The Mission entrusted to the Church

Posted on Wess’s Gathering in Light blog:

This is the mission entrusted to the church,

a hard mission:

to uproot sins from history,

to uproot sins from the political order,

to uproot sins from the economy,

to uproot sins wherever they are.

What a hard task!

It has to meet conflicts amid so much selfishness,

so much pride,

so much vanity,

so many who have entroned the reign of sin among us.

The church must suffer for speaking the truth,

for pointing out sin,

for uprooting sin.

No one wants to have a sore spot touched,

and therefore a society with so many sores twitches

when someone has the courage to touch it

and say: “You have to treat that.

You have to get rid of that.

Believe in Christ.

Be converted.”

Oscar Romero – The Violence of Love

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.”

To mark Earth Day, head on over to God’s Politics and check out the post I wrote. Here’s a teaser:

Today is Earth Day, an occasion for marking our responsibility to care for our world and the environment. It seems trite to have just one day to remind ourselves of the importance of this — though the same could be (and often is) said about Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, etc. We should always be aware of how we ought to be good stewards of the world and the resources God has entrusted to us; not just one day a year.

UPDATE (04/23): The link is down. Sojo’s working on it!

UPDATE 2 (04/23): Back up!

What will you choose for your life?

Seth Godin has this insightful blog up today:

With so many options in media, interaction and venues, you now get to choose what you expose yourself to.

Expose yourself to art, and you’ll come to appreciate it and aspire to make it.

Expose yourself to anonymous scathing critics and you will begin to believe them (or flinch in anticipation of their next appearance.)

Expose yourself to get-rich-quick stories and you’ll want to become one.

Expose yourself to fast food ads and you’ll crave french fries.

Expose yourself to angry mobs of uninformed, easily manipulated protesters and you’ll want to join a mob.

Expose yourself to metrics about your brand or business or performance and you’ll work to improve them.

Expose yourself to anger and you might get angry too.

Expose yourself to people making smart decisions and you’ll probably learn how to do it as well.

Expose yourself to eager long-term investors (of every kind) and you’ll likely to start making what they want to support.

It’s a choice if you want it to be.

He’s right; and he’s not the first to think so. The apostle Paul counseled the church in Philippi something similar, recognizing that we become like those we surround ourselves with and those things we choose to focus our minds on:

whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

And the psalmist acknowledges this too:

Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers. (Psalm 1:1)

The democratization of technology, and particularly the Internet, means that we are able to choose what we consume, what we read, what we buy, and even which people we interact with. Will we choose what glorifies God and builds for the kingdom? Will we choose hope over fear, faith in the face of doubt, love in spite of apathy and hate, justice over the status quo? Will we surround ourselves with those who encourage and inspire or with those who tear down and whose language is divisive?

As Seth writes: “It’s a choice if you want it to be.”

A new day: immigration and health care

I really ought to be going to sleep right now–I’ve been up since early this morning, and need to be up in just a few hours again for work. But I thought it’d be best to get my thoughts down while the figurative iron is still hot.

A lot has happened in the last twenty-four hours.

This morning, I led worship at Sojourners/Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform‘s prayer service. It was an honor for me to sing the songs of God with the people of God, including guests from Washington state, California, New York, Arizona and a crew from Wheaton College who’d driven through the night to get here.

In the afternoon, I headed down to the National Mall for March FOR America, a massive rally–somewhere between 100,000 to 500,000, depending on who you ask–in support of just and humane immigration reform, which was preceded by a stirring interfaith service (also on the Mall).

To walk through the throngs of people of all different ages and colors, immigrants or descended from immigrants or friends of immigrants, was a glimpse for me of the vision in Revelation 7:9, where “there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” In that vision, every knee bowed before the Lamb. In this present, people came together to show their commitment and support for comprehensive immigration reform, for just and humane legislation that kept families together. In standing with my immigrant brothers and sisters, in sharing our stories and our energy, in hearing not only Members of Congress but President Obama as well reaffirm their commitment to passing comprehensive immigration reform this year, my spirit was stirred and greatly encouraged.

(For a summary of the current state of our immigration system, check out this excellent piece from the Immigration Policy Center.)

And tonight, I saw history made as Congress passed comprehensive health care reform that provides coverage for 32 million more Americans and reduces the deficit by over $100 billion over the next 10 years and $1.3 trillion over the next 20 years. Which seems pretty win-win for me. It is not a perfect bill; it will require adjustments and tweaks. But it is a step, and a good step. As the President said in his address, shortly before midnight, “This isn’t radical reform, but it is major reform. This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system, but it moves us decisively in the right direction.”

(See news coverage from the NY Times, BBC News and Al Jazeera. And for a summary of what the bill does, you can check out CNN.)

