Worth The Outrage?

Tags

, , , , ,

Kirk Cameron’s latest movie gets its trailer blocked from Facebook for about an hour and there’s a massive uproar in conservative-Christian-culture-land. Red-faced shouting about an infringement on Constitutional rights. A trashing of everything America stands for. Religious persecution.

And honestly – I couldn’t care less.

Because poor kids in India are getting sick and dying because their school lunches were contaminated with insecticide.

Because there are still thousands of people groups who don’t have access at all (movie or otherwise) to the religion we claim is being persecuted with the blocking of an advertisement.

Because there are actually hundreds of thousands of Christians in actual prison being beaten and starved for the Gospel they hold dearer than life. Real persecution.

So I sigh.

Sometimes I wonder if I really do belong to the same community of faith as groups who can overlook mourning a senselessly dead child while decrying their own loss to post a link to an internet site.

The same community of faith that builds itself multi-million dollar buildings, calls government-assistance programs a waste of money, and doesn’t bother with the fact that children are the most likely to be poor and on welfare in this country.

The same community of faith that can see injustice when it happens to them, but seem blind to the injustices that happen to racial and ethnic minorities, to other countries (at the hands of our own), to people of other sexual orientations.

The same community of faith that mega-phones its pro-life message when abortion is in question, but falls agonizingly silent when its “largest Christian college” is training students to fly drones that will kill hundreds of thousands. Who drag their feet getting involved in solving issues of gun violence, preventable diseases claiming millions, the unwanted men and women who live on the streets and can be beaten to death for sport without us flinching.

The same community of faith that proclaims our sacred belovedness before God and then whose leaders help to hush up widespread sexual abuse at the hands of well-known evangelical leaders who cry infringement of rights should anyone try to investigate or prosecute.

God help us!

Oh my dear American community of faith… maybe it would be a good thing if we experienced some real persecution. Is there no other way for us to learn what’s really worth our outrage?

Of Thieves & Fears

Tags

, , , ,

I must have been around ten years old when I first realized that people’s houses could burn down.

I don’t recall how this shocking, unsettling revelation came to be had – but it terrified me into insomnia for weeks. What if I fell asleep and the house burned down around me? What if we couldn’t get out? What if… What if… What if…

When I finally confessed my terror to my mom, I remember the conversation as basically, “Well… what’s the worst that could happen?” There were two options in this scenario, it seemed to my mom. Either we made it out of the house, all that was lost was stuff, and we’d be fine. Or we died, in which case we were in heaven with Jesus and – of course – we’d be even more fine.

For a long while after, before sinking into sleep, I would lay in bed mentally preparing myself for either of the two options. I said goodbye to all my beloved stuffed animals in case we didn’t see each other again. And I said, “Well, Jesus, maybe I’ll see you tonight…” before surrendering my insomniac ways.

I’m glad my mom took the route she did. If instead, she’d taken me through the house to show me the smoke detectors and numerous exits that could protect us from a fire, I would’ve learned that the answer to fear was more control, more precaution. That safety measures could protect me from fear.

***

Last week, friends told me I should be on-alert since there’s been a few break-ins recently in the neighborhood. I already lock my doors at night and don’t let any strangers past the porch, so I wasn’t sure what extra precautions I should take. My mind started whirring. I woke up in the middle of the night, positive I was hearing intruders rummaging around in the living room. During bouts of late-night insomnia, I envisioned the new lock I would buy for my door – something bigger, bulkier, stronger…

And then that Whisper, nearly shouting to get over my inner turmoil, “STOP!”

“Didn’t you pray over this house?”

“Aren’t others praying for your protection?”

“Aren’t I in charge here?”

And I realized I was trying to get rid of my fear with more control, when there’s no amount of control I could have that would make fear leave my sleep alone. I had to suck in a deep breath and again give up the idea that if only I take enough precautions I can rid myself of fear.

***

I was introduced to Jason Gray’s music when I was last in the USA. One of my favorite of his songs is No Thief Like Fear. The first verse contains this astute observation about – “fear will take the best of us/then come back for the rest of us/its raging hunger never satisfied”.

