Worship is Resistance

God and Country

God and Country

This weekend in churches all across the United States, Christians gathered to commemorate the crucified Christ right alongside the Pax Americana. 61% of Protestant pastors believe it is “important to incorporate patriotic elements” in the worship service. The most egregious instance occurring at First Baptist in Dallas where the choir premiered a song titled “Make America Great Again“. Just imagine the early church belting out “Make Rome Great Again”! The civil union of church and state that began when Constantine bedded the bride of Christ birthed American civic religion: a toxic amalgamation of God and country linking the Kingdom of God with the American experiment. It’s an understandable confusion given our country’s history, but that doesn’t make it any less perverted.” The church that was once a thorn in the imperial flesh now rests as a lap dog on the empire’s bosom, swaddled in the American flag. What happened to the church “that once gave the empire fits, but now fits right in with the empire“?

Thankfully, in Donald Trump’s brave new Alt-Right world, woke white folk are starting to resist, but nationalistic worship expressions aren’t idolatrous just because Trump is the POTUS, they’ve always been. For 1,600 years the Western church has been at the bidding of the state, reducing her once prophetic function to an impotent acolyte of empire. This is especially true in America where Christianity acts as a preserving agent of empire, instead of corrupting yeast in the imperial leaven. As Craig Watts reminds us:

“No clear distinction between being American and being Christian is even a possibility because the two have become one in the hearts of many.  The God being worshiped is the American God and the nation they love is in some fashion God’s nation.  Consequently, many Christians find it incomprehensible that incorporating the rituals of America into the worship of the church could be anything other than a positive, edifying practice.”

 

A church that co-ops Christianity with nationalism not only worships a false god, but also practices a faulty ethic by instituting the social, economic, and political platform the state sanctions.  American Christians thus assume that capitalism, democracy, individualism, wealth, freedom, and redemptive violence are intrinsically Christian virtues. But the Gospel of Christ refuses this marriage of empire and Kingdom, realizing the Christian ‘we’ and the American ‘we’ are not synonymous. When acts celebrating The United States enter the worship space, our Christian identity and the nature of the church are compromised.  Do we worship God or Caesar?

 

The answer to this question is essential because what and who we worship shapes our soul.  The practices and rituals that become the liturgy of our lives direct our devotion in certain directions. Are we to be a people of peace and unity or war and division? American Christians cannot in good conscious worship the rightful king who reigns from a tree alongside the imperial, militaristic cult of nationalism.  We cannot serve the Prince of Peace while idolizing Mars.

If the message of Jesus is to be implemented today as a political praxis, most American evangelicals would be appalled at Jesus’ platform that distributes wealth, accepts refugees, loves enemies, cares for the climate, and elevates the poor. These are anything but conservative family values! And while theology and political action are conjoined in daily life, in worship, there must be an absolute separation since “the church that sees the cross of Jesus as the central event in history can never identify any political order with the reign of God.”

Why? Because worship is overtly political. It may well be the most public act of resistance you make each week, declaring that Jesus Christ is Lord and Donald Trump is not. Worship is also subversive, it reminds us that the church was born as a collective act of defiance and it prospered best not from the seats of power, but as an underground community of resistance. Scripture itself is a political manifesto against the dominations systems of empire. “Resistance is in our DNA“, we are “holy troublemakers who do not accept the world as it is, but we insist on the world becoming the way God wants it to be“. The adoration of the crucified King is a revolutionary stance against the powers that be who ask humanity to draw boundary lines around race, creed, language, and nationality. Gathering each week to remember that in Christ God reconciled all humanity back to Himself leaves no room for nationalism. His sovereignty nullifies such differences, since “Now you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens.” In Christ, there is no ‘other’, there is only brother. We now stand side by side with the aggregate of believers world-wide who have been called out of every nation as a chosen people and a holy nation. And in so doing we resist the cultural temptation to venerate our nation alongside our God.

The church functions in the midst of the nations as an alternative community whose social, economic, political and ethical allegiance is to Christ alone.  She is “a new people who have been gathered from the nations to remind the world that we are in fact one people.”  Coming together each week is an eschatological act; it is a foretaste of what the world will be like when the Kingdom of God is finally fulfilled. May the American church, in our public acts of worship, reject the false doctrine that the church exists as a subordinate of the state, “as though the Church in human arrogance could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of any arbitrarily chosen desires, purposes, and plans.”

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A Proper Response to Orlando: Lamentation

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“My God, My God, Why?”

I woke up Sunday morning and, like many of you, saw the terrible news coming out of Orlando. In most cases like this, I choose a social media fast since the Internet can quickly become a platform for vitriolic shaming and blaming. But Sunday was different, at least among many of the progressive Christians I follow, who turned Twitter into a public platform for lament. “Lord, have mercy,” “How long, O Lord?” and “Can’t stop crying” posts filled my timeline. And in a small way, it was comforting.

Christians across the world were engaging in the ancient, biblical task of lamentation: Israel moaning in Egypt, Rachel weeping for her children, Job and his potsherds, or the cry of the forsaken Jesus gathering all the world’s anguish into that hallowed moment when unconstrained grief was shouted up to God, the one God who actually listens. In fact, one third of the Psalms are laments, modeling how we are to worship and pray in the midst of loss. The biblical narrative is filled with stories of God’s people speaking and being answered, crying and being heard. And while a few ideologues wanted to jump directly into conversations about guns, militant Islam, and LGBTQ issues; the more appropriate response to this senseless tragedy was lament.

Lament is the visceral announcement that things are not right; it is refusing to be silent in the midst of evil. Lament is the refusal to let God off the hook. Lament is going all the way down to the depths of human depravity. Lament means evoking cries that demand answers. It means summoning God and expecting Him to act. It is prayer in the midst of pain. The very loss of lamentation ensures that victims remain voiceless and the status quo goes unchallenged.

So we lament. We lament the violent death of 49 divine image bearers; brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends and companions. We lament a Congress that has prostituted itself to the NRA. We lament Christians who care more about their guns than their fellow man. We lament a world violently divided between Christians and Muslims, and the lack of imagination that will lead to retributive violence. We lament that the American church is one of the most unsafe places for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. We lament that we’ve placed politics and power ahead of people.  We lament the bloody plank in our own eye.

