Love; don’t profile

I had a disturbing conversation this week with a friend who has a child who’s going through a hard time. Based on what the friend shared about recent communication with school officials and my experience working in the public school system, I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to speculate that the school administrators had a meeting Monday morning where they made a list of kids who might do something that would put their school in the news, and then came up with a checklist of things to do with these kids and their parents which included encouraging them to leave the mainstream classroom environment. Obviously this is pure speculation, but I have a hunch something like it is happening at a lot of schools right now, because of the CYA/liability-driven culture that I was a part of as high school teacher. Continue reading

Guns and Bibles? Really?!!

gun and bibleThis photo has been circulating in response to the Connecticut shooting. I don’t disagree that people should know how to use guns safely and read the Bible. Many American Christians think that the word “Biblical” is just a tribal category which refers to people who own guns, love America, and hate public schools. So it would be great for people like that to actually open their Bibles so they can get to know Jesus. This photo offends me because the Bible is serving as a prop. This exactly what the Third Commandment against using the Lord’s name in vain is referring to. Because it has nothing to do with God’s word. It’s a certain kind of white America using God’s word for ideological cover in order to say if we were still in charge, then our kids wouldn’t get shot in school (the slight hiccup of course being that it’s young white men using legally registered guns to do it). I don’t own a gun. I’ve got a lot of friends that do. They’re good people. But please don’t throw guns and Bibles together, because then you confirm the worst stereotype that people have about Christians: that the Bible is what we hide behind while the gun represents who we really are. Jesus deserves better, especially for Christmas.

The moral crisis of mental illness

When we admit that mental illness has been a factor in many of the mass shootings that have happened, we are confronted with a moral crisis. As someone who takes pills every morning to make my mind work, I have often concluded that the world is divided between people who take mental health pills and those who don’t. People who don’t take these pills live in a world where a morality of individual responsibility works. Good choices get rewarded; bad choices get punished; and there’s no reason to blame anyone else for your bad choices. But when you go through the experience of actually losing your mind, that moral system crumbles and you face a true existential crisis. Continue reading

The good work of God’s wrath (a response to Greg Boyd)

It’s always interesting when someone else says something that you’ve said exactly the way you said it and then you want to critique it for the same reasons that somebody else critiqued you. Greg Boyd preached a sermon about God’s wrath two Sundays ago called “The Judgment Boomerang” that helped me understand some inadequacies in my own reflections on it. I agree with Boyd in very essential ways, but I disagree with him in one very fundamental way. So I wanted to lay out the unhealthy, un-Biblical conception of God’s wrath that Boyd and I both react against, then share Boyd’s solution to it, and then share my concerns with Boyd’s solution and what I would propose instead, even though I know I’m still on a journey to figuring this out. Bottom line is that God’s wrath has a constructive purpose in the universe and that purpose is on display right now in the grief and anger with which our country responds to the horrific shooting in Connecticut. Continue reading

People who fear God don’t make t-shirts like this

violence in schools t-shirtWhoever made this t-shirt doesn’t fear God. Why? Because it blasphemes God’s name when we use tragedies opportunistically to build political power for ourselves and pretend that we’re doing it in defense of God. Until Christians stop taking their cues from the diaboloi of the outrage industrial complex, then we will look like just another ambulance-chasing special interest tribe focused on getting in our talking points. We are supposed to be the people who offer hope and peace, especially in this season when we remember how the lion of Judah came to the world as Mary’s little lamb. Instead we are know for our angry rants over the greeting we receive from the check-out clerk at the department store. The reason that “holiday” became a secular word is because Christmas stopped being a holy-day when it started getting celebrated in department stores; we should not dare to call our shopping the mass of Christ. People are hurt and scared over what happened in Connecticut; God came to Earth 2000 years ago to do something about that. Now is not the time for talking points. Now is not the time for exalting ourselves and our causes. It is a time to hate sin, starting with our own. And if we really hate our own sin, then our vigilance against our own pride should keep us from hopping up on the soapbox to showcase our piety by condemning others. God gave us a big brother to make His dwelling among us so that we would no longer be children of wrath. If we really wish to honor our annually newborn king, then we must make our hearts into a manger for those around us who are seeking some place of refuge and mercy.