Archives For Peace

Life is Good.

Chris —  October 3, 2011

Life is Good.

It’s true that life is tough. And when you realize that it’s tough, it gets a little better. It’s hard not to get lost in the darkness. Suffering is immediate rich and important in a way that our small daily joys pale against.

Which is why it is essential to remember that life is good.

As I was leaving the Emmanuel Orphanage in Delhi, Lakshmi, a six year old girl with piercing blue eyes clung to me and cried “Uncle, Uncle!” She, and all those around hre had been abandoned and persecuted their entire young lives, but they still knew how to love deeply, in a way I struggle to remember. Life is good.

I know a guy who begrudgingly gave the keys of his car to a single mom he barely knew for two weeks. They are good friends now.  Life is good.

A friend of mine has often thought that he could ever get a “good girl.” He felt like the only ones interested had different values and would treat him poorly. Then he met a girl, and has been attached to her at the hip ever since. Seeing them together is life seeing something that was always meant to be. Life is good.

Another friend of mine went to a foreign country to work with an NGO. His work was interupted when his teammates were captured, and he had to spend to next few months there negotiating their release.  As heartwrenching as that was, he also sees it as the most important thing he has ever done. He took a furlough to recover, and is returning calmer, closer to God, and more excited about discipleship than ever. Life is good.

I get depressed sometimes. This summer was one of those. In the midst of that, I got a small, unexpected gift that helped shake me out of my myopic viewpoint. Life is good.

The scriptures teach when God created the world he called it good. When he created man, he called man really good. Then, sin wrecked all of that. Twisted and misshapen, like a fun house or a computer photobooth. But when we look behind the brokenness, we get to see that there is a heart wrenching beauty to it all.

The scriptures teach that this is not the way it was meant to be. Life is meant to be good. God has restored, is restoring and eventually will restore in full.

In time, the heartwrench will be over, and all we will see is that Life is Good.

All the writing textbooks say that you should write even when you don’t have anything to say.  Force yourself.  Write about how you don’t have anything to write about.  Use a prompt.  Tell a story.  Just write.

(This is just such a post.)

There’s some wisdom to that, and  it applies to more than just writing.  I think life is the same way.

I know a guy who is tired to living.  He’s not suicidal.  Just tired.  Tired of doing the same thing again and again with the same result.  Not sure what to do different.

A friend of mine has reached his job’s ceiling.  He’s good at it, but isn’t making a living, and doesn’t know where to go or what to do differently.

Another friend has realized that he is in a cycle of bad relationships.  He likes the girls that are bad for him.  At his most cynical, he thinks it is his fault, and these are the only kinds of girls he has a chance with.

Perhaps this advice about writing is just advice about life.  When you don’t know what to do, you should just do something.  Find a prompt, something to get you moving.

Tired of life?  Don’t get caught up in the Meta, and just get through today.  It won’t always be this way.

Hit your ceiling?  Keep working really hard.  Jesus said that to he gives more to those who have been faithful with a little.

Can’t find the perfect relationship?  Try something different.  Not solely for romance, but for the chance to learn about yourself and make a new friend.

Life is a blank paper.  You are a genius with writer’s block.

Just write.

Life is Tough.

Chris —  August 12, 2011

One time I moved across the country for something that didn’t pan out.  Another time I threw myself into developing a community that never knew how to welcome me.  Those were dark days.

A friend’s husband just passed and left her with a baby.  Another friend is suffering multiple miscarriages.  Another friend was denied an interview for a job they deserve.

Some friends of mine back in Denver spend every day with homeless teenagers. Everyday with heroine addicts and drug dealers and occassionally, murderers.  Two families I know are waiting for years to adopt while the kids they love are stranded thousands of miles away.

The kids I met at Emmanuel orphanage in Delhi are sleeping three to a bed in 110º.  If things go well, they might get some chicken this week.

One guy I know is losing the battle to control both his mind and body.   Another just got dumped…again.  Another buried both parents the year he graduated high school.

Life is really tough.

To be honest with you, mine feels pretty rough right now. But not as tough as many I know.

