The conversation has been wild this week – both on the Blog and on Facebook (which I could not be in on this week). I wanted to thank all of those who contributed so much. I appreciate the full table when everybody brings something to share!
I wanted to tell a story and go back over some basic stuff. First the story:
When I was first a pastor we only had Saturday night services. We didn’t have a building and so we rented a space on Saturday night. Sundays I would meet with people or ‘sabbath’. One Sunday my beloved Chicago Bears football team was playing a big game and I did not have a TV. So I went down to the sports bar to watch the game which had a 4pm kick EST. I got down there to get a good seat only to find the bar full as many of the NFL games start at 1pm.
I found a seat in view of the TV that the waitress said the Bears would be on when it was time. As I sat there, I noticed that there was a group of guys a couple of tables away who were quite rowdy. I think that they had been drinking quite a bit for quite a while and … it showed. One of these guys, a big muscular guy with a crew cut had his team’s jersey on (a team that was losing pretty bad at the time) and he was starring at me pretty good. Now, I have been around long enough to know that stare – he wasn’t attracted to me, he wasn’t thinking about being my friend – he was figuring out how to start something with me.
This went on for a little bit and I thought to myself “ how am I going to explain to my congregation that their new Sr. Pastor was in a bar fight on a Sunday !” I also had recently come into a conviction of non-violent resistance. SO I had to think of something. You only get so much time with these things. When a guy is building up courage… you either play chicken, you leave, or you fight.
I knew that violence was not an option , it was off the table, so I prayed a little internal prayer and an idea come to me. I thought to myself, it is too bad that men do this puffed up- tough guy – peacock- poser thing , because under different circumstances this guy and me would be good friends.
I went up to the bar and ordered a beer. Walked over to his table, put the beer down in front of him and said “If a fight breaks out in here today – you are I are tag team partners- I think that we could clear this whole place.” He huffed at me , half in disgust (I think) and half in surprise. He told me where to go and what to do to myself. I put my hands in the air as if to surrender, turned my head to the side, and said “It’s a standing offer”. I went back to my table.
He drank the beer. Their game ended. They left. I enjoyed watching the Bears win in peace.
I think that when we hold violence as an option – even a last resort – we may not have enough energy to overcome the inertia that is required to put all of our energy into creative non-violent solutions.
I once heard a young man who went to a famous church, quote his famous pastor as saying “The only way to bring peace is to prepare for war”. I do not believe that is true.
That seems very Roman to me. The saying in Jesus’ day was “The Romans make a desert and call it peace.” Welcome to Pax Romana. What we have in Jesus is a different kind of peace. The Prince of Peace brings in a Kingdom of Peace.
Caesar had his legions, minions, and battalions. Jesus has you and me.
Here is one of the responses I had this week that I wanted to adapted for the Friday Follow up (because I know that many people do not follow all of the comments but only read the main post – so I wanted to bring them up to speed on something).
Four things :)
1) There is much agreement on 80% of this violence issue. Most, I would guess, agree that Jesus was not violent, that we are lead by the Spirit who is at work in the world, that we would should have a gracious posture to others and many other things. We simply part ways on that final 20%. For instance: I don’t want endorse religious leaders (of any stripe) that say that “god told them” to be aggressive/violent. I think that pastors (like the one in Seattle) aren’t just getting a detail wrong (like Revelations 19) they get Jesus wrong, are preaching a false gospel, which makes the world a worse place by enforcing that violent status quo. I know that not everyone will agree on that final 20%.
2) By saying that I don’t want to support religious leaders who say that “god told them” to be aggressive/violent. I don’t think that I am being UN-gracious. I think that I am being very gracious in saying that I want to make a sharp break with the violence of Church History since 300. I think that it is all-too-ordinary-human violence just baptized in Jesus name and that we need to STEP AWAY from that as an act of repentance and take it OFF the table in order to see what God’s Holy Spirit can do that we can not do in our own power.
3) I just want to make sure that when we talk about ‘receiving things in personal prayer” that we are not speaking as an Enlightenment Individual. This is not YOU doing what “God” is laying on YOUR heart. I am convinced that what we need is a community discernment where there is both accountability and faithfulness to what God has already revealed in the 10 commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. That would be my suggestion. Not just you being you (Rambo style) and calling it “being undignified” or a ‘jesus freak” or “on fire”.
In my defense:
I have been clear from day one about my conviction that we will need a VERY different theology for the next 500 years than what we have had for the past 500 years. I have never apologized for that. That should not be surprising. It could not be more clear about what I am up to.
have a great weekend! see you next Tuesday for “Breaking the Bell Curve”