The Language of Morality

There is a quote from Tony Kriz’s book “Neighbors and Wise Men: Sacred Encounters in a Portland Pub and Other Unexpected Places” that I wrote down about a week ago and have been pondering ever since.

‘There is a reason why all the major religious texts spend so much time talking about money. Those ancient dudes were brilliant. They knew that it is not just about being rich or being poor, not entirely. Money is a language. It is a language of morality. And like with so many of the most important issues, morality is found in how deep we are willing to dig. And are we willing to discover…and face the implications of our actions?’ (Kriz, 2012, p. 186).

I have wrestled with this concept for the last week or so, especially as my family goes through financial difficulties right now and we look back in regret at things we cannot change. I wonder about the choices I make with money and it disgusts me that often I make a decision on solely what is cheapest or contains the most value for me, as a consumer. I tend to think that a lot of people think the same way.

There are some things I will or won’t do, but they don’t seem like enough. I am not an extreme couponer because I don’t believe it is right nor profitable to hoard things even if they are free, and I also don’t like that if I did that I could walk out of the store and not pay anything for my purchases, or have the store owe me money. It just doesn’t seem right to me, and so I choose not to do it. I’ve never been a big boycotter, but I have decided that I will no longer buy pizza from Papa Johns no matter how delicious it is because the dude lives in a huge castle and has so much and yet is too stingy to provide health insurance to his employees under the new Obamacare. But I am not writing this to get into a political discussion about health insurance; I’m merely presenting it as one of the financial choices I have made recently.

I feel guilty every time I buy candy bars knowing that the candy was mass produced using child labor in other countries. I feel like I should give up chocolate so that I am not supporting such things, but I know I can’t erase chocolate completely, and often I justify it by saying that I like it and that if I don’t buy it, someone else will anyway. But then again that doesn’t mean that I should buy it. If I want chocolate I can spend extra and buy fair trade chocolate. It’s just that lately I have been pondering the morality of buying things that I know have been produced by child labor and slavery, and I know it’s not right. I express my outrage at human trafficking and the sex trade, and yet with my dollars I support slavery and child labor. No human being should ever own another human being. We are all precious people in the eyes of God. I’m upset with myself every time I buy a candy bar and I let my desire for something sweet dictate my choices. Buying a candy bar that I know has been produced using slavery and child labor is immoral. What I spend my money on shows what I truly value and what my morality is.

This is just one example of the struggle that I am working through in regards to morality and money. It’s the fight I have with myself to do the right thing while knowing that I’m not. What point is there in claiming to be a Christian and that I try to do what God asks of me when I won’t even skip buying a candy bar because I know that would be an immoral choice. Sometimes it’s the little things in life. By choosing not to buy that candy bar, I just made a moral choice to not support slavery. When I do choose to buy the candy bar anyway, knowing what I know, I show that in reality I’m an immoral person. I can show my love for people all around the world by choosing not to buy products that have exploited them.

I need to remember that money is the language of morality, and what I choose to do with my money shows what kind of person I truly am.

Reference:

Kriz, T 2012, Neighbors and Wise Men: Sacred Encounters in a Portland Pub and Other Unexpected Places, Thomas Nelson, Nashville.
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Rachel Held Evans’ Year of Biblical Womanhood

I finally received my copy of “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” by Rachel Held Evans in the mail after months of the suspense of having it on pre-order. I can tell you that I prefer her first book “Evolving in Monkey Town” but “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” is a valuable read also.  My favorite chapters were “July: Justice” and “September: Grace”. To be honest, parts of the project seemed rather silly to me, but I do appreciate the overall idea that inspired the project and I do appreciate the many insights that I gleaned from the book.

I really appreciated the information about fair trade that was in the chapter on justice, and I believe that it is an important topic to talk about and am glad that it was included in this book. Imagine my horror when I learned that some of my favorite candy is made from cocoa beans that were produced through child slavery. I have mixed feelings on the fair trade issue. I would really love to buy fair trade products where they exist, but I wonder if, like boycotts, doing that really helps anything? But now I can’t eat a package of pretzel M&M’s without thinking about some kid in Africa in forced slavery on the cocoa farm.

So I wonder if the fair trade issue is really about wanting to make the world a better place by not consuming products that were made as a product of the exploitation of other people, or if it is just about making ourselves feel better about the exploitation of other people by assuming that because we choose not to consume such products, that we are somehow superior. If I buy everything fair trade, yet I don’t speak out about the exploitation of other human beings, am I really helping to change anything? Should I get involved in some kind of movement or just file the entire fair trade topic under the “social justice” file in my brain? I know that social movements can cause revolutions, and this is a topic worthy of being pursued as a social movement. I guess my thing is that I am wondering what it is that I am supposed to do with the information that I have been given. To pretend that I never learned such things would be a betrayal.

