Because Everyone Else is Talking About The Duggars…I guess I should Too???

I have been trying to collect my thoughts on the recent Duggar Scandal for over a week now. I have read news articles, blog posts, as well as the many Facebook threads going on among Progressive Christians regarding the tragic failings of Josh Duggar, his parents and the strictly fundamental Quiverfull Movement. The story broke on or around May 21, 2015 and since then the reaction has been filled with pain, anger, and the resurfacing of memories of personal trauma for many people.

There is a time and place for Christ followers to use their voice whether via social media or within their personal relationships to stand with the oppressed. It is necessary that the Church speak out against sexual abuse and abuse of all forms as we are here to represent Jesus our King.

But the question that I have yet to see addressed is:

What, instead, is our actual message? 

In all honesty, I am tired of the online bashing of The Duggars, of Michelle’s out-dated hair style, of their openly opposition to the LGBTQ community, their tight connections to politics, etc. These things aren’t new. Yes, they are a public family. Yes, they have exploited their faith, their children, and have compromised some basic teachings of Jesus in exchange for a platform, an agenda, and profits. But we knew ALL of this before the molestation/abuse story came out. And while I completely understand the need to point out their hypocrisy, and I realize that there is a time and place to say to the world, “We (Christ followers) are not like that”, that message has been spoken loud and clear. And I am not sure anyone even cares. It’s not like we are saying anything different from the MANY articles on Huffington Post.

You see, the message goes so much further than “we aren’t like that”. It is unfortunate that as Christ followers, we have become defined more by what we are against, rather than Who we are following. We allow these stories to suck us in to the point that we forget to actually point others in the direction we were created for. Progressives are just the “liberal” version of “conservative fundamentalists”. And there’s just a whole lot of noise going on back and forth with little to no inspiration for how to move forward.

And perhaps I have skipped a step-the step in which acknowledging and validating the victims of abuse is so necessary. Abuse of ANY kind was not what Jesus was about and I am so sorry for the pain and trauma of those who have been touched by such evil. I have experienced different forms of abuse over the last eight years of my life and I know the battle of survival that comes with trying to heal. I am with you and you are not alone. I wish I had advice or steps to take, but for victims, you know as well as I do that there just isn’t a one-size-fits-all path to healing. It can take a lifetime for many, but I encourage you all to keep fighting for life and health. Don’t let the enemy take anymore from you than he already has. (And yes, that is so much more easier said than done.) What’s more however, is that I acknowledge the necessity of doing less talking and more listening as survivors tell their stories. THAT is something I want to be better at offering those I encounter on a daily basis.

As far as my thoughts on the tragic news of the Duggars and the sect of Christianity they have come to represent, I cannot stand with Conservatives or Progressives on this matter. If you have read my past blog posts, you know that I tend to not identify with either side of the spectrum. Any form of Christianity that seeks identity from a political venue in some way, shape, or form isn’t really offering anything new. It’s just politics with the name of “Jesus” stamped all over it. And it seems that the conversation quickly turns to lowering the debate to the level of the Duggars and how they link their faith to the Republican party. Let me just say that the opposite of Conservative-Christian Republican should not be Progressive-Christian Democrat (or insert whatever political term you wish to). The opposite is Jesus.

So what can I offer? What does it mean to follow Jesus and why is He such good news to the victims AND screw-ups in the world?

Jesus came and loved like no other. There are many stories of women in the Bible who were either victims of their cultural/political/religious environment (actually they all were) and/or suffering from physical ailments. From the woman in a constant state of hemorrhage, to the prostitute with the expensive jar of perfume, to Mary and Martha, and many others; they all were under pressures to submit to the different forms of neglect and abuse or conformity imposed on them by their culture and/or religion of the time.

There are similar stories of men who found themselves as outcasts in which Jesus chose a friendship with.

These life changing stories are ones of validation, hope and triumph. THAT, my friends, is the good news that people need to hear today. That just like I don’t identify with the Duggars or their supposed “Christian” views, I also (and you also) don’t have to identify as dirty, trashy, worthless, shameful, guilty, disgraced. Christ offers new identities for us such as chosen, loved, esteemed, valuable, unique, wanted, and worthy. He took all of those legalities, those abusive misrepresentations of God, and turned them on their head. He said the last shall be first, the broken will be uplifted, the hungry will be fed, and resurrection is ours for the taking.

