Sunday, May 02, 2004

In response to andy, the sins of unawareness, and God vs. injustice

To begin, I think I can appreciate the time that you have to take in writing for something like this, as this is how it is for me on things that come easily for others (like loving people). At the same time, perhaps writing out your thoughts, although difficult, is important for seeing what you believe or what you're doing. On to your other points:

I agree and endorse your claim that the only way we have things come to our attention is to make yourself aware of them. I think that your account of the easy life is, for most people in our context, a choice that is available and attractive. I also agree that when your employment involves 'loving others' that does not make it a given and truly loving others takes work for you as much as me or anyone else. Finally, I know that your youth ministry includes the integration of these issues with the lives of your students and this has become central to your ministry.

The first point of your statement that makes me uncomfortable, however, begins with this lurking notion of "nobility in calling." I hope that we can dispose of such a myth, not simply in official doctrine but in the way we view each other. There is no calling more noble than any other. I know that you're not suggesting this but I believe it is important to be careful with our words in this area.

Of all of the ideas you suggested, your final point raises some questions in my mind that perhaps were coming up throughout the rest of the post. I agree that there is danger is suggesting that people are not 'passionate enough' about God or whatever if they do not share our interests. My question is this; are there certain things that, despite a particular calling God has put on your life, are essential to following Christ? I'm not talking about something that must be done to be considered a Christ follower but rather something that follows from following Christ. I think there are. We would agree that Christian community, worship of God, spiritual disciplines, and loving others all fall in this category, right? When we recognize people within the church who are not doing these practices we are quick to understand that there must be some sort of spiritual immaturity (trust me, as one who struggles with actualizing classical Christian community or worshiping God in traditional ways, I know this is accepted)

My point is this. If we're serious about following Jesus we get very little in the way of practical, life applicable advice from the good book of what to do. But in the ministry of Jesus somethings do become clear. There is the is proclamation of the gospel, prayer, and fellowship. But there is also the battle against injustice. In fact, this can arguably be considered the underlying force behind all of Jesus' ministry. His proclamation of the Gospel was a proclamation of freedom and liberation for the oppressed. His message of prayer included the meeting of the physical needs of people who have been left out. And his fellowship was one of radical inclusion, both rich, poor etc. I'm wondering if in Jesus' life with the poor and oppressed and his overwhelming work to overthrow oppressive evil (in life, death, and resurrection) if we aren't looking at a central concept of following Jesus. You're right to say it is impossible for us (as in you and me in isolation) to be aware and battle all injustice. But you are wrong if this means that this is impossible. If we believe in the resurrection of the dead, what is convincing some people to change their minds, etc? If we are truly the body of Christ, as in the people through whom God accomplishes his desires on earth, and it is the work of Christ to overthrow evil and injustice, then I believe it is fair to not only believe but expect the church to address and overthrow all injustice in the world.

In conclusion, I agree that we are not to be judging those who are not going to Iraq or living in the projects. But shouldn't we have somewhere in our concept of sin the act of choosing not to actualize our awareness that you mentioned earlier? If it is up to us to choose to be exposed to the suffering of the world, the billions of people who go without food or the injustice spending of trillions of dollars a year on death through war, what can be said of the Christians who choose the simple life? I'm having a hard time not seeing this as one of the fundamental evils at work within the North American evangelical church. This is partnered with the choice of many who are aware still not doing anything about it. I'm not saying you have to move to Iraq to follow Jesus, I'm just saying that Jesus would probably be in Iraq (or Israel right?) and that when we follow him we go where he's going. In the very least, wherever Jesus was he was surrounded by losers and was challenging what was not only acceptable but what was moral, acceptable, and Godly.

What's everyone else think? Anyone know of anyone new to join the conversations?


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