The Most Honest Christian Band Ever

The new U2 album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, came out today. Ordinarily I wouldn’t comment on this, but recently I’ve been reading a biography about U2. Put that along side my roommates’ intense love for the band and a weekend spent actually listening to some of their songs and you have more than enough reason to sit up and take notice of the four men from Ireland.

Before coming to college and rooming with U2 fans (every year) I couldn’t name a U2 song. If one was playing on the radio, I wouldn’t have known. I was raised on Christian music (by my own choice, certainly not by my parents’ will) so I had an extremely limited knowledge of mainstream music. Oddly enough, my strict desire to hear only Christian music kept me from hearing what has to be the most honest Christian band I’ve ever heard.

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Policing the World

To what extend should the United States be policing the world? It strikes me that Christians rarely consider this issue, and rarely include it in their political choices. Some think the U.S. should intervene in humanitarian crisis’s, others think intervention is only acceptable when U.S. interests are at stake. Others stress the need for well defined goals and time tables: We’ll keep the peace, but only for so long. No one wants another Vietnam War to show us how fallible our military is. Should we be policing the world? If so, who are we to decide what situations require policing and which don’t? How do we be impartial police keeping force? We’ve basically assumed the right to drop bombs on Iraq, regardless of the civilian casualties and civil chaos it causes. Who’s going to police the police keeping force?

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Like Clothes in a Dryer

When does complaining cross the line from being a serious desire to see others perform at their best, to being a negative view on life? Is expressing frustrations a natural and healthy part of life, or should I strive not to get frustrated in the first place, attempt to be content no matter the situation? And what happens if I get to a point where I’m so content I don’t notice anything that could be or needs to be improved? Shouldn’t I always be striving to do my best? Does contentment suggest putting up with something that’s far from doing your best to glorify God? Questions roll around in my head like clothes in a dryer, and the conversation goes around the room in unending circles.

I saw Orion tonight. I’ve missed him.

The Human Body

Science is cool. Tonight I went to the Science Museum of Minnesota.

My favorite exhibit detailed the human body. Watch brain surgery on TV, open a panel and get sprayed with a simulated sneeze, sit down and look at a friend’s magnified eye, and find out how many pints of blood are in your body. And that’s just the interior of the human body. My favorite display featured the outside of our bodies and the way different peoples and cultures perceive the human body. One wall featured photos of everything from breast enhancing pumps to sumo wrestlers to body piercings and tattooings. The opposite wall featured casts of real people’s bodies. They were done by an artist interested in celebrating the diversity of the human body; in contrast to the popular media that glorifies a computer generated physique. The body casts came from a wide range of people including an elderly woman, an overweight man, a pregnant women, and a mastectomy survivor.

Why Abortion?

Since when did abortion become the calling card for Christians? It seems to me if you are a Christian, you are automatically pro-life. If you are not pro-life, your status as a Christian becomes questionable. Abortion seems to be an extremely volatile subject for Christians. This election year it seems a number of Christians are voting solely on abortion, ignoring or at least relegating all other issues.

When did abortion become the Christian hot potato, to the exclusion of other seemingly Christian issues like racism, caring for the poor, loving the outcast, and salvation? Don’t get me wrong, these issues are important to Christians, but none of them stir up response like abortion. If you even remotely come across as anything but pro-life, Christians take notice and question your logic, your beliefs, your salvation. But if you hate white trash (one example of a modern day Samaritan?), no one thinks anything of it. Is either virtue “more” Christian? I remember Jesus eating lunch with the outcasts, but I don’t remember Jesus lecturing the Romans for infanticide. Not that I’m trying to claim Jesus wasn’t pro-life, but it seems like he was more concerned with other issues. Why aren’t we as concerned with the same issues?

And if abortion is such a hot Christian topic, what are we doing about it? This question really bothers me because I can’t come up with a suitable answer. If Christians want to be ecstatically pro-life, that’s great. But they better be doing something about it, not just slapping bumper stickers on their Buicks and voting for Republicans. If abortion is such a big deal, do we act like it? I honestly don’t think we do. For all the people who have told me how pro-life they are, I don’t know one of them who has talked to a teenage single mother and helped her through such a life changing event. I don’t know a single pro-lifer who has loved a woman seeking an abortion and spent the time necessary to show that woman Christ–whether the friendship resulted in abortion or a baby. Loving regardless of the results is what Christ would have us do. Yet are we doing that? If it’s happening, I don’t see it. Instead I see t-shirts, web sites, bumper stickers, books, magazine articles, pamphlets, graphic stories, and protest signs. Not a one shows the love of Christ; a love so world stopping he stood at the drinking fountain and talked with a woman who has had six abortions; a love so amazing he ate dinner with an abortion doctor; a love so dumbfounding that he cried precious tears for an aborted life, then took the would-have-been mother in his arms and died on the cross for her.

People Don’t Listen

People don’t listen. When it comes to politics very few people have an open mind. I wrote an article for my school paper, basically making the point that Christians should move beyond strictly voting Republican, and examine all the issues–especially moving past polarizing issues like abortion. My assumption was that abortion is no more important than education or taxes or social justice or the death penalty. So why vote strictly on abortion and pay so little attention to the other issues? Apparently some people didn’t get that from my article.

