All of us who grew up evangelical have had drilled into us the Romans Road polemic from the apostle Paul that says we cannot be saved by following the rules but only by God’s grace alone. We have been taught to believe that moral cleanliness is an insufficient basis for holiness because it does nothing to protect us from becoming spiritual “whitewashed tombs” Matthew 23:27 like the Pharisee who prayed, “I thank you God that I’m not like other people” Luke 18:11. And yet, instead of moving past an understanding of holiness as rule-following into a deeper understanding of holiness as inward spiritual transformation, so many evangelicals have simply built a new Torah out of Paul’s pastoral instructions to specific churches in specific contexts to replace the old Torah that he said we could not be saved by.
As I’ve worked more and more with activists over the last year, I’ve been asking myself some serious questions about the future of Christianity. In fact, I’ve been asking whether Christianity is in the process of being eschatologically displaced in the divine plan by what Paul Hawken refers to in his book Blessed Unrest as the largest movement of people in the history of humanity: the movement for social and environmental justice. Watch this inspirational video to hear more about this new movement, which Hawken says is leaderless and self-organizing, yet profoundly consistent in its objectives:
Has the vineyard been taken away yet again from the unfaithful vinedressers, as Louis C.K. seemed to suggest in this riff on Jesus’ parable? Is Wairua Tapu more likely to be found in the movements for environmental and social justice—maybe even as the unidentified leader of this movement—than in the Church? Is Slavoj Zizek right on some level when he understands the Resurrection of the Messiah in terms of the movement for social change and progress? Is the merciless pursuit of environmentalists, union leaders and social reformers in our own day by the powers-that-be ultimately more important to the Messiah than religious persecution? Should my primary solidarity and ‘family loyalty’ be to my fellow activists rather than to those with whom I share the bread and wine of the Eucharist? Which groups are more likely to share the blessings of the afterlife, even the “Well done” of the true saints in the Church invisible? Is a religious faith that doesn’t result in social change and a serious challenge to the status quo ultimately void, something to be discouraged as a distraction from the real task of tikkun olam (healing of the world)?
These questions will probably infuriate observant believers, while seeming irrelevant and ridiculous to others—especially to committed activists. Yet if it’s possible not only to see activism as highly relevant to the religious life, but also to understand activism itself in a more eschatological light, it might bring more of a sense of purpose, motivation and hope to both. It might also help to connect people of goodwill in all these groups and movements together so that they can work more effectively towards goals that are at the heart of them all.
When my brother first came out as gay in 1985, it took me until 1990 to come to terms with the news. OK, that was really only two years, because I actually didn’t hear the news until 1988. But in 2004, when I had to re-evaluate my own gender identity, and ended up coming out as a nonbinary transgender person, it was quite clear that I had to stand with other LGBTIQA people in doing so. Since then, I’ve faced some quite horrific transphobia, and have also contemplated ending it all at times. But I know now that I’m on the right path – not just one that is easier for me, but the path that’s right for me as a Christian – and I know that Jesus has approved me as one of His own. This is a path that has allowed me to love without limits, just as Jesus did, and I wouldn’t exchange this path for anything! <3 <3 <3
Originally posted on In The Parlor:
Today, there are 2 news stories that have been circulating all over my Facebook and Twitter news feeds. One you are probably aware of, the other maybe not. The two, though, are closely related. The first news story is the indefinite suspension of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson due to the comments he made during an interview with GQ magazine. The second news story is about the “defrocking” of Pennsylvania UMC pastor Frank Schaefer after he performed the marriage for his gay son and subsequent refusal to submit to church law regarding this action. The link between these two stories is clear. The church’s views (or, in the case of Duck Dynasty, a certain understanding of the Christian faith’s views) regarding homosexuality.
The reaction to both of these stories has been…emphatic, to say the least. The debate over the “rightness or wrongness” of homosexuality has once again been fired up. The appeals to the Biblical passages have been made. The academic rebuttals to the interpretation of those passages has no doubt been referenced. The calls for freedom and tolerance (from both sides) have been shouted…or at least typed out with great gusto. The theological debate (and I am using that term VERY generously here) has been raging all day long, and no doubt will continue to rage in the weeks to come.
But I refuse to engage in it. The way I see it, the time for that debate has long since passed. The stakes are too high now. The current research suggestions that teenagers that are gay are about 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. That puts the percentage of gay teens attempting suicide at about 30-some percent. 1 out of 3 teens who are gay or bisexual will try to kill themselves. And a lot of times they succeed. In fact, Rev. Schaefer’s son contemplated suicide on a number of occasions in his teens.
Originally posted on VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED:
One of the worst Christian massacres—complete with mass graves, tortured-to-death women and children, and destroyed churches—recently took place in Syria, at the hands of the U.S.-supported jihadi “rebels”; and the U.S. government and its “mainstream media” mouthpiece are, as usual, silent (that is, when not actively trying to minimize matters).
The massacre took place in Sadad, an ancient Syriac Orthodox Christian habitation, so old as to be mentioned in the Old Testament. Most of the region’s inhabitants are poor, as Sadad is situated in the remote desert between Homs and Damascus (desert regions, till now, apparently the only places Syria’s Christians could feel secure; 600 Christian families had earlier fled there for sanctuary from the jihad, only to be followed by it).
