Thursday, June 14, 2007

what's your worldview?

You could take their test or you could take ours?

On theirs I scored as Emergent/Postmodern,

You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this. What's your theological worldview? created with

On ours I scored as a different drummer.

What about you?

this I believe

This is my response to a chapter from my dad titled The symptom is corruption, but the syndrome is idolatry. Comments are appreciated; the good, the bad, but not the ugly.
I hear that you refuse to worship my gods and the gold statue I have set up. Now I am going to give you one more chance. If you bow down and worship the statue when you hear the music, everything will be all right. But if you don't, you will at once be thrown into a flaming furnace. No god can save you from me. [Daniel 3:14-15; CEV]
I’ve been doing a Bible study on the book of Daniel. One of the first lessons you encounter with Daniel has to do with the fiery furnace. I can remember the story from Sunday school as a child and now as it did then, it always prompts the question: would I, like Daniel's 3 friends, be prepared to face the fiery furnace instead of bowing down to a false god? Beth Moore puts it this way: “I don't have to wonder what I'd do if placed in the position to die in order for one of my children to live. No discussion. No need to pray about it. It's done.” I agree that’s a no-brainer. She goes on to ask if I've predetermined that same loyalty to Christ. I honestly don't think I know. I’m afraid that I do bow down to the false gods of my own Babylonian culture without much conscious thought. It’s ingrained in me.

Maybe the question is difficult to answer because my beliefs have really never been put to such a test and probably never will be. I don’t live in a culture where I could literally die for my beliefs. But I do live in a culture that could suck the life out of me for them and so I worry about what I believe. Beliefs are important. They define who we think we are and how we think about the world around us. But are there truly beliefs worth dying for, worth killing for, worth siding with the poor, the lost and the lonely for? It seems to me that belief does more to divide and conquer than it does to bring us together to address the corruption and idolatry surrounding us. I like the way John Mayer describes it in his song called Belief. "We're never gonna win the world, we're never gonna stop the war, we're never gonna beat this if belief is what we're fighting for".

So if belief isn’t what we should be fighting for, what is? What is worth standing up for instead of bowing down? I think it’s based on the relationships we build and the love we share. Archbishop ├ôscar Romero didn’t die for his beliefs; he died because he was in relationship with his community in El Salvador. Because of his love for his community and for his God, he stood up and spoke out against injustice.

We’re trying something new in Charlottesville, VA. It’s called IMPACT (Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregations Together), a grassroots initiative bringing a diverse group of congregations together to live out our religious traditions’ call for justice. So far there are 25 local congregations involved that range in size from 20 to 1,500 people, including Protestants, Catholics, Unitarian Universalists, Jews, and Muslims. While the concept of grassroots interfaith organizations that address social justice issues is not new in this country, it is certainly new to Charlottesville and Albemarle County. I’m not sure any of us knew what to expect from this first year.

It has been a tremendous learning experience for me. As a member of IMPACT, I’ve been part of a community that determined what social justice issues to focus on, researched the core issues associated with the injustice, and identified solutions to address some of those issues. We met with public officials to explain our findings and express our desire for change. Before this experience, it was easy for me to believe that a particular party or a particular political figure was the “root of all evil.” But more often than not during these meetings, what I discovered were blind spots and ignorance and a desire to come on board with the solutions if it was the will of the people. We started building relationships based on addressing social justice issues within our congregations, within our research groups and with our public officials. Because of those relationships over 1300 people packed the high school auditorium at the first Nehemiah Action meeting, where we presented proposed solutions and many of our public officials were willing to sit up front and respond to the will of the people.

This was clearly not business as usual and there are still some politicians who don’t understand why this organization can’t work within the established processes. There are still some congregations that won’t participate in this organization because of their belief that they shouldn’t work with non-Christians. I don’t understand that. It makes belief sound dangerous to me. It is so much easier for me to state what I don’t believe. I don’t believe in discrimination based on religious beliefs or political association or sexual orientation or gender or race or age. I don’t believe in war. I don’t believe in oppression. I don’t believe in genocide or ethnic cleansing or poverty.

So, what do I believe? I believe in evolution. I believe in miracles. I believe in doubts. I believe in love. I believe that when I can somehow ignore what the world thinks is important and practice having an attitude that is “the same as that of Christ Jesus,” I may then, on very rare occasions, briefly understand what Daniel’s friends understood and I will stand up instead of bowing down.

Why do I find it so hard to write it down? As a Christian, there’s usually an expectation that certain beliefs are non-negotiable. These are called articles of faith or creed and they usually define what it means to be Christian. I’ve always had a difficult time with them. Does that make me a heretic? As an American, I am called to stand up for my country and believe in our unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But at what cost to human rights and the environment around the world? Does questioning our public policies make me un-American?

back in Texas

I've been hanging out at the Georgetown library today working on the book. What a nice break. It's hot in TX. I know - I've become such a wimp living in VA.

We talked with a self-publisher yesterday about the book, a local outfit called TLCGraphics. I've now got a deadline to get done, so somehow between summer vacations and no school, I've got to get going.

I'll be publishing excerpts of the work in progress here and hope somebody will comment (yeah, I'm talking to you).