What about Power?

Standard

Lately much of what I hear is a debate about power.  It may not be the stated or acknowledged topic, but between the lines or as the underlying theme?  Almost always.

When we discuss what to do about refugees, we’re talking about power.  When we debate who gets to own and fire guns, we’re talking about power.  When we argue over the best next leader for the United States, the heart of that argument is power.

arm wrestlingThis is not new, but I really think we need to acknowledge it.  If we don’t, we pretend to have different motives than those actually guiding our interactions.  If we deceive ourselves, we cannot be straightforward with our opponents.

Take this another step.  I think many people feel powerless.  Many folks think–or imagine–that they have lost power they screaming protestersonce had.  Was there once a sense of control, of being master of one’s own destiny, that has gotten away?  Is that why we’re so pissed off?  Is that why all political discussions immediately devolve into insults and name-calling?

I’m asking questions here, because though I am generalizing, I’m certain these matters are more complex than simply the issue of power.  Nonetheless, I see this issue acknowledged so rarely that I feel almost compelled to name it.

I hate–and I do mean that word, “hate”–how uncivil our political discourse has become.  I’ve said this before and it bears repeating–how we treat one another is more important than who we vote for or our political stance.  Jesus said so.  There were crazy levels of politics and power struggles going on in Jesus’ time, folks popping up claiming to be the Messiah, a whole insurgent movement against Roman occupation, a religious/political party claiming the way forward was holiness (Pharisees), another claiming it was gaining secular influence (Sadducees), and then a bunch of people hoping for a military revolution led by an all-powerful Messiah from God who would crush enemies under his heel.  And to that cyclone of conflicting factions, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you:  love one another as I have loved you.  They shall know you by your love of one another.”

Yeah, they don’t.  They, the non-Christians who see how we communicate, don’t know us by our love for one another so much when we scream over Hillary versus Bernie, or blare about how much we need to prevent these Syrian immigrants from entering our country so we don’t get blown to hell.  In fact, we almost seem to take it as a matter of pride that we don’t engage in civil discourse, that we don’t allow for the possibility that we could be wrong on any single point because we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that anyone who is of the opposite political persuasion from me, is both an idiot and an asshole.

new-jesus

Continue reading

Until We Die

Standard

What’s with all this dying?

I’m watching the internet explode with posts about David Bowie and Alan Rickman (and chipping in a few of my own).  I thought this article about losing our theologians was brilliant.  It captured for me why I’m grieving over artists whom I never met or even saw live.

There’s been a fair amount written about death, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to add to the collective wisdom here.  But an unusual combination of things are swirling around in my head and I’m trying to figure out how they all fit together.

David Bowie was a brilliant artist, a true musical genius.  I’ve never listed him among my personal favorites, but I respect his accomplishments and enjoy a lot of his music.  But then there’s this:

“David Bowie was an incredible musician who inspired generations. He also participated in a culture where children were sexually exploited and raped. This is as much a part of his legacy as his music.”

Two nights ago, I watched the movie Spotlight with my daughter.  If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it and believe it has a decent chance of winning the Academy Award for best picture–TRIGGER WARNING, though, it’s about the Boston Globe breaking the story of sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Church.  Challenged by a college friend, I’ve been doing research since and finding out how horrifically prevalent sexual abuse is within the Protestant church and missions.  Today I spent time with the director of our school, discussing the dangers and committing my help to identifying and preventing such abuse at our school.  If you are part of a church, mission or Christian school and aren’t already well-informed on this issue, I urge you to read this entire article.  I know it is says some negative things about certain organizations, but turning away from what we don’t want to know helps create an environment in which abusers can carry out their abuse.

Jesus always sided with the abused.  He always stood with the persecuted.  Many of the stories of healing speak not just of his miraculous power, but of his willingness to stand against abuse, hatred, and shunning of the weak, the victim, or the shunned.  When he stopped the crowd rushing to Jairus’s daughter to speak with the women who had hemorrhaged for twelve years, he did more than restore her dignity.  He challenged a system that turned suffering people into outcasts.  He stood for the victim of abuse.  She was considered “unclean” and had no business in that crowd, much less touching a rabbi.  Jesus credited her courage to touch him and believe in his power and compassion as bringing about her own healing:  “Go in peace; your faith has made you well.”   The woman caught in adultery, the Samaritan woman by the well, the lepers he touched, those possessed, all of them were despised and considered outcasts because their suffering was considered their fault.  They must have sinned.  They brought this upon themselves. Continue reading