Monthly Archives: August 2012

Simply Explaining Away the Complex

I didn’t go to Belhaven, so I never got to meet Dr. Wynn Kenyon.  I’m still in awe of the guy, though, because I’ve seen the impact he’s had on many of my friends, on my church, and on the city of Jackson as a whole.  When he suddenly passed away last year, the impact he had on those close to him was obvious.  He was, on all accounts, a great man.

I was talking with a friend of mine a week or so ago and during the course of the discussion, he told me something Dr. Kenyon had said to him.  It was something along the lines of this (and sorry if I don’t get the whole thing right but this is close): “The greatest disservice we can do to a complex problem is to give it a simple solution.”

That stuck with me, because I see it happen all the time.  And worse, I do it all the time.

Maybe the best example of this, at least in my world, is the sports message board poster (and this is part of the reason I no longer am one of those…for now…).  A thread pretty typically devolves from a (hopefully) well thought out post to the whole “LOL MISS STAKE SUCKS” (for the uninitiated, “miss stake” is a stupid, yet common, insult Ole Miss message board fans throw at Mississippi State fans.  Other terms include Cow College, Redneck Tech, and similar things.  Their similar stupid nicknames for us include Old Myth, Plantation U, Ole Piss, and The School Up North.  Yes, those names get under my skin, but not for the reasons you think).  ANYWAY – sports are one of the easiest examples of this phenomenon.  And in the grand scheme of things, sports are pretty trivial.  Imagine what happens when the point of debate isn’t something trivial.

Take history for example.  Remember the Civil War?  Of course you don’t.  None of us were alive.  So we’re left to read about it in books, see it in museums, or find documentaries about it.  And isn’t that a complicated story?  Ask a Southerner, and it was the “War of Northern Aggression” against a bunch of God-fearing Southern gentlemen.  Ask a Northerner, and it was the heroic liberation of thousands of people from slavery, nothing more, nothing less.  But we know the truth lies somewhere in the middle – countless books and documentaries will speak to that.

Church history really isn’t any different, and neither is the Bible.  Often times, it doesn’t give us the “do this, not that” paradigm we’re looking for.  And we can’t ignore Leviticus or Judges while just focusing on John 3:16.  I read a quote from a Puritan writer about evangelism – when asked where the best place to start in Scripture for sharing the gospel was, he replied with “Genesis 1:1.”  But it feels like so often we try to keep people away from some of the more complex parts of the Bible when we’re trying to share it with them.

Thinking about all of that, I guess this is why I hate discussing weighty things on Facebook, YouTube comment sections, or blogs.  So many of these discussions would be well served to sit down over a cup of coffee or a cold beer and really discussed.  So many times things just turn into a flame war and Hitler comparisons fly and by the end of it we’re not even talking about what we started off talking about.

Perhaps this just turned out to be a few paragraphs bemoaning the death of civil discourse.  I’d like to think that there was a time, at some point in history, when people could disagree on something and still treat each other respectfully (and I fully understand and recognize that still happens today, it just seems more and more rare).  I’d like to think that there was a time when we recognized things were complex and discussed them to figure out what the solution was instead of becoming more and more entrenched than when they started.

Oh well.  I have to get back to studying…that shorter catechism won’t memorize itself.

The Means of Grace

Three years ago, maybe even one year ago, I never thought I would’ve used the phrase “means of grace” in a real conversation.

You know, the “means of grace” – scripture, sacraments, prayer,

But that’s exactly what I did in a conversation this week.  I had a conversation with a friend about struggling with doubt, and the idea came to my head, because I was struggling with the exact same things he was.

I wrestle with doubt from time to time.  But it’s never anything I do by myself, away from other people, that helps me through these times.

It’s always through these means of grace, and the place where these means of grace are given freely – church.

I don’t know whose fault it was, probably mine, but growing up, church was simply the medium through which the message is delivered.  It was about showing up, singing some songs, learning a lesson, and heading to lunch.  The idea that the church was the message didn’t dawn on me until recently.

I read about it…in a book – Evangelism:  Doing Justice and Preaching Grace by Harvie Conn.  His chapter on this put words to something I’ve been thinking through for  while now, and it rocked my world.

