Tag Archives: church

on Rachel Held Evans “Searching for Sunday”

searching-for-sunday

While finishing Rachel Held Evan’s new “Searching for Sunday” as she begins thanking different friends and people for their contributions to the work of the book, I immediately noticed that my skin was covered in goosebumps. Throughout the book, chapters begin with quotes from other authors, theologians or musicians. In passing each quote, I realized that they were authors who also had joined me on a journey from loving church, to leaving church, to finding church again. Madeleine L’Engle, Nora Gallagher, Frederick Buechner, Walter Brueggeman, Brian McLaren, Anne Lammott, Barbara Brown Taylor, Becca Stevens, and on and on and on. The way the book itself resonated with something in me apparently forgotten was registering more and more understandable as each name graced the pages. A sense of camaraderie was surfacing, like we had all been having these conversations together.

And then in hitting the acknowledgments, a section I’ve come to read in every book as to me it presents a kind of undercover autobiographical picture of the author, she thanked many of these people, referencing food, wine and tables as a common location for their work together on life and ultimately on the living behind this book.

My mind drifted to the last few months in my own life. High expectations met with a deep drop of disappointment and numbing hopelessness that permeated much of my community. It drifted to my travels across the ocean and to the coast, sitting and reading and eating and drinking with friends and family. These are the same friends and family who journeyed with me during a deep love of church. They were with me when I realized for the first of many times that church will be as out of touch and off track as any other group of normal people. They were with me when I couldn’t bare to look church in the face because it was unrecognizable as the body of healing and hope and restoration and justice that I had learned it was supposed to be. They were with me sitting on a living room floor every Sunday night managing crying babies and prayerful questions about what it means to be tiny christs in the world. They were with me when I snuck into the back row of big church for an Easter service because something in my blood wouldn’t let me stay home. And they were with me I said what I swore I would never say again as i committed to a group of people learning together what it means to live as Christ in a world clamoring for us to figure it out.

And were I to be writing a book about loving, leaving, and finding church, I would write in the acknowledgements about all of these people and their tables. Dinner on Greencastle and Harper Cove. Breakfast and mimosas on Mimosa Drive. Happy hour at Picasso’s and Flat Iron and the Fat Cactus. Cheese and whiskey on Smith Dr. and sundowners at Camps Bay. Coke zeros and weird cookies under the rustling thatch looking out toward the Nicaraguan volcanos. These meals and drinks have been peppered with the words of Buechner, L’Engle, Brueggeman, Stevenson, Alexander, Meyers, McLaren. They have been soundtracked with the music of Sara Groves and Josh Garrells and Bono and the Indigo Girls. They have been hemmed in by the wise words of good friends.

And if any of us look carefully enough, there are small stones somewhere in each these places, whether restaurants or rancheros or vineyards, that mark something important. They mark tiny moments of thin space where God was real for just a moment, whether in hopelessness or surprising hope. They mark signs of the kingdom with other people who have been both lost and found. Rachel Held Evans and her people. Me and my people. There are lots of us out there looking for each other in hopes that we can find ourselves. The book was a reminder to keep searching for Sunday.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

To find Searching for Sunday, click here. 

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kingdom comes over hot chicken

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Several weeks ago it was at a greenhouse under the South African sun. It was with two friends, one from South Africa and one from England, both in Cape Town now chasing the kingdom hard and fast. One works to transform the way housing is addressed for those living in informal settlements by way of valuing inherent wisdom, skill and reality. The other is working to address issues of gang violence, trauma, and youth development not only in Cape Town but in the hearts and plans of those around the world.

A few weeks later, it was in Nashville, Tennessee. We were talking about whether hot chicken was hot enough or too hot as we prepared for a wedding a few hours later. Friends without the pretense of worry of doing it right or doing it fancy, it was a celebration of choosing to do it and do it together. Friends willing to push through the new uncertainty of what it means to be a community surrounding those who are choosing to do life together. Friends who will argue over the heat of Nashville’s hot chicken in the morning, pretend not to cry at a lifelong commitment in the afternoon, and dance like no one knows what dancing is supposed to look like in the evening.