I have to say that I think the book is worth the money just for the social justice issues that it raises, because the issue of child slavery isn’t the only social justice issue that Evans talks about, and I believe that the church is lacking greatly in social justice issues (as the presidential election is showing us).

I also appreciated the arguments that Evans makes for the role of women in the church and their importance to the church. It is a sad thing that in this day and age, women are still being restricted in what they do for the church even though all throughout the Bible women worked in the same positions as men.

She begins the book with the “ten commandments of Biblical Womanhood” and ends with ten resolutions that she emerged from the project with. If Rachel Held Evans didn’t have a book deal, the project would still have been worth it for her personal growth and development by the things she learned and the resolutions that she made as a result.

I like how throughout the book, Evans shows how “Biblical Womanhood” as the fundamentalists choose to interpret it, is an impossible task, and even more, that we weren’t ever supposed to live like that. It was good to read about the valuable things that she learned during the project and the things that she was going to continue doing after the project was complete. Not everything about the notion of “Biblical Womanhood” is bad, it’s the concept that there is only one right way to please God as a woman that is the problem. I think that Evans represents the distinction between the two very well. While I prefer her first book, this one is a worthy read. 

The Christian Left – Part 5

Looking at the teachings of Jesus changed my worldview drastically, and it was the teachings of Jesus that, in the end, made me change my political beliefs as well. I’m not totally on the left side of politics either, I identify as a moderate that leans left because when it comes right down to it, on some issues I’m conservative and on some issues I’m liberal, I just happen to be liberal on more issues than I am conservative.


“As far as I’m concerned the teachings of Jesus are far too radical to be embodied in a particular platform or represented by a particular candidate. It’s not up to some politician to represent my Christian values to the world: it’s up to me. That’s why I’m always a little perplexed when someone finds out I’m not a republican and asks, ‘how can you call yourself a Christian?’” Rachel Held Evans, “Evolving in Monkey Town”, pg. 206-207.

If Jesus was walking this earth and he was in America in this day and age, I don’t think he would be a republican. I don’t think he would necessarily be a democrat either, because his teachings were so radical that not even Christians believe or follow all of them. I know that for me, sometimes the teachings of Jesus are downright scary because they are so radical and I’m afraid that if I live passionately for him, I’m going to face ridicule for it, because people are going to think I’m crazy. I’m not arguing that we need to fit in to our culture necessarily; I’m arguing that Christians need to obey the teachings of Jesus, and, if we did so, I believe that the current political landscape in the USA would look much different.

As Tony Campolo says in his book “Red Letter Christians” (2008, pg. 215), I’m a theological conservative who has embraced socially progressive ideas. I know that a lot of people don’t understand how the two can go together, but for me they just do. When I really and truly focus on what my Savior taught, I find that the two go together just fine. The “Lord’s Prayer” says “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Matthew 6:10 NIV. I believe that when I accepted Jesus, I became a citizen of the kingdom of God, and that as such I need to live by kingdom principles. These principles have changed me, and I think that’s the point.

I’m nowhere near perfect at living out the teachings of Jesus, I fail at it every day, but when I absorb the teachings of Jesus and meditate on them, and live them, they change me.

“If our theologies make us focus only on the eternal and the individual (i.e., getting my soul into heaven) so that we avoid God’s concern for the historic and the global (i.e., God’s will being done on earth as well as in heaven), then the more people we win over to our theologies, the fewer people will care about God’s world here and now.

                The more converts we make, the worse the world will become.

If God really cares about justice in this world here and now, and if we are converting people away from that concern, then we are working against God. We could inadvertently become enemies of God’s wishes. Brian McLaren, “Adventures in Missing the Point” pg. 57.

I realized that if my political beliefs did not align with the teachings of Jesus, I was going against God. I started to realize that perhaps God cared much more that I love my neighbour and less about the culture-wars. Perhaps he would rather me act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God (Micah 6:8). I started to realize that if I live as God is calling me to live, that would make a bigger statement than any political position I hold.

“Jesus replied: ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 NIV.

References:

Campolo, T 2008, Red Letter Christians, Regal, Ventura

Campolo, T and McLaren, B 2006, Adventures in Missing the Point, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Evans, R 2010, Evolving in Monkey Town, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

The Christian Left – Part 3

When President Obama got elected, I was severely disappointed, and I “just knew” that it was a huge mistake and that the problem was that the American people had rejected God. I myself had worked with my church to promote Ron Paul’s campaign, something which now embarrasses me but is part of my journey. During the period of the Obama administration, I have gone from the extreme right, from believing conspiracy theories, from extreme conservatism and fundamentalism, to a position I believe is more balanced. Now I claim to be just Christian, definitely not a fundamentalist, and to being a moderate that leans left. Looking back, I’m glad Obama was elected, although sometimes I wonder if I might not have preferred Hillary Clinton for president. I personally believe Bill Clinton was a pretty good president. Anyway, the main thing that changed my mind on my political views is the teachings of Jesus.


