Hipster Prose

Thoughts from a fellow with black-framed glasses.

Social Voting

This years Presidential Election is probably the most in-tune I’ve ever been with the political dual. Granted, this is only the second time ever I’ve been eligible to vote, my circumstances during the 2008 election were a far cry from what they are now. Growing up I was a die-hard Republican, I never really knew why, I just was. That’s how I was raised to think. I was raised to think Bill Clinton was bad and George W. Bush was good, and subsequently every red candidate that came along thereafter was good and the blues were bad. I just swallowed this ideology because politics were of mild interest at best to me as a young(er) adult.

This time around feels much different, over the last four years since the 2008 Election, I’ve come to see how politics not only effect us locally and nationally, but also internationally. How the decisions we make at the polls can impact people half the world away.

As a result of being tuned in to this years election (and being enrolled in U.S. Government for my general education has definitely served to boost my interest) I’ve definitely taken notice of the visceral reactions (as my professor refers to them) that people have when discussing the candidates and their ideals. Generally speaking, the social issues take on the most emotional responses, like whether Gay Marriage or Abortion should be legalized. Most of the people, if not all, that I’ve discussed politics (or just heard their reasons for voting for Obama or Romney) are basing their decision mostly, if not completely on these social issues. Domestic and Foreign Policy, the economy, the environment, are all issues that would be lucky if they were on the back burner in some of these people’s cases.

I realized that I resolved a long time ago that I’m not basing my vote on these social issues, not only because of the highly charged emotional atmosphere that surrounds them, but because they’re ultimately such a small slice of the larger pie.

To me, the economy, domestic and foreign policy, the environment—those are “big picture” issues, they have implications for everyone regardless of your sexual orientation or whether you’ve had an abortion or not. Our treatment of those policies, whether we want the government to be firmer with trade regulations on Wall Street, or if should we continue to operate our military as though we were a global police force; those issues truly touch everybody. Our decisions in those areas are public and global.

The social issues, to me, are between the individual and their conscience. If that persons religious convictions compel them to affirm or reject them, that’s up to them. The way I see it, God showed us how to live. First by delivering the law to Moses and then in the person of Jesus Christ he showed us how to live through grace. The point though, and this is important, is that God never forced his will on anybody—and he still doesn’t. He’s showed us the choices we can make, how we can choose to live, but he never made those choices for us. So my question to you the reader, and all Christian voters is: If God didn’t choose for us, if God didn’t force his will on others, what in the world makes us think we have the right to?

You can throw any Scripture you want to justify whether you think Gay Marriage or Abortion should be legal or illegal. Frankly, I don’t care. I refuse to take sides on these issues, I see the merit of both, but demanding that a group of people adhere to our standards of living comes dangerously close to oppression. The Babylonians did it to the Israelites, the Romans did it to the Jews (along with everyone else they conquered) and such has been the case for every country that’s taken over another culture. I believe that the Godly thing to do would be to remain neutral, to love them as they are but neither condemn nor condone the choices. Just love the people, how God feels about them and his plan for them is absolutely, unequivocally up to him and nobody else (thankfully).

I’m voting to re-elect Barack Obama in November because he represents for me the most Christ-like values of the two candidates. His vision for how the government and the economy should operate are closer to the love, compassion, generosity and equality that Christ stood for than the alternatives.

See you at the polls.

I’ve leapt across the aisle!

I’m voting for Obama in November.

Yep, it’s true. Not that you, the reader, care who I’m voting for but you’re not the one writing this are you? If you had asked me four years ago if I am voting for Barack Obama the hair on my neck would have stood on end. I was a red-blooded GOP loving Democrat hating bigot. All of the hot-button issues I had ill-informed but passionately conservative answers to.

