Sunday, May 29, 2011


Well, here we go again. Another Christian (maybe well-meaning and of sound mind) has gone and declared the "end of the world" and gotten the world all riled up; not to be outdone once the prophecy failed to occur, he's gone and post-dated the 'event' to October, citing the initial date as one of spiritual judgment (bloggers claim that he forgot to "carry the one" and messed up his arithmetic).

It's the type of thing that gives Christians a beating in all spheres of life. Mind you, I'm not one who expects Christianity to conform to the ways of this world; let's face it, Christians are called to believe some things that aren't exactly easy to prove (though, to be fair, the empirical standard demanded of Christianity is a tad much higher than some of the "accepted" scientific explanations we have out there; for example - HIV arose from the crossing over of an animal virus due to humans - ahem, Africans - having sex with chimpanzees)

But I digress, some of this belief stems from what happens when an infinite unfathomable being makes contact with a finite fallible creature. They are unexplainable. But I once heard a phrase that I believe summarizes our notion of God in relation to nature:
God is not unrealistic; He is beyond Reality
This is a grounding perspective, for though the Christian is called upon to be a 'peculiar creature' in this world, this peculiarity is never meant to approach the degree of making him unrealistic and irrelevant to this world. This world cries out for intelligence, especially from the Christian; service to the Creator does not shield us from learning and appreciating the vast knowledge and delicate handiwork that went into making and sustaining this world.

I make this emphasis on Reality, because it appears a large amount of Christian teaching/evangelism is devolving into either the Fire and Brimstone or Prosperity Gospel avenues. It takes the minimal amount of brain power to teach these two. Judgment theology has been around for a very long long time; it accentuates the view of God as a Mighty and frighteningly Just Judge - squaring each and every account. Of course, Jesus came to show us that God was something else above all these things: MERCIFUL.

I'm tired of all apocalyptic literature being tied to excesses of weather (floods and drought), natural disasters (Ring of Fire, anyone), Wars, shifting world powers (China), etc. If anyone knows world history, the would know that these are pretty common occurrences. Truth be told, I believe all these things are actually bad for disbelief, because nothing drives a human faster into the embrace of Faith than when they finally realize how feeble they are in this world; that there is something much bigger than all that we see.

I'm personally more prone towards thinking of Jesus coming in the "thief-in-the-night" fashion. As a race, we still haven't risen above most of our prejudices, despite technological advances. There will be no $8 million billboard campaign when He comes through. We will be doing just what it is that we've always been doing - living our lives. He will come to find the habits that we've fostered in our own lives. - loving/stealing/forgiving/exploiting/caring/abandoning/edifying/bullying..... He's not coming for the one-off chance that we'll be doing the right thing at that moment in time [we can only be so lucky]

[aside: a friend of mine showed me a clip on apocalyptic prophecy where some consummate professional was being interviewed about the "signs of the times". The interviewer kept shifting things towards the role the USA was supposed to play as a good guy, and the oil reserves of non-Christian nations].  

Jesus had it right in Matthew 6 - we shouldn't worry. Chasing after these worldly things only makes us out to be the same as everyone else (...despite any pastor's remixed phrase of "Divine chasing"). Be right with God, and help those who need help. The widows, the orphans, the alienated, the disenfranchised... Let Jesus come and find you trying to finish this "unfinishable task", and He will embrace you as the loving faithful child that you are.

God Bless

Monday, May 16, 2011

Messiah College's Community Covenant

Lately, the spotlight has been on Messiah's community covenant as a result of an openly gay student's decision to leave the school stemming from incidences of harassment. For a while there, it was the first Google news entry concerning Messiah College (though to be fair, Messiah does have it's share of weird stories from time to time), but I only got to know about this because there's an actual petition going out asking Messiah to strike the "homosexual" clause from its community covenant.

We've come far as a society, and we've learned to tolerate and embrace a lot, 'cause as the human race we just have a suicidal tendency to seek out the smallest things that can divide us. In all this time, I believe that we've learned that we can get along with people, without necessarily agreeing with them or supporting them.

I empathize with the student who had to face that kind of discrimination. No one deserves to have death threats or any unbecoming behavior strewn their way - whether it be from peers or even teachers. What I do take issue with is this disordered desire for people to erase one injustice using another. A school is more than just the bricks and mortar that are used to put its buildings together; it is mainly the community and the tenets that bind that community that are the true heart and soul of the school.

Messiah is by its own admission a Christian school, and it's tried to base its principles on that (whether they succeed or fail is another matter altogether...but then again Christ never expected us to be perfect, but rather to work out our faith with a view towards being Ipse Christe - same as Christ.)

