Monday, December 31, 2018

My 2019 Wish List

1. We value life - all life. It starts in the womb, and it continues until death. The question of personhood and humanity looms ever larger as science reveals more and more about the life of the unborn. We must figure out how to exercise justice and mercy at our southern border to those who are born. Speaking of doing better, we can also do this by looking more carefully about the context in which crime flourishes. We value life when we value all of life.

2. We address the causes of the #metoo movement at the core. Specifically, how do we create a culture that trains us from the time we are children on how to honor others sexually? We appear to be doing a terrible job. I suspect the two biggest culprits are families in which honor is not modeled and entertainment that is remarkably crude, shallow and selfish when portraying relationships, sex, and sexuality. Morality, character, integrity. They matter. Oh, and pornography is a monster.

3. We reject materialism as the standard for the good life. "But the economy is good!" has become my least favorite phrase of 2018, as if having money in my pocket is more important than anything else. I want leaders and policies that model and promote truth, generosity, justice and mercy for all people, even if the achievement of these goals literally costs us something. The United States has plenty of money. We have room, as a nation and as individuals, to exercise what Timothy Keller calls a 'generous justice.' 

4. We give up caustic, abrasive, confrontational public discourse. Obnoxious people and/or mean posts get headlines. It's ruining our ability to have meaningful conversation about just about everything. I would love to see this modeled from the top down, beginning with our president and all other elected leaders in Washington.  If politicians never used Twitter again to make an argument, vent, or explain something, I would consider 2019 a win.

5. The entertainment industry listens to itself and watches itself, and makes the connection: what they celebrate, their audience will do. If you want better people, make better entertainment. Write songs and tell stories that bring out nobility in people. You reap what you sow.

6. Christians remember that our kingdom is not of this world. Our citizenship is in heaven. Our allegiance is to Jesus. We do not owe allegiance to Trump, Obama, Clinton or Sanders. The Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian parties are not to be revered. In 2019, may we feel increasingly uneasy in a world that is not our home. May that unease inspire us to holy engagement with everyone and everything around us, and that includes holding said politicians and parties accountable when they contribute to the brokenness of the world.

7. All of us recommit to the pursuit of truth. Fake news is a problem from the Right and the Left; calling real news 'fake news' just because we don't like it is just as problematic. We need to do our own research: go to primary sources; absorb perspectives from multiple viewpoints; read, watch and listen widely; filter opinion from fact. The truth is there. It's just harder than ever to find it. Do work.

8. The church - which I love - becomes a compelling community of salvation, truth, love, generosity, justice, mercy and hope that truly reflects the character and nature of Jesus.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

"Gotta Be Who You Are In This World": Some Thoughts On Purpose

There's a scene at the beginning of The Equalizer where a young lady named Teri asks Robert (The Equalizer) what happens in Hemingway’s story, "The Old Man and the Sea." Robert tells her that the old man catches the fish. She asks, "Why didn't he just let the fish go?" Robert replies, "Old man's gotta be the old man. Fish has got to be the fish. Gotta be who you are in this world, no matter what."

In the context of the story, I don’t think it was a statement of fatalistic resignation or some silly version of, "You are perfect just the way you are!" Robert was pointing out that we are all made for a purpose, with a role to play. We have to find that purpose and live it. It's an acknowledgment that we are made for some things and not others. It’s a Hollywood discussion of telos - the idea of design and purpose in the world and in our lives. I often hear this described as flourishing. I like that description.

I read two books recently that spent some time focusing on the issue of telos. A quote from each of these books will be the springboard for further discussion.