Check out circleofhope.net/jonnyrashid, my new address. We are importing followers! See you on the flip side.
Check out circleofhope.net/jonnyrashid, my new address. We are importing followers! See you on the flip side.
My old friend and I were talking about justice the other day, on our way to our Doing Theology event about justice. He was telling me how he respected a famous organization called Doctors Without Borders. He told me one of the reasons he loved them was because they were committed to only doing good work, and not just talking about it. Furthermore, they did not connect proselytizing with their work, and were forbidden to do so. He thought keeping Jesus out of this compassion work made sense. Sometimes it seems like compassion efforts and good will are a dangling carrot, so long as the people we are serving accept Jesus as their personal savior. I haven’t heard too many stories like that, and I think usually it is hyperbolic, but people certainly have that thought and that feeling.
I suppose if all we want is for people to utter a simple profession of faith before we serve them, that can seem a little manipulative. I’m not sure that such a dichotomy exists. I can’t seem to divorce justice and Jesus. And I wonder, is justice, true justice, really possible without Him? I think many hold that kind of view.
But I also contend that Jesus isn’t really possible without justice. Though there are many takes on what justice means, especially in the postmodern era, I think that real justice has to do with God reconciling himself with us. It has to do with salvation, and the endless hope and unconditional love of Jesus. Some would say that Jesus favored mercy to justice when he died for us, but I’d say there was nothing more just than his free and radical distribution of grace and forgiveness on us. There is enough love to go around—to us, it’s a free gift. We can receive it and share it. In that receptive and sharing, I think true justice can be achieved. And I think our acts of justice can lead people to Jesus. So, whether I profess his name with my mouth or with my actions, it will be professed I believe.
I think that’s why in Circle of Hope, we leave no stone unturned when it comes to helping people follow Jesus. Our compassion teams are leading us into ventures in the name of Christ. And so our cells and Sunday meetings. One of the reasons that our faith can be so all-encompassing is because the Spirit lives within us and we are the Body of Christ. We can’t divorce justice from Jesus, because we can’t, as Christians, divorce ourselves from Him.
So whether I profess his name with my voice or my story, in my being, in my body, he will be professed. The fact that someone can tell me not to talk about him, is almost like telling me not to live. Not because I can’t shut up about Jesus, but because for me to live is Christ! He is in my body, he is in my actions, my thoughts and my heart. I love him with all of those things, and O so I hope you will see him in all I do. And if you do not, I have something from which to repent.
I suppose that is something we all have to wonder about. If not in my actions am I representing Jesus, then what am I representing? Myself? My ego? My own good feelings? Socially constructed morality? Modernistic imposition? Political philosophy? There are many things that we consciously and unconsciously represent. Even saying that we should not be evangelistic is a kind of evangelism in itself.
When the religious leaders tell Jesus that his disciples are being too loud, he tells them that if they do keep quiet, the rocks will cry out. If Christians are silent, or are not doing the good work of Jesus, someone else will. I think God employs the willing, not the entitled. So, it is as much our responsible to act on Jesus’ behalf but to speak for him too. We are his hands and feet, but his ears and his mouth too.
God is not far off from us and I think if we look for him, we may find him, too. I personally respect the work that NGOs like I’m a fan of Doctors Without BordersDoctors Without Borders do, and I think Christ’s love can be known through their service even if they are silent about it. I’m thankful for all of the good work that humans do together, and I for one, will name Jesus and the Holy Spirit as responsible for all the good in the world.
So I don’t think you need to perform some great act of justice to represent Jesus, your little act of service and kindness goes a lot way to proclaiming Jesus name. You may want to name him with your voice while you do it, maybe the Spirit will do the heavy lifting.
(This post has spoilers–but I tend to agree with A.O. Scott on the subject.)
Well, Jurassic World was an awesome spectacle! And apparently that’s not an unpopular opinion as the summer blockbuster has enjoyed earning over $400 million at the box office. When it opened a few weeks ago, it beat the record for highest-grossing weekend of all time.
When a movie is that successful, I have to stop and ponder how it is influencing the legion of fans that are watching it. There’s something to be said about how impressive the flick is visually, but what else is it?
I went into to Jurassic World with high hopes. When I watched the trailer with the mosasaurs gobbling up that great white shark, I knew I had to see it. The original movie was captivating to me as a lad—the first PG-13 movie I ever watched—and I remember the moral of the story: leave creation up to the Creator. When humans start trying to be God, trouble finds them. In this case, when people starting trying to genetic engineer extinct species of dinosaurs and make a profit, things got a little out of control. Great lesson—so what’s the point of a sequel? What else could it tell us?
Honestly, it was superficially brilliant, but I was disappointed in the lack of substance of the film. Not just because the characters, aside from Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), are one-dimensional, but because the plot itself seem to unravel as quickly as the amusement park did.
