The slaughtered Lamb

Recently, I have watched a few YouTube clips of Mark Driscoll and have been disturbed by a number of things about his brand of Christianity. The first thing that strikes me about him is his arrogance. He is certain he’s got the right answers when it comes to theology and biblical interpretation.  And there’s this quote by Mr. Driscoll:

Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wristed hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.  (this quote appears on p. 194 of the book Jesus for President)

There are many things I find offensive about this quote, but the most glaring thing is this: Apparently he has missed the overwhelming image of Jesus in Revelation… that of the slaughtered Lamb, who still bares the marks of his agony.  This is a conqueror who conquered sin and death, not through guns or muscles or any kind of force at all. Rather, He conquered through love. He accepted the ravages of sin, willingly allowed it to destroy him… and then he rendered it powerless by that very act of submission. He did not defend himself and did not lash out in anger or revenge.  He will certainly return as a judge, and I am not trying to deny that, but his tattoos are the marks of what he has suffered for others, they are NOT badges that proclaim his machismo.

If I could speak to Mr. Driscoll myself, I would ask him to lay down his arrogance and bitterness against those who believe differently than he does. I would ask him to consider for a moment that dispensationalists and fundamentalists don’t have everything figured out when it comes to the Bible or theology, and that they have something to learn from Anabaptists and Catholics and Methodists, from pacifists and even women.  I would ask him to take on the posture of the slaughtered Lamb, who BEFORE He ascended into glory, suffered and washed his disciples feet– even the feet of the one who would betray him.  THAT would be something I could respect, rather than the condescension and judgementalism he currently seems to be spouting.

provocative thoughts from a Southern Baptist

A former professor and good friend of mine has written a great post on the second ammendment and the hard teachings of Jesus.  Todd is a pastor in Oklahoma and also coordinates the Etrek courses with my seminary here in Hatfield, PA. I have a great deal of respect for Todd, and I hope some of you take the time to surf his site a little bit and read some of his musings on life and faith.

http://www.toddlittleton.net/2008/07/27/flipping-the-subject-and-the-object-%e2%80%a6/#more-966

A different kind of foreign policy

I find Obama’s thoughts on foreign policy intriguing. If you care to listen to (or read) this speech, which I know some of you may not, listen for the way he talks about the rest of the world, people who are not Americans.

http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/newstrategy

I do not claim to have much knowledge about foreign policy, but I do see a marked contrast between the current administration’s posture toward the rest of the world and Barack Obama’s.  Idealistic? Naive? Maybe. But perhaps it is time, as he suggests, to stop using our military to solve international problems and start using a different kind of diplomacy.

“The Shack” of my religion

I should probably be doing homework right now, or practicing piano for Sunday (or for one of the two weddings I’m playing for this summer)… but instead I’m here in my chair with my laptop on my lap… I need to think.

My pastor is using William P. Young’s book The Shack for her July sermon series. In case you haven’t heard of this novel, let me give you a very general synopsis: The main character, a husband and father, known as Mack, loses his youngest daughter Missy to a murderer while they are on a camping trip. They find her bloody clothing in a shack, deep in the woods. About two years later, the sadness and pain still consuming him, Mack gets a letter from God (an actual letter!).  The letter invites him back to that shack to spend time with God. Reluctantly, Mack goes… and experiences a weekend of profound transformation and healing.  This book is filled with theology and it touches on questions and struggles with which all of us must grapple, to one degree or another.  Some of the themes include forgiveness, the nature of the Trinity, suffering, grief, the nature of our relationship with God, surrender, judgment and judging, pride and humility, love and free will.

I continue to replay in my mind many of the scenes from this beautiful book. One of them in particular relates to a topic I’ve talked about quite a bit in my blog– humility and the sin of judging one another.  After spending some time with Jesus (Mack spends extensive time with each Person of the Trinity during his weekend at the shack), he is led into the center of a mountain by a beautiful woman. Later, we discover that she is Sophia, the personification of God’s Wisdom from the book of Proverbs.  In the darkness, Her light illuminates two chairs and a desk. The seat behind the desk is the seat of The Judge (Mack knows this instinctively). The seat in front of it is that of the accused, meant for him.  But Sophia insists he take the seat of The Judge. She says, “Judging requires that you think yourself superior over the one you judge. Well, today you will be given the opportunity to put all your ability to use. Come on, I want you to sit here. Now.” (p. 159).

