...now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known...
There is a lot of talking out of the rear-end happening on Facebook as of late.
Who knew, right? I mean didn't I recently write about this?
Indeed it is happening. Plus, I know some of you are offended by the mental image I've just painted.
Let me make it worse for a sec.
It may be that when we think of someone 'talking out of their rear-end', we picture what happens when you gather adolescent boys at perhaps a sleepover, school bus ride, or at some social function. Weird noises occur, someone giggles, and it begins smelling really bad.
They are 'talking from their rear-end.' This can go on and on for hours. Or what seems like hours if you're a chaperone.
Point being this: In the public and particularly secular arena, the Christian community is sometimes known for spouting out things that frankly hold about as much truth and grace as the noises and emanations that adolescent boys at times bless us with. (Ok, I know that I'm giving adolescent boys a bad rap here. Could be spouses. Significant others. Friends. Colleagues. That woman in the elevator the other day.)
Back to the point.
When the 'hot air' is expelled on the school bus or in a classroom, we run for cover and move away from it. But when people are talking out of their rear-ends in the public arena, we rarely tend to avoid it.
We don't run from it on Facebook.
We don't distance ourselves from it in the hallways.
We don't cry out for people to stop when we're in the church parking lot.
We don't hold our nose and say, "EEEEEWWW!" and get all offended.
Quite honestly, we're known for just turning around and speaking right back in the same way, from the same place.
Yesterday's news feed was alive with talk about Bin Laden's death. Someone asked what folks thought about it. Someone answered and used a Bible verse. Then someone argued that position and used a different Bible verse. Then, someone pulled out the word 'liberal'... and the next thing you know there is a cataclysmic battle of Bush vs. Obama, liberal vs. conservative. Right vs. Wrong. All the while subtly implying that God is on one side or the other of this political debate. Sounds familiar.
People were there talking from their rear-ends, yapping on and on in Butt-Latin, in the name of right and wrong, and moreover, God.
I made that up. Butt-Latin.
What started as a minor disagreement over opinions instantaneously became about we/they... and the oh-so-clear battle lines of you vs. me. I mean really... I just wrote about this.
I'm sure you're wondering where I land with the whole Bin Laden thing. Before I get there, let me tell you that I hate spiders.
Yes, I digress at times. Thanks for noticing.
Spiders have always freaked me out.
They are creepy.
They are crawly.
They are sometimes hairy.
Sometimes they are not hairy. This is just as bad.
They are sometimes dark.
They are sometimes light.
They are sometimes big and sometimes small.
And regardless of their stature, size, color, level of hirsuteness, I dislike, dislike, dislike them. But they do make some pretty cool webs.
Stretched from point to point, their webs reach wide across open space so they can catch what they are hunting. They do this and do this well because their webs benefit from multiple anchor points.
Okay now that we’ve talked about webs, let’s get back to Butt-Latin. I’m irritated watching people online arguing as if the news of Bin Laden’s death can only be viewed one of a few ways, only in black or white. Here are the questions:
Are you for his death or against his death?
Are you for or against justice?
Are you for or against peace?
Do you think Bush should be credited?
Or do you think Obama should be credited?
The problem is, everything is more nuanced than this. It is rarely as easy as black and white, one or the other. And by all means, someone isn’t Satan if they disagree with you.
Even when we're thinking Biblically, there are a variety of different directions we can take:
Justice is a Biblical attribute,
But on the other hand, it is undeniable Jesus' words about peace...
But then again, Jesus talks about turning the other cheek!
And never forget about God's love and grace, and the indescribable power of His redemptive work.
But good gravy, the Bible tells us to submit to the authority placed over us, and our government did do this for goodness' sake.
Rather than each being viewed as a separate truth that refutes all others, they all reflect one Truth (God’s Truth) fleshed out in different anchor points. Each point pulling us open like a web.
But the Facebook argument reveals one of the biggest problems in and outside of the church today: imbalance. We lack moderation. In everything.
People who follow Jesus are guilty of it.
People who do not follow Jesus are guilty of it.
You are guilty of it.
I am guilty of it.
Ok so now you’re itching to know my thoughts on Bin Laden.
Most of me is glad that he is gone, because my spirit rages for vengeance on behalf of the victims. Problem is I am sure my desire for vengeance is pretty human, pretty sinful, and as my friend recently reminded me, doesn't do much embracing of the redemptive story and processes of God's love. Even when I think I'm attributing the passion to God.
At the same time, I mourn that we responded to death with death; that we spoke his language in retaliation, in part because I think we have a small understanding of what ‘justice’ or ‘peace’ mean, but more because we do not have the capacity to administer them in their purest sense the way God does, and this is the best we could do. I understand that.
Admittedly, part of me that believes the world is a little safer now that Bin Laden is gone, but I also recognize that the death of a martyr only adds fuel to an extremist's passion… and God knows how many more are waiting. And I also I know that self-made security is only that... self made.
On the other hand, I was raised in the military, and understand that it has been through tremendous sacrifice, courage, and (yes I believe) trust in God to make the hard decisions and fight for them, that our country has become what it is.
So I am all over the place. Wow, I am a paradox, wrapped in an enigma.
My position on this and any issue is a collision of many beliefs, thoughts and feelings: About God. About the news this week. About politics. About church. About family. About life. Maybe about social justice, the poor, welfare, minimum wage, homosexuality, music, worship, or freedom, apple pie and the American way. Multiple anchor points.
And all of these thoughts and feelings and beliefs act like an accordion at times... sometimes they squeeze toward one another and are very alike, further fueling my passion… but at other times they may diverge widely, helping me to see the multiple angles people may come from.
We benefit from seeing that life is rarely so black and white that we can make anything about we/they.
So... what if, rather than letting socio-political disagreements divide us and alienate others through rhetoric and posturing, we embrace God's Word and guidance in such a way that we can engage differing viewpoints with more grace... more openness... less we/they?
What if His Word stretches us wide?
What if we let God pull us wide and open like a web from anchor point to anchor point?
From justice to peace to mercy,
From integrity to obedience to freedom,
From praying to listening, from seeking to waiting,
From serving to being served,
From crying out to sitting in silence,
From ancient to modern,
From proposition to experience,
From strength to brokenness...
From joy to laughter to tears...
...and back again?
I can't help but believe if we could anchor wide in God's Word, we might disagree differently. We might see more sides. We might not be so quick to scratch out we/they lines on every social, political and spiritual issue. Maybe we'll just be less known for the rhetoric and more for the grace.
And even when the lines really are clear (because this does indeed happen at times), we might find people drawn in by the way we treat the differences we have with one another.
Maybe we can begin speaking a language of grace.
It may just be more preferable than Butt-Latin.