Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” continues to be relevant in our cultural moment. His words challenge the church to embrace it’s full purpose. The extent to which the Gospel of the Kingdom is proclaimed and integrated into the life of the church is the extent to which the church is relevant and effective in society.
The quiescent church is the gateway to injustice, brokenness and disorder. The witness of the church should be felt throughout the culture as the Gospel message empowers believers to pursue justice and reconciliation, serve the needy, create beauty and restore what is broken. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin transforms the believer. This Gospel, rightly lived out will teach, sanctify and transform the society in which believers dwell. It will be distinctly ‘sacrificial’, restorative and bold in its expression.
Martin Luther King Jr. operated from a distinctly Christian worldview. It informed his purpose, his view of reality and drove his behavior. This nation has benefited from his worldview and his actions. His challenge to the church echoes today. Dr. King knew what he was about. Do you know what you are about?
We know what our salvation saved us from (eternal separation from God’s presence, goodness and joy).
But a better question is;
What is our salvation for?
[Put another way, what is the purpose of our salvation?]
Read: Martin Luther King Jr. ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail’
Read previous post: Dear Mr. President – We are their only hope [Kurds]
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Read the headlines from around our nation. What do you see? You see anger, hostility, confusion, selfishness and violence. We are seeing riots and division. What are we not seeing? We are not seeing compassion, caring, or charity.
2800 years ago in ‘the great city’ of Nineveh, we see an evil and cruel people. The entire city was heartless and cold. The lack of love and compassion and a bent toward violence and selfishness is described as sin. Nineveh was within a hair’s breadth of experiencing God’s judgement and destruction. And who could blame Him? If you saw a city full of people filled with rage, hatred, violence and cruelty toward each other, wouldn’t you just want to end it? Why didn’t God go with the ‘nuclear option’ in Nineveh? I would have!
How would you describe the ‘tone’ in our nation today?
Would you describe it as charitable and peaceful or toxic and divisive?
We are a nation divided. The media is helping to drive the division. As a Christ-follower, I must counter this division with a comprehensive worldview anchored the word of God. I am called to think redemptively and pursue reconciliation through God’s love. Why is it so hard?
Here’s the problem. I struggle with my part. When I am constantly called names or told that I am racist, intolerant, etc. or characterized with the latest straw-man fallacy, I grow angry because I am none of those things. If I am honest, I must admit I harbor ill-will toward the people who believe I am those things. That is my sin. I must own up to it.
God was compassionate and Jonah was not!
God called Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah hated Nineveh (a sin) and ran from God (a sin). He eventually ended up in Nineveh (a miracle). His mission was to call for the people to repent and turn to God. In doing so, God would relent from destroying the city, a demonstration of His compassion and love for all people. Nineveh was headed for destruction but God showed compassion.
The people of Nineveh turned to God, He relented and the city was saved! Furthermore, the city prospered. When God showed compassion, Jonah was angry because he didn’t see the people how God saw them. Jonah wanted the city judged and destroyed. Essentially, he was no different than the cruel hateful people of Nineveh. I have to claim that sin for myself.
My part as a Christ-follower
2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (Note: I understand the context of this passage is related to Israel. Therefore, I am not outlining a prescriptive use but a descriptive framework of how to understand repentance, prayer and seeking God when we sin – pointing to His mercy and grace.)
People’s part: People who claim Christ must humble themselves, pray, seek and turn (repent) from sin.
God’s part: He will hear, forgive and heal.
I believe Christ-followers across the nation have humbled themselves and prayed over the last year (2016). I don’t know if we are actively seeking God’s face or turning from our wicked ways. I hope we have. Have you personally confessed the anger and pride in your heart? Frankly, I am writing this to myself. It is a struggle.
Perhaps, this is my call to the people of God. “Hey church, we bent our knee in humility and prayed. Maybe God is relenting and showing us his compassion. Now, we must be obedient and see this through. We need to seek God’s face and turn from our hatred and divisiveness. We must not boast but reach out in humility and love to a people God loves. And we must act right now! Forget what people say about you, act redemptively and in the spirit of love immediately!”
