An amazing response to an amazing sermon.
When people hear I believe in Christian pacifism, the same question inevitably follows in one form or another.
I’ve been asked this question countless times in different permutations; sometimes it’s me in danger, sometimes my wife, sometimes an innocent child. But the core is always the same- some faceless sub-human aggressor wants to use violence against me or somebody else and I ostensibly only have two options: counter violence with violence or passively allow the aggressor to do whatever they want. Oh and this is routine crime, not to be confused with persecution specifically for my belief in Christ. As if that is somehow a completely different situation.
I find the concept that violence is ever “just” or “holy” hard to mesh with the scriptures about Jesus. That somehow the command to love your enemies carries the qualifier to only do so if it is comfortable and safe. Some people will say that pacifism is a nice idea, but it just isn’t possible in the real world. I think Jesus showed us he meant what he said and became the ultimate example of just how far it is possible to go when loving our enemies. Most of his disciples followed his example, yet we can’t handle somebody taking our big screen tv.
But don’t confuse pacifism with passivism. Pacifism isn’t laying down to be stepped upon, it is heaping burning coals on the head of one who would do harm to you. Jesus was very good at this. The context behind turning the other cheek, walking two miles, and giving your coat as well as your shirt were as far from passive as they are from violent. All three would bring shame upon the aggressor without becoming an aggressor yourself.
Just to show that I’m not completely dodging the question, here is my honest answer:
– Why would I live my entire life based on what would happen if somebody wanted to hurt me or my loved ones?
– In the extremely rare case that this theoretical predicament comes to pass, I’d do what Jesus did and try to find a third way- a way to resist evil with good instead of evil.
– Failing that, (as that is inevitably the next question) I would sin. I would respond to violence with violence and repent of it afterward without trying to justify my actions with a caricature of God, made in my image.
I grieve for this part of me. I have a heart full of violence. I crave vengeance for the smallest slights. But this isn’t of God, it’s a rejection of God.
Have you ever been asked this question? Have you ever asked it? Help me out here.
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?
If you would have asked me what I would write about first if I ever started a blog- professional athletes would have been at the bottom of the list. I know I’m way behind on this whole “throwing-my-opinions-at-the-internet” thing, but the last time I followed a team sport Dennis Rodman was known for rebounds- not for “diplomacy.” But here we go.
I’m sure by now you have all heard about Jason Collins coming out of the closet. I don’t see how that really counts as news- but it’s the attached picture and others like it that have really annoyed me the last couple days.
For anybody who has been miraculously spared of this phenomenon- here’s the overall premise presented: Tebow is a Christian and gets no media publicity, but Collins comes out of the closet and is a media darling. This is a clear case of persecution against christians by the gay agenda.
The problem is that’s just not true. Let’s look at what these two guys have in common. They are both middle-of-the-pack professional athletes who are also Christians. That’s right- Collins is a Christian too. That kind of muddies the waters doesn’t it?
The claim that we just ignore poor Tim because he’s a Christian just doesn’t hold water. This is evidenced by the fact that even though I don’t follow sports or watch ESPN, not only do I know who Tim Tebow is, I know that he has recently been released by the Jets and what all of his options are going forward.
Now the big news is that Jason Collins is openly gay. He has been openly Christian for his entire career, but we never heard about that. Christianity Today hasn’t ever run a story on him and his faith. MSNBC and Fox haven’t followed every detail of his career. Focus on the Family hasn’t featured him in a big-budget commercial (and now likely never will.) You can speculate as to why this is the case.
Is it because he doesn’t have a trademark pose? Is it because he closes the door behind him when he prays to God? Is it because he doesn’t write John 3:16 on his face?
Or is it because most americans and likely, by extension, most athletes in america identify as Christians? Does being a part of the majority make Tim Tebow worthy of our praise and attention? I think he seems like a nice, fairly humble guy who loves Jesus but I don’t like football so I don’t care to hear about it every time he gets traded to a new team.
As I said before I don’t think either story is particularly news-worthy, but the claim that this proves a media bias is, I think, mistaken. But to claim that this amounts to the persecution of Christians is outright ludicrous. There are places in the world where Christians are persecuted for their faith- ostracized, beaten, or killed for their beliefs. But America isn’t one of those places. In America it is Jason Collins who is the outsider. The other.
And irrespective of your views on homosexuality, Christ calls us to stand in solidarity with the other. So join me in throwing away divisive rhetoric and poorly drawn facebook comics, to welcome everybody into God’s ongoing creation.
What do you think?
Am I just ignorant of modern sports? (Yes)
Am I on the right track, but just an awful writer?
Am I brainwashed by the liberal media?
I created this page to be able to share my beliefs, struggles, research, and musings without annoyingly shoving it in the faces of my fb friends. I don’t plan to write consistently or well. I want this to primarily be a place of safe, respectful discussion and would appreciate ideas of what topics to (clumsily) tackle.