Saturday, June 14, 2008

Christ, Crosses, Community

Several months ago I began reading Jennifer's blog, "Et Tu?" The Diary of a Former Atheist. Wow. A relatively recent convert to Jesus Christ, Jennifer thinks deeply about her faith and its applications to life in her world.

Whether you are a believer or not, whether you're new in faith or "old", browse the archives at "Et Tu?" for just a few minutes, and, no doubt, you will find something that intrigues, engages, challenges, or inspires you....

(Jennifer writes from a Catholic perspective, by the way. If you are accustomed to a Protestant style of worship, a few of her references may feel unfamiliar to you. You'll get over it. You'll be fine with just a few minor adjustments. The quotes and thoughts she uses from the writings of Saints who have walked with God before us? Think of them as quotes and thoughts from the writings of respected saints who have walked with God before us. See? Not so hard.)

Intentionally or not, with several of her more recent posts, she has explored and now wonderfully woven together ideas like hospitality, carrying your cross (the one that is already right in front of you) , embracing suffering and valuing life, and the nature and challenge of building modern community. She's totally onto something. I probably wouldn't do it justice if I attempted to summarize and synthesize it all here. I encourage you to visit, think, and participate if it interests you.

I do so admire the way Jennifer is continuing right onward toward maturity with the honest exploration and questioning that helped lead her to faith. For example, one of her recent posts was from her "Half-Baked Thoughts" file. (Let me say here that, if these were "half-baked", the thoughts that typically reside in my brain haven't even hit the bowl yet!) She discussed this statement:

"A culture that respects human life must have a joyful acceptance of human suffering."

The post was left open-ended with a list of questions for readers to discuss:

1. Why is it that fear of suffering leads to decreased respect for human life?

2. How does the fact that people increasingly deny the existence of a real, personal, evil force (Satan) factor into all this, if at all?

3.What about fearing other people's suffering (or potential suffering) on their behalf -- how can we be deeply compassionate and helpful without falling into the dangerous "your life isn't worth living" territory?

4.If there is a connection, what can we do? How does rethinking suffering factor into working towards turning around the trend of decreasing respect for the dignity of human life in the world today?

See what I mean? There's a whole lot of' thinking going on over there, "while {she's} folding laundry." I started with my answer to the first question, and ran out of time before even starting on the others.

Here's my take on the first one:

The more we fear suffering, the more we worship its rivals, Comfort and Convenience. Messy human lives can get mightily in the way of those twin gods, and so they are readily sacrificed on their alter.

In so many ways, by worshipping those gods instead of worshipping God and embracing our crosses, we end up devaluing human life. To keep ourselves from having to confront the suffering we fear and acknowledge its uncontrollable power over us. To stay comfortable and on our own terms, avoiding expense of either time or money...

Fear of suffering and worship of Comfort and Convenience make it easy for abortion or "euthanasia" in any form to seem like the right choice. It makes it seem acceptable to be rude to anyone who is in our way. And, ok, let's bring it down: worshipping comfort and convenience instead of embracing the cross right in front of us can lead a mom to act inhospitably to a "bothersome" neighbor child or lash out harshly at her kids when they interrupt her--again-- with problems.


But can you begin to see the outline of connection between all of those topics listed above, and the key to building community? No? Clear as mud? Do you see things differently?

If you'd like, head over to "Et tu?", think about it, pray about these things in your life, and add your thoughts to the discussion!

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