February 24, 2009

what do you believe?

image from The SD Headliner

There's been a lot of talk about "faith" and "belief" in the Hawthorn House meetings lately. We decided to spend some time letting each of us share where we're coming from in regards to these issues. For me, I don't know how much I feel I have to say about what I believe. To say it briefly, if my lifestyle doesn't say it than I'm clearly not believing what I thought I was... So, I feel no need to say, "This is what I believe..." I also think we often treat faith and belief as concrete things. Which I just don't think is true. All of us know that our beliefs about truth and 'other worldly' things evolve and change over time. Which I think is quite fine and right. When any group– religious, political or whatever–inform us that these are concrete it never seems to be for the benefit of the people–or God–but for the empowerment of those who want control and authority. But I did post a few thoughts to our discussion group about the topic. Specifically, we were talking about passages where Jesus calls us to what seems like reckless abandon of possessions or to child-likeness. I thought I'd share them here to see what you think. I didn't really go through and edit it well so I hope it makes sense....

We live within an era in history in which everything is 'personalized'–part of the whole consumer-capitalism thing. So, we have to be aware of where our minds take us when we read this stuff... in other words, we are not processing this message the way someone living in first century Palestine would have. Because of the time and place we live in, we tend to read this and think, "This is talking to me, specifically." And this may get us into a pickle. For those of you that have been exposed to more indigenous peoples, you know that not everybody today thinks like we do. Many people, whether indigenous people of Latin America, Philippines, Asia or Africa often think more social than personal (ie, "This is talking to us."). I don't mean to romanticize these people or say they are less selfish than you or me, it just seems evident from my experience and reading. So, with that in mind it might be helpful to consider that Jesus' hearers heard him talking to them as a group and how they lived collectively. For me, this is helpful because it reminds me that issues of "faith" are never isolated to me. I may have a personal "experience" or not... ultimately the rubber hits the road when I put that "faith" to work among my people.

image by Shepard Fairey
Hinging on that kind of mindset is the fact that Jesus was saying this within a time and place where the political propoganda of the time told everyone that the leader (Caesar) of the world's super power (Rome) was God and all things came from him. So, while it may or may not be helpful (Naive? Maybe.) for any of us to say that I am going to trust that God fix the leak in my roof, I think that ultimately Jesus is talking about shifting our loyalties and allegiances. Who do we really trust? The passages referenced (Sermon on the Mount and Mark and Luke) embody an "upside down" idea of politics within the culture Jesus lived in. He keeps talking about this culture/society (ie, "kingdom of God") he is establishing. In the Sermon on the Mount, he talks about a ridiculous set of ethics that just "don't work". And then, he accepts children as first class citizens of this culture, yet he says it within a culture where woman and children are not citizens... they were possesions for production (a step above slaves) usually and second class citizens at best.

I say all this to say that when looking at the greater context of what Jesus was saying I wonder if within our hyper-personalized culture values, we have "missed the boat." And even if we said, "This is talking to us," we are in a time and place where we wrestle with what "us" means... afterall, today as a result of 'globalization,' "us" can very well mean a whole lot of people! I digress. Should we instead hear Jesus saying, "This system that you believe provides you safety and security, protection and provision is ultimately broken. You can not rest your faith in it. It isn't 'God'." And, "Men, you may be first in line for everything else. But not so in my society. Those you have ignored and under valued, they get it and they are mine."

For me, thinking about these passages in this manner has lead me to realizing that there is a much more creative way to think about how I am clothed, how I eat, how I handle my resources, etc. And who is valued in the whole chain of production of those things that provide me health, comfort and safety. We are told (in a variety of ways; marketing, etc.) to trust the market and the state. But whether it be for reasons of faith, health, ethical manufacturing, etc. many are/have been realizing that we can not often trust the market or the state. More and more are going around the market and the state to ensure their provisions are taken care of.

So, for example, maybe you buy some Acholi Beads for probably more than you would a necklace at Target. And when you buy some of those beads you are ackowledging that the little ones (those people in Africa that don't really matter but to produce for important people) are actually first in line. But in a weird, crazy way you are participating in "Kingdom" economics. Does this solve the whole ball of wax? Nope. And Jesus' revolution didn't topple Rome either, so don't beat yourself up over it. But we do this as an act of "faith"; that even these little things matter and help work with the Creator in shifting the tide. Is it economically sound? To some, maybe not even responsible (child like? naive?). Nonetheless, we do it.

What do you think?

1 comment :

Unknown said...

Tough subject, beliefs and faith do not always match up in my mortal soul. I believe the way of Jesus is the best way for me and all other humans to live but I have a tendency to do things my way instead. If I had enough faith in that belief, I would always live the way of Jesus.

did that make any sense? It did in my head.

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