Friday, November 24, 2006

Celebrities & Social Justice

Here's a follow up article on RELEVANT Magazine that I thought was a great read.

It all started with Bob Geldof. I danced to television images of Queen’s “Radio Ga-Ga” at Live Aid; then innocence faded as Geldof unveiled a world called Ethiopia, starving to death.

In the 1990’s, it was Michael Stipe’s Tibet. Being a fan of R.E.M., I undoubtedly knew more about the Dalai Lama and Tibetan freedom than any reasonable person should.

Today, it’s Bono doing all he can to save the world. Bono and countless others continue Geldof’s tradition of celebrities with a heart for social justice. These celebrities are significant not only for their art, but because they use their fame to propel AIDS, poverty, hunger, homelessness and war into the forefront of the media. They give a voice to the invisible people of the world, inspiring us to make a difference.

Social justice is a progressive pathway of steppingstones that starts with awareness and ends with passion. One stone leads directly to another. There are no stones you can skip, but the path is often abandoned before the end point is reached. Here’s what the path looks like:

Awareness; Compassion; Investment; Mercy; Passion

Our favorite musician appears on the evening news to increase awareness about injustice. Awareness leads to compassion. Matthew 9:36 tell us that when Jesus “saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless ...” (TNIV). Compassion, in this context, is a gut feeling, the idea that an individual must do something to address a problem that’s been exposed. Jesus saw the pain of the multitudes and had to act. In the same way, when we see television images of celebrities next to starving children, war zone amputees or emaciated AIDS victims, we have the same gut emotion. We feel as though we must act!

The next steppingstone is investment. We give our time, money and attention to the cause, attending the benefit concert, buying the CD with “Music Inspired by (insert popular cause here),” adding the cause to our MySpace friends and wearing the appropriately colored bracelet and $25 t-shirt that shows we truly care about social justice.

Unfortunately, here’s where it ends for many of us. As a culture, we are fickle. When the star of the celebrity fades or their cause demands too much, we shift our attentions elsewhere. Here lies the problem with chasing after the vision of celebrities. It’s not that they have bad visions, it’s just that they aren’t truly our own. We may adopt them for a while, but we rarely carry them to the next steppingstone, the place where a real impact begins to be made—mercy.

In several instances where mercy is mentioned in the Gospels, the Hebrew word used is chesedh. Chesedh is an untranslatable word, but it means to literally place oneself inside the skin of another person so you can know every aspect of their being. Walt Whitman said, “I do not ask the wounded person how he feels; I, myself, become the wounded person.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer expressed chesedh like this: “I am bound to reach the point where the want, infirmities, and sins of my neighbor afflict me as if they were my own, just as Christ was afflicted by our sins ... ‘Bear one another's burdens.’” Derek Webb said it this way: “Like the Three-in-One, know you must become what you want to save.”

Chesedh doesn’t allow us the luxury of following a Hollywood actor’s vision for as long as it excites us and no further. Chesedh gives us clarity of vision, allowing us to see for ourselves the need and the hurt in the world around us, to feel it as a part of our own being; deeper commitment is the result. The vision that is Christ’s chesedh vision becomes our own. The inspiration is the Holy Spirit guiding us, not our admiration of a rock star or a movie goddess.

Finally, if you’re brave enough to step out of celebrity shadow and move with God, to take on the skin of the wounded person as Christ took on our own flesh, chesedh will lead to passion. Passion is the point where nothing else matters to you more than justice; being willing to sacrifice everything for what you know is right and good and pure and true; giving out of your wealth and your poverty, out of your own flesh and blood, regardless of the popularity of the cause.

