It's been a bit since I last did a blog entry and I've been mulling this over for a few days now. As is my habit, I read opinion articles from a wide variety of viewpoints. It's just helpful to hear other people's opinions. I also see things on Facebook that sometime catch my attention, be they from church, friends, or some general "news" item that somehow makes its way into my feed. Coupled with opinions is just the general state of the world in dealing with the coronavirus. I find myself thinking "why does the world look different to me?" The conclusion I've come to is that I have changed. Yes, the world has also changed, but my view of it has change irrevocably. How? To answer that, I'm going to back up a bit. A saying I have told people for years is "all growth is change, but not all change is growth." I don't know if I'm the person who coined that phrase or not, so forgive me if you heard if from someone else - my memory ain't what it used to be. Anyways, I'm going to generalize the changes I see in my life in three areas: 1) my faith, 2) racial relations, 3) politics.
My faith in God and my relationship with Jesus Christ has, to be blunt, been pretty stagnant for most of my life. Yes I believed, but was I really putting my faith "out there", meaning has my faith affected my behavior? In the language of Christianity: does my life show the fruit of my faith? In the last ten plus years I have been challenged by events and preachers to an extent that I could no longer ignore. I've taught my kids that you must make your faith your own. Well that means me too. My relationship with Christ, my theology must inform my life, not my life (experiences) informing my faith. As a result, I am far happier with who I am: a deeply flawed sinner for whom Christ died. Lately the pastors at my church (shfspokane.org) have really been poking a prodding and I must respond or my faith is worthless. I feel like I'm taking scary steps because, hey, people might actually expect me to be a Christian, instead of being undercover all these years. But God's Word is uncompromising and must not be ignored.
Which brings me to racial relations. As I've mentioned in this space before, our lead pastor is a fantastic young black man and is helping to bring change to our lily-white congregation. Now before you get the wrong idea, he's not come to bring racial reconciliation to our church as an agenda. Nope. He's just preaching the Word of God. Anything having to do with race is just a natural byproduct of God's Word and him being black. But let me tell you, it's wonderful and hard at the same time. Remember my statement above about growth? To grow as a person you have to want to grow - that should get a big "well yes, duh!" out of you. But to grow means you have to change, accept new ways of thinking, maybe even acknowledging that you've been wrong, ignorant, or both. I'm asking questions and looking at people giving constructive information (see "Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man" by Emmanel Acho for one example) to start that process in me. It means that I stop making excuses for America's problem with all non-white people and start looking critically at our history and how we can change. It means acknowledging that "Black Lives Matter" isn't a racist, anti-white statement, but rather a call to address problems in our country. To grow we must change - we must be willing to change. I've turned that corner and am excited to grow - even if it hurts.
Politics. It ought to be a four-letter word because that's how I see it. Always a stinky, swampy, hot mess of contradictions, rage, etc. Why bring it up? Because for too many of my generation (I turn 62 next week) that call themselves "Christians", politics informs their theology instead of their theology informing their politics. As our associate pastor Aaron Michaud said in last Sunday's sermon "If you're talking about the upcoming election as though it is the make or break moment for Christianity, your hope is misplaced." People make statements like "you can't be a Democrat and be a Christian" or "any Christian Republican is a hypocrite." They are indeed putting their faith in politics first instead of God first. I must confess I was that guy not that many years ago. But I have reclaimed the awareness that I am a stranger in a strange land, to borrow a phrase from Robert Heinlein. For the Christian, for me, politics must be put in it's place which is way down the list of important things in my life. I refuse to let it dominate my life.
So what's my conclusion for this blog entry? I must insist that others who call themselves Christians to do what I'm doing: look in the mirror and see a sinner and to daily repent of their self-centered ways. To ask first of God for forgiveness, then to look to others who look or believe differently and ask "how can I love them?" I must change the core of who I am to recognize that all people are equal in God's eyes and thus I can do no less. When confronted with a black person who says that attitude smacks of racism, instead of getting defensive, explore it, allow it to challenge you. Who knows, you just might grow in the experience. But again, you have to want to grow. For if you do not want to change your ways because you think you're fine, then growth will not happen. You have doomed yourself to a stagnant existence.
Sorry, but that's not me anymore. Change? Bring it on!