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The Whispers of Troublemakers

Discussion in 'Culture & Religion' started by Coyote, Jun 12, 2007.

  1. Coyote

    Coyote Active Member

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    An interesting trend is appearing among Christians where the focus is changing from social conservatism to social compassion and action. They call themselves the "New Monastics" or "New Evangelicals". One point made is that the bible never references gay marriage, but has plenty of references on inclusiveness and helping the poor.


    The Whispers of Troublemakers
    by Shane Claiborne


    A few years ago, Philadelphia chose to inaugurate its Sidewalk Behavior Ordinance (which criminalized homelessness by making it illegal to lie or sit extensively on sidewalks) on Martin Luther King Day. Define irony.

    Our community, the simple way, celebrated by sleeping out illegally with our homeless friends — and we were arrested. At our trial, the judge remembered King and remarked: "What is in question is not whether these folks broke the law … but the constitutionality of these laws." When the prosecuting attorney argued that the constitutionality of the law is not before this court, the judge retorted, "The constitutionality of the law is before every court. If it weren't for people who broke the unjust laws, we wouldn't have the freedoms we do. That's the story of this country from the Boston Tea Party to the civil rights movement. These people aren't criminals; they are freedom fighters. And I find them all not guilty, on every charge." It was a rare moment of vindication.

    How quickly we forget the stories of our ancestors, who continue to whisper, "Another world is possible." Martin Luther King, Jr., is one of those whispers. But for those of us who had not yet been born in 1968, the whisper is faint.

    Written in my Bible is a quote from King that we used when we moved onto the streets in protest those years back: "There is nothing wrong with a traffic law which says you have to stop for a red light. But when a man is bleeding, the ambulance goes through those red lights at top speed.… Disinherited people all over the world are bleeding to death from deep social and economic wounds. They need brigades of ambulance drivers who will have to ignore the red lights of the present system until the emergency is solved." Dangerous words of a prophet still resistant to domestication.

    Those words are balm when people call us crazy. "You're just idealistic kids," they say. Those who imagine alternatives to war are constantly called crazy. What is crazy: spending billions of dollars on a defense shield that is ultimately vulnerable, or suggesting that we share our billions so we don't need a defense shield?

    French philosopher and theologian Jacques Ellul once said, "Christians should be troublemakers, creators of uncertainty, agents of a dimension incompatible with society." When we imagine such dimensions, we will be called crazy.

    King was initially disappointed when people called him an extremist, but he grew to like the label. "The world," he said, "is in dire need of creative extremists. We live now in extreme times. The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?"

    Our community house is located in the poorest district in Pennsylvania. Each day we collide with drug addiction, prostitution, police brutality, and welfare cuts. We feed about forty people every day, run a community store, and rehab houses. I am only twenty-seven, but I get tired sometimes.

    When I do, it is reassuring to ground myself in the broader vision King articulated. He never lost sight of how violence affected our neighborhoods — that for each bomb, another school is neglected, another family is left homeless. Lockheed Martin will continue to take in over $30 billion annually from the public treasury, while the schools in my city go bankrupt and the affordable housing waiting list exceeds ten years. Nearly half the federal budget goes to the military while "welfare" dispersals make up less than one percent. I hear King whisper that these kind of choices will lead us to spiritual death.

    Violence is always rooted in a myopic sense of community: a fundamental disconnection from our relationship as humans and children of God. In my neighborhood, kids talk about their "fam;" graffiti murals and veteran walls help commemorate the people in "our tribes" who have died. King sensed this myopia — both in the U. S. ghettos and in the nationalism of his country during the Vietnam War. He longed for our vision to be larger than our "fam" or our country, to "lift neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class, and nation" to an all-embracing and unconditional love.

    King has helped me understand that, just as war has polluted our neighborhoods and our minds, so must the beloved community invade our homes. Our dinner tables must reflect our commitment to reconciliation and an open commensality that mirrors the banquet of God. Our serious work for peace begins in our homes, and with our local neighborhood revolutions. And our work for justice locally must remember that we are part of a global family. (After all, the companies that left desolate seven hundred large properties in my neighborhood are the same companies that today abuse workers and destroy the earth overseas.) Because of my experiences of the beloved community, I stake my life on the reality that another world is possible.

