Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Church- Hated or Loved by the State?

The end of the Early Church period was when the Christianity was made the official state religion. After this happened we see a beginning of a total dynamic shift in the forward motion of the church. This dynamic shift led to many of the corruptions that the world has come to despise in the church. So I submit that it is better for the Church to be under persecution from the Government, than to be supported by it.
Christianity, the belief system that Jesus death and resurrection founded was a “religion” that has nothing to do with political or social standing. All of the disciples were men who were social rejects of their day; men who were common workers and some were the political ‘yes’ men. Jesus was not welcomed by the political institution of Judea of his day. We see that he had to leave regions as different political leaders wanted to kill him. We also see that his death was a result of conflict with the Jewish leaders. So even from the beginning of the Christ movement approval of the state was not the primary issue.
Jesus said that blessed are those who are persecuted in his Sermon on the Mount found in Matt 5 & 6. Looking back to the early church once again, Tertullian said that the blood of the martyrs was the reason the early church grew. So we see that persecution for the early church was what made Christianity. Our Western culture has become a culture of comfort; we are used to going to church and sitting in a soft pew and we forget that this is not how it has always been. Places where there is great persecution today are where see the largest growth rate in the church. So while our culture has avoided persecution, the church historically has not; this shows the western thinker’s bias.
The Bible when dealing with persecution discusses the importance of overcoming persecution. At the time when the New Testament was written, Christians expected to be persecuted. Jesus in his teaching called for his disciples to “take up their crosses and follow him”, Paul says that to live is Christ and to die is gain. This makes perfect sense as 11 out of 12 disciples were martyred. Since its beginning the leaders and members of the church have been persecuted and killed for the truth of the gospel.
Persecution brought to the church a sort of trial by fire. When the faith of those who go to death because of a powerful belief in Jesus can be seen; witnessing ceases to be an issue. On the other hand when a person grows up in a church where real faith is not modeled, witnessing becomes near impossible.
A real faith cannot be induced by anybody else; it must be a heartfelt decision. To become a part of the church for the wrong reasons is the equivalent of not joining at all. In a country where Christianity is the supported by the state, people join the church for the wrong reasons, and they damn themselves along the way. In a country where Christianity is attacked by the state, those with wrong reason for being a Christian are weeded out.
While being in a country where the government enforces the state religion as Christianity does give the outward appearance of having more Christians, outward appearances mean nothing, as Christianity is about an inner relationship. This is why I believe that it is better for the State to be against Christianity, than for there to be a state supported church.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

We are the ' World '

One thing that scares me about the church is the church’s tendency to remove itself from “the world.” Since I live, and have lived in a Christian bubble for the past 3 years, I feel it every day. My classes start with prayers and for the most part are all focused on ministry. Not that I think these are bad things, i know that in the “real world” (whatever that is) you don’t go to chapel 3 times a week.

It seems that so often we as Christians are scared of the world. Almost like when I do leave my bubble that it’s out there waiting for me, so he can eat me up. You hear it in church classrooms, and I hear it in the college classroom: “the world is out to get you!”

This to me seems very reminiscent of the Black Panther movement of the 60’s and 70’s, and their talk of “the man”. This movement constantly would make remarks about this over arching evil force that was out to get anybody that was black. This “man” was always looking over the group’s collective and individual shoulder. This dark and evil force was something to combat, sometimes violently, and must be stopped at all cost.

For RA training this summer I had to read the book “The Promise of Paradox.” While I did not finish the book, I read like 2-3 chapters of it before I got back to school-yes I have every intention to finish it later. The author is a big fan of Merton, a Roman Catholic monk. He quotes Merton who is addressing the issue of “the World”:
It is wrong to come to the monastery in order to escape the world so conceived, for the conception is false. The world does not begin at the monastery gatehouse (or the Church door, or once off the college campus). It is within each one of us. WE ARE THE WORLD!
When I read this it made sense to me, for so long I was sitting back thinking that the world was this big, bad, evil thing out there trying to get me. And while I do believe that there is an evil presence out there, the World is not it. I am the World!

The ‘World’ can be defined in a similar way to the way we define the church. The Church is not the buildings or the organization that runs it; but the Church is the people that fill its ranks. Quite similarly, the world is the people that make up the population of the world.

Yes there are some people who are definitely evil, and motivated by nothing but evil, but I contend that the vast percentage of people are not evil, but merely just selfish and are motivated by taking care of ‘ole Number 1’ (which is the whole root of the sin problem). For me this thought totally changes how I interact with people, sin while bad, is not necessarily done with evil intents.

While I am not saying that everybody is good, I am saying that the world is not this big evil dark presence that is trying to destroy you. The world is hurting people; people desperately in need of being healed (whether they know it or not). We need to start realizing that these people are not out their trying to destroy us, but they are out there without the grace of God in their lives; and that's something that they need.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Big News Story....Katrina

So we've been dealing with the hurricane recovery now for about a week. Everybody I know is dealing with it in somehow. My RA staff went up to Bluffton Sunday night and we went door to door asking for supplies; but everybody I met had already donated items. I continue to be amazed by the response that America has when it sees a need.

This isn't the first time that this has happened. If you remember last year there was a typhoon in the Indiana Ocean. The death toll was in the hundreds of thousands, and America responded in ways that once again amazed me.

Almost 15 years ago, America responded to the call for help from countries that felt threatened by Iraq. Our response lead to the 1st Gulf War. America attacked Iraqi soldiers, and encouraged the people that were suffering under their oppressive government to rebel.

In the mid-80's the AID's virus became an epidemic and began to move through the continent of Africa. It came to America, and very soon, we jumped to the rescue. Research and study of the disease was highly followed, and people all over the country were donating money and resources to help fight this new epidemic.

But in the case of all three of these epidemics were put on the back shelf. The people of Iraq were left stranded and they were killed by the thousands, the AID's epidemic in Africa has exploded and nearly half the people there have been effected by this virus, and the typhoon recovery has nowhere near the national exposure that it once had.

To me I feel that far too often we as Americans are very aware of the big needs and we through alot of aid and help at the start of a crisis, but we get bored and lose interest quickly. We think that we're doing a good job because we sent a one time cheque to help with the needs at hand, but we never follow up.

This is why many people around the world hate America. We sit back and think that we're doing a good job, and people should thank our country for our work, but we're seen as fake and shallow. Our good works only add up to us looking like we only care about the publicity.

I have felt challenged in the past couple months about my commitment. I live in a sheltered world, I am not rich but I am comftorable. Do I really care about those around the world who are in need? Do I actually pay attention to thoes in need around me? I say I do but do I really.

One of the former religion professors at my school has really challenged me with his example. I have never heard him say anything publically, but he is a behind the scenes worker for an inner city ministry. He does all the work that he can; a board member, a treasurer, and etc. That is an example I want to follow.

If you have been thinking, maybe there is more I can do there are different organizations you can work with to help:

-Bono of U2 has an organization to help combat AIDS in Africa. you can find information about it at www.one.org

-Compassion International has thousands of children you can help support.

-Churches usually have outreach programs that could use money.

-Missions organizations are always looking for help.

There are countless ways to help, but don't just help to satisfy your personal need for "doing good," but actually get involved at a deep level. Stay involved and don't be fake; in fact I encourage you to be involved and don't tell anybody.