of hospitality and hope :: coherence in corrosive times

Carolyn and I recently had the opportunity to stay with some friendly folks in Durham, NC. I want to call attention to what they are doing because I think that it offers an strong alternative to the standard American dream that is pressed (or oppressed) onto most of us from the time we wake up till we lay our heads back down on our designer pillows.

When a culture grows paralyzingly disjointed, unable to provide a coherent vision of what a good life looks like, unreflective participation in the machinery leads one deeper into bankruptcy of the soul. The need for an alternative vision is heart-felt. Christians throughout history have lived in some fairly fragmented cultures and have recognized the need to resist the toxic influence of the “values” touted by the mainstream. Continue reading “of hospitality and hope :: coherence in corrosive times”

of enemies and evasions :: truth and consequences

As much as we expect him to, Jesus never discards the category of “enemy.” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; Invite your enemies to the table; go and be reconciled with your enemy” etc. I’m sure that many other people have reflected on this with greater depth and insight than I will be able to. Nevertheless, here come a few brief meditations.

Jesus had enemies. There were people who wanted to harm him, wanted to take his life. There were people in Jesus day who knew what he stood for (or thought that they did) and couldn’t stand him. He had a program, an agenda, a point. When he said, “follow me” to his disciples, it was because he was going somewhere, and he thought it was important that they come along. Having enemies means standing for something definite, something concrete, something that cannot be denied even at the cost of alienation. Living in the tension between truth and sinfulness, humanity lives in enmity. Continue reading “of enemies and evasions :: truth and consequences”

naming names :: God in public

On the cutting edges of our postmodern culture, anyone who is willing to say “God” in public while knowing what she means is liable to be understood as downright dogmatic, if not a fundamentalist. We the people of the grand tradition known as Western culture seem to be cultivating a grand suspicion of any specificity with regard to the transcendent. We prefer to acknowledge (agnostically, of course) the presence in the cosmos of a general transcendent fog with emotive and motivational powers, but are allergic to attributing personality, or worse, a NAME (!!) to any being we can’t poke with a ten foot pole. Furthermore, suggesting that the named deity in question has specified particular forms of adherence and enlightenment is subject to even more suspicion. In most circles (but not all), it is socially advantageous to be “spiritual” (lest one gain a reputation for shallowness or materialism), but being “religious” is akin to a minor case of leprosy. At the very least, admitting that one names God along with others in an (gasp!) organized fashion is a social sin that must be overcome by one’s personal charisma or alternatively established social status.

First of all, let’s be honest, “spirituality” characterized by avoidance of anything so structured as dogma, doctrine, or theology is a set of beliefs as well, however disorganized. In fact, it is a theology, (albeit a minimalist one where less is more!). Is there any reason to prefer this “standard” cultural theology to a more historically rooted, orthodox brand? I’m willing to admit a few:

(1) No one will ever fight a religious war, burn a heretic, or exclude someone else in defense of his or her own private “spirituality.” Continue reading “naming names :: God in public”

our (?) bodies :: corporate and personal

Who has responsibility for your body? Whose bodies do you have responsibility for? I came across a news story with fascinating theological and political implications , happening right here in Vancouver.

The basic outline of the story: A Jehovah’s Witness couple has sextuplets. No surprise, the little fellows are a bit underweight, and in need of some medical attention. The Witnesses’ beliefs forbid them from taking blood transfusions. Doctors believe that this is just what the young ones need. Witnesses refuse. Social services takes custody of three of the babies in order to give transfusions against the parents’ will.

Now, we can all agree that it is a good thing for babies to live – no one in the situation wants the babies to die. The Witnesses believe that their faithfulness (in refusing the transfusions) outweighs the risk of (disobediently) intervening to save the lives of the children. If the god in whom they believe desires these children to live, he will grant them life apart from transfusions. But beyond that initial agreement, the situation quickly becomes very sticky.

Do we (as the collective gathered to govern the society in which we live) really want to presume the authority to intervene in issues of religious doctrine? Is that intervention possible to avoid? The government of British Colombia wouldn’t come within shouting distance of most “religious” issues. But where is the dividing line? Continue reading “our (?) bodies :: corporate and personal”