Thursday, March 30, 2017

The New Law Introduced Today . . .

Last year the legislature of North Carolina passed a law that stated you need to use the bathroom that best matches the biology with which you were born.

This has become a human rights issue for some who see it as discrimination to tell someone that their bathroom choice must match their biology.

Regardless of your political persuasions and passions, I think we can all agree that no one wants to strip anyone of their dignity.  Both sides need to be taken seriously.  I don't want my transgendered brothers and sisters to feel discriminated against just as much as I don't want anyone to feel unsafe or uncertain about their use of public restrooms.  To dismiss one or the other doesn't honor Christ's command for us to love each other.

So today the legislature in North Carolina worked with the democratic governor in an attempt to build a compromise.  They unveiled their solution as HB142.  Unfortunately, both sides are unhappy with the bill.  

Equality North Carolina Executive Director Chris Sgro responded to the compromise saying, "It doesn't matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican, if you vote for this bill, you are not a friend of the LGBT community," 

It is a heavy-handed statement that you could agree or disagree with, but then he went on to say this:

"You are not standing on the right side of the moral arc of history or with the civil rights community."

The moral arc of history . . .

Interesting idea.  Does history conform to a particular shape?  Whose arc are we talking about?

Srgo is actually misquoting Martin Luther King.  

The larger context says: 

"evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a Cross, but that same Christ will rise up and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name.  Yes the 'arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.'"

King is actually quoting 19th century pastor Theodore Parker.  The idea is that there is a justice that operates outside of human history.  A God who will enter human history at some point to make history conform to His Will.  So when it comes to human rights outside of God, we should not expect to get it right . . . because we are human.  The full quote was intended to deliver the gut punch that only God's justice will one day heal us. 

So it seems so appropriate to correct Srgo on this point.

One day God's justice will break into time and remind us that from the beginning we were intended to be in relationship with Him.  Governments and laws are adequate band-aids in the present time - but we can't lose sight that one day we will come back under the care and provision of a God who cares for us.  One day the moral arc of the universe will be as visible as a sunset.  No more confusion.  No more shame.  No more protests and hate.

In fact, the more that we keep this in mind, the more we might be able to shape suitable compromises now . . .

And that is something we can say "Amen" to regardless of where we are on this issue.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Lesson From My Dad That You Need To Hear . . .

It was a Tuesday night.  

Cub Scout meeting - 7pm in my elementary school gym.  I was watching a karate demonstration with my dad - his big arm around the back of my metal foldable chair.  A lot of kicks and punches from guys in cool karate uniforms.

And then they started breaking the boards and cinder blocks.

I don't think I need to tell you that there is nothing cooler for a fourth-grader than seeing someone break wood with their bare hands.  

. . . maybe watching a monster truck drive over a bunch of parked cars, but breaking wood takes a close second . . .

Anyhow, at the end of the demonstration, the leader of the group took questions from the crowd.  

Hands flew up all around me.  

I leaned into my dad - breathing in the safe smell of garage and sawdust (and a hint of after-shave) from the red and black plaid coat that he wore everywhere.  As I saw hands shoot up I knew my question instantly.  I wanted to have a try breaking the boards.  I looked up at my dad and asked, "do you think they would let me try?"

Without a second's hesitation he said, "raise your hand - ask 'em."

Hold a sec.  There is no way they would let me try that - these people are experts.  My fourth grade mind was in overdrive . . . Even if they did let me try, I would break my hand!  I turned to look at the man answering questions up front with doubt and opportunity ping-ponging back and forth inside my heart.  About a minute later, I looked up at my Dad and he gave me the look like, "you'll never know if you don't raise your hand."

So I raised my hand.

This was a lesson that I would never forget.  You never know until you try.  You can't get a chance until you take a chance.  It would be a lesson that would continue to serve me well in life - raise your hand, take a chance because the moment may pass and you will always wonder what could have been.

And yes, I asked my question.  And yes, they invited me up to try it. 

And would you believe that I actually chopped a board in half with my bare hands?  

Fourth grade.  
In front of everyone!

With the most awkward motion you can imagine I chopped through that piece of wood with my bare hand.  I was shocked!  I looked at my hand - puzzled - and then looked over at my dad who sat there clapping along with everyone else - the widest smile on his face.

I can't believe I did it!

Yes, I am sure they had a stack of balsa wood for just this occasion, but don't tell that to the fourth-grade John.

I never went on to karate greatness.

But my dad taught me early that I can succeed in whatever I do but the first step is always raising your hand.   My Dad just passed on to be with God last week but this is one of the things I will aways be grateful for.  Thanks Dad!

So now you . . . get on with it.

Raise your hand.  Send that email.  Fill out that application.  Talk to that girl.

Listen to my dad - you have to take a chance to have a chance.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

What The Shack is and isn't.

The Shack is lighting up Social Media . . . (and some of us are losing our minds)

Quick reminder: A story is a story.

It is not history.  It is not theology.  It is a story - it represents something deeper that needs conversation to draw out.  It is not a statement as much as it is a starting point for people to develop meaning.  

The Shack highlights a man's encounter with God that is most unexpected.  God is a large black woman.  Jesus is the typical Jesus-bearded figure.  The Holy Spirit is an Asian woman.

Now obviously, the author does not think God is a large black woman - any more than Jesus is a brown-haired, blue-eyed Norseman.   

Incidentally - every Christmas we do the same sort of thing.  Nativity scenes depict Angels as children in robes with halos and wings.  

Angels are not cute winged creatures.  They don't have halos.  Actual angels inspire fear and dread every time the Bible mentions them.  Look it up.  Usually people find themselves on the ground in terror around angels.

But painters in the Middle Ages gave them halos and made them Cherubs.  Now we have precious moments Bibles with cutesy angels that look something like Hello Kitty.  It is a representation that inspires conversation.

The scriptures do the same.  Abraham describes God's essence as a smoking firepot.  Jacob described Angels ascending a ladder to heaven.  Moses felt God's presence in a fire.  
Again - representations . . .  unless you really feel strongly that angels need ladders or God is a piece of cookware.

As is usually the case, we are upset about the surface stuff.  God is a woman?  What?!  Someone call Ken Hamm!  

What about some of the bigger inconsistencies in the book?  

Like . . .

At one point the character representing God says, "sin is its own penalty."  

'scuse me?

Sin is more than this.  I get what the author is after, but this can make people think that it is a psychological condition when sin is a whole lot more than that.  Jesus didn't die so that we can get over our mental anguish.  Jesus died so that we could be made righteous - sin is a lot more than just agony, it's a separation from God (and that is a big deal).

The book does a great job talking about God as the great healer and lover of our soul, but what about His justice and holiness?  Those who are upset with the film have a good point - God is both Father and Judge and that truth doesn't exactly come across.  How do we handle a one-sided depiction?  Could people possibly be drawn to the Reader's Digest version of God and then shrink back when they discover the other parts that are not as warm and cozy?

The book also leaves you with the idea that everyone gets into heaven eventually.  How does that square with what Jesus said about the narrow road?  And so why did Jesus have to come to us anyway if God was already making sure everyone is covered?

Pretty big plot holes.

But people.  This is a story.  

Take a deep breath and move forward.  The Shack is not Biblical theology.  It is a story meant for us to talk about and interact with.  Don't shrink back in fear.  Press onward with questions and conversation that push people to take steps of faith with the real God of the scriptures.  Maybe this is the kind of movie that might help people to read the Bible again and discover the whole story.

And that part is up to you . . .