If we demonstrate God’s love through how we love others, who’s to say how God’s spirit may move upon the people of our nation?
The king of Nineveh said, “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.”
What is my response? Is it an unrelenting anger, like Jonah?
God is compassionate and we are not!
You see Jonah really struggled with getting on the same page as God. We all do.
The last sentence in the book of Jonah ends with a question, “And should not I (God) pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
Please allow me a bit of liberty to apply the final verse if I may.
And should not I (God) pity America, that great nation, in which there are more than 320 million people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much wealth?”
I am convinced that we are being tested and challenged. We have the greatest opportunity in generations to reach our nation with the love of Christ.
Please note, this post is a message to Christ-followers (aka, the Church). I do not expect non-believers believer or understand this. But, a believer should consider it and mediate on what God has to say in this cultural moment.
Reference: 2 Chronicles 7 and the Book of Jonah
I am the quiet voice of the homeless living in the camps within your cities.
I am the one you see on the sidewalk as you walk to work or take your kids to school. You are afraid to make eye contact with me because you think all I want is your money. So, you turn your gaze away. In doing so, your heart turns cold.
I see your cars with political stickers. I hear your conversations outside the coffee shop. You complain about this country. You rage against politicians. You rage and gossip and tear each other apart with words as sharp as knives. Yet, you look on me with disdain. Is my life not worthy of mention?
From the street, I see angry people raging against each other and setting the city ablaze.
Throngs of angry youth push past me and trample on my only possessions screaming about unfairness and equality. Am I not equal?
You don’t really care about people like me. Sure, you say you want to ‘end’ homelessness and other ‘social ills’… But, all you do is talk. You never actually sit with me and ask what its like to experience homelessness. No, you’d rather people like me be gathered up and removed from your sight. You’d rather I not exist! Do you disagree? Then, why do you act like I don’t exist?
Wisdom’s voice calls from the streets! I may be without a home but I am no fool. After your raging and rioting, you have homes to return to. You have families and friends to share life with.
Rage at what? What does your rage accomplish? How does your rage help people like me? My home is the streets and you have the audacity to leave your comfy dorms, houses and apartments to spill into my home on the streets and cause destruction? How dare you!
Do I storm your campus or property to rage against something I don’t agree with? No, I eat what you throw away and accept the turning of your gaze away. You can’t even look me in the eye. Am I not human? Am I not worth a smile and a kindly nod?
Perhaps you could repurpose your rage to take a step toward me? You have nothing to be afraid of. I was once a child who loved playing, just like you. I love ice cream and a beautiful sunset just like you. I have hopes and dreams just like you. Repurpose your rage and greet me in the streets with a kindly light. You will always have me among you.
I’m not looking for a handout, I’m looking for someone who cares more for me than a cause.
Author’s Note: This essay is a simple plea to my countrymen to pause for a moment and consider taking the energy expended against political opponents and applying that same energy to serving those experiencing homelessness. Please consider finding a local organization in your city to serve those experiencing homelessness. It will change you and improve our communities.
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The US Elections are one for the history books. Here is my analysis. Please bear with me as I draw on chords that lead to what just happened in the US last night. Please understand, I’m making broad observations above politics.
A good friend of mine in Montreal Canada posted a comment on Facebook this morning. He and I are on different sides of the political spectrum. Let me provide a backdrop to our friendship.
Alex and Me – Friends from opposite ends of the political spectrum
In 2004, Alex booked me for a gig at StereoBar in Montreal. I stayed with him and his family. We all enjoyed a home cooked meal as the snow fell on the city. It was a record snowfall. GW Bush was in office. We had a lively political debate and I so enjoyed their company, I remember it fondly to this day. We tolerated each others differences and embrace each other in friendship. Both of us lost our fathers way to early. We share that loss, vigorous debate at times and a love of house music.
Alex’s Facebook post this morning (after elections):
“Urgh. Brexit, Trump – This is what happens when you continuously talk down to people who already feel that they have nothing, and are angry about it. In 2016, working class beats smirking class.”
Alex is spot on in his analysis. Remember, we are from opposite ends of the political spectrum but we find agreement here.
Regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or faith, I believe most people just want to work, enjoy family and be generally left alone. For the past 20 years, the establishment has trespassed into the lives of normal folks trying to live quiet normal lives. Trump and Sanders are what you get when the establishment starts exerting its will on everyday folks. I think ‘the Bern’ phenomenon speaks just as loudly as Trump. There has been a shift in American political culture.
I think the turnout in the US will be a study into the anthropology of a cultural shift.
What cultural shift?
Let me draw on some historical chords that stand out in my mind. I’m not positing moral equivalency here. I am simply ‘thinking out loud’ for the sake of discussion.
The Woodstock Flower-Power generation challenged the established authority and found unity in disrupting the status quo. They activated for racial equality, freedom of speech and expression, sexual freedom and anti-war. Somewhere along the line, this movement was subverted by an insurgent movement emanating from the academy (universities). 30-40 years later, the anti-authority Boomers became the established authority in America. They eventually violated their original cause. They undermined the very freedoms they fought for in the 1960s. That was one cultural shift worth noting.
In 2010, the world witnessed a populist uprising against the establishment in a few countries in the Arab world. This is still unfolding six years later. But, its worth noting, it began with everyday folks rejecting the establishment.
This year, the UK surprised the world when it held a referendum to leave the EU. The people voted to challenge the establishment. This is still unfolding.
Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump
As an anthropologist and student of culture, I don’t know what is more interesting, the Bernie phenomena or Trump’s victory. If the Bernie would have been allowed to run against Trump, I think he would have won handily (not by a landslide but handily). However, the DNC establishment wanted none of it. I know Sanders supporters who voted Trump because it’s not a left vs right thing anymore… it’s a establishment vs the people thing. Bernie brought that to light and Trump played that chord. It resonated with the people.
Bernie and Trump supporters are at opposite ends of the left vs. right spectrum. Yet, they are in agreement in their challenge to the political and economic establishment and power structure. Their means are different but they both are convinced the status quo must go.
So, here we are on the first page of a new chapter in history. As the ink spills and fills the future pages of this book, it is worth noting ‘what the heck just happened’ is not a political shift but a cultural shift. Politics and legislation are lagging indicators of the culture. The anti-establishment movement is the new establishment. Hopefully, it does not succumb like past movements.
As the Zen Master once said, “We’ll see what happens….”
There is a war without weapons being fought today in America. It is a battle of worldviews and philosophies. On one side, we have a philosophy based on materialism that denies the transcendent and intrinsic value of the human being. On the other side, we have a philosophy that embraces the transcendent and intrinsic value of the human being.
One leads to bondage and hopelessness and the other leads to freedom and liberty. We all desire freedom and liberty. However, there is a catch to sustained liberty in a society. Liberty must be undergirded by truth, morality and virtue. Otherwise, liberty is transformed into license and bondage is quietly slipped into the equation masquerading as ‘Freedom’.
On June 8th, 1978 Alexander Solzhenitsyn delivered the commencement address at Harvard University. Solzhenitsyn was a Nobel Prize winning Russian novelist, activist, soldier and teacher. He understood the war without weapons and delivered a historical speech entitled ‘A World Split Apart’ that should be read at every university commencement. (more…)
Yoda is right! Sometimes we must unlearn what we have learned.
- After four years of prep-school, I had been taught ‘how’ to think.
- After four years of college, I had been taught ‘what’ to think.
- In prep-school, I was taught how to engage reality and seek truth.
- In college, I was taught how to reject reality and redefine truth.
After I left college, I had a problem. What I had learned in college did not correspond with reality and the world as I experienced it. In my mid-20s, I had to unlearn what I had learned in college. I had to rediscover what I had learned in prep-school. I had to go back and learn ‘how’ to think again.
I had three teachers who had huge impacts on my life. All of them took the long road of teaching. This is the road of teaching a student ‘how’ to think. One taught me how to process historical facts and piece together the puzzle of historical events as they really were. Another taught me how to read between the lines to capture the author’s intent. The last taught me how to bring truth, ethics and history to bear in the human process of dying. (more…)