Thinking Out Loud

November 1, 2018

Doing Evangelism Inside a Brothel*

Filed under: blogging, Christianity, Faith, writing — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:31 am

When I started blogging 10½ years ago, I vowed to keep the thing faith-focused. I prided myself on avoiding distractions such as the technology itself, or posting pictures of the latest family vacation in a pre-Facebook, my-life-is-perfect manner. With Twitter, I relaxed the standard a little, but try to avoid getting dragged into the trending topic of the day.

About a month ago, I realized the overall lack of civility and the need to vent anger for which Twitter is famous was seeping into my own writing here on WordPress. I wrote two pieces condemning two Christian leaders for whom I felt the judgment was a rather open-and-shut case, only to be met with those who were willing to support actions which went against the way of Jesus but somehow fell into the catchment area of grace toward a beloved individual, even as the facts stated otherwise. “Our football team doesn’t really have a designated quarterback, but I know we’re going to win the State Championship.” Believe what you want, I suppose.

I also wrote a piece in praise of another Christian leader only to be condemned myself for my support; this from people who have not spent the time I have examining his writing and his sermon podcasts.

At that point — having already granted myself permission when I was away in July — I allowed myself the freedom to simply skip days of writing here for only the second time since the blog’s inception 10+ years ago. I needed the time away.

For me, the whole thing had become analogous to doing evangelism in a brothel.* There’s nothing wrong with the motivation or the message or even the methodology, but the location isn’t exactly desirable. Even as I write this, and I look at the state of social media in November, 2018, I have to ask myself if this platform has the worth it had when I began. It’s become a dark place. The people who say, “I don’t do the blogs;” struck me a decade ago as people who were missing out on some stimulating information and discussion. Today they seem like the wise Magi in Matthew 2 who have opted to ‘take a different route.’

For that reason, I have freed myself (again) from the constraint of needing to publish daily. There are other ways to be an influencer, such as using the same amount of time to have coffee with a friend, or sending a series of emails to someone showing a common interest in a particular Bible teacher or teaching.

Would Jesus be on social media?

I think it would exist but he’d assign one of ‘the twelve’ to maintaining the blog and Twitter account. His life and ministry were about real world encounters with people in need; not lengthy tomes defending a certain position.

When the discussion got too heated — “then they picked up stones to kill him” — he simply retreated or disappeared for a few days.

*with apologies to those who in fact, really do evangelism in a brothel, such as who set up display booths at adult-entertainment industry trade shows, or author Greg Paul whose ministry through Sanctuary Church in downtown Toronto actually does attract sex-trade workers looking for a place for weekend worship. You have my utmost respect.

further apologies to UK readers who’ll note that ‘football’ was used here in the American sense.

November 11, 2016

Voices from Evangelicals Who Did Not Vote for D.T.

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:44 am

The United States of America is at present clearly fractured along a number of lines. Old versus young. Male versus female. White versus non-white. Blue collar versus white collar. Urban versus rural. I’ve probably missed a few. The post-election unrest some feared is being seen in many places.

On Wednesday, Children’s Ministry influencer Phil Vischer (Veggie Tales, What’s in the Bible) wrote the following.

vischerLast night America voted to transition from our first African-American President to our first President in recent memory to receive the full-throated endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan.

Former KKK “Imperial Wizard” David Duke stated clearly after the victory that Trump couldn’t have won without the support of “my people,” which, in this case, would be white nationalists and white supremacists.

Take a breath, and recognize how bad that looks.

Now consider that David Duke was joined in this effort by a significant majority of the white church in America. White Christians, white supremacists and white nationalists pushed Donald Trump into the White House. (Suddenly the repetition of the color “white” becomes too ironic to ignore.)

Now think about this:

The world is growing more brown. America is growing more brown. Global Christianity is growing more brown. More and more of our neighbors – those we’re called by Christ to love – are brown. And yet here we stand, white Christians, having just pushed a man into office who built his campaign on pledges to wall off and otherwise restrict the movements of brown people.

This article by Phil did not sit well with many. America is really polarized. Issues are all black-and-white. For those in other parts of the world such as myself, it would appear that most Americans lack the capacity for either complex or abstract thinking. The mentality is binary. Everything is either a zero or a one in a binary world.

So the next day he wrote,

Over the last 24 hours I’ve been called a “moron” and “ignorant.” I’ve been told by Christian brothers and sisters they will no longer use my Bible-teaching resources with their children.

Why? Because of the post I wrote…stating my concern that white Christians have lost some credibility in the world by supporting a candidate for president whose campaign was tinged with racism. Many jumped to the conclusion that I was saying all Trump voters are racists. That is not what I said. I didn’t even say that Donald Trump was racist, though clearly some of his off-the-cuff statements fit that description.

