Thursday, July 18, 2019

THE CULTURAL CREED OF THE UNHOMED

If I’m honest, I’m not sure where I fit in anymore.

When I look around to see who is my political neighbor, I realize I’m in a land triangulated between the liberal Left, conservative Right, and those chaotic Libertarians. I didn’t feel like the 2016 presidential candidates from any of those three parties represented my moral universe adequately enough to get my vote. I cringe at CNN and Fox in equal measure. I increasingly feel that it is important for me not to be beholden to a “side” culturally or politically.

I’m just not the kind of guy who can say, “This party or person, do or die.” 

So I increasingly find myself wandering uneasily in the topography of a world that seems intent on filling in all the Valleys full of Gray Uncertainty and leveling all the Hills of Important Nuance.  

Don’t get me wrong - I like the Plains of Certainty and the Fields of Truth. I just want to acknowledge that those mountains and valleys of Uncertainty and Nuance exist. And I don’t want to climb them with cable news talking heads, youtube faux philosophers, conspiratorial bloggers, tweeting politicians or blindly partisan Christian leaders. 

I want fellow explorers who don’t mind the hard work, who know when and how to pick a philosophical fight full of grace and truth, and who will join me at The Brew afterwards at a table full of the laughter and tears of friends because, in the end, we are determined to love each other well in a world that is broken enough already.  

If we can do that with mutual thoughtfulness and respectfulness, that table might just feel a bit like home no matter what land I inhabit.

Here we go, in no particular order: The Cultural Creed Of The Unhomed.

                                                              * * * * * * * * * *

POLITICS
I believe…
  •  voting inescapably intertwines three things: party, platform, and person. 
  •  this should make Christians very uneasy, because we cast votes in a fallen empire, not an eternal kingdom.  
  • for better or worse, the party, platform and person for whom we vote become our representation in culture, or societal ambassador.
  • it ought to be unsettling for Christians to have empire ambassadors for kingdom citizens. 
  • it is possible for Christians simultaneously to win political battles, lose the moral high ground, and lose their saltiness
  • Christianity was never intended to be comfortable in the halls of power. 
  • we ought to think carefully about how living in a representative republic might distort our view of life in a spiritual kingdom.

PRIVILEGE
I believe…
  • some of us are born into a life with certain blessings that make life easier rather than harder; others are born into a life with far more hurdles.
  • when we hear that we have ‘privilege’ we should, instead of getting angry, think deeply about what we have been given that we did nothing to deserve.
  • this ought to inspire us not to guilt – inheriting a blessing is not wrong -  but to do justice and love mercy for those who inherited circumstances that they, too, did not deserve, but which have made their lives demonstrably harder.

CRIME
I believe…

ECONOMICS
I believe...
  • unfettered capitalism is a bad idea, but a morally principled capitalism is a really good idea in terms of the economic flourishing that follows. 
  • even morally principled capitalism will be as good or bad for our nation and our neighbors as the hearts of the people practicing it, because there are always loopholes in which exploitation and greed flourish. 
  • the redistribution of wealth is a fantastic idea when done by individuals whose hearts are sacrificially generous, and a terrible idea when done too aggressively by the government.  
  • Not all taxation is theft. The government pays bills, ya’ll. 
  • Christians should never forget that God and Mammon compete for our souls.
  • "It's the economy, stupid," was a political slogan that reminded us what politicians know we want above all else. It's not a life verse.

INJUSTICE 
I believe…
  • systemic, institutional and cultural injustice is real. Even the most cursory reading of American history makes this embarrassingly clear.
  • Christians should take seriously the #blacklivesmatter movement, not because other lives don’t matter, but because black lives clearly do, and they have been overlooked for centuries in and by our country. 
  • if you say, “But I didn’t do anything!” you are missing the point.
  • Christians should take the #metoo movement seriously. Ask the women in your lives why. Ask the women in your church why. 
  • yes, #blacklivesmatter  and the #metoo movement went off the rails in some ways. The distortion should not distract us from the truth about the history in our culture of systemic and personal injustice.

