The Good Life

Yesterday, bouncing out of a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.,* I suggested that the work of securing the necessary rights and protections for those who don’t currently enjoy them is a noble and necessary task, but the higher calling is to lay down our own rights in service of others. You can see the full post here.

This, it seems to me, is something of a foundational commitment for those of us who call ourselves Christians, even if we don’t always (or even often) live it out.

What I want to suggest in this post is that this way of living actually (and somewhat ironically) is what leads to ‘fullness of life’—to flourishing!

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Necessary Rights & the Necessity of Laying Down Our Rights

It’s now 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and his words and example are as relevant—and as challenging—as ever. Though there are constant (conscious and unconscious) attempts to water down Dr King’s powerful words into ‘nice’ sayings and safe and shareable memes, there are numerous voices reminding us how radical were his words and how uncomfortable they should make us if we were to take them seriously.

MLK

I’ve been thinking a lot about Dr King’s words these past few days (I try to read his Letter from a Birmingham Jail on a regular basis), and I’ve kept coming back to this quote of his from an address at Western Michigan University:

Continue reading Necessary Rights & the Necessity of Laying Down Our Rights

(A Short Post on) Public Faith, Cultural Privilege, & Confected Culture Wars

Mike Frost* posted the following statement on social media yesterday:

The church has grown so accustomed to cultural privilege—a privilege it should never have had in the first place—that its erosion feels like persecution, when it’s not.

As a result, instead of meaningful engagement with society, we draw battle lines in confected culture ‘wars’ featuring praying football coaches, dissenting county clerks, and recalcitrant wedding cake bakers.

To my mind, this is one of the most piercing (and succinct!) analyses of the state of public faith (and flawed understandings of ‘mission’) in places like Australia and the U.S.—and I’m sure a number of others—that I’ve seen in a long time.

I won’t add any further comment on the statement here, but would love to get a conversation going around it in the comments section.

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* Mike is a leading voice in the missional church movement, Vice Principal of Morling College (in Sydney, Australia), author, speaker, and a bunch of other things (including, some might say, provocateur).

Campaigning and (Enlightened) Self Interest

I’ve been thinking for a while about the morality of using ‘enlightened self interest’ in the service of campaigning (on issues like climate change, global poverty, asylum seekers/refugees, etc.).

Is it strategically more beneficial to consciously frame a campaign around enlightened self interest (rather than, say, a more ‘pure’ altruism)? Is it ethically/morally acceptable to do so? In a context (especially for Western nations) of unadulterated self interest, is a move to ‘enlightened’ self interest a step in the right direction?

It’s been helpful, then, to stumble across this interview with the excellent Rev. Dr Joel Edwards, where he discusses ‘legitimate self interest’ (in the context of the campaign around the aid budget in Britain).

I’m going to think a little more on these things. I’d welcome your input!

Nick Jensen, Same-Sex Marriage, and Public Faith

I wasn’t going to say anything about the recent furore surrounding Canberra couple Nick and Sarah Jensen’s plans to divorce if same-sex marriage is introduced in Australia, but I think it’s worth noting a few points. (If you haven’t read the article yet, I encourage you to do so before reading on.)

I’ve written a number of times (on this blog and on social media) about how Christians might approach the issue of same-sex marriage (you can find a couple of my posts here and here), and I won’t bother rehashing those arguments here.

What I would note are the following two points:

Continue reading Nick Jensen, Same-Sex Marriage, and Public Faith

Minimalism

I’m a fan of minimalist design.

I was introduced to the concept by a friend who, noting the design of the iPhone (which was, at that point, relatively new), described the possibility of stripping back that which is unnecessary in order to find ‘perfection’ (rather than seeking the same result by ‘adding things on’). In the context of the dominance of Blackberry phones and the ‘fact’ that a business device required a full, physical qwerty keyboard, the iPhone boasted a bold, minimalist design. And it won. It became that which we never knew we always needed.

I’ve thought about the point often since then.

When I read Richard J. Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, I was struck by the chapter on the ‘discipline of simplicity’. I remain gripped by this vision where my speech and actions and entire way of life is far more…simple—far less cluttered and noisy and complex.

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Same-Sex marriage: A topic too hot to touch? Or an argument too out of touch?

In this month’s edition of the Eternity Christian newspaper, Karl Faase contributes a short piece about same-sex marriage in Australia, entitled ‘A topic too hot to touch’.

Karl’s argument goes something like this: ‘many’ evangelicals in Australia have ‘gone silent’ (or, God forbid, support same-sex marriage legislation) due to a broader focus on love, justice, and the desire to present a relevant message to society—all of which are, Karl suggests, ok in-and-of themselves, but which seem to have conspired here to confuse church leaders or to rob them of their courage on this issue. This has left them unable or unwilling to defend the ‘clear biblical values’ that should, it seem, inspire staunch opposition to any such legislative changes.

Now, Karl is a smart guy, a successful pastor, a gifted communicator, and someone who is no stranger to issues of faith in the public square.

I would suggest, however, that, in the process of calling out what he sees as the error of passivity in his opponents, he has here fallen squarely into the equal but opposite error of coercion. Passivity and coercion, as Miroslav Volf reminds us, are the two common malfunctions of public faith. One of the results of his call to action is to align (and thus to radically reduce) his version of Christianity with conservative politics and to align those who disagree with him to progressive politics. This is as unhelpful as it is misguided.

Continue reading Same-Sex marriage: A topic too hot to touch? Or an argument too out of touch?