Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Needed Change is Hard

     I don't know about you, but I hate change. I'd like my younger body back, people to understand me more, world peace and no more hunger, but still, I really do resist change. I'd gladly change most other people if I could, and I'd be tempted to change most of the world, come to think of it, but again, I really do hate it when I have to change.
    Which is a real problem if I'm trying to follow the Way of Jesus of Nazareth, because it's all about changing.
    This is why churches have come to be about believing and not following; it's just so much more easy. To learn and grow, we first must be open to change, in ourselves. We rarely are. And so we die without finding any new life. Good people, hoping for the best and believing completely in God and all that stuff. But not changing and for the most part, wasting all that Jesus of Nazareth was about.
    Example. Last week I helped out in a dinner for the 'needy' that was held at a large downtown church. Over eighty 'clients' were fed. The doors were opened fifteen minutes before the food was served. Everybody knew what to do and where to sit. The servers were all behind the table which was laden with good food. Grace was said, people lined up, were served, ate, and left. After all of the needy had left, the servers went upstairs to the main kitchen and had their own meal, on real plates, and had a fun time talking and sharing.
     There was nothing wrong with the evening. The servers were good folks doing good things, taking their time to help others. The more needy were fed and had a bit of time 'out' and most seemed to enjoy the meal and occasion. I know I had a good time and would be involved again if asked. I'd guess that everyone had a good feeling about the meal. We went home thinking that we had done 'our part' in helping others.
     But was anything learned? Was anything changed? Did we really do more harm than good? Did that small involvement keep some us from becoming active enough to work on the causes to the problems of our society rather than the symptoms?  Did anyone meet God in a new understanding or self-giving? I doubt it. Except for a few moments, there was no contact  between the 'givers' and the 'receivers' other than a smile, nod or comment in the actual putting of the food upon the plate. There was no sharing, no chance to touch in any meaningful way. Everything that happened enforced the old facts and stereotypes. It may have been nice and accepted, but it was certainly not the Way of Jesus of Nazareth.
    If that was an example of the 'work of the church', it is clear why churches are dying.
    Why couldn't the servers have eaten with the guests?Maybe a pot-luck with congregational members also?  Why not invite the guests to help clean up? Why not have the meals in people's homes instead of a barren hall? Dozens of questions come to mind. The answer to them all is the same: it would mean a personal challenge and change. Complete control would be lost.
    And so, we missed again the chance of even a glimpse of the Kingdom of God that Jesus talked about.  It's so sad that all that work and time went into the event, and is replicated dozens of times a week in most larger centers, but no real change is possible because of the simple truth that the nice people who are 'doing it' don't want to be vulnerable to any real change. In fact, they are keeping God's Spirit ever so small, even while they think they are doing God's will.
    Churches, when you chose to change your hearts, hands and habits, then and only then will you find the joy, courage and strength of God's Spirit. Please, pray and do it. The world is dying here and we need God's Word to be made Flesh. We need change.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Whole Truth in "Truth and Reconciliation"

 As Canadians will know, the 'Truth and Reconciliation Commission' has completed it's task. For those from the U.S. who are reading this, the task of the Commission was to look at the affect of the federal policy of Residential Schools. They forced, for seven generations, parents of aboriginal natives to hand over their school aged children to be taken away and educated by the white culture, in segregated schools, usually run by one of the major churches.
      As our first Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald said, the idea was to "take the 'Indian' out of the children." We Canadians have always taken a certain pride that we were at least more enlightened than 'those Americans', whose president, Andrew Jackson encapsulated their native policy with his infamous saying of "The only good Indian is a dead Indian." Now, we aren't too sure. The scars from our actions will be here for generations to come.
      The commission did a very complete job, but for one thing. One truth has been ignored. The underlying fact of the assumed Christian theology that allowed and even urged this tragedy to occur has not been mentioned. It is the same understanding that enabled the Spanish and English to enslave natives and to treat all 'others' as non-people. The commission deal with the symptom and not the cause.
      Contrary to Jesus' understanding, since the 300's, Christians have believed that all others are going to a hell of one kind or another. Since all who didn't believe in their doctrine of original sin and in the sacrificial death of Jesus, were doomed already, it was logical to think that the pagans didn't count anyway and were less than human. Any writings, customs and ways of living that did not reflect the 'norm' of Christianity was  therefore to be banned or destroyed. From the burning of the great library in Alexandria in the 400's, to the Crusades, to the outlawing of the American Aboriginal sweat-lodges, this arrogant, unloving and narrow belief and the resulting actions have always been alive and well, within our churches.
    We were taught that if we loved God, we could even kill in order to 'save' others from their hell-bent ways. Since we were God's people, His only people. Our way was right and no other ways held any truth worth preserving. The terrible actions of the government and churches in our Canadian past (up to the 1990"s) are predictable and certainly not surprising results of what churches believed and in large, still believe.
      The terrible truth about the residential schools is now there for us. We know, for instance, that those children had a higher mortality rate than did soldiers in W.W. I. and that new and smaller sizes of hand-cuffs were manufactured specifically for their use.
    Of course, all of the involved churches are now dearly and officially sorry. They admit the error of their ways but I don't hear anything about coming clean with the error of their Christian Doctrine  that caused the tragedy and many more before it. Week after week in church after church, it is declared that we are forgiven 'in and through Jesus Christ', assuming that no others are. Those few churches that have given up this Augustinian and anti-Jesus of Nazareth view seem to have nothing else to say, so we don't hear from them.
      Unless the whole truth is shared, by the churches themselves, it is clear that they have learned nothing, their apologies not-withstanding, and have earned even more, the pity and neglect that is felt toward them by most people.
      Churches, the truth will set you free. Real reconciliation can only happen, churches, if you admit to being wrong in belief. God is bigger than you are. Celebrate this! Accept it and get on with following Jesus, as you are called to do. Because the Commission did not name the root cause of the tragedy, you now have the opportunity to take the initiative yourselves. What do you have to lose? Become reconciled, not only to the past, but to the future.