Category Archives: Inclusive Community

Father and Daughter

I’m Sorry

One of the most exceptional calls of my life came when a professor called to apologize for a comment he made the previous evening. It’s exceptional because I cannot think of a similar call.

Despite our prayer to forgive others as we are forgiven, it seems we do a poor job of practicing forgiveness: asking for and giving it.

Father and Daughter I need to apologize.

While praying for my almost-2-year old daughter, I imagined what Sandra Fluke’s father must be thinking/feeling. I became incensed at how hostile the world can be for young women.

This awareness was provoked by Rush Limbaugh’s poor behavior. He attacked Fluke for her stance on women’s health: he misrepresented her argument and made abusive ad hominem attacks.

1) I’m sorry that I am late coming to this awareness of the sexism that permeates our society and that it took my relationship with my daughter to widen my eyes. I have been far too comfortable with phrases like “feminazi”. Sexism and the use of derogatory words to minimize women are forms of violence. I’ve been complicit in perpetuating a violent culture against women.

2) I’m sorry that I commended Rush Limbaugh for his apology. An apology should seek the well-being of all, clearly state the offense, pledge to stop, and make amends.  His did none of those things: he merely expressed regret over his word choices. Further, he continued his distortion of Fluke’s argument and polarizing rhetoric.

My quick commendation was an attempt to minimize the partisan tribalism swirling about the issue. I did not look closely at Limbaugh’s apology; having done so, I find it lacking. My easy commendation served to excuse Limbaugh’s poor behavior.

3) I’m sorry that my opposition to sexism has been limited. I opposed Limbaugh’s comments, but have been silent when other women have been denigrated, often by males who are viewed to be more liberal. While I think the charge of a double-standard is a tactic to distract from Limbaugh’s poor behavior, those who level it are extending partisan tribalism, and are not particularly concerned with creating a community free of sexism; that doesn’t excuse my limited opposition. I didn’t speak up when sexist remarks were leveled at Geraldine Ferraro, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann. I can do better.

I want to be a better lover. I want to reduce the violence perpetrated against women.  I want to create an inclusive society where women are not excluded. I want to foster a society where people forego partisan tribalism and seek the well-being of all.

Genuine apologies are a good place to start because they break the cycle of violence, create the space for God’s powerful love and grace to reshape us, and provide a glimpse of the Beloved Community.

 

Death of Jesus

Beyond Crucifixion Violence

The violence of Jesus’ death makes me pause, queasy, weep, angry.  I wrestle with the killing of Jesus and its definitive place in our understanding of the Christ, God, and faith. This season of preparation is a good time to reconsider how we understand this violence. Because I recognize one of our deadliest sins is that we trust the power of violence over the power of God’s love, I am compelled to reject our traditional understanding of the violence of the crucifixion:  Jesus’ death doesn’t forgive our sins and violence is not redemptive!

Death of Jesus Evil is so destructive, our trust in the power of God’s love so little; we have bastardized God’s love and the redemptive life of Jesus.  We define them  by the world’s measure of power – violence!

Our death theology does not answer the problems of sin, evil, injustice, and suffering; rather it exasperates them by perpetuating the cycle of violence. Beyond affirming violence, our death theology cannot fully generate life, justice, or courage.

Life: Our death theology minimizes the relational nature of God.  It reduces God’s love for us to a transaction –  one that God exclusively executes.  Rather than mutual respect and love;  we are reduced to passive pawns.  A life theology would inspire us to act, to love, to live!

Justice: Our death theology is flawed because it treats evil, sin, and injustice in an individualistic and isolated way.  Andrew Sung Park highlights this deficient and provides a correction.{{1}}  He pairs the Asian concept of han with our traditional understanding of sin/forgiveness.  Han is the legacy of sin that remains when victims are denied justice. Because the forgiveness of sin is transacted between God and the perpetrator, the victim is not included in the redemptive calculus and justice is unaddressed.  This understanding of redemption colludes with perpetrators because they do not have to fully face the consequences of their sin.  Those who are powerless, are left without voice, without justice, and without a theology that gives them hope.

