Serving Millennials on the Journey Toward Significant Life
Sign up to receive blog posts via email and receive a free eBook!

A Follow-Up to Yesterday’s Post

As I somewhat expected, the reaction to my post published yesterday was strong, from various perspectives. Love, hate, etc. I’m grateful for friends and connections who were comfortable enough to share their honest feedback with me. Rather than rehash my thinking and my possible errors I wanted to show you a conversation I had with a pastor after he read my post and contacted me. This follows below.

Tyler-

I usually love your posts/articles, and have quoted them in my messages.  This post is hateful, extreme, and beneath you.

PS- I am a life-long Democrat recently changed to Independent who did not vote for Trump.
Pastor (name hidden)
Dear Pastor (name hidden)-
I appreciate you reaching out. I hope you know my writing well enough to know I would never purposely intend something hateful.
I did my best to be clear this was how white evangelicals are perceived. I doubt any of those statements (in the post) are reflected in you. They aren’t reflective of me. But I do generally believe it is how a variety of outsiders see us. And I think it would do us some good to recognize that instead of rationalizing it.
I used some hyperbole to make that point. I recognize that. My apologies if I did a poor job of writing clearly.
Do you think my statements are reflective of our perception?
Tyler
Tyler,

Thank you for your response. We all use hyperbole to get a point across…Jesus used it extensively (“plank in the eye, swallow a camel”…), and I do not disagree that many view Christians/Evangelicals as you portrayed. I am also not unaware that many of those Klansmen attend church somewhere on Sundays. But just like “all Nazis were German” doesn’t mean “all Germans were Nazis”.
To equate the lynchings, cross-burnings and murder done in the name of the vile and evil KKK to a typical Christian evangelical is deeply unfair, and just perpetuates the stereotype that you note that the world has of Christians.
I pastor a small church that is app. 20% black, 20% hispanic, 5% Asian and 55% white. I had to think of these percentages just now, as we don’t categorize people that way, and in fact are much more likely to categorize people by age groups. I am very proud of our diversity, and cannot imagine a church where race is considered something to be concerned about. I am ashamed of some of the history of the white church, more because of what we have ignored, but I also embrace the fact that the Church was the leading force in emancipation and justice in our nation as well.
I look forward to your articles…this one just felt like throwing fuel on a bonfire. It is a tragic time, and as a pastor and a father, I am embarrassed and sickened by recent events in our country. This last election was the first that my 16 year-old daughter was old enough to follow closely, and I apologized to her many times over the fact that it was so base and ugly, and that the “final four” candidates surely were the worst ever presented in history…at least in the last 100 years!
Thanks for your response!
Pastor (name hidden)
Lastly another good friend of mine who took exception to the post shared this wonderful quote to me and I will leave it here without comment because it stands on its own.
“…most of the key leaders in the Civil Rights movement were evangelicals who were motivated by their faith and a deep sense of how Christian ethics should influence not just individuals, but also cultures—especially cultures that claimed to be strongly influenced by Christianity, such as the Jim Crow South. Like abolition in the 19th century, the Civil Rights movement had a strongly evangelical flavor.” -Nathan Finn (quoted from here)
  • Share on Tumblr

Are White Supremacists Really That Different From White Evangelicals?

After the events of Charlottesville and the near-universal repudiation of the march and actions of the group encompassing white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan, I found myself wondering how this group here generally referred to as white supremacists are different (or not) from how white evangelicals (of which I am one) are perceived. 

gettyimages-831222026

White supremacists march and protest and threaten violence due to the removal of confederate flags and statues.

White evangelicals march and protest and threaten violence due to the existence of abortion clinics.

White supremacists want to “take back our country” from other minorities who push a progressive left agenda.

White evangelicals want to “take back our country” for God from a progressive left agenda.

White supremacists helped elect President Trump.

White evangelicals helped elect President Trump.

White supremacists believe a violent response to their opposers is a right given by God.

White evangelicals believe a violent response to those seen as evil is a right given by God.

White supremacists have been labeled a discriminatory group by many outside organizations.

White evangelicals have been labeled a discriminatory group by many outside organizations.

White supremacists are primarily known for their disgust with skin colors other than their own.

