Embrace Paradox

"I want honesty." ~Soren Kierkegaard

UPDATED: Hobby Lobby, Abortion, Affordable Healthcare, and Essential Religion

*After initially posting this blog, a few other choice pieces of information presented themselves to me, so I have included them in this updated version.

So…

How’s everybody doing?

I thought I might throw my hat into the whole “Hobby Lobby/Abortion/Supreme Court/Affordable Healthcare” debacle.

This is a complex issue (and this may involve more than one blog on my part). Let’s begin by demonstrating how mucked up the whole situation is.

First, let us address the problem of private capital and jobs.

The debate goes something like this:

Pro-Hobby Lobby: “The Greens own Hobby Lobby. If they want to shut it down rather than comply with the Affordable Healthcare Act, they can.”

Anti-Hobby Lobby: “That assumes that jobs are readily available to everyone and that those people can easily find a new job in a still somewhat stagnant economy. Additionally, these bastards would rather shut down their company rather than provide employees with healthcare.”

Second, abortion.

I am the most sympathetic with this argument on behalf of the Pro-Hobby Lobbyists (Ha! Lobbyists…political humor).

I have expressed to friends my disdain for the Affordable Healthcare Act’s tendency to put pro-life/anti-abortionists in a defensive posture, knowing that causing some employers to have to pay for the content of healthcare plans which previously they could have more easily avoided paying for.

I think pro-life business owners have been put in a tough spot here, being asked to violate their consciences.

Of course, this could all have been avoided if the government had used tax money to pay for abortion (since abortion is federally legal) instead of asking people to use any of their private capital (attached to them, their life’s work, etc.) to fund anything at all resembling an abortifacent.

The government pays for all kinds of things everyone from every cloth disagrees with (war, earmarks, certain education initiatives, etc.). 

At least then I’d be comfortable paying taxes to a corrupt and unethical Caesar (I realize this comment may be prone to be misunderstood. It is informed by my own political theology which I will not expound upon here). 

That being said, there are recents to believe that the drugs the Affordable Healthcare would’ve forced Hobby Lobby to cover are NOT abortifacent. You can read about that here.

Also, many women take birth control for medical reasons having nothing to do with sexual activity. You can read about that here.

This brings me to a third part of the debate that I’ll admit is a little sticky: corporate personhood.

I can appreciate the arguments from many of the Anti-Hobby Lobbyists who are concerned that the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case expands the notion of corporate personhood and the influence corporations in the political process.

Because I believe that “the love of money corrupts,” I think this is a very legitimate criticism that should be given more consideration by the Pro-Hobby Lobby crowd.

However, as a Christian (particularly of a Protestant background), I understand the breakdown of the barrier between sacred work/secular work that this case represents in the minds of many Christians.

As a carpenter who is Christian, my father worships God THROUGH his work, by HOW he runs his business, and HOW he uses the money from his business. THAT is part of his worship.

A Christian’s vocation is intricately connected to their worship. While there is a separation between the secular government and the church, there is NOT a separation between private business and faith in the mind of the believer, and it ought to stay that way.

This leads me to my final point:

The secular cannot ESSENTIALIZE the nature of religion.

Here is what religion is NOT.

It is not merely a private cultic practice in a designated place of worship.

It is not merely private belief.

It permeates the life of the true believer.

It is ESSENTIAL to the identity, through and through, of the believer.

True religion is “visiting the orphans and the widows” (I don’t think this definition is exhaustive). Right there, though. Outward. Not merely inward.

This obviously creates some problems, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent. What do you do with conflicting religious beliefs? Or irrational ones? (And no, I don’t accept the notion that religion is inherently irrational).

There are some interesting thoughts on that very topic here.

I would also be irresponsible not to include this article about potential hypocrisy on the part of the Greens or this one responding to it.

Let’s chat everybody! What do you think?

A Community on Mission...with Jesus as King: King Jesus

embraceparadox:

"We proclaim Jesus Christ as LORD…" ~1 Corinthians 4:5b

One of the earliest creeds of the Church was simply “Jesus is Lord.”

What does it mean to be a community on mission with Jesus as King (Lord)?

It looks like the rest of verse 5: “we proclaim…ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.”

A Community on Mission…with Jesus as King: King Jesus

"We proclaim Jesus Christ as LORD…" ~1 Corinthians 4:5b

One of the earliest creeds of the Church was simply “Jesus is Lord.”

What does it mean to be a community on mission with Jesus as King (Lord)?

It looks like the rest of verse 5: “we proclaim…ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.”

Jesus came to break the power of sin. If sin is the choosing of self over others, then the reverse of that becomes our mission under the lordship of Christ: to choose others over self.

Paul gives us an idea of what this looks like in verses 10-12:

"Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” 

As the people who live under the kingship of Jesus, we trust our King (verse 13) because we have been given the power to do what we could not do on our own (verse 7).

We do “everything for [each other’s] sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God” (verse 15).

It is God’s glory to recreate the world with a King who gave up everything for the sake of others, and who is followed by those who live by his example of self-giving.

The World Vision Debacle (OR “Now 10,000 Kids Will Starve…Good Job Everybody!”)

So I stayed out of the whole “World Vision is hiring gay people, so let’s drop our sponsorships” ordeal.

Sometimes, it’s just good to sit back and take in the landscape and watch people’s reactions.

One interesting reaction I saw was from Dr. Michael Brown in Charisma magazine (a Pentecostal publication).