Although I am often depressed and even despair, it hasn’t shaken a few basic hopes.  They are:

1.  This world is not all.  Even when science explains how everything works, it will never answer “why?”  The very fact that there is an unanswerable why question is all the proof I need to know that this world is not all.

2.  We humans refuse to except a reality with no justice.  Hindus count on Karma. Atheist fight against oppresive religion. Christians are holding out for a new heaven and new earth, and if necessary, a hell.

3.  If there is more to this world, and there is justice, then there is a point to my story.  To our stories.  This is all going somewhere.

But none of this changes the fact that, in the meantime, life if tough.

So today, be kind to those you see.  Chances are, they’re going through a lot.

And if you hope in Christ remember that

” In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

You should catch up on Part One and Part Two.

These questions begged a much bigger one:

Could the Church be involved in politics at all?

Here we were, responding to a jihad by declaring a crusade. I began to wonder how any of the words that Jesus ever said, especially in key teachings of the Sermon on the Mount that could warrant even the most just war.  Moreover, could a Christian even be an American (or a Brit or Afghani or Brazilian)?  What if we went beyond politics to lifestyles?  Could a Christian pursue the American dream?  Buy products produced unethically?  Eat food slaughtered violently or grown in a way that endangers the environment?  Prize safety and good neighborhoods over proximity to the poor?

These are questions I still struggle with today.  On one hand, I believe that there is value in cultural engagement.  The church cannot abandon culture.  Yet history and experience teach us that in our attempts at relevance, we quickly take up the morays of the culture, and become something much less than the Church.

The Anabaptist movement, for centuries, has stood for unpopular things.  They were martyred for their belief that an adult chooses their faith, not their family or the State.  Even today, their mennonite and amish and christoanarchist descendants fight against the constant creep of civic religion. During Vietnam, Mennonite Conscientious Objectors were sent to staff psychiatric hospitals.  Their humanizing treatment of the mentally ill has led to many advances in patient care.

When I asked an mennonite preacher what their hermeneutic was, he responded “The Sermon on the Mount.”  As a person wanting to live like Christ in the midst of the longest war in American history, their way of life just makes sense.

My dream is to be a part of a community shaped by the story and teachings of Christ.  The Church does this both in spite of the world, and simultaneously for the world.  This may mean abandoning the comfort and structures that America has to offer, and living as a stranger in one’s own land.  It may be that this countercultural, underground radical community grounded in obedience to the teachings of Christ is the best hope of us, our churches, and our neighborhood. We can thank Osama bin Ladin for teaching us.

Part 3

I have never understood how the Church and the Republican Party became synonymous.  The Religious Right was nothing new, but it seemed like the culture wars reached a new high during the 2000 election.  I often felt alone when I tried to explain why I believe that single issue voting does not make you a better follower of Jesus.  The blurred lines between pop-Christianity and the Bush administration, as well as the enormous flag greeting us every morning, the imminent wars produced a new message: Being a good Christian meant supporting your country in war.

This began to churn something inside me.  I could see why understand dismantling Afghanistan, but chasing WMDs in Iraq was harder.  It seemed that whenever such concerns being voiced, it resulted in one’s patriotism, and likewise their faith, being called into question.

My graduate studies in theology began in the midst of the 2004 election.  There were wars of two fronts.  About the time John Kerry was being demonized for his participation in anti-war protests, I was taking an ethics class.

We read Reinhold Neibuhr, the father of modern Just War theory.  Then we read Stanley Hauerwas’ The Peaceable Kingdom. For the first time I encountered a way of being the church, in the midst of a war torn world, that seemed completely in line with the way of Jesus.

This wasn’t about individual morality or proper ecclesiological structure.  It was a vision that

the church existed to stand with, and alongside the lost world,

as an inviting example

of what the universe would look like when the Kingdom of God was complete.

This was a different way to answer the questions that had flared up since bin Ladin had interrupted our lives.  What if, instead of railing against the prevailing culture, we lived lives that showed how it was lacking? We could respond to abortion by setting an example in adoption.  We could respond to marriage and sexuality discussions by working on our own marriages and standing in contrast to the American divorce epidemic.  We could respond to violence by addressing the root issues of hatred and inequity.

This question begged a much bigger one:

Could the Church be involved in politics at all?