What then is an appropriate response to Orlando? Maybe the first step is to recognize our own complicity in the dehumanization of LGBTQ persons and lament the creation of a Christian sub-culture that demonizes rather than welcomes those with whom one might disagree.  

So in your own lamenting, look with tear-stained eyes into the darkness to see how vast, how deep, and how cruel is evil, and lament that that evil lives inside us all. And like Rachel, refuse to be comforted.

See the world’s pain.

See your own pain.

Sit in sackcloth and shower yourself with dust, remembering from which we come and to which we will return. But lament with hope.

Lament with the hopeful expectation that the same God who heard Israel’s wailing in Egypt and Jesus’ cries from the cross is the very same loving father who is listening still, and will one day deliver us from all this pain, all this anguish, and all these tears.

Amen.

American Time or Church Time

pentecost and memorial day

Pentecost & Memorial Day

Stanley Hauerwas wisely said, “To live like Jesus is Lord is going to make my life dysfunctional in relationship to a good deal of American practices.” In fact, a Christianity centered around the politics of Jesus radically conflicts with and even subverts American culture on a number of levels. Never more so than this weekend as Christians all across the U.S. are presented with two observances, one on the American calendar and the other on the church calendar, forcing us to choose whose time we’re telling:”American Time” (Memorial Day) or “Church Time” (Pentecost Season). As followers of Christ, who also happen to be Americans, it’s important to distinguish between the American “me” and the Christian “me”, especially in the liturgies,  commemorations, and stories that shape our identity.

And while it might seem hyperbolic to pit Memorial Day against Pentecost, it’s a perfect example of the tension American Christians face when trying to be faithful citizens in the Kingdom of God while living in a kingdom of this world.

Pentecost anticipates peace. Memorial Day remembers violence.

Pentecost celebrates unity in the midst of diversity. The Holy Spirit weds believers worldwide to share in the one, living Body of Christ. Memorial Day on the other hand is a high holy day within America’s civic religion consecrating men and women sacrificed on the alter of empire. Pentecost emphasizes our communal and diverse humanity as God “poured out His spirit on all people.” Memorial Day tempts us to venerate war, dividing the world into ‘us vs. them.’ Pentecost makes people from every tongue, tribe, and nation one in Christ, unifying a world filled with diversity. Memorial Day reminds us that our racial, linguistic, religious, and national distinctions are often worth killing for.

 The way we tell time, the rituals we keep, and the holidays we commemorate reinforce reality. The American calendar tells Caesar’s story, and is filled with holy days remembering presidents, wars, military conquest, and nationalism. They act as sign posts, guiding us to what the empire believes really matters. The Christian calendar tells time radically different, and points to an alternative reality. We are a people called out of every tribe and nation to be the very love of God in the world.

And yet, yesterday I found myself in our parish cemetery, placing flags on the headstones of veterans in memory of their service. I wasn’t motivated so much by patriotism as by a mournful sadness for the casualty of all human lives spent in war. Saddened that men and women the world over continue to kill and be killed for the nation-state. Sad that American Christians are Americans first, and Christians second, especially when dealing with our enemies. Sad that war for the United States has become a moral necessity. Sad that war is a sacrament, and that the liturgy of war continues to capture our imaginations. Sad that Christianity and democracy in America continue to be inextricably linked through the experience of war. Sad that Christians are willing to kill other Christians for America. Sad that the military is worshipped as the greatest salvific force in the world instead of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, how do we as American Christians commemorate Memorial Day within the Christian spirit of Pentecost Season?

Remember. Remember and lament the loss of all life. Mourn for Iraqi’s, Kurds, and Russians the same way one mourns for your own nation’s fallen. For, she to is made in the image of God and is therefore our sister.

Resist. Resist the temptation of American exceptionalism. Resist the notions that America is great because America is good. Resist the temptation to fear ‘the other.’ Instead, walk toward them to better glimpse our shared humanity. Resist the urge to demonize, villainize, and stereotype our nations enemies.

Repent. Repent for the rape of the West and the genocide of Native Americans. Repent for slavery and the continual racism that guides our social policies. Repent that we are the only nation to unleash nuclear holocaust on a civilian population. Repent for Vietnam. Repent for the Bush lies and the murder of millions of Iraqi civilians. Repent for our imperialism. Repent for our part in the destabilization of the Middle East, leading to the rise of ISIS.

Living into the spirit of Pentecost on Memorial Day weekend will most certainly make your life a bit dysfunctional in relation to American cultural practices. If American Christians are to be a faithful witness to the Lordship of Christ, we must continue to challenge the cultural norms and practices that tempt us to root our lives in the story of the American experiment, and not the Kingdom of God. How we tell time, and what we choose to commemorate is one simple way to remember that following Christ is often resistance to the dominant cultural narrative.

 

 

Journeying Into Lent

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You Are Dust, And to Dust You Will Return

If February wasn’t already bleak enough, Lent makes it almost unbearable. Much of North America is covered in a blanket of cold, and the warmth of Spring is a distant dream. And while at Christmas and Easter our churches are filled with joyful celebrants, most parishes were all but empty on Ash Wednesday, and emptier still on Shrove Tuesday. Hanging the greens is far more exciting than burning them. Baby Jesus is to be adored, the risen Jesus is to be worshipped, but the cross is to be hidden, or tidied up a bit. And in reality it most certainly can’t be loved. Which leaves us wondering just what we are to do to properly commemorate Lent.

Yet, as odious as the cross is, this is where our faith begins, in the cold, dark night of the soul when we dare to believe in the very God who is fully revealed in the suffering and abandonment of Jesus by God. This is indeed a scandal, and foolishness to the Greeks! “The cross is the test of everything which deserves to be called Christian.” Meaning, there can be no Easter without Good Friday. There can be no resurrection of our Lord without first joining Him on the painful journey to Jerusalem. There can be no forgiveness of sins without first acknowledging that through our violence, ego, and rebellion we are complicit in his torture. To rush past the tomb on our way to the mountaintop is like opening a gift without the heart to embrace it. Bonhoeffer called this cheap grace, its “a grace we bestow on ourselves”. It is preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance.

