No worries, no joke, if the world ends, I still love you

“To all my Pharisaical law-worshiper acquaintances: if the “rapture” happens this weekend like you demand it must, let me just say: my house keys are under the back doormat, so help yourself to my guns & Bibles. Please be gentle, though, when you throw the hardcover one at each other.  I won’t be there to forgive you.” 

This was the Facebook status of my friend Jesse K.  yesterday.  Jesse and I worked together at a Lutheran Bible Camp in Iowa in the summers of 1999 and 2000.  He now works as the camp’s program director.  He knows some things about the Bible and Christianity and he’s a really smart guy.  As for his Facebook status regarding this weekend, he’s completely kidding.

Like me, Jesse doesn’t expect to be sucked into heaven on Saturday. I thought his satirical statement was hilarious.  I agree with its point too.  Believers need to remember the dangers of focusing on literal and legalistic interpretations of scripture, instead of the heart of the law of God: love.

You probably have heard that Harold Camping of Family Radio and his followers have been warning all of us that the end of the world is scheduled to happen on Saturday.  This is not the first time that this has happened.  NPR’s story about how Harold Camping compares in history to other doomsday “prophets” has helped me answer questions from my students this week.

I talked to my friend Hillary B.K., a Lutheran pastor, on Wednesday night.  She joked that it might not be necessary for her to write a Sunday sermon this week, but then she figured that God would probably leave some ministers for the people who are left behind.

I laughed and asked her what I need to do to get ready for the rapture.  She told that I needed to catch up on my repenting. I needed to get busy making a sackcloth and smear myself with ashes then wander around the city, fast and say I was sorry for my sins.  I laughed and told her I would go straight to the business district and federal buildings and loudly apologize for the destruction our social sins of greed and militarism have caused.

Really though, I am fascinated by all of the commotion created by the end-of-the-world hype.  I think it’s pretty funny and I wonder if I am unloving to those who take it very seriously.  Certainly, comedians and news-writers have had a lot of fun lately with the apocalyptic material.  I can’t say I blame them.  I am convinced God has a sense of humor and laughs right along with us.  As I laugh, I keep on loving and hoping the best for all people.

Yet, I  know I have had my own concerns about where the world is headed.  I even wrote my own little apocalyptic statement in 2008 after I learned about Peak Oil theory in 2005.  But generally, I am not guided by fear, just consciousness. I tend to typically choose trust in God and love.

Admittedly, I am no Bible nor Eschatology scholar.  Everyone’s guess is as good as mine.  I am only a woman who is trying to live the Gospel in the 21st century.

I know that I have met Christians who talk about the end-times like a cop-out or comfort.  I have actually heard Christians say things like:  “I am just glad that he end times is soon and I am saved.  I hate this world and this life.”  I bit my tongue and said a prayer; escapism instead of struggle for the sake of growth and loving seem unhealthy to me.

In my own family I have experienced the harm of rapture-focused fear-driven types of Christianity. One summer my youngest sister went to a different Bible camp than the rest of us because of a schedule conflict. She was 10 at the time.

During the middle of the night they had a “rapture drill” for the children. They woke everyone up and told them it was the end of the world then brought them to a party for those that were “saved.”

My sister says that camp was a paradise until she was asked if she was saved. Then she heard “Would you like to be? Why not, what’s your deal?  You’re crying? You’re crying because you have not accepted Jesus in your life.”  She cried with confusion. Now, 13 years later she still has a lot doubts and confusion and doesn’t really profess a faith.  She knows she is loved, however, so that’s good news!

Let’s tell the good news! We are all loved!  Jesus is all about love, not fear nor judgement!!  The gospel is about trust and faith and helping people know God through love by sharing, compassion, healing, service, prayer, and work for justice.

As far as the end of the world goes,  I want you to all know that I love you, no matter what.  And, I hope you don’t mind, but I am going to believe what Jesus says about the rapture, more than anyone else:

Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one deceives you.
Many will come in my name saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will deceive many.
When you hear of wars and reports of wars do not be alarmed; such things must happen, but it will not yet be the end.
Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes from place to place and there will be famines. These are the beginnings of the labor pains.
But the gospel must first be preached to all nations.
If anyone says to you then, ‘Look, here is the Messiah! Look, there he is!’ do not believe it.  False messiahs and false prophets will arise and will perform signs and wonders in order to mislead, if that were possible, the elect.
Be watchful! I have told it all to you beforehand.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.
– Mark 13: 5-11, 21-23, 30-33 

loving over the divide

Sorry, friends, Stephen Colbert’s video’s can’t be embedded in the same way as YouTube videos, but I really hope you’ll watch this video and share your thoughts.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Glenn Beck Attacks Social Justice – James Martin
www.colbertnation.com
http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:267673
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> Video Archive

Here are my thoughts:  It’s hilarious because it is so right on.  I actually used that video when I introduced Catholic Social Teaching principles to my Peace and Justice students this year. We had to watch it a few times because we were all laughing so hard that we couldn’t hear everything.

Christianity is so messy for so many reasons. One of the reasons it’s messy is because we’re all very divided about the best methods of practice and the meaning of the message.  What if Glenn Beck is right and social justice is a code for communist Christianity? (That’s just confusing!)  What if Fr. James Martin is wrong and Jesus wasn’t really poor “because his father was loaded.”

