NEXT

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Here we are again…

Another inciting incident.
Opinions flow like a river at flood stage.

“You don’t know the facts?” “You missed the point” “You’re ignorant”

As our nation labors under the weight of serious systemic issues  we choose to herald our cyber-bullhorns, which are more about shouting than listening and resolving.

Broad-brushed soundbites of polarized rhetoric.

And then…

NEXT

We saunter off to the next thing showing that we really don’t care at a deep level about the current thing, it’s just the popular outrage. Sure, it seems important enough to flame and shout out loudly what we think (as if we have perfect-objective reality firmly in our grasp), but not important enough to get off the couch and actually DO Something…DO justice.

It amazes me that so many of us think a perfectly worded tweet is the final word on an incident that results in lost lives, lost income, lost values and even lost humanity.

“Surely my Facebook rebuttal is enough to end generations of racism”

“Surely my #hashtag is enough to end corporate greed”

“Surely my instagram picture will be enough to prove a 911 conspiracy”

and then…NEXT…

Have we become the NEXT generation? Have we become a NEXT culture?

In other words, is our current outrage more about entertainment and consumerism than it is about the actual tragedy or incident?

I think they way we respond and then quickly disengage moving onto the NEXT thing reveals an apathy and a narcissism that perpetuates systemic issues.

We live at the surface, and the problems we face are much deeper than the “facts.” And I know someone will more than likely cry out against that last statement.

Courts have to deal with facts, we as a society must deal with truths that lead to justice acknowledging the facts.

Today, consider how fast you move onto the NEXT thing.

Today consider how fast you move on from the LAST thing.

Today consider whether or not an incident will incite you to use your bullhorn only, or actually get off the couch and enter into the pain and brokeness as a healer and helper.

A closing thought to ponder from Martin Luther King Jr.:

“The Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice.”

In light of the current #ferguson battlefield, consider the deeper conversation that is needed before you go NEXT.

 

 

Reformers and Fences

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In many ways, it would seem that we are a world of reformers now. Thanks in large part to the power of social media, everybody has a platform to say whatever they like regardless of how accurate, intelligent or worthy their thoughts may be. Some people like to troll and cause conflict while others simply like to demolish the ideas and people that they disagree with.

One of the problems with this platform in our current context is that most people who are posting status update after status update, using their agenda as a polemic, seem to have forgotten the basic laws of logic and reason. What has taken their place, you ask? Emotions, opinions, and half thought through arguments.

In order to be a true reformer one must understand the scope of the thing that they wish to reform before they destroy it. Many go about reform the way history tells us Cortés burnt his ships in the harbor. While there was no going back for Cortés, sometimes we burn the ships before we have reasoned through such actions.

Today we are in the midst of cultural reform. Facebook has proven to be the new “speakers corner” as people pontificate, throw in a meme or two that agrees with their viewpoint, erroneously thinking that the picture and soundbite alone should end all other disagreement.

People are unfriended when they disagree, or perhaps more to the point, when they become belligerent concerning their topic.

The problem with the new reformers is that too often they have not thought through fully the reasons that something existed before. They have not entered into the “whys” of the thing they wish to eliminate or change. Some areas of reform seem easy such as ending human trafficking or eliminating global poverty. Some areas of current reform seem less clear to the populace such as gun rights and same-sex marriage. While boats are being burned, and status updates are flying, the conversations that are needed are being ignored in lieu of trying to determine who is right…who is wrong.

When emotions rule the day, we don’t ask the deeper questions, we simply want everyone to agree with our position. These are not easy issues, and before we tear down the things that have been in place for a while, we need to understand why they existed in the first place. Maybe they do need to be changed, maybe they don’t. Until we can clearly understand why something has existed, we don’t have the clarity yet to remove it.

G.K Chesterton spoke profoundly to this:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.

Dialog is needed today on so many issues from global economics to civil rights. It would be my hope that we could engage the issues with honest reflection, being compassionate about the other person, even if we disagree on some issue.

But before we keep tearing down fences, lets make sure we know why the fence was put there in the first place.

Closed Cathedrals & Tarot Cards

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I stood transfixed. The humidity was about 100% and the temperatures were in the 90’s. We had just walked down Bourbon street and shot up a side street towards Jackson Square. It seemed that every step was a new experience of smells, sights, sounds, you name it.

From a bar that could have occupied any small town in America, and then suddenly a romantic wrought iron balcony encased with a brilliant array of flowers the sight of which caused you to stop and simply stare. Music was pouring out from most every business doorway: The Blues; Zydeco; Rock n Roll; Classic, every musical pallet was represented in full.File0042

It probably shouldn’t have stunned me so much, but it did. My mind we rolling, configuring, wondering, pondering at what my eyes were absorbing.

On the far end of the square, looking out over Jackson Park with is luscious greenery and otherworldly feel that rolls towards the Mighty Mississippi River, standing defiantly and majestically is St. Louis Cathedral. This gal has been watching over the square since 1720, and is the oldest cathedral in North America.