You cannot truly celebrate the end of anything without first starting at the beginning. That’s why on Wednesday the faithful few gathered to begin the long, penitent journey of Lent by being reminded that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. The Lenten rituals of prayer, fasting, and self-denial remind us who we really are by preparing our heart and soul to meet the risen Lord on Easter. In fact, these spiritually forming activities pre-dates the established church, with evidence that first century Christians formalized a time of intentional self-reflection, taking seriously Christ’s commands to “deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me continuously”.[1] 

Christ’s three-fold challenge (deny, pick up and follow) is the foundation of Christian discipleship. Lent becomes the opportunity whereby we align our soul and will more deliberately with the Spirit of God. It is living for forty days how we should be living 365 days a year.  And while the setting down of habits, addictions, and luxuries is the first step toward change, self-denial is much more than first-world, bourgeois asceticism. Your very choice to fast or deny your physical needs provides both existential and spiritual freedom. “It should be accepted as a most elementary human and moral truth that no man can live a fully sane and decent life unless he is able to say ‘no’ on occasion to his natural bodily appetites.”[3] No one who simply eats and drinks whenever he feels like eating or drinking, or gratifies his every physical urge and impulse can ever consider himself free.[4] If so, you are a slave unto yourself.

However, self-denial isn’t an end in itself.  It is never enough to simply put aside this thing or that, we are required to pick up something else altogether. The specific turn of phrase echoing down through the ages to ‘pick up your cross’ has no other meaning than an invitation to share in Christ’s suffering love for the world. According to John of Chrysostom, “No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”  So maybe this year, instead of passively giving up something like chocolate or beer, choose instead to actively take something on. Because to journey with the crucified Christ towards Golgotha means solidarity with the sufferings of the poor and the misery of both the oppressed and the oppressor. During the next 40 days, actively confront evil, right a wrong, heal and do not hurt. Picking up your cross might be as simple as giving your seat to someone else on the subway, carrying spare change to give out to the needy, praying for someone every day, waking up early to meditate, forgiving an enemy, or confessing your sins to your spouse and children.

As we move deeper into Lent, as one spiritual season gives way to a new one, urge one another on to follow him unceasingly on the journey.  After all, obedience is never an accident.  You will never fortuitously fall into faithfulness, it requires intentionality and action. Join the saints in this season of spiritual change repenting of sin, renewing of faith, practicing the traditions of the ekklessia and preparing to celebrate the joyful mystery of our salvation: Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.

Amen.

[1] Mark 8: 34.

[2] Fears, J. “Rome: The Ideology of Imperial Power.” 1980.

[3] Merton, Thomas. New Seeds of Contemplation.

[4] Ibid.

Why Beauty Matters

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The Hay Wain

I work at an organization that helps parents start faith-forming conversations with their teens. Our mission is to bring families together through the art of culture translation, which means that much of our time and energy is spent becoming experts on pop music, movies, television, and technology. It’s both a blessing and a curse. While it’s important to have the knowledge of, and ability to exegete culture, to merely live at the crossroads of mass entertainment can feel pretty shallow, at least to this 44 year old. Whenever we reference Iggy Azalea, Drake, or Kendrick Lamar I often think, will anyone even remember these artists names in 50 years? There is no doubt that pop artists are creative, but are they taking responsibility for what they are creating? And, more important, is their art expressing and manifesting beauty to the world?

The ancient Roman writer Seneca said, “Life is short, but art is long.” So, what makes a poem, song, movie, or painting last through the ebb and flow of cultural trends and tastes? Why has Augustine and Austen, Byron and Bronte, Michelangelo and Monet remained revered when Beyonce and Bieber will be forgotten in our lifetimes?  Lasting art, real creativity reveals whatever is good, whatever is true, and whatever is beautiful. Creating beauty is living into our vocation as image-bearers. Everyone is called to nurture beauty, to cultivate their own garden by offering in their own way whatever is good, whatever is true, and whatever is lovely. Living into our role as co-creators means creating beautiful worlds of peace and harmony in the midst of the fallen and the broken. There is an incredible mystery in human nature, where beauty exists, peace is real. It is rare to find cultures who value beauty but who live violently. Goethe said, “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” This is what it means to be fully human, to nurture beauty outside of the garden, where thorns and weeds cover the earth. Being fully human means taking our vocation as co-creators seriously, by nurturing the good and the beautiful in the midst of a fallen world.

But how do we cultivate beauty in the midst of banality? Beauty is attained by setting our own interests aside and letting something particular dawn on us, to allow something specific to elevate us into a state of wonder. Beauty asks us to look on it directly and precisely, to see it not in the abstract, but in concrete singularity: this tree, this flower, this sonnet, this song. It takes one thing to pull you into the depth of anything. And when you get to the depth of anything, for some wonderful reason, you have the power to get to the depth of everything. And God is found at the depth of anything. In this way, lasting, transformative art points us toward the divine. To understand great things, you have to experience them in small ways. When we start with something specific, we have a doorway to the universal. Beauty allows us to experience the eternal in the ordinary. There is an old Celtic saying that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the ‘thin places’ that distance is even smaller. Beauty reveals these ‘thin places’, where the veil between heaven and earth is lifted if only for a brief moment, when both the seen and unseen world come together as the door between this world and the next is cracked open for just a moment and we glimpse the glory of the eternal. Such experiences elevate us from the cliche to reverence. As Thomas Merton said, “Art allows us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

Practically speaking, how do we foster communities, churches, and families that appreciate and create beauty in the midst of brokenness? First, do hard things. Instead of reading a that self-help book you bought at LifeWay, pick up a piece of literature by George Elliott, Thomas Hardy, or James Joyce. It will be a struggle at first, but persevere, your brain will thank you. In this way, you will re-train your senses to recognize and enjoy beauty instead of twaddle. Second, surround yourself with classic artistic expressions as an alternative to the mass produced entertainment most of us currently consume. Because in very real ways, we grow accustomed to, and appreciate the things that surround us. Our sense of what is beautiful, and our ability to appreciate beauty is cultivated by what we take in. If we are surrounded by synthetic pop songs, touched-up photos of anorexic models, and block-buster blow em up movies, this is what we will assume is beautiful. We begin to prefer these things simply because they are familiar. As a substitute, listen to a concerto by Rachmaninoff, go to an art museum, or attend a play in the park.  Maybe this is what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” And finally, turn off the television, shut down your Mac and go outside. Take a walk in the woods, climb a mountain, look up at the stars, feel the breeze on your face, take in the full revelation of the glory of God in and through his good creation. After all, the heavens do declare the beauty of God.

