitly so that a state will be created that most closely follows biblical precepts (or interpretations thereof).  By voting, both liberal and conservative Christians attempt to set up a country which imitates their religious beliefs – a dangerous precedent in church history, also a dangerous witness to the rest of the world.  When I spent time living in Israel, there were many who equated my Christianity with my American identity. To them, this often meant that I was mercilessly violent.  The more we align ourselves with the state, the more problematic our witness becomes.
  • There are some of us Christians who have made politics our god, putting more of our hope, trust, time, money, and energy into endorsing a candidate than we have into being a growing witness of Christ.  For those of us entirely enmeshed in politics, the practice of not voting can become a spiritual discipline for us. Maybe the practice of not voting could be an exercise for some in reminding them that Christ is the true and never-ending King, regardless of who might have earthly power.

Again, I want to make clear that I am not attempting to sway you into making a certain decision.  The Bible says nothing explicitly about voting, so how one ethically engages might be different than another. Whether you vote or not, Christians ought to be intentionally thinking about such matters and making a conscious choice.  It is inexcusable to either sit out or to vote without thinking about the ramifications of such actions.

Also, we must remember that we vote every day.  How we choose to live – the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the place we live, and the people we help and serve – this is all casting a vote.  You cannot vote for a “trickle down economy” unless you are actively helping and serving the poor. You cannot vote for immigrant rights and the environment while eating vegetables drenched with countless pesticides that have been picked by slave labor.  You cannot vote “pro-life” and not be willing to take a pregnant teenager into your home who has the choice of getting an abortion or getting kicked out of her house and becoming homeless.  Whether you are Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green Party, or Anarchist… these are matters about which we can all agree. Where you spent your money, time, talents, and energy… these are the votes which do not work to divide but unify the Body of Christ.

As Election Day approaches, may you be a faithful witness earnestly asking God what God would have you do.  And be in prayer for those who have power and those who have none.

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Feel free to listen to this song as you read this post…

 

I’ve been listening to this song a lot lately.  First of all, I really like Coldplay.  And second of all, there’s a verse in this song that has really resonated with me. It’s in the second verse, and it goes:

“Maybe I’m in the gap between the two trapeze”.

I kind of feel like that’s where I’m at in my life right now.  I’m floating from one place to another.  I’m closing in on the final months of my ministry and life in Ft. Wayne before I move to North Carolina to pursue my Masters.  I’m not gone yet, but I’m not quite here either.

I’m in the gap.

I’ve recently been reading Turn My Mourning into Dancing by one of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen.  In his book, he describes his fascination with the art of trapeze.  The danger, the daring, and the courage it takes to move from one bar to another is shocking and graceful and uncomfortable all at once.

But the really interesting thing about this art is that the trapeze artist must let go of the secure bar in order to be caught by another.  The artist becomes completely vulnerable to gravity and the timing and strength of their partner.

Nouwen interviewed a trapeze artist who described his craft this way, “Everyone applauds for me because when I do those leaps and backflips, they think I am the hero.  But the real hero is the catcher. The only thing I have to do is stretch out my hands and trust, trust that he will be there to pull me back up.

So maybe you’re with me, and you find yourself in the gap, waiting to be caught.

Maybe you’re transitioning back home for the summer from college,
or your living in your post-college world wondering what’s next,
or you’re about to go to high school or middle school,
Or you’re starting up or dreaming up a new job.

Or maybe you’re clinging to the bar of all of life’s securities, unwilling to jump or let go.
Remember, we have a calling to let go, even when it seems impossible or even dangerous.
The disciples left their nets (economic security) and their families (emotional security) to follow the one who promised to fulfill the deepest desires of their hearts.

Don’t be afraid.

You’ve got a partner who will always catch you.  And when you take that chance, the world will look and be amazed. Really, though, all you have to do is trust.  Your partner is doing all the work.

A few days ago, I was having some great discussions with some students about a variety of theological topics.  These kids are so hungry for truth, and they don’t really know how to find it. Sometimes they are just told what to believe, and other times their questions are ignored or forgotten.   So I’ve loved these interactions and opportunities to listen and explore who God is with them.

