I think there must be push and pull, both forces at work in time to motivate change. This is not a new or original thought, except I never recall reading it elsewhere until I said it. Apparently, I am the last to know.
I thought about the forces of push and pull yesterday, when I read a New York Times report about the plight of Christians in the area around Mosul, Iraq. As the militant Islamic separatists close in Mosul, the Christians were warned to flee for their lives. Their property was illegally confiscated. Many fled on foot with their old people and children and the clothes on their backs. A few families who could not get away at all were offered the opportunity to convert to Islam on the spot under penalty of death (“Concern and Support for Iraqi Christians Forced by Militants to Flee Mosul,” by Tim Arando in the New York Times, Monday, July 21, 2014, International Section, p. A4).
Sometimes, we change because someone else will just not let us stay where we are, as we are. Dark forces prevail for a time. All the religions I know about teach some form of heavenly, after-living reward. None of them, so far as I can tell, fabricate any proposition that would tell its adherents they are always on top of the heap. All point to the bliss to come after the struggle (Buddhism and Hinduism) or because of submission (Islam) or transformational conversion (Christianity). All the great religious thinkers are clear-eyed about this one thing; life has some suffering in it. This time it might be our clan running bare-footed from the coming purge.
I think this is the most destructive possible change. Refugees do not leave here to find a better life there. They leave here for the simple reason that greater powers make it impossible for them to stay. Abuse, violence, neglect, disaster; sinister forces can exert on us to make us flee.
I will spare all of us the nonsense sermon about how all things happen for a reason, it is beyond our knowing and we just have to shove it all off on God (put our trust in Him). This non-reasoning makes it possible to ignore or deny the Holocaust, or the 50% unemployment rate among Arabs in the Gaza Stip, or the humanitarian crisis in the Southwestern United States. Interestingly, to me, at least, is this; the refugee-children on our southern border come from Christianized nations in Central America. I constantly hear about this or that fellow who just returned from a mission trip to one of the Central American nations, where life is become so un-tolerable a mother would send her child into a desert. The mission trip turned around came here.
I know. Our system is not set up for this kind of illegal invasion. The material cost is enormous and our government bankrupted us rescuing Vulture Capitalists whose risky businesses were too big to fail.
In fact, in real terms, however, you and I are fleeing bare-foot with the refugees from Mosul, the children at Nuevo-Laredo. We are fleeing with them from the Catastrophe-To-Come. Dark forces are at work. We should listen to our own words, “We are not set up for this kind of world.”
In fact, the church is the organism most tasked and least ready to meet this day. We huddle, don’t we, in the kind of churches where you argue endlessly about what St. Paul meant here or there and what new tech toys should be purchased to “enhance worship.”
One staunch pastor even preached a Sunday morning sermon titled, “Jesus Would Close the Borders.” He made a great argument, too. I am left to imagine what Jesus thinks personally about this latest attempt to co-opt His name. I suppose it is too much to say a church that believes Jesus would close the borders should not dare to schedule another mission trip, well, anywhere.
I know. The pastor has the right to preach whatever he wants to preach in his own pulpit and this is more of a political than a religious statement. I just wish we would not make Jesus say something to support our political stance. It seems to me He has suffered enough distortion by various political entities.
And, I wonder how this is different from the Islamic militants, converting Christians in Mosul at the point of a sword. What would Jesus do there? Close the borders around the Christian refugees (like the ones on our southern border), so they could be slaughtered at leisure?
What, after all, is a Christian to do about refugees? I think:
- We should see we are running with them, out of Mosul, out of Central America, out of the dark. If our whole excuse is the inability of the system to help, then we should admit our system is not ready for 21st century reality and must be changed.
- We should cooperate with God in grace. Grace is a God-flood. We are drowning in the stuff, right now, not later, but now. We should cooperate with God in the deluge of grace God has available for all the refugees, ourselves included.
- When we cooperate with God in grace, we must naturally oppose evil. This is the Christian way. Our mandate is not to close the borders so the refugees can meet their fate far from where we have to see. Our mandate is this; to oppose evil and thus rescue the perishing and care for the dying.
My daughter, two of my sons, their families, got out of the comfortable suburban mega-church thing. They meet for church in a run-down trailer thing with persons of very different ethnicities. Their youth groups talk is about who got arrested for what and who is pregnant and who just dropped out of school and who just dropped out of sight. They know the local law enforcement people and they know the shattered kids and their dysfunctional families. When I go there, I watch my beautiful golden-haired, blue eyed grand-daughter doing her two-year old praise and worship motions with the sons and daughters of undocumented persons.
Every Sunday is a mission trip for them.
There is a big push coming. Be prepared to flee before it.
My grandboys call me Doc, or PaPa Doc. The nickname may have come when Nathan and I met and began working on staff together. “Hey Doc,” would begin a sentence or question. Our girls thought that would be a cute distinction between their “Grandpas.”
The moniker Doc, at least for me, belongs to my mentor, Dr. Rick Davis. Take the time to think about it and every pastor will discover their theological genealogy. On some occasions there will be points of departure but definite threads tend to remain. I suspect I will realize more influence Rick has had on me as I continue to age.
Doc, to me, alerted me to his thoughts on, “Why Do We Change?” The subject is the Church and the cause celeb is the current instances of forced change at work in the world, not the least of which is being thrust on the United States by the current crisis at our Southern Border and the Gaza Crisis. I offer Rick’s piece here to extend its reach. You may regularly read his stuff over at www.rickddavis.com. But, I know how these things go and some will not take the time considering it more trouble to click one more time before feasting on other bits to get to on the Interwebs. Here is Rick’s post,