Monday, October 21, 2013

'Merica, We Don't Dial 911

Sooner or later I'm bound to make someone angry. I don't want to, honest to goodness. However, I feel strong conviction about certain things and how Christians sometimes handle them and I must voice that. So, if this rubs you the wrong way, let's dialogue about that in a loving way. I have seen many of these signs like the one above in my life. It's usually laughed at or played off as humorous. I see many Christians who have used this sign as well, sometimes there is even a Christian message attached to these types of messages like below. 

Somehow I don't think that this is what Jesus meant when He said "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." In fact, I'm rather certain of it. Just ask yourself this question and really think about it: Who Would Jesus Bomb? I don't ask this to be sarcastic as much as to jar you a bit. Images like the one above severely disturb me. Now don't jump to conclusions, posts like this tend to make people think that I hate guns, hate veterans, hate the flag, and all those types of things. I'll save my opinions unless asked on most of those things, because that's not the point, but I promise you that I will never intentionally treat a person poorly because they hold a different opinion than me. That is also not very Jesus like. Despite how much I think Jesus would disagree with someone hosting a sign or shirt with one of the images above, I also know that He loves them dearly, and so do I. 

However, when did the church get so wrapped up in nationalism? When did being Christian equate to loving the Red, White, and Blue and all of the "Kicking Butt and Taking Names" that comes with that? When did Christian Evangelicals become the single most supportive group of war (Fact: without the support of Christian Evangelicals, the war in Iraq might never have started)? When did it become churches that were the most likely place to hear things like "nuke 'um all" when we are attacked? Why are Christians some of the first to want to assign the death penalty for criminals, creating the "eye for and eye" atmosphere?  Why are some more vocal about being able to own assault weapons than they are about Jesus's love for all people? Why are we the LOUDEST when it comes to these things?

I said this in my last post, but America is not God's nation. We are not, I repeat NOT, the new Israel. The book of Ephesians lets us know that the Church is the new Israel, God's chosen people are no longer associated with a nation. The U.S. is not a holy nation, set apart by God. If it were though, IF IT WERE, things would look differently. Perhaps we'd follow the warfare policy set forth by God for Israel where there is no standing army, no taxation would fund the army, there would be no superior weapons (Israel was prohibited from having horses and chariots, the tanks of the day) - so no tanks, drones, and certainly no nukes, there would be no bootcamp - the only way soldiers would prepare for battle would be to pray, fast, and sing worship songs, and we would in general allow God to fight for us most of the time, being undermanned and undergunned (Sprinkle, 68-71). 

As I said, we're not God's nation, and all of the previous will certainly not happen. However, God does have something to say about trusting in superior fire power as His people (not dialing 911), He calls it idolatry according to the book of Isaiah. (I talk greatly of the U.S., for it is where I am, but I know that I have readers in many, many countries, so apply this to wherever you are).

I don't intend to answer questions of ethical warfare and defense of one's family in such a short post, but I do think that there is some serious disconnect between Jesus's command to love our enemies (the word for enemy indicating the strong possibility of conflict greater than your uncle you don't like) and the claim that my automatic go-to is going to be to shoot anyone I have the right by law to shoot. Somehow our first response is to shoot our enemy, not love them. Somehow American Christians see themselves as on some sort of Holy Crusade to rid the world on injustice through force.

In a game of rock, paper, scissors, Self-Defense and even Property-Defense seem to trump Enemy Love a good deal of the time. And I think that's a tragedy. I used this quote in a post this last summer, and I re-use it for it's appropriateness now - "
On that cross at Golgotha was nailed the One who was unjustly abused, tried, and murdered - and in His dying words He prayed that the Father would forgive those who killed Him. But instead, imagine the result if Jesus had lived in Kentucky, and just before they nailed Him to a cross, He claimed his rights as a citizen and pulled out a .38" (Camp, 44). 

Despite how far one decides to take these ideas I've set forth, perhaps I can inspire you to take a few steps to what I consider a more Jesus like way...a way where this - 

Is not your automatic dualistic mindset. A way where you preach love and grace FAR more than you preach about 2nd Amendment Rights. A way where when you say "God Bless America", you remember to ask for blessings on everyone else too. A way where when you pray for troops, you don't pray for "Our Troops", for the church has none, but instead pray for troops everywhere and on every side (fulfilling Christ's commandment to pray for your enemies [Luke 6:28]). A way where retaliation is not praised, but mourned, for it goes against what Jesus said. And ultimately, a way where Life is cherished, and we mourn when it is lost in any capacity, friend or foe. 