White evangelicals are primarily known for their disgust with gay marriage.

White supremacists are often driven by Islamophobia.

White evangelicals are often driven by Islamophobia.

White supremacists call on the name of Jesus as the one who provides them authority.

White evangelicals call on the name of Jesus as the one who provides them authority.

White supremacists find their roots within white evangelicalism.

White evangelicals find their roots within white supremacy.

White supremacists are operating from a place of fear of losing their power.

White evangelicals are operating from a place of fear of losing their power.

[Image: Evelyn Hockstein]

Related Posts:

Whose Lives Matter?

The Church and White Privilege

The Problem So Easily Ignored: Race, Education, and Sacrifice

The Church and Race Issues

Being Black

 

  • Share on Tumblr

Bypassing Prayer for Action (God Isn’t Fixing This)

God Isn’t Fixing This.

That’s the headline from the Daily News in response to the shooting in San Bernadino 2 years ago. The cover includes a few tweets from Republicans leaders at the time, with emphasis added on the prayers they declared to offer. In the wake of tragedy everyone wants to offer thoughts and prayers. It’s the one thing we can do because tragic headline news makes us feel helpless against evil things.

dailynews

This past weekend a 5 year-old boy drowned in the river not far from my house. The local newspaper ran a few stories about the search for the missing boy, not declared dead for several days, while the search continued. Hundreds of comments poured in, the overwhelming majority simply said, “praying.” I must admit it strikes me as a weak response to such tragedy for the family.

Once you’ve seen enough tragedies you begin to think thoughts and prayers are not enough. Or maybe they aren’t needed. Or even worse, they’re just a way for people to deny their own part of working toward a solution.

Before the suspects in the San Bernadino mass shooting were found and killed in a gunfight, social media had reacted and then reacted to the reaction. You can consider this the backlash to the backlash against the reaction (figure that one out, why don’t you?).

As with every tragedy, people begin posting their simple status of “thoughts and prayers” for those affected by an awful event such as the one on a Wednesday afternoon in southern California. You can rinse and repeat this for every tragedy worldwide—people have the same online reaction to headline news tragedies and shootings coming at us day after day.

Sure the “thoughts and prayers” status update has gotten a little tired.

But does that make prayer a pointless act of “meaningless platitudes”? No.

It should be said that God’s Word is clear that faith without action is of no value. A work of God done on the interior of someone’s life will always result in external action. Consider 1st John 3:17-18:

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

But to use a verse like this to say the prayers of God’s people are of no value is ridiculous. This logic creates a false dichotomy where praying equals no action. The headlines could read, “Don’t offer prayers, do something!”

Henri Nouwen eloquently pokes a big hole in this perspective by saying,

Prayer without action grows into powerless pietism, and action without prayer degenerates into questionable manipulation. If prayer leads us into a deeper unity with the compassionate Christ, it will always give rise to concrete acts of service. And if concrete acts of service do indeed lead us to a deeper solidarity with the poor, the hungry, the sick, the dying, and the oppressed, they will always give rise to prayer” (Compassion, pg. 116, emphasis mine).

It is not prayer that needs critique, because prayer is what we need more of. Why? Because no prayer ends in prayer. Prayer leads to greater unity with God in Christ, and greater unity with God in Christ always leads to concrete acts of service.

Also, we should not elevate human action as the focal point of human life, because we recognize there is something beyond us, rather Someone beyond us that we need help from. Lamentations 3:25 says, “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.” We wait, in prayer, for God’s action, and His leading us in action, but this all begins with prayer.

In close, God may not be “fixing this” on the timeline we desire. The world may be torn asunder.

But God will fix this, and we invite Him to do so now, in prayer. Make me an instrument of your peace, Lord.

Maranatha.

  • Share on Tumblr

Fast Food Faith

Last week I drove by a McDonald’s at 5:30pm only to find a drive thru line over 10 cars deep, wrapping all the way around the restaurant into the surrounding parking lot. I said to the people in the car with me, “People still eat at McDonald’s?!?” Ignorance is bliss I guess. I certainly don’t eat the healthiest, but I do draw the line at fast food. Oh, and I rarely use the drive thru (though that may have more to do with my power window being broken than some ideological position on drive thrus, it’s possible).

fast food drive thruWhile I tend to point a finger at those who would eat the “food” available through the drive thru window of so-called restaurants, I’m certainly not adept at allowing for slow change in my life. If something doesn’t come quickly, I’ll move onto the next thing.

