What is happening?

Of course we all have political leanings and ideally, we celebrate the diversity of thought because it adds value to life for all of us. 

That being said, I have some thoughts. First, my heart is heavy. Over the past week or so, I feel like I’m kind of staggering around, a bit disoriented, having just been clubbed on the head by a dude telling me he did it to keep me safe. 

Here’s the thing. I’m a white male, the archetype of what supposedly “makes America great.” I really don’t have much to worry about (yet…depending on how much longer one is allowed to voice dissent without arrest, or worse), but that is not true for a vast number of people both in this country and those trying to get into this country. Of course many will and are arguing that this is not the soul of America, while others believe that banning certain people from this country will keep us safer. 

This leads to my next point. Many have said and even still maintain that this is a Christian country. Let me be clear, no it isn’t. There are things that we do, either in smaller communities or token charity from the federal government, of course, but there simply is little-to-no biblical precedence for the current set of policies, and specifically the current barrage of executive orders. 

Which leads me to my third point. Early on, being a follower of Jesus (as Christians claim they are) was never a safe, state sanctioned activity. As I understand him, Jesus was not interested in creating an alternative political party to topple the Roman rule. His interests were primarily focused on the people who were under the boot of the empire. In our current context: refugees and migrants, LGBTQIA folks, minority groups, black lives matter, women, federal and state prisoners (many of whom I fully understand have committed atrocious crimes), among many others. These are the people Jesus was interested in. 

If one were to say to Jesus today, we are doing this to keep America safe, I imagine he would say something like, “Safe? The very work I do is not safe. In fact, it’s probably going to land me in prison. Are you still willing to follow me, because if so, get ready. Shit’s about to hit the fan.”

We can talk all day long about being loving, Christian people, but if we’re not willing to take an honest, authentic look at that person and still follow, let’s do everyone a favor and drop the Christian badge. We’re entitled to believe whatever we would like to believe, but if the way we behave, interact and participate in the life of this world isn’t wrecklessly compassionate, dangerously loving and fully aware of “the least of these,” then our god is misguided and the Jesus we say we follow is quite obviously not the one the Bible paints a picture of. 

As the great line from a Gungor song goes, “If it’s us or them, it’s us for them.” The world I see painted through such beautiful stories in the Bible is not one of separation, but of connection. There is no us-and-them. There is only WE and we are all in this together. We all are part of this great story of love and it is up to is to realize that story and make it happen for ALL OF US. 

Be political. Stand up for human rights. Speak out against injustice. But don’t let that be all. Follow the divine into the real, actual lives of people who are in desperation, hoping someone will speak for them, stand up for and with them, and give them a taste of what compassion is in a real, tangible, touchable, smellable way. 

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Ignorance is…

I never understood quite what the phrase “ignorance is bliss” meant until I’d hurdled around the sun 20 or so times on this little blue ball we call earth. 

Even then, in my early 20’s, I think I assumed ignorance meant a lack of knowing details of sorts, that might cause worry or concern. My mother always used the phrase in the context of health or politics. “Ignorance is bliss,” she would say… “If I don’t go to the doctor and find out what this lump is, I don’t have to worry about it.” Or, “if I choose not to uncover the causes for suffering in the world, I won’t suffer as much.”

These are paraphrases of my early childhood, but they never sat well with me. Most would agree that suffering is part of the human condition, but one must not turn a blind eye or refuse to accept the part it plays for us. If we choose not to enter into suffering, that’s not really a defendable position for ignorance being bliss. That seems more to me to be an unfortunate choice not to engage with humanity. 

Healthcare… that’s an entirely different story. I’m not sure I can tell another person their methods for self care are flawed, at least not unsolicited. But I am the kind of person who would rather have all the details and make plans from there. 

However, I do think there are times when a bit of conscious ignorance is quite helpful. For instance, the current presidential administration. If I were to continue in my addiction to NPR (as unbiased as it is… or so we like to tell ourselves) I could not be present and, for example, enjoy my four year old’s birthday, because I’m might end up being too worried about the possibility that he won’t even have a place to live when he’s my age. 

Sometimes then, I will choose ignorance, I will choose when and where to consume news so that I can be here, in this moment, enjoying the peace of a lunch break and the view of the snow covered mountains not ten miles from my home. 

I don’t know what’s to come of this current administration, and if I’m honest, I’m pretty skeptical about the good that will come of it. I am not however going to be paralyzed by my fear of possibilities. I must make a conscious, deliberate, intentional decision to live in this moment with my two amazing boys and fantastically loving and compassionate wife. 

So, am I ignorant? When it brings me into this moment to love more fully and engage more authentically, absolutely. 

The middle ground

Today I can’t really find the right words to start. Often I can’t find the right words, so silence seems to suit me. 

I’m also not sure about a whole more stuff than when I was younger. If there’s something to be said about fundamental evangelicalism, certainty is at the top of the list. Without that construct, I’ve certainly got a lot more questions, within which I have become much more comfortable, even preferring a bit of ambiguity over certainty. 

I still struggle with church (largely organized religious activit) and politics. When I was young, my basic operating assumption was that America was god’s chosen country and its god-ordained method of leadership was the Republican Party platform, though we never had sermons about politics from our pulpits. It was kind of an unspoken understanding that all good christians vote republican. 

Of course my leanings now are quite a bit different. Now my struggle is not that I tend to err democratic, even socialist (gasp!), but that depending on what building you go to on any given Sunday morning, that becomes a rallying cry, a shouting match of us-versus-them. I hate to break this news to my liberal church friends, but you’re nearly as fundamentalist from the left side or the church sanctuary.

Now I realize currently that I am painting a you’re-wrong-and-we’re-right, which is now, the one thing that really turns me off about both the environment that I was raised in and the current system in which I’ve planted myself. It is very difficult to find people talking about the middle ground. Why do we all need to be on separate teams? And why, as spiritual followers of a 1st century Palestinian Jew do we think the American democratic system is going to solve all our problems? Isn’t that the system that killed Jesus for living a life that was other-centered, against the norms of his current system?

Maybe Gandhi’s age-old mantra, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” should actually be taken seriously. Maybe Jesus was serious when he talked over and over about looking out for the least, take care of each other (not drafting new laws, organizing committees or voting with a certain party), feeding each other, hosting each other in your home, providing for those who are without when you have plenty. As Rob Bell (I know my current library of inspiration is embarrassingly limited) says, “what kind of world do you see? A world of scarcity, or one of plenty?”

I’m ready to start seeing one of plenty, where I vote, but am much more interested in meeting actual, daily needs of the people within my community. Then hopefully they will do the same with their friends and family, and they will do the same, and so on…

That sounds like a much better place to be apart of, so that’s what I’m going to be working toward. I want to occupy the middle ground, where we are all partners, working for the good of us all,  not just good for a few.