Jesus as Community Organizer

I hesitate to venture into the turbulent political waters that my title might suggest. I have waited a few days so that emotions can subside a bit, including my own. :-) But I am disturbed by both the right and the left, by both Republican and Demoncrat….by Christians on both sides of the aisle. I am disturbed by many things but I am particularly alarmed by bringing Jesus into the conversation in such a way that it enables and excites political sniping and sneering.

Give me a few paragraphs to get to my point….so hang in with me. :-)

The Obama campaign has appropriately highlighted Obama’s time as a community organizer which reflects his investment in and social concern for community life. Whether one agrees with the kind of community organizing he did (and I’m not interested in that question in this post), it does say something about his social consciousness and willingness to work in the trenches. That should be applauded.

Unfortunately, when the choice of Palin as the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee was announced, the Obama campaign seemed to belittle her role as a “small town” mayor and often referring to her as “mayor” without also mentioning her executive role as Governor of a State. Some heard this as a put-down of her experience as mayor. Yet, being a small town mayor (and previously involved in community events like PTA, etc.) reflects a similar interest in community similiar to community organizers.

So, the stage was set for a tick-for-tack. Palin–seemingly in response to the Obama camp’s devaluation of her mayoral experience–retorted: “I guess a small town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities.” It was a humorous jab. I think Palin had a point–a mayor is an elected official with fiscal public trust unlike a community organizer. However, to cast community organizers in a negative light is problematic because I would suggest community organizers are important in our culture.

The Democratic response to Palin’s zing was unfortunate. Multiple voices within the Democratic party replied with their own zinger: “Jesus was a community organizer; Pontius Pilate was a governor.” This is also a humorous jab. The valid point, I think, is that no one should undervalue what a community organizer does, but at the same time the negative tone protrays governors–only Palin?–in horrendous light.

I find the whole scenario distasteful. As Christ-followers, we honor community service, mayors, senators, and governors. They are all modes of public service. None deserve a negative put-down.

I imagine that Palin really does value community organizers and Obama really does value governors–both have said as much. But the political climate won’t permit genuine mutual appreciation without some kind of murderous thrust with the political sword–it is like a kiss that kills (remember Judas?).

But what is most disturbing to me is how Jesus has been used in the service of a political zinger….and Christians themselves have promoted such use. To use Jesus as political bard in order to shore up a Republican or Democrat is subversive to the mission of Jesus itself.

On the one hand, not all community organizing is the sort of thing in which Jesus would be involved. It is not carte blanche, right? On the other hand, the kind of community organizing Jesus did was to organize his own community–to “build” his “church,” to call a group of disciples into a community for the sake of society.

The community of Jesus is distinct; a different community; an alternative community. At the same time the community Jesus organized is not isolationist. The Jesus community invests itself in people, serving the needs of the hurting and wounded. The Jesus community heals, reconciles, and makes peace. The Jesus community speaks prophetically to society, including politicians. The Jesus community speaks for the weak, oppressed and neglected. But when Christians, whether Democrat or Republican, treat others with derision, condescenion, and disrespect, they conform to this world rather than being transformed by the renewal of God’s Spirit.

When we participate in political rancor, hurt and “cursing” (treating people as less than the image of God), we abdicate our responsiblity as light and salt in the world. Christ-followers should leaven the political acrimony and expose the political venom to the light.

Unfortunately, it appears we are no different; we are not distinct prophets but inflamed participants. We have become pepper rather than salt. We have been warring in the darkness rather than seeking peace in the light.



37 Responses to “Jesus as Community Organizer”

  1.   Dan Smith Says:

    JM,
    Thanks for this. Our Wed night is a discussion of “Christian Ethics.” We just finished several weeks on the Christian’s participation in war/law enforcement. What fun!!

    Beginning this week, we will look at the question of Christian participation in politics (we have Reps, Dems, Libs, and “who cares?”.

    I have spent a lot of time at this site and found some helpful thoughts:

    http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/Government–Politics/

    God bless,
    Dan

  2.   Q Says:

    I always dislike when major national elections are held. Not because I don’t appreciate democracy or am no longer awed at the literal miracle that takes place (peaceful handing over of power from one administration to the next? Even over gigantic rifts in policy and conviction? Astonishing.) I hate, however, what I see it do to my family in Christ.

