Posts Tagged ‘human nature

26
Apr
10

My Crisis of Faith – From Seed to Blooming Tree

It started in church one Sunday. There was a technical difficulty during worship, a missing piece. The worship pastor asked us all to bow our heads in a prayer he eloquently led. Amen, heads up, eyes open, order restored on the stage.

It was a seed.

How often are we led in prayers that are less of a plea to the Lord than they are curtains for a very human pastoral staff to rally behind? I began to wonder about the humanity, the efforts they made for the appearance of seamless perfection. It is not the imperfection of that humanity that nurtured this seed. It was the effort to cover it up. Mistrust began to grow from my church’s inability to admit imperfection.

I love my church, and the pastoral staff has always exhibited the utmost wisdom and integrity, so it’s possible that this little plant rooted in such shallow soil could have quickly died, but then Pat Robertson spoke. If you remember, he blamed the Haitians for their sorrow after the earthquake, saying that it was God’s judgement. My little plant sprouted so fast, the economy turned green with envy. Then missionaries went to Haiti and stole children, assuming they were better fit to raise them, apparently. More leaves on my little plant.

Then I watched a debate unfold over a Super Bowl ad. Christians fired off in support of Focus on the Family, decrying everything that had ever stood in their way. I love the American Family, but it’s time to take note that married parents, 2.5 kids, and a golden retriever is not realistic for most Americans. Though the ad itself was positive and not controversial, the message was lost in the debate. Both sides were cruel, but there is a real problem when Christians are cruel in the name of the Lord. My little plant leafed out all over the place.

Then it grew a branch. The Catholic Church chose to stand with those priests accused of the most heinous crimes of pedophilia. What cruelty from an institution that should be based on hope and love? Jesus Himself said that the punishment for a man who leads His flock astray is beyond that which anyone else will experience. If the Church stands behind these “men” in the name of forgiveness, I appreciate that. But forgiveness and trust are very different. Forgiveness does not imply restoration, as illustrated by the way this same church treats divorcees, homosexuals, and those of other faiths. To allow these priests to continue to represent what is right and holy uncovers gross dishonesty that I simply cannot abide. It has become nearly impossible for me to watch a public display of religion without skepticism. The branches are in the way.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches,“ but I’m pretty sure he meant something entirely different. He meant that we should feed from Him and grow like Him, strong and fruitful. But an interesting thing happens when a person accepts Jesus as his Savior. Nothing. Loved ones still get sick. There still isn’t enough money. Tragedies still headline the nightly news. When we hear of salvation, the message is confusing. It is disheartening and discourages real growth in faith. We have fed from soil polluted by humanity and grown into weak hybrids. Then, we have taken it upon ourselves to save the world, to fuse it to our hybrid trees. Since we recognized that the tree didn’t look right, we tried to coerce everyone into being like us. We forgot about the branch entirely as we promised our own cross-bred salvation borne of judgement. This judgement and coercion is coming back to us now as our great nation dies from within, suffering from the fatal wounds of deep division.

Jesus promise of salvation is simply to save us from ourselves, a need we don’t always recognize. When God created us, he granted us the greatest gift, far greater than anything He gave even to the angels who dwell with Him in Heaven – Free Will. But, like anything great, it is this gift that leads to our demise. Within free will rests ego, greed, self, and everything else that divides the human from the divine. Thus, it is that very free will that Jesus asks us to lay down for Him in obedience. Not a popular pulpit message, bu to be free from the trappings of humanity is a gift, indeed. What we do with it is where our free will lies. Do we continue to live the same lives, resting on the laurels of this forgiveness? Or do we accept the brevity of our salvation and walk alongside others, trudging through the furrows of humanity?

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14
Sep
08

Batman – My Hypothetical Hero

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  John 15:12-14
Batman Forever is my favorite movie.  It paints the question of motivation vs. results and brings to life moral debates never settled.  I love the questions, the way it makes me consider humanity and the fine line we walk.  In school, my daughter’s moral philosophy teacher uses this character to make their discussions of Odysseus more pertinent.  They are discussing what makes Batman the quintissential hero.  Well…two things.  He is wealthy beyond measure and has a vengeful spirit.  Bruce Wayne is driven by a spirit of vengeance, and the result is goodness as he moves through Gotham’s black night, banishing evil.  This good that is done, though, does not speak of heroism.  It is a fortunate byproduct of a bitter heart.  Bruce Wayne is a loose cannon and would have acted the same whether he was on the side of good or bad.  In his case, it is fortunate that he is on the side of that which is good.  The message of the movie would be much different if his father had been a drug lord and was gunned down by the angry family of an addict, driving Bruce to reak vengeance against the “establishment.”  Still, the on the surface it would look the same.  Bruce Wayne devotes all of his life, wealth, and strength to avenge his fathers death.  In the original scenario, justice.  In the hypothetical scenario, senseless violence.

If Batman cannot be the great hero of our generation, then who do we have.  Not many.  A hero is one who takes the time to examine his motivation.  He needs to check the recesses of his heart to ensure that what he does stands for justice, not just because he happens to be on the right side, but because he is just.  This man has to lay down his life in order to pursue justice.  A life laid aside is a painful separation.  I think of the men portrayed in “The End of the Spear” and their wives.  These men went to a cannibal tribe to minister to them, but the cannibals killed them savagely.  Their wives later went to the tribe to live among them and raise their children there.  Under their influence, the tribe has turned to Christianity and, therefore, away from a life of cruel cannibalism.  One of the murdered men’s sons acts as the tribe’s minister.  It is wonderful that these men are Christians, but with the faith comes a life of spiritual prosperity.  Their children and their children’s children are living better lives because of the spirit of forgiveness these women bore at great cost and sacrifice.  I highly doubt that living with these people and raising their children with them was what the women wanted, but something stirred deep inside and they laid selfishness aside.  That is heroism – the hero has no self.

Another hero – the mother of the slain Matthew Shepard.  If you remember, this young man was beaten and tied to a fencepost in Wyoming.  He died tied to that fencepost.  The men who beat him to death were on trial.  They would be sentenced to life at best, be sentenced to death at worst.  Matthew’s mother stood up to these men who stole her son’s dignity, his wallet, and left him in a God forsaken place to die.  She did not spit.  She did not swear vengeance.  She forgave.  She asked the courtroom for forgiveness, saying that she did not want to ruin their families’ lives as hers had been ruined.  She understood that there is no comfort in another ruined life.  This was hers to bear, not to share.  That is heroism – the hero forgives generously.

These people are not what comes to mind when we conjure our heroes, but it is a spirit like theirs that carries our country and our world, even our families and neighbors, when they need to be carried.  We may want the Batmobile coming to our rescue when darkness surrounds us, but it may be hard to see; it, too, is black.  The one we need is the friend who would lay his life down for us, never considering his self.




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