Posts Tagged ‘Third Way’

Ferguson and Third Ways

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Following the exoneration of Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson last night, over 20 businesses were burned as the area yet again experienced a spasm of violence.

In times like this, so so many questions rise to the fore.  Questions of race (Michael Brown was black, the officer white), economic inequality, law enforcement, the judicial system… the list goes on.  Critically important questions.

And I have no idea.  No idea how to wrestle with these questions.  No idea on how to converse in ways that bring more healing and justice and peace.   What I know is that there are third ways.  God always opens third ways.  Not through miracles and incantation but through work, patient and loving work that comes when we reach the end of our resources.   A space where we no longer talk past each other but talk to each other, humble enough to know all we don’t know.

The Real Work by Wendell Barry 

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Unrest in Missouri and The Third Way

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Unsettling to watch the unrest in Missouri erupt after the shooting of an unarmed youth, 18 year old Michael Brown.  In these events which so often pit one side vs. another, police vs. protestor, white vs. black the truth remains elusive.  As tempers flair, as pent up frustrations work their way to the surface in spasms of violence, how do we know where blame lies?

I believe that accountability is for time and justice to work out.  What we can stand for, now, today is the third way.

Much frustration grew, following the shooting of Michael Brown, with what many see as over-reaction by the police who appeared outfitted for combat – tear gas, rubber bullets, black ballistic gear.  There is little question that following 9/11 many police forces have become increasingly militarized. Several weeks ago a picture in a leading paper showed Texas game wardens, body armor on, patrolling in a boat on the Rio Grande, dual machine gun mounts fore and aft.  I don’t know that world.  I don’t know the fear of drug traffickers and terrorists and gangs or mobs in Missouri.  I suspect however that those types of responses – logical, understandable as they might be – can in turn reinforce the exact the behavior they seek to curb.

With the violence appearing to subside, what changed?  It appears the Governor made a wise decision in replacing local police with State Highway Patrol Officers to deal with the protests.

Capt. Ronald S. Johnson, the highway patrol official appointed by the governor to take over the response, immediately signaled a change in approach. Captain Johnson told reporters he had ordered troopers to remove their tear-gas masks, and in the early evening he accompanied several groups of protesters through the streets, clasping hands, listening to stories and marching alongside them.  (New York Times, August 15th)

That approach is the third way, a call from Christ, a place where we all can stand.  And where we all can heal.

God is taking care of everything

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

One of the hardest roles of a pastor is finding a center in a moving space.  On one side lies a need to call people to greatness.  To call them to strive for lives of excellence, meaning and purpose.  On another side, lies a need to call people to the hard edge of sacrifice, suffering, and true giving.  To far one way, religion becomes little more than shallow cheer leading.  Too far the other, and religion becomes the darkness it hopes to extinguish.

Christ constantly spoke to us of a third way between polarities…  a unified field as it were.  In  that place, in that third way, there is simple trust.  Trust that the words will come when they need to come.  Trust that somehow God stirs us both to striving and stirs us to sacrifice.  That for me, is why the touchstone of suffering is so critical.

Drawing alongside of suffering quickly becomes an exercise in both/ and thinking.  Yes, he is an addict and yes, he is a man deeply connected to God.  Yes, she has cancer, and yes, she is a woman fully alive.   Yes, we can strive to grow a church beyond 1,000, and yes, the meaning of it all remains joyously hidden in the smallest of personal human interactions.

Because the fact remains God is taking care of it all.

Roger Ebert’s wife shared this thought on her husband’s recent passing. “The one thing people might be surprised about—Roger said that he didn’t know if he could believe in God. He had his doubts. But toward the end, something really interesting happened. That week before Roger passed away, I would see him and he would talk about having visited this other place. I thought he was hallucinating. I thought they were giving him too much medication. But the day before he passed away, he wrote me a note: “This is all an elaborate hoax.” I asked him, “What’s a hoax?” And he was talking about this world, this place. He said it was all an illusion. I thought he was just confused. But he was not confused. He wasn’t visiting heaven, not the way we think of heaven. He described it as a vastness that you can’t even imagine. It was a place where the past, present, and future were happening all at once.”

There is in the end an innate sense of something more, something greater.  God opens that for us as we regain our willingness to strive and to sacrifice, to find connection and stillness.   “He opens the skylights and then the windows … and enables us to see that heaven is real, that there is a life after death, and that there is eternal happiness.  By the spiritual light and spiritual love that then flow in together, he enables us to recognize that through Divine Providence God is taking care of everything.” (Divine Providence, 207)

Third Way Christianity

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

One of the many beauties of the Gospel is Christ’s consistent call to the Third Way, a previously unconsidered third alternative between the polarities of Liberal and Conservative.  One author, in speaking to that challenge especially as it relates to the more liberal wing of Christianity recently wrote …

It’s hard to build excitement for your vision of progressive Christianity when the vibe is ironic, cynical, intellectualized or coolly detached. It’s hard to build excitement for your vision of progressive Christianity when you are being paradoxical, post-modern, or deconstructive. It’s hard to build excitement for your vision of progressive Christianity when it often reduces to liberal humanism, existentialism, functional atheism or simply voting for Democrats.

Basically, I think progressive Christianity struggles because it often fails to give people a real, honest-to-God, bible-thumping fight. More precisely, progressive Christianity has a lot of fight in it, but it has often struggled to articulate that fight in robustly biblical ways. (Let alone the major problem of progressive Christians being too reactionary, focusing much of their fight against conservative Christians.)

So the goal is to find that robust biblical language around which we can articulate a re-imagined world that cuts between the polarities of left and right.  Such an articulation considers many necessities including the necessity of appropriate self critique as well as appropriate critique of systemic failures.  No one then gets “off the hook.”  We are all in it.  All responsible at both and individual and corporate level.  That I believe will lead us to the kind of Christianity that gives opportunity.  As Seth Godin phrased it, “The opportunity is to actually create something that people choose to talk about.”

That cannot be done in isolation.  It takes community.  There is no “lone wolf” here given how prone we are to make salvation a purely private and thence self-absorbed affair.  As Emanuel Swedenborg noted, “along with that love comes wisdom about how to involve others” in that building.  (True Christianity 661)  Salvation, which could be read in many ways “freedom”, occurs in relationship.  Churches, I hope, can find their way back to the third way.



Two weather fronts collide

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

Churches face a call – a call to have something to say.  That is not easy.  And I for one certainly would prefer, many days, to have nothing to say!

In offering words, we are tasked with being loving, bold, and clear.  We are tasked with saying it with words and actions.  We are tasked with making such offerings from a spirit of grace and reconciliation not bombast or hubris.  We are asked to be joyously dangerous!

Some days, I feel woefully under-equipped to do any of it.

And then God offers His notoriously not-so-subtle wakeup calls.  Reading on the Air Force’s website that the Reaper drone employs “… a unique capability to autonomously execute the kill chain” was one such moment.

Those words chill.  The role of church is not to direct votes a certain direction, nor to become captured by easily demarcated political poles of right or left.  We have to find the humility and courage to consistently follow Christ’s “Third Way.”  And so trying to find that neither-nor ground of the Third Way, and speak boldly from that place at the same time, I struggle deeply and painfully with someone using such chilling words to reference the efficacy of the Reaper’s “kill chain.”   I think Christ would have something to say.  And I think he would say it to all sides and to all of us.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”  (Matt. 23:23)

Those words are not soft and are frankly more easily left unsaid.  But I do believe, despite all my immense fears and anxieties, that we are called to say something as a church.   At times weather fronts do collide.