Tag Archives: Change

Needed: A Cultural Sea-Change

In a recent post written about the mass shootings in America and the escalation of violence in our country,  I wrote that every time there is a shooting those who are leaders—mayors, police chiefs, governors, all the way up to the President of the United States say:   “This is enough —this must stop.”  But it does not stop—-and it won’t  stop until there is a sea-change in our culture.  What might that cultural change look like?  I’d like for you to think about that with me today….

One of the major changes must be in how we define success.  WE MUST HAVE A NEW DEFINTION OF SUCCESS.

Our current culture defines success as power.  It scorns failure, powerlessness, and any form of poverty.  It rejects all human vulnerability and seeks dominance instead.  Our definition and image of success is POWER.  Our political leaders in the current election are seeking to project a strong, secure, invulnerable image of power and control.   Dominance is what the American people are demanding and what Trump is exploiting  when he calls for “making America great again.”

What is the change in definition of success that we need?   It is found in the Gospel—the good news that Jesus brought, taught, and modeled for the world through his life and ministry.  We have thoroughly missed the gospel message about the Kingdom of God that Jesus brought as seen, for example, in the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew (cf Matthew 6 and 7).  He brought his message to a culture like ours that was dominated by Rome.   The Romans worshiped power and maintained their power with the sword and with fear.   They punished those who rebelled against them by hanging them on crosses for days until they died by sword.   They called Caesar their god and among the gods they worshiped were Jupiter—the god of the thunderbolt and Mars, the god of war.  Into this harsh and fearful world Jesus brought a different way to live as a society.

The Sermon on the Mount praises those who his society looked down on.   “Blessed are the Poor”  he taught—not the rich but those on the bottom of the social ladder.  “Blessed are the Meek”—not the strong and powerful but those who are weak and vulnerable.   “Blessed are the merciful” —those who show mercy to the poor and vulnerable rather than trampling them under foot.  “Blessed are the peacemakers”—not the generals who wage war but those who seek peace over the destructiveness of war and strife in society.   “You have heard that it was said ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ but I say to you;  Do not resist an evildoer  If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other one also.’ ”  You have heard that it was said ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy’ but I say go you:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

This is a completely different way of living and turns strength and domination way on its head. It is a sea change in the status quo. True success would be a nation where poverty ceases to exist; where there are no children going to bed hungry; where people receive adequate medical care as needed; where laws are passed to benefit the common good and not just the few who are rich; where civility is practiced and people listen to each other; where color of skin and language spoken and religion practiced make no difference; where those who lead are servants of all and people are honored for strength of character and not for the money they make or the power they have;  where love and compassion are freely practiced; and where people help others rather than scorn their helplessness.

We today have thoroughly missed the point as did Jesus’ followers .   That is why Jesus says in Matthew 21:31 that “prostitutes, drunkards, and  tax collectors (hated in Jesus’ time) are getting into the Kingdom of God before the chief priests and religious elders.”

This is not an easy prescription to heal a hurting and hostile world. It will be achieved gradually and only as we turn to God for God’s strength and aid.  Jesus warned his disciples of the difficulty of the changes needed to live in the Kingdom of God on earth when he said “the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction and many take it,  For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life and few there there are who find it”. But Jesus also told his disciples “with God, nothing is impossible.”

Advertisements

A Different Way Than Violence and Death?

All of us are concerned about the rise of violence in our closely connected world.   No longer can we disconnect the United States from the violence across the world—-but even if we could, we would still have an extremely large amount of violence to deal with in our own country.

I’m not going to catalog all that is going on, as I know that you are aware of it.  Violence and death in the Middle East and Africa, especially  at the hands of ISIS and other extremists groups, that is now extending to attacks on the U.S. by our own citizens who have been trained by these groups.   The usual practice of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” has been extended to killing as many innocent people as possible in retribution for suspected wrongs or for not being the right religion.  Terrorism is a world-wide threat.

In our own country (the U.S.) there is increasing violence and death at each other’s hands.  We are a gun culture and guns, due to the political influence of the NRA (National Rifle Association) are proliferating at an alarming rate.   Kansas, for example just passed a law allowing open carry and also concealed carry without any training and guns are  allowed in most public buildings and  everywhere not posted.

