Author: Stuart Delony

Blessed are the meek, for yours is the Kingdom of God

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Photo by: urban_data

Guest post by Darius Abyecto //

What happens when we talk about Scripture? Our words lay a path that points our feet in a certain direction. Or perhaps, our feet are pointed in the direction laid for us by the words of others. Often, these words follow a trajectory around our centers of gravity, which are points of reference in our immediate context. We tell ourselves stories that flow around these cultural centers, following the path of least resistance. More specifically, we pick and choose those points of reference that correspond to the ways that we understand ourselves in our context. These notions are not revolutionary: that we each read scripture with a lens shaped by our own perspectives and the influence of our tribes.

If we accept this presumption, how might we understand Jesus’ words here? Some have interpreted Jesus’ teaching (or rather, the subsequent Christian tradition) as delaying justice for existing suffering into a transcendent Kingdom. Similarly, some have understood such a subversion as weaker people creating a moral system so that they can exert power over stronger people. Some read this passage as an imperative that the followers of Jesus be meek, whether in possession or in desire. Each of these readings aids in constructing Christian identity, either from the outside as critique, or from the inside as a participant. Is it possible to read this scripture as an imperative to abandon our quest to further construct identity? Is this a case of losing our lives in order to find them?

The Kingdom of God belongs to the meek, as Jesus denotes possession in his statement. Thus, if one does not belong to “the meek”, then one does not possess the Kingdom of God. Jesus also uses a present verb to describe this possession. Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the meek, for yours will be the Kingdom of God.” Unless something has changed since Jesus spoke these words, the meek currently possess the Kingdom of God. Jesus capitalizes this statement of possession by emphasizing that the meek are blessed.

I take away several points of emphasis from Jesus’ statement here, and each point leads me further from a quest to construct some sense of identity. In fact, this statement challenges that quest in its essence. First, if I am not meek, then the Kingdom does not belong to me. Now, as mentioned above, this notion has lead people to reconstruct their identities as “meek” in the past. However, I read this to mean that if I am not meek, then I am sojourning in someone else’s territory when I step foot into the Kingdom of God. I have become the foreigner, the stranger, and the wanderer. Neither bible study, nor donation, nor volunteering, nor virtue purchase a plot of land in this Kingdom.

Subsequently, the ones who possess the Kingdom are blessed. Channeling the ancients, blessed refers to a life of divine favor, or a life to be sought after. If we want to envision “our best life”, then, at least in part, we should expect to be meek. I remember listening to a pastor talk about spending time with a local businessman who had become a multi-billionaire because he wanted to learn from someone who “obviously” had the wisdom and blessing of God. Clearly, this is not what Jesus envisioned. Meek refers to someone who is bent over, cowering, low to the ground, impoverished, and destitute. In other words, the meek are those who have been put on the opposite of a pedestal; they have been put into the pit. Laying low, the meek are often imperceptible in our field of vision. We pass by the meek every day, either averting our eyes so that we can avoid inconveniencing our routine self-affirmations, or simply gazing through the meek, as they are unworthy of our attention. The meek are a difficult group to pose for our standard, as they are invisible to our eyes.

So, if I am not meek, then what am I? Jesus’ teaching makes me become a question to myself. Rather than declaring myself blessed, I ask for mercy, because I am not the blessed. Rather than asking to be sought out or listened to, I would rather seek out and listen to those who are nearly impossible to see. I need to see rather than be seen. In an age of pictures, opinions, rationales, posts, likes, subcultures, logos, brands, bylines, and buzzwords, Jesus’ words here tear down rather than construct. I am not. Or maybe, I need to learn from those who don’t quite have an “I am”, or whose “I am” sits like Lazarus being licked by the dogs. Rather than build a temple to myself, should I not search under every stone to find the meek, the blessed, sitting just outside the gate? These are the ones who possess the Kingdom, and these are the ones that are our blessed.


Darius Abyecto
Polymath, zenarchist and all around monkey wrencher. My passions include reading the fine print, making lists, and the Bourse du Travail. I always learn from the mistakes of others who take my advice. Currently pursuing a PhD in the architecture of pits and wells.

