Archive for February, 2008


As usual, David Fitch (and Slavov Zizek, of whom he is speaking), nails it with this post about theology, ecclesiology, and political theory.  Their questions define to a T where I am in my understanding of the Christian’s role in the political circus.  Here’s a sample, but read the whole thing:

We participate in National politics, its political ideologies of a more just society, even though we deeply suspect the corporate national machine insures nothing will change. We do this because it is much harder to think of the church itself as a legitimate social political force for God’s justice in the world. It is simply a lot less work to support Barack Obama for president than it is to lead our churches into being living communities of righteousness, justice and God’s Mission in the world.

I know Zizek might appear way too skeptical here for most of us. And there is always the cry “why can we not do both – vote for Obama and be missional communities for justice in our neighborhoods.” Yet (at the risk of being over provocative) I think the question is worth considering: “Are we supporting Obama because it’s easier than being God’s justice in the world ourselves?” Is our participation over here in electoral politics sapping our energy (or worse even assuaging us) from participation in the work of justice as an extension of the church.


crossing the (border)line?

In my newsletter outlining the best travel deals on the Web, I just read about an resort / eco-park in central Mexico that allows tourists to simulate crossing the US-Mexico border illegally. National Geographic seems to think it might be some sort of subversive attempt to highlight the struggles of local immigrants. My first impression (which is not necessarily my current opinion) was that it makes light of a horrible humanitarian crisis along our borders. Good, clean fun? Over the line? Read the Kayak description and decide for yourself:

Immigration and border patrol seems to be at the top of every political conversation. At Parque EcoAlberto, you can go on a pretend ‘Night Border Crossing Experience.’ The parque is owned by the Hnahnu Indians in Hidalgo, about three hours from Mexico City. The $18, four-hour night hike starts with the Mexico National Anthem. Your ‘coyote’ guide, Pancho, pulls off his black ski mask while actors gather around to scare you senseless along the way. Run from border control agents; dodge hidden actors shooting (blanks) at you, and make your way through barbed-wire fences. Survivors are blindfolded, led across a rickety bridge, and then set free to run across the border to freedom!

(here’s a Metro article about the park)

faith as language learning

I’ve often been frustrated at my inability to speak conversational Spanish, despite four years of it in high school and a minor in it in college.  Everyone always tells me, “Steve, you just need that immersion experience in a Spanish-speaking country, ya know?”

I recently heard about the Transnational College of Lex, a fascinating community created in Tokyo in 1984 to research the unique relationships between human beings and languages. Based on initial and ongoing study, LEX Language Project Clubs, where individuals and families are immersed in a community where several languages are spoken at once, were formed. No books. No grammar lessons. No teachers. No tests. Just people interacting and learning naturally. Based on their success in bringing people together in community to learn multiple languages, LEX Language Clubs have popped up in cities all over the world, including Boston. Read this brief description of why the clubs work:

LEX Language Project, organized by LEX America, offers opportunities for multicultural and multilingual exploration to all people.

LEX encourages people to participate with family and friends, because when an entire family gets involved in the LEX language activities, the natural, total immersion environment that is best for acquiring languages is established. Family and community involvement in this program is essential to its success. Only in the richness of human relationships can real learning occur.

Languages are Like Music: Begin by Humming the Tune

At clubs we often say, “sing the sounds.” This is more than just a metaphor. At first we try to sing the big wave of language, the rhythm and melody which constitute the “Chinese-ness” of Chinese, or the “French-ness” of French.

Babies love music. At LEX gatherings, even babies who can’t walk yet will sway to the sounds of a song. Infants don’t learn their native language by breaking the language down into little pieces of grammar and vocabulary or by looking in a dictionary, thus children or adults do not need to learn other languages that way.

Without understanding the meaning of another language, people can begin to speak all the words, as if in a song. There are no mistakes, only exploration. If one does not even know where the separations between words are, the “past tense” or “plural form” or “articles” are all hidden inside of the whole, and it is impossible to be confused by them.

As my friend was telling me about this, I began to think about faith. I wonder if faith formation is more like learning a language through immersion and relationship than learning by being taught, mastering the do’s and don’ts of grammar, taking tests, reading books, etc. I began to think about the traditional ways that people of faith pass it on — studies, lectures, book and Scripture assignments, etc. Many faith traditions place a premium on the mastery of propositional truths and proofs, and these virtues shine through in the dominate methods of proselytizing.

There seems to be a renewed emphasis, however, on faith as a way of life. For Christians, we believe the way of Jesus is the very best way to experience abundant “life before death.” We believe we have been saved into a way of life that reflects — though imperfectly — our original humanity and goodness. We are learning how to be human again, how to reflect the glory of our Creator.

In this way, faith formation is a lot like learning a language. I dream of a world in which vibrant communities of faith popped up all over the world with the purpose of creating a space in which to be immersed in the gospel way of life. I dream of faith communities whose “tune” is so beautiful and lifestyle so attractive, outsiders are compelled to begin “humming along.”

We’ve got to stop trying so hard to make people see things our way.

We’ve got to stop forcing the sheet music down people’s throats before they’ve learned to hum along.

We’ve got to start living like communities who have something to say with our lives, and stop talking so much.

Can we do that?

a different way

Let me clarify a thing or two about what I am saying and NOT saying in the last post and subsequent comments:

I am not saying that people of faith do  not have an obligation to speak prophetically to and about the evil power systems of this world.  The last blog post, in a small way, does just that.

What I AM saying is that for people of faith to then go and dive headlong into that same corrupt political system is, in my opinion, a conflict of interest.  This is why non-Christians looked in disgust on the Moral Majority as they sought (and still seek, to some extent) to transform America through right-wing political legislation.  This is why some are beginning to attach the label “Religious Left” to people / groups of faith on the other end of the spectrum whose issues are different but whose tactics seem frighteningly similar.

What if people of faith stood up and said, “The system is broken, and we place no hope in it. We conscientiously object to participating in a process that seeks to do the same things over and over and expects different results. Our king is Jesus.  Our guide is the Holy Spirit.  Our judge is God”?

We preach a different way in every other arena of life, but why do so many people of faith become incensed when someone suggests that this extends to the political arena?

What if the church acted like the church with respect to issues of justice and mercy?