We live in a country where civilian paramilitary groups with a paranoid fear of the federal government are stockpiling rations and weapons because they fear, rightly or wrongly, that their own government is going to attack them.  Most of us live in an urban environment where life is increasingly cheap—there are shootings almost every day in Wichita, KS where I live.   People do not trust law enforcement and law enforcement does not trust people and the result is that people get shot by police and then riots occur over the shootings and more lives are lost.   Drunken arguments that used to be solved by fist-fights too often are now solved by the use of a gun.

People have tried for centuries to bring about peace by the sword, by the gun, by the missile, and by the threat of nuclear bombs—-and still there is no peace.   When will we learn that peace that is enforced by armed might  is not peace?  Force always involves fear and retribution and thus does not last.

There is an alternate way to peace that we have seldom tried.   It is the way that a person called Jesus of Nazareth taught and lived over 2000 years ago.   It is a peace not kept by the power of armed might  and violence,  but based on the power of  love and non-violence that Jesus taught and lived.   Somehow most of the Western world, while calling themselves his followers,  have missed his main message of peace.

A few have glimpsed the power of this way of non-violence and love.   Mahatma Ghandi was one—-Martin Luther King was another.   Both achieved their aims by this method and not by armed might.   Both, I might add, like Jesus, were  resisted by the domination systems of their day, and were killed eventually by those who felt threatened by them.   But both secured a lasting change for the better for millions of people by using the power of love and non-violence.

When are we going to stop killing each other and try this way of love and non-violence?    This is the only way to true peace.    We have yet to try it in our relationship with others, and on a national or international scale.

Asking the Right Questions Today?

 

A recent article in the Alban Weekly caught my attention by its title.   “New Questions for a New Day?”    Although it was an article on new questions churches need  to ask rather than the ones they are asking, it caused me to think about questions that desperately need to be asked in our political jungle today.    We are allowing the media and political pundits to ask the wrong questions of our politicians!   Let me give you a few examples:

The question:   “How will you vote on issues concerning abortion?” should be replaced by the question:  “How will you vote on issues concerning quality of life for all human beings in our society?”   Will your votes  seek to protect only fetuses or will your vote be for protecting the one in five children in Kansas who are hungry and without access to enough adequate foods and considered food insecure.   Will you protect these children  from disease by your votes that extend badly needed medical care, or are you only interested in unborn fetuses?

The question:   “How will you vote on issues concerning gay marriage“? might be replaced with the question:  “what will you advocate through your votes that will protect the rights of all citizens of the U.S. regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation so that all citizens can enjoy the full range of freedom guaranteed by our Constitution.?”

The question:  “Are you a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican?” might be replaced by the question:   “In what way will you vote for the common good of all citizens, regardless of party preference?”    I recently saw a poster on FB that showed a bird flying and said “politicians should be like birds–both the left wing and the right wing support the middle!”

The question:   “How can we better hold educators accountable?” should be replaced by the question, “ How are you going to be held accountable for the education of our children in Kansas? ”   How are you going to better support teachers in their difficult job?  Are you going to respect the job that teachers do, often for poor pay and little appreciation?   What are you going to suggest and vote for that will make sure that children we send to teachers are ready to learn by supporting early childhood education?   What are you going to do that insures that half of the children coming to the Wichita Public Schools are not coming to school hungry and therefore unable to learn?  or homeless and therefore insecure and having difficulties learning?    As I read recently—“When Congress passes “No Child Left Unfed, No child without Health Care, and No Child left homeless, then we can talk seriously about No Child Left Behind?  After that happens we can talk about accountability!

It’s time we get the message to the media and the political pundits that we wish to have politicians speak on these questions rather than the old tired ones that are now asked..   As Ghandi once said:   “Be the change!”  We can “be the change” by defining the real problems in our society and then demanding answers and solutions to those problems by asking the right questions.  We then need to use the power of the ballot to demand accountability from those who govern us.   The change can begin with your intelligent and knowledgable casting of a ballot that holds our elected officials  accountable.   “BE THE CHANGE”.

