4 thoughts on ““Troubled”

  1. Well thought out. Thanks for sharing. I would humbly suggest that all who follow Christ DO have at least two causes, which are really one: 1. Love God. 2. Love neighbor. Love here is a verb, not an abstract theological construct. Because we live in a politically charged world, our attempts to love often and necessarily carry political overtones. When oppressive laws or social structures prevent equality or human dignity, not only do I think it’s OK to resist oppression in a way that we think best resembles Christ, I think it’s our call. Loving Christ means loving our neighbors, particularly our oppressed ones–including widows, orphans, and all oppressed.

    Obviously, how we interpret Christ’s life and teaching varies tremendously–which is why we face so much political and theological turmoil. If ALL of us, left and right, focused our energy on loving God and loving neighbor as Christ did, instead of trying to dictate how everyone else should think and act, I think we’d be on a much better path.

    I draw personal and spiritual inspiration from Bonhoeffer, Niemoller, the Niebuhr brothers, MLK, Oscar Romero, Demond Tutu (my host father’s very close ministry partner and friend in S.A.), and Beyers Naude (another close friend and neighbor and Nobel Peace Prize nominee), among many others. Without theology contextualized and practiced in the midst of Nazi Germany, America’s Civil Rights Mov’t, war-ravaged Central America, apartheid South Africa …, we are nothing but clanging gongs and noisy cymbals (symbols?!). Just as love doesn’t happen by itself, oppression doesn’t go away by itself either.

    A symbolic (hopefully not “cymbal-ic”) facebook profile is no different to me than any other faith symbol. No faith can be defined by a fish decal on a car, or religious jewelry, or a cross tattoo, or even by a stated belief. Christians are defined only by Christ’s love. Faith is defined by how we respond. For further conversation, go read the Kairos Document, a short but beefy contextual/theological response to apartheid written (illegally) by a diverse gathering of SA’n theologians in 1985, including Tutu, Naude and my late host father, Francois Bill.

    • Todd,
      Thank you for pushing me further. To be honest, I appreciate “likes,” but honest, striving conversations are far better. Because what I wrote isn’t perfect. It’s always a work-in-progress. However, it was an attempt to actually express love, rather than support abstract, remote positions. Too much of the conversations I have heard or participated in have asked me to take a side, to don a label, to be pinned down as “for” or “against,” (perhaps even in the name of “Christian love”) and to not actually personally love another person. Even moral exhortations to “love God, love neighbor” tend to remain exhortations or sentiments, and I rarely do love better after them. This post is as much a personal reflection and confession as a comment on what I see going on around me.
      I can’t, however, agree that religious symbols are “just” symbols, nor are they empty. Meme theory is a fascinating exploration of the independent reproductive force of a visual idea, often well beyond the intention of the host who propagates it. We must be carefully intentional about the images and symbols we allow to be attached to us, and speak for us, because they will speak well beyond what we intend them to. The cross is an image that has become laden with significance beyond Jesus’ death, but it is still the image I would prefer to be associated with.

  2. I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 2 in what you have written… thanks for these thoughts!

    “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. Who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

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