Archives for posts with tag: ethics

Nationalism

“What is the defining event of America? World War II, because what Americans are dying to have is something worth dying for. War becomes the great event in American life, because that’s when we send the young out to die and be killed. To die in wars, to give us the belief as Americans that we think there’s something worth dying for—to die for who your democratically elected leader says you should die for, and to protect the sacrifices of the last war.

“It’s an extraordinary sacrificial system, but sacrificing to the wrong god—Mars. I admire people for making the great sacrifice of their unwillingness to kill. But it’s the wrong sacrifice. Christianity is an alternative to that sacrificial system. We believe the ultimate sacrifice has been made, and you don’t have to repeat it over and over again in the name of nations.”

-Stanley Hauerwas

For God, Not Country
The un-American theology of Stanley Hauerwas
by Mark Oppenheimer

http://linguafranca.mirror.theinfo.org/print/0109/feature.html

Periodically I drive a stake in the ground, something concrete for my myriad thoughts to cling to. This is one. I am not a nationalist. I’ve wrestled with my nationalisitc demons since I was a young high school student. I couldn’t imagine anything life-giving coming from the nationalism and milistarism that was propagated in my community. The violence was stifling and incoherent.

I traveled a little. That was good for the borders of my mind. I moved to Chiraq. Taking up residence in a violent neighborhood was one of the strangest things I’ve ever done. I thought it would expand my understanding. But instead I have fortified myself from it. I’ve watched arrests, beatings, car fires, humans on fire. All from behind closed, locked, shuttered windows. Hauerwas posits that Christians are witnesses. They are the keepers of memory. Am I?

Each time I drive a stake, I can begin to gather my thoughts, projecting for myself a new way in which to be and live. What has taken up residence where nationalism most naturally resides? Some more passive version of the same thing? A penchant for materialism, a bent for capitalism, a heart for my own welfare above the welfare of others?

Good for me, I am not a nationalist. I declare it every week as I a partake of the Eucharist. Christ became death for us.

Have I become life for anyone?

The conversation is: purity in [a specific] Christian culture, a culture that was home to me for many years [North American, Protestant, evangelical, fundamentalist, etc.,].

Do any of these voices echo your experience? What insights would you add? How could you change the conversation?

1) The Modesty Rules: Is a Woman Responsible for a Man’s Lust? “Heteronormative modesty codes not only objectify women by making them responsible for the thought life of every man they encounter, but make men feel weak, guilty, and vulnerable for experiencing basic sexual attraction.”

2) Virginity: New & Improved!

“Christians say that the world objectifies women through immodest dress and a permissive sexual ethic. However, by idolizing sexual purity and preoccupying ourselves with female modesty and an emphasis on hyper-purity, Christians actually engage in reverse objectivization.”

3) I am damaged goods

“Darling, young one burning with shame and hiding in the silence, listen now: Don’t believe that lie. You never were, you never will be, damaged goods.”

4) Beauty vs. Sexuality

A broken worldview that reduces human behavior down to a predictable set of gendered, inevitable physiological responses shouldn’t be the framework for a Christian discussion of beauty, desire and the longing for affirmation.

5) Modesty and Hating Oneself: The Darker Side

“Lust is not about sexuality, but about power and control… We, as a church, need to change the conversation. We need to first teach men that blaming women for boners is not a healthy way to go through life, and that sexual attraction and not feeling sexual attraction are natural and acceptable identities. We need to broaden the conversation to talk about control and objectification rather than how one person is sinful for having a perfectly normal sexual reaction to attractiveness. We need to talk about how this thinking fuels a culture of rape.”

6) How the Modesty Doctrine Fuels Rape Culture

“It is this idea that women need to cover up because men can’t help themselves, quite simply, that fuels rape culture in our society today. The conservative evangelicals I grew up amongst might not know it, but their ideas about gender and sexuality really do promote rape culture.”

Matthew 5:8… “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

“It is difficult to do justice in words to the complete loss of intellectual morale in the twentieth-century Church. One cannot characterize it without having recourse to language which will sound hysterical and melodramatic.

There is no longer a Christian mind. There is still, of course, a Christian ethic, a Christian practice, and a Christian spirituality… but as a thinking being, the modern Christian has succumbed to secularization. He accepts religion — its morality, its worship, its spiritual culture; but he rejects the religious view of life, the view which sees all issues within the context of the eternal…

-Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind

Oh, for a mind that relates all issues — social, political, and cultural — to the doctrine of God. What I wouldn’t give for that kind of thinking. What on earth is the eternal perspective, and how can I get at it? How does the life of God inform the life of… me? When the world is a-whack, and it generally is, what image of God focuses my eyesight?

These days the hot topic is Chick-Fil-A, tomorrow it will be something else. Another transient position of  “a Christian ethic, a Christian practice, and a Christian spirituality”. Where is the Christian mind in all of this boycotting and talk of first-amendment? Is the life of the Trinity revolving around the American Constitution and the freedom of speech and the support of one fleeting bill over another one?