What’s Good // What’s Bad 1.31.17

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good // bad

This is a new weekly feature giving you the best of what’s good and what’s bad out there in the snarkiverse. This content is explored more in-depth on our weekly radio show, Snarky Faith, so you should check that out too. Without further adieu… here’s your rundown this week of the good, bad and ugly of the interwebs. Enjoy!

• When one thinks about the state of Mississippi, what comes to your mind? Progressive thought? A full mouth of teeth? Perhaps, indoor plumbing? Well, none of those may be standard in MS, but State Representative, Tom Weathersby, has finally found the key to fixing the armpit of the United States and [spoilers] it’s not deodorant or education. Weathersby’s contribution is putting a stop to… [wait for it] saggy pants. God bless our public servants their ineptitude knows no bounds! [Huff Post]

• Like Starbucks coffee and immigrants? Well, this is for you. Starbucks has said it will hire 10,000 refugees worldwide in next 5 years. It’s a beautiful, bold move that has some boycotting the franchise. Well done, Starbucks… you’ve always had my gold-card-love business and will continue to do so!  [NPR]

Stranger Things won big at the SAG awards with is amazing in itself, but David Harbour’s (Chief Hopper) speech brought the house down. It was eloquent and timely. Bonus points for Winona Ryder’s coked out reactions while on stage. Wino Forever! Sadly, no one thanked Barb for her sacrifice. RIP Barb. You are not forgotten.

• Feeling like you took a bottle of crazy pills when you read the news lately? Well, all I can offer you is some delightful escapism. Ryan Adams covers Radiohead’s Karma Police as an anthem of dissent. It’s beautiful, haunting and timely. Adams finds gold in the ashes & fire of our current crisis.

• I know that everything seems wibbly wobbly right now, but David Tennant assures us that everything will be alright. He is The Doctor, so I’m inclined to believe him. Allons-y!

If you see any snark-worthy news, feel free to send it us: questions@snarkyfaith.com. Have a great week!

 

What’s Good // What’s Bad 1.24.17

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good // bad

This is a new weekly feature giving you the best of what’s good and what’s bad out there in the snarkiverse. This content is explored more in-depth on our weekly radio show, Snarky Faith, so you should check that out too. With out further adieu… here’s your rundown this week of the good, bad and ugly of the interwebs. Enjoy!

• McDonald’s apparently wanted to give you options for the ways you got diabetes. They’re now testing out different sizes of the Big Mac. Way to Make America Fat Again! Buda bump ba ba! [Ad Age]

• Feeling a little crazy living while living in Trump’s bizarro world? Like maybe you lost your mind? Well, a truck driver in Indiana lost his marbles… all 38,000 pounds of them. His loss is our snarky gain. If your day is bad, just know that his was much worse. [Huff Post]

• Port-a-potty conspiracy at the inauguration? Apparently, the D.C. septic provider, Don’s Johns, found his toilet signage taped over during last week’s event. Can’t the Don, take a joke? Or was this more of a metaphor for the next four years? Either way, it’s always good to find a reason to laugh while the world is going down the crapper. [CNN]

• Need some escapism? Sure, we all do. Well, Vimeo is premiering several Sundance Film Festival shorts over on their platform. [Vimeo]

• British comedian, Jonathan Pie, has a beautiful and NSFW way he articulates what many of us are thinking about the Trump inauguration speech and the state of the world. Tragedy, meet comedy. Did I mention that it’s NSFW?

• If you can push past the accent, Slovenian psychoanalytic philosopher, Slavoj Žižek, has some intriguing ideas about the 2016 election and paints a hopeful future… just not in the way you think.

• At least the Dutch have a warm welcome for our new President… well sort of. Or to put it in their own words, “Because we realize it’s better for us to get along, we decided to introduce our tiny country to him. In a way that will probably appeal to him the most.” Thank you, Netherlands!

If you see any snark-worthy news, feel free to send it us: questions@snarkyfaith.com. Have a great week!

 

What’s Good // What’s Bad 1.17.17

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This is a new weekly feature giving you the best of what’s good and what’s bad out there in  the snarkiverse. This content is explored more in-depth on our weekly radio show, Snarky Faith,  so you should check that out too. With out further adieu… here’s your rundown this week of the good, bad and ugly of the interwebs. Enjoy!