Nationalism is usually only beautiful in the eye of the beholder. Christians went to war during World War II in the name of their Christian nation. The thing is, people did this in the U.S. and in Germany, and had the exact same mindset. During the Civil War, both sides prayed to the same God for victory for their noble cause. One cannot assume that their side is righteous. 

If you're in the army, marines, navy, air force, etc...I love ya. If you want to be in the armed forces, I love ya. If you own a small armory and are easily the safest place to go in case the zombie apocalypse occurs, I love ya, and perhaps we can go shoot some clay pigeons or vermin or something (not human). I'll shake your hand and call you friend. But I do want to challenge your thinking as you challenge mine, and may we ever sharpen each other like iron sharpens iron. 

Let your citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven supersede any and all earthly citizenships that you may have. Be a Christian American, not an American Christian (or wherever you might be). 

Works Cited

Camp, Lee C. Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2003. Print. 

Sprinkle, Preston. Fight: A Christian Case for Nonviolence. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2013. Print. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

My Life As A Dirtbag

Believe it or not, I’m not actually being offensive to myself in the title of this post. A dirtbag has many connotations attached to it, I’m sure. However, in the climbing community, the term is used with a bit of endearment, actually. A dirtbag refers to someone who is in all ways a minimalist, but like a lazy minimalist (to use modern language – think “granola,” but less healthy and more lazy). A good example of a classic dirtbag move would be the climber who shows up to the crag (climbing destination) in jammies and house slippers.  What I just described has been done many times, although I can say, not by myself. Their gear is old and tattered, they do really weird crap, and generally, you can easily spot a dirtbag by how they live out of their car, sometimes incredibly literally. Some actually just live in vans near climbing destinations like Red Rocks and have some sort of small trade they do to keep food in the…uh…glove box.

The other day, I got called a dirtbag by one of my best friends. It was after I had tweeted about doing my dishes while showering. So obviously, this is kind of deserved. I do almost live out of my car, it’s a complete wreck, and in general, I just really don’t do a whole lot of self-care. I haven’t shaved in almost three years, only trimmed. I went on a two month kick this summer where I didn’t wear deodorant, maybe not a shining star decision, but it worked out for the most part (to be honest, I still forget to put it on a fair amount of days). All kinds of stuff like that. Now, I can at least explain the washing of dishes in the shower.

I’ve moved down to Abilene to pursue a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy, and I just happened to find a free apartment through a connection I made at the church I’m working at currently. It’s hard to argue with free anything, especially housing when your budget is…pretty much nothing like mine. So free is good. However, free means doing without some things. My grandma told me the other day that the way they used to describe apartments back in the 50s and 60s were “Apt. With Mod Cons” which shorthand for “modern conveniences.” So, I’m very much living in an apartment lacking Mod Cons. I have an average sized room in which I’ve been able to have a bed, table, lazy boy, and a fridge. There is no kitchen and so I have to either do my dishes in the bathroom sink, or in the shower. So far, I’ve generally chosen shower. Killing two stones with one bird type of thing. I just have a dish drainer/dryer thing I keep on the floor of the shower. I have a tiny closet, which I have put my dresser in to save space, but unfortunately this space also is shared with the hot water heater, so it’s a tight fit. There is nothing better about my apartment though, than the bathroom. It’s about 40 inches by 75 inches, so just over 3 feet by 6 feet (I used by body; I laid on the floor - classic dirtbag measurement means). In that space is the shower, the sink, and the toilet. There isn’t a tub; the floor just starts gradually sinking down towards a drain. If the curtain were not pulled shut, the water would be hitting my legs whilst I am sitting on the toilet. It’s tiny, and it’s awesome. The toilet paper holder that was in place when I got here is a simple bolt that is held up by two pieces of wire. I call it the Bolt(e) toilet paper holder. I cook using a mix between a toaster oven, a George Foreman grill, and a really old electric skillet (and a Nuwave cooktop, but I don’t have a pan for it yet). My meals are pretty basic.

