What A Woman Should Be…

I have 3 women in my life and -as one of them turns 18 — I am proud of all of them. They are all what a woman should be. If I think about my family, there are more women, including my sister, an ex-sister-in-law and 4 nieces. As the 18 year old sang in a choir this morning, bought a Unicorn something from Starbucks, and just played basketball, I thought “that’s what a girl or woman should be.

Here’s an actual list of things the women I know are:

A pastor

A social worker

A student

A professor

A great blues/soul/rock singer

A basketball player

A tennis player 

On tech crew for drama and music

A mother

A daughter

College bound

In college

In addition to jobs, they are all:

Capable of making choices

Responsible for their own bodies and what happens with them

At times, in a dangerous world, but safe at home (I think, for all of them.

Smart

Funny

Sarcastic

Kind

Not kind at all sometimes

Overworked

Maybe underpaid 

Sexual

Not sexual

Wants children

Doesn’t want children 

Happy

Sad

A hippie

Christian

Atheist

Deeply faithful
Not as deeply faithful

Of no faith at all

All of them: 

like diversity in their friends

Care for the outsider and oppressed

Have their own opinions

Have their own interests

Are right often

Make mistakes as well

Are who they are
And for the most part, all I have to do is let them be that. Sometimes I have to remind them of who they are and what they can be — how many options they have. i don’t know if that makes me a feminist or not, laissez-faire or concerned enough, but I do believe that any woman on earth ought to be anything on this list. Am I imposing my opinion on the world? I suppose I am. I plan to continue with that.

Resisting with Peace,
John

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Can We Take Back The Word “Evangelical” Now?

I was listening in my car to a podcast from The Nation magazine as they interviewed a woman who had done a history of White Evangelicals (she studied Black Evangelicals as well, but said that was another book altogether). She talked about how 81% of White Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump, because they believe he was most supportive of their agenda. Issues of piety — whether he had 2 divorces and 3 wives or went to church regularly – did not matter to them, though that was the standard that every President since Reagan has been held to. What mattered to them at this moment in time were “fighting terrorism” (The Wall and Muslim Ban) and “economics” (jobs in poor White communities), and “abortion” (they’re against it, really against it, so the Supreme Court choice was vital to their ideology). If I heard it right, 20% of Americans consider themselves this kind of evangelical. I want to be an evangelical and I want to be known as an evangelical, but I never want to be that kind of Evangelical.

                         “Christ for the world we sing/the world to Christ we bring”

For years, those kinds of evangelicals have been claiming that they are “real Christians”, just as conservatives in politics have been claiming that they were “real Americans”. This was so true that many liberal Christians like me gave up using the word. My friend Leigh McCaffrey was the only person I knew in seminary who was both proudly liberal and called herself an Evangelical. She still does. Though we’re different people with different ways, she is closer to the kind of Evangelical I want the world to be full of than all the other “Evangelicals” I know.

I have been told that “Christ for the world we sing” is about colonialism and triumphalism (the “we’re better than anybody else” version of Christianity), and I might not want to sing it in church. Besides just liking the hymn itself, I believe both that we should sing and bring Christ to the world because the world needs what Jesus is selling – not political Jesus or “might makes right, I’m the only way” Jesus, but actual Jesus. By that I mean “love your neighbor as yourself and love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind” Jesus. I believe that what Jesus had to say, and the things that he did while on earth, are, in fact, the best way to live for me. I’m not going to kill you, or even threaten you if you don’t believe the same thing, but it’s my job to put my kind of Jesus on the table of choices. You can’t choose what you don’t know, but if there’s only one way , then you can hardly be seen as having/making a choice.

The first thing to do, it seems to me, is to break the term Evangelical from its political moorings. People who focus on God and Jesus don’t even necessarily believe in having allegiance to countries, so a certain type of allegiance to a country makes less than no sense. One can be a Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian, Social Democrat, and be a Christian. Swearing allegiance to a party or its platform has nothing to do with Christian living. At best, one party might be closer to Jesus’ call than another, but party is not church, and it shouldn’t be. Following Jesus is different – and more important to me – than following Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton or frankly anybody. I want to measure my President by Jesus’ standards, not the other way around.

                                                                     “We sing”?

Wanting to be called an “evangelical” is important because of what “evangel” means. “Evangel” in Greek means “good news” or “gospel”. Wanting the world for your self isn’t good news to anybody. Wanting to take away a woman’s right to choose – to make decisions with good or bad outcomes and thinking she can cope with the decision – is apparently not good news to all those women who marched the day after Trump’s inauguration. “I’m richer than anybody on the face of the earth” isn’t good news to anybody but you. “I’m more important that anyone else” isn’t good news to the rest of humanity. So what is good news? Anything that tells another person they are worthy of love, peace, and happiness is good news. Anything that tells another person that I want them to be the best “them” they can be is good news. Anything that tells of the mercy, grace, justice, peace, of God or Jesus is good news. In short, people know good news when they hear it. Furthermore, people believe good news when you act on it.  

I’m more of a practical guy. I like to see results. I can tell my kids I love them, or I can give them a hug. I can say I believe in equality, or I can have people over for dinner or protect, advocate for or march in support of them. That is what it truly means to be an evangelical – you tell the good news of Jesus through your actions to God and your actions towards others. Jen Chapin has written a song called “gospel” after attending the environmental march and caring about others. That makes her, in my mind, an evangelical, because she understands the very heart of the gospel. Whether she knows it to be Christian or not, she and everyone else understand that what she is saying is good news.

How do you know if you’re bringing the good news to others – other than asking them? The Bible says “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”. Quite simply if you’re doing the things God wants, and you’re modeling the faith of Jesus, you should be feeling those things and acting like you feel them.

So that’s a definition of Evangelical I can get behind, and it so far from the voting pattern in America that I want it back. I want to evangelize with my heart and my actions. I want to draw people to Christ because I have something they think they want. I want to be someone they want to be. I want to act in ways that they know good people do. Right now, I accept that my doing so will confuse them, because of all those other people who have used the term as a term of separateness and power over others. That’s ok. If I do this right, I’ll be the same most of the time, and they’ll have time to get used to it.

A FINAL NOTE: The things I have said above aren’t just true of me, but of almost any colleague of mine that I know. They live their lives the very best they know how, the care, and they hope you’ll see Jesus or God or the Spirit in their life and living. They, too, have been living in a world where somebody stole their word. They want it back, too.

Resisting in peace,

 

John

 

 

 

 

                 

The Weakness of Force: Bullies and Such

It’s back to my mother’s wisdom for me.  She had a way to cut through the BS in life and uncomplicate things that I hope to have learned from her. (That said, of course, there’s the quote about answers being “simple, easy, and wrong”. It’s a balance).  I have really struggled this past week with the whole Syrian Chemical Weapons attack on civilians and Trump’s resultant attack on Syria, seemingly without a clue about what to do next or what it all means.  Mom’s thought is also one to deal with a general malaise that hovers over our society and shows how far off the world is right now, except in certain odd, experienced places. 

Here’s the thought: “If you need to beat somebody up to prove your point, you probably have a weak argument”. The bigger the monster, the more the violence, the worse their cause. 

I don’t know much about Assad or his regime, but if he has to kill 500,000 of the people he rules, it’s a safe bet he hasn’t won their hearts and minds. Their is no intellectual argument that can be made for his being in power. He’s not better than those he’s killed. He’s not smarter, he’s not faster, he’s not more faithful or in control of himself and, if he hadn’t done the killing in the past, he wouldn’t have to continue doing it now. Whatever Assad is selling, if that many people aren’t buying it, he has to be one messed up guy. 

The same applies to Trump and his allies, the fascists, the “alt right”, and neo-cons everywhere. Also, leftist dictators, White supremacists, bullies of any sort, and people that beat up their partners or their children. It’s all the same thing. Here’s the thing: if, for example, White people are superior, people should want to be them. People should admire them because their cause and their behavior are obviously the best thing since sliced bread. But people don’t think that, and in their quest to make people believe them, they have to be violent.  There’s a quote by, I think, HG Wells that says, “violence is for people who have run out of ideas”. 

The only reason to hit someone is if you think they’re a danger to you.  If you believe that someone else is stronger than you, and wants to hurt you, there’s already a problem. It’s their problem. They are already showing themselves to have less moral high ground/self-control than you.  If they are stronger than you, but not threatening you, and you still fear them, you have got a problem. If you go beat them up first, as pre-violent “self-defense”, you know you’ve got a problem. You’re weak, wrong, or both. 

People co-exist all the time without hurting each other. Generally, there is no reason to fight, and most people know this. People who are given respect ought to have earned it. If you’re in power, it ought to be because people want you there and believe in you. 

So, bring out the tanks, warships, weapons, fists, nunchucks, guns, and what have you. I still don’t respect you, and you know it. 

How do I know this? As we approach Easter, and Good Friday, I remember the man who changed the world the most and did it forever. Across time and continents, this man is still spoken of today and he never hit anyone, ever. That’s strength. Assad, Trump, Kim Jong Due, Hitler, and every punk, thug, spouse beater, and terrorist will fade in time, will not be remembered, and certainly not worshipped — and they know it.  Gandhi broke up the British empire without an army. King broke up Jim Crow — at least for a while– without firing a shot. They won hearts and minds. Recently, generals in the Trump administration have said things like, “If you don’t fund diplomacy, you’ll have to spend a lot more on bullets” and “PBS and the arts make us safer than weapons”. These are men who know what they’re talking about. They have been there. People who haven’t have no ground to stand on when they say “violence wins”.  They are idiots. They know not of what they speak. Eisenhower was the same way. 

Anyone who thinks war is the answer hasn’t seen history. Real power comes from having a good idea and having people willingly follow you. That’s respect. That’s power. That’s winning hearts and minds.  That’s what we need to be about if we want to be the greatest … anything.

Oh, and by the way, you could replace the word “violence” with the word “cheating” and it applies as well. Just saying.  If that shoe fits,  wear it.

Resisting with peace,
John