Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Loving Our Enemies: Where to Begin?

This post is part of the Bless Those Who Curse You Campaign's Synchroblog. The links to other contributors can be found at the bottom of this post.

Jesus makes me laugh. Sometimes I laugh at His snarky comebacks to the Pharisees. Sometimes, I laugh when I think of Him walking on water, perhaps with a hint of playful mischief in His eyes, as he beckons Peter to follow. Sometimes, I laugh at His blatant disregard for social customs, religious traditions, and the accepted "orthodox" theology of His day. But then, other times, there's a different sort of laughter that Jesus elicits from me. It happens when I encounter some of His most radical teachings:

"But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also...If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." Or "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you...If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic...and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you."

This laughter isn't an intellectually-amused reaction to Jesus' razor-sharp wit. It is not the laughter that comes from the awe of, what must have been, a bizarrely beyond-all-reason experience. Nor is it the semi-maniacal laughter over Jesus flipping His culture's most precious ideologies upside-down. No. This kind of laughter comes from utter, almost appalled, disbelief. Love my enemies? Bless those who curse me? Pray for those who mistreat me? Don't fight back, but turn the other cheek? Don't resist an evil person? If someone steals my coat, give them the shirt off my back, too? Give to EVERYONE who asks of me?? Without expecting to ever be repaid?

No, this isn't the laughter of the amused. It is the laughter of the offended. The dumbfounded. The convicted.

And yet, after the initial shock wears off about just how insane the way of Christ is and how miserably I fall short of it all, there is something so brilliant and beautiful happening behind Jesus' words. It's not just that Jesus commands us to love our enemies, but He's undermining the entire belief that we even have any enemies to begin with. Paul picked up on this when he wrote, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but principalities and powers." People are not our enemies. People get caught up in the systems of principalities and powers, become enslaved to those principalities and powers, even acting as agents of them, but people, themselves, are not our enemies. "They" are our fellow image-bearers. "They" are our fellow human beings who God loves just as much as He loves "us." It applies to the thief, the terrorist, the hypocrite, the liar, the angry, the greedy, the self-righteous, the bitter, the wounder, the wounded, the violent, the religious-other, the sexual-other, the political-other.

Loving our "enemies" is the way to affirm the innate dignity and worth of every person, even when they deserve it the least. It's the way to stop the cyclical nature of violence, revenge, bitterness, unforgiveness, and hatred. It's the tiny window into the glorious bigger picture beyond our individual wounds and pet ideologies. Loving our enemies, sometimes, shows us that we, ourselves, have often been an enemy to "the other."

Who have we declared to be our enemies? Who have you declared to be your enemy?

Loving our Enemies. Where to begin? Perhaps, we must first realize that we don't actually have any.

Others blogging on this topic:

David Henson at Unorthodoxology: Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love?

George Elerick at The Love Revolution: Toxicity

Brian Ammons at Nekkid Ressurrection: Loving Those Who Curse Us

Brambonius' Blog: Love Your Enemies, Bless Those Who Curse You...
Mark Sandlin at The God Article: A Call to Political Authenticity for Christians

Danielle Shroyer: "A Prayer for our enemies....And for Us."

Conservative Christians and Same-Sex Marriage: A Match Made in...America?

I’m a Christian, a Christian with very conservative roots, no less. Despite this background, I’ve been surprisingly fortunate enough to become dear friends with many beautiful people in the GLBT community. I absolutely support my GLBT neighbors in their struggle for equal rights and privileges under the law. At the same time, my theology tends to be a little more conservative (don’t think of Jerry Falwell-Pat Robertson-conservative, but more Tony Campolo-conservative) on the issue. So, I
submit this post in the spirit of friendship and seeking common-ground.

Is it possible for one to be both a Conservative-Christian and support same-sex marriage?

For many, this sounds like an oxymoron. But after some careful reflection, I believe conservatives can accept the secular legalization of same-sex marriage without compromising their convictions on homosexuality or marriage, in general.

We should ask ourselves the following questions:

To what extent do we impose our religious morals onto others through the law?

To what extent should we depend on the government to uphold our religious views on sexual ethics and marriage?

