Monday, September 24, 2007

Fear is the Mindkiller

I was driving home the other day, and started thinking about fundamentalism and fear. It seems to me that there are three things that terrify fundamentalists (at least the Christian ones):
  • The Mystery of the Father
  • The Mercy of the Son
  • The Movement of the Holy Spirit

Fundamentalism at its core, no matter the stripe, lusts for control. They strive to keep everything in a nice, airtight compartment that answers all questions, defines all doctrines, and allows for a paint-by-number approach to life. This closed system approach is threatened by the idea that God the Father cannot be bound up by our clever theologies, that God the Son would offer grace to all (even the enemy-du-jour), that God the Spirit would breathe life into His people and at the same time blow over their house of cards.

But as I reflected further, I decided it goes deeper than that. This appeal of control in the face of a fear-filled world is what attracts people to fundamentalism. We are all uneasy with a God who is transcendent, who doesn't fit our little schemes of fact, exposes them as schemes. It is much easier to find a rule book and try to follow it. The only problem is, rule book living creates narrow, rigid people who either become hateful, spiteful religionistas or collapse into disbelief and indifference when life throws them an exception to the rules.

It seems to me that the only way forward is to forsake fear of the world and return to a fear of the Lord (which, after all is the beginning of wisdom). The decision I have to make every day is whether I am going to seek the Lord and His will, no matter what, or shuffle along following after my own wants and desires. God is Mysterious, and Merciful, and Moves across His creation.

Open my eyes, illumine me, Savior divine.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Garbage and Grace

Last Saturday I got to mark something else off my life list: picking up litter in northeast Washington, DC. Bright and (fairly) early, eleven of us gathered at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington DC, located at 8th and H NW, to participate in the local 11-on-11 mission project.

Note: The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Young Leaders Network (who thankfully go by the shorter name Current) decided several years ago to commemorate 9/11 by doing something constructive in local communities. The first year they did this September 11 was on a Saturday, and there were 11 projects: hence 11-on-11. It has grown to more projects across the U.S., including our area.

We proceeded to Calvary's sister neighborhood at 8th and H NE. Mary Andreolli, one of the ministers at Calvary, had us organized, handed out trashbags, gloves and water, and we all headed down the block. There is more about the nationwide 11-on-11 event in the news story below, but here are some things I observed that morning:

1. Young adults are serious about putting their faith into practice. They gave up a beautiful Saturday to pick up garbage on several blocks of DC streets. They saw it as a ministry to the community.

2. People brighten up when Christians get out of the pews and do something nice for them. I had several folks ask why we were cleaning up their street, and when we told them, they smiled and thanked us...and wanted to talk to us.

3. Sometimes being the presence of Christ can be dirty, smelly work. If fact, if you were to go back to those blocks today, they would probably look like they did when we showed up. But in that moment last Saturday, as a group of young adults humbled themselves and served, lives were touched, seeds were planted, and I believe that the Kingdom of God was advanced.