If you know me well, you’ve probably heard me say that I think I could live in a tent. This is a few steps above a tent.  Man am I happy with it though. I’m not trying to make you feel bad for living with all kinds of Mod Cons, I’m really not. I do think that it’s incredibly healthy to go without from time to time though. Simplicity has been a theme in my life that I’ve been trying to live out better. Jesus was an even bigger dirtbag than me; He didn’t even have a permanent place to lay His head, so I’m still living in way more luxury than Jesus did. I’ve said it before, but it fits really well here – one of the underlying themes behind the First Century idea of purity was Creation. Purity was seen in how God made things in the beginning. The first dirtbag was actually Adam (quite literally). I’ve experienced this form of seeing purity in creation. From leading camping/climbing trips on the weekends with OC Excursions, spending several days backpacking in Colorado on Trek, to simply interacting with a beautiful cliff line as I try to scale it, there is something really pure about being in Creation and not having much more than what God made directly. It makes you appreciate God, but it also makes you lean on Him because you don’t have a whole lot of Mod Cons to lean on.

The idea behind fasting in the first century was to cease from the physical to long for the spiritual better. It also served as a reminder of where your trust and security truly reside – In God. We have so much noise in our lives, and honestly, so much comfort, that we don’t always need God. Fasting from something realigns our focus. For us today, fasting from food probably isn’t even the best thing. Try fasting from your phone, laptop, car, radio, whatever it may be for you (maybe it’s just instagram). When you get rid of some of the noise, it’s easier to hear God. But it’s also good to remember where to lean, not on possessions, but on God.

I honestly do not believe that God intends for us to have comfortable lives. We tend to thank God for our physical blessings a whole lot, but what if those things are getting in the way between you and God? Did God really put it there if it comes between you and Him? The answer can be yes, after all, He made sex, but even something that beautiful has very specific contexts that God says to use it in. The answer can also be no though. I’m not sure God blessed you with an iPhone 5 and a luxurious house full of Mod Cons. The reason I think this is because there are extremely faithful Christians in the world, who simply don’t have these things. God sends the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. America isn’t the new Israel and thus the recipient of God’s extreme blessing, after all, being so free and prosperous has led churches and the Christians in them into some awful forms of materialism.

In all this, I’m one to talk. I’m receiving an education that a miniscule fraction of the world will ever receive. I have invested a ton of money into climbing gear. And I am typing these words on a MacBook Pro. However, I realize all of this about myself and attempt to practice minimalism as often as possible. It’s not that I’ve attained these things I challenge you with, it’s that I’m working through it.

Ultimately, the life of a climbing dirtbag can be a lonely and potentially selfish one. Those who are dirtbagging it might give up family and friends to go do so. They offer very little to the outside world, they instead spend their time focused on the self and their own climbing. They live poorly so that they have the time for climbing, and what little work they do goes towards funding climbing (or just food). Jesus was a dirtbag for the sake of the poor, the oppressed, and for you. The life of a Christian dirtbag could still be a lonely life from time to time, definitely one of hardship, but the purpose is selfless, instead of selfish. One definition of a dirtbag is this: A person who is committed to a given (usually extreme) lifestyle to the point of abandoning employment and other societal norms in order to pursue said lifestyle. That sounds like the call of discipleship right there, our focus is just on Christ.  

So, might you be able to better further the Kingdom of God by eliminating some of the noise from your life? For all of us, the answer is likely yes. 1 John 3:17-18 reads “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” Maybe you need to fast, maybe you need to lose some comfort, but in all ways, we need to be about blessing people. If you’re a Christian who just happened to be born into an exceptional area and exceptional economic situation, bless those Christians and people who weren’t. Are you really so much luckier than them? Or is your responsibility greater because of what you were born into? I'm not telling you to not make money, I'm telling you to not let the money make you. You cannot serve two masters - and money is a really sneaky master. 

Don't let Mod Cons pervert your faith. Practice minimalism. Be a dirtbag for Jesus. It’s really pretty adventurous, you may even like it. But most of all, bless others with the resources you have and don’t let anything distract you from leaning on God entirely. 

"Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." Genesis 2:7