The following is a post written by guest contributor Meg Munoz:
If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors.” -Frederick Buechner
I know, it’s been a month since the election, but truth be told: I’m usually a little late to the current events party. I like to chew on things for a while, so it took me a bit of time to figure out what I had learned from this most recent trip to the ballot box.
Photo credit: 2009 Jon-Phillip Sheridan/flickr. Use does not represent endorsement by the photographer.
The extramarital affair of former CIA Director General David Petraeus is making headlines across the nation as you already knew. Some reports are examining what the development suggests about our government’s intelligence apparatus, but most of the coverage spends its time zeroing in on the salacious details. Perhaps it has always been true, that public intrigue follows personal stories of drama and decline. What I find unique about this moment in history is our nation’s unquenchable appetite for human weakness coupled with distribution geared to maximize consumption. This is an age of sensationalism on demand, where vice is a commodity and the line between news and entertainment disappears before our eyes. Not unlike pornography and the more mean-spirited forms of reality TV, we can sit down to watch national scandals unfold, and fail to realize the harm that our participation does to the players and the audience. By using stories like the Petraeus affair as an occasion to gawk or denigrate those involved, Christians risk elevating the significance of misdirected sexuality while downplaying other sins closer to home.
Photo credit: 401(k) 2012/flickr. Use does not represent endorsement by the photographer.
“I want everybody in America to be rich,” was the answer given by Mitt Romney during the GOP Presidential debates in 2011. This is the same line that Presidential candidate John McCain dropped on us in 2008. If you are unable to locate the geyser of cash, then you must not be using the Work Harder Treasure Map, or so we were told by Paul Ryan during his speech at last week’s GOP convention. These men are smart enough to know that wealth is not an ever-flowing fountain from which everyone can drink to their heart’s content, because in the most simplistic terms, currency, resources, and goods are finite. But this beloved tale isn’t concerned with the facts, and it’s not limited to the GOP.
America’s me-centric worldview is growing exponentially thanks to a blend of post-9/11 anxiety, economic uncertainty, the doldrums of postmodernity, and unbridled capitalism. As this continues, the mainstream mindset is starting to resemble those green alien squeeze toys in ‘Toy Story,’ caught staring upwards with a punch-drunk gaze, waiting for the arcade machine’s claw to pluck us out of the group, so that we might leave behind the mundane others as we’re whisked off to our own personal paradise. Our politics and religion become customized vehicles for legitimizing a preoccupation of the self, all at a great cost to ourselves and the community around us.
Photo credit: 2006 cbamber85/flickr. Use does not represent endorsement by the photographer.
No longer content to govern itself, the church has spread out to rule the culture through legislative force, attempting to use the tools of government to order the lives of consenting adults. Like an empire, the church finds itself on patrol beyond its rightful territory, which is shocking when one considers how much space the church has been given, by God first and this country second.
A lethal injection chamber. Photo credit: 2009 T Woodard/flickr. Usage does not represent endorsement by the photographer.
“An eye for an eye.” It is one of the earliest forms of justice we know of. You hurt someone? You, in turn, get hurt back. A kill for a kill. It seems fair, right? But then Jesus makes his entrance into this world. We no longer have to pay for our sins with our own lives. Now the “He who is without sin, cast the first stone” line of thinking comes into play. Forgiveness enters our world and with that I find myself engulfed in the biggest intellectual struggle.
As Christians, are we to be for or against the death penalty? Here is where my battle begins.
Photo credit: 2008 fa73/flickr. Usage does not represent endorsement by the photographer.
It can almost feel like there’s nothing left to say about the cross and resurrection of Christ, but that in itself is saying something. In being so captivated, humankind has pondered this story, exploring the events with great detail for 2,000 years. Even those who deny the resurrection happened or doubt it mattered are interested and often invested in the debate. The power of the cross does not rely on the pageantry of an Easter service (or a blog post). I wonder if this points to our universal need to be truly known, rescued, loved, changed, and accepted. We all long to discover the deepest meaning, and try to capture that elusive sense of completion.
If someone asked me to describe my faith, like giving a State of the Union for the soul, I’d say “don’t call it a State of the Union for the soul because that sounds like you’re elevating the government to a god-like position,” and when the person realized that I was making a dumb joke on purpose, I’d finally answer. Sorry, I’m a little wary to get into this post when it’s all about my own religious doubts. But I’m going to share them because I have a feeling that many of these doubts are universal.
Photo credit: flickr/Cornelius Flickerman. Usage does not represent endorsement by the photographer.
Note from Ian Ebright: We typically do not feature guest posts on this site, but due to the recent Mars Hill Church discipline scandal (my thoughts on the matter and the problem of insulated churches here) and legitimate concern, curiosity, and questions that are being raised about the idea of church discipline, I reached out in the hope of getting credible feedback. Fortunately, a prominent pastor responded. His post is below, and has been kept anonymous by request.
I’ll be teaching a group of students today out of I Corinthians 5, which is a sort of ‘classic text’ regarding church discipline. The subject has been in the news a fair bit lately, and even if it hasn’t, it’s an important subject in it’s own right. Over the past years, there’s been shock over the repeated passivity of church authority when priests have been charged with molestation, pedophilia, and other abusive activities. Protecting predators is viewed, rightly, with anger – especially when predators are in positions of authority. If a church knows that one of its own leaders is involved in activities that utterly misrepresent Christ, the church is called to act, according to both Matthew 18 and I Corinthians 5.
These two passages, though, apply to more than just leaders. They apply to everyone in the church, because everyone who has declared their commitment to a particularly local expression of church life is committing to that church’s value structure, a structure that hopefully represents, in some measure, the heart of Christ. We’re called to hold each other accountable because, if we’re going to wear the t-shirt that says we belong to Jesus, we need to help each other look like Jesus.
You may have heard the recent story of a Mars Hill member named Andrew and the experience he had with church leadership following his voluntary confession of sexual sin, which focused around the fact that he had cheated on his fiance. “I take responsibility for my actions. I messed up,” he said. Andrew encountered name-calling from various leaders, not to mention several meetings and text messages. Despite his remorse and participation including tearful confessionals, things were just getting started. Next came a discipline contract printed on church letterhead outlining numerous steps to full reconciliation, pressure and intimidation when he announced he would not sign and would instead be leaving the church, and most remarkably- a document naming Andrew and his sin and detailing how members were to handle him socially (when to include and exclude him, and even how to answer), published on the Mars Hill community forum without Andrew’s consent. For details, here is the full expose on Matthew Paul Turner’s site: Part 1 and 2.
Mars Hill issued a recent response to this fiasco, which I will also focus on in this post.
Tim Tebow has stepped in to replace time zones as the thing most likely to divide the nation. Say “Tebow” to someone, and you find one of two reactions- a fond smile, or a severe grimace. Only a few who know his name appear to view the NFL quarterback with any level of neutrality. And the reason for all of the divided opinions (aside from his unique and disputable style of play, and recent headline-making victories with the Denver Broncos) rests on Tebow’s decision to wear his faith in Jesus on his sleeve. Is Tim Tebow catching flack for no good reason, or are the calls for spiritual moderation warranted? I think there’s a bit of both.