Thursday, October 29, 2009

Injustice and the lords of the (Olympic) rings

In light of the looming approach of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, and the imminent Olympic torch relay beginning in our fair city tomorrow, I have been thinking about injustice. (By the way, I don't think this post is for the faint of heart... There are lots of links, and I encourage you to check them out.)
I'm sure some of you wonder at the juxtaposition of the Olympics and injustice, but I will get there in a moment.

Some of my friends believe the best and right way to respond to something you disagree strongly with is peaceably, without force or violence. They believe that is the Jesus way.
I have other friends who are activists, very willing to use whatever means necessary to oppose what they see as wrong. They believe active evil requires active resistance in response.
I'm not sure where I put myself on this. I haven't studied it, but at the same time I'm not sure how willing I am to either put my neck on the line, or get involved in civil disobedience. I don't see myself as a pacifist, but neither do I see myself as a subversive rebel.
I suppose it would make a difference if I felt strongly enough about the issue. I have marched in a few parades (fun, but perhaps not too effective). Would I be willing to be arrested for my beliefs? I don't know.
The third group of people I perceive are those who go along with the status quo, and don't see the evil in the particular situation. Many Christians appear to be in this camp. For one reason or another, they are quite content to support the activity in question, even if there are suspicious undertones.
This third response is easy. It doesn't require standing out as against something. For them it may well be the best thing to do, and it isn't my purpose to be the voice of God to tell them they are wrong. (I would just encourage them to not be naive or unaware.)

Ok. Now for the Olympics.
In a very general sense, and on the surface, it probably seems like the Olympics are promoting positive things like sportsmanship and international cooperation. I expect the hope is that they rise above politics, nationalism, prejudice, greed and other ills of society. I hope that each new location starts out with those ideals in mind.
However, over the years we have definitely seen things to the contrary. Enormous debt for the host country is normal. Decisions are based on greed and political gain over the value of the athletes themselves. Some countries, specific sports and certain athletes have become notorious for increasing their chances of winning in a decidedly unsportsmanlike manner (Can you say 'performance-enhancing drugs'?)

As a citizen of British Columbia, in a city near to Vancouver (and home of the provincial government), I have seen and heard unending stories of how politics, money and injustice have once again hijacked what might otherwise be a nice way to spend a couple weeks in mid-winter, watching the best athletes in the world.
A group called produced a video (Resist 2010: Eight Reasons to Oppose the 2010 Winter Olympics) to express 8 reasons why the 2010 Olympics should not take place. (This provides plenty of occasion to discuss how it might be appropriate to resist—peaceably, actively, forcefully).
These 8 reasons they give are:
--colonialism and imperialism
--no Olympics on stolen land (unsurrendered First Nations territory)
--ecological destruction
--homelessness and poverty
--impact on women
--2010 police state
--public debt
--corporate invasion

Money being spent by the rich on the rich, but the poor and homeless being treated even worse than before. “This is taxpayers’ money, our money. We don’t know exactly how much is being spent. But by our incomplete tally and with another year to go until the Games, it’s more than $6,000,000,000.
Yesterday, the city of Vancouver announced that they will begin ridding the streets of homeless individuals to prepare for the 2010 Winter Olympics starting in February 2010.
Curtailment of free speech:
The city passed the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games bylaw in June to restrict the distribution and exhibition of unapproved advertising material and signs in any Olympic area during the Games.
Free tickets for politicians, but no help for former Olympians:
Gary Reed has broken records running for Canada at the Olympics, but the proud Canadian athlete can't catch a break scoring tickets to the 2010 games. "
More reading from an indigenous point of view
Interesting insight on where the idea of the torch relay first began (Hitler in 1936):

I know what I feel about the Olympics, but I'm still having to dig deep to figure out what my response should be. I know I'm not supporting the torch relay tomorrow, and I'll probably join some anti-Olympic marches at some point, but as far as being peaceable or forceful, I don't know. I don't expect I'll blow anything up or hurt anybody, but what would Jesus do?
When do you 'turn the other cheek' (Matthew 5:39) and when do you 'kick over the tables of the loan sharks' (Matthew 21:12)?
How much 'activism' is appropriate, and how much is too much?

I'd like to hear your thoughts—not just what you might have been taught to think, but what really echoes the heart of God against injustice. (I think it's time we started searching and thinking for ourselves, and not just repeating the things we have heard others say, but that's for a different post.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Creative space

Having just written a post on safe space, I started thinking about creative space.
We quote the Bible that man (humans, people, homo sapiens) were created in the image of God. So, if we see God as somehow involved in creation, and we carry His image, then we have creative genes in us.
It doesn't even require a belief in God as creator in order to see that we have an incredible ability to create.

So, it makes great sense to me that our interaction with each other (in whatever size or configuration of meeting together as Christ followers) should have lots of space for creativity.
If our collective gatherings should include aspects of worship, much creativity should be welcome for ways to do this.
If our gatherings include conversation about truth, ideas, questions, problems or joys, creativity should be rampant in how these conversations take place.
If our togetherness includes food, creativity must be encouraged!
If our communality includes involvement in the community at large, let creativity abound as to the many ways we can be Christ in our world.

