|Resurrection as Biblical Theme

This past Sabbath I led a few friends in a morning “meditation” on resurrection (15-min introduction, 45-min contemplation, 60-min conversation).

Here’s a run-down of my introduction:

  • We usually think of two instances of resurrection–Easter Sunday and Jesus’ second coming. (1) Jesus’ resurrection became the center of my faith when my faith fell apart during seminary. (2) Resurrection at the second-coming is obviously important in the Adventist understanding of biblical interpretation.
  • But… resurrection is a bigger theme than these two critical instances of resurrection. For example, Ezekiel had a vision regarding bones that God would bring back to life. God resurrects the hope and dreams of Israel. So if God is in the same business of resurrecting hope today, what dreams has God brought back to life for you, and what dreams still make you long for resurrection? This was the first of our ten reflection questions (see attached PDF).
  • Taken further, we see the theme of resurrection in any action or situation where we see something comes back to life–a relationship, a neighborhood, a piece of clothing. Little things also convey resurrection; it’s not only the big things like Easter Sunday.

To explore this theme further, I gave everyone a 4-page handout. The final page instructed people how to use it. Yes, that probably should have been the first page, so I pointed everyone to it before we split up for 45 minutes of prayer and reflection. During those 45 minutes, I took the kids out to play in the mud so it would be quiet in the retreat house for the adults.

Then during the final hour of conversation (more or less), my wife played with the kids in a separate room. In that time and also during lunch we shared what we had been thinking about and journaling about during those 45 minutes.

Here is the document we used for the morning — resurrection-feb-2017. [The order to follow is (a) the beginning through Ezekiel, then (b) page 4.]

Selma and Cesar Chavez

Tonight we watch the film Cesar Chavez, and it reminded me of Selma, which we watched shortly before listening to Senator John Lewis speak. (As an aside, almost a decade ago we attended an event where Dolores Huerta spoke, so it was interesting to see how she was played in the film by Rosario Dawson.) Both movies look at social movements, exploring the leaders, tactics, economics, politics and spirituality of social change.

An important theme in my mind is unity in diversity, the bringing together of different people groups. In Selma, it was white and black, to oversimplify. In Cesar Chavez it was Hispanic and Filipino, later American and European. And others like the various unions and even consumers and workers. Connections and coalitions are vital for positive change.

I saw this embodied in a small, local way recently. We attended a march hosted by two student groups at a local university–the Black student union and the Muslim student union. We walked and chanted, “Black lives matter. All lives matter.” It was a limited event in both time and scale–we marched, some gave impromptu speeches, we marched some more, some shared ideas for how to work for change, and then we dispersed–but I appreciated these different student groups were working together.

Here are trailers for both films:

Bourgeois: Solidarity, Equality & Conscience

Credit: ICPJ

Credit: ICPJ

I really appreciated the presentation by Father Roy Bourgeois last night at an event co-sponsored by the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ) and Veterans for Peace (http://www.icpj.net/2014/resisting-militarizaiton-fr-roy-bourgeois-speaks-out-against-the-soa/). He emphasized solidarity, conscience and equality as he shared his life story, his work against the SOA/WHINSEC, and why he was dismissed as a Catholic priest because of his support for ordaining women.

A table was stacked with copies of Pink Smoke over the Vatican (DVD), Somos Una América (DVD), and My Journey from Silence to Solidarity (booklet).

“With injustice, silence is complicity.”

Plank Versus Sawdust

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)

Jesus’ teaching on self-assessment is important to me in many contexts. Beyond the purely individual application, I think it is appropriate material for contemplation anytime I find myself differentiating between my group and “the other.”

I support self-evaluation and discourage judging the other party. I’m Seventh-day Adventist, and I think we should focus on dealing with abuse within the church instead of pointing fingers at others religious communities that struggle with abuse. I’m a male, and I think guys should speak about “reproductive ethics” to other guys instead of telling women what they should do with their bodies. I have dark hair, and I hope I never hear another “blond joke” from anyone who wasn’t born with bleach-blond hair. And I’m also white. I think that the white community should focus on fixing its own issues rather than telling other racial groups what they should or shouldn’t be doing.

This came out again for me in the recent killing of Michael Brown. It’s just seems wrong to hear white people talking about what black people should be doing–stop rioting, stop speaking a certain way, stop getting into trouble with police. With our nation’s history of white people always getting the race issue wrong–genocide of First Nations, slavery, Jim Crow laws, the prison-industrial complex, treatment of Chinese immigrants during building of the railroads, policies of disruption in Central America, etc.–how are we in a position to tell anyone else how to act morally? Why do we think we have it right this time (see this Tim Wise video)?

If the rioting doesn’t make sense to you, then dig into it deeper. White people riot too. Find out what about the human experience brings this out. If demonstrations and protests don’t make sense to you, then dig deeper. All people groups demonstrate. This is not unusual behavior, so if you can’t understand why these people in this community at this time would feel motivated to speak their minds publicly, then look into their stories more deeply. You can judge from a distance or you can get closer and begin to understand. You may never agree with certain actions–I certainly don’t (and this applies to my views of violent people and groups regardless of race or economic level)–but if you don’t understand, then you need to go deeper.

So, my white friends, let’s refrain from telling other groups how they should act, especially if we aren’t friends with a number of people in “the other” category, whatever it might be. Instead, let’s focus on getting things right with ourselves–right thoughts, right attitudes, right words, right actions. We’ve got some planks to deal with before we try to deal with anyone else’s sawdust.

Above all, may we play our part in supporting the beloved community. This is to be on the right side of the “race question,” the right side of history, the right side of eternity.

– – –

NOTE: See my earlier list of articles on the killing of Michael Brown–link.

