Friday, August 28, 2015

Choosing a different Christian way... as a post-evangelical

"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."  ~ Jesus 

As a follower of Jesus, the real question for me is this: How do I daily care for people who live and move and have their existence that cross my life? 

If this is my question, then I do not have an option to accuse them of their broken relationships as a basis of our friendship. A hug or thoughtful question may serve a purpose, but how do I treat them well, on a daily basis, is the reality that I need to chase.

For my vocally loud friend with mental disabilities, this means I overlook her sometimes harsh voice and saliva that seems to be more apparent than mine, which also seems a bit excessive at times. For my teenage children who can be excessively cranky, it means I am at my best when I recognize their bodies, minds, and emotions are growing so fast that I need to extend lots of grace. 

For my immigrant friends, regardless if we have labeled them illegal or legal, they have families for whom they are trying to feed, give shelter, and provide education. Their hopes and dreams are no different than other people except they have the fear of being harassed or deported on a daily basis. 

For my gay friends, be they married, in relationship or single, it means I accept their sexuality even when I don't fully understand it. Sometimes my feelings are of uneasiness, but I stare those feelings in the face and say, "I won't be controlled by my own fears." 

Becoming fully human means I can be bigger than my past fears. Today I choose to love. 


Monday, August 24, 2015

Musings of a former evangelical...

I am no longer an evangelical. Or at least, I am no longer an evangelical as much of the evangelical church in America continues to define itself in ways that have estranged me. 

This summer I hiked Glacier National Park, arguably one of the most beautiful places in our country. By 2030, all the million year old glaciers will likely be melted away. Our climate change has led to their demise. Yet, when do we hear the church take serious stands for the beauty of creation? What public official in D.C. who claim to follow Jesus actually take pollution, climate change, and drilling on public lands seriously? It's always about job and creating wealth for those in power... almost always.

Yesterday I officiated a beautiful wedding. I was so honored to be there, to have been asked to make the day happen. During the course of the weekend I met several gay people with partners, people who were beautiful and full of life. I tried to imagine how these good people would mess up my marriage or the marriage of my kids someday? There is no real answer except to condemn for the sake of accolades by the Creator perhaps. But even that idea is incredibly misguided. 

I hear Jesus calling those who follow to really follow, to care for creation, to care for people, to find harmony between business and the earth's resources. I hear the Apostle Paul saying, 'Follow me as I follow Christ" and the call by the prophet Micah to, "Do justice and seek mercy." 

And I certainly do not see the evangelical American church of today having a voice that sounds like music to anyone -- except those on the inside. If the church is ever to reclaim it's mission of the ways of Jesus, leaders need to realize the reflection of their churches is more noise than music to those outside its walls on Sunday morning. 

The Apostle Paul stated boldly that all things in life revolve around love. The Apostle John went so far as to say that without love, we do not love God. Rather than protecting traditions that live in the past, that are not going to be in the future, I strain forward. On my best of days, I hope I give goodness, kindness, and genuine love to both friends and strangers. 

Jesus disciples actually proclaimed good news. They were not jerks. They spoke against the powers of the day, and they often died for it. If you have no interest in church, God, or Jesus, it's OK with me. Be my friend. I love you just for who you are. This is what I've learned from following Jesus. 

Sunday, April 05, 2015

On this Easter Sunday, I want to share a piece written by a friend about 10-15 years ago. It sums up my thoughts every Easter morning.

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We believe in the resurrection.

We believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. We don't just believe that the resurrection happened. We don't just believe things about the resurrection of Jesus. We believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. 

In a world where it appears that death wins, where violence, murder, disease, and terrorists might cause us to fear and lose heart, we say that we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. We say that there is a power beyond our understanding that is able to give life back to those who've lost it. And not metaphorical life, but real, actual, fish-eating, hand-touching, word-speaking, bread-breaking, sitting down at the table life.

We believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. In a world that teaches and trains us to protect and secure ourselves, we say there is a power at work now in this world that exposes the fragility and short-sightedness of such so-called securities, and offers, no, promises and has proven the ability to deliver us through, not merely from, danger and death.

We believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. And so we refuse to accommodate ourselves to the fear, despair, and cynicism all around us. We choose, instead, to give words and expression to the groaning of the creation. We say that a new day has begun, and the darkness all around us will find no more safe quarter, for the light of life has dawned. Death's teeth have been pulled; it holds no threat any longer.

So we live our lives with abandon. We stand up for and alongside those who are most at risk, and we say in word and in action that we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. God has begun His good revolution, and change is on the way. Oppression, violence, deception, rejection, selfishness, apathy, brutality, manipulation, malice, murder, hatred and all their kind are living on borrowed time. 


We believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. So we refuse to be seduced or coerced into sharing in the behavior of that which will be removed and replaced. Instead, we love rather than hate, we share rather than steal, we give rather than take, we show kindness rather than brutality, we tell the truth rather than deceive, we hope rather than despair, we believe rather than doubt, we help rather than oppress, we heal rather than destroy, we embrace rather than strike, we lose rather than win at any cost. Because we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus.

-- Joel McClure 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

thought for food?