•Pharma Bro (Martin Shkreli) gets a surprise that I feel is my doo-ty to share with you. I don’t condone this type of behavior, but I do find it a bit funny and oh, so satisfying.

check out NY Daily News

•With the Trump inauguration around the corner, could I interest you in some comic books featuring his best tweets? Hello, escapism, my old friend…

check out Huffington Post

•Taco Bell Debuts the Naked Chicken Chalupa, a taco in which the shell is made completely of fried chicken. And I thought that Taco Bell was only good for diarrhea… yo quiero heart attack anyone?

check out USA Today

•Man counts to 100,000 live on YouTube because… well, just because. And yes, he has over 100,000 hits on YouTube already. So if any of you forgot how to count, this should help.

•Is popculture having a metaphysical moment? I’m not sure, but if Westworld and The OA are any inkling, call me intrigued.

check out Religion New

•Russell Brand may annoy you, but he certainly has some very good questions about the current political climate, how we got here, and what to do next?

If you see any snark-worthy news, feel free to send it us: questions@snarkyfaith.com. Have a great week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Ultimate Thanksgiving Survival Guide

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How to survive thanksgiving
How to survive Thanksgiving and live to tell the tale

 

Thanksgiving happens tomorrow! If you think you can just saunter into the holiday feast without preparation, you, my friend, are sorely mistaken. I’m not talking about food prep. I’m not talking about getting your house clean. I’m talking about preparing for dinner conversations. If you go in unarmed, it could lead to a social and emotional massacre. So here is your ultimate Thanksgiving Survival Guide. 

Think about the volatility that has fractured this country post-election. The protests and the civil unrest doesn’t take time out for turkey and stuffing. No, it will merely hide under the surface during conversational pleasantries. These pleasantries, like the hors d’oeuvres, will soon evaporate leading you right into the main course. My goal here is to bridge that gap between small talk and your tryptophan-induced, post-meal coma. The objective is to steer clear of political talk… at all costs! 

So take it from your snarky friend and follow these steps.

The Ultimate Thanksgiving Survival Guide 

First, have some Thanksgiving themed trivia to keep the conversation going so your racist Aunt Helen doesn’t go full Sieg Heil while passing the gravy. I’ve listed ten useful bits of trivia below. Use at your own discretion.

Secondly, have some facilitation questions to keep everything light-hearted and chatty while avoiding the Nuremberg Rally-esque diatribes of some of your guests. Remember, people love talking about themselves. So keep ’em chatty and there should be little room to talk about politics.

Finally, if all else fails, have a few emergency recipes as a ripcord you can pull to release your inebriated parachute. This is a failsafe, last-ditch effort, but memory loss and blacking out can be your friend. You just need to secure a designated driver early in the day or there’s always Uber. Included below are some recipes that will do the trick.

So remember to follow these tips and put them into action immediately when you hear the first mention of “Making American Great Again” or “Crooked Hillary.”

It is my prayer that you survive this volatile holiday with family and friends. May the only insanity you experience be the mobs of Black Friday because, at least, Black Friday is something in which you choose to participate and not one that you married into. Enter into this gluttonesque holiday with confidence knowing that the biggest dilemma you should face is which belt to wear because you need one that can expand adequately to meet your turkey and stuffing consumption needs. It may be tempting but elastic waistbands are never an option. They’re only the sign of a deeper problem.

