Underwhelmed is the word.

Ben is underwhelmed.

I can’t say that I disagree. I feel discouraged and disillusioned about this whole mess that our country is in. What will it really take to bring us back to the principles that made us so great in the first place? Can anyone even answer that question? How can we expect presidential hopefuls to solve a problem that we, ourselves, don’t know the answer to?

And I suppose that–to some extent–it has always been this way, but it seems like the Church is splitting in more and more directions. We are being defined now by our cultural and societal convictions, rather than being unified as the Body of Christ. That scares me.

It scares me a lot.

It scares me, not because I think there is anything terrifying about being defined, but because I know my own propensity to be mistaken. And because I know how prone Christians are (in general) to believing we are exempt from error. Oh, we say that we know no one has it all right–but we behave and speak as though we believe we are infallible.

Help us, Jesus–me and all Your fallible, feeble, brainless sheep. Help us to follow hard after You. Teach us again the sound of Your voice and the comfort of Your staff.

Who Are You?

Deep down.

Beyond the jargon of our culture.

Behind the words that hide what you really think.

Beneath the layers of music, friendships, television shows, technology that disguise.

Deeper than all the things you know you should be, all that others expect you to be, all you expect yourself to be.

Who are you?

What is that thing that keeps you awake at night, dreaming of the day when it will be?

What is it that stirs your heart when no one knows?

What is it that you would give anything to do? To be?

Who are you…

…and what are you doing here?

Unplugged

When was the last time you unplugged?

I saw a commercial the other day that evoked some strong emotions from the pit of my being, which I can’t usually say after watching a commercial. Ironically, I can’t recall which commercial it was, and several of those I’ve seen recently have had a similar impact on me. When did we become so wired that being wired would seem so normal?

The product was an incredible one, I’m sure; I remember thinking how convenient the service would be if I were X (oh yes, I remember now; but I still won’t tell you, because I don’t think there’s any need to rip on a product as cool as this). But it brought to the tip of my brain the one thought I’ve been avoiding for the last fifteen years as the internet/cell phone/totally-accessible-all-of-the-time-my-car-can-drive-itself-so-what’s-the-point-in-knowing-how-to-parallel-park age has exploded around me: We have created a world wherein we can totally detach from one another. Instead of being who we are, we create a persona–a virtual self–and it takes our place in education, in debate, in politics, in relationships. In almost every aspect of our lives, now, we are so connected that we can afford to disconnect.

Isn’t that strange?

An example: For several years, I’ve visited (sometimes regularly, sometimes not) a Christian chat room. It has been a blessing and a curse. One of the blessings is that I’ve made incredible friendships with some intelligent people who are interested in some of the same topics within Christianity that I am interested in. One of the curses, I’ve learned, is that it sometimes “feels” like community, so it has been easy for me to not commit to Christians in my face-to-face life. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard folks in that chat room say they don’t go to church on Sunday; the chat room is their church. We are so connected that we disconnect.

I’m not saying this is true of everybody, or that it is true in every circumstance. I do think it is a growing phenomenon, however. I see it evolving even in my life–me, who hardly answers her cell phone (that’s right, everyone, I’ve confessed: I typically silence your calls; it’s not that I don’t like you [I do] and it’s not that I don’t want to talk [I do], but I really just hate being accessible all of the time [truly, I do]).

The past few days, I’ve been bombarded with a nasty stomach virus. I thought (and wished) it might kill me. It was quite honestly that bad. But it allowed me one incredible freedom: I unplugged. My phone was turned off. My music was turned off. My computer was turned off.

In spite of how awful it was, it was wonderful to be silent. It was wonderful to be alone. In a world that demands that we always connect, I’m just here today to challenge you to unplug for a day. Or two. Or, if you’re really brave, a week. Spend some time with pen and paper, rather than blogs and tweets (she says in her blog); read a book with a dustcover jacket (remember those?) instead of on your Kindle; turn off the television and talk with the people in your home; unplug your guitar and sing quietly just for the sake of intimacy with Christ. No amps; no apps; no you tube videos; no tweets; no IMs; no text messages. Just unplug. Turn it all off.

