Tag: Christ

Fun with Authoritarianism

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a snarky take on Christian power structures

Who doesn’t love a good dose of authoritarianism? We’ve seen Trump’s desire to rule without boundaries. We’ve seen it in Jerry Falwell Jr. and other Christian leaders exercise it. No one seems to like the idea of authoritarianism, but Christians continue to accept and embrace it in the local church. The church was never meant to be an exclusive club ruled by an iron fist and a Bible. It was also never meant to be run by tyrants called pastors, yet it happens every day from a majority of clergy in America. Do we have to stand for this? No. Let’s talk about how this happens and how to move past these little men that are drunk on imaginary power. It’s not the way the church was meant to be run or practiced.

Come along for the ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.

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America and the Empathy Problem

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Guest post by Kelly Triplett //

My day started like any other day… in the darkness before dawn, where a screaming baby, with no patience for my morning stumble, demands his first breakfast.  Before my brain could even comprehend a new day has started, I sat down to feed “the dude.”  Picking up my phone, I catch up on all the important things going on in the world… i.e. check who commented on my witty Facebook status, pin multiple DIY projects on Pinterest that I will probably never do, and finally, check the news to keep up with what’s happening in the world. Many days, I have sat in the darkness of the pre-dawn hour saddened by the atrocities happening around the world, but not this day. I experienced a myriad of emotions I rarely feel together ranging from anger to embarrassment.

The headline at the very top of the page read, “We Don’t Want Them Here.”

Only moments before reading this headline, I scrolled past images in my newsfeed of Jesus standing over Trump in the Oval Office and even carrying suitcases back to the White House. I’m thinking neither of these is very accurate considering they probably didn’t have suitcases back in Jesus’ day, and Jesus wasn’t white.  Maybe I’m wrong, or maybe they’re just alternative facts… I digress…

There are many things wrong with these sentiments, but what stood out to me so very early on this particular day was the juxtaposition of these memes against the reality of what is currently happening in our country. Trump is being hailed as an advocate for life and for Christian principles, yet this administration has blatantly turned it’s back (and, by default, our backs) on those who are in desperate, life and death situations.

People who are marching in the streets are told to suck it up, called snowflakes, and told how appreciative they should be to live in a great country like America. All the while, what we should be asking is why are you marching? If millions of people are hitting the streets to protest the travel/Muslim ban (insert BLM, women’s rights, etc… here), we should realize that there is a group of people who are hurting. That should be enough for us to question our methods and go seek change. Instead, we have the complete division between those who are hurting and those who are privileged enough to not have to worry. From the comfort of my home, I have watched the crisis unfold in Syria, and I cannot wrap my head around the degree of suffering these people have endured. As I hold my two-month-old in my arms, I try to put myself in the shoes of a woman fleeing for her life with her child in her arms. Tears stream down my face as I remember these are the people we are denying a safe haven.

What do I want to ask my friends and family who truly believe that Trump is bringing back conservative Christian values to this country: Where is the empathy? Where is the compassion? If we were faced with the same life and death situations these refugees are running from, would we not hope that someone would be brave enough to take us in? Bible 101 teaches us to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? The Samaritan. The one who is considered to be the lesser. As a Christian, I am not told to help those who hold the same belief system, those who look like me, or those who can help me get ahead in life. I am called to show the love of Christ.

By this point, you’re probably asking “What exactly is this post? A pessimistic rant about the state of our nation?” Maybe…but what if we turned it into a call to action. There are people hurting in our world. More importantly, there are people hurting in our neighborhood. What if we could step outside of ourselves for even a brief moment each day and seek these people out in order to ask them how we can help? If we can’t help, maybe we can listen. There is a deficit of listeners in this country. We can fill that void. And maybe, just maybe, we could inspire the change we seek in this world. What America needs most is empathy.


Kelly Triplett
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Kelley is a woman of many questions and very few answers. Unfinished projects, awkward silences, and karaoke top her most hated list while good beer, a solid community, and puppies top her most loved. She is realistic to a fault, but has hope that all things have the potential for change.