One of the most striking moments, though, was an unexpected one. My friend Liz, who is one of my favorite people in the world and a kindred spirit on so many levels, posted on her Facebook status that today’s health care vote meant that her fiancé could never be denied health insurance on the basis of his diabetes. And that brought it home for me. I know the power of story; I recognize that statistics only go so far in a persuasive argument; I appreciate the importance of putting a face to every single number. I’ve helped people share their stories and heard many of them. But Liz’s joy brought joy to me on a very personal level.

Yes, we can.

UPDATE (3/22/10): Here are 10 immediate benefits of the health care legislation.

Ken Fong: “Different but definitely equal in every way”

Earlier this week, I went to a local showing of “Half the Sky Live.” I got home with every intention of writing up my experience and my thoughts. But my friend Ken Fong got there ahead of me. Here are his thoughts:

At the urging of one of EBCLA deacons, I began reading NY Times bestseller Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunities for Women Worldwide. Co-authored by NY Times reporters Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (who are married to each other), it’s an eye-popping revelation of how believing that girls and women are inferior to men is causing them to disappear from the face of the earth.

The ratios of male newborns to female newborns around the world is always pretty darn close to being 50/50. So why is it, when governments and agencies count the number of males and females in the world later, that there are consistently fewer females than males? I mean, we’re talking significantly fewer females than males and yet, according to an old Chinese proverb, women hold up “half the sky.” Girls and women are somehow disappearing off the face of the planet.

In far too many places there are all kinds of customs, religious beliefs, and prejudices that revolve around some form of the belief that women are not as valuable as men. When a poor family in Asia discovers that one of their sons is ill, there’s a great likelihood that the parent will take him to see a doctor. If one of their daughters is ill, the parents are hugely reluctant to spend time and money to take her the doctors. Same goes for food: sons are typically fed better and more food than daughters. Or if the family is destitute, the parents are far more likely to sell their daughter to shady character than one of their sons. Maternal mortality (dying while trying to deliver a baby) is another injustice that claims the lives of one mother every minute. Being trafficked as a prostitute in a neighboring country. Being denied the same education that boys are given. Being kidnapped and then raped so that she is no longer a virgin and ‘unfit’ for any other male in the village. Then the kidnapper/rapist has the gall to approach her father and ask for her hand in marriage! ‘Honor killings’ are committed by the girls’ own brothers in an effort to ‘regain’ the families’ honor if it’s found out that she no longer a virgin. Or, like in some parts of India, if a young woman spurns the advances of a male suitor, oftentimes he will surprise her later and throw acid in her face, horribly disfiguring and often blinding her. In the countries where these ‘honor’ acts of violence and evil towards women occur, the male culprits are rarely if ever arrested and then prosecuted. “She had it coming, you know.” It’s enough to make you blow a gasket, especially if, like me, you are committed to loving and honoring girls and women.

Through the CARE organization, the United Nations, and a growing “Half the Sky” movement around the globe, girls and women are being empowered to speak up and speak out, to insist that they are as valuable as any male. We heard numerous stories of even young girls who, when given access to education and protected from the perils associated with being born female in their societies, learned the laws of their countries, brought charges against the male perpetrators, and even eventually were the catalysts for shifting their culture’s paradigms towards girls and women. It was truly inspirational to ‘meet’ some of these valiant heroes who couldn’t, in many cases, restore their own virginity or dignity, but pursued this as their Heroes’ Journey on behalf of all other girls and women in their countries.

I came home with a disturbing question and a determined conviction.

The Disturbing Question: When some Christian groups interpret the Bible as teaching that God created women to live in a male-ruled hierarchy, that they must obediently submit to male ‘heads’ or risk violating a divine mandate, aren’t they also contributing to the oppression of girls and women? I left the theater no longer satisfied with just saying, ‘different strokes for different folks.’ Even if the point is made that the Bible teaches that women are of equal value before God, if a person’s being a female automatically and always means that they are overtly or subtly denied equal opportunities to learn, to lead, to teach, etc., that is oppressing them in the name of God.

The Determined Conviction: As a male whom the current Christian and societal system favors, I must take even more seriously God’s challenge to steward properly whatever power I’ve been given simply because I am male. Rather than use it to “rule over” those who start with less power, I am more determined than ever to use it to open doors that are now closed, to provide opportunities to grow as leaders and thinkers and preachers. I’ve been doing this for years, but now, more than ever, I will not simply enjoy my male privileges but use them to bless girls and women who today may not have access to those same privileges.

Ken Fong is the senior pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church, Los Angeles, and author of a number of books, including Secure in God’s Embrace: Living as the Father’s Adopted Child and Pursuing the Pearl: A Comprehensive Resource for Multi-Asian Ministry. He is also extremely awesome.