The very first issue that I faced in my journey was the issue of war and peace. I had always struggled with the concept of war, and had always been unsettled about the idea, but I wasn’t sure why. So I purposed to study the issue out, and I have to say that it changed me. Basically, as I looked at the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament and the historic teachings of the church, I became a pacifist, and for me this was life changing in a number of ways. Not only did I become a pacifist, but it was not long after that that I started to support the idea of gun laws, and I have several ideas on what kinds of gun control I would like to see. I believed that human life was valuable, certainly more valuable than stuff. I say this because the main reason I hear people in this country claim that they need a gun is for if someone breaks into their house and tries to steal their stuff. I would rather let the person take my stuff than take his life; life is precious and certainly more valuable than stuff.

As I delved further into pacifism and my support for gun control, and the sanctity of human life not only for the unborn but for the born as well, it changed the way I viewed people, and slowly began to change the way I treated people. As I turned away from violent thinking and violent imagery, I began to think differently about people, and recognize how valuable they are to God. And in my journey to non-violence, I quit spanking my kids. Now when I get into an argument with someone, instead of just lashing out and fighting with them, I usually stop and think about how precious they are to God, and it helps me to be more calm and rational with my responses. (I did write some articles on pacifism which I am going to put up on this blog as an archive).

I believe that Jesus really meant it when he said to do good to those who treat us wrongly, and that by me choosing to love others, people will know that I am a Christian. As my ideas about pacifism and gun control and non-violence evolved, so did my ideas about social justice. Now that I viewed all people as precious and worthy to God, I believed that Jesus would have me help the poor, and do right by others. As I walked in the new things that God had shown me, it changed me, and my Christian faith began to have so much more meaning than before. In fact, here’s a quote that sums up better than I could what I am saying here:

“Jesus came to offer more than just salvation from hell. I realized this when I encountered Jesus the radical rabbi and re-examined my life in light of his teachings. When I imagined what it would be like to give generously without wondering what was in it for me, to give up my grudges and learn to diffuse hatred with love, to stop judging other people once and for all, to care for the poor and seek out the downtrodden, to finally believe that stuff can’t make me happy, to give up my urge to gossip and manipulate, to worry less about what other people think, to refuse to retaliate no matter the cost, to be capable of forgiving to the point of death, to live as Jesus lived and love as Jesus loved, one word came to mind: liberation. Following Jesus would mean liberation from my bitterness, my worry, my self-righteousness, my prejudices, my selfishness, my materialism, and my misplaced loyalties. Following Jesus would mean salvation from my sin.” Rachel Held Evans, “Evolving in Monkey Town” pg 174-175.

Another quote that really made me think just recently as I take these ideas and values further and I live them out is this:

“I’m not always sure how to react to war today. I can vow to work at Dunkin’ Donuts before taking a job as a defense contractor. I can threaten to weep should my children decide to become soldiers. I can choose not to tell the lie that it’s sweet and fitting to die for one’s country and say instead that it’s tragic. But all of these are just taking stands, and Jesus requires something more. Jesus didn’t say ‘people who speak out against war will inherit the earth’; He said people who embody, in their character and soul, this strange and alien value of meekness will inherit the earth. He didn’t say ‘blessed are those who refuse to fight’ but blessed are those who make peace. He didn’t say ‘blessed are those who don’t kill’ but blessed are those who show mercy. He didn’t call us simply to oppose positions that are wrong but to embody values that are heavenly.” Alisa Smith, “Raised Right” pg 107-108.

In other words, I see now that God is taking me even further, not just wanting me to be against something, but to be for something, and to live out the ideas that I claim to believe in.

*Disclaimer: This is not intended to be an attack on people who believe in war, or the military, or those who are conservative, fundamentalist, and right-wing. I’m simply trying to tell the story of my own journey and why I believe what I believe today.

References:

Evans, R 2010, Evolving in Monkey Town, Zondervan, Grand Rapids

Harris, A 2011, Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith From Politics, Water Brook Press, Colorado Springs. 

The Christian Left – Part 2

This is a re-post from the old blog since I plan to continue the series on here. 🙂

Most of the time, I actually identify as “moderate” with leftist leanings because I really don’t subscribe to the entire leftist agenda either, I just happen to currently agree with them on a lot more political issues than I agree with the right on.

I remember in the 2004 presidential election, I was living with American missionaries in a coastal Australian city. The missionaries had the TV on most of the day of the election, and were following it closely. We had talked about the moral decay of society and how it was God’s will for George W. Bush to be re-elected because he was a Christian and the Republican party was the Christian party. Over the coming years I learned about and engaged in the “culture wars” and by the time I moved to the USA I was staunchly Republican because I thought that all Christians were. I have in fact noticed that a lot in America, that people tie their chosen political party into their faith. And on one hand, I get it.

