Stop Slicing Off Ears

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It is early October.
An election is fast approaching, along with all of its requisite vitriol.
Flag with light
As emotions become more volatile, as words become our weapon of choice, I offer a word of warning. A plea, to myself as well as to you.
I’ve already spoken of how important it is for us, the Church, to be unified.
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Not for us to agree on everything, but to love each other. To love each other no matter what.
This is so important that it was one of the last things Jesus asked of God before He was crucified.
Why is this particularly important right now, in this month, in this country?
Flag on brick
As this election looms closer and larger before our wide open eyes, we are afraid.
And fear causes us to do crazy things, both to each other and to those around us who are outside of the Church.
You and I, we who claim to follow Christ, we are falling out of power.
The America of the past – the America of white, Protestant government, is becoming just that. A thing of the past.
Gay marriage.
Transgenders in the military.
Whatever you personally believe about these and other similar issues, most would admit that they are not generally promoted as God-sanctioned by the Evangelical church as a whole.
Just a look at these issues in our country today strips away the illusion that we are in control.
Many are fighting back against this. “Make America great again!” “Take back America!”
We as a Church are good at fighting.
Throughout our history, we have fought wars, both collectively and personally, against anyone who tries to take away our power.
Our earthly power, that is.
You can look as far back as the first twelve leaders of our church, as far back as Peter, to see our blind tendency to misinterpret what Jesus actually seems to teach.
When Jesus speaks of His kingdom, we assume that He means a kingdom here on earth.
A kingdom that forces everyone to live under God’s rule.
The sort of kingdom we seem to want America to be.
This is what Peter believed. Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God and how close it was, and Peter decided to help it along by using his sword to start slicing off ears.
Jesus, however, picked up that ear, placed it back onto it’s owner’s head, and walked quietly off to meet His death.
We are losing power in this country, and perhaps this is a good thing.
The kingdom of God has never increased by force; rather, the kingdom seems to expand most quickly when those who are in power are against it.
Jesus speaks over and over again about His kingdom coming through the humble, the weak, the foolish. He is adamant that the kingdom of God is not about force or any kind of earthly power.
Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew that all of the kings and rulers exercise their authority in one way but you, you who call yourself My disciples, are to do things another way.
He tells them that you are to bring forth My kingdom by becoming a servant, by giving up your life for all.
Everything we do to live out God’s kingdom here on earth must be done under the shadow of the cross.
Perhaps we should stop fighting to regain political power and start figuring out how to further God’s kingdom in this new America. Perhaps we should remember that God’s kingdom grows best one soul at a time through lives lived in quiet love and service.
Perhaps we should stop slicing off ears and instead begin the work of healing by dying to ourselves as we live as Jesus did. We can start by loving each other.

Art credit: Photograph of cathedral by Kirk SewellImage of the Croisés from 1922; St. Peter Cuts the Slave’s Ear by Duccio di Buoninsegna

Christ in…Politics?!

One of the ideas in which I believe strongly, one of the basic premises, in fact, behind the writing of this blog, is that there can be no division between sacred and secular. There can be no segmenting out pieces of life, saying that this is for faith and that is not.
For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. ~ Colossians 1.16-17
If all of life is under the authority of Christ, then the opposite supposition is also true, that there is nothing that is outside of Christ. The point seems inarguable, yet it seems easier to say that all is in Christ than it is to begin to name specific arenas that therefore matter to Him.
If singing hymns in church is in Christ, then scrubbing filthy toilets is also in Him.
If working in the food pantry is in Christ, then creating a PowerPoint presentation for work is also in Him.
If learning about Old Testament Prophets is in Christ, then politics is also in Him.
It seems unreasonable, yet the conclusion is inescapable. If in Christ all things hold together, then there can be nothing that falls outside of His realm of influence.
US Government
If politics, too, must fall within the confines of our faith, then we should spend time considering the best way that our land should be governed. Especially when we live in a land that gives us a voice. Especially when we live in a year that is an election year.
And so I have been pondering and wondering. None of my wonderings have produced anything that I could change, yet I still believe that the process of considering our country’s politics in light of the way God created life to work is valuable.
There is much in the Bible about teaching and training, about people being gifted to do specific tasks, about being and doing what you were created to be and do.
All of which makes me wonder if the idea of citizen governance is as good an idea as our founders believed. I understand, I think, that part of the reason behind term limits and bringing in ordinary citizens to do the job for a time is to prevent anyone from taking and keeping too much power.
It is easy to become drunk on the trappings of power.
Or so I’ve heard.
Yet would we want our children to learn under someone who just comes in and teaches for a few years and then is replaced by another community member? Would anyone trust a citizen surgeon?
Then why do we trust a job like governing our country to amateurs?
What if we treated politics like we treat other careers? What if we had a governing body that developed training and schooling requirements? What if people who have the talent for governance could attend a study program and go through an apprenticeship? What if that same governing body helped the governors of our land decide when it was time to retire, like the governing body that decides when it is time for us to give up our driver’s license?
I know that there are probably hundreds of issues that would make this improbable. I understand that none of this is likely to happen.
Yet isn’t it better to think through something as important as how our country is governed rather than just falling in line with how it has always been done?
Loving our country
If part of loving God means loving Him with all of your mind, then shouldn’t we use our mind to consider how all things would be best under His authority?
Even if it never comes to pass?
I believe so.

