Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pope Francis "All Are Redeemed"



A few years ago I got into a spat on Twitter with someone who might describe himself as a "new" Atheist. Richard Dawkins, et all. There are a variety of perspectives within the new Atheism, but the common thing I find is that they are not apologetic for their unbelief. Some are more aggressive and fundamentalist in their lack of believe (like Dawkins was) and some are more respectful and gracious.

When the spat occurred, I suggested we take the conversation offline and meet up for coffee. He agreed and a friendship started.

At our first get together - one of the things he wanted to emphasize is that you don't have to be "religious" to be a good person. He was preaching to the choir.

In my life, and I'm sure in yours, we see people whose belief system is different than ours do good. I see it all the time.

* I have seen people of other faiths (Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish to name a few) show great compassion.
* I have seen people of no faith (or anti-faith) demonstrate the image of God in them really profoundly. Just because someone doesn't believe in God doesn't mean He isn't there.
* I have even seen people whose ideology or philosophy is offensive (racists, sexists, and other -ists) do wonderful things for others.

Pope Francis recently preached a sermon that's got everyone talking.

He makes the point I just made and says that Jesus redeems everyone. Not just Catholics. Not just Christians. Even Atheists.

The Huffington Post article (linked above) misses this point. As does most of the commentary I've read. Pope Francis doesn't say everyone is going to heaven. He is saying that Jesus redeemed everyone. That everyone has potential for good. And that is where we should meet.

The great irony is that many Protestant Christians are freaking out of the supposed "universalism". The interesting thing to me is he seems to be articulating very powerfully the basic Protestant emphasis on the grace and action of God as the key element in redemption rather than the doing good.

One of the powerful emphases of the Protestant Reformation is just that point. Good works do not earn or contribute to redemption, they are an outgrowth of people already redeemed.

Francis wins again.

I think we'd all be better off recognizing that redemption in one another, celebrating it and embracing it.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Abercrombie & Fitch Give Away 1892-2013 RIP


Generally entering into the morass of corporate morality is a slippery slope. But Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries has made it impossible not to.

I know I'm a bit late to the party on this one. But Mike's comments are outrageous. He said in an interview recently that the reason Abercrombie & Fitch doesn't carry plus sizes is that they don't want overweight girls and "no so cool" kids wearing their clothes. They are going after the cool market.

I should make clear that I am not a fan of the "plus size acceptance" movement. Obesity has serious health, economic and even spiritual consequences.

But as with most things - grace is more transformative than shame. And so instead of picking on or excluding people who are unhealthily overweight, it would be great to see corporations offer assistance and compassion recognizing that there are a lot of contributing factors to lack of health. Additionally - weight is only one aspect of health.

As a result, it is fun to think about how to punish Abercrombie. The most famous act of punishment though is a bit exploitative. One guy tried to change Abercrombie's image by giving their clothes away to homeless people in his city.

A way to punish Abercrombie.

Is punitive sarcasm really the way to go?

Fortunately I don't own any of their clothes.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

American Evangelicalism’s Opposition to Health Care Reform and Abortion is a Theological Problem



Over the past few days, I’ve had to endure numerous sarcastic Facebook rants about the “liberal” American media’s treatment of the Gosnell trial. 

Gosnell is the abortion doctor who clearly broke all kinds of laws and aborted live birth babies. What he did is outrageous. 

I’m not sure about the media bias, but I wouldn’t be surprised. The mainstream American media is surely pro-abortive rights. And I do not doubt they were hesitant to cover the story for fear of losing political points. Shame on them.

Over the past few years I have also endured sarcastic posts about Obama’s Health Care reform. 

What I find interesting is why the same people who are so adamantly pro-life are not also pro- some sort of universal health care that helps those who are poor or vulnerable.

Here's how I think it breaks down.

On the one hand - American Evangelicals are all about FREEDOM. Freedom from Government intrusion into their lives. Healthcare is just one example of this anti-big-government feeling. So the logic goes, better to leave healthcare up to the markets. After all, wasn’t it Jesus who said, “Free market capitalism is the best economic system. Trust it. More people will get rich. And that's the goal.”? (Sorry for the sarcasm... NOT) :D

On the other hand - American Evangelicals are happy to limit the reproductive freedoms of women who want to end their pregnancy. Government intrusion is okay in that case. But why?

I think the difference is the perceived innocence in one case vs perceived culpability in another. 

With Abortion - there is an innocent child (or fetus) at stake. That child-fetus didn’t get a choice in conception. They are innocent and therefore deserve special protection from the selfishness of others. Government involvement is okay.

But what about healthcare? Here's the rub. According to the American myth, the poor and vulnerable (or just plain stupid) people aren’t innocent. They have made choices which result in their poverty. They are morally culpable. And therefore, they don’t deserve special protection. My freedom from government intervention overrides their need for help. Is that right?

Innocents deserve protection. But those who are morally culpable are just getting what they deserve.

As a Christian, this offends me. (And I am an American Evangelical.)

Why? 

It misses the point of grace. 

The basic idea behind Christianity is that we are ALL guilty. None of us deserve health or comfort or freedom or even life. These are gifts from God. Sometimes they are gifts that we have worked hard for, but they are gifts all the same.

I think it would serve Christians well to be less self-righteous and more gracious as we approach all our neighbors: the child-fetuses, the scared moms-to-be, the working poor, the chronically ill, the irresponsible teens and even the fraudster who milks the system. 

It is a sign of immature faith when we try to pick and choose who we think is more deserving of grace.

This doesn't mean closing our eyes to abuses. It does mean giving people the benefit of the doubt. 

What does love do? "It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (1 Cor 13:7)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Creative Christian Feminism and Photos of a Daughter


In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile (can't be racist), neither slave nor free (can't be elitist), nor is there male and female (can't be sexist), for you are all one in Christ Jesus. - Paul in Galatians 3:28

In a world where women are often treated less than human. Where images of exaggerated sexuality abound, it is great to see a mom fight back in a creative way.

For her daughter's fifth birthday, Jaime Moore wanted to make some special photos. The only ones available were Disney Princesses. Jaime has nothing against Disney Princesses, but she thought there should also be more substantive options. So she dressed up her daughter like five historically significant women and the images are amazing.

Click here for all five.

As a Christian male with a six year old daughter, I hope I can be as creative in teaching her about who she is and what she can become. Somehow I think God would want that from a Christian dad.