Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ideology versus Humanity

Recently, Pope Francis made some provocative statements about faith versus ideology: "in ideologies, there is not Jesus - His tenderness, His love, His meekness. Ideologies are rigid, always. And, when a Christian becomes a disciple of an ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus - he is (now) a disciple of this attitude of thought."

I have been that kind of disciple and it shames me to think about the problems that have been caused by clinging - rigidly - to ideology, as opposed to kindness, mercy, goodness, and love which are personified in the Living God, Himself. It is amazing to think of how far we can be from God even while shouting His Name from the rooftops (but in truth, fighting for ideology after ideology after ideology).

Ideologies hurt because they miss the truth of human hearts. And, they are ideas held tight in our heads, with an accompanying "us versus them" mental framework - "are you in!?" "are you out!?" etc. Ideologies drive much of what passes for spirituality in certain segments of American society - not God, Himself.

Pope Francis: "The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances the people and distances the church from the people. It (ideology) is a serious illness."

Much of society seems to be run by the competition of ideologies. One political platform stimulates an opposing political platform. Ideologies carry religious significance, then justify violence or cruelty against another segment of the population. I am grateful for the Pope's comments because they reflect how God has transformed my heart, these past few months. I used to believe that to be a Christian you had to "think this way!" and "be committed to that political cause!" And, because, I have a naturally committed sort of personality, I have put the full force of my commitment - vocally - behind all the required viewpoints of a political, ideological Christianity.

But, in doing so... I trampled on people's hearts. God is actually outside of ideology. Because, He is outside of human ideas about Him.





Sunday, August 17, 2014

Her

(not to be confused with the Joaquin Phoenix movie of the same name.)

A lot of people mock my wife, without knowing her. Fortunately, she knows herself.

In a world devastated by gender inequality, it is shocking to comprehend just how much disrespect of women there is still. Shocking and extremely sad.

Women are quite awesome, actually. Sometimes, it feels like it's just a "man's man" world! Men rule this, get together and dominate that, etc., etc., etc. And, then, women - in order to get anywhere... in order to get any measure of success - have to play with the "big boys;" have to act like men, in order to get ahead. It's really all messed up.

I think the beauty of femininity that Rebekah embodies is captivating, to the extent that I find myself overwhelmed with indescribables. And, isn't that the whole point!?

Could it be - maybe? - that we put a little too high a premium, sometimes, on having everything all so clearly understood!?


No Better Than You

Probably, one of the biggest lessons that I have had to learn in my life is this one: I'm no better than you.

I think, in many ways, I have been as much a part of our competitive American culture as anybody else. Certainly, when I go back to high school, I was always trying to be better than everybody else at this, or that... and, then, as I got into the political and media worlds, I did the same... building a company, making a name for myself, etc.

It was always about being better. You take that to the spiritual walk and you find - I have found... - that you hit a few walls.

In fact, if you're fortunate, it all just falls apart. :) Every time you try to assert some sort of authority, it back-fires. Every time you think you're right about something, you're proven to be wrong more than you were even close to right. Every time you think you've grasped something, there's nothing actually there to be grasped. And, so on.

And, so, the world spins in some kind of insane constancy - people attempting to dominate people, attempting to prove themselves, attempting to find themselves. And, there... in the midst of it all ... is God. Patiently sitting there.

It is, to me, remarkable how far God has taken me through my life. But, then, I notice the lives of those around me and begin to realize that it truly is out-of-this world what God has done in the lives of His people. Is doing. It blows your mind, really. There really can't be competition when it comes to God.


On Faith and Love...

Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, NM
Faith... what a beautiful thing. It takes so many different shapes, and plays out in so many different ways; everyone has their own style, their own way of believing things.

Today, at church, we had a blessed time of continuing to share the experience of faith - a group of people lifting up their hearts together toward a shared belief, and being responded to by that shared experience. What an amazing reality that is. What an amazing truth that is.

Santa Fe means Holy Faith. Jude talks about all the difficult people, those who cause divisions, "devoid of the Spirit," then says,

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God... (Jude 1:20, 21)

We can spend all day long, if we so desire, looking at the problems of other people, finding fault, complaining, tearing people down in our hearts angrily - or, we can turn in our hearts entirely toward the Lord with an earnest love and a true completeness of faith. And, we can find, that by doing so, we will leave those problems behind.

As we keep ourselves in the love of God, we are continually reminded of forgiveness - towards ourselves, towards others; it is an amazing thing to find the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ pouring through our bitterness, our unhappiness, our anger, soothing us, refreshing us, bringing us back.