And this week, like last week, and like the other weeks in between was at the altar rail at a little church on the north side of town. Hands out, breath held, eyes up, it all swelled together. I’ve heard my priest and favorite friend say before that when we kneel at the rail, we share in communion with those with us in that moment, those who are gather at Christ’s table around the globe, and those who have both joined the table in centuries past as well as those who will come after us with the same assurances and the same uncertainties as we knelt at the rail today.

This morning, hands out, I joined them. I joined my brothers and sisters in Cape Town. I joined my sisters and brothers over hot chicken in Nashville. I joined my own local church community, and all those who were at their own churches both in my own city and in cities around the globe and through the ages.

I’ll work toward justice tomorrow and push against institutional power and greed.
I’ll seek beauty and laughter and silliness tomorrow with adults who hate it and children who love it.
I’ll do paperwork and billing tomorrow and wonder what I’m doing and why I care.
I’ll push a few steps forward into and few steps back from the kingdom of God.

And I’ll only be able to do anything at all tomorrow by the mystery of
the power that somehow shakes the rail every time I kneel,
whether at a nursery in Cape Town
or over hot chicken in Nashville
or the altar at my little church.

His kingdom comes.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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all our problems

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They have been saying it for several weeks just before we are dismissed from the service on Sunday mornings. As we participate through the Kenyan liturgy, the children are invited to the front of the room, bumbling and running and sisterly fighting their ways to the front, up the steps, and to the center of the stage and everyone’s attention. They are guided, as the congregation is guided by them, to take their right arms and respond to the priest as he says:

leader: all our problems
kids/congregation/me: we send to the cross of Christ

As we all say together, led both by the children and the priest and also by this deep and gut-wrenching reality that we are staring problems in the face everyday that we don’t know what to do with, “we send to the cross of Christ,” we hold up our right arms as far out as we can reach and then throw them pointing or open-handed to the cross centered at the very front of the room.

The children giggle or try to hit each other or actually stare in amazement every now and then at the cross itself, or at their hands and their naive abilities to send things to Jesus and feel like they actually ever got there. I, on the other hand, find usually as my hand flies toward the cross in the front of the room that I get choked a little with the reality that the problems I’m carrying around are a little too big for me and mostly too heavy to actually send to the cross of Christ. As if I couldn’t get a good enough grip on them to throw them that far in the first place.

leader: all our difficulties
kids/congregation/me: we send to the cross of Christ

It’s amusing to me, as I look at those children up there throwing their arms toward the cross as they hurl their difficulties, to consider how simple some of their lives are. I’m not ignorant enough to think their lives are all simple, that some of them aren’t witnessing yelling and screaming and fighting, that some of them aren’t experiencing abuse and illness and secrets they think will kill them rather than be taken with them to their grave at some unreal and future time. Some are, no doubt, living amidst great difficulties. Many of them, however, are living in great comfort and safety and community that is true and rich and deep. But even for them that hurling of difficulties toward the cross feels almost like a prayer for their future selves, or for their sisters thousands of miles away or three miles away who are fighting to survive amidst great difficulties. They don’t know that their silly hurling of difficulties toward the cross of Christ is actually an offering of love and trust for one of their unmet, unknown peers. I move my hand gently toward the cross with them, but I can’t get words out of my mouth because I feel a little taken over by what is happening in the thin spaces these mornings.

leader: all the devil’s works
kids/congregation/me: we send to the cross of Christ

This one, of course, is a little scary because while we’d like to demonize someone else and name their works as those of the devil, we know deep down that some of our own works are marked by something other than the incarnational love of the king. So we know that to send the devil’s works, all of them, to the cross of Christ is actually to send a chunk of ourselves to die in uncertainty. We throw our perceived or desired success. We throw some of our pleasures and comforts that require the pain and heartache of others for us to afford them. We throw our reasons for why what affects us is more important that what affects the “others”. We throw our grudges and our bitterness and our stinginess and our insecurities and our greeds. It’s like we are taking off all of our clothes and throwing them up there to the cross of Christ. Then we find ourselves, if we dare throw all that up there, naked and embarrassed at what we actually look like now. I often can’t even get around to throwing my arm forward to send the devil’s works to the cross of Christ as the children are throwing it even more dramatically. Their innocent leading makes me feel a little more like a fraud if I were to join them.

leader: all our hopes
kids/congregation/me: we set on the risen Christ. 

The leader isn’t hurling anything forward to the cross anymore, and neither are the children. Their hands are up and usually open. Reaching out to the only place we know to reach with our fragile little arms to communicate where the kingdom has come in Christ’s resurrection, we reach up and out to the skies because we know there is more out there than we have ever understood. We know, too, that right here in the moment and in the space and in the wrestling brother and sister who’ve now been center stage too long to remember their mother’s threat of an after church mingling with no snacks if they misbehave, we are reaching out to something that we must have.

That hope we are reaching out for as if our lives and sanity and humanity depended on it.

We’ve been brave enough to speak out loud with our words and our bodies of our problems, our difficulties, and the devil’s works that we have co-opted and coauthored. Because of the courage of the kids and the costume of the priest, and because even our choking-up makes us know we must be telling a little more of the truth than usual, I’m able to lift up my right arm to the unknown skies, or the ceiling of this sad little building, and decide to set my hopes toward the impossible kingdom that I can’t stop thinking about, and the impossible king who has been causing impossible problems in our storylines since the very first story was ever set in motion.

all our problems
we send to the cross of Christ
all our difficulties
we send to the cross of Christ
all the devil’s works
we send to the cross of Christ
all our hopes
we set on the risen Christ. 

djordan
Pine Tree

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letter TO a Birmingham prison: on MLK Day

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Of course the classy, enlightened thing to do on Martin Luther King Jr. Day every January remains to brighten the cold and often gray mornings by posting quotes, images and videos about having dreams, taking the first steps, and valuing love over hate. We pontificate on justice and look toward the one day when the dream he had becomes a reality, and we feel a little less xenophobic and a little more pious about ourselves.

And then we go to work, or take a day off by relaxing. And that day is often filled with complicit participation in the systems that oppress others and therefore ourselves. We participate in the dreams of power and anxiety and scarcity and fear and clamoring for the top. We participate in tempered and reasoned arguments why Yes, of course these are important issues, but this is the wrong way to go about it. We join in faceless, human-interaction-less debates about getting back to some unreal era when things were better or moving toward some unwon future when the best of humanity is realized.

But on this Monday, every year, we read a letter from a Birmingham prison, a letter in response to 8 clergy’s written request to MLK to calm down and play by the known rules, and we celebrate. We imagine ourselves in the cell with King, supporting his words and thinking his thoughts. After several years of scribbling An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere on pieces of paper and taping them to mirrors and computer monitors, I wondered what the letter written TO a Birmingham prison actually said, and if I might actually, ashamedly find myself supporting their words and thinking their thoughts.

For the causes and the groups of people in the margins those causes are iconic of, we owe our own futures as well as the legacy of King the task of identifying with how much we still speak with the words of these clergy in all their good intentions, whether we want to or not, because in all our tweets and posts about freedom and justice and oppression, we are terrified that if we don’t support the status quo we might end up on the bottom, being treated and imprisoned the way we have been treating and imprisoning others.

April 12, 1963

We clergymen are among those who, in January, issued “an Appeal for Law and Order and Common Sense,” in dealing with racial problems in Alabama. We expressed understanding that honest convictions in racial matters could properly be pursued in the courts, but urged that decisions of those courts should in the meantime be peacefully obeyed.