ABORTION
I believe…
  • a new human life begins at conception. This is biologically undeniable.
  • I want abortion to be unthinkable.
  • The Declaration of the Rights of the Child, as stated in the UN Convention On The Rights Of The Child, is correct: “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.” 
  • Roe v Wade (and other related rulings) should be overturned. 
  • they won’t be. #realitycheck  Why? Because conservative constituents like their abortions (53% of abortions are done for Catholic or Protestant women. 13% are done for evangelicals). 
  • If there is a pro-life legislative trend - and I hope there will be - it will probably be to allow states to implement restrictions that are long overdue. 
  • even if Roe were overturned, I doubt it would change abortion rates in the United States, since abortion will revert to a states-rights issue
  • states where abortion is legal will do a flourishing business that counteracts the states that make it illegal. Already, for every state that passes a Heartbeat Bill, another state throws off all restraints. 
  •  abortion rates will drop considerably when four things happen. Christians stop getting abortions. People accept the personhood and worth of the unborn. Mothers feel that they and their unborn child will be cared for and safe. Fathers are committed, stable, supportive, and faithfully present in the lives of the women with whom they have created a child.
  • being pro-life includes being pro-whole life in order to be consistent.
  • this means fighting for quantity and quality of innocent life for the born as well as the unborn, and figuring out what it looks like to be supportive of  those for whom the creation of new life feels like a burden rather than a blessing. 

THE LAW
I believe…

BORDERS AND IMMIGRATION
I believe…

SOCIAL JUSTICE
I believe…

FREE SPEECH 
I believe… 
  • free speech is an important societal gift, one which simultaneously makes it possible for me to talk about Jesus and neo-nazis to spew racist hate and someone to sing The Star Spangled Banner while their neighbor burns a flag and an atheist to say Christians are child abuser because they raise their kids in a Christian home and an evangelist to tell the world the Jesus is the only way and the President to tweet his insulting nicknames while the fake news fakes on. 
  • I prefer that to any Orwellian alternative.
  • private businesses like Twitter and Facebook can corral speech however they jolly well choose, and we better protect their right, because if theirs goes, ours will eventually go too. 
  • if you don’t like what they do, start a new platform. 
  • free speech is not a biblical ideal. As a Christian, my speech is surrendered to God and harnessed in the service of truth, purity, goodness, honor, and love. #thetongueisafire

FREEDOM OF RELIGION
I believe…

  • freedom of religion is a gift.
  • if I am socially and politically consistent as a citizen of the United States, I must fight for the freedom of others to practice their religion so that others will fight for me to have the freedom to practice mine.
  • we Christians have to think very, very carefully about the spiritual tension of simultaneously supporting the rights of others to worship as they choose while not affirming or applauding what we believe is a false view of God.
  • the public square in our republic, under our Constitutional terms, probably ought to be devoid of obvious religious imagery and practice, because it’s all or nothing if we are to be consistent. 
  • if we want to open a government meeting with a prayer to Jesus, our constitution and our republic probably demand we let Satanists open with a prayer too.
  • if this makes you uncomfortable as a Christian - as it should - let it remind you that the empire and kingdom have different values, and we are dual citizens that live in tension. 
  • I don’t want public schools teaching the Bible or opening in prayer, because that means they can/should teach any religious texts and open with every kind of prayer, and I have no confidence at all that they will present the Bible or say a prayer in a way that honors my faith.
  • that’s why there are private schools, and why vouchers are a great idea.
  •  I will put a crèche on my lawn, read the Ten Commandments on the wall of my private Christian school, say Merry Christmas when I feel like it, and be happy with that freedom
  • losing religious freedoms might not be a bad thing for the integrity of the church. Historically, Christianity is purified and invigorated in those times. 

