Tag Archives: Community

i thought i knew a thing or two about community

Here are some random thoughts in no particular order about community.

Wikipedia now has an interesting article on the many splendored word community.

Last year I thought I knew enough about the word to want to write about it and talk about it. I spent a lot of time discussing it. A lot of time writing about my experiences in a number of articles that will never see the light of day. I had plans to publish these in a communal studies journal. I went so far as to begin an editorial process with another writer outside JPUSA and then I went through this period of doubt and scrapped the whole thing. They still sit on my laptop, perhaps one day I’ll dust them off.

I thought I knew a thing or two about community. I would pull out the words “I’ve never not known life in community” like it was a badge of honor, something that made me really different. But lately I’ve come to realize that I’m a human being on planet earth among many others with all the same particular needs and emotions and fears as anyone else. Any historical significance I assign to my story and assume has merit really only has merit to me.

I think at this point that I want to see life among all those who appreciate life right now rather than through some “meaning” rubric. I want to just work with my hands, eat my food, enjoy the presence of my coworkers and my wife and children, and then just leave the rest up to God. I don’t know why my life turned out like this. That whole “sacrifice your life for your pet project: your book, your company, your pet project, whatever” and if you work hard enough you may just win the lotto of the world’s attention is so annoying to me now. It’s God’s will that I be satisfied with the love of my family and closest friends.

I’ll never be the guy people feel drawn to for understanding community. No matter how long I ever live in it I feel like every day is some new beginning. People are so multidimensional. The way we interact is so simple and yet so different. I want to know everyone, be close to everyone, overcome every obstacle, bridge every gap, utilize all energy, solve every problem. But I often can’t just bring myself to say “Hi.”

One true thing—standing on the outside to observe only leaves me detached and full of the kind of wonder that seeks to devour the subject whole.

Intercessory Prayer, that action of willingness and dependence at the same time, is the only gift that makes community possible.

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On seeking consensus

A friend of mine here at JPUSA has brought to my attention that there are quite a few people who think that my leftist (his term) views, particularly on the war in Iraq, are the official voice at JPUSA. Well, let me set the record straight. I do not personally speak for JPUSA, and neither should anyone ever think that my politics are the result of a majority consensus. With this in mind, let me open a huge can of worms and say that I believe consensus to be a dangerous thing.

The Christian Church has quite a rich history that can inform this matter of seeking consensus. It’s not a pretty picture. It’s quite messy. In Jesus’ name Christians too often have sought to be “on the same page” politically, socially, and doctrinally in a way that left many people ostracized, shunned, and yes—dead. St. Augustine’s position on the Donatists and Luther’s position on the peasants and the Jews is one example.

Here at JPUSA I am proud of the fact that we don’t stipulate that members must share a particular position on the War in Iraq. I am far less proud that I don’t have more open conversations about it. I have too often sought the path of least resistance. Sometimes that’s been good and sometimes that’s wrong. God knows far better than I where I stand in that regard.

I came to Chicago from Southwestern Missouri.  I think of Chicago, and my neighborhood in particular, as a bubble politically. I feel safe to speak my mind politically without fear that I’ll lose my job or be shunned by my family. I know that’s a luxury that not everyone has. It is possible for me to surround myself with an alternative “progressive” faith that affirms everything I want to hear. I don’t have to listen to SRN news or Prime Time America with Greg Wheatley on mainstream Christian radio stations (which I consider propaganda) I can pick NPR and the BBC for my news. Jim Wallis can be my new little pope as an alternative to James Dobson, and together we’ll pride ourselves on the New Christian Left, using revival language to snare people who like Jonathan Edwards (sans the “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon). But I also know what this is—it is building for myself a little safe camp of consensus, a world of 24/7 agreement where I get to hear, “Oh you’re so smart Chris! And look at those fools, they’re so dumb!” This makes me think of the episode of Spongebob where Squidwerd finally finds a town where everyone is just like him (anal). And you know what happens? He hates it!

Lack of consensus is painful. Someone always feels left out, alone, and yes resentful. There are those who chide us at JPUSA because we won’t come up with a clear statement on issues like the war, or who the next president should be. They argue that lives are at stake. You know what I say? I say that my life is richer because of my brother or sister who disagrees with me. That guy I stand in the dinner line with is more important to me than a position paper making some of us right and some wrong. It’s true that a refusal to join the Left or Right is an invitation to get shot at by both sides. It is a divestment from power, and it makes me think of the kenosis in Phillipians 2.

2:1  If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy,
2  make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
3  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.
4  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
5  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6  who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
7  but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,
8  he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.
9  Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,
10  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11  and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12  Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
13  for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
14  Do all things without murmuring and arguing,
15  so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world.
16  It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
17  But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you–
18  and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me.

Regardless of where our country heads politically this year I will be on the losing side—intentionally. Why? Because I care about human beings more than being right. Because I refuse to be any demagogue’s patsie–be they left or right. And because I believe in those Scriptures that call the Lord judge over all the earth, the real Ruler.

Now, on Iraq, I am against all forms of military occupation. The economic sanctions destroyed Iraq and killed countless civilians long before Bush ordered one bomb dropped. The US has proven itself a biased and illegitimate broker in Middle East peace under both Clinton and Bush. (Israeli settlements grew least under George H.W. Bush!) Find me a candidate that will say that!


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