Reading today about the proposed cuts to the safety nets here in America including Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and the Affordable Care Act while increasing funding for our nation's war games, and I posted a question on my Facebook account.

Time and time again I hear from evangelical Christians how it is the duty of the country to protect us and the duty of the church to feed the poor, care for the elderly, and help virtually all of the marginalized. We could argue to infinity about the merits of the church doing its duty and why it has failed.

My thoughts tonight are along these lines: "What do people do who don't love the church but want to support the poor?" Or what do people do who want to help the marginalized but have issues with God or gods?" 

Have we thought of the absurdity that only 'the church' should take care of the marginalized? What about the non-believers who are hoping our nation finds a pulse and declares that life matters? Yet 'church people' are saying only the church should be doing this?

Jesus declares that when you care of 'the least of these' meaning people along the margins, you love him. Yet, we as Jesus people have fallen into the idea that only the church (and perhaps some non-profits) should care for the marginalized

Anyone else think we have this messed up? 

Monday, March 02, 2015

Hoping for more...

In West Michigan, the issue of immigration reform is paramount to so many sectors of people. Business leaders, education experts, pastors, and government all recognize the need for real change.

Yet, we have not put the effort into creating a voice that can be sustainably heard. The time is now to create a prolonged voice that speaks for justice, mercy, and goodness. A world that opposes these things is no place that I want to live and move and have my being... nor do you.

So how do we move from a polarized discussion to a conversation that will be about more than creating fear or collecting votes at the ballot box? It is time for people with voices to daringly step forward to create a reality where we really want to live.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Selma. Do we really want what is good?

Watched Selma this afternoon with my better half and my oldest two kids, and at one time in the movie my teenager leaned over to ask, "Dad, are you getting sick?" It think it was the clinched jaw, the contorted facial expressions and a degree of anxiety that created the question.

While tragic and yet hope giving, I wonder what are our own Selma's of today. Hearing the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and I wonder why we too often fail to stand with humanity. We acknowledge gerrymandering for the sake of political power, and we look the other way. In fact, we embrace it to keep "our side" or "our party" in power.

We have 12-15 million, yes million, immigrants in America who are not here with the proper paperwork. President Obama has enacted presidential powers to help a small portion, perhaps thirty percent of these millions, have a sense that they no longer have the possibility of being deported.

Imagine waking every day, going to sleep every night, and wondering if you might be arrested for being here in America? Many of these people are working men and women; they arrived thirty years ago with parents when they were one, two, three and thirteen years old. This is their only home. They know nothing, or virtually nothing of the country from which they came.

Yet, the majority of the Republican party wants to deport them. Well, perhaps not deport them since so much of our agriculture, along with service industry, depend on them. The hope is really to just be sure they stay living in fear. This way their family members, or others from their countries of origin, will not be so interested in America.

Honestly, if we really believe in freedom, then more people will want to come here. But instead, we keep millions living in fear. This is the goodness and generosity of the Grand Ole Party? This is not the party of my grandparents. This is not the party of Lincoln. This is not the party of Gerald R. Ford, Ronald Reagan, or the esteemed U.S. Representative from Grand Rapids, Paul Henry.

It is time Americans stand together regardless. Libertarian's following Ayn Rand or simply their own economic fortunes so they can die with the most toys is not what is good about humanity. Standing with one another, seeking justice and mercy, freedom and hope for the future are what bring us together.

Now is the time to seek leaders who are willing to be self-sacrificing for the sake of the common good. Now is the time for us to believe that we have hope for more Selma's in the year and decade ahead. This is the America for which I long and my children hope to call their home.


Monday, February 02, 2015

Really Paul Ryan?

Recently released by the White House, the Administration is floating the idea of taxing foreign profits of American companies to help pay for badly needed infrastructure projects in the U.S. Our bridges and highways are badly in need of repair. Memories of collapsing bridges with cars crossing should still fresh enough for us to know this reality.

In response to this idea, Paul Ryan stated, "Top-down redistribution doesn't work." In other words, it isn't the wealthiest American corporations who hide their profits who should pay for these things. While these corporations are afforded all the luxuries of being based in America, there seems to be no sense by Ryan that those profiting for being under our flag should pay their fair dues for this privilege. 

So instead, following Ryan's logic, we'll eventually add another tax to such things as energy, perhaps another tax at the fuel pumps, so that we can fix our infrastructure. And who pays for this kind of tax? It isn't the businesses who profit largely from being here in America any more than the household who are making $40,000 and trying to get their three kids through college. Again, he defers to regressive taxes that tax the bottom and middle more than the top.  

How does Ryan continue to claim that he holds principles such as justice, goodness, and caring for his fellow man when in fact he has the interests of his campaign supporters as his primary objective? The reality of the continuing disparity in the distribution of America's wealth, it is obvious that Ryan holds to an ethic that is 'other' than the common good. It is a 'good' that benefits a very small particular subset of our population.

To those who hold to Ryan kind of values, I encourage a deep look into the soul of our nation's monetary policy and ask who benefits from the plans that are schemed on a daily basis in out nation's capital? The scheming is not for the 90% of Americans. 

