On the Role of the Church in Times of Division

Most of us have been refreshing news websites more than usual these last few days. We’ve done more than a little addition and subtraction related to the number 270. We’ve had a good refresher in US political geography. Our eyes have become quite quick at discerning red from blue, light red from dark red, light blue from dark blue. Some of us have even found ourselves caring more than is natural about the workings of this obscure creature known as the electoral college.  

Whatever the outcome of the US election itself, it is already clear that the social divisions that plague our communities have not gone away. There has been no massive unifying reaction to the presidential term that is about to expire. In that sense the situation in the US remains similar to many other western countries, Canada included. In such a context, we might wonder, what is the role of the church?

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Rulers, Chiefs, Prophets and Teachers – A Sermon for Nov. 1

Texts: Micah 3:5-12 & Matthew 23:1-12

Let’s begin by hearing a bit more from the prophet Micah. I warn you, these lines from the beginning of chapter three, are a bit macabre: “Listen, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Should you not know justice?—you who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin off my people, and the flesh off their bones; who eat the flesh of my people, flay their skin off them, break their bones in pieces, and chop them up like meat in a kettle, like flesh in a caldron.”

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Some Thoughts on Proselytizing

Should Christians still share their faith with those who don’t believe? I understand that in many contexts the answer to that question is obvious . . . though what is ‘obvious’ in one situation is exactly the opposite of what is ‘obvious’ in another. I get asked for my take on this issue periodically. I don’t think I’m asked because my opinion carries any special weight. I think I’m asked because people assume I’m conflicted about the issue. Continue reading “Some Thoughts on Proselytizing”

Christianity and Conspiracy Theories

The problem with conspiracy theories is that they often have some element of truth, if not an element of factual truth, then a story that bears some resemblance to the structure of things. The other problem with conspiracy theories is that what counts as a conspiracy theory depends on where one stands. Certain liberals see the world controlled by international corporations. Certain conservatives see the world controlled by shadow states. Certain religious folks see the devil’s behind everything. Some of each see the end of the world as we know it just around the corner. Each sees their understanding as the one based in the facts, based in reality. Each labels the other view a conspiracy theory, a mental creation spawned from wishful thinking and bad movies. Continue reading “Christianity and Conspiracy Theories”

Do Evangelicals in Canada Care about Creation?

Over the last couple of months I’ve had a few conversations with people who work for Christian advocacy organizations here in the capital. These are folks who encourage Christian citizens to make their voices heard in our democracy. These are also folks who work to share the priorities of their constituents with government. One interesting commonality has popped up in these conversations: that is, here in Canada it is the reticence of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada that stands in the way of Canadian Christians speaking with one voice on matters of creation care. Continue reading “Do Evangelicals in Canada Care about Creation?”

A Eulogy of Home: On Nostalgia and Memory

Nostalgia makes my skin crawl. I’ve seen the damage it does, the exclusivity it masks, and the lies it tells. So it is strange for me to wonder now if what I carry in my heart is that pernicious thing.

Several months ago my parents sold the home in Pennsylvania where I grew up. The house itself was simple. It was one of those split-level models popular in the 1980s, with vinyl siding and fake shutters. Half of the basement was a “family room” and half a garage, a division that trades on the assumption that families receive their identity by watching TV. When I was young the house did not have an automatic garage-door opener. I remember stepping into the humid night air, bathed in the car’s headlights, and heaving the door up high enough for the springs to do their work. My parents installed a powered opener after my brother and I went off to college. Around the same time they bought a riding lawn mower and a snow blower. Before mechanization my brother and I mowed the sloping, root-infested lawn with a push mower. We worked together with grain shovels to clear drifts from the driveway after snowstorms. Continue reading “A Eulogy of Home: On Nostalgia and Memory”

Evangelical Politics

Just the other day I was going through some things my parents left behind after a recent visit. Stuffed next to some snacks in a paper grocery bag were several political flyers. They were the cardboard kind that you sometimes get in the mail or that a candidate’s supporters sometimes leave on your doorstep. We’ve recently had municipal elections here in Ontario, so I’ve seen a lot of these lately. Actually, just last week I received a visit from a campaign surrogate asking if I would support a particular candidate in next year’s federal election. He left a flyer too. Continue reading “Evangelical Politics”

Is this a Political Meeting?

Not all Christians vote. I do. For me it’s one of those privileges I’ve been given that I don’t want to take for granted. I’m  skeptical about what actual goods state politics can realize. I doubt, for instance, that our governing authorities can make us better people. They can’t do much to make us more patient, more loving, more honest or more courageous. I vote, though, because it’s a modicum of power that’s been given to me and I want to use it to help our communities be more just. Not everyone has that opportunity.

There are two passages that frame the possibilities of governments biblically. One in Romans 13, where Paul describes governing authorities as God’s servants. They keep chaos in check by preserving a basic civil order. For that reason they deserve our support. beastThen there is Revelation 13, where governing authorities are depicted as a diabolical beast. The beast is worshiped because of its immense power and its seeming invincibility. For that reason they deserve our skepticism.

I vote, but I don’t think that’s the most ‘political’ thing I do. This evening I meet with the committee that plans our congregation’s worship life. It will be a political meeting. We will talk about allegiance and sovereignty. We will talk about how to cultivate certain virtues and ways of being. We will talk about economics and global alliances. We will do all that without mentioning a national government. It will be political, but it will have virtually nothing to do with a state. My point is not that state politics don’t matter—of course they do. My point is simply that Christians always hold more than one form of citizenship.