Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The differences between us...

I'm interested in the apparent divisions in the blogospere. I know that when people have face-to-face conversations, we tend to want to talk to others who share our beliefs and opinions. That can be a source of comfort and support. But it is also nice to listen to and learn from those who don't share our opinions. [see this relevant post at connexions] I've gained a lot from doing that, but I still have to remind myself to do so. For example, I've gained a lot from listening to friends who are evangelicals, or friends who are adamantly pro-life... People who 1 or 2 years ago I would have thought had nothing to offer me, in retrospect I believe really had something worth listening to.

For this reason, I'm sometimes saddened when I stop by a blog and see an entire blogroll that is Catholic, or conservative, or evangelical. We have much more in common that we sometimes acknowledge. I was raised Catholic, and am now Methodist. I know there are important distinctions. But I feel so strongly tied by my beliefs to both camps. And it really does sadden me to see the divisions emphasized over the common beliefs and goals. We're reading the same essential story (I know there there are differences in translations, but an ENORMOUS amount of that story is common to us all), trying to live out the same basic teachings, confronting the same basic reality.

I'm going to continue to make a real effort to widen my blog reading. I want to hear what others have to say... Have a great day.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Got Christ?

What is it about those smug evangelizing Christians who endlessly drone on about "confessing Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?" that makes my skin crawl? Could it be that they seem to have nailed down all of the righteous stuff, memorized the verses, parked themselves in a church pew 8 times a week, but clearly have not read (or at least haven't thought through) Christ's message? Oh, they've gotten to the Great Commission "Go forth and make disciples..." But they've somehow missed the countless examples, parables and teachings that Christ provides about living a life of humility, compassion and love for others-- (and not just their smug evangelizing Christian friends).

I shouldn't judge, should I? Ouch. Did I mention it is a difficult path? I'm trying Lord, I'm trying. O.k., they are at a different point along the path, and doing what they believe is right. I should try to love them as well. I know they mean well. At any rate... Here's an essay on this that I found worthwhile. I mention it, because the author points out that (even if we LOVE those annoying smug evangelizers) their message can actually be counterproductive. Interesting point.

Radical? Difficult? Different?

I saw on a post at connexions that Richard describes himself as a "radical Christian." I've thought the same thing recently.

If you take seriously this charge to love others, with all that goes with it, it does make you radically different. It begins to complicate your life immeasurably too.

Let's just say that life is easier when you can say/do things without always thinking about the welfare of others. :) Seriously. I don't think it should keep us from thinking critically, nor should we be accepting of everything-- certainly not. But it means that we must be careful about the way we react. I love my children, but don't necessarily like all of the behaviors they exhibit-- nor should I. Nonetheless, my words and behaviors should leave no uncertainty that I love them, regardless. And I know in my heart that I want only the best for them, that I want to make them happy and help them avoid pain and suffering. That is love. Christ tells us that our Father loves us NO MATTER WHAT. When we talk to people, or react to their posts on blogs, our words should be carefully chosen. The words you use to confront others, online or otherwise, are words spoken to Christ. (I think the verse is something like Matt 25:40) That's true ESPECIALLY if we've found some reason to dislike them. New translation?: "Whenever you blogged with people you considered small and unworthy, you blogged with me." Ouch. Imagine how responses would differ if each of us imagined that the recipient was Christ.

Viewing the call to love others as central doesn't make one a "wishy washy liberal" who goes on endlessly about love love love. I'll tell you what it does-- for me, it raises the hurdles about 15 notches. Avoiding sin in terms of the usual culprits isn't NEARLY as difficult as turning my back on this fundamental commandment from our Lord. I can pray, go to church, remain faithful to my spouse, avoid murdering people, etc. with no trouble whatsoever. But a single day of treating each person I come in contact with as if s/he were Christ... Personally, I pray most often for strength on this score. Of all the mysteries of the faith, this one has me baffled. It is, I am convinced, completely at odds with human nature.

Radical? I think so. Christianity should make us question these basic and instinctual responses to the "other." Focusing on "sins" in the usual sense allows one to avoid this central and for many, most difficult, hurdle of the faith. Loving others is a primary obligation-- to not continually work toward it is, I think, clearly a sin.