Since that time there has been some evidence of increased forbearance and a willingness to face facts. Responsible citizens have undertaken to work on various problems which cause racial friction and unrest. In Birmingham, recent public events have given indication that we all have opportunity for a new constructive and realistic approach to racial problems.

However, we are now confronted by a series of demonstrations by some of our Negro citizens, directed and led in part by outsiders. We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized. But we are convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely.

We agree rather with certain local Negro leadership which has called for honest and open negotiation of racial issues in our area. And we believe this kind of facing of issues can best be accomplished by citizens of our own metropolitan area, white and Negro, meeting with their knowledge and experiences of the local situation. All of us need to face that responsibility and find proper channels for its accomplishment.

Just as we formerly pointed out that “hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions,” we also point out that such actions as incite to hatred and violence, however technically peaceful those actions may be, have not contributed to the resolution of our local problems. We do not believe that these days of new hope are days when extreme measures are justified in Birmingham.

We commend the community as a whole, and the local news media and law enforcement officials in particular, on the calm manner in which these demonstrations have been handled. We urge the public to continue to show restraint should the demonstrations continue, and the law enforcement officials to remain calm and continue to protect our city from violence.

We further strongly urge our own Negro community to withdraw support from these demonstrations, and to unite locally in working peacefully for a better Birmingham. When rights are consistently denied, a cause should be pressed in the courts and in negotiations among local leaders, and not in the streets. We appeal to both our white and Negro citizenry to observe the principles of law and order and common sense.

Signed by:
C.C.J. CARPENTER, D.D., LL.D., Bishop of Alabama
JOSEPH A. DURICK, D.D., Auxiliary Bishop, Diocese of Mobile-Birmingham
Rabbi MILTON L. GRAFMAN, Temple Emanu-El, Birmingham, Alabama
Bishop PAUL HARDIN, Bishop of the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the Methodist Church
Bishop NOLAN B. HARMON, Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the Methodist Church
GEORGE M. MURRAY, D.D., LL.D., Bishop Coadjutor, Episcopal Diocese of Alabama
EDWARD V. RAMAGE, Moderator, Synod of the Alabama Presbyterian Church in the United States

And THEN, the letter from that prison:

Letter from a Birmingham Jail Cell from Bradley Williams on Vimeo.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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when it finally has no end

nicene creed

I was up late, and woke up late, and made it into the church service about ten minutes late. My voice was much deeper than normal, and was still deep when we made it to the words of the Nicene Creed. I think it was the unfamiliar cantor of my voice that made me hear what I said today as if it was the first time I had ever heard it.

“…and his kingdom will have no end.”

+++

There are often moments where I see it. It’s clearly present in ways that don’t make any sense, so I lean back, squint my eyes so that tears don’t fall out, and try to breathe it in. There are moments where I see what Nora Gallagher references as “thin space,” moments where the space we are in is touching the space we will be in when the kingdom comes in all of its fullness.

Sometimes, these moments of heaven meeting earth are in
the monotony of daily chores
the normalcy of singing with the windows down
the clinking of glasses and forks and plates at dinner with friends
the deep breaths after long days of good work.

Sometimes, these moments of heaven meeting earth are in
the deep grief of watching one we’ve lived loving be lowered into ground
the deep heartbreak of waiting to hear the horrible news we’re hoping isn’t true
the deep sadness of holding our hair in our hands because we know we are powerless and things are out of control.

Sometimes, these moments of heaven meeting earth are in
the brilliance of art, laughter, hard work
the sharp edges of a brilliant sonnet, sunset, silhouette
the joy of eyes meeting, hands shaking, understanding.

But every time, for now, these moments of heaven meeting earth
have ends. Endings. They are over after they begin.

They have an end.

And we are then reminded that
the things that feel true, honest, just, lovely, pure
don’t last, for now.