I think we need that silence once in awhile, to disconnect from the world and reconnect with the true things in life: Family, friends, faith, and most importantly, the Light that has come into the world.

Pax Domini.

Collective Salvation, part II

So what is collective salvation?

If you’re like me, you’ve spent the last two weeks scouring the internet trying to find a clear definition of this elusive doctrine. And, if you’re like me, you’ve been largely unsuccessful. It seems obvious, though, right? If individual salvation simply means that my salvation is dependent upon my individual faith in Christ, then collective salvation must mean that my salvation is dependent upon the collective faith of the community, right?

I don’t think this is what it means, though. I don’t think it really has anything to do with a doctrine about salvation or faith or (dare I say it?) Christ. It denies the very foundations of the Christian faith: that core idea that we all have sinned, and the penalty for that sin is spiritual (and, might I add, eternal) death; that Christ took the punishment of our sin and conquered death so that we might live; that being one of the community (of Jews, of God’s chosen) is insufficient to save our spiritual selves; that salvation is by grace and through faith–a free gift of God Himself.

See, collective salvation isn’t really about salvation at all. It isn’t about faith.  Oh, they may say it is. But look at what Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger said about Liberation Theology (the parent of the collective salvation doctrine) :

Many liberation theologians continue to use a great deal of the Church’s classical ascetical and dogmatic language while changing its signification.

So don’t be confused when they tell you it’s about salvation. It’s not. It’s not about faith or hope or Christ or salvation. It’s not even about the community that makes it “collective.” It’s about social, economic, and political power. It’s the stripping of individual rights and responsibilities, sins and redemptions, choices, opinions, desires.

How long will it be before someone who is ungreen will be seen as a threat to our collective survival? Does it not become the job of the government-savior to convert me to green for the sake of the community, of the state, of the country, of the world? It has to. It has to become someone’s job, or it would still depend upon my individual conscience.

But that’s just it. Suddenly, I can’t trust my own gut to move me to charity or compassion. Suddenly, I can’t trust my own gut to tell me it’s wrong to lie, cheat, or steal. Suddenly, I can’t trust my own gut to decide whether I should stop and help the man whose car just went off the road in front of me.

No, collective salvation requires a conscience on behalf of the community. And believe you me, the collective conscience will trump your individual conscience every time. Our government will make sure of it.

Folks, don’t buy into this. Don’t be enticed by the pretty idea of saving everyone. Salvation is not my job, not your job, not the community’s job, and certainly not the government’s job. It is the work of Jesus the Messiah. Any other “salvation” will fall short in the end.

Is it our responsibility as Christians to love our neighbor? To show compassion? To help the poor and needy? Absolutely. It is a matter of our faith, though, and we answer to God for those choices–not to the government.

Wow. It just hit me: If there is no individual conscience, no individual salvation, then there can also be no individual worth or need. Everything will become a matter of community. Everything will be weighed on its health pertaining to the community (or to the perception thereof). Isn’t this the end game, after all?

If you’re still looking for answers, begin with Ratzinger’s notes on Liberation Theology. Let me know what else you find, folks. I’m trying really hard to understand these issues, myself, and I welcome the dialogue and–where necessary–correction.

Pax Domini.

Semmie.

Practice Gratitude

Gratitude seems more elusive the older I get. Ours is a society where we tend to feel entitled. Entitled to what, you ask? Oh, everything. We are entitled to be happy, to get married, to have a good job, to have access to the internet, to have the newest cell phone, to have the car we want, et cet, ad nauseam. It occurred to me today that the more I look at the ingratitude of the world around me, the less gratitude I exhibit.

So I am practicing gratitude. I am noting those who are making a difference in my life, and I am finding a way to thank them. But I am also thanking God for the moments He brings to me every day–the ore boats coming in and out of the island, the blueberries growing pink and plump on the hill behind the house, the books piled up and waiting for my attention, the sweet call of the song sparrows that nest in the yard. These are enormous blessings that make each day beautiful.

What about you? Who and what are you thankful for?