Monday, November 12, 2012

Tolerant, relative, spiritual but not religious

What a great weekend in Hotlanta! Of course with the exception of a couple delayed flights and not enough sleep (getting up at 4am yesterday to fly home). I really felt what I've been learning/reading over the past month or so kicking in. Airports bring out the worst in everybody and when you start missing or delaying flights it gets even that much more interesting. It's also fun to people watch at airports. So many different kinds of people from so many different places all stuffed together and in a hurry. Makes for some good entertainment. And now trying to see those things through this kind of "new lens" of not classifying people based off of snap judgments. Putting this new philosophy into practice on a very practical level. Traveling is fun!

I was in Atlanta this weekend for the Youth Cartel's Summit. This is an event for church youth leaders and volunteers to come hear other leaders talk about trends in youth ministry through TED style talks. This is the same organization that hosted the Open in Seattle about a month ago when I met Jimmy Spencer Jr. and started reading his book, Love Without Agenda. So just amazing stuff! The Youth Cartel's self definition is, "we are passionate about Instigating a Revolution in Youth Ministry". So since I work in youth ministry (of sorts. . . I work with a lot of youth in this ministry) I really enjoy getting to go to these events and not only talk about what I love (missions and Jamaica) but I get to also learn and grow!

One of the many speakers that impacted me this weekend is a gentleman named Brock Morgan. He actually brings his youth to Jamaica with us and is coming back in December with his group. I've never worked with his group but it was great to meet him and hear what he had to say. He does youth ministry in the northeast in Greenwich, CT and sees trends that a lot of us in the mid-west don't see. . . yet.

Christendom is dead

The basis of Brock's talk was that Christendom is dead and we (Christians) are living as exiles. I think for most Christians this would come as a shock and almost an insult! It's hard for me to define it but for me Christendom in this context means Christianity's authority in the world. So to say that Christendom is dead means that Christianity no longer has an authority over non-believers like it once did. Christians can no longer answer a question with, "because Jesus said so" or "the Bible says so" and it have any authority. Those answers used to be relevant. . . now if I would use that answer I would be laughed at (often). So we, Christians, are living as exiles in this world. If we hold on to the "good ol' days" we are no longer relevant to the world. So what does that mean for Christians who don't want to be irrelevant? What will make us relevant to a world that needs Jesus?

We need to embrace tolerance

"Tolerance" in the Christian world is just as much a dirty word as "Christian" is in the rest of the world. The rest of the world has embraced tolerance. Everyone is accepted (except for Christians. . . cause we're not tolerant). Christians need to start being INclusive and stop being EXclusive. Tolerance doesn't write anyone off and neither did Jesus.

We need to embrace Christian relativism

Relative. . . another dirty word. I personally cringe when I hear the word. My friend likes to say, "perception in reality". That's relativism at its finest to me. I like to argue with him. :) I feel like too often there are so many things we tack to the message of the cross as if Jesus isn't good enough. To be a Christian is it following Jesus + how you dress + which baptism is RIGHT + how you vote + XYZ? The discussion this weekend was Jesus + a belief in a literal hell. There are so many different views/beliefs on what hell is/isn't. You don't have to think just like me (or everything I've added to the message of the cross) to believe in and love Jesus. There are salvation issues and non-salvation issues. Let's strip away the non-salvation issues and get back to Jesus! If you don't like the sound of "Christian relativism" (like me), try "Generous Orthodoxy". Let's focus back on Jesus' life and message and be generous with each other! And then you can have an open (and generous) discussion about what hell is/isn't, baptism, voting, etc.

Spiritual but not Religious

The phrase used to make my blood boil! I saw it as a cop out. . . a non-commitment to anything and an open license to believe anything. Cut, copy, paste. After this weekend I realize that I may classify myself as "spiritual but not religious" now. GAAASP!? I realize that the word religion carries so much stigma! Back to the death of Christendom - people don't want to associate themselves with Christianity because of all the stupid stuff people do in the name of Christ and Christianity. Christianity has often, in my mind, become an agenda and not a following of Christ. More about converting people and proving WE are right and less about loving God and His created people. Jesus didn't come to create another religion. He came to upend what people thought about religion! Many of my "Christian" friends, often myself included, when asked (or proclaimed on Facebook) will say things like "Christ follower", "lover of Christ", "Jesus", "Follower of Christ". We often don't want to attach the stigma of what "Christian" means to ourselves. So when people are searching and still trying to figure out what this whole Jesus thing is they may want to say, "I'm spiritual but not religious". We need to embrace what they DO believe and encourage them to continue digging deeper. They may not be ready to connect themselves to Christianity as they discover Christ.

