Monday, February 27, 2006

Faith: Verb

"Evangelism" has become a very loaded word. It has come to be associated with a particular group of Christians who subscribe to Biblical literalism and very conservative views on many subjects. It has become synonymous with the Religious Right, the Left Behind series, creationism, homophobia, and many other political and theological positions. It calls to mind the voices of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Jed Smock. This definition of evangelism is extremely problematic for me, since most of those concepts and people repulse me. I began avoiding the word evangelism at all costs.

I have, however, changed my stance about this word. I have decided to reclaim it. I'm reclaiming it for what it REALLY means: sharing the gospel with people. This definition says nothing about becoming judgmental or taking a specific political or theological position. It implies sharing and dialogue, but beyond that, it implies care. According to psychological theory, until an individual's immediate bodily needs are met that person will be unable to focus on matters beyond that. As it says in James 2:14-17, What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Indeed, how can Christians ever show the love of God by preaching exclusion and judgment? Moreover, how can we preach love without showing care to those around us. Evangelism is not a man standing on campus spewing condemnation, prejudice, and politics at passersby in an uncaring and confrontational manner. Evangelism is reaching out with God's love to everyone you encounter in whatever way you can. It is smiling at the overstressed cashier at Arby's, lending notes to a student who missed class for a funeral, doing yard and house chores for those who can't do it themselves, driving neighbors without cars to the grocery store, and holding the door for the person behind you. It is the thousand little things we can do each day to improve the lives of the people around us; the things that almost always go unnoticed, but can show God's love as much or more than shouting at or handing tracts to passersby.

As St. Francis of Assisi once wrote, "“It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” Walk on.

Monday, February 20, 2006


Returning to an old blog is like finding an old pair of jeans in the back of the drawer and trying them on. Usually you find that you've gained or lost weight, or that styles have changed or you spilled something and couldn't get the stain short that the you had a reason for putting the jeans in the back of the drawer and are now going to demote them even further by tossing them into the garbage can. However, occasionally you find that your favorite old jeans just got stored improperly and you still love them. The faded, worn hems are charming and they still fit like a glove, just the way you wore them in. They still match the sweaters and T-shirts in your wardrobe and you realize that you never want to let them go. They're just comfortable... they're you.

In short, I'm back to this blog full time, now that my African adventure is complete. I'm still me and this medium still works. Write on.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Now that you know, don't you wish you could go back?

Obliviousness quivered with joy,
Innocence glowed with naivete,
And truth stood:
A solid rock
Beneath sheltering, suburban roofs.

But the questions rained
And the roof leaked
And the rock eroded
And the light spluttered out.

The hinges creaked,
The box lid rose
And the apple crunched in mouths
So sour.

Curiosity sated, now fullness makes us sick
Because now we recognize starvation.
The glow no longer blinds us
To pain, death, poverty, cruelty
And our now-stilled hands are stained with blood.

Leaving makes you homesick
And knowledge makes you heartsick,
Inaction makes you guilty,
But action makes it worse.

Yet you can't clorox your mind
In knowledge there's no going back.
All at once you're trapped by your wisdom
Ignorance is no longer a lack.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Faith and Inspiration... from a Rock Star?

U2's Bono spoke to the National Prayer Breakfast on February 2. I have no idea why a rock star was selected to speak at this enormous religious event, but when I saw the transcript of his speech, I was so amazed and impressed that I almost froze in my chair. He spoke the very sentiments that I have thought many times, but he did so in such an eloquent manner that I was nearly breathless as I read his words. While I won't reproduce the entire transcript here, I want to highlight some of his words:

"Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives.

Check Judaism. Check Islam. Check pretty much anyone. I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill. I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff. Maybe, maybe not. But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. "If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places."

It's not a coincidence that in the scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It's not an accident. That's a lot of air time, 2,100 mentions. (You know, the only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor.) 'As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me' (Matthew 25:40). As I say, good news to the poor.

[...] And finally, it's not about charity after all, is it? It's about justice.

Let me repeat that: It's not about charity, it's about justice.

And that's too bad.

Because you're good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can't afford it.

But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment.
Sixty-five hundred Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity, this is about justice and equality.

Because there's no way we can look at what's happening in Africa and, if we're honest, conclude that deep down, we really accept that Africans are equal to us. Anywhere else in the world, we wouldn't accept it. Look at what happened in South East Asia with the tsunami. 150,000 lives lost to that misnomer of all misnomers, "mother nature." In Africa, 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. And it's a completely avoidable catastrophe.

It's annoying but justice and equality are mates. Aren't they? Justice always wants to hang out with equality. And equality is a real pain.

You know, think of those Jewish sheep-herders going to meet the Pharaoh, mud on their shoes, and the Pharaoh says, "Equal?" A preposterous idea: rich and poor are equal? And they say, "Yeah, 'equal,' that's what it says here in this book. We're all made in the image of God."

And eventually the Pharaoh says, "OK, I can accept that. I can accept the Jews - but not the blacks."

"Not the women. Not the gays. Not the Irish. No way, man."

So on we go with our journey of equality. On we go in the pursuit of justice."

I, for one, am impressed. I'm impressed because I believe in justice for ALL PEOPLE, regardless of their location, gender, sexual orientation, economic conditions, political opinions, or religious beliefs. I believe that everyone has a right to be fed, clothed, housed, educated, and provided with health care. After all, what if YOU had been born with AIDS in Niger? What if YOUR CHILD had no opportunity for education because your country didn't have the money to build schools and pay teachers? What if YOUR FAMILY had nothing to eat because desertification or warring had destroyed your crops? What if I were dying from tuberculosis because my family couldn't afford medication to treat me? People in poverty are exactly like us. Shouldn't they be given the care that we would hope to receive? Isn't their survival worth more than our Halliburton contracts? As people of faith, we have an obligation to treat EVERYONE with respect, to maintain the dignity of ALL humankind, and to care for ALL of God's people. It's not about giving money, it's about fixing the institutions of oppression and putting an end to the conditions that cause poverty.

Here's the link for the full transcript:
Check it out if you're willing to be inspired.

For now, here's to dedication to a better future.