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. :)