+++

So we stand together, deep voices on early Sunday mornings, and say the words that have come from the mouths of men and women for hundreds and hundreds of years. In the echo of their voices and the startling depth of our own early-morning voice, we hold out hope that the day is coming when it has no end. The kingdom made up of thin space, where heaven and earth meet for good and hold hands for good, will have no end. So those moments where we know and see and tell and sense the truth, and we hope that they would last forever…we wait for the day when they will.

We wait for the day when it finally has no end.

djordan
Pine Tree

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looking at our toes

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Only half of us stood up, and that was because we couldn’t reach each other to be able to hold hands otherwise. The other half of the room stayed seated. I looked down at my toes, initially wondering if my clammy palms would be noticeable to the women on my left and right.

But then, looking at my flip flops and the sandals of the women on either side of me, and then the various shoes of those around the room, (not that I was peaking during the prayer) I immediately flashed back to several years ago in the mountains of Nicaragua. We were in a small church in Matagalpa at the end of a Sunday morning service, and the congregation was praying for us and us for them. I remembered during that prayer too, holding hands and sweating, looking down at all those toes. Shoes were   pointed toward each other making a makeshift circle, hands held, prayers offered for one another and those not even present.

Tonight, our circle joined that circle years ago in Matagalpa. It will join the circles of the generations to follow as it joins the circles of generations past. It joins the circles and sweaty palms of my friends in Cape Town, England, Korea, China, Seattle, Texas, Atlanta,  Spain, and the globe over. Our sweaty palms and pointed toes join each others as we look over the words of those who tried their hardest to follow Christ early on and ask what it means to follow him now. Our sweaty palms and pointed toes join each others as we work to learn what it means to hold onto truth, push the boundaries of hospitality, ask the questions of justice, and pray the words of hope.

Sweaty palms and pointed toes. There’s little magical about it, and yet it’s in these small circles that the world is changed.

The world is changed even as we are looking at our toes.

 

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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the best of us and the worst of us

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we act our best
when we know we need to 
and it’s not completely a lie
but rather an appearance that
only shows the things we are most proud of in ourselves. 
 
so at work
at events
in conversations
over coffee
over brews
sometimes over family dinners
we act our best
 
and then there are those other times where 
we act ourselves
which is not different from our best
but includes the rest of us
the jealous of us
the insecure of us
the intimidated of us
the petty of us
the bitter of us
and also the best of us. 
 
and every now and then
because God knows we need our sanity
we find those people who allow 
the best of us
and the worst of us
the jealous of us and
the humble of us
the insecure of us and
the confident of us
the intimidated of us and 
the empowered of us
the petty of us and
the courageous of us
the bitter of us and 
the reflective of us
 
the best of us and 
the worst of us. 
 
and it’s the people
that holy few people
who know us completely 
at our best and at our worst
that we rest in and
that we find ourselves in and
that we discover the courage
to seek first the kingdom with. 
 
at our best and our not best. 
 
djordan
Pine Tree Dr.
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what are we doing?

what-are-we-doing-

In the middle of multiple meetings lately, either starting with coffee because it is far too early or in the morning, or starting with coffee because it is far too late in the evening, I find myself in the middle of multiple meetings.

There are papers and computers and skyped-in video faces and clicking pens and reshuffled papers and dogs under the table because that’s the way it works when we are meeting whenever and wherever we can.

And I find myself often in these meetings wondering what in the world I have gotten myself into. I will either have a dining room filled with two bodies and one skyped-in face arguing and agreeing and praying our way through to a more hopeful and sustainable work in another country with real people with real skills and dreams and aspirations, or I will find myself in a dining room looking across a kitchen, a living room and a den filled with students and adults who are learning what it means to follow Christ into their own city. We talk about what truama-informed care looks like, what it means to view others through a lens of strengths instead of through a lens of shortcomings, and what we are actually doing when we are serving in low-income, high-crime neighborhoods a few miles from my home.