I picture Jesus reminding me always to “Render to Caesar. Do it. But render to God as well. Don’t confuse the two.”

There are days when I cannot understand the “Christian” mud-flinging… the conservative obsession with controversy… the Church caught up with in the most recent popular headline… the way in which hot political topics are confused with the Gospel. If the world ran out of controversy, we would invent something to fight about: a means to channel our righteous indignation. Steven Colbert took my breath way in his recent programming:

“As a practicing Christian in this modern, fallen world, it can be hard to explain why I still go to church. That’s why I want to say thank you… for cementing in the minds of nonbelievers just what my religion stands for: Jesus, the only Son of God, gave His life to redeem mankind by suffering torture and death, then rose from the dead in forgiveness of our sins, ascending to heaven and is seated for eternity at the right hand of the Father in fulfillment of the scriptures. …You know. For chicken.”

God, who offers a perspective that I crave: When the world is crazy and distressing, help me to press into the eternal perspective. Help me to repeat the creeds before regurgitating political talking points. I ask, again and again and again, for the Father to show me how His life participates in this life… how to render to Caesar… how to demonstrate the stark opposition of the kingdom of God to the kingdom of this world. In the name of the One who said, “If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight. But…”  Amen.

We pray to You, the Father, the Son, the Eternal Spirit: the God of hospitality.

We pray languidly to You before our consumptions. We invite You to eat with us because You are easy to welcome at table. We pay no heed to the poor, the sick, the starving – Your inconvenient incarnations. You are a welcome guest, or so we say, but if You smelled like the streets we would leave You at the door. We “say grace” but in this feasting we are graceless.

Teach us to eat with eyes opened and hearts softened. Teach us to rejoice in our food, our drink because this day You have given, and tomorrow You may take away. Teach us Your radical hospitality and how to widen our circles. In order to welcome You here, we set aside ignorance, apathy, gluttony, and thoughtlessness.

We pray in the name of the One who was spurned from many tables, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

 

~Annie Bolger Quick, editor

I love the book of Ecclesiastes. It is one of my favorites and I return to it frequently. When life turns me on my head, Ecclesiastes reminds me that life has always been turning people on their heads, even the wisest, most knowledgeable, most secure of people.

The most recent “disaster” in my extensive history of medical disasters was the sudden loss of 25 lbs, for which the only explanation are my ongoing surgical complications. On a five foot tall frame, 25 lbs is a lot of weight. Before I knew what was happening, my body could not stave off infection and became ravaged with fever, nausea, and pain.

But I am a lucky one.

When I am starving – quite literally starving – for nutrients and medicine and care, I take a short drive to the hospital. I can spend as many days as I need, get all of the attention that I need, have IV bags full of nutrition custom-made for what I need.

Hunger is a term which has three meanings (Oxford English Dictionary 1971)

  • the uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food; craving appetite. Also the exhausted condition caused by want of food
  • the want or scarcity of food in a country
  • a strong desire or craving

In round numbers there are 7 billion people in the world. According to the 2012 World Hunger Education Service, 13.1% of them are hungry. That is almost 1 in every 7 people.

The numbers… the statistics… we’ve heard them all. We’ve felt them, too. We’ve felt the sheer immensity of them. We’ve grieved the complexity of the world in which we live, where food prices soar, governments exploit agriculture, and systemic violence and class systems ensure that the poor will always be with us.

For me these days, hundreds of milliliters of completely accessible nutrients course through my veins for twelve hours each night. I am fed with food that is more than sufficient for me. I look at the homeless man on the corner of Division St and the disparity between us makes me queasy. I feel guilty. The dizzy, spinney, sick feeling sends me back to Ecclesiastes. “There is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God.”

Ah. Ecclesiastes turns me back around. It is not wrong to enjoy. My guilt matures… if it is not wrong to enjoy food and drink, then the question becomes howhow to enjoyhow to enjoy and celebrate and still stand in solidarity with those who cannot join my feasting?

This is the Holy Frustration.

I want to dialogue in my community about this question of how. DL’s proposition is powerful… cooking theologically… inspiring.  It is incredible that we can turn even our eating and drinking into a holy experience and an act of solidarity: the kingdom of God coming like yeast in dough.

~Annie Bolger Quick, editor

In celebration of International Women’s Day, here is an article by Jim Henderson in RelevantMagazine.com

Jesus often gave women a platform. Why doesn’t the rest of the Church?

Jesus didn’t have favorites, but … He did play favorites.

At least that’s the impression an uninitiated reader of the Bible could get. In general, Jesus seemed tough on Jewish insiders and soft on heathen outsiders. However, when it came to women—He basically liked them all.