    I have reasons for voting the way I do — and they’re based heavily in my Christian conviction. I assume others have equally valid reasons to vote (or not to vote) the ways in which they do as well. But I get so frustrated at the overwhelming assumption that All Christians Vote One Way — whichever Way that happens to be depends a lot on geography, I think.

    Anyhow, if my brothers and sisters are acting in accordance with their convictions, I owe it to them to respect that, even when I disagree. And that’s what’s heartbreaking to me, that so many believe that unless you vote a certain way and unless you’re militant on a certain handful of issues, you’re not a *real* Christian; your faith is suspect and your salvation is questionable.

    I wish that the ugliness and hypocrisy and name-calling and snarking on both sides, from civilians and politicians alike, could just STOP long enough to deal with the issues that are strangling the nation and gimping up the world.

    The kingdom of God is bigger than any nation and any political party and I can’t wait for the day that God’s rule is the only sovereignty we answer to.

  3.   Tim Archer Says:

    I frankly get a bit concerned when I see how much time kingdom people spend on politics. I sometimes wonder if they couldn’t be spending that time more fruitfully for God’s kingdom, then I get scared thinking that some of them might not be able to!

    I hope I can.

  4.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    Well said!

    -Rex

  5. Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    A political party, or whom we may support in a political election, does not define discipleship in Jesus.

    That is a central point, Q, as you note.

  6. Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Dan,

    You must like a broad Reformed stance toward government as pictured at monergism.com. I have some appreciation for that stanpoint but tend to be more Anabaptist in my orientation than Reformed.

  7.   John Holton Says:

    John Mark, I appreciate your blog and, particularly the unfortunate interjection of our Lord in a totally manipulative manner.
    As an addendum to your comments on “communitty organizer”: A community organizer is not an elected official – or an official at all;.. he/she is hired by a special interest group an an agitator to manipulate voting for or against an issue. It is also not to be equated with “community service” as normally refers to volunteerism. The community organizer is a professional hired-gun who, in many situations, is paid very handsomely to work in the “trenches” without actually living in the trenches.

  8. Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Thanks for your compliment and encouragement. I realize a community organizer is not an elected official. That is why I mentioned the “pubic trust” with regard to the role of mayor. I do think, however, community organizers come in many forms and includes community service. I don’t think they can always be characterized as agitators or professional hired-guns. My defintion is broader though your definition may or may not apply to Obama–that I don’t know.

  9.   richard constant Says:

    your definition may or may not apply to Obama–that I don’t know.
    I’ve put this up just for your information John Mark and anyone else that wants to research it.

    The agenda of this type of community service is very questionable.

    Anyway wonderful post I think you were right in your previous post.

    When it is really all about the agenda of the individual.

    If I were really listening to what you’re saying it would be an extremely opportune time to talk politics and have an agenda of working it into the Christ event.

    Opportunities are all over the place.
    When the salt loses its savor we have no one to blame but ourselves.

    Blessings my friend.

    [John Mark: I have edited out the details of Obama's community service. I don't want this forum to turn into a political pro/con. His details are irrelevant to my point. Anyone who wants to know the details of Obama's service in the Chicago community can find the information elsewhere quite easily.]

  10.   Steve Kenney Says:

    I have recently admitted that I have frankly become uncomfortable in Christian assemblies this year for the first time in my life. Quick catch: I was a little uncomfortable in 1992 when our pulpiteer announced “if you don’t vote Republican this fall, then I’ve got to wonder what’s wrong with your head!!” but that did not become a theme of his preaching so I was able to ignore a one-time jab.

    The point is well-stated. It’s not that I’m a zealot in either direction, but I know that half the population, judging from recent electoral results, does not agree with the assumed political stances of our churches.

    But some will say “we don’t take an explicit political stance!” Really? If someone joins your email circle of friends, what do the forwards say? If someone walks through your parking lot, what do the bumper stickers say? If someone walks casually through the crowd after dismissal, what candidate or political party is the butt of jokes and eye-rolling?

    We have neglected our mission. We have set aside the high calling of God and have started fussing over trifles. And if I, as a lifetime church attender and as a preaching minister for 25 years often feel uncomfortable and even unwelcome in our assemblies, what about the first time non-Republican visitor?

    Maybe part of becoming “all things to all people” is NOT becoming some things….