And I look at both of these groups, all people I am falling deeply in love with and flying highly in respect with, and wonder what in the world we are doing. Who let us be responsible for these tasks, and who knows we are learning as we go? I often feel as though I snuck into a grown up world, and the bouncers didn’t catch me, the Dean’s didn’t notice, and the bosses didn’t pay attention before putting me in these positions.

So knowing that I am leaning into the work at the same time as I am learning it, I find myself most amazed at what God insists on doing through my own ignorance, unpreparedness, and incompetence. We take seriously the discipline of learning and asking and pushing and working, but the generosity of God is the only thing which actually moves us from point A to point B.

And so we keep moving. From dining room table to living room floor, we lean into whatever it means to live out the kingdom of God in León or in Jackson or in wherever in God’s name we end up living something out. We pray we do it well knowing all the while that we are quite a mess.

I went to the grocery store last week in my pajamas and saw three people I know, but not well enough to make a joke about being in my pajamas. I went to a service with church two weeks ago and in a rush had only trimmed half of my beard.

I am what I am, and we are what we are, and while we don’t know exactly what we’re doing, we are doing what we know to do and working to do it better, more effectively, more educatedly, more honestly, more humanly day by day. We are reading and studying and listening and praying our tails off, but we have to move now. It’s worth filling up dining room tables and living room floors for, I would say. It is in breaking bread and coming together that God let’s us know what is next.

We don’t know what we are doing, but he does. And as long as we are diligently working to learn and seek and know more about what we’re doing, he makes the kingdom come. We merely jump in.

djordan
Pine Tree

Donald is privileged to work with a ridiculously awesome staff at Area Relief Ministries, a local non-profit in Jackson, Tennessee working to alleviate suffering, promote dignity and foster hope in a multitude of ways. He also serves on the Board of Directors with three other very talented and influential individuals for El Ayudante, Nicaragua who seeks to work with the Nicaraguan people to transform the nation. These meeting often end up happening in Donald’s living room and dining room, which make living at Pine Tree worthwhile in and of themselves. Check out Area Relief Ministries and El Ayudante | Nicaragua online.

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good men and the practice of resistance [part 2]

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It’s easy to sit in our offices or living rooms, around kitchen tables or restaurant tables, and talk about what we would do if we were in someone else’s shoes. We see others as those in positions of power, and yet we look at ourselves as either the victims or the martyrs. We see ourselves as those who have been taken down by good men gone wrong, or by the bad men gone wrong. Either way, we imagine ourselves as standing for something and going down because of it.

I do, at least. It occurs to me in writing this that not everyone feels that way. We are all of us trying to figure out what we are doing while pretending like we know what is going on. We have all been told by someone above us that we aren’t supposed to let them see us sweat, so we push forward as if we have any idea what forward should to look like.

And all the while, we see others in the positions of power, and ourselves as merely players in the game. We see others as those we are willing to follow, or as those we desire to complain about.

And yet we are, of course, charting the course of the future.

And I think about what it means to either participate in or push back against the regime. I think about what it means to either participate in or push back against the resistance.

I have found myself sitting on concrete slabs in the middle of downtown parks considering whether to blindly trust those in power, or to ask questions and push harder toward what it might mean to be the church in the world, even when I have no idea what that means. I have found myself sitting around tables, weighted with silence, because the powers of blindness are at work in the world and my paycheck has depended on them, but I’m not sure what the next step needs to mean for me. I have found myself in meetings around conference room tables where the truth of the kingdom is harder to demand than the appeasement of the rich Christians who are demanding solace and the protection of status quo, and I’m not sure which I’m willing to push for or lean into. I have found myself in tears with my sisters and brothers on living room floors asking what it will cost to seek first the kingdom before the education of my children, the safety of my family, the reputation of my career, and the pursuit of my own American dream.

And the answers are never easy.

I have found myself, in all of these situations, pretending as though I am all alone so I can have great pity for myself that I am asking these difficult questions and doing the best I can, at least. My pity makes me think it’s honorable. Until, I realize how arrogant I can so quickly become.

I have never been alone.