One of my advent posts created some controversy because we didn’t all believe that Jesus was a poor man.  Why not?  Why is it uncomfortable to think about Jesus as poor? What if he really was just a middle class man of his era?  What if the emphasis of Christianity is supposed to be spirituality and not justice?  (I believe it’s always a combination.)

What is the definition of poverty? What is the definition of justice?

Brothers and Sisters, we must return to our Christian roots.  The point of all of this is love not squabble!  My students – and many young people – are watching the way Christian adults behave and becoming very confused.  “Sister, if Christianity is supposed to be all about Love, then why are Christians so mean to each other?”  What am I supposed to say?  I sigh and see the Beatitudes and the Great Commandment hanging on my classroom wall. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

The current climate of our country begs us to love each other in healing sorts of ways.  Slander was screamed all over the internet while President Obama gave his bold State of the Union speech.  Yet his words remind us that democracy is about peace and basic respect.

“It’s no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years.  The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs.  And that’s a good thing.  That’s what a robust democracy demands.  That’s what helps set us apart as a nation. But there’s a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passion and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater -– something more consequential than party or political preference. We are part of the American family.  We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different from those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.” – President Obama

Indeed the tragedy in Tucson shook our nation.  What if it also alerted Christians about the danger of divisions in the Christian church?  Crowds continue to pray for Representative Giffords’ healing and wipe away tears of disbelief.  Meanwhile, the Blessed Holy Spirit blows through tension between us and builds bridges of Christ-like compassion.  Converted to Love, I hope we can walk toward one another on that bridge where hot dialogue happens.

Young people need a church that they want to be part of, one that gives them passion and faith.  My students need to be eager to share the Love that they find in their churches on the violent streets because they know it is True.

I need to be willing to model what Christian Love and unity could look like for the people who pay attention to me, even when I am really mad.  I pray that I can have an open heart and mind to all people of faith.  I pray for ability to love someone who says my passion- social justice- is wrong.  I pray that I have the strength to lovingly walk across the divide, right into the arms of my enemies.

God help us; God bless us; God unite us. Amen.

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Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cobalt/4580219355/

the disturbing, poor baby Jesus

Pop Quiz!  This is a question from a test I recently gave my Peace and Justice students.  See if you can get it right!

The answer will be at the end of this post, in case you’re not really sure.

Advent is a season of waiting. This year, I keep asking God what I’m waiting for.  Do I need some huge conversion in my life? Do I need a new dose of hope or energy?

Maybe my anticipation is broader than my inner life. It probably is. I think it may actually have to do with economics.

I am disturbed and disoriented by the ever widening-canyons between the rich and the poor.  Some people I know are damaged by the economic earthquakes.  They can’t feed their families. They wander around seeking a safe place to sleep.  Some of my students can’t afford school supplies, books, and school uniforms.  And, less locally, I still pray for the beautiful people I met when I visited Namibia in 2002 who would walk miles to fetch their water, cook meals over an open fire, and live without electricity.  It’s no secret that this is how the majority of our world lives.

Awareness about economic injustice has messed me up.  Certainly, no one should ever have to worry about making it to their next birthday simply because they don’t have what they need to keep living.  When others have more than enough and continue to consume, it’s even more ridiculous. Seriously, it makes me so mad that it’s hard for me to be kind.

I am even more disturbed when I read the Christmas story in the bible and let it challenge me.  It seems like if we really take this gospel seriously, we have a lot of culture changing to do.  How can we change our habits from shopping and partying to being and praying? During advent, how can enter into the cheer of the season and go to parties, but yet fast in preparation?  I don’t know, but I know that every year I wrestle with my holiday habits.  I usually end up making a few crafts, giving a few donations, and then buying simple gifts for my immediate family. It never feels like it’s quite right, but it probably is okay.

As I struggle, I remain grateful that amazing Christians have figured out some ways to celebrate Christmas the gospel way and lead the rest of us, who are lost and disturbed.   I am encouraged and energized by the things that others have organized and how they continue to challenge the systems through efforts of compassion, generosity and community.  Here’s an example.  This is my favorite video of the week:

When I showed that video to my students they said “Sister, that’s raw.” (That’s a very good thing.) When I asked them what acts of generosity and service they were planning to do during Christmas break some of them had trouble coming up with an answer.  It seems to me that although it’s attractive to celebrate Christmas counter-culturally, it’s really hard to break our habits.

This advent, may God give us the blessings of wisdom and knowledge to understand the ways that our economic systems are unjust.  May God give us the graces and the courage we need to challenge the economic oppression. Dear Baby Jesus, help us to be enlightened about how to say “yes” to You and “no” to the rich King Herod, in our own ways and our own time. Amen.

Oh, and the answer to the quiz is TRUE in case you still weren’t sure!

P.S.  May we also praise God with joy for the Christians who continue to spread the gospel message, even if they seem irreverent as they do it.  This is my 2nd favorite video of the week, fellow Catholic and satirist Stephen Colbert reminding us how Jesus hung out with tax collectors:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jesus Is a Liberal Democrat
www.colbertnation.com
http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:368914
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog March to Keep Fear Alive