Christian Peacemaker Teams Webinar

Last night I participated in a webinar hosted by Ched Myers. His two guest presenters–Sarah Thompson and Tim Nafziger–are leaders of Christian Peacemaker Teams (Facebook).

Here are some of the people referenced during the informative webinar:

Church. What’s it good for anyway?

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve come across two different people describing their thoughts on church. Well, kind of. One person talks about the positive aspects of organized religion/Christianity, and the other shares about why he does not regularly attend worship at a local congregation.

What do you think about these perspectives?

In his first post, Donald Miller says, “I don’t connect with God by singing to Him. Not at all…. It’s just that I don’t experience that intimacy in a traditional worship service.” He goes on to explain this phenomena from the perspective of learning styles:

Research suggest there are three learning styles, auditory (hearing) visual (seeing) and kinesthetic (doing) and I’m a kinesthetic learner. Of course churches have all kinds of ways for you to engage God including many kinesthetic opportunities including mission trips and so forth, but if you want to attend a “service” every Sunday, you best be an auditory learner. There’s not much out there for kinesthetic or visual learners.*

The post by Jack Hoehn doesn’t address these same questions or issues, but looks at the role of organized religion in the world, focusing on positive aspects.

God-lovers—no matter how sincere and how wonderful their solitary walks in the woods with Jesus or their spiritual encounters with God himself while climbing mountains—don’t build schools, don’t build hospitals, don’t train nurses and doctors, don’t run orphanages, don’t print books, don’t educate…. Churches do that.

Later, he uses personal experience to flesh this out a bit:

For 13 years Adventism made me the richest physician in the world—I was so rich I could afford to treat anyone I wanted for nothing or next to nothing, because I was working for the Adventist church! Your 10th egg, your Sabbath profit, your tithe by the thousands or millions put together into the hands of men and a few women on committees, wasting time on policy books, and home deposits, and conference offices, still let me rescue over 500 women of obstructed pregnancies with surgeries at no cost to them. It let me drive four-wheel trucks through rivers to get to little clinics where everyone wore a blanket due to the high mountain African cold. It let me ride a boat through swamps where no one even owned a blanket. Organized religion let me build hospital wards for sick children suffering the same malaria crises I remember from my Kenya childhood. Church let me train and graduate Nurses and Medical Assistants who would go out into the bush and jungle and run little clinics that were lights in the darkness, and teach in SDA schools that would graduate people like the Obamas and Nelson Mandela’s children.

If you either currently participate in a local congregation or you used to, what factors are important to you in making that decision? Do your thoughts match either Miller or Hoehn, or is your experience something else entirely?

*UPDATE: After reading this post, Ed Dickerson shared via Facebook that his congregation incorporates multiple intelligences in each week’s gathering. He also shared resources he developed on the topic, available at iFOLLOW. How could you use this learning theory in your faith community to connect with a wider range of people?

Crazy Radical Environmental Fruit-Nuts

In the past month or so I’ve watched two very intriguing documentaries about environmental activists who go to prison for their actions. Readers of this blog know I advocate for nonviolent social action, and I just want to highlight that again in the context of these two films.

The first is If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (PBS, film website, Wikipedia, IMDB, DemocracyNow!) which follows the story of Daniel McGowan. As a member of the ELF, McGowan had participated in arson as a tactic for social and environmental change. The film simultaneously tells the ELF’s story and follows court proceedings against McGowan.

If a Tree Falls is compelling story-telling. It is a provocative look at the sociological, psychological, and political factors that radicalized the local environmental activist community. I appreciated that the filmmakers allowed the activists and the law enforcement personnel to be complex; they weren’t dumbed down to one-dimensional caricatures. These are complex issues with complex actors, and I value that this messiness was allowed to come through.

More recently, I watched Bidder 70, which looks at the actions of Tim DeChristopher relating to conservation and climate change (film website, organization, Facebook, IMBD, Peaceful Uprising). Rather than take a violent or destructive approach like McGowan, DeChristopher interfered with an auction of extraction rights by holding up his bidding number, 70.

I have a deep respect for people who find creative and meaningful ways to live our their values. I respect even more those who dedicate themselves to pursuing this integration of values and living in peaceful or nonviolent ways.

Reflection Questions

  1. Am I as committed to my values as these two young men are?
  2. To what degree have I integrated my values and actions? What holds me back from doing this more fully?
  3. What sacrifices am I willing to make to live what I believe and to promote my values?
  4. What role did community play in the lives of these two men? How did community influence them before, during and after the actions noted in these films?
  5. In the area of environmental activism, what is needed today? What issues, strategies and tactics are most important at this stage in world history?

BONUS

Want to find more films that address some of these same themes? Check out the follow twelve films on protest and social action:

  1. Encounter Point (2006, documentary)
  2. Budrus (2009, documentary)
  3. 5 Broken Cameras (2011, documentary)
  4. The Singing Revolution (2006, documentary)
  5. This Is What Democracy Looks Like (2000, documentary)
  6. Pray the Devil Back to Hell (2008, documentary)
  7. Rage Against the Machine: Revolution in the Head and the Art of Protest (2010, documentary)
  8. 180 South (2010, documentary)
  9. A Force More Powerful (1999, documentary)
  10. The Edukators (2004, movie)
  11. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2004, movie)
  12. Amazing Grace (2006, movie)

Friday Web Round-up

MISC PEACE, JUSTICE & HUMAN RIGHTS

ENVIRONMENT

 

Friday Web Round-up

Economics

Human Rights

War, Peace & Social Change

Psychology

Environment

Religion: List

Random: List

News Round-up

Religion

Education

Politics

Environment

Food

War +Violence + Peace

Business  Ethics

World

SEE ALSO: