Last November, I was invited (and excited) to join Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne on their TV show in Nashville to discuss the topic of ‘The Role of the Church in the Broader Culture.’ The idea for the topic stemmed from my popular (and first) post on Campolo’s Red Letter Christians site titled ‘It is Time For the American Christian Church to Surrender the Gay Marriage Fight, Apologize, and Share Love.’
The producers asked me to record a brief introduction to the topic which you can watch by clicking through. As for the half hour conversation between Campolo, Claiborne, and yours truly, it will air in late January on TBN and its affiliates across the country.
A vigil for the Newtown school tragedy. Photo credit: 2012 Penn State/flickr.
My deep conviction has always been that the moment of tragedy is no time for advocacy or politics from either side; that as a nation we move too quickly to get past these horrific events and would benefit from marinating in our shared humanity, pausing in communal grief, and just feeling. But my mind and heart have been changed by the horror in Newtown, Connecticut. Unlike other national tragedies which I certainly feel to an extent, this one cut into me as a parent, a Christian, and an American. From my cubicle at work, I began to tremble and cry when I saw the news, and have since been moved by the firm challenge of many including our President who remind us that these tragedies are so frequent now that there remains no good time to discuss solutions. If we can’t focus our outrage at this moment, when will change ever come?
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: 2012 Don Relyea/flickr. Use does not represent endorsement by the photographer.
Eugene Cho published a worthwhile article this week titled ‘Thou Shalt Follow These 10 Commandments of the Presidential Election.’ In this piece, Cho raises several issues which are vital for Christians to consider during this and every election cycle. There was however one point Cho made in the post that ground me to a halt, which is the belief that our two most recent Presidential candidates are good men and worthy of respect. I want to examine his idea here.
In full disclosure, I know Cho personally and think very highly of him, his family and his ministry, in fact it is a little awkward referring to him as Cho in this post because I know him as Eugene and have shared laughs, good conversation, and tea with him a few different times, and was blessed to be a part of his church for a couple of years. So think point/counterpoint as you read this rather than a flame war, and know that Cho is a humble guy with a thick skin. I don’t think this will hurt or offend him if I can manage my points in a kind way.
The cross at Ground Zero. Photo credit: 2002 Ernie Bello/flickr. Use does not represent endorsement by the photographer.
I grew up in an Evangelical Christian home where conservative media was considered part of a healthy diet and fear was a key ingredient. I was raised to believe that the walls were coming down on this planet, and that Christians were target number one. The implication was that it was best to stay close to the people and beliefs I knew, to hold tight, and pray hard. Plug into conservative media today and you will see that little has changed when it comes to employing fear. Consumers are greeted with a barrage of alerts and other perceived attacks on Christianity. The internet piles on, with end-times newsletters forecasting yet another development on the path to Armageddon and scary emails warning of the latest threat to religious freedom. Not only are most of these reports fictitious, but corrosive to faith in Christ.
Photo credit: 2006 Nassar Nouri/flickr. Use does not represent endorsement by the photographer.
Thomas Friedman, the well-regarded Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times, wants the Arab world to do some soul searching. His recent article ‘Look in Your Mirror‘ argues that American-grown hate speech like the recent anti-Islam video on Youtube does not justify violence in the Arab world, and that those in the Middle East must examine their own religious hate speech aimed at Christians, Jews, Sufis, and Shiites before they demand an apology from us. I want to examine Friedman’s writings here, because he’s got a point, but it’s a common, disproportionate view which ignores our contribution to the present unrest, and exposes prevalent confusion and numbness about that part of the world.
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.
Photo credit: 2007 Marc Nozell/flickr. Use does not represent endorsement by the photographer.
In my experience, conservatives are the ones who insist there should be no separation of church and state. While on the campaign trail, Rick Santorum told America that the idea of such a separation makes him want to vomit. So I guess he’s against it. Conservatives respond to the culture war by asserting that we’re a Christian nation with the can’t-miss implication that our government (when not highjacked by liberals) is godly, founded by Christian men, with laws and freedoms based on Judeo-Christian principle. I know these positions well, having grown up in conservative circles.
But when it comes time for the government to act in ways congruent with Christianity, like feeding the hungry (food stamps) or caring for the sick (health care), conservatives grimace, play the small government and personal responsibility card, and argue that we can’t have government in the role of the church. So which is it?