One friend of mine wrote that we Christians fail when we tolerate a porn-addicted pastor, but scoff away at people from the LBGT community. This reminds me of a friend from High School who once talked with me at length about the story of Jesus and the Adultress. My friend's take home message from the whole thing was that we are not supposed to judge people no matter what they do, and we should just 'live and let be'.
But there is an addition to that whole lesson: Jesus didn't condemn that woman, but He certainly didn't commend/condone what she was doing either. He extended mercy out to her, but He also enlightened her... He didn't set the bar lower so that the hooligans wouldn't have an excuse to execute the poor woman!!!

Seeing as the Community Covenant is in-line with Christian teaching, there is no need to change it. What does need to change is the hooligans who choose to take out their wrath on people they view as different. The school Provost admitted that the school does not screen students to find out whether they are homosexual or not. I'm guessing the school doesn't screen for hooligans, bigots, smokers, drunkards, philanderers, sluggard or a host of behaviors spanning the gamut of human failings either - that would be a logistical nightmare.

But they do have principles by which to proscribe this behavior, and hopefully remain relevant as Christians in a world where people are either deserting their Christianity or resorting to some trends that bear only a superficial resemblance to Christianity.
Apart from the whole discriminatory incidents, was the gay student really expecting a traditional Christian school to support him in his openly-gay demeanor? (Messiah is not Episcopalian, last time I checked).

This reminds me of a quote from that oft-misunderstood social commentary - the Boondocks:

"Not every [black person] that gets arrested is Nelson Mandela"
And so too with this case, the "LGBT query" is not the last unanswered wrong that humanity has not righted. We are called upon to be tolerant, but we don't have to condone. And I certainly would never condone this being used as an excuse to change a Community Covenant that is not the source of the problem. People will always find reasons to hate, but our moral compass always needs to hold true.

God Bless.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Toughest place to be a ...


I just finished watching the BBC show "Toughest place to be a ...", which, I guess was done as a special feature - only 3 episodes were made. The basic premise consists of taking a bunch of consummate professionals from the UK (bus driver, paramedic, midwife), and giving them an analogous work experience in a different part of the world, obviously minus a lot of amenities that they've grown accustomed to. (watch for the culture shock)

I believe the characters were well chosen because they espouse a certain humility and good work ethic (the BBC could very easily have ruined this experience by courting from among the roster of characters that plague various reality TV shows), and this brings out the humanity in all the situations that they go through - both humorous and heartbreaking.

It's very easy for a program like this to be misunderstood, because despite the real human dilemmas it tries to highlight, there's a chance that it could merely become a shock-fest of things from third world poverty. It reminds me of an experience during chapel-time at Messiah College. This student got up on stage to talk about his time spent doing mission work at the Kibera Slums in Kenya. He then proceeded to get emotional on stage and obviously alienate a whole contingent of international students who were in attendance that morning. I have nothing against the guy personally, this just requires a short accompanying factoid

  • Despite hosting a large number of people, the residence of former President Moi at Kabernet Gardens sits a few kilometers from Kibera
  • The student spent his entire summer break - 2 or so months - in the slum  
I actually know about Kibera, and I wouldn't be happy spending more time than I had to around there...and I'm not even talking about the slum portion of it. Everybody has that kind of part around where they live or at least somewhere in their country - it's what we like to call "The wrong side of the tracks". And c'mon, even if you see the worst-of-the-worst, it needs to be balanced with a view of what else exists out there, at least even at the middle class level, and maybe even get a taste of the opulent. You've got the massive Nairobi National Park close by (maybe just a few hundred yards away if you're in the right part of the slum!)....but I digress.

I'm not trying to defend my country blindly here, 'cause true to the matter, we have one heck of a record-breaking slum. But getting the full picture helps people understand that the disparity is sometimes based on policies that need to be changed. Josh West (the bus driver) highlighted this perfectly when he got to see the village area that his host Rogelio hailed from. The coastal town was truly beautiful and an obvious step up from the squalor that he faced in the city, but the search for employment drove him to the city.
This is a lesson that perhaps we shouldn't just concentrate on turning our cities into 'havens" of employment to the detriment of the countryside, but concentrate on investing in those same fringe areas, and at the same time decongesting the cities and returning them to a semblance of health.

Again, I thank BBC for a job well done. Rather than putting people on the offensive, it reminds us of things that sometimes we overlook, or never thought about. To cherish those gifts that we have, some of which we've worked for, and others which our parents toiled for. And I believe all those involved were affected positively.
There are no real happy endings here because a lot of the poverty that was seen is institutionalized, and needs the concerted effort of decent politicians working with the people to get things changed. But the friendships made and the shared experience are a step in the right direction. I hope that this is the kind of change I'll be able to bring when it's called upon on my part.

May God be with us all.