    There is a kid in my neighborhood named Steven, and we sometimes talk about Martin Luther King. Just after September 11, I asked him what we should do. He told me, "Well, those people did something very wrong." He paused pensively, "But I've always said, `Two wrongs don't make a right.' It doesn't make sense to bomb them back. Besides we are all one big family."

    The whisper continues.
     
  2. JavaBlack

    JavaBlack New Member

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    Actually this is a return to the norm. Evangelicals have typically been a force in spreading rights and equality and working for compassion. The mechanations of Falwell and his ilk were a deviance from normal evangelical behavior and carried with them a weight of political hypocrisy and corruption.
    It was mostly in the name of ending abortion, a cause that brings Christians of all sorts together (and for good reason- they consider it murder).

    But Christians are finally coming around again to realizing the ends do not justify the means and linkage to a political machine is a liability rather than an asset for religion. They are returning to the state of putting morals above politics.
     
  3. Coyote

    Coyote Active Member

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    Yup...historically the Baptists, I believe were quite active in social works. There is truth in the saying (don't recall who said it) that mixing politics and religion sullies religion and compromises government.
     
  4. invest07

    invest07 Member

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    It is true that the roots of Christianity were in showing compassion for the less fortunate. It was the "have nots" of the Roman Empire who formed the early core of Christianity. Sharing is a deep rooted tradition in which Judaism has partly lost in modern times. The Bible gives very specific instructions about leaving part of the crop in the fields for the poor to take.
    That tradition still lives on today. It is faith based institutions who have releived far more suffering than any government agency. Compare the rousing success of the work of the Red Cross or Salvation Army with the dismal failure of welfare. After the tsunami, the first relief workers on site were the US military and right after them was the Red Cross. By the time governments got involved, most of the work had already been done.
    Christians organized to become active politically because their values were under attack from the government. Since when is political activity a negative?
    I thought becoming involved in the community and in government was a sign of a responsible citizenry.
    So I guess Christians should just sit on the sidelines and not be active in government. The proper course for government is striving to enhance common values and I guess you think that Christians should let everyone else deterimine the course of government for them.
    This seems to me to be the height of arrogance when you say an entire group should not help to determine the proper course of government.
    I am politically active and a Bible believer and ashamed of neither. I am not about to sit on the sidelines and let others who have an opposite world view run the show. I am a citizen as well as you and I have the same right to make my views known as any other citizen. And if my views and values include a Christian belief, I have a right to make those known as well.
    To say religion has no place in government is similar to saying that values have no place in government. We are all the result of our life experiences and rational thought and values are an integral part of who we are.
    I pray and I roll up my sleeves and volunteer. I also vote and support with time and money candidates who share my values.
    What the hell is wrong with that?
     
  5. Coyote

    Coyote Active Member

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    No, it's not that religious people should not be involved in civics or government rather - religion should not drive policy or law. You know - render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar's.

    You'll notice the countries with the greatest unrest and least tolerance for minorities are those driven by religious agendas.
     
  6. JavaBlack

    JavaBlack New Member

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    ...

    Of course it's not wrong for you to vote with a candidate that shares your values. What I think is wrong is marrying yourself to a party or machine that allegedly shares your moral views. There's a difference.
    I think religion, in the form of people's values, has a place in government... but no particular religion nor any force that supports religion over non-religion (or vice versa) belongs in government.