As Western Christians, we’ve spent a large portion of our time offering the world the good and the true. Libraries are filled with treatises on Christian ethics, morality, and apologetics. But, what we haven’t done is offer the world, through our life and posture, a Christian aesthetic of beauty. It isn’t enough to ask if our posture toward the world is good and true, we must also ask, is it beautiful? It could be that our greatest calling as God’s image-bearers in the world is to cultivate and nurture whatever is just, true, good, and most importantly, beautiful. To open up little thin places all around the world where everyone can come face to face with the magnificence and redemptive power of real beauty.  Because in the end, beauty just might save the world.

The Third Way: Nonviolent Resistance

“He who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

Most of us simply dismiss Jesus’ politic of nonviolent resistance as either impractical idealism or an outdated, extinct appendage to the Gospel.  Pacifism just doesn’t work in our world of chemical weapons, Delhi bus rapes, Boston bombs and Newtown shootings. To even discuss it draws the angst and ire of the most devout evangelical. Sooner rather than later, in every conversation about peace and nonviolence, someone will most assuredly ask the question, ‘What would you do if a criminal or insane person threatened to hurt or kill your mom, sister or daughter?’ As if the question alone provides the coup de grace for anyone naïve enough to believe Jesus really meant what he said.  Or, more timely, what should we do when a regime uses chemical weapons to kill innocent men, women and children? While serious doubt can be raised about the validity of the first question, the second is a shameful reality right here and right now. Thankfully we who inhabit this fallen world do not have to rely on hypothetical answers to guide us. We have as answer witness to the life, ministry and death of Jesus, the par excellence of nonviolent resistance who as God made flesh confronted injustice, violence and evil by dismissing the underlying assumption that the only two options are to ‘kill or be killed’.  This limited reserve of reaction reveals our own physical and spiritual poverty. Mahatma Gandhi even said that if the only two choices are to kill or stand idly by while the weak are exterminated by the strong, then of course, we must kill.  And to that end I acquiesce.

But thankfully, Jesus gives us a third way; a different path beyond quietism or redemptive violence.  It is the radical way of the omnipotent, which, when the hypothetical became a reality, practiced nonviolent resistance as a just means of opposing the enemy in a way that opened up the possibility of the enemy, even an enemy brandishing chemical weapons, to become just himself.  Do you remember the scene in John’s gospel when the life of a defenseless woman was about to be taken?  With stones in hand and a terrified woman at their feet, Jesus interrupts the plans of the self-righteous by interceding on her behalf. He didn’t sit idly by or meet the Pharisees viciousness with force. Rather, he placed himself between the woman and her attackers and bore the brunt of their accusations on her behalf.[3] He met the Pharisees lethal force with an altogether different form of power, a power manifested in suffering love on behalf of the oppressed which when practiced, elevates the dignity of the downtrodden.  Christ’s third way of dealing with evil is therefore not some form of negative pacifism that we in the policing West can dismiss as superfluous in our attempts to meet evil with evil, it is active love and truth in the face of evil on behalf of the subjugated.

Consider Jesus’ most famous polemic on nonviolence in his political manifesto, the Sermon on the Mount.  Written as the platform for Jesus’ call to radical discipleship, the sermon commands his would be followers to confront evil in a third, revolutionary way.

“Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, walk with him two miles…Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”[4]

What is Jesus up to when he asks us to ‘turn the other cheek’, ‘go the second mile’ and ‘give up your cloak as well’? In the first instance, Jesus speaks of being struck on the right cheek and turning again the other.  In the Jewish world where the left hand was only used for unclean tasks, to hit the right cheek with the right hand required a backhanded blow, meant not to harm but to humiliate. Masters backhanded slaves; husbands, wives; parents their children; Romans, Jews.[5] A backhanded blow brandished contemptuous superiority over the weaker party, akin to kicking a stray dog.  Jesus refuses to allow both himself and his followers to accept such treatment.  Instead, he offers a creative way of resisting unchecked power.  As Walter Wink explains, “by turning the left cheek, the servant makes it impossible for the master to use the backhand again. The left cheek offers a perfect target for a blow with the right fist; but only equals fought with fists, and the last thing the master wishes to do is to establish through his brutality the equality of his underling.”[6]For Jesus and for us, turning the other cheek establishes equality; it is nonviolent resistance resulting in status equalization.  In the first century world of honor and shame, this brutal superior who relies on violence to maintain his status, is now the one publicly humiliated.[7]

Jesus’ second scene of assertive nonviolence is staged in a court of law. A creditor has taken a poor man to court for an unpaid debt.  Only the lowest of the low were subject to this form of duress. The Mosaic Law stipulates that a creditor could take as collateral for a loan a poor person’s outer robe, but it must be returned each evening so the man can have something in which to sleep. Instead of accepting this form of economic inequality, Jesus commands his followers to oppose the entire system of prejudice by counseling the poor to give to their wealthy creditor all their clothing, willfully standing before the law and the community completely naked!  Can you picture the scene, a poor man, forced to give up his coat, removes all his tattered clothes standing completely  naked as public witness to an unjust system. And, since nakedness was strictly taboo in Judaism, the shame of such a public display fell not on the naked party, but on those viewing or causing the nakedness.[9]This very public, shocking display by the beleaguered debtor ironically restores his dignity while simultaneously rebuking the greed and power of the creditor. Again, Jesus’ third way of confronting oppression turns the tables on those in power, which should cause us who live in the first world to seriously ponder the weight of our economic, social and political decisions toward the vast majority of the underprivileged world.