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Her position is grand, and she is buffeted on either side by two long buildings that extend the length of the square and were in their genesis the first apartment style buildings of their kind in the U.S.  I stood taking in the beauty as my neck craned heavenward towards the top of the spire, but that isn’t what really arrested my attention.

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All around the Jackson Square, and more specifically right at the front doors of the cathedral, numerous little tables had been meticulously set up. Some were grand with umbrellas for shade, and plenty of seats for clients to sit down. Others were basic and plain, a card table and two folding chairs. Most all had various paraphernalia scattered indicative of the persons trade.

You see, what had stopped me was the business that they were all performing. Table after table full of people getting their palms read; Tarot cards cast; bones thrown to reveal a preferred future, psychic mind readers; tea leave readers, voo doo practitioners; you name it, every type of spiritualist was in full force, and for the most part they kept pretty busy.

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Now this still wasn’t what really grabbed me…it was really two things:

1. Their proximity to the cathedral. You could practically reach out and touch the front door from the little tables strewn about. I wondered how many more people would be out there in front of the cathedral on Sunday as people went in and out of church, hoping to snag a few and make some extra money.

2. The second thing which really stunned me was that while all the palm readers and psychics were busy talking to men and women about their future….the church was CLOSED. I thought to myself, "Man this is the problem. While people are struggling through life trying to find answers and get a human touch from anyone, even a huckster or worse, an occult diviner, the church is closed.

The one organism on this planet that has the hope, reality and truth of the future has closed its doors to the people seeking. And then the people seeking became prey.

In John 13:34-35 Jesus said…"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Isn’t that amazing. Of all the things and traits that Jesus could have pulled out to be the most compelling reason people would know that we were followers of His was the incredible, undescribeable, otherworldly and beyond logical way we love.

He could have said:

* They will know you are mine if you have memorized the Bible or at least some key parts.
* They will know you are mine by your clothing style. Not to sloppy, not to fine…just right.
* They will know you are mine by the cathedrals you build in my name.
* They will know you are mine by your unbelievable grasp of doctrine.
* They will know you are mine by your ability to discern heretics.
* They will know you are mine by all the things you stand against.
* They will know you are mine by the perfect behavior of your kids.
* They will know you are mine by the signs and wonders you perform.
* They will know you are mine by your hyper-spiritual language that only a select few understand.

…and the list could go on! I think you get my point. All the things that the church fights over, argues about, even dis-fellowships one another over are not what Jesus said is the defining mark of those who follow Him. In fact I would go as far as to say if we actually practice His one defining trait of love, we would have the maturity to work through differences of thought and practice, and instead of branding each other as wrong based on our finite understanding of God, we might actually come together under the one truth of Jesus Christ and reveal to the planet that love is possible even when there is a difference in thought.

You see, we are so busy trying to be right that people have lost interest, and they are going to those places where someone might say, "Oh come here honey, sit down, let me hold your hand and tell you what I see…hhmmm, oh you know what, it’s going to be all right."

Humans are created to love and to be loved. Most of our life journey centers around the fulfillment of this basic need in each one of us. God made us that way so that it could be filled by His indwelling presence…and He loves His people so that His love would flow from Him into us in order to flow out to a world that needs it…but the question is, "Are our cathedral doors closed?"

I watched as people listened…my neck stretching hard to hear the words that they had paid to hear from the street peddler of connection and future hope. Many acted as counselors, some simply read the traditional story from the lines in the palm…others seemed to have a much darker menacing aura about them. But the people came and the church was closed.

I then wondered if people would actually stop by the tables as they exited church on Sunday. If there was an abundance of love being delivered and shared inside, then they would have no need, except to offer it to those at the tables as they passed by.

This picture will reside in my mind for a long tme to come I can tell…Oh that we fully would reflect Jesus command to love people as He does. Oh that we would understand it is a command and not an option or something to do if we have time. Oh that we would grasp this in such a way that we would slowly morph into people who embody love as a natural expression of who we are, and not as something we do.

When we try to "do" love it will be shallow, empty and religious. But,but when we allow Christ to flood us with His life we become love even as God is love. This kind of love is undefinable…This kind of love doesn’t struggle to show affection because it’s root is giving…This kind of love is like the wetness of water…water is wet because it is. It doesn’t try to be wet, it is an inescapable conclusion and reality that water is wet. When we give our lives fully to Jesus, love is the trait that needs to be the base reality…we love not because we must, but because we can’t do otherwise.

A love like this will eliminate the categories and labels that mercilessly get affixed to people who are not like us…A love like this could literally end wars…what’s the secret? Jesus.

I loved New Orleans…I enjoyed the people…and I am still wondering what one man was thinking as he slowly got up from Miss. Lena’s table and walked away from my vantage point and her table down the stone street. Did he find what he was looking for? Did he hear what he hoped to hear?…or will he be back there tomorrow with a new question to ask, but really all he truly longs for is to know beyond knowing that he is loved.

May our doors never be closed as followers of Christ even when the church  building is.

What are your thoughts eh?

Monty