Are opponents of legalizing same-sex marriage consistent with other sexual “violations” within society, such as adultery, fornication, divorce, and remarriage

While Christians have a responsibility to teach the tenets of their faith to the world, we should not seek to impose the tenets unique to our faith onto the broader public in a free and pluralistic society. Commitment to the Christian faith, or any faith for that matter, and compliance to the moral expectations thereof, should be completely voluntary and not enforced through governmental law. At the heart of the Conservative Christian position is the belief that homosexuality is a sin and marriage has traditionally been between a man and woman. Therefore, as Christians, we must prevent same-sex marriage from being validated under the law. But to what extent should Christians (or people of any faith) seek to impose their religious beliefs onto the broader public through the laws of the land? Certainly, we have quite an inconsistent application as to which “biblical sins” should be permissible under our laws: such as fornication, divorce, and remarriage. The Bible has a lot to say on these issues (much more than it does on homosexuality, btw). Yet, there are not many Christians seeking to enforce those standards on the broader public through the law. Where are the efforts to reform common-law marriages (two unmarried people obtaining the legal benefits of a married couple)? Or for the government to only allow divorce in cases of adultery? Or a law to forbid divorced people from getting remarried? Many Christians also believe the Bible forbids “unequally-yoked” marriages (Christians marrying outside of their faith). Should the government deny marriages
to interfaith couples, previously divorced couples, or force couples seeking a divorce to remain married? Is it the government’s place to only grant legal marriages to those who meet traditional biblical requirements?

Most of us instinctively know, that while these issues are very important to how we live out our faith and conduct our faith communities, we should not force society to conform to all the standards of our faith. Faith, and conformity to the moral standards thereof, must be voluntary.

Christians have every right to express their views on homosexuality (and if that is ever threatened, I would stand up for the freedom of speech and the right of religious communities to conduct themselves as they see fit). But consider for a moment, that one does not have to give up or even compromise their beliefs about homosexuality in order to accept same-sex marriage within our society.

Consider C.S. Lewis’ argument for the legalization of divorce in Great Britain. Could the same logic be applied to the same-sex marriage debate in America?

"Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question — how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian, you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the [Muslims] tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognize that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp.."--C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p112

Much like C.S. Lewis argued for divorce allowances in a secular society that went beyond the biblical allowances, so can the conservative Christian argue for same-sex marriage in a secular society, and yet retain for themselves and their churches the standards in accordance with their faith. Christians often support the rights of others that are in direct conflict with their faith. For instance, one of the very founding principles of our nation is the freedom of religion. This means we guarantee the right for all people to practice the faith of their choosing and worship freely. I would think, for traditional Christians, one of the worst sins would be to worship other gods. Yet many traditional Christians, sometimes religiously-devoted to the Constitution, affirm the freedom of religion for all people. Our government recognizes other religions and provides tax exempt statuses for all kinds of houses of worship: Christian, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist. So, under our current policies, the government "rewards" and "legitimizes" other religions. Yet, traditional Christians believe it is a sin to worship any other god beside God the Father through Jesus Christ. How do we reconcile this? We know worship cannot be forced upon people, nor should worship we disapprove of be forbidden under the law. Since we cherish the ability to worship freely and openly, we must extend this same right to all people, even if how that right is used conflicts with our own faith.

Some Christians worry that the legalization of same-sex marriage will somehow infringe upon their religious freedom. This argument simply doesn’t make sense. The legalization of same-sex marriage would not infringe on the rights of religious people to speak publicly about their beliefs.


Divorce is legal, but churches still maintain the right to preach against divorce and hold their members to their teachings. Churches reserve the right to refuse performing the marriages of, really, anyone who does not meet their standards. Though common-law marriages are legal and recognized by the government, churches still have the right to denounce fornication and teach abstinence. If same-sex marriage becomes legal, churches will still have the right to preach against homosexuality and handle the issue of homosexuality as they sit fit within their own churches. Just like the Catholic Church will not perform/recognize the remarriage of a Catholic who has gotten a divorce outside of their approval, churches against homosexual marriage will not be forced to perform/recognize the marriages of GLBT couples or stop publicizing their beliefs about it.

