Why I oppose Indiana’s RFRA- Part 2: The theological reasoning

In my last post I discussed my opposition to Indiana’s recent RFRA, specifically focusing on how it differs from similar legislation in a legal/practical sense.

This post will be a completely different kind of boring, as I will talk about why I as a Christian oppose this bill and the motivations behind it.  To be honest, this was and still is my primary reason for opposing this bill- and it is the reason I have spent my time researching the legal side of this in the first place.

I’d like to note that I’m able to write and post this at all in part due to existing religious freedom legislation.  The government can’t silence me because of the first amendment; and wordpress and other avenues can’t refuse me access on account of my religion- as religion is a federally protected class (unlike sexual orientation.)  None of that is at stake here.

Jesus can even use stubborn asses.

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Toeing the party line (a response to Derek Rishmawy)

The Party Line

One of my new favorite bloggers is Derek Rishmawy. He’s a young Calvinist, but not in the “cage-stage.” He’s an academic, but refreshingly relevant and reachable.  He’s conservative but he hasn’t blocked me on facebook.

As any of you who know me can imagine, he and I disagree on quite a few things. (We also agree on some things, particularly how to behave and disagree with one another on the internet.)
Anyway, yesterday he posted a blog on Mere Orthodoxy covering a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot recently- tribalism and group-think.  I’ve stopped blogging entirely and have mostly been able to keep my big mouth shut on facebook recently in an attempt to not be so combative, but Rishmawy’s newest article (found here) has got me thinking.  This seems like an opportunity to examine our beliefs and why we hold them, as well as looking at the culture we may or may not identify with.

To begin, I really think he is onto something here. Humans are an odd mix of social and stubborn; so it makes some sense that we would adopt the views that surround us, and then fiercely defend those ideas. It’s exhausting (and impossible) to be fully informed on every topic so we tend to find people who we trust on the topics we are educated and passionate about, and eventually trust them on other topics as well. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, provided we understand that we are doing it and are doing so responsibly.
For example, recently I have realized how unjust and ineffective our Justice system in the US really is. I didn’t discover this by going to prison, but by listening to those who have earned my trust and helped shape my faith in other areas, namely Shane Claiborne, Cornel West, and several members of my small group. I’d like to think I’m not just following the crowd here, but if I’m honest that’s exactly how it started at the very least.

Anyway, the article as a whole is solid and should be read by everybody as it can apply to any group.  However, I think that the part that focuses on seven topics that progressive evangelicals are “toeing the party line on” requires more scrutiny. His intent is not to refute any of these ideas, merely to point them out. (To show my hand, I think his phrasing betrays his intent, but we’ll get to that later.)  I’d like to avoid this turning into a debate on specifically which positions a Christian should hold, and focus instead on how we come to those positions.

I’m going to reproduce the seven points of what Derek has dubbed the “Progressive Evangelical Package”, each followed with my thoughts on it. My hope is that we can start a discussion about to what extent this is happening and how we are a part of it. Continue reading

The Kingdom of Heaven is Like Free Chips and Salsa at Chipotle

My friend Jeff not only writes more often than me- he is better at it. Read this.

frontal lobotomy

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I ate my lunch outside at Chipotle while reading a book today.  I chose Chipotle at the expense of all of the other restaurants in Peoria because of their delicious food and their outdoor seating.  As I walked outside, I noticed an unattended bag of chips with accompanying salsa on one of the tables.  I was pretty sure that this table was taken, so I chose to sit as far away from the bag as possible.  I didn’t want the humans that belonged to this bag of chips to distract me from my reading.

A little bit later, a couple of guys came around the corner and sat at a table adjacent to mine with their food from Chick-Fil-A.  I assume that they made a mistake when they chose what to eat and were trying to redeem themselves by (at least) sitting at Chipotle.  Maybe their presence at Chipotle would…

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War: A Force That Gives Us Meaning

A new and beautiful perspective on pacifism.

frontal lobotomy

For whatever reason, pacifism is considered by many Christians to mean something other than non-violence. I’m not entirely sure why this is, except that we don’t understand what the word means or implies. So, here’s a definition: 1 : opposition to war or violence as a means of settling disputes ; specifically : refusal to bear arms on moral or religious grounds 2 : an attitude or policy of nonresistance (Merriam-Websters Dictionary).
Keep that in mind.
The Bible is an unfolding story of God bringing his people into new ways of living and understanding. As such, it is also full of history about the way things were, and hints of the way things are supposed to be. There are provisions for war, and even startling verses like this from the “Song of Moses”: “I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh-with the blood of…

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The Bible clearly says…

We’ve all heard it. Most of us have probably said it. I’ve personally said it, then said it again about the opposite position ten years later. It feels good to be sure, to make a stand for our faith in confidence. But is this phrase more dangerous than it sounds?

glasses

This week has been…strange. I’ve had friends write blogs about wildly different hot topics in the church, from widely different perspectives. Church yesterday blew everyone’s mind to one degree or another (podcast available here for anybody interested). And then a popular blogger posted an article about millennials in the church that was posted on facebook by pretty much everyone I know. (Also I don’t think I’ve ever been labeled a millennial outside of these surveys and studies… It’s an odd word and spell-check agrees.)