Finally, Jesus’ third example of ‘Going the second mile’ is drawn from the common practice of impressment levied by Roman soldiers on subjected colonial populations who were forced by law to carry a soldiers pack one mile upon request.   Jesus offers yet again a third way of confronting power and injustice.  Instead of dropping the bundle the moment one reaches the mile marker, Jesus slyly urges the Jewish peasant to continue hauling the pack a second mile. In this way, the subjugated colonial assumes power over his imperial overlord since requiring an individual to carry one’s pack a second mile was a severe infraction of military code, met with strict punishment.  Our peasant takes back the power of choice. As Walter Wink so poignantly illustrates, “Imagine a Roman infantryman pleading with a Jew to give back his pack! The humor of this scene may have escaped us, but it could scarcely have been lost on Jesus’ hearers, who must have been delighted at the prospect of thus discomfiting their oppressors.” It’s no wonder Jesus is so loved by the marginalized.  It’s no wonder the powerful killed him.

In a world where smart bombs are smarter than our politicians and diplomats, it is altogether fitting to rediscover Jesus’ polemic on disarmament. Our world is replete with evil, the powerful consistently abuse the weak. The hypothetical is reality. Nonviolent resistance is not a platitude discussed from the safety of ivory towers; it is the foundational ethic of Christ, who in disarming Peter disarmed us all.  As our nation ponders military action against injustice, we Christians must remember the posture God took when dealing with His enemies. We must look again upon the crucified God and ask ourselves anew: What kind of God does the crucifixion reveal? “Can this God who is most frequently represented as a defenseless baby in a manger and as a defenseless man on a cross by a tyrant” who meets evil with evil? Are we called to follow this God, or the God of our civil religion? Jesus gives us real, tangible ways of dealing with evil, injustice and violence without resorting to evil, injustice and violence. But there are times when even this posture will not safeguard our lives, and so we look again to the one who was raised up on our behalf, who once again did not sit idly by, but stepped between us and a righteous God whose hands were raised against our evil, and, in Christ’s greatest act of nonviolent resistance, took upon himself the sin and shame of mankind by suffering on behalf of his enemies. If we who claim to be his disciples believe that the life, ministry, words and death of Jesus are more than mere pithy clichés for an ancient world, we must have the courage and creativity to go and be like Him.  After all, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

I John 2: 6

[2] Sider, Ronald J. “God’s People Reconciling”

[3] Aukerman, Dale. “The Scandal of Defenselessness”.

[4] Matthew 5: 39-41, 44.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Genesis 9: 20-27.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Gandhi, Mahatma.

New Creation: Here, But Not Yet

New Year’s is such a paradox.  She bursts onto the scene with global celebration, promising fresh starts and a new beginning. With wide-eyed optimism we turn the page on the calendar and expect everything to be different.  But now, just a month into the year and 2014 looks eerily similar to 2013. Most of us returned to work and school this month to be met with the same deadlines and assignments, the same frustrating co-workers and classmates and the same existential crisis we faced last year.  We long to believe that something new is possible, that the hope of a new world is within grasp, but reality is convincing us otherwise. New Year’s serves as a microcosm for our Christian discipleship journey, reminding us of both the promise of God’s new creation as well as the uncertainty experienced while living between the ascension and appearing of Jesus.  Mark’s Gospel captures this tension between promise and reality as a new world is introduced, only to be eclipsed by fear and ambiguity. Look again at his opening:

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Messiah”.[1]

Anyone with ears to hear should hear the reverberation of Genesis 1:1.  Mark’s bold proclamation insists on the fundamental regeneration of the world through the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus.  The promise is clear, despite the fatigue of world history, and with millennia in the rearview mirror, there is indeed another first time for creation.[2]  It seems that Isaiah’s ancient oracle “I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind”[3] is finally coming true.  This apocalyptic declaration is the foundation for Christian ethics and Christ-like praxis within the current space, time universe.  And though the promise of new world is genuine, it sure seems like a distant reality.  Even now, some 2,000 years after resurrection, we join the souls under the alter asking, “How long oh Lord” must we wait for your Kingdom to completely come?  How long must we struggle to find meaning and purpose in life, how long until old habits and addictions cease gnawing at our flesh, and how long will the wounds of broken relationships bleed?  We’ve been told a new world is on the horizon, but this old one just keeps spinning round and round.  Jesus’ own followers were not immune from this apprehension.  Do you remember the ending to Mark’s story of new creation? On the first day of the week, the women come to Jesus’ tomb to anoint him for burial and…

“Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were afraid. And he said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go; tell the disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you. And they went out and fled from the tomb, for they were trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”[4]

Here, among trembling, fear and an inkling of hope, Mark’s drama ends.  There is no sighting of the Risen Lord, no hands in his sides, no Road to Emmaus, and certainly no glory filled ascension.  It’s a strange way to end a story of good news. And while most of today’s Bibles tidy up the story by adding an alternate ending, of the nearly 6,000 ancient Greek manuscripts available, none of them have the remaining 11 verses we read today.  By leaving the story incomplete, Mark invites us to provide the ending. His discipleship drama will only continue if the apostles, and if we the reader, choose to accept the call to ‘Go and meet Jesus in Galilee’, to continue the pursuit of Him even in the midst of fear and uncertainty.[5]

New Testament scholar Richard B. Hays writes, “The abrupt ending without a resurrection appearance points emphatically to the still future character of the kingdom of God.  Jesus’ disciples at the end of the story find themselves suspended between the news of the resurrection and the experience of the risen Lord.”[6]  This is the exact same place we find ourselves.  The end of one age and the beginning of another have overlapped in this “time between times”; our future hope is near, and yet we are entreated to join in Christ’s work and suffering in the present.  It is precisely the conviction that the new world is ‘here but not yet’ that motivates each of us to join in the unfinished, genuine struggle for new creation.[7]   The Gospel is about accepting and serving in the midst of this mystery.

As we embrace the hope that another year brings, let us do so with the divine diligence of God, who is slowly restoring His good creation.  God is still patient, and as long as He is patient, we must be also. The good news is that Jesus’ bodily resurrection is the watershed event ushering in a new world.  Our call within this regeneration of creation is to function as a new version of the human race, living as His faithful presence, embodying the power of resurrection (new creation) to a world in the midst of renewal.  So let us go even unto Galilee to meet him.  And when we find Him toiling for peace, justice and reconciliation, we join Him.  And in unifying our lives with His, we help bring the present rushing forward into the ultimate consummation of His promised future, when God will be all in all as the waters cover the sea.

