Monday, November 26, 2007

Youth Say the Smartest Things

It seems that almost without fail I have reason on Monday to be impressed with what my youth said in youth group on Sunday. A couple of weeks ago I was asked about the phrase "being born of water and the spirit." One of my youth was curious how come I talked about it being something that occurred at Baptism while her Bible teacher at the Christian school she attends talked about it referring to our physical birth and then our spiritual birth. It was a wonderfully sophisticated question from a high schooler who is still very new to the faith. This week the distinction was around a morality quiz I had found through and was using with the kids. All of the questions centered around differ events that required the sacrifice the one for the many. On one of the many difficult issues another of my youth made the important distinction. He would only participate in such a sacrifice if all of the rest of those affected where also willing to consent, in other words he would do it for the betterment of the group but not only for himself if the rest of those being saved were not comfortable with it.
In addition to just being proud of my youth, the point of all this is my own pondering on how we continue to develop such great minds. How do we keep making the church a place associated with active thought, not mindless following. One of the biggest criticisms of faith seems to be that it encourages people not to think. While I would agree that at times different faith traditions have discouraged new ideas, I think you can find that at one time or another most have also actively encouraged new thinking and new ideas. How does the church help to perpetuate a stereotype that the church encourages though rather than discourages it? How do make sure that people know that part of being a faithful follower of God is learning how to think for ourselves? Youth are not the only smart, curious people in the church, so how do we stimulate everyone to seek to better understand God, and what God wants for each of us in our lives? So in conclusion, people should be smart and ask great questions, like my youth. :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Politcally Neutral

I am 75% sure I did some sort of musing on this topic several months ago, but the topic came up again in my life and I feel the need to muse again, so hopefully it will not be all re-runs, if it is, then that is just my small way of supporting the Screenwriters Guild. One of the churches I serve is looking at its building use policy and trying to decide how best to word it. One of the phrases that came up was that we would only let politically neutral groups use the building. The concern of church is members is wanting a clear policy that let's us say no to highly partisan groups, in particular political parties. But I find the implications of the statement interesting. I do not believe The United Methodist Church is a politically neutral group. While it does not support any major political party, it does take some highly political stands. This is also the way I think it should be. The church should be advocating for people, whether it is people's rights, the needs of different groups, and so on. The statement "Christ is king" was meant to be political, so we should be living into that heritage. So while the church itself should be political, how much can it align itself with other political groups? Should we open our doors to every political group? Or only ones that we agree with? Is simply providing people a place to meet a sign that we implicately agree with what they are saying?
So what sort of answers do I have to all the questions I am posing? I think that some of these are hard issues to deal with. I really believe that the church needs to be ready to be a home for political groups. It was because of the backbone network of churches that the Civil Rights movement of the 50's and 60's succeed. Even then King faced pressure from many in the church to take a more neutral standpoint. It is easy for us now to look back at the Civil Rights movement and talk about how churches were doing the right thing to be involved. But are there issues going on today that need the direct support of the church? I have two thoughts on this issue. One is that I believe the church needs to not be afraid of alienating people because of what it stands for, if it feels it does so because of what Scriptures and God are calling it do. At the same time I think the church needs to be constantly open to creating room for conversation. The church should not just be about seeking to live out Christ's message in the political realm, but should also be creating a space for dialogue. I really love the statement "Open hearts, open minds, open doors." I believe that part of that commitments means that the church should be open to people we do not agree with, and part of the being the church is providing a safe place for conversations to happen that cannot easily happen in so many other places in our highly fragmented society.
As I continue to reflect on all this I am left thinking in several different directions, so I imagine this all makes a lot less sense to my readers than it does to me as a writer, but I would hope that it stirs you to think even half as much as it as caused me to think, cause that is why I post these after all. Have a great Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Who ever took away August, September, and October, I would like them back please. It is hard to believe it is almost Thanksgiving already.

Last week as part of my continuing quest for ordination I was part of a session where the probationary members, myself included, met with our mentors. One of the things that we talked about was listening. We all read part of an essay by Dietrich Bonhoeffer about listening. It mentioned the need for pastors to talk, or at least that is how I remember it, if he was not specifically talking about pastors, it certainly applies. As paid experts, we have a tendency to feel we need to talk and express opinions. Whether it is because we feel we have to, or because we just love to preach, we tend to be better at speaking rather than listening. I myself am a great example of that, and the very fact that I spend time every week blogging about my thoughts shows that this clearly is an issue for me. For all the benefits of the Internet, one of the great dangers it raises is that of everyone talking and no one listening. I know people read my blog, or at least I know people load up my blog's page, the reading part is just assumed by me. The problem is the reading does not ensure a dialog, and may just encourage further monologues. I tend to read as my news source, not because they are perfect in representing what is happening, but because they work for me. CNN has recently added the ability for people to post comments on different articles, in particular political items. My tendency is to read these articles, read the posts and then rant to myself about the comments that are made, many of which seem rather insensitive and offensive to different people. the point is, even the CNN does provoke me to think, it does not actually create dialogue. While most people who post seem to read previous posts, the posts don't tend to actually talk to one another, just talk at one another. Because of the facelessness of the Internet, it has become more easy than ever to simply ignore the person you are attempting to "speak" with and simply go about espousing your opinions. How do we use the Internet, and just regular conversation, not as a way of demonstrating what we know, but listening and learning what others have to say, resisting the temptation to fill in silence, but instead letting it hang in the air to stimulate our thoughts and conversations?