But as I was talking to my friend, and he was telling me some things that were going on in his life, I realized they were the same things I was dealing with.  Yet I could already sense that God was at work in me.  I was frustrated, wrestling with sin, tired, and just generally in a bad mood, but I realized after church Sunday that my spirit was encouraged, lifted up, and somehow refreshed.  It didn’t make a lot of sense, really, because nothing particularly shocking happened.  The sermon was a good one, the music was fine, but as I came to grips with how I was feeling, when I admitted to God and to myself that I was frustrated, tired, doubting, and a million other things, His Word was made clear.  Worship became more intimate.  And His people, perhaps without even knowing it, comforted me.

People often say “we don’t go to church, we are the church.”  That’s a false dichotomy.  We can, and should, do both.  Coming together as a body of believers to hear the Word proclaimed, to sing to our Lord, and to encourage and build up our brothers and sisters in Christ is such a sweet joy and an awesome responsibility.

So, all that to say, I’m thankful beyond measure for my church.  I’m thankful that my church has the means of grace on such amazing display.  I’m thankful that my church is the kind of place where I can admit to doubting, being irritable, and being tired.

Above all, I’m thankful that God has given us ways that He shows His grace to us.  Thankful that He has these ways of reminding us of who He is and what He’s done.

Why I’m Not Going to Chick-Fil-A Today

This post is about Chick-Fil-A (sort of).  Today, August 1, is Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day, according to Mike Huckabee.  Neat.  As good Christians, we’re all going to head down to the local Chick-Fil-A and eat a chicken sandwich and some waffle fries in the name of religious liberty.

But it’s really not about that, is it?

Mike Huckabee’s Facebook event would be comical if it weren’t so…infuriating.

This is about taking “our” country back.

It’s about standing up for “our” values.

It’s about standing up for “our” rights.

It’s about defining what’s “ours” and, more importantly, not “theirs.”

Look, I support the traditional definition of marriage 100%.  Anybody that knows me knows that.  I’m a southern, reformed, conservative, presbyterian, Christian (really all those other labels are unnecessary I’m just trying to prove a point here).  I support Dan Cathy’s right to say what he believes and I support Chick-Fil-A’s right to donate to whatever cause they choose, just like I support anyone’s right to peacefully protest the company, just like I support Google or Amazon or Apple (all 3 companies that are staunch gay-rights advocates) to donate to whatever cause they choose.  To quote Buster Bluth “I don’t agree with your dirty doings here, but I will defend with my life your right to do it!”  That’s why I hate this language of “we’re taking ‘our’ country back!”  Guess what?  It’s their country too! (whoever they may be, unless they’re…you know…not American or something)

But whenever I see something like this, I have to wonder what’s really going on.  Does drawing more lines in the sand really help?  I mean, who are we taking “our” country back from?  Whose values are “we” standing against?

My question is this – what does it say to your homosexual neighbor to be waving something like this in their face?  It’s the same kind of thing as putting up a “Support Amendment [insert generic pro traditional marriage amendment number]” at your house or at your church.  Yeah, you’re taking a stand, but what’s it really saying?

All I know is this – if I were a homosexual or were struggling with homosexual feelings, and my Christian neighbor put up a sign like that or was up in arms about Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day or whatever, they’d probably be the last person I wanted to talk to.  And that’s an opportunity we are missing out on, all because we have to draw these lines in the sand that mean…well…nothing.   Like I said, I stand for traditional marriage.  But I don’t feel like that is something anyone that knows me, gay or straight, doesn’t already know.  So let’s talk about something else, ok?  My desire in life, my desire as an aspiring pastor and campus minister is not to see gay students made straight – it’s to see sinners come to know Christ.  Period.  The process of sanctification takes care of that other stuff.

This is a matter of conscience, and it’s simply the reason I’m not participating in CFA Appreciation Day.  I appreciate them enough as it is.  But I feel like this is one of those things that’s unnecessarily confrontational.  And it’s a matter of conscience, simply put.  I’m not trying to tell anyone else what they should do, I’m just asking y’all to think about what you’re saying.  What message you’re sending, and the ramifications of that message.

That said, I’ll probably go to CFA Thursday.  I love that place.