Thursday, June 18, 2009

American Christianity (part 2)

So why does this all matter? Anything that brings us into bondage to something other than Christ is idolatry and sin. Abandoning, even unconsciously, a Biblical view in favor of an American view brings us into bondage to patriotism.

With that, here are my other five...

6. Rights
"If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." - Matthew 5:39-41

America fights for our rights, and we should fight for those things that are in line with Biblical principles -- freedom, justice, etc. But ultimately, America will not grant these rights -- God does, and already has. So instead of clinging to them when they are threatened, we should gently invite others to join with us in reveling in them, laying down our own rights to bless others.

7. Lust
"But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." - Matt. 5:28

America tries so hard to justify lust -- "he's so hot," Playboy, Glamour, GQ, porn. It's in miniskirts and muscle shirts, magazines and movies. It's a terrible plague on our culture, and Christians so easily get wrapped up it -- but to use the word "lust" sounds too serious, so we just laugh it off. But as Christians, we have to be different -- we have to treasure the opposite gender and our own.

8. Tolerance
"I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws." - Psalm 119:30

This is a difficult one for me and could be a blog post in and of itself. Essentially, I think it's important that we remember two things: God's law is immutable and covers us all; second, Jesus was always harder on the religious folks than the non-religious folks. But tolerance is an American construct that becomes a cover-all protection for people who don't want to address the first premise. As Christians, we have to maintain both.

9. Elitism
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." - Phil. 2:3

Globally, personally, racially, religiously -- elitism is a clear danger to our faith and something the Bible directly contradicts. But America is littered with competition, racism, sexism, ageism, nationalism...which leads me to #10...

10. Nationalism

I had to post part of this poem because of how much it scares me:

"I am the Flag'' by Ruth Apperson Rous:

Americans, I am the sacred emblem of your country.

I symbolize your birthright, your heritage of liberty purchased with blood and sorrow.
I know they're talking about the military here, but "purchased with blood" -- isn't that a very Christian concept? And we're co-opting it for America.

I am your title deed of freedom, which is yours to enjoy and hold in trust for posterity. If you fail to keep this sacred trust inviolate, if I am nullified and destroyed, you and your children will become slaves to dictators and despots. Eternal vigilance is your price of freedom...Guard me well, lest your freedom perish from the earth.
Where is the trust in God's sovereignty? His hand over all of us?

Dedicate your lives to those principles for which I stand: "One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
And here is the direct call, the indirect temptation for all of us -- to dedicate our lives to a country, a flag, instead of the cross of Christ.

So what else? What did I forget?

American Christianity

Ryan and I have been talking a lot recently about how American ideals have affected and influenced the church, which largely started during the election and continued into one of the classes Ryan took last semester. It's something we've been trying to identify in our own lives as well.

Since I like lists, I've made my top 10 (in no particular order). What do you think I missed?

1. Noise
"He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul." - Ps. 23:2-3
"The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'" - Mark 6:30-31

The Bible calls us to silence, solitude and rest; American culture is focused on stimulation, entertainment and noise.

I won't rewrite Mazvita's fabulous post about this, but you should read it: She makes some excellent points.

2. Busyness
"As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, 'Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!' 'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'" - Luke 10:38-41

Our culture tells us that it's important to have obligations, that our schedules define our worth. We have little competitions over who is busier and who has the harder schedule and life. But Jesus calls us to quiet our lives before him, to give Him space to speak to us and to lead us. If we cram our lives full with schedules, even good things for the work of the church, we are prioritizing America's culture over God's priorities.

3. Consumerism
"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." - 1 Tim. 6:17

As American Christians, we have Christian bookstores that sell more trinkets than books; we throw cliches on t-shirts and call it witnessing; we even look for churches by "church shopping." We're entrenched in a culture of consumerism that is directly counter to the Scriptures.

4. Authority
"The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God." - Romans 8:6-8

Christianity calls us to submit every day -- to God, to each other, to our husbands, our parents, the church and the governing authorities of our land. And while that certainly does not mean that those entities have the right to rule in domination or sinfulness, we are consistently called to submission. In America, authority is mocked, purchased and disgraced. Christians in America begin resenting submission to the church; we find it offensive to talk of submitting to each other.

5. Autonomy and independence
"Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." - Acts 2:46-47

In America, we so value our independence that we sacrifice real relationships, even though our soul longs for them. We reject responsibility to each other. We don't want to be tied up in each other's junk, and we're terrified to share our own. But when we let America's culture dominate our thinking in this area, we give up one of the most beautiful things God has given us -- a community modeled after His in the trinity.

6-10 coming soon...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Twitter and the fight for Democracy

As most people reading this probably know, Twitter is the latest and greatest site in social networking. Its primary purpose has always seemed to me to be a place for individuals with an over-inflated sense of self-importance to inform their followers about trivial information like what kind of cereal they just ate for breakfast. This new outlet of narcissistic expression is especially important for celebrities, and especially the more annoying ones whom we'd just assume never hear about at all and can't really say why they are famous in the first place (i.e Ashton Kutcher, Paris, Perez, ect.) But Twitter is not without its worthwhile uses. One such use was quickly distributing information about the spread of the H1N1 "Swine" flu between health officials across the country. But presently, Twitter is finding a brand new and worthwhile place on the world stage.

While it received only limited mention in the American news, Iran held presidential elections on June 12. The two major candidates were the holocaust denying incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the popular challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi. The political landscape in Iran is of course much different than it is in the US. In Iran The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, a religious leader who is appointed by other religious leaders, wields power superior to the president or any other democratically elected official. The President of Iran is nonetheless the highest official elected directly by popular vote, the expression of the will of the people.

The night of the election came, the polls closed, and mere hours later the results were announced and immediately certified. In spite of massive demonstrations of support for Mousavi, and flying in the face of all polling data, Ahmadinejad was proclaimed to have won in a land-slide victory. But the more data that has been released concerning the voting results, the more obvious and blatant the fraud and irregularities reflected in these results has become.

Starting on the night of the election and escalating since, the Iranian government has attempted to lock down information and communications in order to silence dissent. Foreign reporters have been removed, TV signals disrupted, internet sites have been blocked, and cell phone communication and text messaging have been disrupted. But thanks to the internet, and especially to Twitter, the government has been unable to control the flow of information and prevent the truth from coming out. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets to protest the fixed election results, some of them being detained, beaten, and in a few cases killed by opposition militias. But they continue to protest, communicating with the outside world with sites like YouTube, and coordinating their actions and intelligence by using the internet, especially Twitter.

You can read more about these events as they are unfolding here:
BBC News Middle East (US News outlets don't have much worthwhile to say about this so far)
The Daily Dish
Wikipedia: Iranian President Election 2009

And of course on Twitter
Here is more about how to search Twitter for info about the Iran Election

This is an issue worth drawing attention to and keeping track of. While these results would not have necessarily made Iran and the US great buddies, the fraud and government crackdown that is unfolding is clearly a step in the wrong direction away from whatever semblance of democracy their once was. Many Iranians are risking their freedom and their lives to fight for the principle that their vote should count and their voice be heard. The Iranian government doesn't want for you to be able to hear about it or whatever desperate and violent means they are using to stop it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Kicking off

Ryan and I decided to start a blog. We have lots of friends spread out all over the country, and even a lot here in St. Louis who don't know each other. We love talking about lots of different topics with ya'll, and we're hoping this can be a place we can all converse together.

We'll both post, but no promises on how frequently or not!