Not only have I never been alone because God himself has been there, however cheesy and ious that may sound. But I have never been alone also because I have been sitting on those concrete slabs with others. I have been sitting around tables, sitting in conference rooms, sitting in tears on living room floors with others who are pushing through the very same things. We don’t always end up in the same places, but we told the truth together.

It is these same people that I have clinked glasses with in celebration and in hope, because we know we are on the edge of something better and truer and a little more hopeful than the places in which we find ourselves or once found ourselves. And it is in doing life with these women and men who have been known for breaking rules and asking questions that I am pushing against the regime into the resistance, knowing that while the world goes not well…the kingdom comes.

I have no choice, really. Forward it is.

djordan
Pine Tree

This post, written by Donald Jordan, is part 2 of a two-part post. Part  1 is a guest post by Wes Gristy which can be found by clicking HERE.

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good men and the practice of resistance [PART 1]: a guest post by Wes Gristy

the-resistance.-part-1

There’s a line in a song called The Resistance by Josh Garrels that haunts me. It comes at the end of the first verse. After poetically describing the power structures of this world that abuse the masses, Garrels asks, how do good men become a part of the regime? The question assumes these systems of captivity to be the handiwork of good people, good Christians even. Ethical businessmen. Rule followers. It’s an assumption that runs contrary to our own. Unlike Garrels, most of us think that the waves of oppression, domination, and injustice arise solely from the drug lords, crooked politicians, and criminals—in other words, from the bad men. They are the ones responsible for the regime. Yet while bad men certainly play their part, I think Garrels has a point.

The truth is that good men contribute much to the structures of this world. Think about it. Good men are prone to protect, and so they work for stability. Good men like to keep the boat steady, and so they don’t allow for radical course corrections. Good men want to give assurances and make promises, and so they create lots of policies and procedures to keep us safe. Good men like to show the prettier side of things, and so questions that poke holes in their presentations are often labeled as negative or even disloyal. Good men can be conservative in the worst sense of the word, stiff-arming innovation with rolls of red tape, declaring with confidence, “The system works well enough. We’re doing the best we can. Our intentions are noble.” And so the status quo holds fast due to the diligent efforts of good men.

How does this happen? How do good men become a part of the regime? Garrels offers an answer: They don’t believe in resistance. They fail to critically analyze the ideologies of this world, and so they are unprepared to resist them. Too many good men fail to heed the words of the Apostle Paul, “Don’t let yourself be squeezed into the shape dictated by the present age” (Rom 12:2). Obedience here requires active resistance; the regime flourishes by subtle means when we let down our defenses. Without resistance, we’re assimilated, and we don’t even know it.

Without resistance, good men with good intentions will inevitably slip into the patterns of this evil age.

It’s not that sooner or later good men are unwittingly going to turn around and start shooting people, but rather that popular notions, incompatible with the ethic of Jesus, will begin to sound reasonable to embody—certain notions of success, of courageous leadership, of religious conviction, and of personal ambition. These notions slowly become the subject of our conversations, the content of our imaginations, the stories we tell our children, and ultimately the fuel of the very regime we say we despise.

I had a professor who once offered his students this proverb: “I used to think that bad people did bad things for bad reasons. Now I believe that good people do bad things for seemingly good reasons.”

That’s my fear.

That’s why this lyric returns to my mind again and again. And so I pray, Heavenly Father, save me from becoming a good man who quietly and unknowingly becomes a part of the regime. Teach me to practice resistance.

Wes Gristy is an associate pastor at All Saints Anglican Church in Jackson. He’s been married to his kick-butt wife Abbie for eleven years, and they have a brilliant four-year-old daughter and hilarious one-and-a-half-year-old son. Wes is one of my very best friends who has taught me much about the costs of resistance, and about what it actually looks like to push hard into the questions and compassion and work of the kingdom. I’m grateful to him for guest posting, among many other things.

This post is Part 1 of a 2 Part series. For Part 2, CLICK HERE.

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