Posted: January 30th, 2011 | Author: Joe | Filed under: Politics | Tags: Egypt, Jan25, Mubarak | 3 Comments »
I’ve been transfixed by the story coming out of Egypt for the past few days. It’s amazing to me to see how quickly the world can change right in front of our eyes. The technology that has been used to organize the current protests in Egyptâ€”along with recent ones in Tunisiaâ€”have only come into existence within the last 7 years. Think about how crazy that is.
As an American I am reminded that the freedoms that I take for grantedâ€”based on the the belief that all people are worthy of dignity and the right to self governmentâ€”are not ideas that have been evident in the history of the world, even at our current moment in time.
I pray that the people of Egypt who have shown such amazing courage this week will see their resolve rewarded with a truly democratic government that is deserving of the people who they will be charged with governing. No other form of government that has yet been imagined would do them justice. I fear that the current regime will be replaced by a gentler version of the same autocratic leadership that has controlled power in Egypt since the pyramids were being formed, or worse, that they would replace the current leadership with theocratic leadership that would not only rule over the people because of the power they wield, but would also be able to claim to have God on their side.
I’m led to believeâ€”and hope I’m not wrongâ€”that the latter is less likely since Egypt has a history of Muslims and Christians living in peace together. A few recent stories would seem to support that hope. In December, when a Coptic church was the target of an ugly act of terrorism, the local Muslim community rallied around Christians in the country and served as human shields to protect those congregations from more attacks during their Christmas celebrations a few weeks later. In turn, Christians reportedly stood guard this past Fridayâ€”the Muslim holy dayâ€”over protesters while they participated in their prayer services. And later this weekend, when a group of believed fundamentalist Muslims started chanting, “Allah Akbar”â€”a common phrase of Muslim solidarity that often gets used by Islamic extremistsâ€”they we’re shouted down by people chanting, “Muslim, Christian, we’re all Egyptian!”
Whatever ends up happening with Egypt, we can be sure that the country will never be the same. It’s likely that there are many challenges ahead, and a new era will be ushered into Egypt through a string of small victories and failures. But for the moment, the current revolutionâ€”aided by a technological socializationâ€”has found it’s greatest strength in a truly human socialization. One where people aren’t measured by their social status or religious background, but by the fact that they are a part of the Egyptian family. And a proud family she should be.
photo: Ramy Raoof
Posted: January 10th, 2011 | Author: Joe | Filed under: Christianity, Politics | Tags: Gabrielle Giffords | 2 Comments »
In the wake of the tragic shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Saturday, there has been no shortage of speculation about what motivated the shooter to take the actions that he did. I think it’s natural and healthy that the people involved in politics and media would want to want to reflect on the culture of their trade and question how that culture did (or didn’t) contribute to the crime. Some will do so responsibly and others won’tâ€”that’s life.
For Christians, I think this is a good time to reflect on Jesus’ message to look at the log in your own eye before trying to remove the spec in your brother’s. This is a good moment to remember that the language we use matters, and that we can disagree with people without making them into our enemies.
When an event like this happens, our natural instinct is to reach for labels that allow us to separate ourselves from the ones who committed the evil. At this moment it may be liberals blaming conservatives, but in other instances it’s Christians blaming Muslims, whites blaming blacks, the poor blaming the rich, etc. (or the other way around). If instead, our first instinct is to see the evil that lives inside ourselves we will recognize that our lines of demarcation collapse and the ones we seek to marginalize are actually our own flesh and blood.
Jim Wallis gets it right:
A central calling for Christians is to be peacemakers. Peace, we understand, is not simply the absence of current conflict, but the presence of a just community. In the midst of tragedy and violence, I believe this means every Christian must ask themselves: â€œHow am I responsible?â€ What more can we do to bring peace to this world as the Prince of Peace has called us to do? What are the situations and environments that allow this kind of hate and violence to grow? How can I not only stop conflict, but also be a part of bringing about a just community that displays the positive presence of peace?
To place blame and to want to defend yourself is natural, but misses the point.Â Peace starts with seeing the good in your enemy in spite of the bad and loving them without condition because you recognize yourself as an imperfect person also in need of love and correction. And that’s worth reflecting on.
Posted: January 9th, 2011 | Author: Joe | Filed under: Creativity, Music | Tags: cornel west, Frank Yerby, poetry | 1 Comment »
For they who fashion songs must live too close to pain,
Acquaint themselves too well with grief and tears:
Must make the slow, deep, throbbing pulse of years
And their own heartbeats one; watch the slow train
Of passing autumns paint their scarlet stain
Upon the hills, and learn that beauty sears.
The whole worlds’s woe and heartbreak must be theirs,
And theirs each vision smashed, each new dream slain.
But sing again, oh you who have the heart,
Sweet songs as fragile as a passing breath,
Although your broken heartstrings make your lyre,
And each pure strain must rend the soul apart;
For it was ever thus: to sing is death;
And in your spirit flames your body’s pyre.
- Frank Yerby
via Cornel West
Posted: January 3rd, 2011 | Author: Joe | Filed under: Christianity | Tags: authority, leadership, priesthood of all believers, starfish leadership, Tea Party | No Comments »
Anne Hendershott’s piece in the WSJ points out an underlying struggle for authority that’s being played out between Catholic hospitals and the clergy.
In a July 6 letter to Bishop Olmsted, Mr. Dean asserted that “this is a complex matter on which the best minds disagree.” Citing the opinion of Marquette University Professor M. Therese Lysaught on the permissibility of the abortion performed at St. Joseph’s, Mr. Dean appeared to suggest that the teaching authority of the Phoenix Bishop was just one more “opinion” on a “complex matter.”
This case points to the real problem in the church. For too long, the authority of bishops has been limited to issuing mere opinions. This is especially true at Catholic colleges and universities, where bishops have little effect on the culture and curriculum.
Anne sees a problem, but what you see depends on your perspective.
If the goal of the church (or any organization for that mater) is to create clear positions to answer each tough question it faces, it’s much easier to give one person authority to set those positions than to have a community of differing opinionsâ€”some even contradicting. On the other hand, I think it’s fairly unrealistic to believe that a bishop would be able to fully grasp the complexity involved in every moral issueâ€”especially as it relates to highly specialized fields like medicine and science.
In Protestant traditions there is a doctrine known as the “priesthood of all believers,” which basically states that every individual has the authority and responsibility to participate in the Church’s calling. While this model isn’t well suited to producing clear, publishable theological positions on every topic; it does provide space for each person to take seriously the task of integrating their spiritual and moral convictions with their daily livesâ€”including their vocations.
This decentralized authority model is similar to what many in business circles have started calling “Starfish Leadership”, based on the book The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations (Brafman & Beckstrom, 2006). The basic principle of the book is that as a decentralized organism, a starfish will regenerate if you cut off it’s armâ€”and in some cases will become two starfishâ€”whereas a centralized organism like a spider will die if you cut off it’s head. A recent example of the power of this kind of organization model was displayed earlier this year by the Tea Party movement, which had no central authority structure but was very effective nonetheless.
I would argue that there is no better person to decide on the correct moral action to be taken on a complex issue than the person whose job it is to carry out that action (for better or worse) and who best understands all of the realities of the issue (in non-theological terms). The job of the clergy would then be more accurately viewed as teachers, consultants, counselors, or guides who help to equip each individual believer for the process of integrating their faith with their life in a way that would lead to an expectation of church that was a community of incarnated faith rather than what has often been a hierarchical, theoretical religion that seems detached from people’s real lives.