All of these combined have prompted a flurry of conversations, both online and face-to-face, unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. And believe it or not, almost all of them have been… refreshing. A group of us at our house last night covered pretty much every “forbidden” topic of conversation within a couple of hours: war, pacifism, celibacy, charismatic churches, homosexuality, slavery, evolution, and even slavery in the bible. We touched on all of these in one way or another and we all parted ways as friends. I didn’t kick anybody out of my house for intolerance and nobody threatened to excommunicate me for heresy. We didn’t solve all the world’s problems. I don’t think we reached a consensus on a single topic (except slavery- it was our anti-human trafficking group after all) and I think that is okay.

But unfortunately, according to my experience, this is far from commonplace. One of the blogs mentioned above prompted a facebook discussion that displayed this all too well. By the time the dust cleared there had been personal attacks, CAPITAL LETTERS, bible verses about swords, claims of persecution, contrived hypothetical questions, and of course Hitler made an appearance.

What was the difference between these two conversations? They were both with mostly real-life friends who I know love Jesus. The people in both conversations care about each other and want people to agree with them. I believe the difference is the presence of the phrase, “The Bible clearly says…” I don’t remember anybody saying that last night, but it was present on both “sides” of the facebook debate.

Now don’t get me wrong- I think there are moral absolutes and some doctrines are essential to the Christian faith. Sometimes the bible does say things clearly. But normally when this phrase is brought up it is on a topic that is far from clear- thus the debate. The blog partially focused on the assertion that “Jesus is clearly this thing” (an assertion I personally agree with); while most of the comments centered on the argument that “Jesus is clearly not that thing” which I summarily do not agree with. If it was truly clear wouldn’t there be some level of agreement? What seems clear to me may not be clear to another christian, even if they are just as committed to and/or educated about following Jesus. (Oftentimes even more so.)

But the problem isn’t the truth of the phrase, it’s that it is a dismissal. It kills discussion instead of inviting it. (Bringing up Hitler doesn’t help either…) We have to be honest that while there are some things that are not negotiable, a lot of our most heated discussions focus on non-essentials and sometimes people we love will disagree with us. I’m more interested in disagreeing well than converting people to my “side.” Well, at least that’s what I tell myself…

But just because the non-essentials aren’t, well, essential- that doesn’t mean they are not important. As RHE’s article shows, these discussions are having an effect on the church and our witness. I would say that it is not so much the conclusions we reach that drive people away, but the way that we discuss these topics. When our conversations show a lack of humility and grace, and an overabundance of confidence and judgment- we are doing it wrong.

Consider cutting this phrase out of your vocabulary, if it seems right to the holy spirit and you.

In a mirror, dimly.

HOMELESS-JESUS

Last night I went to a class at church focusing on serving and being in relationships with the poor. This was facilitated by Eric the Intern. For anybody who doesn’t know him, he is a tall weirdo who has traveled the country and lived in a homeless shelter. He has been hit by a barge, driven a school bus, been mugged in New Orleans, and given one of my favorite sermons I’ve ever heard. Unfortunately we only get the benefit of him and his experiences for two more weeks until he goes back to seminary. This makes me sad, but is not the point of this post.

I have always thought that serving the poor was important, but I always thought of it as me going out of my comfort zone to do them a giant favor. They need a meal and some socks, I need to feel like I’m helping someone; it’s a perfect solution! But does that really do anything?

We did some short experiments about how we see ourselves and how we define homelessness. Here are some differences we noticed: Most of the volunteers there primarily defined ourselves by what we do or who we are. Words such as tall, educated, christian, american, hardworking, husband, mother. The homeless people also had filled out the same survey, but their answers focused more on their emotional state with words such as depressed, lonely, hopeless, hopeful, tired. This same trend followed across our definitions of homelessness. Volunteers largely focused on the material and financial aspects of homelessness, while those who have experienced it had a much more (understandably) emotional view of it.

I’ve been helping at Breakfast Club for about 4 years now, and I would say approximately half of the people coming on sunday mornings have been there the whole time. And of that half I probably only know half of them by name. Yeah, they are wearing socks and haven’t starved to death, but are they any better off? Am I really involved in their lives? Jim, one of my favorite breakfast guests, went missing for the better part of a year- and while it concerned me, what did I do about it?

And how have I changed? Am I more like Jesus because I occasionally cook a bunch of eggs or drive a van? I’d say no. Is homelessness the problem, or is it a symptom of a problem? Obviously our mental health, education, and government systems are woefully inadequate to fix this problem and in need of reform. But that is a tall order, what can we do if we have no influence in those spheres?

Let’s start with looking somebody in the eye when you pass them on the street. Maybe instead of handing them $5 or a bag of greasy mcdonald’s food, I can have lunch with them and chat and learn their story. Maybe instead of playing Candy Crush on my phone I can give somebody a ride to a doctor’s appointment or a job interview. What ideas do you have?