I am proud to be a part of a group of ministers that sees the value of conversation and discussion around important social and theological topics. Thanks to the Longview News-Journal for writing this article and putting us on the cover of View Magazine.
Were the whole realm of Nature mine
That were an offering far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all!
–verse 4, “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross”
My latest for the Longview News Journal.
In a little less than 600 days, Americans will return to the voting booth for another presidential election.
Think about that: 600 days.
We are traveling down a long road many of us remember in 2016 as being ugly, rude, contentious and rhetoric-filled. It makes me wonder: Can we handle another stress-filled election? Will America be even more divided by November 2020?
Already, nearly two dozen candidates have tossed their hats into the ring for nomination by the major political parties. And already, name-calling and smear campaigns are beginning and social media debates are popping up over issues more nuanced than most arguments acknowledge.
Maybe we simply are not ready to have meaningful conversations about policy. So we find ourselves slinging one-liners and memes at others in an effort to prove we’re “right,” to feel superior.
It already feels like it is going to be a long “election” season.
I know this isn’t anything new, but it has become more mainstream. On top of that, many of us have fallen into the trap of thinking we are somehow immune to such behavior; we would never stoop so low as to call adherents to a particular political value demeaning or derogatory names. We would never condense deeply complex issues to 240 characters and an emoji. Would we? I have to admit I do these things from time to time; I struggle not to lash out at those who disagree with me on a variety of issues.
As a follower of Christ, I am called every day to live out my faith in a meaningful and tangible way. Theology of the head is pointless unless it produces faith of the heart. Theologian Paul Tillich once wrote, “There is no faith without participation.” This comes, however, at a great price.
As people of faith, we must examine our beliefs and practices from time to time. Blind allegiance to a belief system is dangerous. There will be times in our walk of faith that go against something else in our world. Maybe it is a political stance or even a previously held theological position. Growing and changing in the faith is a good and natural thing. No one believes the same things they did one, five, seven, or 10 or more years ago.
There is a war of wills happening within people’s hearts. People are finding themselves asking if they can really go against previously held beliefs for the sake of the faith. What will my friends think? More importantly, what will God think? What will my church think, my pastor think? If we are acting out of trying to be right and not trying to live out a position of faith, we have missed the mark.
Before Election Day 2020 comes, conversations about important issue need to take place. These conversations should not be limited to social media platforms where we can hide behind a screen name and block or unfriend someone if they disagree with us. We need to have these conversations face to face. The goal is not to change someone’s mind about how their voting stance is wrong; this is the task of learning, of growing and trying to understand.
Learning from others, hearing different viewpoints, helps us understand their position. Having conversations face to face over lunch or coffee humanizes the other person. Instead of them being a caricature of a political party or idea, they can now be seen as a child of God. This recognition changes the entire framing of the conversation. Instead of being reduced to words on a screen, they are now a human made in the very same image of God, as are we all.
Churches can play a vital role in these conversations. If a church is not the place to ask meaningful questions about how faith can be enacted in the world, then what good is it?
There are many different ways to see an issue and no one has a firm grasp on all of it. On top of that, many people are acting out their faith through their political understandings. How people arrive at those decisions helps us understand the things they deem as important and meaningful.
Between now and November 2020, let’s try to get to know our neighbors, our co-workers, those we go to church with in a better way. I am sure there are people in your social spheres who believe differently than you do. Do not see this as a negative. Rather, see it as opportunity to grow and be pushed to think differently.
If you consume news from one news source alone try to mix it up a bit. Read with an open mind and maybe you will see there is more common ground than you thought.
Sound too simplistic? Maybe. But if we don’t find a way to have meaningful conversations without tearing each other down, it is going to be a long road to Election Day.
One year ago this month a group of ministers in the Longview area started a Theology on Tap group. It has been a great avenue for people to discuss their theology positions and hear new ones to help them get a fuller picture of who God is and what God is doing in the world. Below is a link to an article about the one year anniversary of Theology on Tap.
Picture taken from Longview News-Journal, all rights reserved.
I was honored to give the invocation at the 2019 Stars Over Longview Award Lunch. This event recognizes twelve women who have made an impact on the community. The prayer I gave is below. If you share it, please give proper attribution.
Embed from Getty Images
It’s no secret that we live in an ultra-high paced, interconnected society and world. We are constantly going from one place and headed to another. There are t ball games, dance practices, job requirements, family commitments and everything in between; on top of that there is trying to find quality time with your spouse and/or children and before you know it, it is 10 pm and your “to-do list” has about three things checked off (one of which is “make a to-do list”).
How many times have we exclaimed, “There are not enough hours in the day!”?
While this might be a common feeling, is it something that we have placed on ourselves? Can that email wait until the morning? Do I have really need to volunteer for this?
All the while we are working feverishly we are complaining about not having downtime but when we have the downtime we are guilty of not doing anything. This in lies the problem.
As of people of faith, we have a good guide for how our time and self-care needs to take place but over time it has shifted making sure we attend church to “keep the Sabbath holy.”
In our world of instant communication and work overload, we are not good about the Sabbath-keeping commandment.
Walter Brueggemann wrote a wonderful book about just this problem, Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now.
Discussions about the Sabbath often center around moralistic laws and arguments over whether a person should be able to play cards or purchase liquor on Sundays. In this volume, popular author Walter Brueggemann writes that the Sabbath is not simply about keeping rules but rather about becoming a whole person and restoring a whole society. Importantly, Brueggemann speaks to a 24/7 society of consumption, a society in which we live to achieve, accomplish, perform, and possess. We want more, own more, use more, eat more, and drink more. Keeping the Sabbath allows us to break this restless cycle and focus on what is truly important: God, other people, all life. Brueggemann offers a transformative vision of the wholeness God intends, giving world-weary Christians a glimpse of a more fulfilling and simpler life through Sabbath observance.
Brueggemann weaves his scholarly knowledge of the Old Testament and the modern world into a package that is digestible. He argues that for one to take a break on a Sabbath is to resist the world around them.
As we begin 2019, let us resolve to make more time for our own Sabbath time and resist the world and culture of now, now, now and go, go, go.