Resurrection

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banksy

resurrection announces that God has not given up on the world
because this world matters
this world that we call home
dirt and blood and sweat and skin and light and water
this world that God is redeeming and restoring and renewing

greed and violence and abuse they are not right
and they cannot last
they belong to death and death does not belong

resurrection says that what we do with our lives matters
in this body
the one that we inhabit right now
every act of compassion matters
every work of art that celebrates the good and the true matters
every fair and honest act of business and trade
every kind word
they all belong and they will all go on in God’s good world
nothing will be forgotten
nothing will be wasted
it all has it’s place…

– Rob Bell

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Let’s Kill the War on Christmas

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Let’s make a pact. Let’s do it now while it’s still early. I mean right now.

Let’s make a promise to abstain from the following phrases or even engaging in conversations about said phrases:

  • There’s a War on Christmas
  • Keep Christ in Christmas
  • Jesus is the Reason for the Season

We’ve got to get a handle on this before it gets out of hand. It’s already starting to ramp up and we haven’t even hit Thanksgiving yet. I’ve recently heard Bill O’Reilly and Pat Robertson talking (separately) about it and anytime those two are on the same page you know you’ve got a recipe for trouble (and plenty hot air). It needs to stop now.

How do you put a stop to this annual bemoaning? First, just pretend you’re at Hogwarts and these phrases are to be treated just like mentioning He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. We won’t speak of it. If you hear someone else bring it up, first go with polite shush. Then, if they continue, feel free to slap them across the face and say “NO!” like you would scold your dog after you caught him peeing on the carpet. I’m just kidding. Well, sort of.

It’s always the same story. Someone can’t display a Christmas tree here or a plastic baby Jesus there. Then the Christians get up in arms about their rights being violated. I would like to present you with an alternative viewpoint and ask: Does it really matter? Does that glowing nativity on your front lawn really what God meant when said in Matthew 5:16, “let your light shine before others…” Is this really about your Christian faith or is it more about your traditions? This whole argument is a waste of time and gives Christians yet another reason to get riled up and blame culture for secularizing this most sacred of commercialized holidays.

Tis the season for Christians to miss the point. Let me ask you this: can anyone take away your devotion to Christ? Or to put it a different way: how much of your holiday season actually revolves around Christ? Is Jesus the reason you’re standing those long lines on black Friday? You can’t have it both ways. It’s either Christ or commercialization. I think that the latter closer embodies our traditions. So just leave the atheists alone. This issue isn’t about them.

If you want to truly celebrate the birth of Christ, go out and follow his commands. Care for the poor, the widow and the orphan. Seek justice where there are people being oppressed. Offer hope to the hopeless. Give of yourself to others. Finishing the verse from Matthew I stated before, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Celebrate Christ this Christmas (and the rest of the year) with your actions by embodying Christ to those around you. That is what matters most.

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Ministry in the Face of the Zombie Apocalypse: part 10

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{continued from part 9 or start at the beginning}

Survival Lesson #10: ZOMBIE MAYBE GONE, BUT THE THREAT LIVES ON…
(Conclusions)

 “The walking dead attack churches for one good reason: It’s where the food is. Despite their education, technical savvy, and professed disinterest in the spiritual world, urban Americans run, screaming to their gods, at the first sight of zombies. These places of worship, crammed with people loudly praying for their souls, have always served as beacons for the undead.”

 – Brooks (p.82)

Learning to live in a new environment, whether post-apocalyptic or post-Christian, you must first survive before you can expect to thrive. As I stand, miles down the road looking back, I am surprised at where the past two years have taken me. I owe much credit to these changes also to my fellow classmates and professors in the MAGL program. They have been better traveling companions that I could have ever asked for, and many will be lifelong friends. Dallas Willard referred to personal development and inner transformation as a “spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself” (Willard Renovation of the Heart p. 22). This spirit-driven process has turned a cynical and jaded pastor with a profound distrust and distain for the institutional church into a new church planter. I have been refined, cultivated and developed as a leader walking humbly towards this new endeavor. In the next few months, I will be moving across the country and planting a church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I would have never found myself in this position if it were not for the MAGL program; these past two years have been revolutionary in my life.

Moving forward, I see that planting a church in a post-Christian and globalized world is not without its difficulties. Becoming an intentional and incarnational leader that equips a community living in the shadow of these new realities requires rethinking church in terms of diversity, hierarchy, and spirituality. If we are truly to become a church that is both missional and transformational, then we must become incarnational at all costs. Christian ministry in the 21st century is much like surviving a zombie apocalypse. We are not called to be safe; we are called to be survivors that live on mission under the auspice of Christ. “The Christian… does not claim that the world is safe, but only that it is under God’s lordship” (Newbigin A Community of Character p.101). Lastly, “no matter what happens to the surviving humans, there will always be the walking dead,” (Brooks p.157) we just don’t have to be one of them.