    Grace & Peace,
    Steve Kenney

  11. Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Steve,

    This is one reason I even oppose the American flag in the assembly as it identifies the assembly with America. And if our sermonizing, political talk and bumper stickers identify us as partisans, then we erect barriers to the gospel for some.

    I agree–maybe we should not become some things so that we don’t bar some from hearing the good news of the kingdom of God.

    John Mark

  12.   caleb Says:

    I agree totally with you Mark. Any nationalization of our assembled worship services can detract from the message of Christ. Its not that we can’t be proud Americans and Christians at the same time, but I feel that we as the church want to put Christ so far ahead of any other competing allegiances. Needless to say I loathe the typical 4th of July service.

  13. Avatar of Adam Metz  Adam Metz Says:

    Very well said. I think the church will need to find prophetic voices that can guide us through this (and forthcoming) election seasons. They will be prophetic voices from the fringe calling us into account for our American nationalism and patriotism that has taken the place of discipleship in too many (most?) churches.

  14.   benwiles Says:

    When you look at what happens to people when they are put in power (see the Pharisees and teachers of the Law in Luke 11), voting for someone begins to look like one of the most unloving things you can do to another human being.

  15.   weswoodell Says:

    Well, either way it’s fun to watch. :)

  16.   richard constant Says:

    One thing I’ll say, never in all my years would I ever have thought that I would get an education and mind you a thorough education, by way of almost every avenue giving me a definitive explanation, from all those points of view, of exactly what a community organizer is.

    How many more days left 45-50 this is only been going on two weeks, boy oh boy!

    I think my mom would have said “this is just pitiful” trying to laugh turnaround go on back into the kitchen.

    To make that cream cheese pie that I like so much.
    Yep! she was a true community organizer and the community was her family.
    :-)
    blessings all.

  17.   T Gagnon Says:

    Weeding through all of the “rhetoric” of the blog entry and resulting responses, all I seem to hear is the age-old isolationist stance of the Church of Christ that has kept Christians out of the political dialogue. “We are set far above all of this and that makes us superior!” But doesn’t that exclude us from taking ANY stance for the cause of Christ if we stay home and do not vote or become involved because we are so much “better” and above the rancor of the political scene. I don’t think withdrawing is the answer. We can be separate from the “world” and at the same time let our voices be heard for the cause of Christ. I don’t see the political debate as a proverbial black and white, concrete situation. Maybe that’s what makes people withdraw. The complexities of politics are intimidating so Christians easily, unilaterally decide they shouldn’t be involved because they’re intimidated.
    Instead of promoting an isolationist stance for Christians maybe you should be promoting education, proper behavior for Christians who believe involvement is vital to the future of all Christians, John Mark.

  18.   richard constant Says:

    everything screws up from the top down.
    you fix it from the bottom up.
    change yourself
    then
    change your neighbor,

    you change the world.

    i think that is how it was done.

  19.   Nick Gill Says:

    You’re very right, Gagnon. It isn’t black and white (ironically — it IS on the surface, but that is not what it really is).

    It is power vs. power. One of my professors once said that the powers of this world only have two tools at their disposal — violence and manipulation.

    Both sides try to manipulate the voting populace by doing violence to one another.

    I’ve posted the fruits of some recent conversations I’ve had on this topic over at Fumbling Towards Eternity.

    As the evangelical bloc loses political clout, the churches of Christ will be more and more tempted to move out of their faux-isolation and into more public stances for “conservative” causes. Two things will cause this: our general 10-year lag behind evangelicals in EVERYTHING, and the fact that our arrogant isolationist stance has been a luxury allowed only because “the denominations” were already fighting the battles we supported.

    Finally, I’m not sure how you read isolationist teaching into JM’s post. Did you read this?

    “The community of Jesus is distinct; a different community; an alternative community. At the same time the community Jesus organized is not isolationist. The Jesus community invests itself in people, serving the needs of the hurting and wounded. The Jesus community heals, reconciles, and makes peace. The Jesus community speaks prophetically to society, including politicians. The Jesus community speaks for the weak, oppressed and neglected.”

    Sounds pretty clear: we are to be deeply engaged, not at all isolated. But we are to reject, not grasp for, opportunities for worldly power. We work in the power of the Spirit, not the power of the American Dream.

  20. Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Gagnon,

    I’m glad you joined the discussion. My intent is not isolationist nor superiority. Rather, it is loving engagement without derision and malice toward our neighbors whether Democrat or Republican.