My friend and colleague with Generation Zero in Auckland, Isabella Lenihan-Ikin (Issie), recently turned 17 years old and has been an activist since 2006, when she was 10. In her recent TED Talk, part of a one-day event held at Auckland’s War Memorial Museum, Issie said that although she wants to be a mother one day, she can’t see this being feasible given the continuing rise in CO2 levels in the atmosphere, and the projected 4°C global average temperature increase that the world is heading for by 2100 under business-as-usual. Issie’s 11-minute talk is well worth taking the time to watch (post continues after the jump):
While I understand the outlook of Issie and many other environmentalists who are advocating for zero population growth, I have grave concerns about a world where demographics reflect the apocalyptic Children of Men. That’s not just because ZPG tends to be favoured more by the Left than the Right, although the skewing of political demographics in a more rightward direction is obviously a concern. I’m more saddened by the loss of hope that we can turn things around and create a world that we all want to live in.
The issue of global climate change and its impacts was brought home more than ever by the recent Super-Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in The Philippines, with the most powerful winds ever recorded and a death toll well over 5,000. This is the third super-storm in as many seasons – Irene on the eastern seaboard of the US in 2011, Sandy in the same area in 2012, and now Haiyan/Yolanda in East Asia. I find it mind-boggling that those most opposed to action on climate change and for a safer, healthier environment tend to be those who identify as Christian (although attitudes among Christians towards what might be called “creation care” are changing). Making the world a safe place for the next generation, and all the generations to follow us, should be top priority for those of us who are called to love our neighbour as our very own selves. Jesus made it abundantly clear that in calling us to love our neighbour, He would admit no limits in the definition of who is our neighbour (cf Luke 10, the parable of the Good Samaritan). The Filipino orphan is every bit as much our neighbour as anyone living in our street. The very least we can do for our global neighbours is to make life possible for them. As Issie so eloquently points out, in making life possible for our global neighbours, we are also making life possible for ourselves and our own children.
It’s long past time, then, to call all Christians – indeed, all people – to the Consistent Life Ethic. What is the use of all our “Christian” politicking around so-called “life issues” when EVERY OTHER POLICY WE SUPPORT, from healthcare to transportation to gun laws to military belligerence to environmental and social responsibility are so utterly DARWINIAN and destructive to life that our creating Hell for our global neighbours gives the lie to everything we ostensibly support?
Yesterday, Sunday 1 December, was the first Sunday in the season of Advent. This Advent, I have chosen a theme for my personal reflections, “Building for the Kingdom, Waiting for New Creation.” The “Building for the Kingdom” part is taken from Professor N.T. (Tom) Wright, who says that we build for the Kingdom knowing that it is our Creator and Redeemer who will take ultimate responsibility for making all things new. In many Church lectionaries, the theme for the first week of Advent is that of hope, specifically the hope for redemption and new creation.
I want to give hope to Issie and others like her, and indeed to all people everywhere, that another world is indeed possible. I want to maintain the hope that it’s not too late to turn things around so that we can make life possible for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and all the generations that follow us. Yes, of course there will be sacrifices to make for some of us, but we as followers of a crucified Lord who gave Himself up for us all should be the first to make those sacrifices. Not to sacrifice ourselves for the greater good of all humanity would necessarily call into question whether we really love one another as God Himself has first loved us.
Originally posted on Mercy not Sacrifice:
I had a good discussion yesterday with my pastor covenant group about our discernment process as a church in the wake of the Frank Schaefer trial and controversy. I know that I got a little hot-headed in the debate online so I wanted to offer more circumspect reflections. I believe that each disciple of Jesus Christ not only has the right but actually the duty to contribute to the ongoing living interpretive tradition of our faith. Some Christians think that the Bible doesn’t require any interpretation, but I contend that the way we interpret it is by living it and sharing our testimony with each other.
Originally posted on Grist:
The climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age, new research suggests.
The companies range from investor-owned firms — household names such as Chevron, Exxon, and BP — to state-owned and government-run firms.
The analysis, which was welcomed by the former Vice President Al Gore as a “crucial step forward,” found that the vast majority of the firms were in the business of producing oil, gas, or coal. The findings have been accepted for publication in the journal Climatic Change.
“There are thousands of oil, gas, and coal producers in the world,” said climate researcher and author Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute in Colorado. “But the decisionmakers, the CEOs, or the ministers of coal and oil if you narrow it down to just one person, they could all fit on a Greyhound bus or two.”
Originally posted on The Alternative Mainstream:
Many sympathized Yeb Sano’s impassioned plea for a substantial agreement on addressing climate change at the first day of the United Nations conference in Warsaw. He pledged to fast through the conference. Members of the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network have pledged to fast as well. Here is their letter, along with an invitation for others to join:
AN OPEN LETTER OF SUPPORT
I would challenge anyone reading this to fast this week in solidarity with the Filipino negotiator Yeb Saño. Youth delegates to #COP19 have taken the unprecedented step of calling a fast for a constructive, meaningful outcome at the UN climate change conference in Warsaw. Let’s build a world where, instead of continually trying to escape the bad news, we can start making good things happen.
Originally posted on The Alternative Mainstream:
Alexei Laushkin of the Evangelical Environmental Network posted this video in a Facebook network. Nadarev (Yeb) Sano, a Filipino delegate, announced his decision to fast at the first day of the COP Summit (Conference Of the Parties) in Poland. His emotions showed, which is understandable: His own town was devastated and relatives are hungry. Among other things, he said this:
“To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of you armchair. I dare you to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian ocean and see the impacts of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes to see communities confronting glacial floods, to the Arctic where communities grapple with the fast dwindling polar ice caps, to the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon, and the Nile where lives and livelihoods are drowned, to the hills of Central America that confronts similar monstrous hurricanes, to the vast savannas of Africa where climate change has likewise become a matter of life and death as food and water becomes scarce.