The Way of Descent in the Age of Dissent

When asked for a sign, Jesus said that there would be no sign given except the sign of Jonah (Matthew 12:39, Matthew 16:4 and Luke 11:29). This sign is one of the way of descent. That is Jesus offers a way of life that is not the way of assent - going up - but the way of descent - going down. Just as Jonah went down into the belly of the ship and even the belly of the whale, Jesus came down from heaven, went down to the cross and down to death. The way of descent is not a very popular way of living, but according to Jesus, it is the way of eternal life. 

The way of descent has different requirements to life than those of the way of assent. One of the different requirements is the way of descent listens to the dissenting voice when the one on the path of assent does not take time to do so. Those busy going up, do not have time to listen to those "little ones" already surpassed on the ladder. But it is the way of descent that listens to dissent and gives value and merit to the voice. 

The temptation is to use dissent as a weapon in order to destroy others. When we use dissent as a weapon for destruction, then we are no longer on the way of descent. Rather we are on the way of assent, and we are enslaving the voice of the "little ones" for our own assent. 

Tread lightly on the way of descent in this age of dissent so not to fall prey to the way of assent.

Catechism is not enough...

From his book, The God Who Comes, the late Carlo Carretto sates: 

The catechism is not enough, theology is not enough, formulas are not enough to explain the Unity and Trinity of God. We need loving communication, we need the presence of the Spirit. That is why I do not believe in theologians who do not pray, who are not in humble communication of love with God. Neither do I believe in the existence of any human power to pass on authentic knowledge of God. Only God can speak about himself, and only the Holy Spirit, who is love, can communicate this knowledge to us. When there is a crisis in the Church, it is always here: a crisis of contemplation. 

In all the conversation about the future of the UMC. The concern about people not "following the Discipline" and those who "unequally apply the Discipline". The chatter about Love Your Neighbor and the Wesleyan Covenant Association. The chatter around the UMC is one emphasizing the practical, relevant and the immediate. To put it another way, we focus on the things that are not contemplation. 

When we are have the same vigor around the need for silence that we do around protesting. When we are concerned about what pastors are "being still" than where they are marching. When we are more concerned about the Church's relationship with Christ than who is getting married. Then we are beginning to see a Church that is moving from our crisis. 

Until the days of loving and humble communication, we will be in crisis. 

Racism - "My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them..."

Princeton professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr. gave an interview to Krys Boyd of KERA Think on February 6, 2017 that was worth listening to for a number of reasons. Within in the interview was a metaphor offered up by Dr. Glaude that struck a chord with me about racism. 

Dr. Glaude stated that he was not a climate change denier and he believes that the climate is warming and that we are in a climate crisis. However, he notes, that if you look at the actions of his life, you might think otherwise. He lives his life as though he believes the world's climate is just fine although he intellectually believes otherwise. 

I do not think that I am a racist. I firmly believe in equality and I abhor acts of hate and injustice between people. However, if you look at the actions of my life you could string together a case that I don't care that much about injustice. For instance, I purchase things that I know are built by people living in inhumane conditions.

I do not believe that I am a racist, however (as this little video highlights) not being racist is different from being anti-racist.

I am beginning to come to terms that just because I do not believe that I am a racist or do things that are traditionally thought of as racists actions, I unknowingly do things that cause harm. I am reminded of the great story of Abba Moses that goes like this:

One of the brothers committed a sin. Moses was invited to attend a council about this, but he refused to go. Then a priest sent someone to say to him, “Come, for everyone is waiting for you.” So he got up and went. He took a leaking jug, filled it with water and carried it with him. The others came out to meet him and said to him, “What is this, Father?” The old man said to them, “My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” When they heard that they said no more to the brother, but forgave him.

I live unaware of the sin that runs out behind me. I am unaware of the messes that I make. This does not mean I am an evil person only that I am human and ought to strike a more humble posture in my life.

A Need for More Yellow Lights

I can recall the times when I hit all red lights and when I hit all green lights, however I don't recall the times when I hit a slew of yellow lights. I wonder why I don't remember?

It could be that we live in a world that prefers red light/green lights. We are either going or stopping.

For instance, the Church is a place where red/green light living is in full swing. There are ministries where we give the green light and we are blowing and going! There are other times when too much is happening too quickly and there is a collective red light that stops the body. Some people are annoyed with green lights because we move to fast. Others find red lights frustrating since we are not going anywhere. So the push and pull between the red lighters and the green lighters continues on. 

I would submit that what the Church needs is not more red or green but more yellow lights. Often times we think that yellow lights mean to "slow down" or "pause". But that is not accurate:

Yellow lights are the place that give us greater ability to practice discernment. 

Living a life of red and green lights means that you don't to discern what to do. We see it most easily in red light living, you have not choice but to stop. However, green light living has just as little freedom: you have no choice but to go. Yellow lights however require a good bit of discernment - should I accelerate? Slow down? How far am I to the next car? What about behind me? Should I change lanes? Thus yellow light living is the most liberating way to live but for most of us that amount of freedom is too much. It is easier to stop or go, discerning is difficult. 

While red lights give us space to stopping, and green lights give us space to move, yellow lights give us space to discern. More than stopping or moving, discernment is what is needed most today. 

In a red and green light world, the humble yellow light is often forgotten.