One of the topics a few students began to ask about was whether or not one can lose their salvation. Different traditions have various interpretations this topic, and it was great hearing their hearts and opinions on the matter.  Yesterday, a student found a verse that she thought might add some relevance to the discussion and tasked me to help her figure out what this meant.

So I spent a large part of the day doing a little research, and I thought I would share to my students (and anyone else who would care to know) my findings on 2 Chronicles 30:9.

The verse itself goes like this:

“If you return to the LORD, then your brothers and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will come back to this land, for the LORD your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.”

Now this was fun, cuz I got to do a little research to understand what was going on in those verses.  The more you start to understand and study the Word, this one phrase will help you out sooo much: “Context is key”.

Basically, that means that sometimes we like to interpret things about the Bible that the authors never meant to have happen.  So we have to look at the whole message of the text to understand what was going on.  So let’s look at everything going on in 2 Chronicles 30 to get a better picture.

What’s Going On? Israel is split into two nations, Israel in the north and Judah in the south.  Most of 2 Chronicles is about Judah, and Judah has had a whole bunch of pretty bad kings up to this point.  They put idols in the temple, stopped observing the holidays, and one king even shut down the temple (basically saying that nobody could worship God anymore… not good).

Who’s Involved? Then King Jehoshaphat (sweet name!) comes along.  He’s a good, noble king who loves the Lord.  He tried to bring Judah back to a nation that served God.  So he reopened the temple, and then he also tried to get people to observe the holidays, including Passover (one of the most important holidays of the nation).

The Main Message: When Judah got a couple bad kings, they began to turn away from God.  They became involved in idol worship and ignoring God’s presence.  The text never says that God leaves them.  It actually says in 2 Chronicles 29:8 that “the wrath of the LORD was against Judah and Jerusalem, and He has made them an object of terror, of horror, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes”.  This means that because God’s people turned away from him, he no longer gave them the blessings or favor he promised.  He never leaves them, but there are consequences for the sins and decisions they made.

The image of  “God’s face” is a very important symbol in this culture (Numbers 6:24-26).  It was important to have “God’s face” shining towards you. If God’s face was upon you, it meant that God was blessing you and giving you favor.  If God turned his face away from you, it meant that he wasn’t very happy with you and stopped blessing you.

In 2 Chronicles 30:9, that image of God’s face is used.  It says that God “will not turn his face from you if you return to him.”  So if you read that knowing what “God’s face” means, we can see that God will give his blessings again if the people from Judah returned to God.

So here are things we can know from this text:
1.) God is compassionate, gracious, and forgiving.
2.) Even when the Judeans completely disobeyed God, he never left them.
3.) God gets angry at our sin.
4.) When we do sin or fall away, God wants us to return to him.

Here are things that aren’t clear from this text:
1.) We don’t know if God’s promise of blessing to Judah when they returned to him is a promise for everyone.  In fact, God never said anything there.  Jehoshaphat spoke that promise because he knows God’s character of compassion and grace.  But his compassion and grace might look different in other situations.
2.) We don’t know if this has anything to do with salvation and whether or not we can lose it, but this is a good verse to reference.  It tells us about God’s character, which we can use to determine what we think about salvation.

…so that’s all I’ve got.  I know this is a whole lot of stuff, hopefully it’s been helpful and informative. If any other students have verses that seem unclear, I would love to walk through the fog with you.  Keep exploring and navigating the Scriptures. What God has to share is absolutely amazing when we learn to understand all he has to share with us.

Grace and peace.

How well do you really know people?

I began asking myself this question a few months ago when I was engaging with my students. I had formed friendships with many of them, served along side of them, and been with them through struggles and victories… however, I was unable to piece their whole selves together.

Recently, I began an endeavor at Liquid (our middle school youth group) called “Tacos and Testimonies”.  The concept is really simple and so easy.  I ask students to write me a page-long testimony of their lives thus far (i.e. – where they grew up, how they came to Christ, and significant people and events in their lives). I take their testimonies and read and pray through them consistently for a week or more, and then we meet up at Taco Bell (my treat!) to discuss it.  It’s been one of the most insightful and fruitful practices in my ministry experience here.

