a light so lovely

We do not convince others by telling them loudly how wrong they are and how right we are.  We convince them by showing them a light so lovely they will want with all their hearts to know the source of it.–Madeleine L’Engle

Right on sister.  Aren’t we all sick of all the shouting at each other?  Well, maybe not the people who like to shout.  Count me out.

On July 14th Ross Douthat wrote an op-ed for the New York Times entitled Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved?  A day later Diana Butler Bass posted a thoughtful response, pushing the question a bit further: can Christianity be saved?  Right on sister.  Right wing Christians loudly judge the left as unfaithful and unchristian, citing membership decline as proof.  The left condemn those on the right (also losing members) as mainly interested in getting into heaven, ignoring the plight of the poor and the oppressed, and in some instances becoming the oppressors themselves.

What a sad place we have come to.  Red states versus blue states.  Red answers versus blue answers.  In both cases there is some wisdom and some truth; neither has a handle on the whole truth.  Isn’t the truth more purple?  Won’t the best, most helpful answers be purple answers?

I love this quote from Madeleine L’Engle.  In my experience in the church it is that “light so lovely” that people are drawn to.  I like to think of people as spiritual beings trying to live a human life.  That light so lovely is home light, the light of Christ, love’s pure light.  All this fractious fighting between reds and blues is a distortion and a distraction, garish light that blinds us.  If that’s how Christians are going to behave then I have to conclude, no, Christianity cannot be saved.  Count me out, too.

But for now, I will keep the faith and lift up what the gospel writer said about Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John:

In him was life, and that life was the light of all humankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  –John 1.4-5; 9-11 (NIV)

May the light from God enlighten you and bless your life,

david gilliam, pastor, faith united methodist church, austin.  for more about faith church, click here.

the thinking bunch

Faith Community Minister—Mandi Richey

I am a lifelong Christian.  I grew up attending a church in a mainline denomination.  Let’s call them The Thinking Bunch.  I love The Thinking Bunch.  They are wonderful, grace-filled people.  But sometimes, I think they let their thinking get in the way of actually doing anything that would change the world.

The Thinking Bunch has a national gathering of their folks every two years.  They talk about important issues in the church and even make changes to the rules that govern them.  They spend hours and hours at this national meeting deliberating and talking about each side of the issue.  One of the issues they talked about was sexuality and how it related to what The Thinking Bunch defines as marriage.  In some places, same sex marriage is legal.  But The Thinking Bunch doesn’t allow its pastors to perform marriage ceremonies for two people of the same gender.  The Thinking Bunch is so divided on this issue, that many churches are deciding that they don’t want to be associated with The Thinking Bunch any longer. 

And they are leaving.

And my heart is breaking.

Now, this is an important issue.  Please do not hear me saying it isn’t.  What I am saying is that my heart breaks for The Thinking Bunch.  Of all the things it could be concerned with like hunger or poverty, or mission and outreach or peace, this is where they are spending their energy.  I just cannot understand how such an issue has overtaken an entire group of people.  Why can’t they become a Doing Bunch and stop thinking so much??

As a leader in the church, I want to make everyone feel welcome.  All people.  ALL of them.  No matter what their sexuality is.  Or their income.  Or their ethnicity or color of their skin.  I struggle as a member of the Thinking Bunch.  I think we shouldn’t focus so much on someone’s sexuality, but rather, what gifts and talents are they offering?  Shouldn’t the church be a place where people who want to use their gifts can use them?

Again, my heart breaks.  And I think it will keep breaking.  There doesn’t seem to be any answer yet.  The Thinking Bunch is divided.

Wasn’t Jesus about community?  About living together in love? And grace?  And helping people?  Didn’t he say, “A house divided cannot stand?”

Come on, Thinking Bunch.  Let’s get together!

When God Blesses America

I love my country and I’m proud to join my fellow Americans in honoring her this Independence Day.  But I do think  some aspects of America today are not quite what the Founders had in mind.  They believed the kind of democracy we have would depend upon the kind of people we are.  While the Founders were not all Christians, they were all godly people who understood that a good society is only possible when its citizens band together and help each other.  The critical word here is interdependence.  The Declaration of Independence established a political separation from England.  But when they set out to frame our constitution they cast our national vision in terms of interdependence.  Just look at the language of the Preamble: we the people (not just me and mine)…in order to form a more perfect union (us)…establish justice (for all)…insure domestic tranquility (between us)…promote the general (all) welfare…secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and all who come after us.

Whenever I hear people talk about freedom and what they believe it means to be an American, in many cases what I hear them describe is individualism.  I’m free to do whatever I want.  I take care of me and mine and the government should get out of my life.  But if all 300 million plus Americans are mainly interested in individual freedoms how in the world can we have a good society?

In the worldview of the Bible we are both individuals and members of community; real freedom grows in relation to both.  Here’s what the apostle Paul had to say on the matter:

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.  If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?  (Galatians 5.13-15; The Message)

I believe Christians have an important role to play in rebuilding the social fabric of our society.  Sadly, at least as I see it, some Christians today are tearing us apart.  So little love; so much judgment and blame and condemnation.  O, that we could all hear and understand Paul’s wisdom: that God’s Word is fulfilled in one thing—love your neighbor as yourself.  That’s how God will bless America, when we the people learn and practice love of neighbor.  That’s what will bring a more perfect union, justice, tranquility, general welfare, and the blessings of liberty for all.  Christian people can and should be a blessing to America.  To do that we must stand beside her and guide her with the light from above.

All good things to you,

david gilliam, pastor, faith united methodist church, austin.  for more about faith church, click here.