Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The collectively screwed up condition of the world.

I think people forget how screwed up the world is. Collectively screwed up. Ever since adam screwed up, we are all doomed. In an individualistic society like the US and increasingly other parts of the world, we like to think of each of us having the same chance to screw up, and then to redeem ourselves. I think we like to think we start out good and we are inherently good, so really only SOME need to be saved. We forget we're part of something bigger. We're more connected to the dude in the plane seat next to us than the fact that we're both headed to wherever the plane lands. We're both screwed up and headed to hell too. Just cause the human race exists. Totally not fair that Adam messed it all up for the rest of us. Totally not fair that Jesus saved it for us.

I'm bringing this up because I'm staying with a relative that finds it hard to believe that a loving God would condemn individuals sincerely seeking Him to hell. We talked about it last night over dinner. I kind of wish we hadn't because these convos really get to me, and I can't remember a bite of what I eat. Really tragic because it was supposedly this great Asian dish.

We want to believe in a loving God more than we do a holy God, a just God, a God we, as an entire race, turned out backs on. Jesus is the love of God. Hell reflects the justice and holiness of God. We forget grace and redemption. We forget the need for Jesus.

It's hard to reconcile the idea of sincere people going to hell who have never heard the name of Jesus. But the thing is, who decides what the name of Jesus is? In Arabic it's Isa. In every language it's different. In every culture God may manifest Jesus differently in order to most effectively win over the love and relationship of the people. Jesus will always be manifested as a sacrificial son, but the way he is presented to a culture may look pretty dang different. Which may make us American-Christian-culture saturated individuals skeptical about the validity of their conversion (A side note but one I think I should mention... People often ask why we were so lucky to hear the name of Jesus and then some people groups in the ends of the world have never heard. An idea not very reflective of a loving God. I think that we forget that it's not HEARING the word, it's DOING as well. It's what that verse in Matthew 7:21 is talking about, I think. "Not everyone who says Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom." Takes more than that, and sure it seems unfair that we have heard and other haven't, but that doesn't mean we're all entering the kingdom...I think a lot of those who call themselves Christians here in the West aren't headed to live with God forever).
If we want to believe in God's love and in Jesus, we need to believe in his Just nature and his Holiness, because hello, Jesus was only sent BECAUSE God is holy and just and what was just for us was eternal death apart from God. By saying that not everyone is condemned at birth, that the whole human race is not screwed, we de-value what Jesus did. It's an inaccurate view of us and our condition and an inaccurate view of God that leads us to believe that if God is loving he's not going to send anyone away from him.

In conclusion.... If God felt the need to send his SON to be beaten with these whips that had spikes on the ends of the cords, have his beard yanked out, have huge nails be pounded into his wrists and ankles, have him be spit on kicked and a crown of spikey thorns be put on his head, half naked, on a tree... And not to mention a life lived before his crucifiction where he had no home, often had no friends, was misunderstood, unrecognized, and un-thanked for his service.... I THINK it's safe to say he wants us. Real bad. That'd he go to the ends of the world to get us. Win us. Free will makes it so that we need to choose it. But aside from each of us making the personal decision to love and build a relationship with Him, he's doing all he can. He wouldn't send his only son if he wasn't totally committed to getting as much of us as possible on His side.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

2 years later...

I'm sitting here working on a project for my internship, but all I can think about is Egypt and how much I've learned and grown since I was there. This morning at church I overheard a girl bubbling to a friend about how tomorrow is her first day of college. I realized it's been 4 years since I was a freshman in college and I can't help but be so completely amazed at how much I've changed and been changed in those years, specifically since my semester in Egypt.
That semester was particularly hard because I had just broken off a relationship of a year and like I usually do when things get rough decided to move away, this time to a different country. I also had just read the "The Irresistible Revolution" by Shane Clairborne which gave me a whole new view on pacifism and what justice is really. I've always been a passionate person and after the 2004 train bombings in Madrid I became particularly passionate about justice, specifically in the area of terrorism. While 9/11 made me more aware of terrorism and sparked my interest in counter-terrorism, it was the Madrid bombings that really hit home (because I lived in Portugal at the time) and made me look hard core into the CIA and the military.
I had wanted to study Political Science and eventually run for some prestigious office but after the terror attacks I was pretty set on the CIA. I read up on terrorism a little, but more I just let myself become very empassioned on the subject of defending the innocent and administering justice through the barrel of a gun. I fed my passion through an obsession with the US media, following CNN closely for any news on terrorism-related happenings.

This continued through my first year of college and while I seriously considered joining the ROTC I decided to wait till graduation to join the military because of my strong desire to study abroad - something I couldn't do if I were in ROTC. Thank God.
God showed me through Shane Clairborne's work that there may be other injustices going on in the world that deserve my attention more than Islamic terrorism. I was exposed to the idea that maybe my definition for justice not quite in line with Jesus' life and teaching, and maybe terrorism had a deeper cause and could be fought in a different way than killing terrorists.