I contend, in our pluralistic society, that these types of issues (actions that do not violate the rights of others or seek to harm others), should be legalized, and faith communities should retain the right to publicly accept or reject the practice, in accordance to the beliefs of their particular faith tradition. Our laws aim (or should aim) to restrict the forcible imposition of another’s actions upon un-consenting victims. C.S. Lewis talked about a universal moral law that transcended any one religion or culture, and while people within all religions and cultures have violated and manipulated this moral law, there is, generally, a basic level of accepted morality. It is this universal moral law, upon which the majority of our laws are crafted. For instance, one does not need to be a Christian, or adherent to a particular religion, to recognize the need for laws against murder, rape, molestation, kid-napping, assault, stealing, extortion, and so forth. We can collectively agree that there needs to be laws to prevent and punish purveyors of such atrocities in order to justly protect our society. We can all agree on these because, at their very core, such actions violate the will of another person. We know that when the actions of one person override the consent of another, it is usually wrong. While many of our laws are based on Judeo-Christian principles, they are primarily focused on the morals that violate the rights of others. We should not, however, legislate laws that are unique to one particular faith over other faiths or no faith at all. While the government should be involved in ensuring all who enter marriage are afforded the same rights and privileges, it should be left to the individual couple’s faith community to define the nature and sacredness of a marital union.

We should also consider that by denying same-sex couples the right to marry, we deny them over 1,000 federal protections and privileges that are automatically afforded to heterosexual married couples. Here is a list of some of those protections and privileges.

The GLBT community is not all that interested in altering the theology of conservative Christians or censoring their sermons and broadcasts. Most just want to live their lives with access to the same opportunities for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as everyone else. It's about giving their partners and children the same stability afforded to heterosexual couples. My friends in the gay community want the same things I do: companionship, sexual intimacy, family, stability, and equality. I truly believe the views of all sides should be engaged with and respected, but ultimately, no one’s religious convictions should be forced on another through the law. Churches should not be forced to accept/recognize the marriages of gays and lesbians, the divorced, the remarried, or the cohabitation of non-married couples. Christians should remain free to challenge these issues and call those within and without of their faith community to examine their positions. Likewise gays and lesbians should not be restricted from marrying and receiving the benefits of legal marriages in a free, pluralistic society just because it offends the religious sensibilities of others. I suggest we have a more consistent position on the role of government (which traditional conservatism says is LESS government in our personal lives) when it comes to the issue of marriage.

So, maybe, just maybe, Conservative Christians can affirm the rights and dignity of the gay community, while simultaneously remaining faithful to their own deeply held convictions on the issue. I hope so.

This post is part of a Synchroblog, where a group of bloggers post on the same topic on the same day, so that people can surf from one to the other and get different views on the same basic topic. You will find links to the other participants below.
Kathy Baldock at Canyonwalker Connections – Marriage “I Do” For Who

Dan Brennan at Faith Dance – Sexual Difference, Marriage and Friendship

Steve Hayes at Khanya – Same Sex Marriage Synchroblog

Sonja Andrews at Calacirian – In Defense Of Marriage

John C O’Keefe – Exactly What Is Gay Marriage

Liz Dyer at Grace Rules – Nobody knows why or how same-sex marriage is harmful

Herman Groenewald at Along The Way – Same Sex Debate
Margaret Boelman at Minnowspeaks – What Have We Done

David Henson at unorthodoxology – ban marriage

Erin Word at Mapless – Synchroblog: Legalizing Same Sex Marriage

Joshua Jinno at Antechurch – The Church Is Impotent

Kathy Escobar at The Carnival In My Head – It’s Easy To Be Against Equal Rights When We Have Them

Peter Walker at Emerging Christian – Synchroblog – Same Sex Marriage

K. W. Leslie at The Evening of Kent – Mountains, Molehills and Same-Sex Marriage

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Future of Journalism

After reading “The Future (We Hope) of Journalism," an article written by John Carroll, I became more aware of the drastic shifts happening in journalism today because of the advancements in technology, which allow for everyday people to publicize their voices through the Internet. I found the optimistic tone of the article refreshing and insightful. I appreciated Carroll’s analysis of the “old media,” “new media,” and “portal” outlets that exist in journalism today. His vision for how each type of media can exist in the future was well thought out and articulated. I agree, that, although, the modes and methods of news may change shape and evolve for the various kinds of media, ultimately, the old media, new media, and portals will all have vital role to play in today’s journalism and will continue to need each other’s contributions in the future.

