Tag Archives: Justice

Fail, F#@%, Why?

My tribe, the United Methodist Church, met in Tampa over the past 10 days to make decisions regarding the mission of our denomination for the next 4 years. For my fellow UMC brothers and sisters – my quick take.

Observation #1 – Leadership Failure

A posse of self-fashioned “entrepreneurial bishops”along with the pastors of the 100 largest churches have taken it upon themselves to “lead” the church through the transformation that will align our structure and resources for effective ministry. This leadership led to the IOT, the Call to Action, and the focus of the GC2012. In community organizing, we have a simple definition of a leader – one who has a following. Unfortunately, the leadership style of this posse – which leans on corporate values, disrespects democratic processes, undermines broad participation, and marginalizes differing voices –  does not engender the level of trust the denomination will need to be faithfully transformed.

Observation #2 – F#@%

Twenty years ago, I heard an apocryphal story about now Bishop Will Willimon. I don’t know if it is true, but I need it to be true. The story: In a sermon, preached at Duke Chapel, Willimon (Dean of the Chapel) preached these words – F#@%! Children are starving in Africa. And what is disheartening is that you are more offended by the fact I said “F#@%!”; than you are by the fact children are starving in Africa.

F#@%! The world and church need love and justice. And, what is disheartening is that the UMC fiddles with structure while the gospel is ignored.

Observation #3 – Why?

There is a story of a man resting in the shade. A person comes by and encourages the man to be more industrious. He encourages the man to get up and go fishing. The man ask why? So he could make some money and buy a boat. The man asks why? So he could catch more fish, make more money, buy more boats? The man asks why? So he can make more money and hire people to work for him? The man asks why, so he can make more money, buy a house, and spend his days resting in the shade.

Some how, this story seems appropriate. I think the idea of making vital congregations is too small. Perhaps, we should focus on changing the world for a while . . .

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]]