Thanksgiving Trivia to dazzle and distract your guests 
  1. Turducken, which is a turkey stuffed with duck with a chicken inside (yes, you read that correctly), has become so popular that stores in Louisiana ship more than 5,000 a week before the holidays.
  2. Back in 1953, Swanson overestimated the number of turkeys it was going to sell for the holiday by 26 TONS. So, it took the leftover meat plus some trimmings and packaged it all up. Voila! The first TV dinner.
  3. There are actually four places in the United States called Turkey. Louisiana’s Turkey Creek is the most populous with an impressive 440 residents. Then, there’s Turkey, Texas; Turkey, North Carolina; and Turkey Creek, Arizona. And last but definitely not least, there are two townships in Pennsylvania named Upper Turkeyfoot and Lower Turkeyfoot!
  4. Forget Black Friday, according to Roto-Rooter, the nation’s largest plumbing service, Thanksgiving is the busiest day for plumbers. So eat up folks… the plumbers need your help.
  5. No more ‘gobble gobble.‘ Only the male turkeys, called Toms, make the gobble sound. The females, called Hens, cackle.
  6. Uncle Frank isn’t the only one at the table prone to heart attacks. Turkeys have them too. When the Air Force conducted test runs for breaking the sound barrier, fields of nearby turkeys would drop dead.
  7. More than 40 million green bean casseroles are served on Thanksgiving.
  8. Twenty percent of cranberries eaten are eaten on Thanksgiving.
  9. The Guinness Book of Records states that the greatest dressed turkey weight recorded for a turkey is 86 lbs, at the annual “heaviest turkey” competition held in London, England on December 12, 1989.
  10. Columbus thought that the land he discovered was connected to India, where peacocks are found in considerable number. He believed turkeys were a type of peacock (they’re actually a type of pheasant). So he named them “tuka”, which is “peacock” in the Tamil language of India.
Thanksgiving Conversation Starters
  1. What is your favorite Thanksgiving Tradition?
  2. Who is someone you need to show more gratitude for and why?
  3. What was your most memorable meal of the year?
  4. Black Friday: thumbs up or thumbs down?
  5. What are your favorite stories to tell?
  6. What pop-culture family reminds you most of your own?
  7. What movie should definitely be nominated for an Oscar this year?
  8. What is your favorite part of winter?
  9. Discuss how a cup of coffee, or a good song, or a painting can have a deep impact on you?
  10. What have you been obsessed with the most in 2016?
Emergency Inebriation Options For Survival
  1. The “Healthy” Option – Mix Vodka (you choose the amount) in a glass with ice and add 1 packet of orange-flavored Emergen-C. Boost that immune system while you kill your liver. Two steps forward with two steps back? Perhaps, but keep these things coming and you’ll soon be able to tune out those racist relatives. Just keep telling yourself, “This is healthy…”
  2. The “Sneaky” Option – Open up a beer (any kind will do), take a deep swig then fill that space in your bottle with whiskey. You can keep refilling and nursing that one beer all day. If anyone asks, reply, “This is my first beer…” You’re not technically lying.
  3. The “College Flashback’ Option – Remember your old friend, Jägermeister? Yeah, it was nasty but did the trick. One way to cut the taste and make it a bit more palatable is to add root beer. Finding the right mixer is always key.

Bonus: Always remember to bring a full flask to events like these, you never know when you need an emergency ration. If all else fails, just excuse yourself from the table for a moment, drain the flask and then enjoy the rest of your day. 

thanksgiving-meme-bach-bach-bach1

Don’t be a turkey! take this ultimate thanksgiving survival guide, own the day and make it yours.

Get Out and Vote!

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On the eve of Super Tuesday, I have only one message for you… get off your butt and vote! Sure, there’s plenty of reasons as to why not vote, but I’ll give you three compelling reasons to go out and vote.

I know. I know that you’re feeling disenfranchised about the whole electoral process and I’m with you on that. It’s a broken system run by broken people… but the same could be said for the institutionalized church. A handful of you show up a few Sundays a month to waste an hour of your time, so I digress. Here are my 3 main reasons to get out and vote.

Here are my 3 main reasons to get out and vote:
  1. It’s your minimum, basic, civic duty as a citizen of this country. Voting is like paying for parking tickets, watering your lawn or being picked for jury duty. No one enjoys it, but it’s kind of like the kale…  we know in the long run that it’s part of the greater good. So hold your nose and enter the voting booth.
  2. There are other issues and candidates at stake. I hear your pain, no one wants to go on a double date with the Orange Don or Crooked Hillary. I completely understand. They’re like that couple that keeps texting you to hang out. When it comes to voting, there are more pressing issues on the ballot than those dysfunctional two with power issues. I voted early and there were 26 other issues on the ballot. If you can’t stomach the options for commander and chief, just remember that there are other things going on in the country and your local community. Let your voice be heard.
  3. If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain for the next four years. Yes, I know that harping and complaining about politics is an American pastime, but if you don’t go and vote I’m not going to let you have that right. You’ve been revoked. If you can’t bother to get up off your butt and vote… you just need to remain silent for the next four years in regards to politics. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Shush.

Needless to say, voting often doesn’t make a huge difference in the big races, but in the smaller local races, it can be a big deal. Complain all you want about so many things… but just complain to yourself as you wait in line on Super Tuesday to vote.