I totally get that our faith influences our political decisions (it’s why I choose to be a moderate that currently leans left), what I don’t understand is that people who trust in Jesus for their eternal destiny would suddenly not trust that he cares and knows about what is going on in the country and that he can handle it. If Jesus can save us from our sins, can’t he be working behind the scenes in America despite which political party is in power? It troubles me to see how devastated some Christians get when the right is not in power. It troubles me to see how ugly and disrespectful some conservative Christians can be to government they disagree with, it troubles me to see what extremes some conservative Christians will go to. After all, I thought Christians believed that God was ultimately in control, so why all the panic? A big part of me wonders if all the panic comes from maybe we say one thing and believe another? We claim to believe that God is in control but we really believe that man is in control.

I don’t believe, if Jesus was walking this earth today, that he’d be a conservative. I don’t really think he’d be completely liberal either, in fact, I doubt we could put him in a political box. From my understanding of Scripture and his teachings, though, I doubt there would be much about current conservative politics in America that Jesus would be happy with. But I totally understand that many people disagree with me. I am going to spend some time explaining the social issues and what I believe Jesus taught on those subjects. I’m not claiming to be right, I’m just giving a “justification” I suppose for why I believe what I do, because quite honestly, I feel misunderstood, and because of that, I have had many conservatives be downright rude and ugly to me about what I believe. I don’t want to be mean and ugly back so I am trying to present this in a cool, calm manner. I am not angry at conservatives, like I said in the first post, I’d wager a pretty good guess that most of my friends are political conservatives. It’s ok, I love them anyway. :p

I’m going to be exploring this topic with two books (as well as the Bible), the first one is “Red Letter Christians” by Tony Campolo, and the second is “Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith From Politics” by Alisa Harris. Both are very good books and I look forward to presenting some of their material here. I probably won’t post these posts every day, I will probably post about some other topics in between, but I do intend to keep posting them over the following weeks. 🙂

And remember, I don’t even vote because I’m not a US citizen yet. I’m just a woman with opinions. :p

The Christian Left – Part 1

This is a re-post from the old blog since I plan to continue this series on here. 🙂

Today, I “liked” a page on Facebook called “The Christian Left” and shared two of its pictures on my own personal Facebook page. The very first comment I got was from a tea party conservative which simply said the “Christian” Left? insinuating that one could not be Christian and politically left. I know of good Christian people who are liberal and good Christian people who are conservative, and while I would never indicate that you can’t be Christian and liberal, or can’t be Christian and conservative, for me it is harder to imagine being conservative and being able to live by Christian values. However, it appears that many Christian conservatives don’t believe one can be both a Christian and liberal, so I thought I would write some posts on why I, as a Christian, choose to be a liberal rather than a conservative.

When I first moved to the USA, I was told that in this country, all Christians were republicans. If someone wasn’t a republican they weren’t a Christian. A while later I found out some were even more conservative than the republicans, and some of those people thought that the Christians who were republicans were “selling out” their convictions and instead should be constitutionalists or libertarians or tea partiers. I, in fact, helped my church at the time in 2008 campaign for Ron Paul, even though I wasn’t then nor am I yet a US citizen. Although I’m not a citizen yet, I plan to be one day. My husband and my four children are all citizens, and I live here, so yes I care very much about US politics. We even had a Ron Paul yard sign right next to our church yard sign (someone stole the Ron Paul one). Now, I want to put an Obama bumper sticker on my car except that it’s my husband’s car too and I don’t think he’d appreciate it, because he’s still fairly conservative. 🙂

Yesterday, I was glad to see the individual mandate of the health care bill upheld. I believe that health care is a basic human right, and I suppose that Jesus did too because he was always healing people. The reason I believe health care is a basic human right is because of how much Jesus cared about the sick. Honestly, I don’t understand what people are so upset about. Since I’ve moved here I have heard many complaints from conservatives that “they” have to pay for other people’s health care. Well, now that the individual mandate passed, individuals will have to pay for their own health care, or else their own tax dollars will go to paying for it. This means that the individual mandate is a good thing, because now people will be responsible to pay for their own health insurance. Of course, I don’t believe it will solve all the health care issues and ultimately I’d like to see the US adopt a socialized system like other first world countries have with great success.

Conservative politics to me seem very selfish and completely unChristlike, although I want to be careful when I say that to make sure that I DON’T say that all conservative Christians are unChristlike, because that is not true. I know many awesome, conservative Christians, in fact I believe that most of my friends are conservatives and they are amazing people. I’m not trying to tear down individuals; it’s the conservative political system that I have a problem with. The goal of these posts is simply to talk about how and why someone would be a Christian and be left, and I will do my best to keep to that issue rather than bashing conservatives. 🙂