America’s original sin (a thought on Charlottesville)

The extremism of blatantly white supremacist, neo-Nazi activity, such as occurred this past week in Charlottesville, can potentially lull people into thinking that it is just that—blatantly extreme activity that does not reflect the normal state of affairs in America.

Granted, the extreme fringe is never an accurate representation of the whole, but the mere presence of radical extremism (in any group or ideology) should give us pause to consider why it exists at all.

The horrific expressions of white supremacy in America do NOT express the heart of America as a whole but it IS an existing strain of America’s original sin. America was not a purely Christian nation in all of its origins. Certainly there were some who wanted it to be so, and who sought to establish a people and a government upon noble virtues that would liberate and lift the conditions of all of mankind, but from its inception there were threads of deep sin in our country.

In 1620 the pilgrims who sailed to Plymouth Rock to build a hope-filled New World signed the Mayflower Compact, a veritable covenant with God to establish a nation that would reflect His heart, character, and love for the world. However at the exact same time that seeds of righteousness were being sown through the Mayflower Compact, African slavery was being introduced through the colony at Jamestown.

America’s history is very reflective of Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares, wherein both good and evil seeds were sown together. Historical revisionists who want to eliminate the truly Christian thread in our country’s founding are wrong—good, Christ-honoring seed was undeniably sown into the foundation of our country. However, Christian historians who want to position America as a purely Christian light on a hill for the world are also wrong—seeds of racism, oppression, and slavery were built into our country from its inception. Indeed, slavery existed in our country for one hundred fifty years before our Declaration of Independence was drafted, proclaiming the inalienable rights of all mankind. Slavery continued to exist for nearly one hundred years after our Declaration went into effect.

All of this is to say that when racist tragedies occur like they did in Charlottesville we must do more than plead ignorance, stating that, “I’m not racist and I would never condone prejudiced ideology”; we must repent. Our nation still bears the stain of our original sins, and someone—namely the person who claims allegiance to Jesus Christ—must repent and renounce that sin and work tirelessly at embracing, modeling, and proclaiming a better way to live.

Renouncing the tares, tending the wheat, and modeling the values and virtues of a higher kingdom—this is the calling, life, and mission of true followers of Jesus Christ. Let’s live our calling and be a healing force in our world.

Nemesis

In Greek mythology Nemesis was the retribution goddess that brought justice and consequence against those who yielded to pride or exploitation. Her name literally meant, “to give what is due” and she ensured that people got what they deserved.

She was portrayed as a winged goddess with a whip and dagger, the perfect equipment for tracking people down and disciplining them severely.

In our day and age it can often seem like justice is forever postponed or delayed. We know that Nemesis is a myth, but we long for the reality that the myth proclaimed. Why does evil seem so entrenched? Why does injustice so often rule the day? When will oppressors get what they deserve?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that this would not always be so. Indeed, he said, “Evil carries the seed of its own destruction”[1] and it’s true. History is replete with the accounts of oppressive empires that flourished for a season and then sunk into ruins. Today, tourists take pictures of those ancient remains.

Evil will not prevail. Human suffering and exploitation will not get the final word. God is just and the Scriptures remind us that a day is coming when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).

Until that day, we have the honor of extending God’s love and justice to our spheres of influence. We get to see the incremental advance of goodness, kindness, and faith, knowing that someday, like Pharaoh’s army on the seashore, the forces of injustice will be fully and forever swept away. Let’s carry on as unflagging ambassadors of God’s faith, hope, and love.

[1] Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, Philadelphia: Fortress Press: 1963, p.83.

A moral obligation to be intelligent

Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing…” (Luke 23:34)

In his book Strength to Love Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that it was not merely sin that nailed Jesus to the cross; it was also ignorance. “The men who cried, ‘Crucify him,’ were not bad men but rather blind men. The jeering mob that lined the roadside that led to Calvary was not composed of evil people but of blind people. They knew not what they did. What a tragedy!”[1]

History is replete with accounts of men and women who engaged in woeful behavior based largely in either ignorance or misunderstanding. Mankind’s historical inquisitions and persecutions had strains of ignorance and intellectual blindness running through them that made their outcomes doubly tragic: they were evil, yes, but they were also uninformed. Misunderstandings of science, racial equality, mental illnesses, and many other things have led to oppression, enslavement, and misguided notions that have traumatized the human race.

We are called to be better. I think we should ponder these words from Dr. King and consider where they might apply to our perspectives and our engagement with the world: “Sincerity and conscientiousness in themselves are not enough. History has proven that these noble virtues may degenerate into tragic vices. Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. The church must implore men to be good and well-intentioned. But devoid of intelligence, goodness and conscientiousness will become brutal forces leading to shameful crucifixions. Never must the church tire of reminding men that they have a moral responsibility to be intelligent.”[2]

Let’s commit today to redoubling our efforts at being good, just, conscientious, and intelligent.

[1] Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., The Strength to Love, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963), p. 43.

[2] Ibid., 46.

Amber’s Novella is now available! :)

Amber and I just finished our novella, I Am She, and Amber did an awesome job with it!! She is a fantastic writer, and we had a blast collaborating on our first book. As a novella (about 115 pages), this book can be read in just a couple of hours and I think you will love it—it’s a perfect summer, beach read. You can check it out in both print and digital formats on Amazon here. I’ve also included a picture of the back cover and description below as well.

Let me know what you think! 🙂

 

Eucharistic living—YOU are broken bread and poured out wine

The centerpiece of many Christian traditions is Communion/Eucharist—the bread and the wine, ancient symbols of Christ’s redemptive suffering for the healing and quickening of the world. What we sometimes overlook in our various approaches to the Eucharist; however, is the fact that Jesus is not the only bread and cup—you are too.

In his classic devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers draws a direct connection between the Eucharist and Christ’s followers, stating that we have been called to follow Jesus’ lead in pouring out our lives for the world.

Broken bread and poured out wine—that’s what we have been called to be in the service of others. Just as the Apostle Paul viewed himself as a drink offering “poured out” on his followers’ faith (Philippians 2:17), so we are to live sacrificial lives that enrich the lives of others.

There is a mandatory rhythm attached to Eucharistic living, however. We cannot pour out indefinitely without being replenished ourselves. If we try to live lives of overextended, unsustainable service we court burnout and disaster. Rather, we must embrace a Eucharistic rhythm wherein we are broken and poured out, but then get replenished and reassembled by the grace of God.

If you have been withholding your service to humanity, it’s time to engage again. But if you’ve been engaged for too long without allowing your soul to heal, it’s time to get restored. No one can give forever or run without stopping—we give then receive; we run then we rest. Eucharistic rhythms ensure that we can do this with great health throughout our entire lifetime.