 

Originally published by Missio Alliance. www.missioalliance.org

 

[1] Mark 1: 1.

[2] Via, Dan. The Ethics of Mark’s Gospel—In the Middle of Time.  pg. 45.

[3] Isaiah 65: 17.

[4] Mark 16: 5-8.

[5] Myers, Ched. Binding the Strong Man. pg 401.

[6] Hays, Richard B. The Moral Vision of the New Testament. pg 198.

[7] Ibid., pg 21.

The Politics of Worship

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God and Country

I walked out of church Sunday morning. It was a bit like walking out on a bad movie, but with greater conviction. I knew it was risky to visit an evangelical church in Colorado Springs during Republican primary season, but we thought it worth the risk.

The service started off benignly enough, but suddenly it went all FUBAR. Right away I noticed the Christian flag and the American flag standing side by side at center stage, signifying the almost universally accepted spiritual and patriotic loyalties of the congregation. And then, with America The Beautiful playing in the background, the Pastor summoned the little children to come up to the narthex. After a short homily where the pastor linked the sacrificial death of Jesus on behalf of his enemies with soldiers trained to kill their enemies, he read this prayer from the paratroopers prayer book:

“Almighty God, Our Heavenly Father…Drive from the minds of our paratroops any fear of the space in which Thou art ever present…Endure them with clear minds and pure hearts that they may participate worthily in the victory which this nation must achieve in Thy name through Thy will. Make them hardy soldiers of our country as well as of Thy Son, Our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.”

Images of the Hitlerjugend danced in my head. The congregation was then asked to join the children in singing ‘My Country, tis of Thee’. So as everyone else stood with one mind and one voice to sing this patriotic melody, my family and I rose, grabbed one another’s hands and walked back out the center aisle in complete defiance.

We came to church to venerate the God made flesh, instead we were forced to pay homage at the alter of America’s civic religion; a twisted amalgamation of God and Country that links the coming of the Kingdom of God with the efforts of the American experiment. Exalting the one with the other in worship creates a scandalous federation of Gospel and government yoking our earthly nation with the cause of Christ. It’s an understandable position given our country’s history, but that doesn’t make it any less perverted.” If historically there has been little if any conflict in America between Christian devotion and allegiance to the United States it is not due to the ‘Christian Nation’ myth that so many still proclaim. Instead it is an indication of just how much the church has been conformed into the image, ideals and identity of American culture. When believers in any nation allow the worship and adoration of the state to become part of the creed, rituals and practices of Christianity it renders the church impotent to stand with skeptical criticism of the nation in which she is a part.

Think about it this way, historians often talk of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in the 4th century, but in fact Christianity was and continues to be converted by the empire. For 1,600 years the Western church has been at the bidding of the state, especially in America where Christianity has functioned as a preserving agent of the state. As Craig Watts reminds us:

“No clear distinction between being American and being Christian is even a possibility because the two have become one in the hearts of many.  The God being worshiped is the American God and the nation they love is in some fashion God’s nation.  Consequently, many Christians find it incomprehensible that incorporating the rituals of America into the worship of the church could be anything other than a positive, edifying practice.”

A church that co-ops Christianity with nationalism not only worships a false god, but also practices a faulty ethic by instituting the social, economic and political platform that the state sanctions.  American Christians thus assume that capitalism, democracy, individualism, wealth, freedom, and consumerism are intrinsically Christian virtues. But the Gospel of Christ refuses this marriage of empire and Kingdom, realizing the Christian ‘we’ and the American ‘we’ are not synonymous. When acts celebrating The United States enter our worship space, our Christian identity and the nature of the church are compromised.  Do we worship God or Caesar?

The answer to this question is essential because what and who we worship shapes our soul.  The practices and rituals that become the liturgy of our lives direct our devotion in certain directions. Are we to be a people of peace and unity or war and division? American Christians cannot in good conscious worship the rightful king who reigns from a tree alongside the imperial, militaristic cult of nationalism. We cannot mourn with those who mourn while celebrating the nation responsible for their lament. We cannot serve the Prince of Peace while idolizing Mars.

However, contrary to Jeb Bush’s statement that Christianity shouldn’t interfere with one’s political views about  “economic policy or environmental policy”, politics and religion can never be separated since Jesus himself never separated them. As Ched Myers reminds us, “The wedge driven between theology and politics has only resulted in the domestication of the former and the sacralization of the latter.” The Gospel in short, is a political manifesto whose clarion call is to wake up the American church resting far to comfortably in the bosom of the empire. If the message of Jesus is to be implemented today as a political praxis, most American evangelicals would be appalled at Jesus’ platform that distributes wealth, opens boarders, loves enemies, cares for the climate, and elevates the poor. This is anything but conservative! And while theology and political action are conjoined in daily life, in worship, there must be an absolute separation since “the church that sees the cross of Jesus as the central event in history can never identify any political order with the reign of God.”

Why? Because worship is overtly political. It may well be the most public, civic statement you make each week, declaring that Jesus Christ is Lord and Caesar is not. Worship, when seen from this perspective, is incredibly subversive to the powers that be. The adoration of the crucified King is a revolutionary stance against governments that ask humanity to draw boundary lines around race, creed, language, and nationality. Gathering each week to remember that in Christ God reconciled all humanity back to Himself leaves no room for nationalism. His sovereignty nullifies such differences, since “Now you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens.” In Christ, there is no ‘other’, there is only brother. We now stand side by side with the aggregate of believers world-wide who have been called out of every nation as a chosen people and a holy nation. And in so doing we persevere against the cultural temptation to venerate our nation alongside our God.

The church functions in the midst of the nations as an alternative community whose social, economic, political and ethical allegiance is to Christ alone.  She is “a new people who have been gathered from the nations to remind the world that we are in fact one people.”  Coming together each week is an eschatological act; it is a foretaste of what the world will be like when the Kingdom of God is finally fulfilled. May the American church, in our public acts of worship, reject the false doctrine that the church exists as a subordinate of the state, “as though the Church in human arrogance could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of any arbitrarily chosen desires, purposes, and plans.”

