i will not take these things for granted

thoughts on this and that in an attempt to live reflectively

My Photo
Location: Little Rock, Arkansas, United States

Thursday, January 26, 2006

eRFC Update

I finally uploaded some more of the mini devos I wrote in undergrad at the U of A while active in the Razorbacks for Christ (RFC) campus ministry. The spring of 2001 is now all online. Woohoo! Just two more semesters of emails to go! You can relive the memories and hopefully be encouraged and challenged again on my eRFC blog. Go Hogs!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Peace Project, Reflection #4

Here is the fourth reflection paper for our Narrative Evangelism group project, this one on violence in our culture...

October 17, 2005

To quote a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “Now we see the violence inherent in the system! Now we see the violence inherent in the system! Help! Help! I’m being repressed!”

There is indeed violence inherent in our cultural system—from street corners and dark alleys, to clogged highways, to the workplace, to the marketplace, to sports teams, and even to religious groups and the home. Violence, whether physical or verbal, affects us at every level of interaction. Whether we realize or not, even among close friends we attack each other often. My task for our group is to reflect on the violence in our culture as evidenced in personal interaction with others.

Perhaps it all begins in grade school and then escalates in junior high. Our playing centered on violence: fighting was fun. We (boys at least) played Cowboys and Indians, we pretended to be spies and soldiers, we collected action figures, we wanted to be heroes. I remember play fighting (boxing and wrestling) with my friends during recess—play fighting which sometimes escalated into actual fighting. Every day at recess in elementary school or in between classes in junior high at least one fight would have to be broken up. We made fun of each other, trying to come up with the funniest put downs and the most clever ‘Your momma’ jokes. Some of us competed to get the best grades, making those whose scores were lower than ours feel less valuable. Others made fun of those who took school seriously, calling them geeks and dorks. And you had to be cool: wear the right clothes, keep up with the right bands, shows, and movies, hang out with the right people. Yes, perhaps it begins in school.

Or perhaps it begins in the home: the sins of the parents are passed on to the children. The ways our parents interact with each other, with friends and relatives, and with us shapes our perceptions of normal behavior. In addition to their example, parents shape us by the attention they give (or don’t give) us. The amount and quality of attention they give affects our understanding of our inherent value (or lack thereof) as individuals. The phrase ‘sibling rivalry’ attests to the genesis of violence in the home.

Perhaps it is a combination of all of these factors: peers and parents, plus movies, televisions shows, music, the news, and more. Wherever it begins, it clearly continues throughout life. As adults, we continue to compete and to undervalue and devalue others (and ourselves). Even harmless jokes between friends build on the pain that already seeks to eat us from the inside. Beyond relationships with each other, we also learn from our culture to be violent toward the environment. Early in life we learn to be consumerists and to be wasteful with the products we consume.

Without intentional effort to end the cycle, we remain blinded to the violence, wastefulness, and incompleteness all around us. We become accustomed to the ways of this world and perceive no viable alternative. Some voices do speak out against this system, but like the prophets of old, they are usually ignored, shut up, or killed. Despite this resistance, however, it is our job, our responsibility, our privilege, our calling to speak peace into this world—to proclaim through words and actions the presence of a new system of shalom, the inbreaking kingdom of God.

...In my next post I'll include my reflections on U2's song Peace on Earth.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Peace Project, Reflection #3

Here is my third reflection essay about peace...

November 7, 2005

Practicing peace both requires and creates community. Both of these have been evident in this semester’s project. First, regarding the requirement of community, my roommate and fellow group member, Graham, and I realized that without each other to continually remind the other of the project, we would forget that we were supposed to be practicing peace in our lives. We need each other, both as reminders and examples. Often when interacting with each other or with others, if one of us notices the other not exemplifying peaceful speech or actions, we jokingly remind the other of the project by saying, “I’m not at peace with that.”

Peace Requires Community

Beyond this example from our project, a community is necessary for practicing peace because we need support and encouragement from each other to continue living Christ’s peaceful lifestyle in the face of a culture that often does not understand or appreciate our actions and that bombards us with messages espousing peace-less ways of living. To the world, our lifestyles seem weak, make no sense, and embody a critique of the prevailing culture. In community we remind each other of the importance of practicing peace despite persecution and our culture’s violent messages, showing each other that this way is better. We encourage each other by sharing God’s truth from scripture with each other and by living it out in words and actions. In community we treat each other with love, and thus experience the peaceful lifestyle as it is meant to be lived and so are reminded of the goodness of God’s ways. Based on this empowering experience, we are able to live peacefully in the world. Finally, we share with each other our struggles, praying for each other and learning from the examples of others, both by seeing them live and hearing stories of how they have stood up under the violence of the world.

Summary: message to counter messages of world, reminders, examples, sharing struggles, praying, and experiencing peaceful community

Peace Creates Community

In addition to requiring community, the peaceful way of life creates community. Having tasted and seen the goodness of peace and wholeness in God we desire to share it with others. We share the message of the possibility of peace and wholeness and of a new story—a new way to orient and live life—with those around us, hoping that they too will adopt God’s story for harmony in creation. We share this message in our interactions with others by encouraging and serving others, by announcing the message to friends, and by living out the reality of God’s peaceful Kingdom within the Christian community.

In addition to this more evangelistic aspect of creating community through peace, we create community because to be reconciled with God necessitates also being reconciled with others and because to experience God’s love necessitates and motivates sharing it with others. We seek out the brother or sister we have something against or who has something against us and humbly seek reconciliation, thus creating community where there was no community before. Community is further created because we need others to share ourselves with. Words of encouragement and acts of kindness draw people together into a community of love, faithfulness, and worship—because this is the kind of community one wants to be a part of.

Summary:Evangelism: share story, encourage, serve, exemplify in community

Summary:Church: reconciliation, humility, forgiveness, building others up (via loving words and service) builds community, attractiveness of community.

...In my next peace post I'll reflect on the violence inherent in our culture's system.