Confession of a Christian in the United States

Flickr photo: smokingloon

Originally posted on 01.24.13 on reyes-chow.com.

As I scanned my newsfeed this morning, I had another one of those, “No duh, Bruce.” moments.

Yes, I am a Christian.

Yes, I am a citizen of the United States of America.

As a Christian – I believe that we must love and serve one another: the stranger, the enemy, the prisoner, the poor, the outcast, the hungry and the oppressed. And while often falling short, I strive to live this daily – even to the detriment of my own wealth, comfort and station.

As a US Citizen – I believe that each of us has been “endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” – even if this belief gives people the right to make choices that are not always in their best interest.

Add this one in the “easy to say, hard to do” file.

Reading story after opinion after post, each tackling important questions around mental health, war, immigration, gun control, abortion, marriage equality or healthcare, I was again reminded that I must hold in tension the commitment to live my Christian faith with the responsibility of being a citizen of the United States of America.

Like I said, “No duh, Bruce.”

This is not a comfortable or simple tension to hold and it would be much much much easier to compartmentalize my world pretending as if the two are always in state of blissful alignment and never in direct conflict. But with our country’s ideologically discourse seemingly at a constant boil, as we debate such complex and passionate issues, it is never a bad idea to remind myself – Bruce, you are first a citizen of the Body of Christ and then a citizen of the United States of America.

When such difficult questions before us as a country, I must constantly commit to being a Christian who happens to be an American and not the other way around. For if I confuse the two, my independent American sensibilities and the pursuit of my own individual rights will too often result in just the opposite being inflicted up those whom my Christian faith calls me to love and serve. If my citizenship trumps my faith, the pursuit of my own life, liberty and happiness will lead directly and indirectly to the death, oppression and despair for the stranger, the enemy, the prisoner, the poor, the outcast, the hungry and the oppressed.

Does this mean that I want the United States to become a theocracy governed by a less than unanimous understanding of the Christian faith, of course not. And are there times when my faith and citizenship align, sure.  The big takeaway for this Christian, who cherishes the opportunities to dialogue about the politics and policies of our country, is that I must be open to solutions to complex issues that might indeed infringe upon my own independence and personal gain so others may thrive. For in the end, our life does not belong to the United States of America, in life and in death, we belong to God.

Woe to me if I confuse the two.

My Last Post About Guns. I’m Out.

flickr: vinothchandar

flickr: vinothchandar

With the recent National Rifle Association’s campaign to bring armed guards into every school in the United States [12/21/12 nra.org], I’m out. Simply put, this posture of thinking and the conversations that have spun out of it, are indicative of a chasm of perspective that I am no longer willing to try and cross via my blog life.

So, NRA, mission accomplished, you win. You and those who would support this plan are scaring the $h!t out of me.

No matter how folks wish to frame recent conversations about guns in the United States, the violence and expected legislation, it is clear to me that the climate is being fueled by fear, self-preservation and an individual’s rights above all others. These are not bad things in themselves, but the problem is that when the debate currency is hyperbole and hypotheticals no one - left, right or in-between - is able to make much headway with the other. We can all quote studies that support our positions, we can all claim the thoughtful approach and we all find plenty of reasons that the other side is delusional and idiotic.

Now normally, I might chalk this political carnival atmosphere up to just another day of politics in the United States, but in this case, I deeply wonder to what end and at what cost? I have seen very few cases – there have been a few – where anyone has changed their mind or had transformative relational experiences with someone from the other “side.” Much like abortion, civil rights and marriage equality I will choose to trust those whom we have elected to office to do what we have tasked them to do: listen to those who sent them there, make decisions for the common good and have the mettle and determination to see those decisions through without feeding the violent rhetoric that take on a very different tone when the issue is guns.

And if they fail, we vote them out of office.

So, I am done blogging about guns because it stresses me out. It stresses out my family and friends who read the comments. And there are simply times when talking about guns – and I think thoughtful gun advocates need to realize this – that when people get pissed off at you when talking about guns and lift up hypothetical violence against you and your family they are scary . . . um, because they have guns and they are pissed. I suspect this is the intent – and some get off on the power and intimidation – but really it’s just not worth it for me to keep poking the internet trolls in the eye. So yeah, fear is playing a role, but my reaction is not to go into lock-down and arm my family, but to walk away and no longer add to the escalation.

The biggest reason that I am dropping out of much of public blogging debate, however, is that I don’t like the way it is makes me feel about other human beings: strangers, acquaintances AND strangers. I strive to always interact with graciousness, try to see the complex beauty with which God has gifted each person and attempt to appreciate those who hold views that are different from mine. But, what I have noticed about my own spirit is that I can feel these interactions eating away at my soul and my ability to truly honor and see the child of God in all people. As a Christian, when I begin to lose the ability to see the other as holy, I become an unhelpful and even destructive voice.

Sometime we must disengage.

But lest you think I am TOTALLY out of the conversation, I am no abdicating my voice and my ability to help connect people and resources. We must each hold our public servants accountable, strive to participate in helpful ways and, even when we are unable to ourselves, instigate and support thoughtful dialogue.  So with this in mind, as I stumble upon good articles and resources, I will be pinning them to  my Support Gun Control Board  via my Pinterest life.

So . . . I’m not shying away from hard conversations, rather, I am striving to be a healthy part of whatever conversations I do choose to have. And right now and for the foreseeable future, it will not be about guns.

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