For one reason or another, as really begun to walk through life independent of various influences, I’ve really landed on a perspective towards these various subjects with a larger, often more holistic understanding. I don’t think I would be what conservatives pejoratively label as “Marxist”, though admittedly I find some of Marx’s theories appealing and rather biblical—aside from the fact that he was himself an atheist. That being said, I am at the very least left-of-center. As the elections draw nearer, I’m truly for the first time processing the different issues at stake. Everything from gay marriage and abortion to energy and the environment. My priorities are probably arranged slightly different than many, if not most, politically-minded individuals because there’s one or two of the big social issues that I’m not comfortable coming to a specific conclusion on (e.g. gay marriage, in other words: I can see merit to both sides of the issue). So my “liberal” emphasis shifts towards domestic and foreign policy, the environment and energy related issues.

With all of those different topics in mind, I follow with this statement made in 2008 by Ed Dobson when asked why he voted for Barack Obama,

I decided since I had read through the gospels at that point over 30 times, I wanted to know who best represented the fundamental teachings of Jesus, and I felt that he more than any other candidate represented the teachings of Jesus, so I voted for him,

I find myself in complete agreement with that statement.

I’m sure many of my GOP friends and family members are dry-heaving at what I’ve written so far. You may be thinking that Obama’s policies and ambitions are the antithesis of freedom which the GOP is somehow the beacon of light for. Well, honestly if you think Mitt Romney is your guy then you have some horrendously warped notions of freedom?

Perhaps none of us, no matter how pious and sanctimonious, have a true notion of freedom. What we’re left with, though, are opinions and perspectives. Mine is that the interests of the Democratic party more accurately represent what I think it means to be Christ-like than the GOP. I don’t believe the Democratic party has it completely figured out, but from where I stand they’re closer than the alternative(s).

Increasing gun control, legalizing abortion in specific situations, legalizing marijuana for medicinal use, incentivizing the private sector to produce clean energy solutions and dial back our offshore oil drilling and making it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens are just a few of the issues that I think Christ would either be compassionate towards or flat out support.

So with my final thoughts, I want to close with just an encouragement to think longer than just a few moments at who, what and why you’re voting for the people and the things that you’re voting for. Ask yourself why you have that certain visceral response to particular issues and consider the direction it may be taking you.

If perhaps you’re unsure where you lie on the political spectrum, or what candidate may represent you best, I highly recommend taking this quiz: http://www.isidewith.com it takes roughly 20-30 minutes if you spend a lot of time thinking about the questions. There’s a chance this will give you a pretty clear indication on who would represent you best this November.

Taken with Instagram

Taken with Instagram

Cheap

A few days ago my dad and I were riding up to Redding to take a look at a truck, it was nice because it afforded us a little more time than usual to just have a one-on-one chat. As we were driving along Highway 99 we started talking about Orthodoxy and why it’s appealing to me. In the past, I felt I had adequately described my position, that I am in agreement with the Eastern Orthodox Church’s claims that they are the “Ancient Faith of Peter and Paul”, that they can be traced, uninterrupted all the way back to the day of Pentecost in the first century.

He knew this well, and my friends whom I’ve talked with about this also probably get that part. But why am I chasing after all that tradition? What could possibly be interesting about ‘dead religion’?

Well, the thing is the label came from Evangelicalism, something I’ve more and more come to have a great disdain for. I was raised as an Evangelical and probably still fall in that camp since I’m not yet in the Orthodox Church. However, I assure you, the Orthodox Church is anything but ‘dead’. It’s religion, yes, but guess what? So is Evangelicalism? Evangelicalism has made a tradition out of scorning tradition. There’s something to be said for discovering the Church that has maintained a continuity for over 2,000 years. How some people shrug that off will always be beyond me.

I’ve been trying for weeks to put a finger on an adjective that best describes my ‘falling out’ with Protestantism and especially Evangelicalism. First, let me say this ‘falling out’ isn’t with the people, I still love and embrace each and everyone of them. The falling out is with the ideology and the theology. The feeling that the sermon is more often than not in the service of something else, and the worship—if you want to call it that—feels little more than the bargain basement variety.

And that’s when I landed on the adjective: Cheap.