    I don’t think intimidation or complexity is the problem. Prophets speak to the issues rather than withdraw from them. But they do not participate in what subverts the mission of Jesus by their language and demeanor.

    Actually, behavior was my point in the post, Gagnon. Let us behave as salt and light in the world for the sake of the world.

    Blessings, my friend.

  21.   Terrell Lee Says:

    My point is not the issue but a principle behind the issue. However, in order to illustrate I will draw from something specific but not for political discussion, please.

    Yesterday (9-16-08), both Biden and McCain said the Feds should not bail out AIG, that the burden should not be placed on the tax payers. But the Feds did bail out AIG with $85 billion.

    Today (9-17-08), supporters of both parties asked if Biden and McCain were wrong and no one would say “yes” or “no.” Just more rhetoric.

    Here’s my point. In my ministry, sometimes situations are clearly “yes” or “no.” More frequently, it is far more a matter of making a call based on the best information I have at my disposal or having to choose among undesirable options. While I am committed to remaining true to my principles, I can apply my principles only on the basis of the available information and wisdom. I would like for people to give me a little grace when I’m struggling in such circumstances rather than try to point out perceived inconsistencies in my words/actions. As information and options become available, today’s “no” may become tomorrow’s “yes” and I could be true to my principles with both responses.

    Confusing enough? Or does that make a little sense.

  22.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    I realize this post was not about disengagment of the world but the funny thing is that as far as I know, prior to the Constantinian conversion Christians did not involve themselves in the business affairs of this world. Instead they went about the business of the kingdom and had an amazin impact. Enter a post-Constantine church and you have an increasing involvment of Christians in the business affairs of the world. This eventually led to nationalistic sense of Christianity so much that Christians are killing other Christians in support of the bussiness affairs of the world. Enter the 20th century and that same nationalism is taken to such extreme that even when the nation chooses to do something that clearly is defined as injustice (Nazi Holocaust), many Christians stood behind the nation in support. One could even argue that this has happened with the invasion of Iraq (which from a Christian just-war point of view, defies the just-war criterion).

    My point is not to belittle Christian involvement, so long as that involvement is ethical and in line with the goals of God’s will for the world. In fact, I have voted in every election that I was elgible to vote in (although I have questioned whether I want to vote this year or not). My point is to show that historically when Christians have involved themselves in the business affairs of this world, by in large it has led to unforunate consequences. Where as when Christians occupied themselves soley with the business of God’s kingdom, there witness was more powerful than we truly can fathom (yet remain in awe of).

    At the end of the day, it is our Christian witness that concerns me. As Christians, we are called to bear witness to the good news of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. That is, we testify that there is one soveriegn Kingdom and Jesus Christ is its Lord (King). My concern is that most of the current Christian involvment in secular politics does not bear faitfully this witness to which we have been called too. And that should be a concern for all Christians.

    Is it any wonder why North America has become a post-Christian culture?

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  23.   T Gagnon Says:

    I’m so glad my post at least provided the “grist” for sorely needed debate. I’m by nature a very private person. However, events in my life have changed that to a significant degree.

    Yes, Rex there is no wonder why North America and the Northwest, in particular, where I live has become a post-Christian culture. I try to live above that but it is very difficult.

    Despite the best of intentions of those who support McCain/Palin the ugliness persists. I sympathize with that. I persist in my inobtrusive way to support a woman who made the choice to be in public office, bare a child she knew would be significantly handicapped with love beyond all measure and still persist in office. That takes the love of the “Master of All” to go on. Anyone who underestimates that…I feel sorry for.

    How can anyone cast aspersions on someone like that? I, myself, have a child with special needs and know the challenges that entails.

    Despite her limitations (and mine) I have imeasurable admiration, respect and awe for Mrs. Palin. We can debate the world scene, the domestic scene but only one who has dealt with the handicapped scene knows how “tough” and “knowledgable” one has to be to make sure they’re child gets the services they need in this world. Someone who can smile, have so much energy, obvious love of the Lord and generate hope and change has my vote a million times over.
    If you take exception, let yourself be heard.

  24.   T Gagnon Says:

    I agree with the quote of Nick Gill. We should be an alternate community who invests in the hurting, the ones who look to reconciliation, peace, and search for reconciliation. I search and hope for reality in those areas from Jennifer, John Hicks. Maybe someday she will do that with me.