Though he possesses enough humility to know that he doesn’t belong in that seat, he obeys. Sophia tells him that he will be judging the human race. “And why not?” she asks. “Surely there are many people in your world you think deserve judgment. What about men who beat their wives or mothers who beat their children? … And what about the man who preys on innocent little girls? Isn’t HE guilty?”

“Yes!” screams Mack. “Damn him to hell!” (pp. 159-161).

That’s our dilemma, isn’t it? There are people who do things that turn our stomachs and enrage us. Unjust awful, horrible things. How can we NOT judge them?  But Sophia says something later that stopped me cold… “Well, then, Mack, how far back do we go? Do we also damn his father, who twisted his son into a terror? And damn also his mother and her father and his grandfather…. all the way back to Adam? Damn them all? … And God? Is God to blame for all of this? Isn’t this where you are stuck, Mackensie? Isn’t this what fuels the Great Sadness?  That God cannot be trusted? Surely you can judge God for failing you and failing Missy… you would have been a better father.” (p. 161)

Judging God. None of us would admit that, would we… that we judge God for the times He fails, fails to protect us, to defend us against our enemies, to show up for us? But, yes, I’ve judged God. He didn’t destroy the cancer that ate up my mother’s body. He didn’t convict the church people who went after my father without just cause. And I knew I would have done better had I been in charge.

But the truth is… and Young says later in the book… God has His eye on a great work of redemption that is so complex and outside my ability to perceive. Evil is certainly at work here. People do awful things. But God is about redeeming it and using it for His Great Good. He loves all His children, even the ones who do horrid things. He is seeking to redeem the WHOLE creation… everyone and all of it. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I have to trust Him, even when I don’t understand.

At one point in the story, Sarayu (the Holy Spirit) invites Mack to do some gardening with her. As they work in what appears to be a very messy and chaotic garden, untrimmed and randomly planted, Mack begins to see a pattern.  Sarayu explains that she has a fondness for fractals… things that look chaotic and random up close, but actually have beautiful patterns when you see them at a distance. I find that thought fascinating, and something about the idea of fractals makes sense to me when I think about how God works.  In my humanness His ways seem so random and un-purposeful, but given time and space, perhaps I can slowly begin to see the pattern of His Love emerging.

33 years

On Saturday, I will celebrate my 33rd birthday.  Here are a few things I’ve learned (hopefully learned well) in these short years:

Keep it simple (thanks, Mom!).  Whether it’s travelling, hosting people in my home, maintaining the family schedule or working on a project– simple is better. Enjoy the experience rather than stressing over a million details.

People more than things.  Relationships are the meat of life… things aren’t. Take time to talk and take time to connect. It’s too easy to take relationships for granted.

Forgiveness.  Everyone sins, in large ways or small. Everyone has their blind spots. Circumstances are often much more complicated than they seem.  “it could have been me.”  Forgive as I have been forgiven.

Listen before you speak. Don’t make assumptions. So many times, I have thought I knew what someone was thinking or feeling, and those assumptions caused huge misunderstandings and hurt feelings where there didn’t need to be. Listen, listen, listen.

Life is hard. Relationships are hard. Decisions are hard. Transitions are hard. The brokenness in the world is agonizing. Sickness and death are so difficult. It’s the reality… yet God is near.

Life is good. In the cycles of birth, living, and death– even in the midst of so much pain and change– life is rich and full and there is joy and peace.

Humility is key. I am quickly tiring of the labeling, the pigeon-holing, the lack of humility between us. There is no reason we cannot listen to one another and respect one another’s views. We will disagree; we will see from different perspectives, but the name-calling and disrespect are not worth it. Being right is not worth the damage we do to one another. Let’s be humble before one another and God.

I’m sure there is more I will think of later… but for now, this is what I’ve learned in life. May I be moldable and humble to learn more. Thanks, God, for the richness of my life, even the painful parts, even the parts I did not choose for myself, yet you gave them anyway. I hope my life pleases You.