The basic premise: The park is experiencing increasingly high operating costs. As a result of this, investors are pressuring the park to come up with an even greater attration. Enter Indominus rex the genetically engineered dinosaur that is based off of T-rex, but with a bunch of undisclosed animals mixed in. This ferocious, intelligent dinosaur is bigger and greater than the park can handle. When this super dinosaur escapes, the heroes have to figure out a way to regain control of their park.
Philosophically, the filmmakers were trying to create a conflict between Owen, a velociraptor trainer who is committed to “mutual respect” between him and the animals, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Masrani (Irrfan Khan) who represent the financial hunger of the park, and Vic (Vincent D’Onofrio), who sees nothing but militaristic opportunity in the dinosaurs. So the moral of the story seems to be that an interdependent relationship is better than a capitalist interest and militaristic opportunity. I suppose that is nice enough, except when it’s not.
That whole premise unravels at the end, as audience is treated to a display of outrageous, albiet totally cool, dinosaur fighting. The movie didn’t have an explicit moral that I could discern, but even without one, what else is it teaching us? Here are three myths that I think the film is perpetuating, that I think Jesus undoes.
I’m not sure the creators of Jurassic World were as malicious as I may make them seem. I think they just wanted to make a sweet movie during the summer, and dinosaurs are a great subject! But I think when we have such a large platform from which to speak, it is our obligation to consider what messages, conscious or unconscious, we are delivering.
Let’s discern and think together for the rest of the summer as we consume the seemingly innocent action blockbusters. There may be more there than we can immediately see.
I was an early adopter of Facebook. My freshman year of college, when Sean Maxwell told me to get on it (back then it was called thefacebook.com), I skeptically gave it a shot. I wasn’t really sure what it was, but it seemed to be the way that I could connect and remember the other Temple students I met. When I first joined you needed a .edu Email address to join as Zuckerberg was adding a variety of universities to his list. This was well before the contemporary newsfeed days. I remember when the feed was added to howls of protest—some people were saying, “Now people will be able to see everything I do!”
It’s funny how quickly we adapted to it. For a while, it seemed like things kept changing, until our privacy was totally sucked dry, and we were participating in commercializing ourselves. When Facebook started selling the ability to promote our own posts, I suppose we all became advertisers.
I think at first one of the main reasons I used Facebook was to keep in touch with friends. Lately, I think it’s become a little corporatized, and subsequently pretty banal, and I’m losing interest in it. But it still seems to be a great way to connect with new friends, forge new relationships, show a little love, even. I like using it to share things I love, articles I read, or to wish happy birthday to my friends. It has a use, I suppose. And it also shows me what the world is interested in. I’m not really opposed to social media, and I think it provides some great opportunities, but I still wonder and its effectiveness and its impact on its users (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically).
After I tried to get some of my friends to share things that I care about (an invitation to our Sunday meeting, a blog post I wrote, or a videocast the pastors made), and got some resistance, I wondered: is this thing dead? Our whole Leadership Team pondered the same thing.
Why won’t someone share what I ask? Some said it felt “spammy.” Others thought it might fall on deaf ears. Still others thought that it was like throwing pearls before swine—competing with other loud voices, sponsored posts, and corporations. One person has even told me Circle of Hope and what we are doing is too “real” to just post on Facebook. It felt cheap to them.
I suppose I don’t disagree with all this. So I asked my own Facebook friends whether they thought Facebook was dead. Considering the rich discussion that followed, I’m not sure I can confidently say it is.
One person wrote, “Undoubtedly it is dead, I think. But the next question is, do we have anything to bring to life on Facebook?” I really do think some of the stuff Circle of Hope offers, our cells, our Sunday meetings, our teams, bring life not just to Facebook but to our whole metro.
Another: “Less dead than a primitive Email system.” Maybe Facebook is a better way to communicate than Email, after all! I use Email much more, but don’t necessarily have great results to report.
Someone else thought it was about as generic as an annual high school year book, with people saying things are deep as “never change,” and “have a great summer!”
Another friend noted how great it is to sign into other apps with it and numerous people thought it was a good way to stay in touch with their friends, or see pictures of babies and weddings.
One of our leaders noted that it was never alive, but still, billions are on it, so that is something, right?
I think one of our staff members did some great theology with it: “I have interpreted your question thusly: Facebook never had life to begin with. Facebook has always been a kind of death. Life resides in God and creation, not computers. Life-giving relationship is face-to-face, spirit-to-spirit. It is in person. We are not ourselves on Facebook, we cultivate a brand of ideal self that isn’t our true self. Life cannot be had without in person contact. I’m thinking of 2 John 1:12: I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”
With such an engaging discussion, one person said, “I feel God in this Facebook post.” Another, “I enjoyed this Facebook conversation with people I will probably never have an opportunity to sit down and chat with face-to-face.”
There are many lessons to be learned from this dialogue.
Sometimes I think the fact that there are billions on Facebook, and every corporation ever, makes Facebook feel kind of like the NBA Finals: trying to make money off of us and tricking us that we are enjoying what’s happening. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and it has lost the coolness that exclusive things can have, but I think lots of people are on Facebook, and so for now, I’ll stay on and use it for the Kingdom as best as I can.