Photography credits: U.S. Capitol by purplepic; Flag on building by Robert Linder; Flag backlit by Robert Linder

Slinging Mashed Potatoes

My eldest has had trouble loving her sister lately.

When she gets angry, even if it is with herself, her first instinct is to lash out and hurt Little Sister. We’ve been working on this, trying to teach her other ways of expressing her anger, but it is a long and difficult road. She seems to lose all common sense when her emotions run high.

Sadly, this reminds me all too much of the adults in our country this time of year.

Ah, election season.

Time for everyone to lose logic and common sense and to begin slinging hateful words around like mashed potatoes in a junior high camp cafeteria.

I have been wondering how we got to this place. How did we get to the place where it seems impossible to have a compassionate discussion of ideas?

In my most recent Mars Hill Audio Journal, it was suggested that this has become part of our culture because of the direction that our public schools have taken.  When we emphasize math and science to the exclusion of teaching ethics and civics and philosophy, our citizens grow up without knowing about logic, without knowing how to follow an idea through to its logical conclusion.

Here is a clip of one of my favorite authors, N.T. Wright, speaking about the problem that we don’t even have the debate but rather have bits and pieces of a shouting match (if you are viewing this via email/in a reader, click here to view this video):


I can see, having been a teacher myself, how cutting logic and philosophy out of schools would appeal. It is much easier to control the flow of ideas than to teach people to think for themselves. (I am not proposing that this has been a deliberate conspiracy against free thinking in our country, rather that this has been the unintended consequence of placing a higher value on sciences than humanities. It simply helps the cause that the things that are cut out are subjects that tend to make governing more difficult.)

As I thought about how we got to this place, though, and as I listened to respected leaders speak about this issue, I realized that this is not a new problem, this problem of not teaching young people to think for themselves, of not teaching children how to think logically about an idea and spot the fallacies contained within.

In the 14th century, John Wycliffe was one of the first advocates for translating the Bible from Latin, a language that only priests and rulers could read, into the common language, accessible to all. The leaders of his day violently opposed him, wanting to keep the power of ideas to themselves. Wycliffe’s opponents cried out, “The jewel of the clergy has become the toy of the laity”. In the end, Wycliffe was declared to be a heretic and his body was exhumed and burned, and the ashes were scattered.

As much as I would like to swell with indignation at the thought of trying to control ideas, if I am honest with myself, I can relate. It is difficult for me to trust my own children. I want to control the flow of ideas, to control what they know and understand. This would be much easier than teaching them to think critically and then dealing with the inevitable hard questions that will come.

Thankfully, I know better. God has instructed me to trust. Not other people, but Him. I must trust His Spirit inside my children.

So I will continually ask for help in relinquishing control. I will trust my girls to the care of God’s Spirit and trust that He will show them what is good.

As for our country, our election season, let us be the first to use logic and common sense, to show compassion to those with whom we disagree, and trust in God’s plan and His Spirit working rather than taking the easier route of slinging mashed potatoes all over their faces.

Art Credits: Vote photo by woodsy; photos of N.T. Wright and Wycliffe stained glass from Wikipedia images