He said that World Vision betrayed the Church as well as the Lordship of Jesus. He advised Christians to jump ship, sponsor children through other organizations, and that World Vision was responsible before God for the children who would be left high and dry.

Here’s the problem with that.

Those dropped sponsorships. Those children.

As hard as it is for some to believe, those children are real people.

Theoretically, a good sponsor should keep in touch with their child, writing letters or perhaps even visiting them should they ever happen to be in their country of origin (my youth pastor did this in Honduras, which led to an expansion of our church’s mission in that nation).

I wonder if those 10,000 sponsors wrote their children one last letter, and I wonder what those letters said.

Perhaps they explained that the organization their support was channeled through was letting gay couples work for them, so now you’ll have to starve and find a new hope for your future. Good luck not falling through the cracks! Let’s get lunch in a few years if you are lucky enough to make it to adulthood with an education, or better yet, your very life.

World Vision is not without fault here.

They bluffed the Evangelical community, and they lost.

What did they wager? The livelihoods and futures of many young children who were depending on their sponsors.

So…

The Evangelical community forgot that the children they were sponsoring are real people.

World Vision made a bluff which they lost…and then they recanted when they experienced the fall out. Whatever principles they were standing up for weren’t even followed through with.

Let’s tally up the scoreboard:

Evangelicals: 0 - 10,000. There are 10,000 losses here, and there is no guarantee that these kids will be able to pick up new sponsors. We dangled a carrot of hope in front of these kids, who should have been extensions of our own families, and then we unadopted them and cut them off.

World Vision: 0 - 10,002. Not only did they lose a bunch of sponsorships, but they didn’t even have the courage to stand their ground. This leaves the LGBT community feeling betrayed, and the Evangelical community feels betrayed. Now BOTH groups see World Vision as weak and spineless. World Vision made no friends with this move.

LGBT: 1 - 1. The LGBT community has a huge win here. They have seen a clear demonstration that in the Christian world, the priority of starving/adopted children will always be trumped by the issue of gay marriage. Always. This will gain them more sympathy in the public eye. It’s a loss for them because World Vision went back on their word.

The 10,000 Kids: 0 - DEATH.

Good job everybody.

Let’s count this as a win.

A Community on Mission...with Jesus as King: Mission

embraceparadox:

"Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother." ~Mark 3:33-35

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not…

A Community on Mission…with Jesus as King: Mission

"Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother." ~Mark 3:33-35

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” ~Luke 14:12-13

"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." ~1 Corinthians 11:1

"For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer…All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation…We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God." ~2 Corinthians 5:14-16, 18-19, 20b

"His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity…thus making peace." ~Ephesians 2:15b

I was raised in a church culture that valued the nuclear family.

While every church I’ve been a part of proclaimed the need to “be saved” and “live holy,” it was very clear to me that blood was thicker than faith commitment in these churches.

Church was done at church, which was separate from our “real family” time.

Some might call this a “Family AND Mission” mentality where boundaries between the two are quite firm.

But this is not the picture which Jesus or Paul paint of God’s community and their mission.

To fulfill God’s mission in the world well, we need something more.

We need to define God’s mission which I believe can be discerned from the Scriptures above.

The goal of the Church is announce and live out the reality that God has reconciled humanity to himself and to each other. Instead of many separate tribes and families, God wants ONE family with him as the Father.

This is accomplished by opening the intimate spaces of our lives to those outside of our bloodlines. We invite them in, and we model not a “Family AND Mission” but a “Family ON Mission.” 

We invite others in, and we model the life of Christ.

Our mission will not be fulfilled without opening ourselves to Jesus’s very real call to us to expand our family to include HIS family, not just on a Sunday, but in our living rooms, dining rooms, and “family” vacations.

A Community on Mission…with Jesus as King: Community

I recently read an article describing the “disease of loneliness.”

Community is important for the very reason that it is meant to fight off feelings of loneliness and isolation, but it does more than that.

Community challenges us to be better, more honest people.

It is dangerous to live in a world in which your ideas and actions go unchallenged.

We should challenge each other’s ideas because “as a person thinks, so they are” (Proverbs 23:7).

Bad ideas can lead to harmful actions.

Additionally, as human beings we are prone to self-deception.

We don’t always want the truth.

We want our opinion.

Oftentimes we cling to an incorrect or harmful opinion out of hurt, abuse, stubbornness, pride, etc., etc.

Community, in its healthiest form, surrounds us with people who can see our blind spots and call us to account before we harm ourselves or others.

Ultimately, I believe community is important because it’s a part of our nature.
Humans have been created in the image of God, a God who is inherently social in nature.

To deny ourselves participation in a committed, honest, self-giving community (into which we give as well) is to deny the image of God in us.

And we become less than we were created to be.

Missio Dei Church

—On The Third Day He Rose Again

A message on the Resurrection I gave this past Sunday.

(Source: missiostream)

A Community on Mission…with Jesus as King: An Introduction

Life is not an island

I have lived as an island before. I have worked an 8-5 job where I went to work, came home, worked on a few hobbies, and went to bed. And repeat.

I am convinced from that time in my life that it is not good “for man (or woman) to be alone.”

It is also not good for man to be purposeless.

There is nothing worse than feeling trapped in a meaningless life.

Finally, there is nothing more fickle than human sentiment.

Sentiment rarely comes from the individual alone.

It usually arises in tandem with the crowd and the age in which we live.

While community and purpose are important, they need something more than human sentiment to ground them.

During my next three posts, I hope to further clarify the importance of these three components:

1) Community

2) Mission

3) The Kingship of Jesus