I find it very frustrating. I wish I could sit down with each person and hear their reasoning. They obviously missed my point and I’d love to be able to explain it again. I’d love to hear their reaction and figure out why they think the way they do.

Christians confuse me. Many Christians respond in anger and outrage to abortion, they start quoting scripture, and tell graphic stories of what actually happens during an abortion. Now I’m not in favor of abortion. Make sure you hear this, I do not condone abortion. I do not accept the practice. I do not like abortion. But I find it very perplexing that so many Christians take such a vehement stand on abortion, yet seem unmoved on other issues. The Bible is full of examples of God favoring the poor over the rich, yet few Christians vote this way. The death penalty is another troubling issue. Texas has put to death more inmates than any other state, and George W. Bush fully supports this practice. Yet pro-life Christians don’t seem to mind.

And we get so bent out of shape over abortion, as if it were a new social evil. Abortion has been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years. At some times abortion was considered completely acceptable by Christians. The church understood life to begin at “quickening,” which was when the mother could feel the baby moving. Therefore if the abortion was terminated before like began, it was perfectly acceptable. Hence a woman four months pregnant could have an abortion without the church calling hellfire down upon her. Yet now we seem to know when life begins. Christians declare abortion the ultimate evil. Then comes the abortion pill, recently legalized by the Food and Drug Administration. The abortion occurs even earlier in the pregnancy, yet we still consider it abortion. Now here’s where it gets fun, turn to methods of contraception that unnaturally mess with a woman’s hormones and make it nearly impossible for her to become pregnant, and Christians seem to fully support them. Some Christians seem to have a drawn a fine line between where life starts and where it doesn’t.

I find it troubling that Christians can so vehemently reject abortion and so nonchalantly accept contraceptives.

Dying in a Church Pew

The pithy little hymnal started and I hoped we’d sing only one verse. The comments from the missionary and the guest speaker were enough to squelch any inkling of interest I might have had in a missions conference. I wanted to sing a hymn and depart, the sooner I could be on the road and spouting my intellectual complaints the better.

The sentimental hymn finished and the pastor started a real send ’em out prayer–but I was no longer listening. Ralph–the miniature old man who collected the Sunday School attendance sheets with the gusto of the energizer bunny–had turned the color of an onion. He didn’t stand for the hymn, he didn’t stand for the prayer, and his wife had a distant, immobilized glaze over her eyes. A woman rushed forward, scanning across the rows of bowed faces. The associate pastor nearly bowled over his wife. Another woman butted her way through a row and disturbed a praying doctor. He rushed forward and began slapping Ralph’s weak, bony hand. They laid him down, and began undoing his tie and his shirt.

The prayer ended and eyes opened, the organ began a rousing goodbye tune, and everyone in the vicinity turned to leave. Then their eyes fell on the commotion and they all stopped. Ralph’s head was half hanging off the pew, people were scrambling, and everyone else just gawked, unsure of what to do. I wanted to reach out and help, but there were already too many people helping. The pastor stepped off the platform and into the fray, not even realizing what had happened. All color had left Ralph’s face, and I didn’t even recognize him as the jovial man who dutifully took the attendance from us Sunday, always waiting patiently when I’d forgotten to fill it out.

I walked out of church slow, hesitant. The man had probably suffered a heart attack. The ambulance hadn’t pulled up by the time I left, and I didn’t hear sirens the entire way home. I wanted to do something for Ralph. I wanted to do more than watch and wonder. The man may be dead by now. He may be in heaven, or a stuffy hospital room. Either way I don’t know what to do. My complaints are quickly forgotten, and I don’t remember them until later that evening. There’s something about a man dying in a church pew.

What’s in Worship for Me?

Why am I always worried about what I get out of worship? The point of worship is to glorify God. He is the primary audience member. Yet I’m worried about myself. Is the room hot or cold, do I have to sit or stand, are the songs slow or fast, familiar or new, hymns or praise choruses? For some reason all of this matters to me and I get all bent out of shape if a worship service doesn’t fit my expectations. If the drummer plays a style I don’t care for or if the worship leader gestures like a preschool teacher I get annoyed.

But since when was the worship service centered around me? Worship is for God. I don’t matter. The value of worship is not judged on the spiritual high I walk away with. Worship is judged on whether or not God is pleased.

And yet I still strive for what I want. I shop for the church that suites my needs, I look for the upbeat worship service that I like. Yet that’s not really what’s important. Don’t people make the church? So why do I base my church selection on programs, pastors, and the style of the service? Do I even know what priorities are?

Daunting Pile

I’m tired. The semester is already half over and I’m beginning to realize how much work I’ll have to do in the second half. It’s only multiplied when I consider how little work I’ve done in the first half. Why do I never get tired of procrastination? It’s like I’m playing a game of intellectual chicken with my workload–so far I’m on the teetering on the edge. But at the same time I don’t feel academic guilt. I haven’t been a lazy slouch since school started. In fact, I’ve watched less TV than I ever have before, participated more on campus, and spent more time with people. I’ve taken the time for some things I need to do, and I don’t regret that. I can’t regret that. Now I just have to rise up and tackle the daunting pile of work ahead of me. But isn’t it always a daunting pile? Somehow I think life would be boring if it were a little tiny pile.

Christianity and Reproduction

Does the church ever think about reproduction? