Friday, August 22, 2014

8 Things the Church Needs to Say


If Christians stopped bickering about church, presenting sex as a first-order concern, telling other people how to lead their lives, and lending our name to minor-league politicians, what would we have to say?

We need to figure that out, because we are wearing out our welcome as tax-avoiding, sex-obsessed moral scolds and amateur politicians.

In fact, I think we are getting tired of ourselves. Who wants to devote life and loyalty to a religion that debates trifles and bullies the outsider?

So what would we say and do? No one thing, of course, because we are an extraordinarily diverse assembly of believers. But I think there are a few common words we would say.
  1. We would say the name “Jesus.” We might mean different things by that name, but he is the center, the reason we exist.
  2. Allowing ample room for our diversity, we would say what we mean by faith in God. Not how right we are and how wrong others are, but an I-message: Here’s why I believe in God.
  3. We would tell stories about God’s impact on our lives. Not grand doctrines, not airtight theories, not definitions of who’s inside the circle and who’s outside, but stories of personal encounter.
  4. We would listen to other stories, respectfully, not defensively, eager to hear what our fellow Christian has to say.
  5. We would each tell as honestly as we can how we are trying to lead our lives in the light of our encounters and stories. We would sketch the bridge between faith and action.
  6. We would tell what we see in the world — not in the woe-is-me, sky-is-falling, Satan-is-winning manner people expect from us, but just what we see and how we think God cares about it.
  7. We would speak of hope, a durable, solid-rock hope that God is God, and God can use us to make a difference.
  8. We would talk of joy. Not giddiness, not even happiness, as the world understands happiness, but that deeper response to God that feels whole and peaceful.
Personally, I think these eight things are what we ache to say. They are why we walked in the door of a church in the first place. They are why we stay, despite abundant reasons for leaving.

Everyone has a theory about “why people are leaving the church,” “why millennials don’t come to church,” “why churches are dying,” and “what’s wrong with society.”

Personally, I think we should stop worrying about institutional outcomes — especially outcomes that we hope will prove we were right all along — and try instead just to be hopeful, joyful, active people of faith.
I think we should take our parts in the great political debates — power and wealth, after all, were Jesus’ primary concern — but then agree that, whether X or Y gets elected, God will still grieve our cruelties and sufferings, and we will all have much work to do as believers.

Whatever the label — progressive or conservative, contemporary or traditional, denominational or nondenominational — we will each have something unique and necessary to contribute.

There is more binding us than dividing us. For division comes from our small and selfish places. Binding comes from God.

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. Get the new Fresh Day mobile app here [7]. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com [8]. Via RNS [9].

Monday, August 4, 2014

Can the voters change the GOP? by E.J. Dionne JR

Can the voters change the GOP?

From the Washington Post

By E.J. Dionne Jr. August 3 at 7:46 PM

Read the article as published here.

The central issue in this fall’s elections could turn out to
be a sleeper: What kind of Republican Party does the
country want?

It is, to be sure, a strange question to put to an electorate
in which independents and Democrats constitute a
majority. Yet there is no getting around this: The single
biggest change in Washington over the last five years has
been a GOP shift to a more radical form of conservatism.
This, in turn, has led to a kind of rejectionism that views
cooperation with President Obama as inherently
unprincipled.

Solving the country’s problems requires, above all,
turning the Republican Party back into a political
enterprise willing to share the burdens of governing, even
when a Democrat is in the White House.
For those looking for a different, more constructive
Republicanism, this is not a great year to stage the battle.
Because of gerrymandering, knocking the current band of
Republicans out of control of the House is a Herculean
task. And most of the competitive seats in the fight for the
Senate are held by Democrats in Republican states. The
GOP needs to win six currently Democratic seats to take
over, and it appears already to have nailed down two or
three of these. Republicans are now favored in the open
seats of South Dakota and West Virginia, and probably
also in Montana.

Nonetheless, there is as yet no sense of the sort of tide
that in 2010 gave a Republicanism inflected with tea party
sensibilities dominance in the House. The core narrative
of the campaign has yet to be established. Democrats
seeking reelection are holding their own in Senate races in
which they are seen as vulnerable.
And then there was last week’s House fiasco over
resolving the refugee crisis at our border. It served as a
reminder that Republican leaders are handcuffing
themselves by choosing to appease their most right-wing
members rather than pursuing middle-ground legislation
by collaborating with Democrats.

The bill that House Speaker John Boehner was trying to
pass last Thursday already tilted well rightward. It
provided Obama with only a fraction of what he said was
needed to deal with the crisis — $659 million, compared
with the president’s request for $3.7 billion. It also
included provisions to put deportations on such a fast
track that Obama threatened to veto it. A White House
statement said that its “arbitrary timelines” were both
impractical and inhumane.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi happened to be
meeting with a group of journalists when the bill
meeting with a group of journalists when the bill
collapsed. “In order for them to pass a bill, they had to
make it worse and worse and worse,” she said, referring to
Boehner’s efforts to placate members who have entered
into an unusual cross-chamber alliance with Sen. Ted
Cruz (R-Tex.) to foil even conservative legislation if they
regard it as insufficiently pure. When the bill was pulled
back, Pelosi observed: “They couldn’t make it bad
enough.”

On Friday, the GOP leadership pushed the measure still
further right and added $35 million for border states to
get it passed at an unusual evening session — but not
before Republicans themselves had complained loudly
about dysfunction in their own ranks.

In the meantime, the Senate was paralyzed on the issue
by filibusters and other procedural hurdles that have
rendered majority rule an antique notion in what once
proudly proclaimed itself “the world’s greatest deliberative
body.”

As the House was preparing to pass its bill, Obama told a
news conference on Friday that GOP leaders were well
aware that he’d veto it if it came to him and bemoaned the
fact that “even basic, commonsense, plain vanilla
legislation” can’t get through because Republicans fear
“giving Obama a victory.”

Last week’s legislative commotion could change the
political winds by putting the costs of the GOP’s flight
from moderation into stark relief. House Republicans
found themselves in the peculiar position of
simultaneously suing Obama for executive overreach and
then insisting that he could act unilaterally to solve the
border crisis.

Pelosi, for her part, went out of her way to praise “the
Grand Old Party that did so much and has done so much
for our country.” Commending the opposing party is not
an election year habit, but her point was to underscore
that Republicans had been “hijacked” by a “radical right
wing” that is not simply “anti-government” but also “antigovernance.”

On balance, Washington gridlock has hurt Democrats
more than Republicans by dispiriting moderate and
progressive constituencies that had hoped Obama could
usher in an era of reform. The key to the election will be
whether Democrats can persuade these voters that the
radical right is the real culprit in their disappointment —
and get them to act accordingly on Election Day.