  25.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    Gagnon,

    I have no objections to Sarah Palin per se. She appears to be as qualified as anyone to the office of VP. I wish people who disagree with McCain/Palin would do so in a respectful manner (and Christian for those who are Christians) just as I wish the same for those who disagree with Obama/Biden. Nevertheless, from where I stand it appears that many Christians have become more passionate about who they elect to a civil office than the One whom they confess and are called to follow. This seems to have severely crippled the ability to bear authentic Christian witness.

    Thanks for the conversation!

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  26. Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    The point of my post was to, in fact, call everyone to a Christian discussion…a discussion savored with salt, peace, mutual understanding and respect. I, too, dislike the disrespectful way in which politicians and their supporters on both sides demean each other.

    I like Sarah Palin, as she is presented to us in the media. She seems to be a person who got involved in politics for the sake of her community rather than her ambition. But I can only speak of what “seems” since I have no direct access to her or her story. :-)

    Blessings

    John Mark

  27.   Joshua Whitson Says:

    Dr. Hicks,
    I appreciate our post. I have lost the desire to engage in political discussion with my peers because issues are never the fodder for such discussions but rather ugly political sniping. If it is okay I am going to link to your post from my blog site because you have articulated well what I have been feeling. As for the response discussion above, I in no way view your comments as a message to abstain from the process or that we are better than them. Rather you have called us to faithful witness to the name we wear and the message we proclaim. Thanks!

    Are you going to be teaching again at LU anytime soon? I am now in the MDiv program and although I took Systematic Theology in undergrad with you I would love to have more intensive Grad class with you on this! Peace!

  28. Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Link all you want, my friend!

  29.   Vic McCracken Says:

    John Mark, et al.,

    Thanks for the most stimulating discussion. I’ve got a lot of reactions to what I’ve been reading, so I’ll do my best to pare them down to something manageable :-)

    John Mark correctly calls us to exhibit Christian humility and charity in our public conversations about politics, a call that seems to me indisputable. I think more work needs to be done, however, to clarify the pragmatics of this call. What do you, John Mark, believe that humility and charity entail in public conversation about matters of dire importance about which we disagree? It seems to me that, aside from the manifest overstatements and sniping that have become par this election season, there is nothing wrong with earnest, zealous disagreement. People like me care passionately about the current election because we believe passionately that we face dire circumstances on many fronts; I suspect those who disagree with me politically feel the same way. The pragmatic question concerns how to discuss these concerns without killing one another or allowing our conversations to devolve into ad hominem attacks.

    Further, I think we all should be at least a bit wary of the language of humility and charity in light of recent history. Reading through these posts, I am reminded of an article from the 1963 Christian Chronicle (available in Don Haymes online collection at http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/race/haymes34.html). The article reprinted letters from readers speaking about recent calls for desegregation. A few sample quotes from the article strike me as a little too close to some of the disdain expressed in recent posts about “human” politics. The letters to the editor intend to explain why desegregation is something that the church should not get involved with. Maybe those of you who believe that Christians should stay out of human politics can explain how this call is different than the call that segregationists were making in our own tradition almost 50 years ago:

    “I have been wondering how long before the Christian papers would quit carrying news of the Church and begin to dabble in World affairs. Some of the large denominations are trying to make headlines by taking sides in the force race issue and our Brethren can’t let them get ahead.

    I am fully persuaded that if all publicity was cut off this issue, it would die overnight and we could go back to our task of teaching love rather than hatred. . . .

    Would you say the leaders of forced integration are abiding by this law of grace? Are they teaching love or hatred? Phil. 2:3 “Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other[sic] better than themselves.” Is this the motive behind the integration movement?”

    The second letter is, in my view, even more striking in that the spirit in which it is written is mild and thoughtful. This is what makes the letter all the more troubling:

    “I read the recent issue on the race problem. And, I must say some of those letters were ugly. They didn’t sound right.

    Let us hope they were written with the right spirit. I wonder.

    Since we are not under a pope or bishop, don’t you think this is something for each congregation to work out for themselves? I do.

    I worship with a strong congregation. There are no Negro members. They have a number of congregations of their own. Now if a Negro or more comes to this church, they will be seated wherever there is a vacant seat.

    I don’t know what any other congregation will do; that is their problem. This race problem will be worked out if the young preachers don’t get too enthusiastic.