I’ve noticed something in myself and I see it in other Christians, and subsequently in other churches as well—there’s a pull toward something that on the outside looks like it will quickly meet a felt need. We’re drawn to things that will scratch the itch, put a salve on the wound, and provide a quick boost. But rarely do these things change the trajectory of our lives.

Talk to anyone involved in helping individuals change—psychologists, physical therapists, financial advisors, AA sponsors—they all teach that change offers no short cuts.

This is the struggle of change: our minds are like rubber bands; they want to revert back to the status quo after being stretched.

It takes incredible patience to change.

Eugene Peterson describes this well in his book on discipleship, saying, “There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness” (A Long Obedience in the Same Direction).

A friend of mine recently told me he chose the church he’s part of because he thought the pastor had depth lacking in many of the other pastors he’d interacted with. I found his reasoning to be refreshing, yet rare. Most often I hear of people choosing a church or a book to read or music to listen to because it seems to scratch an itch they have.

Christians, in choosing to follow Christ, enter an ongoing journey toward Christlikeness. But this journey offers no short cuts. And the destination is both realized and far off, at the same time. From this stable foundation of your realized destination (you are in Christ, seated in the heavenly realms) you can endure the slow process of change, knowing God’s timing is always best.

  • Share on Tumblr

Valuing the Ignored Virtue of Charity

The Catholic tradition has long emphasized charity as a needed virtue in those who would follow Christ. They not only recognize charity as financial generosity, but also in the love of man toward God, and in the love of neighbor. But who is your neighbor? Is it only the person you live directly next to? Jesus says who your neighbor is must be seen as far more expansive.

To truly love your neighbor the way Jesus envisions is to love your enemy—whether this enemy is philosophical, physical, or idealogical. To your love enemy, you must give them charity.

Today society does not understand charity. Differences are exposed, commidified, and leveraged for gain. Middle ground is a waste land. What we’re left with is a world in which people are condensed down to their positions, left to cluster with the like-minded, together throwing stones at those opposed.

Last week the President of the United States shared a video of him at a pro wrestling event, only the video was edited to show him body slamming a person with a CNN logo on their head. The President has been decidedly opinionated on CNN throughout the election process and his attacks on the network have only ramped up since he entered the Oval Office last November.

The President believes the network as a whole is against him. And what do you do with those opposed to you and your leadership? You disparage. You attack. You point fingers. You might read my description here as an indictment against the President, but it is most certainly not. The President is often a reflection of the people, and the way the current President handles his dissenters is most certainly a reflection of us.

In my interactions with people from various walks of life, I notice a lack of nuance, a lack of open-handed opinions. In short, there is a lack of charity. And in my moments of weakness, I am reflected in this. You are too. Right?

My presupposition is this: I am not drawn to charity toward my neighbor. Instead, I am drawn to divide, to conquer, to finish on top. So I must counteract my natural bent so I’m in a position to more easily give charity to those who are different than me.

Rather than simply dismissing people who are different than you, we must learn to value difference. How do I try to accomplish this? By focusing on two separate principles:

Read, Listen, Watch Widely

I purposely read, listen, and watch widely, especially pursuing things I would not naturally be drawn to. I don’t naturally listen to rap and hip-hop, but I listen to it and learn to appreciate it. I do not naturally follow Fox News or The New Yorker or MSNBC, but I expose myself to all of them. If something grates at me, I consider it all the more valuable.

I try to read right-leaning and left-leaning sources as it relates to current events. Why? Living in an echo chamber of continual validation of your own presuppositions is a dangerous place to be.

Engaging widely allows you to hear the arguments from proponents and naysayers on their own terms, instead of making assumptions. Even in spaces where I still disagree with the final assessment, engaging widely helps me to be able to understand various positions in their best light.

