I have way too many tabs open in my Internet browser, so tonight I’m just randomly sharing some of my favorite essays from the last week.
First, everyone is beautiful. Beauty is a gift from the Father of Lights. God did not design our bodies so we would live in fear of their power. Arousing desire and sensing our desire are not realities to be feared, but part of the stewardship of being human. God thought our bodies could even inform us about him. To become more fully human means we walk into loving our brothers and sisters with our bodies, unafraid that they will trip over our beauty.
And we fantasize about a world where this happens because … why? We’re sitting here saying, “Man, I only wish there was a race of superhumans so strong and wealthy and talented that I could feel secure knowing they are making decisions that affect my life without consulting me. Oh, to live in a world where the people in charge didn’t have to worry about those stupid ‘laws’ and ‘politicians’ I voted for!”
Again … this is weird, right? It’s not just me?
[It’s not just him. On Sunday a teacher said to me that America would be a better place if presidents were chosen by the Holy Spirit rather than through voting. Seriously. People just can’t handle freedom. ]
(6) Teaching (often by strong implication) that without the church, especially without the leaders, members lose their spiritual connection to God. (This happens in many, often subtle, ways. For example a church may claim that its “vision” of the kingdom of God is unique and to depart from it is to depart from God’s kingdom, etc.).
By and large, my relationships with regular church-attending evangelicals (with a few notable exceptions, my best friends among them) have been extremely toxic and unhealthy. It took me having friendships with men and woman who had never been Christians, who had grown up Christian but were now agnostic, who were still Christian but would be described as “nominal” or “backslidden” by anyone I’d grown up with, to experience friendship. Real, honest, loving, friendship.
Yes, love tells the truth.
But when your truth degrades people, it’s not loving.
When your truth reduces relationships to sex acts, it’s not loving.
When your truth makes people want to hurt themselves, it’s not loving.
When your truth makes the gospel something that is only available to people who believe like you, it’s not loving.
Do not expect them to thank you for reassuring them that the world is not as bad as they fear. That will only make them angry. This fear is all they have left, and you’re threatening to take it away from them.
The Celtic Christians truly valued scholarship, beauty, art, and mysticism. They truly embraced the mysteries and beauty of God. You can tell when you see the old books they made–like the famous Book of Kells. They believed that beauty was important, that artistry and knowledge both intertwined to bring God glory. They believed God was the Creator of all things, and that all things point to Him and are intricately related to Him. The land itself shouts God’s praises, and we join in through the ways we take care of the earth, take care of our fellow human beings, and learn and grow and create. They understood that a mysterious, wild element of a Creator God beyond our control was essential and beautiful to theology.
Contemplative prayer is prayer without agenda, and largely without words. But this is not to be confused with just “thinking” about something. This is bringing the issue into the presence of Jesus — the Light who coming into the world enlightens every person. (John 1:4) It’s during contemplative prayer that we can begin to move out of the darkness of fear-based bias into the light of Christ.