So, in the social justice internet circles and books I read, “comfortable” is usually a dirty word. “Comfortable” is a sign you’ve sold out, you’ve bought into the American Dream, you’re valuing your own comfort over the justice that is required for the broader community. “Comfort” is right there next to “Convenient” and these are behind all the air conditioning, global warming, pre-packaged food, slave-labour priced clothes and CEO wages that lead to inequality. Comfort is bad*.
But this week I’ve been thinking about comfort. And how necessary it is.
My view these days
Blessed are the efficient, for theirs is the Kingdom.
If you can’t tell, I’ve been wondering about this idea lately.
First, Jesus never said that. I think maybe he said several things to the opposite- things like the Kingdom is as small as a mustard seed, we cannot take the Kingdom by force… also he tended to say crazy things that scared lots of followers away, (like sell all your possessions, or embrace suffering). He took time for children, the ill, the social outcasts…generally not a very efficient guy. Continue reading
“Sad. Ouchies. Crying. Jesus sad. Pushing him. Ochies. Sad. Broken. Sad.”
This is the litany I have listened to for the past month every morning as my almost-two-year-old son sits with me to read the Jesus Storybook Bible.
It started about two months ago. We had a book about a bear and pig who were friends, and the pig was sad and missed the bear when he left. My son was obsessed with the last page, where the pig forlornly sits alone, missing the bear. I, being the emotionally intelligent parent that I am, thought I handled it pretty well, letting him talk about the page as much as he wanted. All emotions are okay. Some things in life are sad. Plus, this is just a phase.
But then when he discovered the “Jesus dying on the cross” story in his picture Bible and every morning began flipping to that one page, I could feel my frustration mounting. Continue reading
There’s some anxiety in South Africa right now about land reform — in a country with extreme inequality, questions about how we provide restitution for historical wrongs, and what political action needs to be taken in order to encourage more equality can be come charged and fierce. (Especially when you throw a nice dose of corruption into the mix).
In uncertain times, the temptation is to hunker down and hoard. The temptation is to huddle off, build a little fortress for yourself, and make sure that at least you and your own are protected.
Which is why I am very excited about the timing of the opening of our church’s public access community park. Continue reading
Lately I’ve seen a lot of Christian friends sharing John MacArthur’s response to what happened in Charlottesville. (The video has been shared 42 thousand+ times on Facebook and viewed 30 thousand+ times on Youtube). The question MacArthur was asked was, “What is a biblical, Christ-focused response to what’s happening in Charlottesville?”
John MacArthur gave a little speech, but he did not answer the question. I was disappointed. MacArthur has helped many Christians over the years have a better understanding of the Bible, of sin, and of grace. There are some people that think in order to care about social justice, you have to throw out the Bible (or just follow the most liberal interpretations of it); however, I think a conservative reading of scripture makes us even stronger advocates for things like racial justice. Which is why I think MacArthur totally missed the point in his answer. Continue reading
I started writing this letter to you just after Mother’s day. And suddenly three months have gone by and you’re almost sitting up and rolling over. That’s just how things go, I guess. Somehow, too, in the same space of time we’ve gone from a police shooting to white supremacists marching in public. That’s also how things go, I guess.
You arrived just in time to make me a mother for Mother’s Day.
Scrolling through twitter on the Thursday before Mother’s Day, and wondering when you would decide to be born, I saw an announcement for a Mother’s Day March to the Dallas County Courthouse, organized by Mothers Against Police Brutality.
I didn’t go to the march, because you were born the next day. About the time the mothers were marching up the courthouse steps, demanding justice for 15 year old Jordan Edwards, who had been killed by a police officer in Dallas the week before, we were walking down the steps of a Texas hospital to take you home. Continue reading
John Lewis marching in Selma prior to being attacked by state troopers
They say it’s an African proverb (who knows if it actually is):
When you pray, move your feet.
The reason I know this phrase is not because I grew up in South Africa, but because it is a favorite saying of John Lewis, one of the key leaders of the USA Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Lewis was responsible for helping to lead a lot of the grassroots college protests in the 60’s– the Freedom Rides, lunch-counter sit-ins, and also led the famous march in Selma for voting rights.
In other news, we just finished a small group study of the book Generous Justice with some people from our church. The book systematically goes through the Bible and shows how justice is central to God’s character, and to the way he expects his people to live. One of the most interesting things Keller brings up is the term righteousness in the Bible doesn’t mainly refer to private personal morality, but rather refers to the individual’s role in bringing social justice. Throughout scripture (but especially in the book of Job), we see the definition of an unrighteous person is one who advantages himself at the expense of the community, while the righteous man disadvantages himself for the sake of his neighbour. Whether that is clothes, food, legal counsel, or paying a fair wage–righteous people actively seek justice for their neighbours, even at cost to themselves.
I’ve been thinking about prayer, and justice, and what it means to pray while moving your feet this week, because South Africa just had possibly its largest ever prayer meeting. Thousands of people gathered to pray for our country, and for just leadership in our nation. I believe the work of justice is spiritual work, and so I was encouraged to see so many people willing to travel for hours in order to pray for just leadership. Continue reading
Don’t give up chocolate for Lent this year, said Pope Francis. Give up indifference to the poor.
“Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”Describing this phenomenon he calls the globalization of indifference, Francis writes that “whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.” He continues that, “We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.” – TIME magazine
Notice your neighbor. Continue reading
It’s black history month in America, and too often that just means token quotes from Martin Luther King Jr (selectively chosen for their inoffensiveness) pop up on Facebook. So this month I’ve been educating myself about awesome black women in American history , and there’s a lot of them. There’s Katherine Johnson of Hidden Figures fame– if you haven’t seen it, go watch it—to Ella Baker, the middle-aged woman-power behind the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to Ida B. Wells’ single-handed campaign to end lynching, to the many rural Southern Women who not only changed the diapers and washed the laundry of the white people’s kids, but also housed student volunteers during the Civil Rights movement and led the Montgomery Bus boycott—it’s good that America take some time to say “thank you” to reflect on and celebrate the many black people in our history who have made America what it is today. Continue reading
“People are confusing the Statue of Liberty and Jesus…But in fact while the real historical Jesus did urge compassion for those in need, but he also said, ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.’ In other words, support government with your taxes because they have a legitimate function like protecting citizens. Those of us who believe in the sanctity of life believe that sanctity serves to not only to protect the unborn but to protect the born from terrorist attacks. That’s a Christian value as well.” – A certain pastor of a big church on Fox news
Once they wouldn’t let my Dad on a plane. He had to stay behind in Germany a few extra days to go to the US embassy because he didn’t have enough pages in his passport. It was inconvenient, and frustrating, but we knew it would all work out in the end. Continue reading