There is a time to be angry and a time to speak out, but let it not stop there. My prayer is that we get better and better at sharing and representing the One whom we follow with those who might be looking for Him. This world (politics included) can’t match what we find in Jesus. He has called us to follow Him, to imitate Him. This means opting out of situations that turn mean-spirited and unproductive. This means speaking/listening more to those who are hurting rather than engaging with those who oppress. This means being a refuge, not an army-not when it comes to flesh and blood.

I pray for Josh Duggar and all of the people involved in what seems to be a harmful form of religion/idolatry. I pray that I am always mindful that Jesus died for our enemies too. I pray that people will see that Jesus isn’t pro exclusion, hierarchy, abuse, or ugly hairstyles (hahaha! Sorry, I had to.) But more than that, I pray that people will see more of what He is for-love, hope, justice, friendship, empowerment, freedom and the list goes on.

*For more on what I mean by all of this, stay tuned for a blog post on my journey of swinging the pendulum from one end of the spectrum to the other and how I am finding my center…

Advertisements

What is Christian-Anarchy, Micky?

image

About four years ago I stumbled upon Christian Anarchy. I was in the midst of rebuilding my Faith and found a lot of contradictions with trying to merge my faith with my political voice. The word ‘anarchy’ tends to scare some people, so let me explain a bit more about what this is and why I have come to adopt this way of living.

Christian Anarchists believe in the Kingdom in which Jesus spoke and taught about. We find these teachings in the New Testament in which the Kingdom is described predominantly by the Sermon on The Mount (Matthew 5-7, Luke 6), but not to be isolated to those passages alone. In fact, it is my understanding that the entire New Testament is pointing us towards the Kingdom which is antithetical to any other form of “power”. From Jesus we see the apostles writing, preaching, and sharing this Kingdom way of living to all they come into contact with.

One example of how the ‘anarchy’ piece is highlighted in this philosophy is the way Jesus approached (or chose not to approach) the governing structure of His time. For example, in Mark 12:13-17 we read:

13Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. 14“Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?15Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?”

Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin,c and I’ll tell you.” 16When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

17“Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

His reply completely amazed them.

Christian Anarchists view this passage as Jesus making a public declaration that He is not about the two systems at odds with each other-that of religious legalism nor that of government legislation. What makes this so radical is that the Romans were taxing and oppressing the Jews in extremely harsh ways. The Jews were often forced into “working” off their tax debt through slave-labor, having a child and/or livestock taken in the form of payment, imprisonment, etc. This only perpetuated the cycle of oppression since many were losing the only means they had to earn money (including enough to pay taxes in the first place).

And yet we find Jesus saying, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”. This was not what the Jews were expecting from their long awaited Messiah. Instead they were hoping for a Messiah who would take over the Romans in order for the Jews to take their rightful seat of “power over”.

This is only one side of the story, however. Jesus was also renouncing religious legalism when suggesting that Jews would not only pay their taxes, but also handle such currency bearing the face of Caesar and the words “Son of God”. It was considered unlawful and unholy to pay taxes to someone claiming falsely to be God.

And yet we find Jesus saying, to “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”. In essence, Jesus was pointing out that earthly rulers and money were far from a concern for Him and had no bearing on the Kingdom.

What is going on here? What are we to learn? How does the Kingdom come (as Jesus prayed in Matthew 6)? There are a few points all throughout the Biblical narrative that I am going to try and connect in order to explain the position of Christian Anarchy .

If you remember, back in the book of 1 Samuel, the Israelites were begging for a King. Chapter 8 begins:

As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.

Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”

Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”

After a King is appointed, Samuel gives his farewell speech. It can be found in 1 Samuel 12 and I recommend everyone go and read this passage. It is both heartbreaking and beautiful and reflects what a merciful and faithful God we have.

But for the sake of keeping this post less lengthy (ha!), here is the portion that stands out for the Christian Anarchist:

12 “But when you were afraid of Nahash, the king of Ammon, you came to me and said that you wanted a king to reign over you, even though the Lord your God was already your king. 13 All right, here is the king you have chosen. You asked for him, and the Lord has granted your request. 

