God is Countercultural

These topics are hotly debated, but perhaps it is because they should be. I’m a millenial who grew up with mass shootings, I’ve lived as a Christian and non-Christian, and I do own a gun. But as a Christian, I have to consider what I am defending and protecting with my words online and in conversations. First, because God asks things of us as a follower and second, because we have the ability to bring people closer or further to God through our actions.

Sandy Hook. Orlando. Are we more apt to defend the rights of our guns or to demand some change? To say the status quo is no longer good enough? God, Jesus, calls us to the widow, the immigrant and the orphan, to mourn with those who mourn. Yet I see many who claim they are Christians first jumping to protect our rights instead of our people, and in the mean time we are creating more people who are mourning.

I love our rights. As a history major, I understand the danger of giving up rights out of fear or the desire for protection or security. I’m not saying the answer is simple or easy but we must look at our choices and as Christians, we should be caring for the victims more than our weapons. That doesn’t mean I’m saying hand them all over and melt them down; but we believe in improvement in our personal, spiritual and business life. It would be startling to think that some improvements can’t be made.

This, surprisingly or not, ties in to things like the death penalty. I don’t support the death penalty in cases where someone can be safely kept. This wasn’t always the case but my time with some Catholic nuns has shown me that everyone should be afforded every opportunity to repent and change their path; are we not all guilty in some way and worthy of being prisoners (if not of worldly law then certainly of God’s)?

I think if we examine other controversial issues like immigration, abortion, etc. we can start to see that leading with love and empathy might be the better foundation to build upon.

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Nonviolent Jesus: Humility, Simplicity, and Charity

Jesus often modeled humility, not elevating himself or speaking only of his rank and status. Rather, he did the exact opposite. In Luke 22:27, he teaches “For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” Here he shows the position he has chosen to take in obedience to his Father, and it is a humble one. He emphasized this point over and over again, although one of the most poignant moments is described in John 13:5, “Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.”

It was not only in how he served that he was humble, but also the company he kept. Many expected the Messiah to be the kind of Warrior King they would recognize, a ruler that kept company with other rulers, great leaders and warriors. The Pharisees expected cleanliness which meant not interacting with those who were considered unclean; but that was not Jesus’ way. In Matthew 9:10-11, we see that “… as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” He proved through word and action that he was going to take a role in the world that was ‘from below.’

He also modeled simplicity. Luke 9:58 tells us, “And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” He was not caught up in belongings, in building a house that kept him in one place. He instead kept his possessions few and traveled to spread his gospel. This was an expectation he had not only for himself but for his followers when he sent them out to preach the Word and rely on those along the way to care for them.

But his simplicity is not just in His belongings but in His teachings. He taught in a way that invited the new person in but gave depth and greater relationship to the believer. Jesus was both high invitation and high challenge, but he kept much of what he said simple. When asked what commandment was most important, his response was both simple and the foundation of his actions. Matthew 22:37-39: “Jesus answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.”

Lastly, Jesus constantly modeled charity. I often feel like, when reading the Bible, Jesus taught more on charity and love than any other aspect. I wonder if this is because if we do these things we cannot help but have our hearts changed by it and come more in alignment with God. Perhaps this is why Jesus says in Matthew 25:35, “’For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in.” 1 John 3:17 asks, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? “ This is the question that Jesus constantly tries to get people to ask themselves. Jesus is charitable through his works, his time, his healing and ultimately through his sacrifice. Jesus is all things charitable.

By looking at the parables and examples that Jesus himself provides, we begin to see a type of leader form; a servant leader. By emulating him and these virtues, I would argue that if applied as Jesus meant them to be, ordinary humans would unintentionally become nonviolent. This is because you cannot apply all the things He called us to do and simultaneously behave in a violent nature. They are at two ends of a spectrum. Jesus was at his core nonviolent; he allowed himself to be sacrificed for others. That being said, it is best to pay attention to any violent inclination or tendencies to condone violence so we can understand why and address the discrepancy.

 

Thoughts on Non-Violence

Generally, I ascribe to the nonviolent tradition. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Love is the only thing that can turn an enemy into a friend.” I thought about King’s 6 principles of nonviolence and I considered agape love, the demonstration of humility, simplicity and compassion. In truth, if we are to model ourselves after Christ, nonviolence is the only answer. He taught this to us through His actions, such as in Luke 22:51 when “Jesus said, “No more of this!! (striking with the sword).” We are told the weapons we are meant to use are different in 2 Corinthians 10:4, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.”

That being said, I struggle because there are very limited times in which I think “violence” should be used as a shield. In the modern era there are very few instances in which I think we are able to acceptably respond with violence. A quote from Ghandi tells us that, “An eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind.”  I agree with this. But I studied the Holocaust in depth and cannot think of a way in which nonviolent action would have stopped what happened then, unless people had acted in defense of their neighbors early on when the Nazi Party first started promoting discrimination against a group of people based on their faith, race or ethnicity. Additionally, there are places now where mass genocide is occurring. In these instances, I believe some force must be applied to act as armor, a protecting shield for the victims. Proverbs 13:2 says “The unfaithful have a craving for violence.” This force should not be used as a hammer to smash the perpetrators into the ground or a satisfaction of vengeance but only for protection and rescue.