Just think of the Samaritan woman; the foreign woman who begged for the crumbs off the table; the woman caught in the act of adultery; the woman who prostrated herself at His feet, kissing them and washing them with her tears before letting down her hair to dry them; Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary; the women who stood by Him when He was crucified while the men hid; Mary Magdalene, to whom Jesus first appeared after the Resurrection. He seemed to be drawn to women’s authenticity, loyalty and openness to God, regardless of their beliefs or nonbeliefs.

What’s interesting is that Jesus not only honored and protected women (a traditional role), He also provided them with a platform from which they could expand their influence (a countercultural role). As scriptural screenwriter-in-chief, the Holy Spirit chose to cast many women in the lead supporting actor role of the Gospel stories. This was because the star of the show (aka, Jesus) was quite comfortable working with and alongside women.

It’s a fact that Jesus did not choose a woman to be one of the Twelve, but it’s just as true that He did not choose a man to be the first person to witness and announce His Resurrection. It’s also a fact that no women were included in the inner circle of three who were present with Him at Gethsemane and the Transfiguration, but it’s just as true that no women followers bear the shame of having denied Jesus publicly.

The Spiritual Exodus of Women

How would you feel if you were capable of leading, thinking, guiding, shaping and forming a spiritual community but were denied the opportunity to do so? This experience leads some women to walk away from the Church, Christianity and in some cases God.

Many women are discouraged. And while some of them, particularly young women, leave the organized church only, others walk away from the faith altogether. In fact, in 2010 the Barna Group found that 26 percent of Americans have changed faiths or adopted a significantly different faith view during their lifetimes. Barna released its study just after the author Anne Rice famously renounced Christianity on her Facebook page. According to Barna, Rice “shares a spiritual profile with nearly 60 million other adults nationwide,” most of whom, the research found, are women. Since breaking with the Catholic church, Rice has publicly reaffirmed her commitment to Christ several times; however, Barna’s report notes, “The most common type of spiritual shift was from those who were Christian, Protestant or Catholic in childhood to those who currently report being atheist, agnostic or some other faith. In total, this group represents about one out of every eight adults (12%), a category that might be described as ex-Christians.” Disillusionment with their church and religion was cited as one of the top reasons people gave for leaving their faith.

But for many women (particularly wives and mothers), leaving doesn’t mean walking away; more often it means showing up without being present. Women often do this because they want their husbands and children to grow spiritually. They participate at the minimal levels and give just enough to ensure their families are included, even if the women are not growing themselves. They seem to be masters at finding ways to feed themselves without requiring as much from the place they call church.

Doctrinal Division

There’s a lot of confusion among both men and women about what the Bible does or does not say about the role of women in the Church. Women struggle (often in private) trying to determine whether their churches’ positions on women’s roles are genuinely God’s ideal or simply a reflection of dogmatic conditioning and cultural bias. The most ardent students of the Bible on both sides tend to be the ones who are most certain their view of the biblical role of women is the correct one.

Given the polarization, it’s dismaying how uninterested Christians seem to be in trying to understand why their brothers and sisters can read the same biblical passages and come to opposite conclusions. We need to learn how to stay in the room with differences and not “break up” over every biblical disagreement.

We need to start a new conversation about women and Church. At the very least, Christians need to think more honestly about these issues. There is room to grow and new things to discover about how God wants to use women to move His Kingdom forward. That’s why it’s important to to read, ponder and think most deeply about the things that cause disagreement. Not to win but to learn. We need to stop comparing our best with others’ worst. We need to stop criticizing each other and open our own ideas to critique.

My bias is that, just like men, women should have as much influence as they’re capable of exercising in the Church. But my opinion, regardless of how deeply held it may be, doesn’t give me permission to ignore, dismiss or demean those who disagree with me. And it especially doesn’t give me an excuse to be mean. Jesus told us to love one another—not to agree with one another.

Celebrating Women

Evangelicals are passionate about personal sin—swearing, adultery, gossip, drunkenness, lust, anger and so on. They have significantly less interest in systemic sin—racism, greed, selfishness and repression of women. This low view of systemic sin, this privileged paradigm of power, makes it easy to ignore the way women are treated in Church.

I recall once hearing Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas Friedman put it this way: “Those with power never think about it, but those without power think about it all the time.”

But the worst thing is millions of women have given up protesting, given up trying to move forward, and allowed themselves to be convinced that they aren’t and shouldn’t want to be men’s equals in the Church that dares to name itself after one of history’s most radical advocates for women—Jesus of Nazareth.

Take a closer look at the women who will be and are currently part of your community. Listen—really listen—to them. And more important, consider the radical way Jesus related to women in a culture that sought to shut them down, curtail them and control them.

Taken from Resignation of Eve: What if Adam’s Rib Is No Longer Willing to be the Church’s Backbone? by Jim Henderson. Copyright © 2012 by Jim Henderson. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.