It was a confusing time because I didn't know what to do with all the passion I had for justice and counter terrorism and the plans I had been carefully creating for years were of no use if I decided that killing was wrong. God's given me a passionate spirit but also a strong desire for truth and consequently I am always asking questions and looking for more truth, and a more correct truth than what I possess. I will fight my point and defend my beliefs but if someone presents me with a well defended, justified argument I will mull over it and if I find it sound I'll accept it as my own and add it to my beliefs. Shane and Jesus did that to me, making me think, presenting a case for pacifism and a "different way" that I hadn't considered before. It won my heart.

And then I went to Egypt. I had just changed my major to International Studies to get out of the whole politics arena which I realized was not where I could do the most change, but still shocked and lost as far as my future plans went. I had never not had a plan, never not been passionate about something. I was just a confused mess, not knowing where to direct my focus.

In Egypt I met people. Arab people, Muslim people, and I realized they were just that: people. "They" were individuals, like me, with a mind and a heart and many of them just as passionate as me about justice. So why the hell were they blowing innocent people up around the world? I realized that those who were blowing people up were a small, small percentage of the Muslim world. I realized something leaning against the wall separating the West Bank and ...well, the West Bank...(The wall to keep out the "terrorists" from Jerusalem is far into the West Bank. Those settlements you hear about are the houses and communities that the Israeli government is setting up on Palestinian land to out-settle the Arabs.) I realized how much injustice that wall represented, and how motivated to knock it down I was becoming. I also realized that the World Trade Center buildings to some represented a wall as well, a wall that keeps poor countries poor and rich countries rich, and while I in no way condone what happened on 9/11, for a moment I understood why it had happened, and the passion that went behind it.

Some terrorism happens when empassioned, persecuted persons have their voices muted and hands tied. When their tools to make change are taken away and all they can do is yell and scream and...kill. Killing brings a lot of attention to a cause. If you're willing to kill for something, it must be super important.

This is illustrated two ways: someone tells you if you really believe in a cause, you should be willing to kill for it and die for it and if you don't, you don't really believe in the cause and are an infidel, an outcast. This is how terrorists recruit. And through fiery sermons at madrassas (schools of Islam).
And then you have the international community, that gives a lot of attention to deaths. 9/11 started a war. A week after 9/11 everyone in the US knew who Osama Bin Laden was. They knew where Afghanistan is, they knew what radical Islamists believed. Their voice was heard.

Back to Egypt... I watched a movie that at the time didn't effect me much but looking back I see this is where my journey into knowing what causes terrorism started. I realized there was something more to understanding what drives people to kill the innocent. It's more than just demonic possession or non-humanness. I watched Paradise Now, a story of two boys/men who end up being suicide bombers. You see their progression into the mentality of killing, you see their humanness and their desperation. Injustice was being inflicted upon them, and therefore they saw it just to retaliate.

I figured there had to be a better way to end terrorism than to kill terrorists and just continue the vicious cycle of terror. I kill you, your brother kills my family, my extended family kills your village, your village kills my region, my government obliterates your country, your region in the world kills my race. Maybe that's a stretch, but do you get what I mean?

I figured maybe I could focus my passion on ending what creates terrorists - injustice that creates desperation. Maybe changing our practices of exploitation and oppression could ease their terrifying reaction.

This thought process went on for a while, and right now I find myself, 3 years after believing that bullets could end terrorism, now believing that education, development, poverty relief, and activism is a better way.
When you take a look deeper into something you don't understand, that second is not wasted but can help you focus your work to be more effective.

Passion is easy, seeking truth is hard. Dr Cook, a dear professor from college taught me that knowledge is equally as important as passion and to seek both in my life. The better your knowledge though your probing, your question asking, your digging, your dissatisfaction with the easy answers, the better your work will be, the more good you can do, and the more truthful your life is. It makes a difference. Truth isn't easy and is not a tangible object you can find in its entirety. A saying I've been thinking about recently is, "The opposite of a profound truth may be another profound truth". Neils Bohr said that. I know nothing about the man, but that's a pretty good thought.
Truth seeking is hard but so is giving birth. But mothers love their babies and many have more than one. I could go on listing the things in life that are hard but worth the effort put into them in the end. It's good to believe in something with all you have, but not at the expense of ignoring truth and not seeking truth is the same as it, because it isn't something fully graspable. There is always more truth to be known.

Since realizing this in Egypt and in my last year of school, it has been so good to let myself ask and search and be passionate about justice but not so passionate that I become convinced that there is nothing more to know.

It's key to understand that a nation is comprised of very different people, and that not one person or faction represents the whole. There are voices unheard and unrepresented in the US media that would give us a more accurate view of the world and guide our government policies to a more correct state. I believe that people have a right to think and to have their thoughts heard. I believe people have a right to un-oppressed life. That's why I want to go into a human rights profession. I'm also looking at journalism because I have a constant flow of words going through my head and often out my mouth that has turned into a love of words and a need for them. Human rights investigation? Maybe. I believe when individuals are given a voice, those small minorities who wreck havoc and shed bad light on the rest will be drowned out and their deeds ended because the overwhelming majority does not condone the acts or would not condone them if they were given the freedom to investigate, think for themselves, and express their opinion. That's why education is so important in the fight against terrorism. The thought process, the madrassas, the terrorist building machines that educate people to do harm through a belief that they can never make change another way... The right education can help them learn TO make change another way, that they CAN make change another way.