    As for faith-based charity and other non-government charity, I agree with their usefulness and I respect the people who make them work.
    I do not, however, believe that Americans will put more in charity or that charities will be more universally effective if we removed the government safety net. If charities are suffering, I believe it has more to do with the changes in our culture toward an extreme individualism and the changes in our society and economy that have led to the shrinking of communities.
    Everyone is on their own and they know it... thus everyone believes that they have less to give (and they're often right). In the meantime, corporations are quite formidable at convincing people they have more needs to spend on... and the well-off have a tendency to view those in need of charity with scorn.
    Taking money from the welfare system will not change this about our culture. Nor will a higher prevalence of religion, as people have quite a tendency of seperating religious values from everyday life.
    I do believe welfare programs should be better aimed and I'm okay with Mr. Bush's "faith-based initiatives" program... I could care less if an organization is religious or secular, as long as it does good.
     
  7. invest07

    invest07 Member

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    coyote
    Religion and values are inseparable to a person with religious beliefs. My value system has been shaped, to a great degree, by my religious belief. (It has also been shaped by over a half centurty of life experience). I belive what I believe because it is in the Bible and because my life experiences have told me those values work better than other values I have tried.
    So are you saying that having values in government is OK but not if those values are religiously based?
    You say the religion should not drive government. I may agree with you on this point, but could you expound some on this? Values should drive government and values are inseparable from religion for many Americans.

    And you know as well as I do that Christianity is not affecting the US as Islam is affecting the Middle East. Christians are, for the most part, good citizens who pay taxes, and stay well inside the law. Christians also vote in higher percentages than the secular population. The US was founded as a secular society tolerating a wide range of beliefs. Equal opportuniites were extended to each of the many groups to influence public policy.
    So if Christians want to influence governement, and multiply their influence as a group, what is the problem? Isn't this the same technique used by labor unions and NOW and the NAACP? And NAMBLA?
    And why is Jerry Falwell so despised? He wasn't perfect but as a leader his values beat the hell out of Slick Willy J's and Teddy K's.
    Christians are not beginning to look on politics as a liability. What I would say to this is "You ain't seen nuttin yet". Christians are looking on the political process as a method to affect change and the current trend is for more activism in the near future.
    Christians are hopping mad about much of the liberal political agenda being crammed down their throats. If you think the level of Christian involvement in politics is waning, you are in for a surprise.
     
  8. Coyote

    Coyote Active Member

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    Nothing wrong with that for personal values.

    No I'm saying that the government's job is to control and administrate public policy, legislate laws and enforce those laws, protect our country and it's citizens. It's job is not to enforce or promote particular religious values.

    Of course values and religion are entertwined, yet some values exist regardless of religion - for example the "do unto other's as you would have them do unto you" is pretty much a cultural golden rule in both numerous religions and in secular philosophies. Religion drives government when it attempts to legislate religious doctrine or ideology into law - for example sodomy laws.

    Exactly - we live under a secular system of law and it is that, not the religion itself, that has led to peace and prosperity. History is as rife with Christian violence as it is with Islamic violence. It is our secular system of law that protects our minorities from persecution.

    They can do it, it's a free society. But I would regard it in much the same light as I would regard the communist party trying to multiply it's influence. Very dangerous.

    Labor unions et al aren't trying to replace secular law with biblical law. And NAMBLA - that is so over rated. One sick organization averaging less then a thousand members nationwide.

    I despise him for the same reason the right despises Ward Churchill. They both said essentially the same hateful things against innocent people.

    It's not what I think but what Christians think. Personally, I think it would be a lot better for Christians to start taking a look at what Jesus really said and acting out that message. Instead of trying to make abortion illegal for instance, how about work to make abortion unnecessary and every child cared for and loved? Of course - that's a lot harder path to follow.
     
  9. DrWho

    DrWho New Member

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    I disagree with the idea that christians are to be troublemakers - but only as a technicality.

    I think the point of the statement was that christians are to be like the ambulance drivers who go to extremes to help others. But the analogy fails as ambulance drivers are legally permitted to run through red lights.

    I believe the christian is under a burden to stand up for the weak but by all means possible to do so without causing trouble. Should the christian break the law if there is not other way? yes. But the bible is full of positive examples of ways to make a difference without being a troublemaker. The most obvious example is just to be full of love. The abortion clinic bombers dis so in the name of religion but they were not christians and the caused a great deal of trouble. The priest who showed compassion to Norma Mcorvey which resulted in her redemption showed love.

