After I visited a church recently, I thought to myself, Maybe I should visit other churches more often. I often learn so much just by seeing how another group does it. Then again, the declarative songs, the male-domination, and the Reformed theology king of wigged me out enough to also think, I’m not sure I’d be a Christian if this is what was available to me.
I don’t want to deconstruct too much, but this meeting happened fresh after the attacks on Paris (an event which woke the national media up to the horrors of ISIS, again), and it was all about how God controls everything. The pastors said something to that very effect and then encouraged us to pray to God despite him already making up his mind. Philosophically and theologically, it was a wonder. I’ve written before about how the prayer can move God’s heart. I think that’s an important thought—it turns out it was heresy at this place.
I think if we want to help people follow Jesus, we really need to emphasize the personal nature and the mutuality of our relationship with Him. Not that God makes everything happen, including horrible deadly bombings! Our faith is personal, not just us relating to a cosmic clockmaker who has set everything in motion, it’s about relating to a God that moves with us. Not Aristotle’s “unmoved Mover,” from maybe Clark Pinnock’s, “most moved Mover.” Prayer works and we should do it, mainly, because we need to relate to God and we need to change the world. The work I want to do in the world needs the Holy Spirit. There’s no formula, and there are lots of ways to do it. But the important thing is that we do it.
After the Paris attacks, #prayforparis was trending as far as I could tell, but not everyone was having it. When terrorists bomb your capital city in the name of faith, some people simply want less religion. Joann Sfar, a cartoonist from Charles Hebdo (which was previously attacked by terrorists in the past for depicting, perhaps foolishly, Mohammad), posted this on his Instagram after the attacks in response to those who were praying: Friends from the whole world, thank you for #prayforparis, but we don’t need more religion. Our faith goes to music! Kisses! Life! Champagne and Joy! #Parissaboutlife.
WOW! Talk about some post-Christendom. I think Christianity leaving Europe is good in many ways since the church was so oppressive, but I pray that prayer doesn’t leave. I pray that people don’t stop relating to the Prince of Peace. He is the only one who is an answer to all of this evil.
I couldn’t believe how simplistic Joann’s analysis was, but I could understand it. The cartoonist has since reacted to the many negative responses he received on his Instagram page, so he may not have meant it the way that I took it. But I think people, motivated by the new atheists (who are cartoons and caricatures in and of themselves), lump all religion together as evil and I reject that.
I started this post with a story from a very Reformed church that would have turned me off from the whole faith. I’m glad it didn’t and I’m glad I found believers in Circle of Hope who showed me something new. I’d personally like to invite Joann to my cell to show him how positive and peaceful our faith can be. I’m not just being self-referential here, this is really my honest experience.
Nancy knows that. She serves on the steering committee for the Pennsylvania Coalition For Affordable Communities. We’ve been trying to pass some legislation that funds green space and affordable hosuing for the last year. We haven’t gotten as far as we wish. Nancy told me that I needed to pray for the campaign. I told her I would. I suppose I’m the pray-er of that group. She knew it and so did the rest of the group. I am fine with that. Happy, in fact, that sometime wanted me to pray and still believed that pray was good enough to move City Council’s heart and God’s.
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