I finally realized that my issue with Protestantism and Evangelicalism is that the entire experience is cheap. Like a knock off.

I used this analogy when explaining it to my dad: I told him it’s like having an opportunity to get a rare vintage Schwinn roadbike, it may take some getting used to because it’s older and different than what we’re used to, but it’s solid, it’s quality and even though it’s older it’s guaranteed to be really effective. Your other option is a knock-off Wal Mart roadbike. It looks similar, it might even ride slightly like the Schwinn, but if you were to strip it down and examine it you’d find that the pieces that make up the bike are poor quality. Oh, it’s a road bike, absolutely, but it’ll only get you so far before you get a flat tire or your chain falls off.

My experience with the Evangelical tradition is like riding the knock off bike. My chain fell off, my tire’s flat, my forks bent and my brake cable has failed.

There’s something glorious about the Orthodox Church. I still haven’t visited Saints Cyril & Methodius yet, but I’m chomping at the bit to. Everything I’ve come to understand thus far is amazing, but commitment and devotion to Jesus Christ and the maintaining of the doctrine he gave to his Apostles who in turn passed it onto their successors, and so on and so forth on down to today.

Why aren’t we all getting in on this?!

We have an opportunity to partake in and experience the very same church that the Apostles were running in the Scriptures. Now, I can you all saying “We’re all the true church, the invisible church”. Well, I’m not going to argue that, we’re all Christians—that was never in question. What I’m suggesting is that the Orthodox Church’s insistence that they’ve maintained the fullness of the apostolic faith since the first century is actually true. That over the centuries starting with Rome in 1054CE, things have become warped. Either added (by Rome) or subtracted (by the Protestant Reformation and everything that’s stemmed from it) from the original Apostolic doctrine.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a part of the whole thing. Sure, we have the right savior (Jesus) and we have the right bible, but why not the right church too?

I say I want all three.

On the road (again?)…

Well, I’m not actually traveling anywhere, but nonetheless I’ve found myself on another journey. I would say really this traces back to 2005-06 when I began to break away from the church and the lifestyle that I had grown up in. It was around this time that I really, honestly, considered that Christianity started in the ancient Near East and not 16th century Europe.

Nearly seven years later I’ve found myself on a road toward the Eastern Orthodox Church, the one true church that has maintained the Ancient faith of Christ and the Apostles throughout the centuries.

I definitely didn’t hit the ground running, this slowly started off with my realization that ‘something wasn’t quite right’ in the sense that the way us Evangelicals (and by extension most Protestants) live out our faith. Now, before you throw a yellow card thinking that I’m saying Protestantism is wrong, you’re not entirely wrong. The Orthodox Church has never asserted that Catholics and Protestants aren’t Christians, they’re just missing out on the fullness of the faith because they’ve deviated or abandoned altogether the traditions handed down to them by Apostles (and therefore Christ). 

If you had dropped all of that on me in one sitting a few years ago, I probably would’ve scoffed, changed the subject and moved on. Never looking back.

But, I get it now. I see the legitimacy of the Church’s claims to be the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church”. One of the best books I’ve read this far is the book Becoming Orthodox by the late Fr. Peter Gillquist (memory eternal). 

The journey isn’t over, and I suppose it won’t ever be, but it definitely has taken a drastic turn. It’s almost humorous sometimes to see the expression on people’s faces when I tell them I’m pursuing Orthodoxy. It’s as though I’ve told them I’m leaving the faith altogether or becoming a Roman Catholic. Other times it’s hurtful, I can feel the proverbial stiff arm extending my way as though I told them I’m converting to Mormonism or joining a cult and I want them to come with.

The prices we pay for the ignorance of others.

I’ve found though that in situations like these the Lord supplies you with an extra helping of grace when put into these situations. I just continue to pray that the Lord guides me on this path and leads me into all truth and wisdom.

Stay tuned because more will be coming as I catalogue my slow-but-sure transition into Orthodoxy.