    The Lord’s church is not a denomination; therefore, it doesn’t have to make public statements as to where it stands on anything; politics and what not. I don’t want to be pessimistic but the world won’t be converted over night.

    The Lord must have had a reason for making some people black. I do not think I am better than a Negro who is Christian. I am not as good as Brother Keeble; he has done so much. It seems that the Negro resents being black. He shouldn’t; God wants him that way. I think he should be happy and be what he is.

    This letter is written with sincerity and good will. Best wishes to all.”

    Now my claim is not that John Mark or anyone else here is racist or that you would agree with the sentiments of these letters. I think all of us would rightly denounce the idea that desegregation and human equality are “worldly” interests that have no connection to the gospel. But here is the point: to the degree that this inequality was nested within a web of legislative, executive, and judicial institutions and practices it becomes very difficult to imagine a prophetic witness against racial injustice in America without prophetically engaging this web, as MLK did, in spite of white moderate warnings that he was stirring up too much dissension. That is, nonviolent direct action–street demonstrations, sit-ins, public protests, and direct challenges to unjust laws rooted in racial prejudice–were the witness of the church at the same time that they were thoroughly political. They were also, I might add, perceived as uncivil by some Christian leaders who questioned the charity of such actions.

    Why do I bring this up? I do so because it seems to me that all of our calls for humility, charity, and countercultural witness are comfortable words indeed for people like us who live relatively secure lives. I think John Mark is correct to name the political sniping for what it is. I am worried, however, that the general tone of this conversation feeds a disdain for human politics (is there any other kind?) that perpetuates an unfortunate blindness to the systemic realities that contribute to poverty, racial injustice, and environmental decline.

    –Vic McCracken
    Assistant Professor of Theology and Ethics
    Abilene Christian University

  30.   rich constant Says:

    Vic
    what I find so interesting is the Internet, we sit in our homes and share our ideas over this blog and God only knows who reads them.
    Another interesting thing about the Internet is that I can look up the work of a community organizer in Chicago.
    Or I can find the history of a fighter pilot, just by typing in his name.

    The underlying issue is that we all must make our personal decisions based upon information, how and where we get the information granted is a personal choice.
    This electronic media the instantaneous media, has changed considerably from Martin Luther King’s day, to say nothing of our cultural identities.

    What is interesting about it is that I can ask John Mark what’s going on in Tennessee, and just like that I can get an answer, it’s not filtered by a newspaper publisher and editor but from someone that I can trust from a perception that I can trust someone that I know is fair and balanced. Ha ha, and yes John Mark that’s a compared to what… :-)

    It seems to me it’s all about balance and perception.the perception of the world and how we get our information and where we get our information and then how do we use our information.
    Here’s an analogy, if I put a board that is 12 inches wide on the ground do we have trouble walking on it, absolutely not. although, take that same 12 inch wide walkway make that into a steel girder put it 17 stories up which is around 200 feet and walk on it what is the difference?

    You might consider that subjective perception, my perception is not the same perception as yours,

    Victor
    when’s the last time that you walked into a black congregation of the church of Christ. granted, you might be black, I don’t know but if you’re not, have you done that, I’m sure you must have because you brought up racial injustice also Victor when’s the last time you went downtown dressed in yard cloths and shared a cup of coffee and a conversation with a homeless person and maybe even said hey I got a buck or two hears a buck or two.
    What I’m saying is we all make our personal choices based on our information and our ability to adapt to social and cultural changes.
    We also try to facilitate change in a good way, as each of us perceives and understands the graceful walk of our Lord.

    And then put on our glasses so that we we refact reality in a way that is comfortable for us and know for a fact that it is me that does not have beam in my eye.

    the point .
    We do what we can from our perspective our own personal perspective based upon how we perceive the world, and our neighbor,
    and pray whole bunch I hope.

    Blessings all rich in California

  31. Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Vic,

    I appreciate your reminder that evil is structurally present in the human political system and that part of the prophetic witness is to participate in the agenda to uproot that evil through all available godly means. Political means should be used where the goal of righteousness can be furthered. I don’t have a problem with that.

    Part of the debate within the election, it seems to me, is to identify what is the best means to uproot that evil through the poltical system we have. I would suggest that McCain-Palin supporters can argue that their method is as “Christian” as Obama-Biden supporters. I don’t find it clear-cut myself, nor do I think either political party has a clear commitment to what I regard as the kingdom of God.