Once you give it a corner to fight from, fear really does never give up, does it? It will steal your sleep, your joy, your thankfulness, your enjoyment of others. Fear stops us from creating, from changing and growing, from trying something new. I wonder how many things have never been invented for fear of failure. I wonder how many relationships were never forged for fear of rejection.

We think we’re beating fear by taking obsessive precautions and lying awake planning contingencies and never taking any risks. There’s a whole lot of surrender to fear that gets written off as “prudence”. What we’re really doing is giving fear more and more control over us.

***

I was reading in Isaiah yesterday, where twice the command comes “do not be afraid”. Isaiah’s vision isn’t one of a perfectly controlled, ordered world where nothing goes wrong. He’s not saying “do not be afraid” to people living in the perfectly restored heaven & earth.

He’s saying “do not be afraid” while looking into the future of Israel’s being dispersed and scattered to the ends of the earth. Of upheaval and war and tragedy. Of things completely out of control. What could possibly induce someone not to fear in the midst of such circumstances?

I, I am the Lord,
and besides me there is no savior.
I declared and saved and proclaimed,
when there was no strange god among you;
and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God.
Also henceforth I am he;
there is none who can deliver from my hand;
I work, and who can turn it back?”

We’re not in control, but Someone is. And so, I remind myself, do not be afraid.

Stories & Baggage…

Tags

, , , ,

A student told me recently she thinks God only created her to fulfill the needs of other people – making food, cleaning house, doing laundry. References to her family – she’s unmarried and keeps house for her widower father and two brothers – always carry a note of conditioned disappointment. She takes care of them all, they do nothing to help her (and, in fact, sometimes the opposite).

I tried to offer briefly another story – one of a God who created us simply to delight in us. To enjoy us and to delight us with Presence. Her name in Hindi means “song” and I was desperate to say something to her that would open her ears to the song of love being sung over her.

This blog has fallen silent over the past few weeks in large part because I’m a teacher again. I’ve got four hours of classes a day I’m responsible for. Eleven students to welcome and to figure out and to teach. It’s both exhilarating and terrifying to be back in the classroom. My students seem to feel the same way.

There’s something about learning something new – perhaps most especially a new language – that leaves people feeling vulnerable at best, like a hopeless idiot at worst. One student is so petrified of saying the wrong thing in front of his classmates, he literally mouthed his answers to me voicelessly for the first several weeks of class. His answers are very nearly always right.

Every student comes with a story about themselves. A story written in their head, but heavily informed by the input of others. One student told me she was humiliated as a child in Hindi class every day by the teacher because she couldn’t do the standard dictation exercises. Another said she tried to explain where she was getting stuck in English to a teacher and was completely dismissed and told she would never understand. It’s all a lot of baggage to be carrying around.

As a teacher, you end up doing this delicate dance of hearing the communication students aren’t willing to say out loud. You look for the students who are trying to hide. You work for ways to show their own potential to the student who thinks they are completely incompetent.

As a teacher, I bring my own baggage too. Just the other day, I found myself correcting students harshly. There was a thinly veiled superiority in the way I explained the present perfect and past perfect tenses. When I stopped to consider why I was suddenly psyco-teacher, I realized I was trying to make up for a morning of feeling like a complete, incompetent idiot. My own mistake and misunderstanding had led to a bunch of wasted time and work. Maybe it would make me feel better if I could prove how awesome I am to my students…

The baggage doesn’t just distract in the classroom, does it? We each one of us are telling ourselves a story about who we are. It is rarely a positive and life-giving story. We dodge relationships because the story in our head says that people will only ever hurt us. We shrink from trying something new because we’ve been told there’s nothing worse than failing. We work desperately to keep up appearances because what will people think if they know we’re exhausted and dying a little on the inside?

But then there are blessed moments when someone looks to hear the communication we’re not willing to say out loud. When someone does the delicate dance of seeking out what we’re trying to hide and naming our own potential. When someone offers grace for our failures, hope in our silence, encouragement for our disappointment. Someone who opens our ears just a little bit to hear the song of love and delight being sung over us. A song that says we have been seen even while trying to hide, known even while trying to fake it and still He has died for us.

More often, I think, we’re too busy hiding ourselves to sing one another into the light. But perhaps, if we learn to sing this song to one another, to offer this bit of grace to one another, the stories we tell ourselves might just become a bit fuller of life.