 

The Line Between Sacred Versus Secular

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Picture by: Georgie Pauwels
Everywhere, wherever you may find yourself, you can set up an altar to God in your mind by means of prayer.
– St. John Chrysostom

A few weeks ago, I was preaching at a church and my friend, Joe Sanchez, was leading worship. One of my passions has been to find ways to work secular songs into the worship portion of a church service. I love the way truth can permeate through an honest song. That rarely happens in modern worship music. Joe reworked Jeff Lynne’s song, Lift Me Up, and it became a beautiful addition to my morning message.

I thought I’d share it with you. Enjoy.

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In contemporary Christianity, we draw all sorts of lines that end up being unhealthy. Those lines warp the lens of how we see culture. They also warp how we live out the ways of Jesus.

Look no further than social media to see how many Christians like to share their love in the form of accusations, finger-pointing and hateful, name-calling. I’d rather they trade the strong talk for a strong drink. The sad fact is that much of Christianity has an issue with seeing things in a metric of sacred versus secular. It’s a division that’s borne out of the pit of hell (if you believe in hell) and something far, far away from the life God calls us to.

When Christ looked at people… he simply saw people. He didn’t see the labels or judgment. How have we so easily lost this in the church?

Once we start seeing people as the other or put value judgments on them, we cease to see their humanity. When we cease to see the humanity in others, we no longer see them as a person created in the image of God. If we can’t see God’s creations anymore we most likely can’t see God at work in the world. At that point, our faith becomes twisted and rigid and then it spirals downward towards bitterness. Then the cycle continues. Wash, rinse and repeat.

To grab hold of Jesus means we must love. It’s not a conditional command. It’s not a commandment with exceptions. Loving others is just that plain and simple. All of life is spiritual. It’s almost as if Jeff Lynne was echoing Jesus when it said, “love is what I want.” There are no boundaries besides the ones we make. To simply push the point further, I’ll refer to Madeline L’Engle who put it so eloquently by saying, “There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.” This includes every decision we make and every judgment we cast. We are either choosing to embrace that fact that life is spiritual and God is at work or not. So if we’re not living that way, can we really call ourselves followers of Christ?

We can’t be in the business of lifting others up out of their brokenness if we’re in the business of keeping them there. To begin to see the sacred in the secular begins to change the way we engage with the world. It takes the focus off of us and places it in God’s hands where beautiful things await us.

Honesty, Faith and Doubt

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The beauty of the honesty, faith and doubt of a child

If you want to make something like cookies or pancakes, there are always essential ingredients that you’ll find common between most recipes. Eggs, flour, and oil are among those that you’ll find over and again. When it comes to believing in something greater… I assume we’d get a wild spectrum of answers of the essential elements depending on your religious upbringing or current indoctrination.

I stumbled upon this piece of paper (pictured above) a few weeks ago on the floor at church. I can only assume it’s from a child, but I found it absolutely fascinating, beautiful… and genuine.

There were three key ingredients at play here: honesty, faith and Doubt all mixed together. I believe that these ingredients are absolutely essential for one’s spiritual journey.

I was raised Southern Baptist and in that vein of Christianity, “knowing” was always paramount… but not in the spiritual sense. It was more about intellectualism. You have to know all the right facts and those facts would bring you closer to God. Doubt had no place because the belief was all about possessing information much like you do when preparing for a test. You study hard and hopefully get a good grade.

But in faith there are no grades, right? The Southern Baptists would agree with that statement in theory, but in practice, that’s another story. When it comes to grading, one quick way to lose points is being too honest and/or doubting. Let me exactly qualify what I mean by grading. There’s no overt scale at play, but there is a significant amount of judgment happening by the other church members and clergy. You’re judged on what you say, how you look, what you do and what you think. You need to look and act like the rest of the herd in order to be accepted. It’s more of a social construct than a religious practice.  Over my career, I’ve worked for a spectrum of Christian brands: Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist and non-denominational. These rules apply to all of them.

Now, let’s return to the picture. I think there’s a reason that Jesus mentioned the faith of a child in Matthew 18, and he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Children are filled with wonder, but they are also filled with questions. Incessant questions. As a father, I’ve experienced this wide-eyed curiosity firsthand. Initially, it annoyed me. They saw me as the answering machine. Over time, it changed. I’ve learned to love their questions. Actually, their questions have changed and stretched me.

