Monday, August 29, 2011

Faith in Politics

Interesting article from the NY Times regarding the place for religion in politics.  Read it here, then a few thoughts below.  Thanks to Brian for the link!

The article brings up a compelling argument while stating what should be obvious -- Politicians are people, and people have beliefs.  The idea that politicians' beliefs and faith background shouldn't be publicly scrutinized knowledge or relevant to their office has always been somewhat ridiculous to me.  However, this article does exactly what disheartens me in politics and media in general, which is to define a person simply by who they are associated with.

If the Facebook Age has taught us anything, it's that you are who you surround yourself with.  The people and things that you involve yourself with say a huge amount about who you are as a person.  But too many times, and especially in politics, we choose to single out one or two of the associations that we don't agree with or don't like and assume that the person in question is a perfect microcosm of that association.  Can you honestly pick any single person, organization, hobby, belief or ideal that completely defines you or that you completely parallel in your daily living?  I would contend that most of us couldn't even make a short list that felt like it accurately described us to someone who had never met us but was familiar with all of the items on the list.  In a striking conundrum, we are who we associate with, yet our associations are what we make of them -- it's a two way street that is never static.  None of this even takes into account the fact that the same ideal, belief or organization represents different things to different people in perception, whether in minute or gaping degrees.

So let's do something different for once.  Maybe instead of just assuming that Mitt Romney is a polygamist due to his association with the Church of Latter Day Saints, or that Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry are anti-gay due to what you've heard about Evangelicals, or even that the author of the Times article is a liberal who clearly disagrees with Republican-based positions and views based on his writing style and subject, we could actually come up with ways and take the time to find out who these people really are.  Is Barack Obama a racist because of the views that his pastor had?  It always seems so clean cut when we're the ones judging, but there is a lot more gray area when we're the ones being judged.

The questions posed in the linked article are a great start, and we should be encouraged to ask them.  But are we really ready to accept the answers?  Or will we simply reject the ones we don't want to hear...and then throw the candidate back into the assumptions that we started with...and define them as who we want them to be rather than who they are.

This all leads to a much bigger question than politics.

How would we want people to define us?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Promotion Sunday 2011 - Second Thoughts

After a few days to think about the ideas that our students threw out for us this past Sunday, here are a few thoughts.  

First, things I feel as if we've already been doing for a while and are generally doing well:

  • Discuss scripture.  This was on every group's list in some shape or form.  Discussing (and elaborating on) scripture is something that we do every single week.  A few of the groups put interesting modifiers on this topic, however, by adding "open discussion" and "participate in discussion".  It seems these two groups were onto something -- we can teach scripture as much as we want, but students must be involved more than that.  We need our students to be open and honest in their discussion (if not being real, then what's the point of having a talk?), and more than that, we need our students to be active participants.  I believe that students will always learn more through and from each other than they necessarily will through any of their adult leaders.
  • Make friends.  Pretty self explanatory -- we do introductions every. single. week.  Everyone is included here.  And if you don't feel included, we need to know so that we can check ourselves.  Seriously.
  • Community Service Opportunities.  We try very hard to set up opportunities for our students to be able to serve others.  Outside of the many opportunities at Second (Bazaar, Christmas Benevolence, IHN, etc.) we try to set up group outings to places such as Gleaners Food Bank.  Your next opportunity as a group will be on September 17th, so be on the lookout for info about that.  We are also always glad to help individual students or small groups to set up mission and service opportunities whenever they're interested!
Ok, so how about some things that we might not do enough, or might not do at all?
  • Silent confession and meditation.  We've done more than a few silent meditations and lectio divina times on Sunday mornings, and I think students have generally enjoyed having that time to reflect personally on scripture and have a moment away from the usual fast pace of the world.  Could we possibly integrate this on a more regular basis into our Sunday morning lessons?  The other question I have is based around the fact that students have the opportunity for silent confession and meditation in worship every Sunday morning.  Are they missing this?
  • Journals.  I really, really like this idea.  I'm just not sure how to implement it.  Envisioning a time where students could write in their journals as part of our weekly curriculum is exciting to me, even possibly allowing them to do so as part of a silent meditation time (see above), but I still have a few concerns.  Would the students bring their own journals every week?  Probably not; only a select few would actually remember.  Is the alternative that we keep journals here?  Seems impractical and messy with so many potential students.  I'm open to suggestions...
  • Students/Youth lead.  Best suggestion (in my humble opinion) of any of the lists.  For the record, I'm counting "be God's hands and feet" in this category.  Some of our students have long past realized that they can lead by doing things that we've already listed in this post, namely participating and pushing and leading discussions by example on Sunday mornings.  However, for some students that's not what drives them or where they feel they fit.  So we're starting (re-starting, really)  a leadership team for high school students.  Sunday evenings throughout this school year, students can expect to spend time in study, discussion, reflection and planning that will help prepare and equip them to be leaders in their communities, whether here at the church or otherwise.  Part of this leadership education will probably (see: definitely) include "communicating with the older crowd" and "not letting anyone tell you that you can't".  
What's left?  There are a few things that must be mentioned that didn't quite fit these lists:
  • 10 minute focus on real life application of scripture.  This one is tough, because I'd really like to hope that the entire time we study and discuss together that it would be centered around "real life application".  If we aren't talking about real life application, then we're missing the point of talking about scripture at all.  That being said, if there is a want for a weekly moment in our lessons where we deliberately focus on how we take what we've learned out the doors with us, I'm all for it.
  • Church spirit days.  And Tacos!  Don't know how we're going to integrate these, but if we manage to go the entire school year without having a church spirit day then you can all point back to this blog and be really angry with me.  As for the tacos, not sure that 9:30 am is the perfect time, but I'll see what we can do.  :)

Until next here if you'd like to be a part of the leadership team! 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Promotion Sunday 2011

Read 1 Timothy 4:11-16 with our students this morning.   After small group discussions, asked each group to compile a list of three ways that we could implement practical things on Sunday mornings that would help each of us to live more like the way that Paul implored and encouraged Timothy to live from the passage.

Here are the raw results:

Open discussion
Silent confession and meditation

Participate in discussion
Students lead
Communicate with the older crowd
Find community service opportunity

Discuss and elaborate [on] scripture
Youth lead Sunday school
10 min focus on real life application of scripture
Church spirit days

Be God's hands and feet
Don't let anyone tell you you can't
Discuss scripture
Make friends

I'm going to let these sink in a bit and then follow up with a few of my initial thoughts.