 

The Fully Human Woman

Growing up the son of a preacher man in the rural south, I remember constant conversations about the women in the church, especially when Jan or Roberta asked tough questions about why they were never allowed to give the communion meditation. And while no-one had ever heard of “complimentarian” or “egalitarian” notions, it didn’t keep the men from gathering outside on those hot summer nights to squabble, stew and smoke as they asked questions only patriarchs dare to ask. “Should we allow women to pray in the service?” “Can they serve communion?” “Do we allow them to teach anyone other than the children?” 

Looking back it strikes me that, for the most part, the church has been asking the wrong questions all along.  There really is just one question that begs an answer, and it’s time the church gives an unequivocal response to “Are women fully human or not?”

The answer seems obvious, but the historical record proves otherwise.  Aristotle argued, “We should regard the female nature as afflicted with a natural defectiveness”. Saint Augustine proclaimed, “I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.” Confucius said, “One hundred women are not worth a single testicle.” And though modern conservative evangelicals champion traditional, biblical family values as the foundation of western culture, Christians must admit that for the most part, even the biblical narrative marginalizes women. A woman’s place was in the home or in the outer court of the Temple. Her body was both property and a plaything.  She was consistently given in marriage without her consent. Exodus 20:17 warns ”You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male slave, his female slave, his ox, his donkey or anything which belongs to your neighbor”. Listing wives alongside slaves and work animals communicates one truth, woman is the property of her husband. Worse, polygamy was an accepted practice in the Old Testament for men, but not for women. In Deuteronomy, unmarried virgins are compelled to marry their rapist just as long as the male perpetrator can pay the standard bride price. 

The New Testament extends this narrative. The writer of Timothy declares, Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” And what saves this fallacious woman? “She will be saved through child bearing”.  Augustine would be so proud. Even Mark’s Gospel ostensibly continues the age-old marginalization of women, this time with Jesus as the primal perpetrator:

But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syro-Phoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ And he said to her, ‘For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.’ And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

This text is as baffling as it is bizarre. A diligent reading discloses an initial affront by the woman herself, one that Mark’s male readers would have detected.  Women were not to speak to men in public—not to their husbands, not to their fathers and certainly not to a stranger. Her public solicitation is an insult to Jesus’ honor status: no woman would ever dare invade a man’s privacy at home to seek a favor. And so Jesus does what culture and tradition demand of him. He upbraids her by refusing her petition. Why shouldn’t he? The religious code required such a response to this public display of female indecency. Making matters more uncomfortable for the modern reader, Jesus continues his apparent castigation of the woman with what appears to be a racially motivated, misogynistic epitaph, referring to the woman and her daughter as ‘dogs’. Virtually every New Testament scholar admits Christ’s response is an extreme insult.  Various references to dogs appear in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, none of which are flattering.  Dogs in the first century were considered scavengers and Jesus’ reference to food being “thrown” to them is further indication he is denoting wild, lawless animals.  In today’s language, it is hard to hear anything except that Jesus called her a bitch.  

And, just when we think the story can’t get any more abhorrent, Jesus abruptly changes his mind and heals the woman’s daughter.  He grants her plea, not by virtue of her faith, but on the grounds of her argument.  Her wit and wisdom best him, causing Christ to acquiesce to her request.  “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.”  And herein lies the clue to the entire exchange. In just a few seconds of bantering, this nameless woman achieved what the Pharisees and Scribes never accomplished in all their years of verbal entrapment. She won an argument with Jesus! A woman outwitted the Son of God.  She rejects his rejection and masters the master. The unbreakable spirit of a life lived on the margins causes Jesus to pause in admiration of her dogged dignity. And, suddenly, this outsider stands firmly within the newly forming community of God.  For it was Jesus’ initial rebuff and callous sparring that validated her place in his kingdom. She earns inclusion, not from pity, but through merit. She attains full humanity, not through her husband, not through her father, but on her own worth as a woman.  It’s as if Jesus created this entire melodrama to provide yet another example of his subversive theology of status-equalization and gender equality. What looks like a disgraceful story with Jesus’ humanness on display is actually one of the most beautiful and humble conversations in all of Scripture. The God made flesh permits himself to be foiled by a woman and in so doing grants her the status of full humanity.

If history and even the biblical narrative are conflicted with the question, “Are women fully human?”  Jesus is not.  Jesus provides the definitive answer since He is the purpose, center and interpretive lens to all of Scripture. A Christological view of the text compels us to interpret the entire Biblical narrative in light of who God is in Jesus Christ. We recognize God through Jesus. We know how God resolves this issue based on how Jesus answers the question. And what is His resolution?  Despite the law, tradition and the weight of human history, Jesus redefines the very nature of the feminine. He taught women, and spoke to them in public. Women were his friends and companions. He sent women to be apostles to the apostles. It is women to whom he first appeared after his resurrection, since women were the only ones brave enough to be present at his crucifixion. As Sister Joan Chittister reminds us, “It is women who anointed him, and women who proclaimed him, and women who prepared him for burial…It was women, in fact, whom Jesus put at the very center of the only two mysteries of the faith—the Incarnation and Resurrection.” It is a woman after all, who turned God into flesh.

What then are we as modern Christians to do with Jesus’ seditious elevation of women? Quite simply we are to go and do likewise. Gender equality within the life of the church isn’t a matter of legalism, but of discipleship. It’s, “As he is, so are we in this world.” In our churches, ministries and communities, women are in purpose, role and function equal but…well, equal.  For too long the church has been dominated by her masculine half, and she is desperate for her feminine side to make her whole. And what would women bring to the male dominated, franchise making, metrics-oriented, commodity-based, McDonalization of church life in America? Women would bring themselves. They would bring peace into disunity. They would bring flexibility instead of control. They would support instead of dominate. They would tell stories instead of forming systematic theologies. They would offer conversation instead of dogma. They would encourage interdependence instead of autonomy. They would be committed to people and place instead of growth. As one who has been marginalized, they would bring compassion to the outcast. Simply put, a church that embraces the fully human woman completes the image-bearing qualities of the church to the world. 

