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: 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?
I stood alone on the street corner of Fourth and Cedar in downtown Seattle after a day at work, waiting for my bus to arrive. Like most nights this week, it was blustery and cold outside. But unlike most nights this week, Fourth Avenue was eerily quiet. I paced impatiently, knowing there was a hot dinner waiting for me and bills needing to be paid at home.
Later on the bus, I overheard two others in a conversation. The Occupy Movement had tied up the downtown intersections and traffic heading in my direction was stalled. I would be late to dinner because of this nation-wide gathering. The Occupy Movement directly impacted my life, and that has troubled me in unexpected ways.
Photo Credit: Lauren Ebright | The Broken Telegraph
A discussion has erupted on the internet about the dangers of poverty tourism. The critics argue that we really only make ourselves feel better about America’s disproportionate privilege while glossing over the complex issues of global poverty by visiting struggling countries for a bit of brief outreach. All of this broader talk is happening as my wife Lauren, her boss Matthew and I prepare to travel to Cambodia next week for 10 days in an effort to offer some support in that country.
There is definitely something legitimate to the concerns that have been raised about poverty tourism, but I would argue that focusing on such concerns is far more damaging than any misguided altruism. Here’s why.
Photo Credit: Ian Ebright | The Broken Telegraph
As we reach the end of our conversation, I notice that a small portion of the ceiling above Richard is cracked and in need of repair. It looks like it has been exposed for awhile. For a moment, I imagine the same problem in my home, and how differently I’d react. I wouldn’t be sitting underneath the hole smiling, conversing and enjoying the moment like Richard is. No, I’d probably keep staring at it like the thing was spying on me, even if it had been there for months. It is easy (especially for self-reliant people like myself) to become preoccupied with perfectionism and responsibility. And I wonder if our lives don’t need more damaged ceilings, or specifically- a greater acceptance of life’s damaged ceilings, and the pursuit of vibrance in spite of them- because we can’t possibly live meaningfully if our time is held hostage by a to-do list populated with secondary concerns.
Photo Credit: Ian Ebright | The Broken Telegraph
As our conversation continues, I’m realizing that this idea of intentional living is not just a bunch of words for author Richard Dahlstrom. He seems to be enjoying the moment rather than trying to rush through it. The office we are sitting in is a loft with the usual computer and bookshelf. But there’s also candles burning on top of the space heater, and a pretty impressive climbing wall that he’s made out of a corner of the office complete with climbing holds, carabiners, and what looks like a meditative prayer sheet that’s been tacked halfway up the incline. On the other side of the stairs is a flat, carpeted cubby area that he calls the prayer space, and the books over there have been left open. I can’t find anything in the entire area that has been placed for the sake of appearance.
Blame it on the lingering skeptic or the recovering cynic in me, but I would be distracted by a pastor’s house (especially one who preaches simplicity, generosity and community on a weekly basis) if he or she had a huge luxurious place to call home. “It’s actually none of my business,” I remind myself on the drive over to meet author and pastor Richard Dahlstrom. “Maybe a huge luxurious house was a gift from some rich relative.”
I don’t know if I’m right or wrong to feel conflicted about pastors and the size of their house, but I am relieved when I arrive and find that the Dahlstroms live in a humble home on a quiet street north of Seattle. After a great breakfast together, Richard and I head upstairs to the office for a conversation about the themes in his new book ‘The Colors of Hope.’ In the first of a three-part series, we discuss the church, busyness and brokenness, and demonstrations of mercy and love.
The following is a post written by my friend Richard Dahlstrom. His new book ‘The Colors of Hope’ is available now.
My friend was depressed when he called from the East Coast this morning, over the whole rapture thing. His problem isn’t that we’re still here. It’s that we’re still here, and that the label “Christian” is once again the object of mockery, scorn, or even worse, utter complacency. One poor soul is said to have divested $140,000 of his life savings
in advertising the May 21 end of the world in hopes of saving a few more. Both his gullibility, and Harold Camping’s abusive theology help fans the flames of the faith rejection fire. We who didn’t believe in Camping’s ability to read the tea-leaves, not even for two seconds, still feel the heat. By virtue of our identification with Jesus in any way at all, we’re herded into the cattle car of the intellectually dense and the culturally illiterate. We’re Christians. Camping and his followers were too. Enough said.
The following is a post written by my friend Kurt Willems of The Pangea Blog.
I am picky.
I hate most foods that could be considered healthy.
In college, I ate Panda Express (Chinese fast food) for dinner almost every night and supplemented other meals with burgers and pizza.
As a child, I would sit at my Grandpa’s dinner table for hours because I refused to eat my veggies. My most consumed meal during childhood: cereal. Count Chocula was not just breakfast, but sometimes dinner. And if I ran out of milk, no problem… water.
Kim Il-Sung enforced one of the most brutal and repressive forms of communism over his own people for decades, but even during those stifling times, North Koreans were supposed to be properly fed by the state. That was one of communism’s proud assurances. But at the dawn of the 1990s, things were beginning to spiral out of control in North Korea. Kim Jong-Il was continuing his father’s authoritarian rule, as the early stages of famine crept into plain sight.