Our Modern Day Goose Chase to the Promised Land

I drafted this blog in March after a text convo with some old pals about moving to LA or something and starting our own grassroots anti-modern-evangelical church. I sat on the post for a million reasons, mainly to get through holidays and family visits and birthdays and a few business ventures that might have linked back to the blog page, partly because there was so much political noise at the time and I was exhuasted, and partly because I wanted to do a tone check and make sure it was still true if I waited until later.

It’s still true.

It’s not a secret that the last nine-ish months have revealed (instituted?) a line of divide between peers I grew up with in the church and our elder people. I thought it was just me and my elder people, but others have reported the same as we talk in all our private exchanges with pipedreams about starting new churches committed to things like “On earth as it is in heaven” instead of “Our country as it is in heaven” which has all those elder people rolling their eyes at our bleeding hearts and misplaced passion and self-righteousness and naïveté.

They apologize about us to their friends. They’ve told us this.

We’re the un-evangelicals. The Christians who wholeheartedly reject those zonky old patriarchal evangelists, Pat & Franklin (which kind of looks like a boutique children’s clothing line now that I see it in print: Pat & Franklin) and instead opt for inclusive, grace-driven ideals that fundamentally reflect the gospel of Jesus, which we believe in so hard that we can’t reconcile it with the current president OR the evangelical culture that elected him.

We’re the ones who believe God cares about the earth he created and wants to restore the relationship between man and nature. We care about issues like climate change and EPA funding and whether or not a giant chunk of ice just broke off Antartica. We definitely put the wrong recyclables in the wrong containers sometimes (some of us live in high rises that only recycle glass and paper but not aluminum or plastic), but we try our best and we don’t reject scientific data if it happens to conflict with our political schema. We alter our political schema to make room for data and hold it up to the truth of our faith, which tells us God values the earth he created for us to live on. It makes logical sense for us to advocate good stewardship of the resources we’ve been given.

We’re the ones who believe in the value and dignity of human life, even prenatal ones, but believe in life so hard that we incorporate public health data showing us how global abortion rates decline—when we fund women’s health initiatives. We value statistics and logic and reason as tools in our restoration of life and well-being. We live in the gray. We understand there is so much detail between life and death and we carry a wide net catching all those who fall short of black or white in single-issue voting platforms like abortion. We understand that abortion is a symptom, and we work from the platform that effective change does not treat the symptom—it treats the cause.

We hold the unborn life with as much value and care as we hold the hours-old life on the outside as her mom applies for WIC and medicaid, or the preschool life on a boat between Syria and Greece, or the underinsured life who has reached his lifetime cap on insurance coverage at 2 years old after chemo and radiation for a rare childhood cancer. I know this person in real life.

We’re the ones who have a visceral reaction to well-meaning people in the pews (or our kitchen) who say things like “I have no problem with a stricter vetting process” having no real interaction with a single refugee or working knowledge of our current vetting system; how this mentality and “short term” stall even for just three months results in loss of funding, hopelessness and death for the most vulnerable people on earth. We’re the ones inhaling When you are hungry, we are hungry and exhaling When you are thirsty, we are thirsty from Gungor’s Who We Are day in and day out because we believe this is the literal Gospel of Jesus Christ in 2017. We’re frustrated because our elder people, who share our blood and our baptism water, are at complete odds with people God has told us to advocate for. And we’re not sure how to manage their rejection of the fruit they planted in us, or the way they reduce our impassioned words to rhetoric, because our words conflict with their politics. Their fear equates to a me-first mentality in a global context.

If the New Testament were being written right now, our nation would be a parable. Remember the one about the guy who received grace on his debt, then turned around and jailed someone else for not paying? We’re the ones who received safety and then turned around and kept it from others. Only by the grace of God do we live in the same safety we are now hoarding.

What I find odd about this whole political ordeal on a personal level is that my friends and I inherited our values from those we are now in conflict with. These are the same people who hosted carwashes and bought candy bars to send us to Mexico in the 8th grade, which planted global awareness seeds and widened our worldview. Many of these people are also the ones who funded us on a yearlong mission to engage the American church to act on issues of social injustice four years ago. I’m still so baffled at the disparity of these two things—equally grateful for their generosity and global mindedness and devastated by their nationalism at the cost of the same global community they funded me to share with them.

I read this article called Dying Before We Reach the Promised Land written by a Moody Bible College alumnus and former editor of Relevant Magazine. He articulates this better than I can—

The reason I consider opposition to Trump to be self-evident is simple: the things I oppose in him are cooked into my bones, and they have been since my childhood. They do not stem from a deep love of Hillary Clinton or a coastal disdain for the white working class of the rust belt. I neither loved Clinton nor do I live on the coast. Instead, my reasons for opposing Trump are drawn from the principles instilled in me by the evangelical culture that made him president.

…But when I try to insist on this, I feel like I’m speaking a foreign language to the people who taught me how to talk in the first place.

He also draws a parallel so perfect (and painful) about Moses leading the Israelites on a forty-year goose chase toward the Promised Land of modern day Israel, but not actually getting to lead them inside because of a *tiny* little mistake. I agree with the author that it’s one of the saddest stories in the Bible. I also agree that we might all be part of a spiritual journey that was begun by those who will not finish it, and that we should probably look back in order to look ahead.

A little laziness, a little hard-headedness, and next thing you know, the next generation is picking up a torch you accidentally dropped. And you’re stuck watching them march ahead of you into a land you’d always hoped to have for your own. If you’re charitable and just a little humble, you might even be able to applaud them on their way.

Here is a hard lesson: our spiritual leaders will teach us to do things that we will do in ways they do not understand. Moses wasn’t allowed to go into the Promised Land. Our leaders and family members, pastors and small group leaders may have consciences, worldviews, political purity tests or even just simple technological blind spots that don’t allow them to join us here in a moral, principled opposition to President Trump. They may see our moving forward without them as foolhardy, rebellious, perhaps even heretical.

As author and pastor Jonathan Martin says, ‘Some of you can’t be faithful to what spiritual fathers/mothers invested in your past, without offending them in the present.’

Yes. This is so totally happening right now. And yes, to put it in the author’s words: It may be hubris to be so sure of one’s rightness that you accuse the other of dying before they make it to the Promised Land… But I’ll also acknowledge this: I will also die before I reach the Promised Land.

I look at Havi and imagine us in 30 years. If there comes to be some type of moral political crisis in 2047, I know that Havi will see the world completely different than I see it today. That will always have been the plan. I hope she’s smarter, wiser, more global, more articulate, more compassionate and more convicted than I have ever been, even if I totally disagree with her. And so the next paragraph becomes my prayer:

I’ll instill spiritual lessons of my own into the next generation that they will use in ways that seem wrong to me. And when that day comes, will I have the wisdom and humility to recognize a great and holy pattern that has been carried on for several millennia now? Will I realize that they are honoring God and making his kingdom known in ways I never dreamed of doing? I don’t know. I hope so.

SO. Havi, if the Internet exists in 2047 and the world has not yet imploded, I’m proud of you. Because I have said this publicly, I’m sure this means you are a super republican conservative fundamentalist and/or you live on a commune and smoke a lot of Jesus pot.

Even still, baby.


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