I remain a great fan of the Boomtown Rats R.E.M, and U2. I love to see the famous lend their names to help the nameless. I will always admire Geldof, Stipe, Bono, Jolie, Pitt and many others for their good deeds, but they aren’t my heroes anymore. My heroes include a pastor named Perry who has spent years visiting the homeless under bridges around Athens, Georgia, building relationships and growing them into a congregation, an infectious disease doctor named Elliot who has adopted three African children to date, a percussionist named Erving, who lived in an Atlanta shelter for eight years as a crack addict, cleaned up and moved to Los Angeles, built a career, bought a beachfront condo, sold all he had and moved back into the shelter to give his life for the sake of others and a nobody from Nazareth who died to save the world. Show me an individual whose cause doesn’t depend on the popularity of its spokesperson, someone who has taken their cause beyond awareness, compassion and investment and moved forward into chesedh and passion, and there you will find a hero indeed.

Funny thing is, I’m pretty sure that Bono and most of his peers would agree.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Whatever you do

From today's Oswald Chambers entry:

The true test of a saint’s life is not successfulness but faithfulness on the human level of life. We tend to set up success in Christian work as our purpose, but our purpose should be to display the glory of God in human life, to live a life "hidden with Christ in God" in our everyday human conditions ( Colossians 3:3 ). Our human relationships are the very conditions in which the ideal life of God should be exhibited.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Perfect Song

From this RELEVANT article...

Psalm 116:7 says, “Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you” (TNIV).

Remembering His goodness in the past will bring us rest in the present. We can also stop trying to configure and orchestrate our happiness and accept each moment God puts us in as His best for us. And perhaps most importantly, we can walk through each moment with the same quiet confidence and contentment that we feel in the midst of the perfect moment, because God is the same in all of our moments.

Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (TNIV).

The perfect song will play again, but life is not about the perfect song, it’s about trusting God no matter what is playing.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Guilt & Forgiveness

I've been struggling lately with the idea of feeling guilty and realizing true forgiveness.

There's some great articles here:

"...The Apostle Paul sympathizes. “I do not understand what I do,” he writes, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15, TNIV). Paul experienced the guilt pangs of doing and not doing that wrench our own guts. He knew conscience could be more burden than blessing. But Paul also gives us hope. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1-2, TNIV). My sins are forgiven. My guilt is taken away. If Christ doesn’t condemn me, then why do I condemn myself?

Guilt usually comes from the impossible standards to which we hold ourselves. Everyone knows that legalism ruins churches, but we often willingly force ourselves to drink a homebrewed brand of spiritual slavery. Society measures our worth based on productivity, so we set goals and measure our self-esteem by successes. In our outcome based spirituality, if we miss the mark, we beat ourselves up. I’m not saying we should tolerate sin, but I believe we need to forgive ourselves for missing our own expectations. God forgives us for not meeting his expectations.

As human beings, we can’t do anything to improve our standing before God. That would be trying to save ourselves by works. Jesus criticized this attitude: “They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Matthew 15:9, TNIV). God’s grace isn’t about making life difficult for us. God’s grace forgives our failures to measure up, because Christ measured up for us.

Here’s what my pastor says every Sunday after we confess our sins: “Almighty God in his mercy has given his Son to die for you, and for his sake forgives you all your sins.” Amen! And with these words, the things left undone are forgiven. The guilt is taken away. You don’t have to keep living your life as an apology. Christ forgives you for not meeting his standards, and he’ll forgive you for not meeting your own standards. The things left undone aren’t going to ruin your relationship with God.

When you feel guilty about the things you haven’t finished, be assured that at the cross Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30)."

"...God even uses sin for His glory. Where sin is, grace abounds (Romans 5:20; 2 Corinthians 9:8). I’m not telling you to go sin so that God can glorify Himself through you (Romans 3:7-8). Look up "antinomianism" in your dictionary of theological terms before you try that one. But I am telling you that God is bigger than our sin. That’s the main plot of the Bible—taking what Adam and Eve and everyone after them did wrong and making it right.

I don’t understand why God chooses to use even our sin to glorify Himself. But think about it. Is there anything He can’t use to glorify Himself? I don’t understand how He takes our worst, bypasses good and better, and fashions it into His best. That’s the definition of redemption, and that’s what makes Him God. We cannot screw up God’s plan. Read the end of the Book. His kingdom is bigger than our “royally.”"

Monday, November 06, 2006

iScrybe (Part 2)

Still waiting for my iScrybe log in...has anyone else been able to log in yet?