Lastly: justice. The justice that Jesus talks about is justice for the poor, the orphan, and the widow. Justice for those oppressed who have no one to fight for them. Not justice out of selfish anger, or because of harm inflicted on us. Justice for others, where there is no benefit for the "I". It's been fun to become passionate about that kindof justice. It feels right.. better... more in tune with Jesus' heart than justice that involves killing.

There's still a lot to learn and much more that can be said about my growth since Egypt, but as far as my thinking on justice, my future, and truth, this is how I've come along.

As usual, this is much longer than I had intended it to be, but I mainly write for my own sanity than for other people's enjoyment or entertainment. There was a lot sitting and swimming around in this little head that needed released though, and I am now relieved.

Blessings to you. :)


Thursday, May 28, 2009

happy is as happy gives

"The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness." Piper. Dont Waste Your Life. 

Im reading this book for my internship. Food for the Hungry sent me it as part of my preparation. I've always wanted to read it and read a little for Jubilate but it's really making me think now and I'm completely engrossed. 

This quote is so for real. I've been thinking about it for a while.. Like, how giving is a way of receiving and we actually give to receive. Juliana, explain yourself. 
One of the happiest moments I can remember from life so far is me in tivas and scrubs, dirty and sweaty, taking blood pressures in a make-shift clinic in Morocco. My wanting to go overseas and work in development or anti-trafficking efforts is not me sacrificing my happiness for the happiness and health of others. I'm going there and doing that because it makes ME happy and makes me feel fulfilled and like my life is worth something. Selfish? lol Life really is about being happy.. we've just been going about it the wrong way. I think that's something every one has in them. When we serve, when we give, we are the happiest.

Cause we're not made for ourselves. That's why I think so many American teenagers are depressed and complaining about their (amazingly spoiled) lives. They haven't gotten it yet. That it's in giving that we find our purpose and living for themselves, for the next pair of shoes or the next car, is no way to live and will not make them happy. I'd love to kidnap about 20 depressed Americans between the ages of 13 and 18 and take them to Morocco and stick some grubby clothes on them and make them paint schools and teach kids English. I bet they'd come back with a different view about life and what they're living for. Maybe they'd look for a way to make a change in their community. 

It's not just for Christians. In everybody this need to give and serve is in us. Some people get it. Like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. They got it. They give a ton of money to developing nations to support healthier communities. I read an interview with Jolie once and she was saying she wished she could stay there in Africa but had to come back to the US and make movies to make money to send back. We look at people like them who give so much and we say, "Oh, what great people! Giving so much away." But they do it because it makes THEM happy. They get it. (Can I just speak to the sadness of the fact that they get it and so many Christians dont...)

We're made to seek our own joy by serving others. I really believe that's legit. We're not made for ourselves. Regardless of whether our motivation is a love for Jesus or not, it's programmed within our hearts that when our mind and purpose is not on ourselves and we take on the cares of others, the happiness that we create within others overflows to fill our own hearts.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

About last summer and this summer...

So I was supposed to blog during my trip to North Africa but wasn't allowed to for security reasons. :( I will possibly post pictures about my trip here but there are some on facebook that you can see so just friend me if we're not friends and go see them there if your interested. :) Last summer was one of the best summers of my life. It was just so great...

BUT it is now summer of 2009 and there are new adventures on the horizon... 

SUMMER 2009....... TADA!!!!!!!!!...........

I've been to Egypt, Europe, all thru the middle east, and Morocco... But this adventure is different. It's more of a mental adventure. lol. An abilities adventure. I'm interning at Food for the Hungry for the summer (from June 8-August 9ish) in Phoenix. Mum and Dad still live there so I can smooch off of them for one more summer before going solo. For this I am blessed and thankful. Because the internship is unpaid for. I say unpaid for but I am going to get so much in terms of experience and resume-good-looking-ness that I feel like it will definitely pay off in the end. I know that they're not paying because of lack of finances so that's ok. If I were working for like, Bill Gates... I would be slightly annoyed. lol. 
What will I be doing? I dont know, if someone finds out let me know... lol Just kidding. But I feel unprepared for this adventure into the cubicle office world. I know I will be working in marketing and communications for the Transformational Development Conference in Philly in August. I hope marketing doesn't mean business-type money marketing because I know nothing about that. I hope this internship will give me flexibility and allow me to brainstorm and idea-ize. I LOVE starting things and being allowed to imagine and plan and let my ideas go loose... This past semester I started a campus chapter of the International Justice Mission at my school and it was SO fun to plan events and research and give presentations... I had the freedom to kindof do what I want and while I know I will be assigned projects at this internship, I hope I'll be able to be inventive and creative. I think I reflect God most in that characteristic of his. His creativeness. He's given me gifts in that area and I'm very thankful for it.