Note:

-The Israelites asked for a king from a position of fear. We are called out of fear. The opposite of Love is Fear and Christ demonstrated Love to us on the cross and then calls us to take up our own cross–essentially living a life in service to others. Fear of what the Government might do to us is not reason enough to raise up any other king other than Jesus Christ.

-The Lord their God was already their king. Jesus showed us how to live by coming to this earth. He lived always listening and being guided by the Father. He had no other authority other than God and calls us to do the same.

-And yet, the LORD conceded. It is so important that as we read the Old Testament(OT), we understand the difference between concessions and ideals. God’s ideal was to be their one and only King. But out of faithfulness to His people–a people who were still misunderstanding their vocation–God bent down, met them where they were at and gave them a king.

This is not to be confused with God’s ideal. In fact, we see the continued demise of Israel throughout the rest of the OT. Eventually, God withdraws completely, leaving them to their own ways of living. He does, however, promise a Messiah and a few hundred years later, the Messiah is born…

The King had finally come…and yet He came in need–needing to have his diapers changed, needing to be fed, needing to be picked up when he fell as he learned to walk. THIS was how God chose to begin Christ’s inauguration as King.

Throughout the life of Christ, we read about His radical ways of turning religion on it’s head. Instead of putting religious rules above all else, He demonstrated what it meant to put people first. He showed us how to love by serving, feeding, healing, and befriending.

Here’s where it gets even more radical:

Most progressive Christians would agree that social justice is a huge factor in being a Christ-follower. If you follow Patheos, Rachel Held Evans, Brian McLaren, Justin Lee of The Gay Christian Network, and many others you will see that all of them (while they may have disagreements) tend to stand up for the rights of the marginalized. And I am right there with them. I think that Jesus calls us into a life of self-sacrificial, other-oriented love for our friends, strangers, and even our enemies. I think the Church needs to be a voice for racial reconciliation, caring for the LGBTQ community, women in leadership and so much more.

The difference, however, that Christian Anarchists desire to point out to the Church is that LOVE is NEVER COERCED. All of these issues are vital to the Kingdom, but the means by which they are solved or accomplished looks nothing like that of a political venue. You cannot force anyone to change their ways and the Kingdom doesn’t invite people in by forcing them to sign a contract first. No, instead we follow in our Leader’s footsteps, by serving, giving, feeding, and befriending those who are in need, those who are different, and those who are feeling unloved.

The secular government, on the other hand, only knows laws and legislation. Now, don’t get me wrong. I get it. I see the need for laws and safety, and paved roads, etc. However, I must always be mindful that the world will solve it’s problems by worldly means. And much of the time this includes violence, greed, and “power over”.

What Jesus showed us was how to opt out of the game of “power over”, “one-uping”, and living in the “rat-race” of the secular world. Christ-followers have been called to do the exact opposite. We have been given the vocation of peace-maker, holding a loose grip on money and possessions, turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, and coming under others. “Power under” looks like Jesus. It looks like setting our own agenda aside (even if well-intended) and putting the needs of others above our own.

We all have a vision of a better world. It’s not that we don’t share the desire for something better, it’s that we probably disagree on what exactly that is (for me, it’s the Kingdom) and how exactly we get there. Personally, I cannot reconcile how Jesus showed us His way of bringing about the Kingdom and the political sector of bringing about a “better world” (which always seems to step on and/or squander people in some way, shape, or form). The two seem to be headed in different directions.

Okay, so now that we have a bigger picture of the Kingdom and what it means to follow Jesus, the complex questions come into the equation. What about healthcare? What about gay marriage? What about racial profiling and police brutality? Or ISIS? Or war in general? What about all of those things that seem to only have solutions found in the political sector? The answers to each of these questions would require multiple discussions and many more blog posts for me to attempt to explain. It’s tough. Claiming Christian Anarchy does not mean I have all of the answers, but a few points on how we might attempt to find answers are as follows:

-Life is always done better in community. I may not know how to solve the problem of healthcare from a Kingdom perspective, but I trust that God is stirring and bringing vision to others in the Kingdom who will or already do.