To proceed in this conversation, let us add a few clarifying definitions to this conversation. I’ll inject some varied voices into this as they may help to define these terms.

Honesty by Ayn Rand

“As the refusal to fake reality, honesty consists in a deliberate, principled renunciation of any evasion, distortion, misrepresentation, or artifice. In essence, honesty means not pretending.”

Faith by Pete Rollins

“The word “faith” is a much-misunderstood term. In contemporary discourse, it often means the act of believing in something that lacks empirical evidence, something that one affirms through intuition, the interpretation of a particular personal experience or the interpretation of a publicly observable phenomenon.  However the term, in its more theological sense, has much more in common with a particular way of living.”

Doubt by Lesley Hazleton

“Consider that doubt… is the heart of the matter. Abolish all doubt, and what’s left is not faith, but absolute, heartless conviction. You’re certain that you possess the Truth — inevitably offered with an implied uppercase T — and this certainty quickly devolves into dogmatism and righteousness, by which I mean a demonstrative, overweening pride in being so very right, in short, the arrogance of fundamentalism.”

To cultivate any healthy, spiritual community, we have to realize that doubt and honesty are just as essential as faith. If you eliminate one, the rest fall by the wayside. To embrace this idea takes courage and risk, which is why it rarely happens. Belief in anything always brings with it risk and the unknown. Think about love, for instance, there is no guarantee. But the reason we risk things for love is that the rewards, the upside, is worth it. When you love others and take on faith that they love you… it takes courage.

When it comes to the church, risk left through the back door long ago. Then soon after that, courage joined up with it in the parking lot. Christianity without risk and courage isn’t a movement anymore… it becomes an institution. Jesus didn’t come to set up institutions, they were one of the reasons he railed against the establishment. Institutions survive by keeping themselves afloat. Their existence becomes all about themselves and people become secondary. Now, again they may argue that fact in theory, but their practice says otherwise.

Why does this matter? Well, it’s everything. If the foundation from which you operate is fundamentally flawed, then the outcome won’t be what you want. With each passing year, the institution looks and acts less and less like the one who started the movement. The question to ask here is, does the church today look like Jesus?

But all is not lost. It doesn’t take much to right the ship and I’d wager to say that embracing a mixture of honesty, faith, and doubt is the key.

The first step is allowing doubt to breathe. It’s essential in this journey forward. Antionette du Liger de la Garde Deshoulieres once said, “seeking to know is only too often learning to doubt.” The fear is that doubt leads to more doubt, but in truth, if you pair doubt with belief and honesty, beautiful things can happen. Sure it’s a risk, but nothing great is ever accomplished without risk. It also takes courage that God is at work in the lives of others which is one of the basic beliefs of Christianity.

Looking back at that picture I found, I want there to be a place where that child can grow on their spiritual journey while expressing their doubts and questions in a safe environment. For the church to look more like Jesus, we must realize that belief needs to have a mixture of honesty, faith and doubt cultivated with one another in a loving community. That’s how we transition from an institution back to a movement. It’s how we return the beauty and mystery to Christianity.

Check out the #30SecondBible

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30secondbible

I was recently contacted about Jim Kast-Keat’s latest project: The #30SecondBible. When I first read the title, I laughed. How can someone summarize a book of the Bible in 30 seconds? Well, I was wrong.

Their website describes the project like this:

“The #30SecondBible series features dozens of voices reflecting on the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, you will hear summaries of each book and reflections on the good news they contain. This is the Bible for busy people, thirty seconds at a time.”

These bite sized snippets are rich with insight and perspective. It’s been a joy to watch through them during this Lenten season. The different videos feature contributors from the likes of Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Diana Butler Bass, Rev. John C. Dorhauer, Rev. Emily Scott, Doug Pagitt, Rev. Will Gafney, Ph.D., Kent Dobson, Mike McHargue, Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Rev. John Russell Stanger, and more.

Here’s a taste of Leviticus in 30 seconds:

Do yourself a favor and check out this creative, rich and insightful project.

twitter.com/ThirtySOL

facebook.com/ThirtySOL

youtube.com/c/ThirtySecondsOrLess

The Church and Kevin Roberts

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When any of us look at the American church, it’s so easy to see a myriad of problems. It’s similar to a kid’s birthday party with a piñata where everyone knows it’s there, and the entire purpose of a piñata is to smash it to bits.