I find that I’m really growing to love hearing the stories that people have and discerning how God is fitting that into a larger picture.  This is a practice known as “spiritual direction”.  I spent some time with a spiritual director at a youth pastor’s conference a few months ago, and the experience was incredibly rewarding hearing how a prayerful outsider can witness how God is moving in my life.

As a Christian, I believe that one of my chief goals is to be a witness of God’s movement, so this practice has been incredibly fruitful for myself as well.  So I’d like to make a challenge to whoever finds themselves reading this.

Get to know someone new.

Really get to know them.  Hear their story, and look for God in the midst of it.  Take someone out to coffee just to listen.  Maybe someone from work or school or church or even your bank teller or lunch lady.  Probe them with questions to create a greater understanding of how they work.  You may be surprised to find how God is working.

In posting these, I make no attempts to judge or to, in any way, minimize the tragedies of 9/11 and all of our contemporary wars.  I have simply been scouring the Scriptures for God’s truth and seeking His heart on the matter.  I realize that this list is not exhaustive, but these are verses that I believe cannot be ignored in light of all the events occurring in our world.

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17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

– Romans 12:17-21

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17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,

– Proverbs 24:17

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43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

– Matthew 5:43-48

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11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’

– Ezekiel 33:11

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Nothing lights up the Christian blogosphere like a good old-fashioned witch hunt. In the rise of controversy, words like “heretic” are thrown around like grenades, causing voices to rise up in a Bruno Mars-esque type fashion while sides are drawn via the battlefront of Twitter. All the while, pastoral concerns for love and nurturing of our brothers and sisters are abandoned, leaving the Christian community suffering in the shrapnel. The world looks on towards these people-called-the-church promising “hope” and “new life” like some sort of Obama campaign as we continue to provide lackluster results among our own community… like an Obama campaign.

So the latest media spin in the Christian world centers around Rob Bell, the mystical square-rimmed glasses wearing pastor from Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI.  I have grown quite fond of Rob and his teachings over the years… reading three of his books, attending two of his tours, listening to his podcast frequently, and even traveling to Mars Hill once to visit the community they’ve developed there.  I have nothing but profound respect for that church, and the theological musings of Pastor Bell have had a profound impact on my spiritual walk.  I have often found his voice refreshing among the influx of neo-hyper-Calvinists speaking for the Christian community in our culture.   I even owe much of my writing style to Bell’s influence.

Like my lack of indentation.

And my generous paragraph spacing.

But lately, for those of you who have been on the outliers of the heretic-name-calling bubble, Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins, has been a target of interest since Rob’s mysterious book trailer came out a few weeks ago.  The video itself seems to stir up more controversial questions than anything conclusive.  This marketing genius caused a huge ruckus about the book and pushed the book to be released 2 weeks earlier than originally stated and put the book on back-order for nearly 2-3 weeks. For the publisher, this means two words: “Cha-ching”.  I managed to get a copy of this book (thanks Jesse) and read it this past week.

Now, there have been MANY reviews circulating the web on this book, and many of them I have found to be one-sided (either singing immense praises or condemning Bell to Hell), really long (I think there are some reviews out there longer than the book itself), or complicated.  So I’m hopping on the bandwagon and adding to the noise by reviewing Love Wins, but I hope to be a voice to my friends and family that is fair and simple.  I’ll simply divide the rest of this review into what I liked about the book and what I disliked.  Hopefully, this will gear you towards what might be valuable take-aways from a book that I would encourage anyone interested to read.  Here we go!

