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Sunday, October 15, 2006
Thinking Beyond the Surface
The church I attend is wanting to get more involved in social justice. We are in the midst of a "Faith Journey" dealing with social justice issues in our community. Last week a speaker came to talk to us about different poverty issues in our area. He has been involved with our community for a long time, and has participated in and formed many groups that help those in need. It was very humbling. He spent some time reading Bible passages, and explaining how important those that are "marginalized" are to Jesus.
He told story after story of people who had gone through hardships. It really reminded me how thankful I should be and it really implored me to think beyond myself. I have to say, due to the changes in some of my thoughts, I found myself thinking beyond what I usually do.
As he was speaking about people working 3 jobs most of their life and not being able to get ahead, disablities, and vicious cycles repeating, it hit me all of a sudden that even in faith arenas we place standards that leave people "outside". Even moreso, than we would like to admit. It's not just about money or charity either.
A couple of things came to mind. We place "expectations" on how people should act in church, what they should know, how they should dress etc. One thing that our speaker mentioned, is that many times those living in poverty don't learn how to interact within social realms well. Another interesting thought that I had was the luxury I have to read books, the Bible, discuss and research faith concepts on the internet, and with those at church that many in this world are not able to do. There are a couple of levels within that, one is certainly financial, but honestly that wasn't the main thought. The main thought that came- many are left "outside" due to the focus on "knowledge and study" as well.
The "world" that I was raised in, "Knowing" your Bible, studying it, etc. so that you could "Know the Truth" was key. If you didn't "Know" certain things you were talked down to, considered a "baby" Christian etc. The problem I have with the link between "knowledge" and "study" and our Faith is that it really leaves it up to smart, intellectual, well studied people to "explain" how following Christ works and the steps we are to take. Don't get me wrong, I think that the Bible is very important. When we link, however, Faith/Salvation to the "right" things, and being able to "decipher" for ourselves, do people get left behind? For me personally, I have spent a small fortune buying books this year; everything from history, theology, faith, etc. trying to sort through "what do I believe, and why?" I even bought another Bible with a different translation, because even though I am fairly intelligent, Bible reading has never been easy for me. I am an at home mom, working from home part time for my church, I have spent hundreds of hours reading and studying this year. I have that luxury, we are able to live off of one salary. Do those living in poverty get that same luxury? I doubt it. More often than not, their situations don't allow for it. The money isn't available, they lack the education, they don't have the time or energy to invest because they are just trying to survive. With that in mind, and knowing how Jesus felt about the poor, why do we still put so much emphasis on knowledge and study of the Bible? Is it just another way we segregate? Do we need to rethink that focus (I know that is already being done), and remember not everyone is able or capable to pursue "Faith" the way we have expected? What do we need to do different to embrace (truly embrace) those that need the love and compassion of not just Jesus, but us? It seems to me, that Jesus never asked a person to follow Him, and then emplored them to get busy reading the Old Testament to acquire the knowledge. He asked us to follow Him, help the poor, the widowed, be kind, love and be a part of His Kingdom. Even for myself, it is so easy to get caught up in the "knowledge/study" realm that we may not be living out the kingdom the way Jesus led us to. Just some thoughts!

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posted by Unknown at 12:20 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


3 Comments:


  • At 10/15/2006 09:07:00 AM, Blogger lydia

    Intriguing topic, Michele. A few thoughts:

    the luxury I have to read books, the Bible, discuss and research faith concepts on the internet, and with those at church that many in this world are not able to do

    Yes, we are truly fortunate to have the time and energy to discuss these things.

    The problem I have with the link between "knowledge" and "study" and our Faith is that it really leaves it up to smart, intellectual, well studied people to "explain" how following Christ works and the steps we are to take

    I agree, this is a problem. Have you thought of any ways to begin to remedy it?