Let's be creative as we look at different kinds of creativity.
Creativitity involves use of the senses:
--smells (incense, hot casseroles, freshly mown hay)
--sounds (percussion, harmonies, words)
--tastes (bread & wine, spices, soup kitchens)
--sights (banners, smiles, carvings)
--touch (hugs, anointing oil, more hugs)

Creativity involves doing something in a new or different way than usual.
It might still be spoken words, but they may be poetry, or antiphonal or accompanied by dance.
It may be a painting, but it might be done live as other worship occurs, or many artists on the same canvas.
It may still be music, but the player may be hidden, or the instrument may be hand made.
It may be a communion service, but the emblems may be non-traditional.
It may be a familiar hymn in an unfamiliar tune (or new words to an old melody).
It may be a regular meeting of familiar faces, but in a new venue.

Creativity involves giving permission for freedom.
It allows chaos, but perhaps glory.
It leaves room for God himself to show up.
It lets the little guy, the new guy, the shy guy to grow, to shine, to excel.
It says we want something more than a worship team, an offering, and a sermon.
It says we trust the Creator to let himself be seen though each of us.

Creativity has been squeezed out of church, replaced by excellence. (There is nothing wrong with excellence, as long as seeking it doesn't shut out the participation of 90% of the group.)
It has been usurped by technology (which could be creative, but often is just added to enhance the perception of excellence).
It has been replaced by tradition. We always have a worship team. We always take up the offering this way. We always have the seats arranged this way. We always have communion at the end of the service. We always use this version of the Bible for scripture readings. We always... We always... We always...

It's time to take back the wonder of newness. New ways of expressing age old concepts. (A hip-hop version of the Creeds?) Age old ways of expressing new concepts. (A Gregorian chant about saving the rainforests?)

Let's create some creative space in our communities of worship.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Safe space—the final frontier

I guess for me it started in conversations with people when I realized that my pat answers didn't totally fit, or weren't necessarily wanted. That the person I was talking with had some important things to say to me to help me gain understanding, and I needed to give them the space to talk. That the interaction I was having with someone was important because it gave them the opportunity to unload something, not because it gave me the opening to unload something.
Safe space. A place where ideas can be freely expressed without fear of being shot down, preached at or cutoff. A place where dialogue is the process, not monologue. A place where the goal is mutual understanding, but not necessarily solutions.
I've been thinking about this for quite awhile.
I've noticed that even our typical church discussion-type settings don't promote this, let alone our preaching settings. It seems we always have an agenda, an end goal, a predetermined conclusion—even when we ask others for their opinions.
I guess it comes from the preconception that we have the ultimate answer, the final word, the complete understanding on the subject at hand.
But this basis for intercommunication stifles it before it starts.
Can you imagine bringing up something that is pro-evolution or pro-abortion in a conversation with a church friend (or even worse, at a church small group)? Can you say “Shot down!” “Shock and horror”? How about an idea that disagrees with the prevailing eschatological views of your congregation?

No, we don't suffer fools gladly, or even doubters. So, people who have questions have to ignore them, or leave to find a place to safely discuss them.
If we are that hard on those who already are followers of Christ, how about those who are out there, scanning the landscape for a place to share, experience and discover mysteries of the supernatural. Are they likely to come in to our dogmatic little in-clubs? I really doubt it.
I guess this all comes from our modern idea of being able to have the complete and final answer for any question, and then feeling that it is our responsibility to pass that wisdom along. Too bad that we don't recognize that even our theology is a journey. Thinking that we have it nailed down is really just the final nail in our coffin.

But I think it has to start with me, personally, one-on-one. I certainly can't expect anyone else to change before I change myself.
And I can't expect to be able to either create or find something on a larger scale until I am comfortable with the concept in the most intimate setting of a conversation over coffee.

So, I'm trying to create safe space around me.
--Space where contrary answers are welcome.
--Where new understanding is desired.
--Where doubts with present conclusions don't cause gasps of horror.
--Where silence doesn't mean I have to pour forth all my superior knowledge.

Safe space is just that.
A place where a person can feel safe to be themselves, contrary opinions and all. Safe to vent their doubts and frustrations, hopes and dreams, questions and mysteries. Without reprisal. Without a sermon. Without arrogance.

I'm still working on creating that kind of space around me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Where's Jesus?

Sermon yesterday was from Luke 2 when Jesus goes to the temple at age 12. Makes me think of 'Where's Waldo?' as the family comes back from Jerusalem and realizes that Jesus isn't part of the whole group. His parents are looking all over for him, and finally head back to town to see if he might be there.
More than 'Where's Waldo?', I'm thinking about the church today.
--Traveling merrily along, thinking Jesus is part of the whole thing.
--Gradually realizing that he isn't where we thought he always was.
--Running back to look for him, not knowing exactly where we lost him.
--And hearing him say when finally we locate him, “Did you not know that I must be busy in the affairs of My Father?”
Does that strike you as it did me?
We who call ourselves Christ followers are traveling along, not even aware that the one we say we are following isn't necessarily at the head anymore.
When we notice, and start looking for him, he reminds us that we should be concerned about the things God is, instead of the things we have been concerned about.


I'll let you hear what you are supposed to be hearing. God is quite capable of letting you know what is appropriate,

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