What I Liked

  • Questions – There seems to be a lot of fear towards asking questions about one’s own faith.  Doubt is confused with denial, and so we forcefully blindfold ourselves behind things we don’t understand.  Rob Bell is notorious for asking questions, and this book is full of them. The first chapter alone just seems to be constant questions.  I think it’s good that we ask questions – questions about things we don’t understand or even can’t understand.  God is infinite, and we should entertain and approach God with wonder and awe.  Not asking hard questions about life, death and faith can stifle that wonder.
  • Who is Jesus? – For only the last century has the Church used the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus” to describe salvation, and it’s found nowhere in Scripture (although there are many hints of it).  I have no issue with that terminology, but it does make one wonder what exactly salvation is.  And if we do stick with this terminology, Bell points out that we need to define who Jesus is.  Although many people knock Bell for his “generous” orthodoxy, I think he begs us to seek orthodoxy more deeply here than we have been.  Many people impose some pretty horrific theologies in the name of Christ.  Are you “saved” if the Jesus you believe in would bomb an abortion clinic? Or hate “fags”? Or represent child abuse?  Love Wins calls us back to examine who Jesus is and what he really came to do.
  • Pastoral Approach – I’ve heard a lot of griping that this book’s arguments center around Bell’s personal experiences.  I personally find no harm in that.  I think that a pastor’s role is to examine our doctrine in light of the people we encounter.  Doctrine is not as clear-cut as we think when real life people are thrown into the mix.  I had to re-examine my view of virginity when a student who was raped asked if she was still a virgin.  Real life puts a lot of holes in our theology, which I think is ok.  Scripture was not meant to be a comprehensive tell-all of theology… it is a vast array of stories and letters and histories and poems unfolding an image of who God is and how He interacts with the world.  I am glad for a pastor who hopes and prays that there is more than meets the eye.  I don’t think this book was meant to be a complete eschatology (doctrine of the end times) or soteriology (doctrine of salvation).  This book was written to reveal a real God to real people in real situations, showing the ultimate result that love wins.
  • View of God- It seems that Bell wants this book to be a starting point where people can open up to a renewed viewpoint of who God is.  There are many people scarred by the “Turn or Burn” fanatics who impose a view of a bipolar God… one who wants to love you and intimately know you until you get hit by a bus and die, and then he’ll torture you for eternity.  This misinformed theology is way more treacherous and prevalent than anything Bell has to offer, and it’s a shame that there is so little movement to clear those erroneous perceptions of God.   So I am thankful for Bell’s message of a God who is love.
  • The Real Message – In the end, Love Wins reveals a God who cares deeply for His creation and wants nothing more than to be united with his people forever.  This perception of God frees us to enjoy Him and the life that He has to offer us here and now on this earth.  Heaven begins now.  And Hell begins now.  The lives we live today matter.  Salvation is more than a prayer at an alter call or exceptional Sunday attendance.  Salvation invites us to lives of fullness and love that embrace and shatter every area of our being and doing.  If Bell would have us grasp just one thing out of the book, I think it would be this.  It’s even how he ends the book.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Bad Writing – As I mentioned before, I have been a big fan of Bell for quite some time.  I can assuredly say that this is his worst writing.  It appears that this book could have even gone through a couple more edits.  I don’t know if this book was rushed due to publicity, if his new publisher gave him a new editor, or if Bell himself is still wrestling with his conclusions, but I was thoroughly unimpressed by the writing in this book.  Points were rarely made and hard to follow.  Verses were pulled out of context. Greek and Hebrew were used without any real clarification.  It just all seemed a bit muddy to me.  For those of you who are greatly disturbed by the theology Bell portrays, I wouldn’t worry.  I honestly don’t think this book is compelling enough to do any real damage.
  • Answering Questions – I was tracking with Rob for a while as he posed question after question, trying to get the reader to honestly think about the realities of heaven and hell and who goes where and for how long. I loved when he looked at the Scriptures specifically pertaining to heaven and hell.  And he admits that they are vague and hard to comprehend.  However, he ignores his own advice and proceeds to offer up solutions in these troubling verses.  I really wish he hadn’t done that.  This could have been a fascinating and healing book over a subject that few preach about and even fewer understand.  He could have opened our eyes to dream or imagine the graces of God and the marvels of heaven.  Instead, he stifles the imagination and offers a rather unconvincing solution.
  • Redefining – Trying to get a direct response about what Rob believes in this book is like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall.  Very little is as it seems.  Often times, I’ll agree with a statement he makes, and then in the next sentence find that the words he said are not at all what I had in mind.  He offers maybe 3 or 4 definitions of hell throughout the book, and I am left with more confusion than definition.  It’s hard to walk away from this book agreeing or disagreeing with much of what he said.
  • Christian Universalism – The main theological thrust of this book tends to tilt towards the idea of Christian Universalism.  This is the idea that eventually all will be saved through Christ either in this life or the next.  It is a picture of Christ’s cross as the atoning sacrifice for the entire world whether you believe it or not (Sorry atheists… God is saving you, too, eventually).  It is NOT the idea that all religions are the same (universalism) or that truth is found everywhere (unitarianism), so I think we need to clarify that Rob Bell does not identify with either of those ideologies (despite what some may Tweet).  To be fair, Bell never identifies himself under any such terms, but his description is a textbook example of Christian Universalism.  It’s a real shame, too.  There are moments in the book that so closely resemble C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce that I could swear he ripped pages right out of it and stuck it in Love Wins.  However, he ultimately strays from Lewis’ meanderings about heaven and hell and lands on some form of Christian Universalism… a traditionally unorthodox view of Christianity (despite what Bell may say in the book).