Race Issues in America: “Every Life Matters” or “It’s In God’s Hands”

Hashtags can become dangerous things. Some people hear #blacklivesmatter and hear the implication that only black lives matter. That is not the point. They respond with #everylifematters but, often the posts associated with this hastag come across as callous, racist, or entitled. The fact is, this issue is far too complex for a simple hashtag argument that further divides us.

Yes, black lives matter. Every life knitted together by our Creator matters. There is not one person out there who doesn’t matter. Beyond His love for us, God calls us to care for and protect each other. He wants justice.

It is irresponsible at times when socially and politically we are all called to repent from our old ways and begin reconciliation to just say, it’s in God’s hands. No, we are called to be God’s hands and feet. We as Christians and Americans have a responsibility to make sure justice is given to those who are not receiving it in our country. Martin Luther King Jr. said at the Sermon at Temple Israel in Hollywood in 1965, “We’ve been in the mountain of violence. We’ve been in the mountain of hatred long enough. It is necessary to move on now, but only by moving out of this mountain can we move to the promised land of justice and brotherhood and the Kingdom of God. It all boils down to the fact that we must never allow ourselves to become satisfied with unattained goals. We must always maintain a kind of divine discontent.” King knew action must be taken.

I would say that much like when King marched and practiced other forms of non-violent protest, if people feel that there is systemic racism and discrimination as has been shown in Ferguson, they should express that. Sadly, their frustrations boiled over and violence seems to beget violence, further dividing our nation. I would argue that this violence is the work of the Enemy and not individuals. Ephesians 6:12 tells us “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” Therefore, I believe we are called to make sure freedom and justice are for all our brothers and sisters in this nation, uniformed or not, and that as Christians we should work beside all of them in making sure there is justice for everyone.

Christian Action Tools: Kairos Circle and Rev. King Jr. Principles

I feel like this has been one of the most effective tools I was provided by the Christian Community.  An example is shown below (clearly from The Salvation Army). In the center is Kairos, which is ancient Greek. Super useful, right? It’s actually pretty awesome. The ancient Greeks had different words for time: Chronos (bet you guessed that was chronological, didn’t you? correct) and then they had Kairos, which is almost a “timeless” moment in which all things happen. It’s trippy, other-worldly. Holy. You might describe experiencing one of these moments as having an epiphany, an experience with God, etc.

This tool gives you a perfect and necessary way to process it. From a Christian perspective though, remember that after steps one and two, always make sure that part of your reflection and evaluation include comparison to scripture and discussion with individuals whom you trust are in relationship with God and will speak Truth to you. This is an extremely important step to make sure you are in alignment with God, that you have the support of a few people in your community and that they are able to be there to hold you accountable (this circle is used for everything from quitting smoking, changing careers, fasting, etc.).

Kairos

The second awesome tool I came across I somehow must have forgotten up until this point and much of it falls in line with what is above. I felt like I’d hit a bit of a wall on my final paper and I switched over to my other class’ assignments and of course part of the reading is an actual Reflection Circle on a topic very close to my heart: Dr. Martin Luther King’s 6 principles and practices of nonviolence (I want to be fair in saying I see no citation so I went to find it elsewhere, which is the citation you are getting).

Six Principles of Nonviolence

  1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
  2. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
  3. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.
  4. Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.
  5. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
  6. Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.

Six Steps of Nonviolent Social Change

  1. Information Gathering (calls out knowing all sides to increase your understanding of the problem)
  2. Education
  3. Personal Commitment (eliminate hidden motives and prepare to accept suffering)
  4. Discussion/Negotiation (use grace, humor, intelligence, look for the positive)
  5. Direct Action (if discussion/negotiation fails, create “creative tension” by supplying moral pressure)
  6. Reconciliation (goal is not defeat but friendship and understanding)

http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-philosophy

You should just go read the whole King philosophy.

I was going to write a lot more but I’m too tired and I haven’t finished MY reflection circle on MY kairos moment.

Lift Your Name Up

Archbishop Oscar Romero preached non-violence and love against atrocities but that didn’t mean he was passive; he stood loudly against them. He said, “I am not sowing discord; I am calling on the God that weeps… a God that feels the pain of His peasants… This is not what God was expecting from this Salvadoran land we live in which should be a land of humanity and Christianity.” The catalyst to his action, the murder of Father Rutlio and two others, led to his refusal to participate in government functions until his death was investigated, the short term closing of Catholic schools and Misa Unica, when 100,000 people heard his message. Eventually assassinated, his decision to stand with the poor changed the nation and all the people in it. He inspires me.

Lord, Father, I praise your name because it is good. I lift your name up with my voice and in my heart. You strengthen me and give me courage in my weakness. As completely lost as I was without You, I find myself within You. I know even as I struggle You have blessed me beyond measure and it is an honor to be called to serve You. I am not worthy, but then, nobody is worthy, for who is all good but You? And yet through Your Son You make me an heir of Your kingdom. Therefore in gratitude I will strive to love and obey, knowing all things are possible through Your power. Amen.