The author rightly observed that the new media (bloggers and portals) can exist and build upon the news, precisely because of the diligent work of the “old media,” professional reporters finding news and verifying it. Bloggers and Portal outlets can then obtain these news stories and elaborate with their opinions and pull from other sources to spread news or provide social commentary about it. I completely agree that bloggers and portals (who either do not want to hire reporters or who cannot afford to do so), would not be able to successfully run their outlets, if it were not for old-school media professionals digging up stories, investing in and maintaining vital sources and contacts, and verifying the accuracy of the stories they expose. So, while the old media will have to change and adapt to our new technologically-advanced world, they won’t go extinct either.

The author delivered a much needed reminder to his readers about the importance of the news in society. Journalism makes it possible for the public to hold the powerful accountable and honest. Without the institutionalized media checking up on the actions of the government and big business, those powerful entities would be able to get away with all kinds of corruption and injustice.The news keeps the public well-informed and therefore, better equipped to participate in their civil responsibilities.

The media usually takes quite a pummeling from the public (and sometimes, rightly so), but it’s vital for people, especially Americans expected to intelligently engage in our political system, to utilize and appreciate the freedom of the press and the vast amount of information their efforts uncover and present to the world.
I particularly identified with the section of the article that addressed the “loneliness” of the being in the middle. I have noticed that the voices who not fit neatly into the stereotypical political boxes, are either ignored, or attacked by the more extreme voices from the right and left. So, they get double the criticism, making both “sides” unhappy.

I agree with the distinction Carroll made between “journalistic” voices, who aim to service the public by presenting fair and accurate information and decidedly “non-journalistic” voices who purposely use the news to manipulate the public. Extolling the virtues of “old media” ethics, is a good reminder for new media proponents to be ethical in their presentations of information.

The third section of the articled raised some interesting question about whether or not the media will be “independent” enough to really keep government and big corporations accountable. As the old media serves as a watchdog for government and big corporations, bloggers and other new media serve as a watchdog for the larger, more institutionalized media. Yet, institutional journalism is still needed to keep up with the massive entities that the government and big business have become. The public certainly benefits from both institutionalized media and smaller, more individual media outlets.

The concluding section of the article was particularly encouraging, for someone like myself, who is hoping to have a career in journalism. We are living in a unique time, with access to all sorts of technology and social networks to utilize in our pursuits of journalism. It’s exciting to participate in a journalism that is no longer a “one way” monologue, but a huge, public “conversation,” where the voices of all kinds of people can be heard and appreciated. The new media allows anyone who is willing to have some means of public self-expression, and this ultimately benefits everyone.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bless Those Who Curse You Campaign

Bless Those Who Curse You...And Those You Have Cursed.

Please consider inviting all your facebook friends to Bless Those Who Curse You Campaign page as well as the our first Bless Those Who Curse You Day on Oct. 15 (details on the facebook event page).

In just two weeks, we are asking christians to proactively live out Jesus' call to love one's enemies, bless those who curse you, and being peacemakers. The same week, there will be a syncroblog effort on the same topic (see facebook page for details, and participate!)

We hope to grow this campaign, and partner with all kinds of Christians who will take this challenge both individually and corporately. (Website coming soon.)

For our first event, we ask you to carry out an individual act of kindness to someone who has personally wounded or wronged you, or perhaps, someone you yourself have wronged or wounded.

We also ask you (especially those of you who are in charge of or have influence over, churches, youth groups, bible studies, cohorts, schools, or other organizations) to partner with these groups to conspire collective acts of kindness together. We encourage groups to conversate and pinpoint a person/or group they perceive to be "against" them and reach out to that person/group with creative acts of love and generosity. Or we ask groups to examine their own attitudes toward others, and pinpoint a peson/group they may have condemned, judged, treated unfairly, stereotyped, or hold bitter biases against, and reach out to that person/group with tangible acts of kindness, generosity, gentleness and love.

This is a creative endeavor that requires humility, vulnerability, and radical commitment to the way of Christ. We hope that by "loving our enemies,' we will discover that we truly have none. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but principalities and powers...

Join us. Invite Others. Get Involved. Tell Us Your Story.

"Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend."-- Martin Luther King, Jr.