February 16, 2011

On the Ease of Merriment in Small Towns

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 8:05 am by Editorial Team

The key, I have no doubt, to the sustained level of activity lay in the fact that the great majority of persons who visited the places along Main Street and who did so with a desire for company in mind, did so alone. It is this characteristic that modern communities fail to achieve and that is so much missed in modern life. Those who have found a place where they can stop in as lone individuals and find association and camaraderie awaiting them are indeed as rare as they are fortunate. Most of us have to go with friends to a place in order to have someone to talk to when we get there. We must plan, we must make arrangements, we must try to establish a set time as well as a set place in order to regularize whatever third association we can claim. In small towns like River Park, before home entertainment and fast highways took or kept people elsewhere, the lone individual could find company and diversion virtually without effort. It was the casual and effortless satisfaction of the social instinct that allowed the River Parks of that time to keep boredom at bay.

– Ray Oldenburg, The Great Good Place

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May 18, 2010

Book Notes: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 9:15 am by Editorial Team

I read this book a couple of months ago, and it still weighs heavy in my mind.  Famous for The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver is a masterful story writer who weaves culture, botany, and tragic characters together.  Often lamenting humanity’s soured relationship with the land, Kingsolver, is an important voice in recapturing a healthy relationship with what we eat and the land it is produced on.

Her challenge is simple, yet daunting: live a whole year off of the land, with only minimal outside resources.  Her family leaves Tucson, AZ (a dry and unforgiving land where almost every aspect of food, even water, is outsourced) to  Appalachia (a very generous land and climate).

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October 12, 2009

Life is Not Fair

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:18 am by Editorial Team

Being the youngest in the family and growing up with two older brothers, I found myself on the short end of the stick many times. Of all of the phrases I heard growing up, “Life is not fair” was the mantra I heard the most. It seemed I always got the short end, the leftovers, the most beat up after a brawl. Looking up to older brothers who it seemed could always get away with more and have more responsibilities than I ever would.   And I remember the frequent refrain and it’s response… it’s not fair… Life is not fair.  And I would sometimes angrily shout back “Well, then make it fair.”

Looking back, I can honestly say that my life was not fair. I was a white, middle-class kid with two loving parents. I had amazing opportunities, and was never in need (often in want, but never need). I had more privilege than you could shake a stick at.

Life was good, but it wasn’t fair.  I see the people around me, and because of their lives, I realize how unfair my life was… how things far beyond my control gave me enormous opportunity and privilege which most of the people around me do not have.

For the child who’s primary notion of food is White Castle, who’s mother works multiple jobs and has little time with him, who has little knowledge of a father figure of his own race, who lives on the wrong side of town, who goes to a poorly performing school and has few support systems, and who will likely face a lifetime of racism, both institutionalized and direct.  My life is not fair, because this child’s is not fair.

And the rally cry reverberates:  Well, then make it fair.  Perhaps the mantra of “life is not fair” is intended to preserve the existing social order.  If it is, then we must challenge that foundation of power.  The kingdom of God ushers in a way of life which is fair.  The high, the privileged, the powerful are brought down, either voluntarily or eventually through Christ’s return.  The low, the powerless, are brought up.  The kingdom brings equality to all.  We who are powerful in the world’s eyes must yield, instead humbling ourselves in submission to those who are suffering and powerless.

As long as we accept the world’s standard of  power and social order, life is not fair.  But we live in a kingdom where life is fair, where equality rules.  Where is neither black nor white, rich nor poor, married nor single, male nor female.  The current social order is obliterated in the kingdom.  Yet, we do not fully live in the kingdom, but also under the prince of darkness.

Because we still live in darkness, we must take corrective action to reflect the notion of the true kingdom.  For the rich, the white, the powerful, it involves explicit action to yield power, status, and wealth.  For the poor, the powerless, those low on the social ladder, it means elevating people to these positions of status, wealth, and power.

The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.

Go sell all your possessions, and give them to the poor, and come follow me.

Son, remember in your lifetime, you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.

I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat…

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Life is not fair.  In Christ, it has been made fair.  However, this fairness is not effortless.  The kingdom calls us to action, to a lifestyle of humility and fairness.  If we fail in these actions, we fail the primary call of gospel and the kingdom.  We proclaim a new kingdom which was proclaimed to all of creation through the death and resurrection of Christ.  God is bringing justice to his creation.  If we do not labor for justice, then perhaps we are not truly part of the kingdom.  Life is not fair, until we humble ourselves, and yield our lives, our pride, and our wealth, to the call of the kingdom.

September 28, 2009

Christian Politics and Witness

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 3:01 pm by Editorial Team

Determining the role of Christians within the sphere of government has been a tenuous and flawed relationship since the beginning. Throughout much of history, those who claim to follow Christ have often failed at creating a proper Christian influence on the governments of the world. So much so that one entirely questions whether Christians should even engage such a worldly system. And indeed, many of the early leaders of the religious movement I grew up in were of the opinion that Christians should have no participation beyond paying taxes.

I personally believe that as Christians, we must engage the political system, just as we are to engage and witness in every other sphere of society.  However, I have long been frustrated that people who claim the gospel of peace (of unity) fall in into the same bitter war of politics that the rest of our society has been sucked into, and I respect those Christians who abstain completely.

In order to engage the system, we first have to realize that no one political ideology has a monopoly on Christian principle.  All political ideologies have certain aspects that seem to agree with teachings of Jesus, but all ideologies also have conflicting points.  Republicans are not more “Christian” than Democrats, and neither is the opposite true.   And libertarianism, a rabid anti-government ideology, is not a more Christian solution either.  One cannot support the idea that Christians should only support any one particular political ideology.  Once we come to this understanding, we can begin to allow the gospel of peace to heal these divisions and teach us how to engage this system.

In order to determine a method of engaging this political system, we should examine the aspects that stand in stark contrast to the Christian witness.  The primary problem with our political system is the rabid demonization of those with differing viewpoints and the inability for those with differing viewpoints to occupy the same community and enter into a rational, respectful dialog about those beliefs.

This problem presents an incredible opportunity for Christian witness.  Could a Christian community be made up of a diverse group of political beliefs in which those people loved and respected each other in spite of their political opinions?  A community where these differing political ideologies were discussed and respected would be an incredible witness of a God where there is unity — neither Jew nor Greek, Democrat nor Libertarian, but only those who sought to preserve the Lord’s prayer on the night he was killed “that they may all be one.”

Our culture expects us to avoid fraternizing with those of different political persuasions and encourages us to demonize them.  Our witness is to show how the unity of Christ allows us to share and discuss how our faith impacts these views while respecting each other when we arrive at different conclusions.

However, in order to reach this vision of community and dialog, we must remember two things.  The first, is that we cannot claim a political monopoly on faith.  The second comes from the realization  that we’ve been bred and socialized with a deep-seated nationalism that affects everything about us, especially our faith.  The Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Medo-Persians, Greeks, Romans, Mayans, Chinese, British, and countless others were once powerful civilizations which are now but a speck on the timeline of history.  America has enjoyed incredible prosperity and power; however, one day, that too will come to an end.  The role of American government and politics is but a speck on the history of the world.  As the vision in Daniel suggests, there is an incredible kingdom on the horizon that will reign supreme over all worldly kingdoms.  It will last forever, and no power will be able to crush it.

America and it’s worldly political problems fade away in comparison to the eternal kingdom which we seek, in which a loving creator seeks to bring all things under his reign.  We seek a kingdom in which all of creation is groaning and yearning to be one with its creator.