    My call is not for disengagement, but for engagement in ways–with language and methods–that honor our commitment to the inbreaking of the kingdom of God.

    I am not a total Lipscombite on this issue. Human politics are a necessity, and they are appropriate means of change in our context. But I do think that there is a significant problem on both the right and left where the politics of the election are pragmatically equated with the kingdom of God itself. That is what I would like to avoid.

    But the essence of my original post was a cry for calm, a cry for Christian demeanor, a cry to salt rather than pepper. But it is not a cry for disengagement or isolationism.

    Thanks for your contribution, Vic.

  32.   Vic McCracken Says:

    Hey Rich, thanks for your comments and questions. In reply: I am white, but I was the preaching minister back int he early nineties for a black Church of Christ in Hamlin, TX, a congregation that’s history grew out of the segregation era. As for your question about drinking a cup of coffee with a homeless person, while I was in San Antonio one of my regular habits was to drive downtown, buy a meal for a homeless person on the street (not hard to find in SA), and eat a meal with him. I had the opportunity to hear many stories, and I suspect that I benefited more from the experience than did my homeless neighbor. I’ve also served among the working poor in Atlanta, as an intern at a Christian food cooperative and nonprofit ministry striving to develop living wage jobs for inner city Atlantans. I agree with you that we have much to gain from these paltry individual gestures. My point is that we should be careful not to reduce our Christian witness to these. There is so much more to be done, and some of this work will involve confronting directly those political and social systems that contribute to the problems of poverty and racism in our country.

    John Mark, thanks for your reply. To clarify, I don’t hear you calling for isolationism (this comes through a bit more in some of the replies to your original post). I do still worry a bit that talk about “Christian demeanor” needs to be parsed more explicitly. That term pulls people in many different directions. This was my point in bringing up the civil rights experience. White ministers were challenging the “Christian demeanor” of MLK, suggesting that the antagonism he brought into local communities was unChristian. My question: if today we can acknowledge MLK’s antagonisms as examples of prophetic Christian witness then shouldn’t we be open to the possibility that prophetic witness today may call for something akin to this kind of antagonism about matters of economic injustice that are no less pressing in our own world?

    I hasten to add that I see neither Obama nor McCain as prophets in this sense, but I do see my support of one of the candidates as an outgrowth of commitments that are at the heart of my conception of God’s kingdom.

  33. Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Vic,

    Sorry, brother, I think I ignored your segregation analogy.

    I would hope–though I recognize that I am an encultured human being–that I would have marched with King, supported Civil Rights legislation, and spoken prophetically from not only my pulpit but also in public rallies during the 1960s. But, then again, I know my own fallibility and self-righteousness too well to believe that I would have actually reached beyond my circumstances.

    Seeing the political system as a means to an end within our Republic is appropriate but, in my opinion, pursued through the fruits of the Spirit.

    I appreciate passion, and I have passion for the kingdom of God, and I can understand passion in this electoral season. What I cannot appreciate is how believers use the electoral season to divide believers based on political party, political preferences, and opinions about the best political “solutions” to some of the structural evil in the world.

    I appreciate your training, thought and passion, my friend.

  34.   Vic McCracken Says:

    Hey Rich, thanks for your comments and questions. In reply: I am white, but I was the preaching minister back int he early nineties for a black Church of Christ in Hamlin, TX, a congregation that’s history grew out of the segregation era. As for your question about drinking a cup of coffee with a homeless person, while I was in San Antonio one of my regular habits was to drive downtown, buy a meal for a homeless person on the street (not hard to find in SA), and eat a meal with him. I had the opportunity to hear many stories, and I suspect that I benefited more from the experience than did my homeless neighbor. I’ve also served among the working poor in Atlanta, as an intern at a Christian food cooperative and nonprofit ministry striving to develop living wage jobs for inner city Atlantans. I agree with you that we have much to gain from these paltry individual gestures. My point is that we should be careful not to reduce our Christian witness to these. There is so much more to be done, and some of this work will involve confronting directly those political and social systems that contribute to the problems of poverty and racism in our country.

    John Mark, thanks for your reply. To clarify, I don’t hear you calling for isolationism (this comes through a bit more in some of the replies to your original post). I do still worry a bit that talk about “Christian demeanor” needs to be parsed more explicitly. That term pulls people in many different directions. This was my point in bringing up the civil rights experience. White ministers were challenging the “Christian demeanor” of MLK, suggesting that the antagonism he brought into local communities was unChristian. My question: if today we can acknowledge MLK’s antagonisms as examples of prophetic Christian witness then shouldn’t we be open to the possibility that prophetic witness today may call for something akin to this kind of antagonism about matters of economic injustice that are no less pressing in our own world?

