Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Struggling with a "Big Tent Christianity," and despairing over national division.

Last week was a synchro-blogging event for a thing called Big Tent Christianity. The idea is for Christians to come together and accept each other in a sort of "big tent" way. I got a bit cynical on one of my attempts, and sarcastic on another. Then, I was just plain defensive, trying not to offend anyone by who I let in my big tent. Finally, I just got sad and discouraged.

And my thinking went beyond the church and its tent. I despair at the division in my country, in our churches, and in seemingly every venue of human endeavor. We are thwarted from progress or from maintaining the good by the dark powers of division.

A great deal of blame goes to the media when it comes to our national bifurcation. Tension sells. And there are plenty of millionaires on TV and radio and the internet who create tension 5 days a week. In doing so, they create for themselves a very fine living...thank you very much. (I said "living," not "life.")

Saddest of all, the church and the state are tag-teaming in ways that are unbecoming to both. In the name of God, God's children are learning to rage at God's children. Hot button topics are used by left and right to polarize people--who are typically good at loving--into separate camps. Armed camps. Armed with words and threats and visceral anger.

Big tent??? I fear church people aren't even capable of loving those in their own congregational tent. Why go for a big one, when the spirit of the age--which we so gladly embrace--is the spirit of divide and conquer? It is all too common for people to judge the spiritual lives of others based upon their political opinions.

Thanks to a gracious grant and a sabbatical, I will be out of our country during the fervent peek of the approaching election cycle. What bliss. I will be seeking to live under the reign of God. People have lived under this reign for millennia. But today, many are exiting its blessings, in favor of hatred and division in the name of--and while waving the flag of--a kingdom of this world.

I am grateful for my country. I complement those who become active in the political process, so long as they follow Christ's teaching. A few beatitudes come to mind. Blessed are the peace-makers, Blessed are the meek, and blessed are the pure in heart.

As much as I love my country, I must reserve the right to love each of its citizens--no mattter their politics or religion. I must insist on this love. And I love citizens of all other nations, no matter their political, religious or ethnic persuasion. I can't help it. Sit down and look in the eyes of another human being. Hold their children in your lap. Listen to a father's dreams, or witness the twinkle in a mother's eye. Share your stories with them, and you will love matter the flag waving outside of their nation's capitol. You have to love them. It is what Jesus does.

I like big tents. There probably is one. I just despair of finding enough people willing to get along to populate it.

Check out Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7 and choose a kingdom.


indybikehiker said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, David. They express a lot of what I'm feeling, too. Not just the despair of finding or being in a "Big Tent" nation or church, but also to the commitment to see and experience grace in the commonness and sacredness of each one. There is grace and hope.

David said...

Let me post here a quote from C.S. Lewis I came across today:
"The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport and back-biting; the pleasures of power, of hatred."

David said...

Thanks Indybiker and friend. I'm finding this week, in the Sermon on the Mt., such a deep challenge, that I'm not sure I have the courage to be a meek one, a heart-pure one, a peace-making one, etc. The vulnerability required is near to overwhelming. I'm sensing there is a "middle way," that while not being apathetic by any means to the political needs of a society, is however willing to be broken along by it, rather than to hate or divide within it. Not sure at all if I'm articulating this well. It's almost as if Jesus is so into his higher kingdom, that the stuff of Ceaser is an after thought. He'll live or die by any system, keeping his heart and agenda in the reign of God...? And perhaps, that reign will bring our crucifixion as it did his...with the promise of similar results.

This brings to mind other issues, such as pacifism. I want to be there, but not sure how I'd do if someone mortally attacked a member of my human family and I had the ability to defend them with my varmint gun. :) However, pacifism is probably something I should practice at a different level, as indicated by the above CS Lewis quote.

Any way I read this sermon--I have a long way to go. Does that qualify me as "poor in spirit?"

indybikehiker said...

Praying for your wrestling with the Word re Sermon the Mount (remember, E. Stanley Jones called it the most revolutionary document in the world).

Big difference between pacifism and creative nonviolence. It seems to me the Walter Wink articulates more accurately what Jesus was pointing to than what we label as pacifism. Creative nonviolence is not defenseless, it turns the table on aggressors to show them the futility of their way, exposing its pathetic use of raw power and inviting them to respond differently. In the end, they may choose raw power, but they will have compromised their very fragile moral standing. In the end, if they say "no" to the offer of change, they morph into something less than human (my reference, not Wink's).

David said...

I've put off reading Wink for too long. Sounds like he'd fit my sabbatical well. Which title(s)?

indybikehiker said...

The whole triolgy: Naming the Powers, Unmasking the Powers, and Engaging the Powers.

Debb said...

I give my thanks to David & Indybikehiker for sharing your thoughts, as they express a lot of what I am feeling and experiencing lately, as well.

I love the concept of inviting our aggressors to respond differently . . . inviting them just as Jesus invited us to the table, so that we would hopefully begin responding differently.

Eric said...

Dave, I would suggest reading 'The Powers that Be,' by Walter Wink. This particular book is a kind of condensed, all-encompassing, text that combines his Trilogy into a singular text. It is still a very good book- but for a man who only has a limited amount of time, it might be best to read just one instead of three. It is also easier to travel with.