In spite of all this, I do draw the line at country music. No way. Never. Some things are beyond redemption and benefit to me.

Learning Leads to Humility

You might assume that learning pushes a person on a trajectory toward pride. As you gain knowledge,  you begin to believe your understanding is right and best, slowly seeing yourself as better than those around you. But I’ve had the exact opposite experience.

While I’ve never been an exceptional student, I’ve had the opportunity to pursue a graduate level degree. One perspective on education has gone with me through each level of my studies: I don’t know very much.

As you learn more, you expose yourself to the reality of new things, you find more and more spaces that you don’t know much about. As it relates to learning from people with differing perspectives than your own, you will grow in humility by realizing they have valid reasons and experiences that led them to where they are.

Never has the virtue of charity been more needed than now. As middle ground dries up, as opposing sides hurl stones of accusation back and forth, charity springs forth a well of

As middle ground dries up, as opposing sides hurl stones of accusation back and forth, charity springs forth a well of relational opportunity to love our neighbors.

  • Share on Tumblr

What I’ve Learned About Navigating Difficult Choices

I recognize that at the age of 32 I am nowhere near being an expert at navigating difficult choices. In fact, you should probably stop reading this because I’ll have a whole new set of items for navigating difficult choices in another 10 years after making a myriad of mistakes between now and then.

Some of the biggest decisions I’ve made—whether to move to a new church or whether to buy a home—were the culmination of years of continued processing from various angles. I tend to make decisions slower than average, especially bigger decisions, because I want to make sure several key components are all in line.

These components are especially vital for me in making big decisions, but they’re also in play for smaller decisions. My choice for US President in the 2016 election did not have the same weight in my personal life as the choice of whether or not to buy a home, but I still utilized all of these components.

We approach opportunities to make decisions every minute of every day, but most of those are not what I would categorize as “difficult” decisions. But every so often, decisions with positives and negatives on both sides come up, and they need extra attention to process well.

Here’s the 3 main components I use in navigating difficult decisions:

What Does God’s Word Say

Now, let me be clear, The Bible is not a map showing you which way to drive to go from your current location to your future destination. The Bible is not an answer book that will provide you with a simple “yes” or “no” to your question.

The Bible is a compass that points to Jesus. The Bible is a guide that cultivates your heart in order for you to enter into the life God is orchestrating. The Bible helps provide a framework for us to understand God’s will in many situations, so we should obey it in those situations where truth is found with clarity. In situations where it is

The Bible helps provide a framework for us to understand God’s will in many situations, so we should obey it in those situations where truth is found with clarity. In situations where it is not we continue mine God’s Word allowing it to cultivate in us the ability to hear from God and to follow where He is leading.

What Do Respected Leaders Say

You might include your pastor here, or a ministry leader within your church, or a respected individual within your community. You might include some of your favorite writers. The key here is to look to people who you not only find to be wise, but are also respected by others beyond just yourself.

For instance, if Tim Keller wrote a book on the importance of the rootedness of Christians near their local church, I would more highly value living close to my church. Or if Dave Ramsey wrote about the importance of living debt-free, I would avoid taking on debt at all costs.

In the case of some of my largest decisions, the voices of respected people around me were the most important component, and in the case of other people navigating difficult decisions, I would say this is the most neglected component.

Be the kind of person who asks for help and asks for advice, you’ll be surprised how willing others are to walk through these decisions with you.

What Does My Spouse Say (or Family or Close Friends)

Usually this is the first step, not the last. What does the person or people close to you say? Unless I have a huge need to push in a certain direction, if my wife says no I stop dead in my tracks. As with everyone, there’s a certain amount of trust and wisdom I give to those closest to me, so their level of input in my difficult decisions varies.

In the dreaming step of making large decisions, my wife is my sounding board. If an idea gets past her then I usually begin the step of more focused listening to God and navigating conversations with respected leaders. But, this all starts with my wife and my family having input.

I’m sure you could list plenty of other important components to navigating difficult decisions, but these 3 have proven to be an effective core list for me.

Anything you think I’m missing?

[Image: Dillon Klassen]

  • Share on Tumblr
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. © 2014 by Tyler Braun. Designed and coded by Paul Bae...