“What Is Wrong With The World?”
“Dear Sirs; I am.”
I am. I am? On January 26th my wife and I celebrated 13 years of marriage, on April 26th I’ll have been on this Earth 37 years, and on July 26th I’ll have been the Director of St. John’s Camp Programs for 16 years. Much has happened in all of those years, and most of all, I’d say more than anything else, I remember the loves and losses that I’ve experienced in my short time here on Planet Earth. Love and loss. These are the things that often define us as human beings, or at the very least go into defining who it is that we are as persons and how we relate to others, and for each one of us fallen ones, these loves and losses are very personal and very different. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. says,
“Until we have accepted, recognized, and loved what is broken in us and what is despicable in us, we will continue to despise others. I must accept myself as a broken person.” -Martin Luther King, Jr. as related by Jean Vanier
I confess that I am a broken person. I accept that brokenness. Life is a long and winding road, with twists and turns and irony and all nature of things we never expect to see or experience or pass through. Often it is kind and good and filled with wonder…
…and just as often it is utterly cruel, sad, and filled with despair and loss. It is a mix of things we choose of our own free will, as well as the cards we are dealt at birth, and the things that we experience in childhood, over which we have no choice in making whatsoever. Ultimately, all of these things we experience from birth, our genes, family, growing up, and everything thereafter go into the mix that becomes the “me” that walks around day after day, living, working, breathing, doing, and trying to make sense of everything, and that in and of itself is where the rub is, and where we all find ourselves – living day by day and trying to make sense of our own lives, as well as that of the wider world and environment in which we live.
Lately, I’ve watched with sadness as people have become, rather than closer to one another, seemingly much further apart, isolated, and lonely. There is a widening chasm that has opened between people of differing beliefs, and as words travel at the speed of light, I’ve witnessed people frequently tearing one another down and spewing all sorts of vile hatred and judgment over the social networks available. As author Chris Marshall puts it, I’ve especially seen that…
“The rich, the poor, the high professor and the profane, seem all to be infected with this grievous disorder, so that the love of our neighbor seems to be quite banished, and the love of self and opinions so far prevails.” -Christopher Marshall
I hear shouting and statement making, and I see people belittling each other and demanding rights and recognition from one another, but I also see very little listening. Of late, this experience hit home rather profoundly, with a new law that passed in my adopted home state of Indiana, that was written to “protect” the religious freedom of those who wish such protection, and felt their religious liberty and right to live as their faith informs them was in jeopardy. However, there were unintended consequences, as there often are with these things. As the Circle of Hope poet says in “Delaware River”,
This new law gained national attention and media frenzy, and I watched in grief as the social networking maelstrom began and friends quickly tore one another apart and drew “lines in the sand”, chose “sides”, and “took stands” on what they believed they needed to defend…and it all happened so quickly that it made my head spin at times. A dear friend said, rather astutely, that “AHHHHHHHHHH!!” was the sound his head made as he scrolled through his Facebook feed each day. I felt much the same. In reflecting upon all that transpired this past week in Indiana, what kept coming back to me was the quote from Chesterton that I started with at the beginning of this post. What is wrong with the world? I am. The problem is ME. I must start there. As Tolstoy said,
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy
It’s far easier to blame others and focus on their sins rather than focus on my own. I don’t like what I see in myself, and so therefore, I will criticize and judge others for their brokenness and distract myself from dealing with my own problems and pain. However, the trouble with this is that, I can recall times where Jesus said “go and sin no more” to people, but I have trouble recounting the times he said, “I’m against you and your sinful type.” or “Get away from me you sinner! I have no desire to eat supper with you!” He seemed to have a penchant for hanging out with the roughest and most sinful types of the day, encouraging and loving them, and reserved his harshest words and scolding for the religious leaders instead. No wonder they killed Him. No one speaks against the “Empire” and gets out alive!
So I finally come to my point and the crux of all of this…and it is that I believe we “Christians” bear much of the responsibility for the fallout that happened in Indiana and elsewhere. Unfortunately, we are what is wrong with the world. We are to blame for inciting others, for belittling, berating, for goading and finger pointing, humiliating, shaming, and hurting those we disagree with and dislike – pointing out the speck in our brothers and sisters eyes without taking the log out of our own. We are to blame for elevating one sin above all others, so that we can rage against any and all who live in a way we find intolerable, because we don’t want to have to deal with them, ultimately because we’re afraid and don’t know what to do with “them.” We claim that this is due to a constant “push” from radical groups and the “gay agenda” and it’s only fair that we push back. Rather than stand against the Empire we have become a part of it, trying to mold it into a “Christian” empire, with “Christian” values, and doing precisely what Christ said we could and should not do. We have done this so much so that when a new law is made, one particular community we have ostracized immediately fears that the law will now actually give protection to, and encourage those, “Christians”, who see and treat them as “lesser” or second-class citizens, whether that was its intent or not. We are hypocrites all and pride on both sides of this issue has caused the distrust and anger that has come forth, and ultimately, the Diabolos…the Evil One…the Devil and Divider rejoices at the division and distraction.
