I sat down with a friend, and he told me about his holiday. He was about 35 years older than I was and his Christmas had been punctuated by the deaths of classmates, men and women he had been close to since childhood.
In the past few weeks, we have faced brutal horrors, made even worse because they are the torments carried out by our own hands. The torture report was released, amidst fears and warnings that there would be international uprisings and retaliations. Republicans have accused Democrats of seizing a political moment, to make the Bush administration look bad to the detriment of national security. The talking points seem to echo through the red party, aside from John McCain, who has been a victim of torture himself and has a first-hand knowledge of the evil.
Christmas is more complicated now, with its layers of meaning. Joy can no longer be wrapped up with a tidy bow. But, for me, this year, since I cannot have the world as it ought to be, I’m determined to find beauty in the yearning.
Christ came to bring God’s kingdom to bear on earth. As people who follow the risen Christ, we cannot faithfully live into his kingdom when we are silent about those who are marginalized in our midst. Our leaders need to curate conversations about race and reconciliation. As people of God we must extend ourselves in risky ways to begin to break down the “other-ness” that exists between races in the larger body of Christ.
This week, I was speaking to a handful of strong, smart writers who were on their way to publishing major books, but they were nervous about entering the Wild West World of the Internet. How were they going to handle the criticism they would have to endure?
We have washed our hands as the war on drugs has overwhelmingly targeted black men. We have washed our hands as our justice system has given longer sentences to people of color. And then, when an innocent man dies, we keep scrubbing our fingers some more, as we blame the victim.
After years of wrestling, I settled in a predominately white church. My logic was this: if every white person concerned about racial justice leaves white churches, then there will be few women or men there to help. This Sunday, I worried that Ferguson or other police shootings of African Americans would once again go unmentioned in the sermon or a prayer.
My mind ventured off to the Contemporary Christian Music concerts I attended with my youth group. CCM was taking off, and evangelical teens had a mass of buying power. In my home, my mom would pay for any CCM that I wanted.So I listened to the music and even attended Disney’s Night of Joy. It was a magical evening in the kingdom. As Michael W. Smith sang in front of the Cinderella’s Castle, girls in the audience would raise their hands and scream, “WE LOVE YOU, MICHAEL!”
I often hear the term “cafeteria Christian.” It is a description of our current religious milieu. People pick and choose what’s important to them in their faith. It’s usually said with disdain—and a bit of eye-rolling.
Theologians, who construct systems of belief, want to think about theology as a whole. They are afraid that a generation is going to come along and jettison a couple thousand years of careful thought in lieu of what feels good to them.