The Inner Voice of Who Knows What

the pilgrimage: Henri Nouwen and my own topsy-turvy little heart

Archive for the month “June, 2007”

Peace in Perspective II

And yet, in contrast of politics with no peaceful purpose… comes purposeful peace that happens to become political. (Say that five times fast…)

In his literary beauty, A Generous Orthodoxy, Brian McLaren relates the overall stance of Anabaptists in regards to conflict and peacemaking. Anabaptism is very close to my heart, the heritage I have been raised in and have come to embrace.

“While a generous orthodoxy does not assume that everyone will become a strict pacifist, it does assume that every follower of Christ will at least be a pacifist sympathizer and will agree that if pacifism is not required for all followers of Christ just yet, it should be as soon as possible. In other words, people holding to the vision of Jesus Christ – the kingdom of God – never believe that the ways of violence lead to peace. For them, there is no way to peace, but rather peace itself is the way to life in God’s kingdom. (This is why an argument that brands pacifism as impractical makes little sense to Anabaptists. Practicality used in this way is a means of preserving the status quo, and Anabaptists believe the kingdom of God is not the status quo. For them, the only practical way to receive the kingdom of God is to live in peace.)”

Mmmm… peace that leads to the kingdom of God, peace that defies what we expect from our culture, peace that rejects the status quo and fixes its gaze on something of another nature… I can go for that.

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Peace in Perspective I

I just got home from the Fresno Center for Non-Violence’s 15th Anniversary party of sorts… A great thing to celebrate!

But far from celebrating a legacy of peace-making and looking toward a hopeful future of non-violent change to come, the featured speaker hit on a narrow, entrenched, exacerbated, and ironically near-militarized agenda.
Yes, the Bush administration has done wrong, a lot wrong. Yes, the US should not have invaded Iraq. Yes, our nation should never be allowed to abuse our power in such atrocious ways.

But to slam a few people in power and only further hostilities between already hostile groups… that doesn’t seem very peaceful in itself. I love the fact that people outside the power realm are enthusiastic about speaking up and willing to be bold enough to say that there is something very wrong occurring. But how far are we really going to get when all we do is shift the power to the other side of the equation? How much does hardcore leftism counteract hardcore rightism in a way that actually seeks peace?

At one point the speaker began to highlight the differences between Democrats and Republicans, on the issue of the Iraq war. I couldn’t help but think to myself, Isn’t there something more? Isn’t there any other system we can look to that allows us the freedom to go beyond our allegiances to one or the other extreme of the political spectrum?

Not to be a SuperChristian… shudder… but I think that here lies the beauty of a faith beyond this earth and its oh-so-fallible systems. As followers of another revolutionary leader, we pledge allegiance to a higher power. We invest in a system of politics that completely transcends them.

The speaker missed this third option of loyalty. We don’t have to immerse ourselves in one horizontal extreme or the other; there is another plane of existence that provides a wholly alternative policy.

If there is anything good about believing and living in step with a higher power (which I happen to believe is a good thing anyway), it is the fact that we are not bound by our earthly systems. They fail. That’s life. But something remains beyond political systems that often don’t quite make sense…

God and the Father

They say our perception of God is colored by our perception of our fathers.
My God is a good one. Wise, patient, loving, just, silly, challenging, sacrificial, a bit inexplicable at times, but unceasingly speaking truth in grace.
And for this God I am very, very grateful.

For my father, who taught me about this God and continues to remind me of his creator, I am more grateful than words can express.
I’m not sure my father even realizes just how much I respect, admire, emulate, and love him. There have certainly been times when I thought him a tyrant, prude, or even a heretic… But I realize God is none of those things. And this man who strives to remember God is none of those things.

You, not a tyrant, have helped create who I am by making decisions for me, when I was too unsure to make them myself.
You, not a prude, have modeled a different way of life that leads to so much more than we can ever comprehend.
And you, perhaps still a heretic, have taught me to think for myself – question the orthodox, challenge convention, reject normalcy for the sake of normalcy, and remain bored with satisfaction. (It may cause me to meet a few pirates along the way, but at least I will have made some friends.)

Thank you.
Thank you, Dad.
Thank you for choosing us.
Thank you for crafting me into who I am.
Thank you for reminding me of what really matters.
Thank you for being a manifestation of who God is, and how God loves.
You are my hero.

I love you.

So does Mom, and so does that other kid you are crafting.

Happy Father’s Day.
Your ock.

Prophecy

Prophecy is not merely prediction of what is to come. Prophets speak of a different way of life, an alternative to the present that we do not passively await, but actively pursue. The life that is prophesied is not just a thing to hope for, it is a thing to build now.

From Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistable Revolution – some eloquent and imaginative prophecy, rethinking the concept of conversion and presenting a new way of life, undeniably appropriate for our time…

“Then we will start to see some true conversion vans – vehicles that run on veggie oil instead of diesel. Then we will see some converted homes – fueled by renewable energy – and laundry machines powered by stationary bicycles and toilets flushed with dirty sink water. Then we will see tears converted to laughter as people beat their swords into plowshares and weld their machine guns into saxophones, and as police officers use their billy clubs to play baseball.”

It’s good to know that prophecy is not just for prophets. It speaks to everyone willing to hear it and consider something different.

Then again…

The source of the statement below, that so adamantly despised the professor’s lack of knowledge, is the same source that, after a reference to the last presidential election, whispered…

“Who’s John Kerry?”

Grey Matter

So the other day… we spent more than an hour having a conversation about some fabulously grey area in my summer women’s studies class. The professor has done an amazing job at presenting new material in a way that is invitational, not coercive – thought-provoking but not overwhelming.

And yes, much of it is grey, rejecting the conventional dichotomy of “one or the other.”
In regards to gender, relationships, science, theology, truth, and pretty much all of life… grey is necessary.

As she gave us an idea of what to expect on our next exam, she seemed fairly uncertain about the material to be covered… understandable.
Asked whether we’d need to be prepared for a certain section of our textbook, she replied, “Yes, kind of.”
I heard an overly exasperated sigh from behind me, soon followed by a demanding and uncompromising voice, “Yes or no?!?”

Sorry, weren’t we just on grey?

Dancing


“It’s not my revolution if I can’t dance to it. “
– the sentiment of Emma Goldman, Lithuanian anarcha-feminist

“A revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having.”
– V, V for Vendetta

“May we continue to feed each other hope as we dance God’s revolution together.”
– Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution

Agreed.
Who says there’s no theology in graphic novels or anarchy?
Or… who says there’s no room for graphics novels or anarchy in theology?

I’m going to Hell… Woot!

Who knew?

Evidently a friend of mine did. I had no idea, but I’m so very glad she clued me in to my faithless and heathenistic shortcomings… Oh, how the glorious venue of Teazer can be defiled by such ridiculosity.

So, I’m headed down the path to that fiery place. The reason: I have not been baptized.

According to my Mennonite tradition (I use the word intentionally) baptism is a symbol, a public act of commitment to following the way of Jesus in community with other followers. It is also symbolic of pledging allegiance to the kingdom of God through a public display of faith. I love it.

But according to my friend’s tradition, baptism is synonymous with ‘salvation.’ Salvation itself is another matter entirely, but let’s assume for the moment that is has to do with my soul being in right relationship with God and the assurance that my afterlife is one of happy heaven-filled goodness. This salvation, as she describes it, is dependent on a six-step process, so far incomplete in my life.

1. Hear the Gospel.
2. Believe.
3. Repent of past sins.
4. Confess Jesus as Lord.
5. Be baptized for the remission of sins.
6. Live a Christian life.

Now, I’m going to be prideful and say that I have completed (or have tried my best to complete) five of these steps. But the order of my ‘steps to salvation’ has been a bit askew, and so I’m stuck in that awkward in-between stage between confessing and being baptized. Sounds like puberty, ugh. In my friend’s mind, this means that I am not fully ‘saved’ but instead am missing a crucial part of the formula to eternal life.

So… all my attempts the past several years, in the stage between confession and baptism, all my attempts at living a life pleasing to God, following God’s command, striving to imitate Jesus’ example – all this is in vain because I haven’t followed one rule? A wise man brought up the point that Jesus also lays out a rule to cut off our hands and gouge out our eyes. That’s pleasant.

1. Hear the Gospel.
2. Believe.
3. Repent of past sins.
4. Confess Jesus as Lord.
5. Be baptized for the remission of sins.
6. Gouge out eyes.
7. Cut off hands (you decide, one or two).
8. Figure out how to function handless and blind.
9. Live a Christian life.
10. Good luck. Sorry guys, it’s the rules.

Maybe I’m just too anti-rules – horrific, anarchic, mutinous rebel that I am.

This anti-rules sentiment is the reason I’ve never been baptized in the first place. Baptism, as manipulated by man and man’s desire for power, has become an unfortunate element of church politics. I have not (yet) found myself in a place and time where I felt ready to commit to membership in a particular church through baptism, and felt I fully understood all that that entails. It’s not that I don’t want to be baptized, I really would love to be. But my personal convictions lead me to choose when and where carefully.

My friend proceeded to let me know that I was either not ready to repent, or not focusing on God enough. Maybe I should just pray harder… But, you know, I wonder if I am even allowed to pray, if the Holy Spirit hasn’t entered me through baptism yet? Tricksy little argument cycle there.

It sounds pretty hopeless for me until I get my whole head underwater.
It sounds like I better do it quickly, or my soul may be in jeopardy.
Excuse me while I run to the nearest river and jump in, for fear I die of catching pneumonia from my wonderful baptism.

But first, I leave you with a song. Enjoy.

I am a C
I am a C-H
I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N. (Oh yes, I am!)
I have been B-A-P-T-I-Z-E-D with the S-P-I-R-I-T
But more importantly, with W-A-T-E-R (Splash!)
And not just any W-A-T-E-R – W-A-T-E-R I’ve been D-U-N-K-E-D in
D-U-N-K, I say D-U-N-K, full I-M-M-E-R-S-I-O-N (hand claps 2x)
We do no S-I-S-S-Y little S-P-R-I-N-K-L-E-S (Boo!)
And I have C-H-R-I-S-T in my H-E-A-R-T
And I will L-I-V-E E-T-E-R-N-A-L-L-Y
According to the S-I-X-S-T-E-P P-R-O-C-E-S-S!
(S-U-C-K-A-H!)

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