-Look for alternative ways to love people. One of the most under talked about efforts among the Christian communities are all of the non-violent peace teams going on right now. Check this link out for just one of many organizations doing real spiritual battle all over the world. 

-Learn to see the problems/solutions of the world outside of laws/legislation. Often times we get stuck in seeing things through a narrow lens (particularly because it has been so indoctrinated in us) that we fail to see any other kind of creative solutions. If the solution isn’t “Kingdom”, keep looking for one that is.

I could write so much more on this topic (how Christian Anarchists view jobs/careers, vegetarianism, simple living, and more), but I want to close with this last point. I do value my country, my freedom as an American, and the ways our country has attempted at making all people free (not that they have done an excellent job all the time, but by comparison to so many other nations, we are afforded so much here). Paul talks a lot in his letters about how to use our freedoms to demonstrate Christ’s love to others. What are some ways we can do that in our everyday lives? Don’t waste what you have been given, but also never count it as an entitlement, especially when it comes at the expense of others. We are to respond as missionaries to whatever environment we are in, being grateful for what we have, but using it to further the Kingdom and not our ourselves.

If you have ANY questions, please leave a comment below. I would love for this to be an ongoing dialogue.

Jelly Donuts, Grief, and Something New

  

Yesterday, I went to the store to grab a few items we were in need of and ended up buying four donuts which didn’t even survive the drive home…yeah. I’m so ashamed, but that’s not what this is about. As I was scarfing down the donut covered in powdered sugar (lets say this was donut No.3), I was suddenly pulled back in time.

I grew up in a small church in our town which wavered between 75-150 people over the course of about 15 years. I loved my church growing up. The smallness of it really allowed us to be a family. I grew up with extra brothers and sisters, mother figures, and role models who worked alongside my parents. The saying, “it takes a village” was simply a lifestyle for us. It was the only life I knew.

On many Sunday mornings, I would walk over to the church with my dad (we lived right next door in the parsonage as my father was the Pastor). He was always there early, helping to prepare whatever was needed-folding bulletins, adding/straightening chairs, and/or preparing the coffee and donuts! I would help him only because I knew I could sneak a few sugar cubes before anybody arrived to notice, and I could have first pick of the donuts set out for everyone.

I always chose the Chocolate Old Fashioned. I would rip it apart, piece by piece and dip it into my coffee. It was delicious. But what I also remember is that my dad would usually choose the Jelly-Filled donut covered in powdered sugar. I think my love for donuts began with my dad.

What makes this memory so special was how simple, innocent and child-like it was to watch someone I loved and looked up to, someone who was about to pour his heart and soul out to so many people as he taught from the pulpit- to watch him enjoy his jelly donut was…human.

There is a scene in the movie The Sandlot where the whole neighborhood comes out to have a community block-party. It was in celebration of the Fourth of July and the men were grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, while the women were minding children, visiting, etc. The main characters in that movie-a bunch of pre-teen boys- were running around scarfing down their food and racing over to the ball field to get in some playtime before sundown. Again, it painted a picture of innocence, safety, and the freedom to enjoy simple times.

The world has changed so much from the days of community block-parties. I hear that years ago, entire businesses would shut down on Sundays so that everyone could attend church and spend the rest of their day resting and being with family. It all sounds so lovely.

But we don’t live in that world anymore. Our society has changed and evolved and with information at our fingertips, the changes have seemed to be on the fast-track. And for some, they may not come soon enough.

The days of a predominately “Christian-American” society are gone. They are dying a slow but certain death and this is causing some major tension both online as well as among interpersonal relationships. I think I see it most obviously on social-media, but also have experienced the tension within my own heart.

All day long, plastered on my Facebook news feed are stories and articles going after those on the opposite side of the spectrum. From vaccines to Gay marriage, the wars rage on and I think many people are starting to wonder where the Church is in all of this.

Unfortunately, the Church is in the middle of their own tensions. The Faith of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s can no longer stand in the face of the new realities we find ourselves in. What used to be so simple is now so much more complex. Take the issue of Gay marriage, for example. Questions like: What is sinful? The act of living and starting a family with a person of the same gender? Or is it the act of sexual relations? Or is it sinful at all? What does scripture really say about it? Is it as clear as we once thought?