I’ve worked for, and with, and gotten to be dear friends with many in the LGBT community, and I know that, at our core, while our lifestyles and decisions may differ at points, we’re all human…broken and fallen and seeking the same love, rest, and grace of God. I want to love and be loved – to belong and to “fit” and be accepted somewhere – and to feel the warm embrace and love of God and other people, just like my friends. All of my life’s experiences growing up to present day, and all of my decisions, sins, triumphs, and losses go into making me the person that I am, and my story is uniquely my own story. I can not judge another story that I have not lived. I can and may disagree with another’s choices, but as a person who claims to live by the example set by Jesus, I will treat anyone I meet as someone worthy of my time and my love, regardless of whether or not they agree with me or I with them, and certainly whether or not they will ever “change” their beliefs or their way of life to my own, because ultimately we need one another, and God has placed us in each other’s lives.
I do not believe that truth is relative or that we each have our own truth, but I absolutely believe that we are all children of God, and we are all called to love one another as we love ourselves. I am responsible for loving every last person on this planet, whether I “like” them or not; that is the command of Christ. Anything else is not “Christianity”…it is religion and dead piety, and a charade that we need not perpetuate. Every person has experienced love and loss, genetics and family, and cards they were dealt that go into their own “making” that they had no choice in, and finally their own decisions as an adult, and they have their own lives to live. I am not here to judge those experiences and those choices…I am here to love, to help carry their burdens, and to bear witness to the Truth of the Love of God…not by sweeping statements of belief or public marches, but by the way I live my life and the way that I love others…period.
When Jesus was presented with the woman caught in the act of adultery, after being asked by the religious authorities what they should do with her, since the Law commanded that she die, He said,
“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
When their own guilt convicted them in their hearts, the religious leaders and zealots dropped their stones and left, and Jesus immediately said to the woman,
“Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Then neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
She was free. Free to go, and free to sin no more…or to sin again. Either way, Jesus set her free; from punishment and death, and from the conviction and judgment of her own choices. He said nothing about what she had done – He simply sent her on her way and suggested she not repeat the same mistake. This was not the only time He did such things. He always lead by example, by compassion, and by love. If I claim to believe Him and to follow Him, I can do no less. I may or may not convince anyone that my beliefs are true by simply living the love that I believe in, but I know for certain that I will never convince anyone by shouting at them and slinging judgment and condemnation. I can only hope that my life, my compassion, and my love speak louder than any words I may speak. I’ll end where I began, with MLK Jr. and Chesterton.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
What is wrong with the world? I am. However, I am also a part of the solution to what is wrong with the world, because I AM commands me be so, and I ask for it to be so, every time I pray, “Thy will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven.” One cannot pray for this and not also be the answer to it becoming so. The biggest hindrance to Christianity in the 21st century are Christians themselves. We must remember ourselves and what it is that made us so radical and such a threat 2000 years ago. We stood against the empire and we loved everyone – jew and gentile, slave and free, women and men, gay and straight, every race and nation – and most of all, we weren’t afraid of anyone. We knew who we were, and it had nothing to do with a “God Protected King/Nation/Army” etc. We know the risen God and His great Love for His creation.
This blog has changed names from “Seraphim Sighs & Wanders” to “Chanting Down Babylon” for a reason, and ultimately, I’m wondering where the lions are? We lost two in the past month, but where are the others? Where are those that speak up and dare to love? Perfect love casts out fear. The Empire persists and we are called to more than earthly kings and kingdoms, power and authority, judgment and condemnation, and ultimately death. We are called to live the powerful message of Resurrected Love. We must “practice resurrection” as my friend Shane says. There are only people…not problems…just people…brothers and sisters…children of the Most High. We do not have to agree about everything, and we do not have to lay aside what we personally believe to be the Truth, but we do have to love one another – we are commanded to do so – and only that love can change the world. In truth, He already has, and He said the world will only know we are His disciples by one thing…not our politics, our postures, or our public displays…but by our LOVE.
God give us strength to be kind, loving, and gentle, and above all, give us the hope that drives out all fear!
“And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.- Jesus, John 13:34-35