The Result

In the end, I hope that the Church would use this book as a springboard to dive into deep conversations about these subjects, allowing ourselves to wrestle with things we ultimately may never know in this life.  I can’t safely say what heaven or hell will be like. I think it’s a profound mystery… and I’m glad for that.  Ultimately, I think we’ll all be surprised by who is there in the end and what it will be like.

My fear is that Bell will be elevated by some as a prophet and destroyed by others as a heretic with nothing valuable to say.  There are many other books I would gladly recommend before this book when it comes to this topic, but I still plan on listening to his podcast this week, and I’ll probably gain much from it.

What we need as a body is to have conversation. Real conversation. Maybe even informed conversation… rather than witnessing to the world that we are more than willing to throw one of our own off the ship when our ultimate message ought to be one of love and redemption.  So as the conversation continues to flourish and spread about this book, I pray that we find the grace to let love win.

Last week, I attended a film screening of a documentary called, Fagbug, on IPFW’s campus.  The premise of this movie was that there was a young homosexual woman, Erin, who went to her car one morning and found her Volkswagen Beetle vandalized with the words “fAg” and “U R GAY” in spray paint.  Deeply hurt and concerned as to why someone would commit such a hate crime, she decided to display this hatred rather than hide it. This provoked Erin to start a cross-country tour of her car, riding through 41 states in search of ignorance and gay rights.  Though the movie itself was mediocre at best, the producer of this movie and owner of the vehicle was there giving her take on the outcome of the movie.

I have to be honest, going into this movie, I suspected that Christianity would take the brunt force of the hate portrayed in this movie.  In fact, though Erin didn’t outright admit this, she expected much of the same, which is why she started her tour driving through the Bible belt… just waiting for harassment.  However, Erin came to find that 99% of the discrimination that she received was not from the Christian community at all, but from the gay community.  Even when there was disagreement of ideologies, most Christians that she met believed that no one should be the product of a hate crime. This brought a bit of relief and thanks that my fellow brothers and sisters had loved her well, but her commentary on this was incredibly interesting.

After the documentary was screened, the audience had an opportunity to ask any questions of Erin.  One student asked her how to best address a situation when they are being targeted for prejudice.  Her answer was one of the most profound answers she could have said.

She said, “Point out their humanity.”

Often when people come at you, they come as an idea attacking another idea.  They come with fists raised, ready to start a fight, hoping for retaliation.  They say hurtful things, even if they are not generally hurtful people.  She found that the best way to communicate with someone vehemently attacking her is to ask questions like, “Where are you from?” or “How many siblings do you have?”

It is by the recognition of the humanity that we share that we can speak to each other not as issues but as people.

She said that, using this method, she has turned her greatest enemies into friends (or at least casual acquaintances).

Why is it, then, that we so often see winning people to our side or proving a staunch point as the ultimate victory?  The LORD speaks to and moves through us in the context of relationships.  The Greatest Commandments, according to Christ, are the ones directly related to relationships.

Though Erin is in no context affiliated with the Church, I think we have a valuable lesson that we can learn from her, which was first modeled by Christ.  Love your enemies. Pray for those that persecute you. Get to know the people who oppose you.  You just might discover that you are both human, which is shockingly one of the most revolutionary realities we might discover about each other.