Embrace Mission

Stop talking about it and do it! Plain and simple. People want to associate with people who have passion. Have a passion in your life and follow through with it! A friend of mine started a missions organization called GOYA. GOYA is an acronym for Get Off Your . . . Do it! I love my job because not only do I get to talk to people about missions and Jamaica, but I get to go do it myself! I get to be a part of this awesome adventure that is so much bigger than me!

Love Jesus? Prove it! Be tolerant, be generous, accept that people are "spiritual but not religious" and that's ok, and then stop talking about it and GOYA and do it!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cavemen and Muscle Memory

Over the past week I've caught myself trying to live out this whole "Love Without Agenda" thing. This past week I was troubled with myself when I did something that was "nice" but had an agenda behind it that benefited me. It ended up making me mad at myself instead. Long story but it's a weird feeling to catch yourself and try to break old habits. . . especially when you didn't know they were habits in the first place.

A key phrase that stuck out to me when I was reading a few weeks ago was "muscle memory". I had it bookmarked but wasn't real sure how to use it. But it stood out to me and has been stuck in the back of my mind since then. Everyone has developed muscle memory. It's the old "practice makes perfect" mantra that we each play out in our everyday lives. (funny thought, if you practice something poorly it makes mediocre) From typing to driving to playing an instrument to brushing your teeth, we use it all the time. Has anyone ever caught themselves doing their routine in the wrong order? I've noticed a couple times in the past when I've had a fever or I had to get up at an ungodly hour (like 7!). I do things out of order, like wash my face before washing my hair in the shower or taking the road that goes to work when it's my day off. (of course I work from home now, so that can be awkward) Muscle memory keeps you doing the same things in the same order, day in and day out. When you somehow do something out of order you notice it.
Everyone loves Captain Caveman!

Cavemen. . . that's where we came from apparently. I've heard somewhere that (unfortunately Google can't seem to back me up on this, but) we developed our ability to judge situations from cavemen. A caveman would have to make a snap judgment when he heard a rustle in the bush next to him or saw a shadow. Is it an animal trying to kill me or just the wind/light playing tricks on me? We developed this fight-or-flight instinct to keep us alive. We had to judge situations for our survival. . . makes sense.

As we moved out of rock caves and moved into concrete caves in highrise buildings, our survival instinct stayed intact. But now instead of protecting ourselves from animals we're protecting ourselves from each other. Our survival instinct has stopped keeping us alive and started protecting our jobs, our stuff, our way of life, our pride, our thinking. . . our religion.

So now instead of making judgments about shadows or rustling bushes we make judgments about people. Gay, black, white, Republican, Democrat, Arab, Christian, Muslim, poor, rich, divorced, single-mother, drunk -- just the words themselves put us into fight or flight mode! Have we trained ourselves to fight against "those people"? Is that guy with his boyfriend standing in front of you at Starbucks ordering a pumpkin-spice latte threatening you? Is that 17 year old girl pushing her stroller on the "wrong side of town" a threat? My guess is no. What about the guy at the polling station wearing his Obama or Romney hat proudly? That's a tough one, huh? Are they threatening your politics, your thinking, your pride. . . it's possible. Are your judgments towards them, either outwardly or inwardly, going to protect those things? Definitely not. Would a smile or a hello from you make their day and maybe change the way they think about "your kind"? Doesn't hurt to try! You see, they have muscle memory too. . . they make judgments about YOU. Maybe it's based on their past and maybe it's unwarranted, but YOU can start to change that.

My challenge to myself (that I'm obviously extending to you) is to start breaking down my muscle memory when it comes to seeing people. To stop those knee-jerk reactions to people. Earlier I linked to an article that says if you practice something poorly it makes mediocre.We have muscle memories that are making us mediocre! It's amazing what you can see and who you can impact when you stop practicing poorly. Let's step up our game!

Matthew 25:

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'"