Santa Fe means Holy Faith, and the city houses some of the oldest Christian architecture in the United States of America - much of it Catholic, from an earlier time in our country's long history. The San Miguel chapel is considered to be the oldest church in America (from between 1610 and 1625). Being in Santa Fe, surrounded by the beautiful pieces of art and history in all directions, both Rebekah and I could feel the love of God in the history - in the beauty - of that place. If we could all feel God's love, we would be a much healthier humanity.

Santuario de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, Santa Fe, NM

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Goodness

Sure, it's under attack. Sure, people pretend not to like it but then pretend they need it. Sure, there's confusion everywhere. But, things are still good.

Without goodness, we have no ability to know anything truthfully, have no capacity to help, have no capacity to give, have no capacity to even be real - to ourselves, or to others. Without goodness, we lose all sense of perspective, all ability to discern good from bad, and all capacity to know truth from falsehood.

Without goodness, we are lost in a sea of subjectivity, unable to navigate.

Without goodness, we accuse the wrong people, accuse ourselves, live in a world of accusation, and constantly fight people who are trying to assist us! Without goodness, we turn away from people who need our help and cling to people in an unhealthy, co-dependent way that doesn't help anyone!

Without goodness, we divide and attempt to conquer (even though the battle's all in our heads.)

Without goodness, we become the most despicable mockery of ourselves, something nobody would recognize if they were honest... a ghost, a shadow of who we truly are.

It's amazing but serious. And, the disgrace of second-guessing ourselves, or the goodness that we have inside of us, causes so much damage that I couldn't even begin to write about it here or we would be here thinking about something pointless and endless forever - and, that wouldn't help.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Mercy

In my life, I have represented Jesus incorrectly. I am pretty sure, in some ways, everybody has. And, for that, I will always be sorry.

But, fortunately, Jesus is merciful, and can continue to demonstrate himself even through my brokenness. That is something I am so grateful for.

You can't always take back the damage you've done. But, you can motivate yourself with that goal. You can repent, in your heart, and turn around - aiming to head in the right direction. And, you can pray that God's Holy Spirit will open the doors of human hearts to let the truth of your heart's motivations shine through.

A lot of people don't like me. Many of those people call themselves "Christians." But, in the vast sea of humanity, not everyone who calls him-or-herself a "Christian" actually is one. Only Jesus knows, truly, Who He is controlling, to bring His Name glory, here on earth. It's not even for us to know (as He says, in Matthew 13). Our job is just to grow, and grow, as earnestly as possible, by His grace, letting us break off the things we don't need, letting Him transform us, mold us, shape us - make us more like Him. So, it's an ongoing process.

I have learned that it is not that I want people to like me but that I want people to like the God who is inside of me. But ... and, this is a very big "but".... if I want people to like that God that is inside of me, then, it is through every single part of me that He ought to be seen - in my character, my choices of phrases to use, the way I carry myself, in my politics, in my heart.

And, so, I can't be one of those tough as nails dogmatic "Christian" types, anymore. I love Jesus too much to bark at people, like I did back in the 2000's. And, for that, you know... many people have said I've "lost it," that I no longer "care about" the gospel. Meanwhile, others still think I'm a hateful bigot who believes the Bible is true, so I hate homosexuals, and everybody else who isn't perfect. Trying to navigate the waters of politics - dealing with peoples' perceptions of you - is impossible. I'm no good at it.

But, I will tell you this. Jesus is beautiful - "Grace is poured upon Your lips!" (Psalm 45) - and, if grace is poured upon His lips, it is - also (as Ephesians 4:29 says) meant to pour, as much as possible, from ours. So, let me end this day's Fold post by saying this: Mary, the Mother of God, is so beautiful.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Holy

It has been widely commented that the American, evangelical Christian church has a scarcity of holiness - that the increasing emphasis on politics and outward displays of piety have turned the church into a cultural movement, rather than a spiritual one. I agree.

It has, actually, gotten to such a point that if you comment on a lack of sincere holiness in some churches, or Christian circles, you might get shunned. People really don't like being called-out on their hypocrisy.

But, I think it's also because there's such a lack of understanding of holiness. People have many wrong ideas of holiness, believe it to be some kind of action or display or restraint, for example, as opposed to command. "Be holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:15) is the command. But, how do you do that?

Well, in truth. It's incredibly easy. You just purpose in your heart to do as God says, and then ask Him to make it happen in you. "Make me holy." "Create in me a clean heart." And, as soon as that attitude is conveyed to God, from you, He has an opening in your soul and can do the work that you have asked Him to do. So, why do you have to ask Him?

Because, God likes to be recognized as the provider.