Courage: Both the passive and individualistic nature of our death theology contribute to our evasion of power.  Jesus has different messages:  to those who lack power – he offers words of hope and encourages them to resist; to those with power – he offers warning and encourages them to give up power.{{2}}  A life theology would help us understand how power is used in the crucifixion, where we are in the cycle of gospel living,  and encourage us to resist the power of evil and to stand in solidarity with those who are innocent and abused.

To move beyond our death theology, we can draw on the breadth of the biblical and theological understandings of Jesus’ death.  Theologian Ty Inbody identifies six{{3}}:

  • Jesus as a teacher of the true higher knowledge
  • Jesus as a moral example and influence
  • Jesus as the final scapegoat
  • Jesus as a victorious conqueror
  • Jesus as our satisfaction of God’s justice (death theology)
  • Jesus as our penal substitute (death theology)

To overcome the evil of violence, Jesus as the final scapegoat is the most promising understanding of Jesus’ death.  We can draw on Rene Girard’s anthropology to help us see that the resurrection is God’s NO! to our need for violence.

To be better lovers we must move beyond our death theology and discover a theology of life.

[[1]]Andrew Sung Park: Wound Heart of God: The Asian Concept of Han and the Christian Doctrine of Sin[[1]]

[[2]]Eric Law: The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb: A Spirituality for Leadership in a Multicultural Community[[2]]

[[3]]Tyron Inbody: Many Faces of Christology – Chapter 6[[3]]

FOR ALL

FOR ALL. Two powerful words with profound implications from which we tend to shy away. The journey with Jesus calls us beyond our initial inclination.

Jesus’s love and justice have no bounds! Unfortunately, we find creative ways to exclude folks from our concern and loving. It is human nature. As soon as Jesus gives the instruction – And love your neighbor as your self – before the words were even out of his mouth; one asks – And who is my neighbor? We want to know where we can draw the line to limit our concern and loving.{{1}}

As patriotic citizens, this same inclination seduces us to set limits on our highest ideals – one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. In our next breath, we start to set limits on all. Does it really mean – women, people of color, people with disabilities, undocumented workers, gays and lesbians, Muslims . . . ?

We are never candid about our sin. Like the good religious folks in the parable, our concern and loving are not limited by sin. We pass on the other side for good reasons – boarder security, social cohesion, American identity, the sanctity of marriage . . .

Followers of Jesus understand there is a struggle between two visions for our country: one rooted in the Christian gospel and our American ideals; and one rooted in sin, our inclination to exclude. One sees our work to include all as faithful, sacred work{{2}}; one sees our work to include as a threat.{{3}}Eric Law - Kaleidoscope Institute

Be A Better Lover, influenced my the prophetic words of Rev. ML King, Jr.{{4}}, seeks to overcome our sin of excluding by intentionally building inclusive communities. To complete this sacred work, we need to be disciplined and we need to develop good skills. Eric Law and his work at the Kaleidoscope Institute provide a way to be faithful and effective in building inclusive communities. It is a strong model with a set of practical skills, a comprehensive curriculum, and a solid spiritual foundation. One of its strengths is its focus on the competencies necessary to lead in our diverse and changing world. I look forward in future blog posts to sharing lessons learned from this model, so that together, we can build inclusive communities for all.

[[1]]Luke 10:25-37[[1]]
[[2]]Eric Law video – When I Pour Out My Spirit — A Pentecost Meditation[[2]]
[[3]]IBT article on CPAC panel: The Failure of Multiculturalism: How the Pursuit of Diversity is Weakening the American Identity[[3]]
[[4]]MLK – A Time to Break Silence. Our three greatest sins: materialism, militarism, and racism. Racism goes beyond the limits we set because of race. This evil is defined by our inclination to draw a line that limits our concern and love; by the creative ways we find to exclude people.[[4]]