Ministry in the Face of the Zombie Apocalypse: part 9

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{continued from part 8 or start at the beginning}

Survival Lesson #9: GET OUT OF THE CAR, GET ONTO THE BIKE.
(New Spirituality) 

“Joy, sadness, confidence, anxiety, love, hatred, fear-all of these feelings and thousands more that make up the human “heart” are as useless to the living dead as the organ of the same name. Who knows if this is humanity’s greatest weakness or strength? The debate continues, and probably will forever.”

– Brooks (p.15)

When living at the end of the world, context is everything. With most decisions seeming like life and death, having the correct perspective is always key. Remember that danger is real, but fear is a choice. Knowing this distinction makes all the difference and will keep you focused in the moment. As with church, a shift towards centered living needs to happen. After rethinking diversity and hierarchy, we must lastly, rethink our approach to spirituality.  “In our busy, noisy world silence is essential to providing a space so that we might notice and pause long enough to hear God speak(Schwanda The Transforming Power of Silence in Personal Prayer and Public Worship). Church in the west has become either about ritual or production; one focuses on tradition, the other entertainment. They both incorporate Christ, but neither does so as a focal point. We need a return to the monastic way of being. By monastic, I mean a communal existence exemplified by prayful, contemplation and intentional living that is centered on the teaching of Christ.

The church must return to the heart of the gospel. In this monastic approach, the spiritual disciplines of Christianity have to be revisited: prayer, meditation, fasting, and living communally with one another. Embracing these practices moves the church from being an institution into being a social movement. It also clears space in our lives for God to speak and move. Living in the post-Christian nation, we are called to live intentionally and act different. “This new way embodies “the never-ending interplay of repentance and remembrance, condemnation and celebration, proclamation and practice” (Ramachandra Faiths in Conflict?  p. 171).

As we look at the beginnings of our church plant, all of our actions will be grounded in these disciplines. It is in this place where we submit ourselves to the Lord and commit our lives to one another in community. It is in this place where we will live out the incarnational reality of Christ. I believe that this is a starting place for transformation. “We need to become people who work as if it all depends of God – because it does, and because that is the best possible news” (Crouch Culture Making p.99).

{continued in part 10}

Ministry in the Face of the Zombie Apocalypse: part 8

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{continued from part 7 or start at the beginning}

Survival Lesson #8: ORGANIZE BEFORE THEY RISE!
(New Hierarchy)

 Unlike its human counterparts, an army of zombies is completely independent of support. It will not require food, ammunition, or medical attention. It will not suffer from low morale, battle fatigue, or poor leadership… Like the virus that gave it life, this undead force will continue to grow, spreading across the body of this planet until there is nothing left to devour.”– Brooks (p.155)

Never underestimate the power of a well thought out plan in the post-apocalyptic world. You may be smarter than a zombie, but they will always outnumber you. This truth must never be overlooked. Just like you can never over live your life; you can never over plan for a situation. No matter how simple it may seem; always be well organized.

The second key change the church must be made is oriented around how we choose to organize ourselves. Our hierarchy for leadership and structure speaks volumes towards the heart of a church without saying a word. “Christian social ethics should not begin with attempts to develop strategies designed to make the world more “just,” but with the formation of a society shaped and informed by the truthful character of the God we find revealed in the stories of Israel and Jesus” (Newbigin A Community of Character p. 92).

Traditionally, church has operated under a top down model for leadership and power. If we look at the Gospels, that is never the case. Christ sends out his disciples, two by two. The church in Acts was driven and expanded as it advanced one relationship at a time. Moreover, in a post-Christian culture, there is a pronounced distrust of church and church leadership which is why I am suggesting the adoption of a polycentric, flat model of leadership where ”leaders interrelate and incarnate the various purposes of Christ in such a way that the entire body is activated to service and matures in love” (Woodward Creating a Missional Culture p.60). Leadership in this structure, cultivates, empowers and equips the congregation to be Christ in the community. It unleashes the church to do the work of the church. Church in this way is poised for action that takes place in the streets, the workplace and the living room. It is interactive, relational and missional. For the church to survive in the 21st century, those who follow Christ must become the catalyst and cultivators of Christianity. This is the only way…

{continued in part 9}