    More often than not, their situations don't allow for it. The money isn't available, they lack the education, they don't have the time or energy to invest because they are just trying to survive

    This is even more true in countries outside of Europe and North America - Can you imagine arguing about some of the stuff we as Christians have been known to debate in places like Zambia where 1/6 of the adult population is HIV positive (cite: http://www.avert.org/aids-zambia.htm)?

    why do we still put so much emphasis on knowledge and study of the Bible? Is it just another way we segregate?

    Part of it is probably a form of segregation, although I think it is as often an unconscious act as it is an intentional one.

    I think part of it stems from a healthy dose of human curiosity about the world around us.

    And I think part of it can be explained by Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: once we've been able to satisfy our biological and interpersonal needs we can use our excess energy to pursue the things we were "born to do," whether that be through music, writing, philosophy, the study of religion, etc etc (you can read more about it here http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/maslow.htm)

     
  • At 10/15/2006 06:28:00 PM, Blogger Nancy

    Michele: When I was reading your thoughtful blog entry, this quote came to mind: "Theology is faith seeking to understand itself." My spiritual director imparted this little gem to me just this past Friday. I suspect that there are many roads faith can take to understanding itself. Our culture prizes academic or scholarly pursuits, so it should not surprise us if that is a trend in our churches. We do need to be careful of that bias and allow for the various other pathways, as you so wisely pointed out. Let's not forget such avenues of understanding such as the experiential, artistic, and ordinary. They have all been in practice across ALL demographics for ages and our faith may become a bit myopic if left soley to "knowledge" and "study". Thanks for your thoughts.

     
  • At 10/15/2006 06:47:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Thanks Lydia for the comments.

    I have had some help in the area of thought about how to get around the emphasis of "knowledge". Just today, we had a "what are we about" service in some regards. It has been a very trying time, lots of people have left etc. Basically, at this point our vision as a church is to "Love" period. Not "Love, but...", as one of our pastors explained.
    For whatever reason, we have become very "conditional love" faith communities. We love you when you think just as we do, and agree with us. We leave no room for where a person is in the journey with God, or that they may just be unable for whatever reason to live up to our standards. We draw "lines" in the sand and place expectations for how we think "you" need to be. I personally believe Jesus is Love!
    One of the things I am very excited about is just being me, and following Jesus in the ways of Love. I have never felt comfortable with the segregation, judgements, and expectations. Now I have a place where we value differences, and love ALL. I can accept anyone, for who they are and what they think. Faith is way beyond what we place in our "expectation box". To be honest, I am not afraid to discuss ANYTHING with ANYONE. God can use anyone to change us. We need to stop confining God to our "boxes". Some of the times I have grown the most came through the least expected ways. When we open ourselves, we may see things we would have missed before. If I only surround myself with like-minded people how will I grow or transform?

    For instance, I spoke with a man from my church today, who has lingered some on our blog. (I actually hope at some point he will post some of his thoughts..you know who you are ;) )
    We have had a few conversations, and he has very different views than I. As a matter of fact, he has spent his life "not believing" in God. He never wanted to become a part of organized religion, and had very strong opinions about that. What I have heard him say more than once, was that our community is different than others. He feels accepted, loved, and plans to become even more involved. Where most places would have shut him out, he hasn't felt that way at all. We have talked about getting together more at some point, and I really look forward to that! I feel in my soul that something great will come from our friendship! AND, unlike many "churched" people, my goal is not to convert, my goal is to have a sincere friendship and be open to how God moves within that friendship!
    So maybe the answer, or at least a starting point, for getting away from the "emphasis on knowledge/study"- why don't we try starting with Love, it was the most important command.

    Thanks for the links also, Lydia. I think you are right on. We in America have no clue what the rest of the world is like. We view "religion and faith" through our American context. I know! "God Bless America"...our patriotic call. I have a hard time thinking that we were the arrived, knowledge filled culture Jesus came to "SAVE" and everyone else is out of luck. Even if we think that, doesn't God Bless, so that we can be blessings to others. I am not so sure that is the perception from those outside of "religious" realms.

     

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