 

Be the Change!!

 

There is something scary about “change” for most people!     We are creatures of habit more than we like to admit, and if change comes about in our lives we tend to resist it, and we often fear it.    Even though the current situation, (the status quo) may be painful to us—-at least we know where we are, what to expect, and how to cope with the pain the situation causes,  because we’ve been living with it—-and therefore we are very suspicious of any “change for the better” that might be suggested.   We say, what if it only makes things worse?

We see this fear of change in the lives of women who are abused by their husbands or significant others.  For example, in the  NFL Ray Rice case, where the woman who was knocked out cold by Rice in an elevator and dragged out by her feet, went ahead and married him.   Eventually, I predict,  she will either die at his hands  or have to find some way get away from her now husband—-because he is not going to change and she will be unable to change him.   And yet she remains with Rice.    I suspect either fear of Rice or fear of change is the reason, although there is no way for me to know for sure.

In our churches we see fear of change as one of the  major reasons that attendance  is dropping and churches are closing.    Many churches have actually closed rather than change the way they go about doing church  that speaks to the needs for involvement in the community and electronic social media practices of a new generation of Millenials.   In essence,  the closing churches choose to  die rather than change!

It’s strange that churches bearing the name of Jesus should fear change, as one of the greatest advocates for change was Jesus of Nazareth whom they claim to follow.  Richard Rohr, in his Good News According to the Gospel of Luke:  Spiritual Reflections. sees Jesus as a revolutionary and an advocate for radical change.  He says the blatant contradiction between the message and actions of the church and Jesus’ message and actions  are what is holding the church back here and around the world:

We preach a self-absorbed gospel of piety and religiosity, not a lifestyle gospel.   Luke (in his gospel)  is preaching a lifestyle gospel, not a Sunday-church thing at all.   Luke is talking about living the gospel seven days a week.   His gospel is so radical that if you truly believed its message (of Jesus) it would call into question all the assumptions you currently hold about the way you live, how you  use time, whom you relate to, how you marry, how much money you have.   Everything you think and do would be called into question and viewed in a new way, because Jesus is Lord and Jesus is Love.”

Marcus Borg, in his book Jesus, Uncovering the life, teachings, and relevance of a religious revolutionary  also portrays Jesus of Nazareth as a revolutionary who was non-violently seeking to overthrow the  economic, social, political and religious domination system of the Roman world during his time.  Jesus did this on behalf of the poor, the sick, the people at the bottom of the social scale.  He challenged the religious domination of the priestly-temple system of Judaism to change.   Jesus’ teaching that God is a God of love and forgiveness were direct challenges to the need for a temple and sacrifices and priests as there was no longer a need for priests and sacrifices and the temple to relate to God and receive God’s love and forgiveness.   Human beings can relate directly to the God of Love that Jesus proclaimed, so they don’t need a priest and sacrifices to be forgiven.   Revolutionary!!   Jesus  turned the “pecking order” of his society on its head with his teaching that “the greatest among you will be the servant of all”. These are the major   reasons he was killed by the Romans at the insistence of the Jewish religious establishment.       Change is dangerous, as well as being scary if you are living the change—i.e. “Being the Change” as Jesus was doing.  Those in power do not yield easily if the change means the loss of their power.   Jesus didn’t just advocate systemic change—-his life and his teachings mirrored that systemic change. He described and lived his  life as it would be lived in the Kingdom of God that he proclaimed was here in the world.  It  was a revolutionary change from the status quo.   Jesus was “Being the Change“!!

One of favorite quotations is from the wisdom of  Ghandi, the Indian leader for the independence of India from Great Britain.  Ghandi says:  BE THE CHANGE.!!

Ghandi, in his wisdom,  is saying that it’s not enough for us to speak for change—-No!   Our message and our actions must be the same.    In order to bring about change you and I must change.    Change is not something that happens because people talk about it, debate it, fear it, advocate it or demand it—-change comes about when people live the change!  

What do you think needs to change in our society today?  What do you think needs to change in our churches?   Are you just “talking” about it or are you willing to “be the change”?    The change won’t happen unless we are willing to “Be the Change”!!