The Gospel

Growing up when someone said the gospel I just imagined the segment of my bible that contains the gospels of St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke and St. John. That was my understanding of what the gospel was, simply the part of the bible that talked about Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection. Sometimes I still fall into this rut and think of the gospels as a lifeless part of the Scriptures that read just like any textbook from high school.

Thankfully though over the six or seven years I’ve increasingly become aware of just how the gospel extends beyond the paper it was written on. That it’s a message, and sometimes a message isn’t only communicated on the paper but also by how it’s delivered.

I think a lot of Christians are in this rut but they don’t even think anything’s wrong, they don’t even see a need to be rescued from this rut. For some Christians, proclaiming the good news goes only as far as accusing somebody of being a sinner and then getting them to say a quickie prayer to fix everything.

That’s about as deep as a mud puddle in July.

The good news is echoed throughout Scripture, not just in the three synoptics and St. John’s gospel. We see it in the messages of the prophets who described the new thing God is doing, we see it in Paul’s letters to the churches around the Empire, we see it in John’s letter of Revelation to the seven churches in Asia minor. Throughout the biblical narrative there’s this story being told that God has a plan, and through Christ it was set in motion.

This plan isn’t limited to human beings. Sure, we were the catalyst, but when we first rebelled against our maker we brought the rest of Creation down with us. When Christ rose again in the first century AD, God’s plan to reel everything back to himself was finally in full-swing. His plan to reconcile people and rocks and whales and buffalo and monarch butterflies and redwood trees and mountains and grass.

Everything.

All of it.

He actually does love this place, he loves this world and “through Christ he’s reconciling all things to himself whether things in heaven or on Earth” (Col. 1:20)

So if you’re ever in a position to share the Jesus story with someone, maybe remember that it’s about renewal and redemption. That Christ’s resurrection is bringing heaven and Earth back together again. This is something that’s happened, it started, it’s already going—it’s just not yet finished. We have that to look forward to at Christ’s return.

That’s our future hope. Heaven and Earth brought back together into one single space and reality where creation is no longer fractured and torn away from it’s maker but acting in harmony with him. Pollution, the exploitation of resources, natural disasters, abuse of people and the planet will no longer exist. This is a future reality that we can drag into the present by fighting to stop these things as much as we can, cutting back on our waste and pollution, rejecting and opposing the exploitation of resources and the people and places they come from. Involving our actions in the things that will last, that will pass into the age to come. Things like sustainable living, protecting the orphan, widow and foreigner, taking care of the poor, oppressed and downtrodden. All these things lead us into the New Creation, the New Jerusalem.

Sounds worth the effort to me.

This > anything you’ll ever post. #justgiveup (Taken with Instagram)

This > anything you’ll ever post. #justgiveup (Taken with Instagram)

800 year old building; in a 162 year old state.  (Taken with Instagram)

800 year old building; in a 162 year old state. (Taken with Instagram)

Protect ya neck (Taken with Instagram)

Protect ya neck (Taken with Instagram)

The new exodus, a second exodus

It’s funny how you can read a book multiple times and yet not fully begin to comprehend what it’s talking about. Case in point: I’m reading Jesus Wants To Save Christians: A Manifesto For The Church In Exile for the third time, a work co-written by Rob Bell (his second book) and former Mars Hill pastor and a SVP at World Relief.

The essence of the book is the theology of the New Exodus, or sometimes referred to as the Second Exodus. The first few chapters dive into the back story, painting a picture of the Israelites suffering in Egypt when God hears and then responds to their cries. We then follow their journey from Egypt, to Mt. Sinai where God begins the process of teaching them how to be human again through the issuing of the Ten Commandments, since slavery ultimately robs you of the honor and dignity that comes from our humanity in the first place. What happens at Sinai is considered a wedding ceremony, “God’s needs a body” the authors write, asserting that when God told the Israelites they would be a “priestly nation” that he was opting for them to represent who he is to the rest of the world.

