Other People’s Thoughts

I thought I’d try a new angle with posting this week. Rather than my typical approach of serving up my thinking on a particular topic, this post highlights a few of the blog posts and other readings that I’ve been considering over the last couple weeks. My hope in this post is to share a bit of what is stirring my imagination and reflection at the moment, and then to invite you to add your voices…or posted responses as it were. I’ve included links on freedom of religion and sexual orientation, African-American experiences of Christian colleges, and a “Slow Church”/”All-Things Church” conversation on approaches to community engagement. So, here’s the first (and so far only) edition of “Other People’s Thoughts.”

Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Sexual Orientation in the same sentence?

Rob Joustra pulled together a thoughtful op-ed in the Calgary Herald on the intermingled freedoms of religion and sexual orientation. While written to address a conversation emerging within the Canadian context, I believe this piece transfers well across borders.  Not only does he affirm the role of governments in protecting human dignity, Rob sends a challenging call for Christian engagement: “It is not in spite of, but rather because of a rooted, orthodox Christian conviction that I am free to respect and love people with whom I find difference.” The article offers a subtle, yet important shift in posture, calling the church to focus more on affirming our love for our neighbors rather than on debating which of our neighbors’ loves will receive our affirmation.

Listening to Dreams Deferred, Distorted, and Disrupted

Christena Cleveland has initiated an important conversation through her “Black to School” series (part 1, part 2, part 3…with several more parts to come). Each part is shaped by an African-American who recently graduated from a predominately-white Christian college in America. The series is both an offering of solidarity to persons of color in Christian institutions of higher education (whether as students, staff, or faculty), as well as an attempt to raise awareness, inviting persons of privilege, particularly those in leadership within Christian higher-education, to listen well. As Christena says in part 1, “In this diverse collection of stories, you’ll find humor, bewilderment, anger, wisdom, fear, grace, pain, prophecy and hope.” Though contextualized in Christian colleges and universities, the story-tellers could just as easily be sharing their experiences of being sidelined or ignored in Christian churches within North America. Reading their stories at the beginning of the academic year and in the context of the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech adds to the poignancy of how dreams continue to be deferred, distorted, and disrupted by ongoing racism within the body of Christ.  

One Church. Two Church. Slow Church. All-Things Church. 

A valuable dialogue unfolded last week around the breadth and depth of the church’s calling and capacity to effect change within the broader culture. Check out Jamie Smith’s post “Knitting While Detroit Burns” on Cardus’ blog advocating for Christian engagement with systemic or macro issues of justice and governance. The comments that follow Jamie’s post are rich in graciousness, while still pointing out substantive differences of perspective. Chris Smith’s response to Jamie on his Slow Church blog continues this important conversation. Peter Stockland adds an insightful follow up to both Smiths through his post on “Power and the Common Good” (also on the Cardus blog), looking at four approaches to power and how those approaches impact this conversation and the forms of our work toward the common good. There is much to think about here about the methodology for missional engagement and the extent to which we, as Christians, hope to be a transforming presence within the communities in which we live and serve.

Now It’s Your Turn…

Now that you have caught a glimpse of three posts and conversations that have been catching my imagination over the past couple weeks, I’m wondering if you would return the favor. When it comes to missional engagement, Christian community and discipleship, or plain and simple being church, what have you read lately? What’s spurring your imagination? 

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