Participation, Not Affiliation

Watching and listening to what is happening in the USA concerning Christianity, I am reminded that if it doesn’t walk like Jesus, talk like Jesus, or act like Jesus, it’s not Jesus.

As Christian Nationalism gains significant traction, including White Christin Nationalism, it’s important to remember that Jesus didn’t call his disciples to affiliation, but participation. Followers of Jesus follow the teachings of Jesus and imitate the life of Jesus.

History shows us that just because an ideology is taught by a Church and displays Jesus’ name doesn’t mean it is of Jesus. (See Matthew 25:31-40, 7:15-23; 2 Corinthians 11:12-15).

Be mindful, y’all.

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Picture: Southern Poverty Law Center

Today I remember the Tree of Life synagogue and the devastating outcome unnamed racist and ethno-cultural superiority like antisemitism can create. In a society where people are weary of hearing about it, there are neighbors who are weary of living in the face of it.

It seems to me that Christ-followers should be compelled to name it, confess it, dismantle it, and eradicate it, first from our lives and the Church, and then as a community of witnesses, do the same in society. It’s what Christ-shaped love does if we are to take seriously the command to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves” and “do to others as we would want done to us.”

P.S. As an aside, I find it astounding how Christian’s want to “stand with Israel” with such great passion and commitment to ideology, but dial it down when it comes to standing with those living among us whose roots are in Israel.

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Labor Day

Labor Day: the outcome of an organized labor movement determined to disrupt what they believed to be an unjust and exploitive economic system. It was a social justice movement.

Labor Day began out of a protest, resulting in more protests that disturbed the status quo. The economy was disrupted. Some businesses, like railroads, were burned down. Tragically, in some circumstances people died.

As the movement took shape its organizers and protestors were called unpatriotic and criminal. They were dismissed, demeaned, dehumanized, and criminalized. But they pressed on.

Now we celebrate Labor Day as part of the “American story.”

Labor Day reminds me that a movements for social change must persist. Its greatest resistance will always be the neighbors of its own generation. In time, if the movement has life, the resistance will give way to some among future generations. They will rise up to embrace it for what it is. Whether it’s selective amnesia or simply not knowing, the benefit of the movement is eventually recognized. In time, the origin story, with all its struggle, also gets lost. When that happens society is poised to repeat the same behaviors when new movements arise crying out for social justice.

I’m thankful for Labor Day, a holiday I once thought was random and obscure. I am learning to see the cost, the struggle, and the purpose. Once again I am reminded how the better side of our nation has always been built on the backs of movements for social justice.

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A word about grace

I offered a word on grace to the WCC family today. We spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to be rescued and liberated by grace. But after reading Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:1-4 (through verse 10), I closed with these words:

“Now before we think how basic and obvious all this talk about grace is to our faith, remember this truth about grace has always existed. The truth of grace existed when in the 11th century Pope Urban II initiated the crusades and incited what become generations of holy wars.

The truth of grace existed when European colonizers in Virginia used the Bible, namely the story of Noah’s son Ham and the curse that was placed upon him—called the Hamitic curse—as their theory to degrade and dehumanize black-skinned bodies.

The truth of grace existed when Virginia passed a law in 1667 that said, “It is enacted and declared by this grand assembly, and the authority thereof, that the conferring of baptism doth not alter the condition of the person as to his bondage or freedom.”

The truth of grace existed when Virginia passed far more laws governing the ownership of the enslaved to define the legal status of the enslaved and their enslavers and regulate interactions between 1639 to 1705.

The truth of grace existed when President Andrew Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830 and in 1831 marched the Choctaw people out of their land without food and water where thousands died.

The truth of grace existed when women throughout our nation met at Seneca Falls in 1848 to discuss equal rights while White Christian pastors denounced their meeting. The truth of grace existed when Jim Crow laws were passed and when liberation was resisted by White Christian pastors who said to Dr. King, ‘We agree with you but it’s not the right time.’

I say all of this to remind us that is possible to worship God with our souls saved while our minds are still held captive by sin.”

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About Hope

I’ve come to believe that hope is first a kind of disposition. It’s an openness and anticipation to search for meaning in what is because of what the Christian tradition believe is to come. In that way hope becomes a kind of practice. It’s the ability to reinterpret reality in light of Christ’s resurrection and the power it holds. Even when things don’t turn out as expected I may accept reality–burdens and all–and choose to be a compassionate and faithful presence anywhere. Sometimes when the loss, grief or harm is heavy, the compassion must begin between me and myself where I remember Christ’s solidarity with my struggle.

From there, by God’s grace, my eyes can lift from myself to others and I can follow the compassionate Christ into compassion for my neighbor and my enemy.

Love hope-fully, friends.

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