TOXICITY
I believe…
  • toxic masculinity is a thing, if for no other reason than masculinity is a thing, and there are some men for whom “being a man” oozes poison into the world. 
  • some women are toxic too. Let's be fair. Ya'll know this.
  • we should be having robust cultural conversation about what exactly are the masculine and feminine traits that seem to be unique to them to men and  women to such a degree that we label them as a masculine or feminine kind of toxic.
  • this could be interesting
  • we should celebrate these masculine and feminine traits when they build the world and challenge these traits when they tear it down. 

BAKERS AND SAME-SEX CEREMONIES
I believe…
  •  it’s not a morally compromising act if I owned a bakery and were to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony.  
  • the government should protect the right of religious objectors who do see it that way, and I should defend my fellow Christians who believe it violates their conscience to participate in the ceremony.
  • defending Christian bakers is a defense of a principle of freedom which benefits all of us. "First they came for the bakers...."
  • when bakers and florists and photographers have a history of offering their services to gay customers and hiring gay workers, they should be given the benefit of the doubt when they say this is about the ceremony, not the people. 
  • in a truly tolerant culture, we would all figure this out in a way that doesn’t involve courts. 

VIOLENCE AND WAR
I believe… 
  • Christian peacemakers ought not be excited about, eager for, or even content with violence as the means by which wrongs are righted and conflicts are solved in our nation and around the world.
  • police brutality is probably not as endemic as it is made to appear, but it also exists
  •  we should be able to simultaneously demand that it stop and that we don’t rush to judgment when it appears to happen.
  • “hawkishness” is not a good look for Christians. 
  • Christians ought to be deeply unsettled by the military/industrial complex and any politician or party that supports it. If you don’t know what it is or who profits from it, google it.
  • peacemakers can support Just War Theory.
  • precious few wars are just.

Pornography
I believe…

Patriotism and Nationalism
I believe…
  • the flag is an important symbol, but not a holy one.  
  • the constitution, as amazing as it is, is not inspired revelation of holy writ.
  • I am only comfortable pledging my allegiance to God.
  • Patriotism is a virtue only to the extent that it is given to a nation that deserves it.
  • as a Christian, my primary citizenship is in the global Kingdom of God and the church universal, not in a nation. People from every tribe, nation and tongue will one day be joined in perfect unity in the world to come.
  • I want to practice now what it looks like to have my heart set for the world and not just my nation.

FAMILY
I believe….
  • the ideal environment for children is in a committed, stable, low-conflict home with their biological parents. 
  •  there are many reasons, some avoidable and some not, that this ideal fails to obtain 
  • we should be able to simultaneously acknowledge and promote the ideal while helping and encouraging those who are trying to make it work in the real.
  • we ought to bolster the ideal as much as possible 
  • we ought to generously help parents and children when the ideal is not available

MARRIAGE
I believe…
  • when governments are the ones who establish legal contracts, government gets to decide who can enter into them.
  • the government can determine which contracts we must legally recognize.
  • neither the government nor the culture should tell anyone which of these contracts he or she must celebrate or applaud. 
  • the church is meant to celebrate marriage as a spiritual covenant
  • it might be time for the church to separate spiritual ceremonies of covenant from governmental ceremonies of contract. #twokingdoms  #twovalues

* * * * * * * * * *

I don't know. Maybe this resonates with you. Maybe it doesn't. 

I do now this.  If there are enough of us with whom this tension resonates, "home" won't need to be a place of agreement on every point. Maybe we can build a new place where a shared love of truth paired with a commitment to honor each other in spite of our differences is enough. 

I guess this is an experiment to see....


6 comments:

  1. I have marked this day in my calendar, Steve :)

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. I think this is a great post and it certainly resonates with me! While I don't agree with every point possibly your first point in the "baker and same sex" section I still respect that you have well thought out opinions and that even though we may disagree you don't come to a conclusion lightly and you are also open to arguments on both sides. Thank you for posting this as it's something everyone should read!

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  4. Anthony what a well written and thought out blog post. The Privileged part is the one that hit home for me. I have been trying to articulate my position and you nailed.

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