When looking at the problems of the church, some of the big ones would be lack of diversity, fear-mongering and a political erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction and the church… what? Well, it’s like a dose of Viagra and always pops up in the wrong situations. Think of all of the Christian boners: Franklin Graham, Ted Cruz and basically anyone who visits the creation museum. Those are easy targets because they stick out and are akin to punching a kitten.

That’s not what I want to talk about. I actually want to dialogue about something more sinister; something that lies below the surface. Something evil that happens every Sunday in pulpits and in fellowship halls. I’m talking about how Christians like to classify people.

We assume there are the good ones and the bad ones, right?  There are either the just plain evil ones or backsliding ones (hello people who happen drink or watch Deadpool). It’s judgy and an aphrodisiac of most conservatives. It excites them in a dirty, dirty way. Even the term backsliders sounds like something you find streaked in the rear of your tighty whiteys. No one wants that. Essentially it harkens us back to those old, silent, keystone cop films. There are the good guys and the bad guys. Everyone knows which is which. It’s just that simple, right?

But faith, lived out well, is never that easy.

So that brings me to Saturday Night Live. Take for instance the recent SNLs sketch called FBI Simulation, and it features the elusive Kevin Roberts. Who is Kevin Roberts? That’s a fair question. And the answer is: He’s the coolest bitch in town. 

Take a moment to watch it here:

Viewing this sketch, reminds me of one of the central problems of Western American Christianity… our sin of judging others. We take a cursory view of people, and then presume to know their stories, ambitions and motivations.

The sketch surrounds FBI recruits at a simulated gun range where they have to make spit-second decisions on who’s the good guy and who’s a threat. That’s where Kevin Roberts enters. He’s an animatronic enigma that doesn’t seem to fit into reality. Is he good? Is he bad? Why does he want a donut? No one may ever know.

In the church, we tend to respond to the Kevin Roberts of the world like the cadet in the sketch does… he shoots the guy that doesn’t fit the predisposed mold of good guy or bad guy. Roberts doesn’t make sense in our paradigm, and in return must be taken out like he’s bad.

We all do this in life. We judge others, fitting people into our preconceived notions and killing off anyone that doesn’t fit into our assumptions. It’s black vs. white. It’s good vs. bad. It’s boiling down the world into a simplistic way that makes us feel comfortable. If we know who is outside the tribe, then we know who is the “other” or bad guy.

But Kevin Roberts breaks the convention. The mould doesn’t fit. It presses us to think beyond our simple categories and classifications. He doesn’t fit into an easy type. So what do we do? We kill off the outliers. If they don’t fit, they must be bad.

The problem isn’t with the categories… it’s with us… the Christians. When we look at Jesus, he defied classifications, and always moved to the marginalized in society. He gravitated away from the one percenters and the religiously pious because they assumed that they had already figured out life. Their belief system was already stagnant and set in stone. There was nothing he could do with people that have already assumed that they have figured “it” out.

But the Christian faith isn’t about those people… even though they populate our American churches and sing our hymns. They’re pious posers… like Kylie Jenner on Instagram posting to women the picture of beauty while actually being the epitome of plastic surgery and fallacy. We worship the thing we hate most. But I digress in the snarky jabs of pop culture that verge on becoming the very situation that I’m raging against. My apologies.

Back to SNL. In the sketch, the FBI trainee stuck in the simulation decries, “If being a field agent means dealing with human puzzles like Kevin Roberts, maybe I belong behind a desk.”

If we as Christians assume that our role in God’s Kingdom is to be the guy behind the desk, or the bouncer or door keeper of who says who doesn’t get in… then we’ve missed the entirety of Scripture. Our call as the faithful is be loving, caring and welcoming of those who don’t fit into society’s assumptions and categories. Simply put, we are called to love those that others don’t love. We are called to love everyone who exists outside of our man made boundaries and classifications.

Basically put by Jesus and the Jewish tradition that came before him, we are called to love our neighbors. In the scriptural context, our neighbor is anyone outside of ourselves. With this, there is no room to judge others.