Saturday, June 16, 2012

father's day: a personal statement of gratitude

For most of my life I experienced Father's Day through the experience of my family of origin.  My parents divorced when I was in the ninth grade.  I was the oldest child.  It was messy.  In hindsight, I imagine they were doing the best they could, at the time. I am in no position to judge.  I remain close to my mother, more distant from my father. 

More recently I have reflected on this day out of my own experience as a father.  We have been blessed with two remarkable daughters who are now young adults: the older one is more intellectual and political, the younger one more social and athletic.  Both are compassionate, both love music, and both are blessed with a small network of very close and loyal friends.  Both express the faith into which they were baptized in their own ways; as you might imagine, this causes me to rejoice.  At the same time, they are not perfect, and neither am I, and we are all good with that.

This week the older daughter wrote an amazing article about women and human rights in China (see Tea Leaf Nation), and the younger daughter spent the week managing a small team of youth who rehabilitated a house for a poor mountain family (for example, there were no doors to the bedrooms).

Occasionally friends will comment about these two daughters who have become young women, and how struck by their uniqueness they are.  Being a parent is work, and it is a neverending process, to be sure.  But much of the good comes as pure grace, for which I really take very little credit.  So the idea of recognition on this day is somewhat unnecessary. 

The gift has already come my way.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

can we ask new questions? (romans 12. 2)

So my friend Bob Tuttle gave me the insight: the opposite of personal (as in personal holiness) is not social, but impersonal; and the opposite of social (as in social holiness) is not personal,  but anti-social.  This prompted me to reflect on many of the assumptions I often make or encounter in conversation with other people. I shared this one with him:  it is not that the world is inclusive and Jesus is narrow; in the gospels, Jesus is much more inclusive than I am---he eats with all kinds of people, he makes outcasts the heroes of his stories, he forgives those who have harmed or betrayed him. And it is also true that the world can be pretty exclusive; those on the political left or right are generally attuned to those who keep or violate their orthodoxies, and make outcasts of those who stray from the path.

Here is another one: if you are religiously conservative, you will be politically conservative.  Often, but not always true.  If may be that a careful, even literal reading of scripture about, say, the poor, would lead one to insist on a wider safety net for the most vulnerable and a preference for the common good over the free market.  Peace can be understood in this way; as can liberation movements, from slavery to human trafficking.

Thinking through our assumptions, I am convinced, is more than a merely intellectual exercise.  Why does sanctity of life not include both the unborn and the environment?  Both would come within a doctrine of creation.  Why does radical hospitality not include both the unborn, on the one hand, and gays and lesbians, on the other? Both would fall within a posture of inclusion.  And why is it most often the case that a commitment to the sanctity of life or the practice of hospitality is not consistent? And is it any wonder that our theological commitments are often grounded in a particular political terrain, and over time takes on a tone void of humility or grace?

Mike Slaughter helped me to understand that we do often engage the culture, especially the political culture, uncritically, instead of searching for what he calls a "third way".  And Andy Crouch, in a refreshing way, opened my eyes to see that our default perspective on culture is often negative.  The church that is nourished by the grace of God and led into the mission of God will seek a way of life that is not constricted by political or economic reductionism.  Instead, we will recover the ancient wisdom that is always relevant, and found in the words of the Apostle Paul:  "Don't be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so you can figure out what God's will is---what is good and pleasing and mature."(CEB)

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