"If Sinai was a wedding it didn’t make it past the ceremony" they continue, recalling the Israelites construction and subsequent worship of the golden calf that Moses stumbled upon immediately after his descent from the summit. You might look at that and begin to see that things are already falling apart at the seems and the plan had hardly had a chance to roll out.

Next we’re taken to Jerusalem under the reign of Solomon. This is one of the most profound segments of the early chapters of the book and it really hit home this time around. In this part, the authors are pointing out all of the ways that Solomon (and by extension the entire nation of Israel) had forgotten where they came from, they forgot their story. They cite the instructions given by Moses in Deuteronomy 17:

6The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” 17He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.

Then they compare that to the accounts given in 1 Kings 10 & 11:

(Chapter 10)

14The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents,d 15not including the revenues from merchants and traders and from all the Arabian kings and the governors of the land.

26Solomon accumulated chariots and horses; he had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses,h which he kept in the chariot cities and also with him in Jerusalem. 27The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills. 28Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypti and from Kuej—the royal merchants purchased them from Kue. 29They imported a chariot from Egypt for six hundred shekelsk of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty.l They also exported them to all the kings of the Hittites and of the Arameans.

(Chapter 11)

3He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 4As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.

When I actually cross-checked these scriptures I was blown away. I had read this book twice before yet I hadn’t gone back to the scriptures to see for myself. The authors continue, in Leviticus 19 they were instructed to not mistreat the foreigner because they were slaves in a foreign country once upon a time:

The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

Yet back in 1 Kings 19

Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the LORD’s temple, his own palace, the supporting terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer.

As the authors point out, what’s another word for forced labor?

Slavery.

It’s utterly astounding how at every juncture Solomon and the Israelites failed to uphold their side of things. And so the prophets come on the scene and start shining a light on their shortcomings, telling them they’ve neglected the poor, oppressed, orphaned and widows—Amos was especially trying to drive this point home. Yet they wouldn’t have any of it, and so the reader is taken to the fourth and final stop: Babylon.

Try as they might the prophets words fell on deaf ears and the Israelites didn’t change their ways, and so God groomed a foreign army to conquer Israel, leaving it in rubble while taking any survivors back to their country to work as “servants”. Again, as the authors point out: what’s a servant who serves against their will?

A slave.

So the Israelites had gone full-circle, they were oppressed in slavery and cried out. God heard their cry (He always will hear the cry of the oppressed) and rescued them, taking them to Sinai to form a covenant in which they would be his representation to the world. Through them the world would know what God cares about and who God cares about. However, as we can see by Solomons leadership choices in Jerusalem they failed to do that and so they were exiled to Babylon.

And it’s there, in the midst of their pain and despair in a foreign country that they begin to imagine God rescuing them again like he did their ancestors. Yet, this initial dream began to grow and become more and more expansive until it didn’t just encompass one ethnic group in a small Near Eastern region, but everyone, everywhere—all mankind will see it. (Isa. 40)

They began to ask themselves “What if David had another son?”. That question is huge. Solomon was David’s actual son, and under his rule everything went sideways. The prophets however, imagined David having another son that would undo everything Solomon did wrong by facing each juncture he faced and making the right choice, the wise choice.

Enter Jesus, whom was often referred to as the “Son of David”. I always dismissed this comment in scripture as just a reference to his lineage. Now I understand it’s broader context, for those that recognized Jesus as the Messiah, the understood that this was David’s “other son” that the prophets were imagining, and he did indeed go the opposite way at every juncture that Solomon had faced before.

Jesus said he came to bring good news to the poor, Solomon turned a blind eye.

Solomon built the temple, the palace, the terraces and military bases on the backs of slaves. Jesus proclaimed that he had come to set the captives free.

Amazing isn’t it?

I’m not even half way through it but so much of it is finally sinking in and I just had to throw together an entry about it.

I highly suggest this book, you can find it just about anywhere. The New Exodus paradigm is an extremely holistic view of what Christ’s life, death and resurrection is all about and I think it paints an excellent picture for how church culture and our lives as Jesus followers should look.

Food for thought.