For the second time in as many years, Fayetteville is being torn apart by a civil rights ordinance that codifies protections for LGBTQ people. If passed, the ordinance will allow for LGBTQ people to be guaranteed the same rights and services that any Fayetteville resident enjoys without fear of discrimination. A landlord will not be able to refuse to rent to a man simply because he’s gay. A trans woman won’t be able to be fired from her job simply because of her gender identity. A lesbian couple will be able to buy a wedding cake from any bakery that serves the public. Read More…
This year at Vintage, I am preaching through Exodus. (The podcast of week 1 is available here.) A couple years ago, we journeyed through the epic story of Genesis. It feels like it’s time to explore the sequel. And so, in preparation, I recently re-read Jesus Wants to Save Christians by Rob Bell and Don Golden. Read More…
Which do you value more – your patriotism or your faith?
In the days following the killing of Osama bin Laden, many American followers of Jesus acutely felt the disharmony of two kingdoms. OBL’s death gave Americans much to rejoice in: the heroism and skill of Seal Team 6, a significant blow to Al Qaeda in the global War on Terror, hope that military activities in Afghanistan can now be drawn down. And yet at the same time, Christians struggled with the morality of rejoicing over the death of another person made in God’s image.
This dissonance was brought to a head this week by the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in West Palm Beach FL that chose to honor an anonymous request and include Osama bin Laden’s name in its prayer list. Setting aside the theological question of praying for the souls of the dead, this choice highlights the tension with which many American Christians live.
Consider some of these quotes:
“I think it’s totally wrong, he doesn’t belong in the Catholic religion. For what he did to Americans, he doesn’t belong anywhere,” says Lois Pizzano, a Catholic Church member. “It’s unconscionable, it’s sacrilegious … If I wasn’t a Catholic I wouldn’t think it was right. He doesn’t belong there, he doesn’t belong with the American people”
“If it was one of my loved ones having their prayer session and his name was also included I’d be very upset. I think the people whose names are on it would also be upset,” says Andrea Lazarus.
Unconscionable? Sacrilegious? Upset? Are these the values of the kingdom?
It seems to me that both Jesus and Paul could not have been clearer:
You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5.43-45
Do not repay anyone evil for evil … If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink … Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12.17-21
By any definition, OBL qualifies as an enemy. He led a military organization bent on the destruction of the United States of America. He orchestrated the murder of 3,000 American citizens. He was actively plotting to terrorize free people around the globe. If OBL is not an enemy, no one is.
And that is why, in the case of OBL, we must force ourselves to cherish and adhere to the way of Jesus … not ignore it because it runs contrary to our Americanism. America is a wonderful country, full of opportunity and freedom for which we Americans should be very thankful. But it is not the kingdom.
Americanism is the way of competition, consumerism, and conquest. It busies our lives, shortens our attention spans, and saps our souls. Americanism may give us something to fleetingly feel good about – an imperial military victory – but it is out of harmony with eternity.
The way of Jesus is much harder and yet more deeply beautiful. When we turn the other cheek, when we refuse to curse our persecutors, when we pray for the soul of Osama bin Laden, we harmonize our lives with the deeper, more resonate strain of the kingdom of God.
I am not Catholic, and as such, I have not practiced the discipline of praying for the souls of the dead. But in solidarity with my brothers and sisters at the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church and in solidarity with the values of the kingdom of God, I will.
Will you join us?
I voted for John McCain yesterday, but he never really was my candidate. It took me a long time to decide to vote for him. And I’m not devastated that he lost. It has been interesting to hear the commentary about his concession speech. Some people today at work were talking about how terrible it was that President-elect Obama got booed at McCain’s rally last night. Have they never watched an election concession speech before? And it’s been amusing listening to all the media types say that if McCain had campaigned like he spoke last night, he might have had a better chance. I remember them saying that about Senator Kerry and Vice President Gore and Senator Dole … doesn’t anyone in the media have something original to say?
I didn’t vote for him, but I’m not sad that Barack Obama won. In fact, I think it’s pretty wonderful for our country. I remember that when I was a young teenager first getting interested in politics, it seemed like people were always talking about whether we would elect an African-American or a woman as president. I always thought we would, and the whole discussion seemed silly to me. I’m thrilled to see us do it.
On Friday I asked an African-American friend of mine – with a mischievous twinkle in my eye – if he was going to riot in the streets if Obama lost. He laughed and launched into a tirade about Senator McCain that made me laugh. Today, I asked him if he was giddy. He was. Then he looked around, leaned in, and said, “Robb, you’re probably the only person I could say this to. I’m really happy Obama won, but I’m a little bit nervous he might be the antiChrist.” We both laughed again.
I’ve got a lot of differences with President-elect Obama, and ultimately I didn’t vote for him because of those issues. However, I don’t know how he will govern. I hope it is from the center, but only time will tell. For right now, I’m really happy for his supporters, and I wish him the best. I’ll be praying for him!
I’m less excited about the wins of Democrats in the House and Senate. I’m one of those people who likes gridlock. I like it better when the government can’t get anything done. It keeps them from messing things up. With that in mind, the prospect of Al Franken going to the Senate turns my stomach. I really hope Norm Coleman can hold on during the recount!
From what I can find online, it looks like my friend Brandy lost her race for city clerk by 23 votes. That sucks. If I lived in her city, I would have voted for her and tried to find 23 friends to join me! I hope she keeps at it!
I am most disappointed this election cycle with one of the things the people of Arkansas have done. Yesterday, our state approved a measure that would deny unmarried cohabiting adults the opportunity to be foster and adoptive parents. This measure was aimed at keeping gay and lesbian couples from bringing children into their homes. As I’ve posted before, I think it is horrible. It seems to me when we put our ideology ahead of meeting real needs, we make a tragic mistake.
Which is worse – a gay couple adopting a child and raising him or her in their home or that child bouncing from foster home to foster home and group home to group home without anyone to provide consistent and life-long support, encouragement, and love? I think what we have done to children in Arkansas is unjust and unfair!
I would have liked to stand at the polling place yesterday handing out foster parent applications to all the people who voted for this measure. Until their willing to open their homes to the 18,000 foster kids in Arkansas, I don’t think they’ve got much credibility to judge those who are willing to.