As one who falls in that 10%, I am daily sickened by how those of us on the top are supported in ways that the majority don't experience. It's time for change in Washington, but I wonder who has the courage to really stand for goodness rather than standing with political parties that convince the populace of their positions? 


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Standing with a friend even if perhaps unpopular


Sixteen years ago I was introduced to Tony Jones by way of a Youth Specialties event. I resonated with his passion for life, for the gospel, for finding better ways of sharing life with those inside and outside the walls of the church.

Throughout the years, our paths would continue to cross, and over the past decade we’ve become friends having the honor of inviting him into my home on occasion. I arrived at the Christianity21 event in Phoenix two days early to help set up simply because I believe in the people surrounding the JoPa events, including those attending and creating them.

Three weeks ago I opened my mouth online with no idea of the depth of the venom towards Tony in recent months. A day later people were sending me emails saying they were sorry I had been disparaged. Sighs on my behalf followed knowing I had contributed to the fires of those running rampant online.

I believe Tony is a victim of character assassination that is beyond real comprehension. I’ve known about pieces of Tony’s story since shortly after the divorce was filed more than half a decade ago. All accounts that I heard over the years are lock step with what he published yesterday. 

If we want to believe accusations over police reports and court documents as well as witnesses present at many turns along the way, we deceive ourselves. I’ll take my hits if necessary, and I will hold Tony and his family in prayer as well as call him an appreciated friend. The goodness of the gospel sometimes means we stand for unpopular truth.

With much love for my friend,
Randy Buist


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Pastor Breakfast on Feb. 3!

Next week Tuesday, February 3, the Office of Social Justice (of the Christian Reformed Church - don't let this scare you) is holding a pastor's breakfast. They really want pastors who are not currently engaged with this issue, and particularly pastors who are avoiding this issue or disagree with the necessity of immigration reform, to show up!
Do you know any local pastor(s) whom you could invite? Perhaps you could take them along? They are looking for pastor engagement, and you know people! Please consider making a call, an invitation to participate.

Click below to see the entire invite and/or download.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Leaning into 2015

Let us offer hope instead of fear this year.

In the Christian Bible, the prophet Zechariah wrote the following:"This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’" 


I can not help but think of my U.S. Representative claiming Christ but being being willing to tear families apart by deportation or cutting public assistance to the poor. This is not the way of God living among his people. We live a different story.


We do we plot to cut publlic funding to widows, fatherless, foreigners and the poor when we continue to cut taxes to the wealthiest among us? While we can claim our churches will fill these voids, we know that this is not the reality in which we live.


If we claim Jesus, let us being with the story of God among his people and not deviate from it. Let us offer hope to the hopeless. amnesty to the frightened family, shelter to those on our streets - and stop complaining how everything we own is the work of our hands. It has been given to us for good. 


In 2015, I invite followers of Jesus to redefine your politics, your positions of power, to help people who need a voice of hope in their lives. For those of us in the top 20 percent, for those of us in the top 1%, we will find hope when we give hope - not when we take it away from those to whom we are called to give it. 


Please know these are not my opinions. These are the ways of Yahweh. Into this life of goodness let us lean forward.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Does the Bible really matter to Evangelicals?

Bill Huizenga, I believe is a good man. He represents the second district for the U.S. House of Representatives - the district where I have lived my entire life.

He says, and I must believe, he is a follower of Jesus. Yet, his politics seem quite different to me.

Bill does not believe in immigration reform. The biblical text is clear about how we are to treat the stranger.

Bill does not believe in comprehensive health care. The biblical text is clear about how we are to treat our neighbor.

Bill does not believe in equal rights for women in the workplace. The biblical text is clear about how we are all created equally in the image of God.

Bill does not believe in climate change. The biblical text is clear how we are to be caretakers of the creation. 

Bill does not believe in supporting the poor through programs that would increase pay for this segment of society. The biblical text is clear about how we are to treat the poor, and it is not simply a mandate for 'churches.' It is a mandate for all of society to pursue justice and mercy and doing what is right. 

Bill does believe in lower taxes, less government intervention, a belief that business is always good and desires the best for our society, and he is against abortion. Of these, only the later has any sort of biblical basis. 

How then do we support elected officials who holds to one biblical claim, and on this one claim, we vote for him or her? How do we support elected officials who make claims but believe and vote otherwise? If followers of Jesus believe the gospel is good news, then its time we get serous about who we support.  

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

By Jon Huckins
jonhuckins.net


A Benediction of Hope


BorderPrayerIn a world currently enduring so much violence, pain and trauma, it would be easy for us, the People of God, to stick our head in the sand of discouragement.
Instead, let’s pray this together:
May we daily submit ourselves first and foremost to the rule and reign of Jesus, praying, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
May we, the people of God, choose to live fueled by the hope Resurrection rather than held captive by the fear of death. 
May we, the people of God, choose to rightly place our allegiance in Jesus and his kingdom rather than become slaves to the kingdoms of this world.
May we, the people of God, choose to embrace the way of the Cross and freely give away power for the flourishing of others as we join God in the world he is making. 
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as our human family endures a season of trauma, may your image rise in each of us so that we can offer and receive love in the most unexpected people and places.  Amen