The questions are pervasive and we are now a culture defined by questions, tensions, and nuances rather than simple answers, jello-salad, and late night baseball games.

What I find in the midst of all of this is the loss of perspective among Christ-followers. There is this need to cling to what was, to fight for what was right, and to use our vote to force this country into a backwards motion…a fight that will only end in defeat. There will be no going backwards. There will be no return of Donna Reed, Sunday-best, and mantras such as “the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it”. The world just won’t work that way anymore.

For many people who call themselves Christians, this news is hard to swallow. The country is being flushed down the toilet, sold to the devil, and we will reap the consequences. And maybe this is true. But here’s where perspective comes in.

The country is not the Church.

Whenever we suffer a loss, we go through a grieving process. As the walls of comfort and tradition come crashing down, we weep over what once was. We remember the mornings of sneaking sugar cubes, folding bulletins, and for me, watching my dad wipe powdered sugar off his chin. The days of taking those offering envelopes from the pews and using them to pass notes to my friends during the sermon. The moments of coming together over a potluck and feeling like one huge happy family. I miss those days.

But the essence will always remain. God will always be at work and rather than fight for what WE think the right way is, we need to be ready for new life to be birthed from the rubble. Jesus prayed that the Church would be unified, but right now I see a lot of discord and judgement. There are those celebrating the changes and there are those who are angered by the destruction. And it doesn’t take much listening to understand that many Christ-followers are at each other’s throats.

The questions we are faced with are: How are we to come together as one body? and How are we to move forward as missionaries in a land which seems so unfamiliar?

1. The country is not the Church. This has to sink in if we are ever going to gain perspective and find hope again. There is always a time to grieve. The tearing down of anything we have invested in is sad and painful, but when the Church can finally make a clean break from politics, the rebuilding of something life-giving will be worth it. The Church was never meant to rule over the earth the way political leaders and nations do. We have been called out of that way of using power and have been called into servanthood. Coming under the world. Washing feet. We are called to look nothing like the things this world is currently putting their hope in…and as the Political Church comes crashing down, something beautiful is about to emerge.

2. Learn to let go. As we let go of what was, as we loosen our grip of our own ideas of how to bring the Kingdom, God will reveal to us and create new avenues of how we can reach others. It’s the letting go, the releasing of our idols which sets us free. We no longer have to play the political game of who can out-smart who, who can one-up the other, who and how can we win. The battle is won the moment we opt out of the game. The world, the nations have their own agenda (no matter how much it may “seem” to line up with yours). The Church is about bringing God’s Kingdom and His Kingdom is upside-down.

Think about that for just a moment. Think about everything you know about what a “leader” should look like, what this country “once was” (although, I tend to believe it never was God’s ideal to bring about a “Christian-nation” by laws and legislation) and now think about how Jesus subverted all of those notions. He set aside His glory and power, and became one of us. He showed us that His way of ruling and using His power was by sharing life, serving others, and suffering…even at the hands of His enemies. This looks NOTHING like what we see today in any political leader.

3. Keep your eyes open and your ear to the ground. The coolest part of opting out of the game is now we can look in from an outsider’s perspective. I recently started a Bible study in my home. I am not affiliated with any church. I don’t have a degree. All I did was share my life with my friends, listen to the stories of their own lives, find some common ground and suddenly we have a community-group meeting in our home. And the things God is doing… I am blown away all of the time with how much love and support come into my home as we simply share our lives with one another. Tune into this new thing that God is wanting to do here. Listen and observe as He guides and directs and be open to new ways of ministering. Each week, I ask myself “well, I wonder if everyone will come back next week” and for now, we continue to have a full house. And I am going to keep being faithful as long as there are people. And if/when it comes to an end, my eyes and ears will remain open for the next new work that God has for me.

My point is that there is a time to grieve. Allow the memories, the hopes and the dreams that once were, to make their way (painful as it might be) in and out of your heart. Tuck the beautiful things away, but let go of the things that are keeping you from moving forward. And then, even in fear and trembling, take the next step. Step into unchartered territory. Be brave and trust that no matter where the nations of the world end up, God’s Kingdom is already here as well as on its way. He’s calling you into this partnership. And THAT is something to be excited about.