    I hasten to add that I see neither Obama nor McCain as prophets in this sense, but I do see my support of one of the candidates as an outgrowth of commitments that are at the heart of my conception of God’s kingdom. I have no doubt that other Christians who share these commitments differ with me about which candidate will best bring these values to bear in our political community. We should be careful to not allow this fact to push us away from the difficult, sometimes tense conversations that are necessary if we are to discern our way forward.

  35. Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    I see your point. Prophetic witness does generate antagonism, friction and hate from those who oppose the message. I accept that point and caution that our witness does not need to return “evil for evil” in terms of that derision, hate and self-righteousness. (And I am not claiming that you participate in such.)

    I agree with you that neither McCain or Obama (nor Palin or Biden) are prophets of the kingdom of God. I suppose I would suggest that both could be supported out of values that are at the center of the kingdom of God and that both could be opposed based on values that arise out of God’s kingdom. That is what I mean when the choice is not so clear-cut to me. That this would generate passionate, even tense, discussions is understandable. And that is fine with me as long as they do not degenerate in such a way that they undermine the witness itself.

  36.   rich constant Says:

    Blessings to you vic,
    in this representative republic that we have it is up to each and every one of us as I see it to be as informed as we possibly can and to engage in conversation as we can, pinpoint the direction of the conversation to the Christ event that we have been studying with John Mark.
    When push comes to shove,the only thing that we can do is talk to someone about our opinion and go vote.
    If we are the salt of the earth then which ever way we vote should hopefully push our country in the direction of godliness.
    “That is I mean in the direction…”
    I live in California, quite honestly I don’t think my vote even counts, other than a fraction of a percentage point.
    Basically what I tell most people is when you vote for a candidate, the most important thing for the long term direction of the country would be how many Supreme Court justices would retire from the bench.
    And that’s among other things but for the most part I consider that a fundamental concept when I go to vote.
    As of late there are just so many concepts fundamental concepts fundamental principles, of character, that have eroded, it’s absolutely mindnumbing to think of the work that is cut out for all of us to do.
    I do remember a long long time ago hearing a preacher of whom I always say I listened to,so some will know who it is or have a good guess, that stated from the pulpit that Martin Luther King was a communist, I remember that quite distinctly now looking back at that,that’s quite the aberration of character on both sides of the fence.
    But then I grew up anti-institutional so there was a bit of name calling coming from the pulpits, and most preachers weren’t hesitant to do that.

    For about four or five years Victor I was a member of a black congregation I considered extremely nice, and comfortable and to be sure it was different I’ve never had so many hugs and I’m speaking of my own family also
    And I’ve never talked about this before with John Mark or anyone on this board but at one time in my life when I was about 27 or 30 or so I was homeless.
    It’s extremely amazing how things change over a person’s life, my own looking at it objectively.
    At one point in my life I can be so completely dazed and confused and brought to my knees, because of self will run riot.
    And look at myself today and yes there are major changes in my life, at the time I had two kids now I have six are almost all grown.
    How can I really take anything that’s going on in my life as anything other than incidental.
    It’s amazing to me how upset I get, the stupid things that I get upset at.
    When I know the abundant blessings that I have today, yet I know that it’s salvation by grace through faith.
    So I continue to try to be diligent in my manner and in my town and fail, pick myself up and tried again and fail this takes a little longer this time before I fail, but do I really fail, humility that’s a funny word.
    How are those Cubs doing John Mark.

    Talk about situation ethic 800 billion!!!!

    Blessings all rich in California

  37.   Rich constant Says:

    Well John Mark I guess I got little proactive and at three o’clock monday morning after listening to what the news people are saying about the proposal that was set forward on the bailout.
    i Wrote my Congressman David Dreier an e-mail.
    Told him I can’t understand how any responsible legislator could possibly vote yes for this as it is written.

    I told him the world is watching how our representatives are handling this financial irresponsibility that has been conducted by our businessmen on Wall Street, and another four or five days of writing a good and decent structured bailout would not hurt.

    Blessings all rich in California
    good football game John Mark?

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