I’m not saying Donald Trump is racist, or that his campaign was racist. I’ll let others come to their own conclusions about that. I’m saying that at times his campaign gave the impression of being racist, and impressions matter. You may have attended a Trump rally and found it to be nothing but good, clean American fun. Some of his rallies gave a very different impression…

…So what was I really trying to say…? That we white Christians have some explaining to do to convince our non-white brothers and sisters that our support for Trump was not support for his perceived racism, sexism or xenophobia. That our support for making America “great again” isn’t code for turning back the clock on racial and gender progress.

The witness of the church is more important than any election, any public policy, any economic plan. And right now, many of our non-white brothers and sisters are deeply confused, and more than a little frightened…

…I’m concerned for the witness of the gospel.

Phil also linked to this video.

But Phil also did one more thing. He linked to Stephanie, at a site I’d never seen before, Bridging Hope.

I know I have mixed feelings when someone re-blogs large sections of my material, but I also know how few of you click through. This is worth your time and attention. Keep reading:

To my friends who are relieved today

stephanieI love you guys. I know you were afraid. You were afraid that the America you knew was falling apart. Maybe you were really worried about our national debt. Maybe you were worried about the lives of unborn babies. Maybe you were worried that your church would lose its tax-exempt status because it understands marriage as being between one man and one woman. You care about your kids, and you were worried about what liberal Supreme Court justices would do. Maybe you were worried about terrorism. You were scared for your families and your children and the potential influx of Muslim refugees. You were worried about getting and keeping a job, and providing for your family because of immigration. Or maybe you were just worried about having Hillary for president because of those emails.

And I’m guessing right now you’re thanking God and breathing a big sigh of relief. Right now it probably feels like America was saved from disaster. There’s safety.

I’m glad you’re not afraid right now, I guess.

But I want to introduce you to some other friends of mine. And right now, these friends feel really afraid. See, the people who are keeping our Jesus movement going, the ones who are keeping our churches from dwindling and dying out in America are black and brown. Not us white folk. And my black and brown and Asian and Middle-eastern Jesus following friends feel really scared right now.

They heard talk of a wall. In my town, they heard people chanting it last night. My brown friends heard talk of the deportation of immigrants, and are scared to drive to the grocery store in case their family gets torn apart. They woke up this morning in fear, praying for protection. They saw a bunch of us white-folk voted for the guy who wanted to build walls and deport people, and they feel like that was us saying, “We don’t care about you.”

My black Jesus following friends are worried that the criminal justice reform they’ve been pushing for, that would make our country safer for everyone, is going to be halted. They’re worried that their white-folk friends voted in a guy thoroughly endorsed by the KKK. They’ve seen the lynching t-shirt jokes, and they don’t find those funny. They’re scared for their lives, but they’re also hurt and angry at the white evangelicals whose vote showed those things don’t matter to them.

My Asian American and Middle Eastern Jesus- following friends woke up today worried that someone would think they’re a terrorist.

Many of my female friends woke up feeling like “locker-room talk” and sexual assault has just been given a free pass. They feel like you cared more about the Supreme Court, or your economic models, than you did about their respect and dignity and safety.

There’s a lot of people, Jesus-following people, who didn’t wake up relieved and feeling safe today. My LGBT friends, my disabled friends, my Jewish friends. Not to mention all the vulnerable who don’t know Jesus— the refugees fleeing from ISIS, the Muslims who are now being targeted by right-wing extremist groups. The FBI stopped one Mosque bombing that was planned for today. But every Muslim in America must feel afraid about what is to come.

I don’t think you realized what was at stake here. I think you thought you could vote in the abstract, for one aspect of a platform, and that was totally separate from the person standing on that platform.

You 80% white evangelicals who voted for Trump, who thought it was because of your faith that you had to— you need to get talking with your black and brown evangelical friends who voted the complete opposite and find out what’s going on with their faith. Because somehow their faith told them it wasn’t okay.

I give you the benefit of the doubt because I love you and I don’t want to think the worst of you. I want to think you didn’t realize what you were doing.

I don’t think you realize how badly you’ve wounded the body of Christ in this election. I don’t think you realize how heart-sore, disillusioned, and embittered you’ve made people.  And maybe you think— “Those fears are unfounded. There’s not really going to be a wall, or deportations, or any of those crazy things.” Maybe you voted because you felt like it was the lesser of two evils. 

But those are real fears.

And so if you want to be reconciled to your black and brown brothers and sisters, it’s going to take a lot of work to make up that lost ground. A lot. If you thought we could just sing and pray together and it would be okay before, that opportunity has completely passed us by. There is no chance of that kind of “reconciliation” any more.

So go listen. Go learn.  Recognize there is real hurt  and real anger because of you. Then get busy. Go pray for the protection of your local Mosque. Go write them a letter and tell them you love them. Go teach ESL classes. Go sign up to host a refugee family. Go join a #BLM protest. Start going to a black church. You’re going to really have to do something this time to prove yourself.

If you still don’t get it, if you can’t see what the fuss is all about,

then Christ have mercy.

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