The fully human woman gives life to a fully human church. 

originally posted at Missio Alliance

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Social MADia: Why I Quit Facebook

Why I’m Quitting Facebook

The role of the church is to take up space in the world, to inhabit a physical place in our community offering an alternative version of reality to the world. But in a culture governed more by virtual reality than physical presence, it’s becoming harder for her to do so. With nearly everyone living a virtual reality on social media, is it even possible for the people of God to offer the world a version of reality rooted in the real? If the church cannot, Don Draper sure can…

The day he quit tobacco was quintessential Don Draper: impetuous, brash, and freakishly brilliant. His advertising agency on the hit show MadMen was teetering near bankruptcy after the loss of their largest client, Lucky Strike cigarettes. Hoping to change both the conversation and the trajectory of the company, Don’s ‘I broke up with her, she didn’t break up with me’ full-page New York Times editorial condemning the cigarette industry saved SCDP’s soul, and her bottom line.

Don’s agency was peddling a product that never improved, caused illness, and made people unhappy. Everyone knew it wasn’t good for them, but they couldn’t stop.  Don could have written the exact same thing about another addictive product: social media.

The average American spends over 11 hours a day online, three of those hours spent on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In fact, if Facebook was a country it would check in as the third largest nation in the world, with over 1.3 billion users. And contrary to what Mark Zuckerberg is selling, it rarely improves, makes people psychologically unhealthy, and is creating a culture of lonely narcissists. Just like tobacco, Facebook is killing us. But like Draper’s chain smoking consumers, we can’t stop because we are addicted. We are addicted to ourselves.

A 2012 Harvard University research study revealed that sharing personal information about ourselves is an intrinsically rewarding activity targeting the ‘nucleas accumbens’ area of the brain. This is the very same region of the brain that lights up when cocaine or other illicit drugs are digested. In a separate report, The University of Chicago determined that social media cravings rank higher, and are harder to resist than nicotine cravings.  “If you look at people in a restaurant, nobody is having conversations anymore. They’re sitting at dinner looking at their phones because their brains are so addicted to it.”  And why? Because we are both bent toward narcissism and bored with reality. ‘Like’ me, notice me, help me escape the here and now. The constant contact from status updates, ‘favorites’, re-tweets, and ‘likes’ attempts to fill the vacuum in our soul. But in reality, we are more isolated, alone, and distracted than ever before. “This media we call social is anything but.”

Social media advertises real relationships and personal significance by making three bold promises: you will never be alone, you are not bound by place or time, and you are perfectible. Online, you are no longer tethered by human limitations. Yet our physical nature begs for concrete existence.  Being human necessitates we inhabit real, geographic place: this town, this neighborhood, this house with these people. Second, we are anchored in time. We have a fixed past, we inhabit the present, and we anticipate a real future. And finally, we are broken and incomplete, not ideal.

Yet social media sells a surrogate personal phenomenon, one that may not be very human after all. On Facebook, you can be anywhere and everywhere all at once, yet present nowhere. You can chat with Sam in Vancouver, while ‘liking’ Brandon’s pictures in New York, all the while neglecting your kids in the next room. Secondarily, you can manipulate your past, control your present and project your perfect self.  The virtual you isn’t fixed, it isn’t fallen, it is editable and perfectible. You can take the perfect picture, from the perfect angle, to pimp your perfect self. But, as Christians, how is this endless amount of time we are spending in the virtual world impacting our witness in the real world?

We’ve added Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to our lives but haven’t added any hours to our day. “The decision to be on online on Facebook is simultaneously a decision not to be doing something else.” We are trading connection for intimacy, self-promotion for presence, and the virtual for the real. Social media isn’t making us more human, in many ways it is creating ‘post-humans’, disembodied creatures disconnected and disengaged with the physical world. And while virtual existence is expanding our world, it is also shrinking reality down to the three inch screen in front of our face. Being informed is now more important than being present.

The totality of our technological enculturation is causing the church to lose her identity. We are abandoning both the tradition and praxis of living as the physical manifestation of Christ in the world. Christianity is more and more inward, private, individualistic, and neighborless. Instead of enduring as parish people rooted in a geographic community, we are tempted to exist primarily in pseudo-reality, tending to our own needs instead of the needs of the other. In fact, the virtual world has no use for the marginalized. The sick, the vulnerable, and the handicapped don’t even exist in cyberspace. But the Body of Christ abides in the present to call into question this new normal mode of existence.

“We need to learn to be where we are.”  The Gospel isn’t an abstract theory, it is a lived reality. Yet our addiction to the virtual is hindering the ability to be the fully enfleshed Body of Christ in and for the world. In a culture of social media addicts, the church functions to challenge the dominant ordering of relationships. The prophetic call of God is for his people to live as an alternative social reality, to nurture and nourish a subversive narrative. As the world runs headlong into the virtual abyss, we stand fixed in the physical, advertising the one corporeal thing we have to give, our full humanity. “It is hard for us to admit that our flawed humanity is the nearest thing to God on earth and that what gives humanity its special character is precisely its possibility and desire to become ever more like God.”

The Incarnation reminds us that God is very interested in the physical. “Matter matters to God.” Bread, wine, water, hands, and feet divulge the divine. The material is sacramental. It’s what Walter Brueggemann calls ‘the scandal of the particular.’ Simply, the physical world is a doorway to the universal. God has chosen to reveal eternity in the concrete, making our very humanity the sacramental expression of the living Christ. Maybe that is why we should be so cautious when abandoning the physical for the virtual.

Christianity will not survive without the body. An embodied, present God desires an embodied, present people as His witness in the world. Our existence with others is the physical mediation of spiritual reality. Being mindful of, and living in the daily may well be the path out of our virtual self addiction.

What could you do if you took back those three hours a day you spend on social media? Your full presence in the life of the world may not only change your community or neighborhood, it may well transform your own physical and psychological well being.

That’s why I’m breaking up with social media. It’s not you Facebook, it’s me. 


Originally published by Missio Alliance