Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Thinking and Reading...A Dangerous Combination

Perhaps the title should have been reading and thinking. I like to read and I like to think, but it seems lately that it's harder and harder to wrap my brain around the things I'm reading. I feel like I'm living in the space between modernity and post-modernity. I can think and align with modernity--it's linear concepts are easy to solve, easy to understand--black and white. But the older I get, the more gray I live in. I'm currently reading three books: Intuitive Leadership by Tim Keel, Not on Our Watch by Don Cheadle & John Prendergast, and A Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. They are all three fascinating books with much to consider.

Tim Keel says in his book, "In post-Christendom, the church is that community of people who look to discover what God is actively doing in the world around them and then join themselves to that work. The church is that community of people gathered around Jesus Christ in order to participate in his life and incarnate it not the context where he has placed them. The invitation from God is for us to start right here, not just the exotic out there." This sounds beautiful. Sign me up. But where? It's not practical enough to fit nicely in my mind...but maybe it shouldn't. Maybe that's the point. Maybe our faith isn't supposed to be neat. I know it's not meant to be compartmentalized. So I struggle with what this looks like.

Then, I visit Washington, D.C. I get riled up about using my voice. I get passionate about changing the systems that keep people impoverished, oppressed, and enslaved. I visit the Holocaust Memorial and hear the words, "Never again." And, I pray that somehow, some way I can make a real difference in the lives of people being destoyed again. So, I read books like Not on My Watch to get a deeper understanding of what's happening in Africa--particularly Darfur. It seems I would know all about 100's of 1,000's of people being murdered, raped, tortured, starved, and displaced. You would think it would consume the news, but it seems we're more interested in the weather or hollywood or the economy. God's children--six million--have been killed in the last couple of decades in this holocaust, and millions more have been driven from their homes. The authors of this book claim, "...the good news is that these horrors can be stopped. It is in our hands: citizen action in the United States and around the world can make a huge difference to the protection and survival of entire communities and peoples." They are calling on us as Americans to use our voices to change policies to save lives. So where are the pastors calling on us as Christians to rise up against such atrocities? Why are we more concerned about the budget and the landscaping and youth center and reaching young families? Why do we operate out of fear? Why do we allow economics to rule?

Richard Stearns says in his book, "For the first time in the history of the human race, we have the awareness, the access and the ability to reach out to our most desperate neighbors around the world. The programs, tools, and technologies to virtually eliminate the most extreme kinds of poverty and suffering in our world are now available. This is truly good news for the poor — but only if we do our part." Stearns believes the combined efforts of 2 billion Christians worldwide, each doing his or her small part, can change the world. I do too.

So, how does the church be the church without being co-opted by the government? How does the church be the church without exercising power and privilege over the marginalized? How does the church be the church when we're never confronted with how to live differently--how to live within the kingdom of God? I'll close with another thought from Tim Keel. He says, "The gospel is not a location to be defended. It is an alternate reality based on the person of Jesus Christ, who has called around himself a new community to live his life out in the world in hope, courage, and joy. We are called to live out our faith in the margins, witnessing to the gospel as communities of disciples following in the ways of our Master, Jesus Christ." I don't know what that looks like, but I know I want to be part of it.