    A real agape is so dramatic that those who come into contact with it cannot help but be effected strongly. Do you want to make a protest? Then go against the flow and love those who don't expect it.
     
  10. Mare Tranquillity

    Mare Tranquillity Active Member

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    Largely, I agree with you, but FREEDOM OF RELIGION means ALL religions, not just the majority religion that has the money and the votes to put its tenets into law. When the dominant religion abrogates the Constitution I think they are wrong, when they disenfranchise some of the citizenry because they don't like them--bear in mind that the great mass of Christians approved of slavery and not allowing women to own property or vote--then they are wrong. When one religion gets so powerful that they can deny legal freedoms to people they don't approve of, then they are wrong. Just my opinion as one of the people who has been on the receiving end of more compassionate Christian beatings than I like to remember.
     
  11. DrWho

    DrWho New Member

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    The great mass of christians are not christian.

    On the other hand if it were not for the women's christian Temperance movement (WCTM) women would probably not have the right to vote in the US today. If it were not for the Quakers slaves would probably not have been freed.
     
  12. invest07

    invest07 Member

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    Chrsitianity is one religion out of many in this country. All are free to practise their belief so long as that practise does not result in law breaking.
    In this country we even allow all the nutcases and fruitcakes to call themselves a religion. (Rastafarians and wiccans).
    Every group, religious or secular, has the same right to organize politically and attempt to influence public policy. Each group has the same right to support candidates who share values, contribute to that candidate's campaign and work agauinst candidates with whom they do not share values.
    Many people are uncomfortable with Chrsitians supporting an agenda based on moral issues. But have you ever thought about putting yourself in their shoes? (My shoes, in this case)
    Would you sit on the sidelines when you truly believe 1,000,000 legal murders each year are committed? (Abortion)
    Would you sit back and do nothing when sexual promiscuity is sanctioned in your kid's public school? (Encouraging condom use is a form of sanction)
    Chrsitians and any other religious group have a right to influence public policy, so long as that influence is within the law.
     
  13. invest07

    invest07 Member

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    The great mass of secularists also supported slavery and limited women's rights. And it was certain Christian groups who led the fight to right these wrongs. Christians have also been instrumental in child labor laws, women's rights (not the same as NOW's agenda), family law and legal immigration. Much of our foreign aid is the result of the religious and, as much as I detest welfare, our safety net grew out of the Chrsitian belief in caring for the poorer.
    The citzens who are most generous in charitable giving are all from the Heartland and the Bible Belt. It is ironic and telling that the secularists, who love welfare so much, are the stingiest.
    In 1781 my grandfather 5 generations earlier was wounded in the Revolutionary War. During the mid 1800's my family were staunch abolitionists and, although dirt poor, managed to buy 5 slaves from owners to give them freedom. During the great depression my grandfather rode a horse through the Virginia hills as a circuit rider carrying not only the word of God but also food and clothes to the poorest in Appalachia.
    The great mass of Christians are, indeed Christians. Many don't seem to live the belief but that does not mean their belief is insincere. There are many who feign Christian beliefs out of expediancy (such as the Clintons).
    Put your ear to the ground and ignore all the crap in the newspapers and on CBS. The truth is out there but not in the media.
     
  14. Coyote

    Coyote Active Member

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    What great mass of "secularists"?
     
  15. DrWho

    DrWho New Member

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    Despite the claim that this is a Christian nation (and certainly it was influenced by Christian thinkers) the vast majority of people are not Christians and never have been. They may claim to be Christians but most are not. When people say things like: "I was born a Christian" then we know that they think of it like being born Irish. But it is not a race, it is a belief system. Simply, people who do not trust the work of Jesus for their salvation are not Christians.

    It is my assertion that 90 something percent of the population would most accurately be described as secularists.

    People who profess a belief in God but do not alter their lifestyles in any way from the mass of secularists around them are no more Christians than people who profess a belief that their house is burning but rest lazily in front of the telly.
     

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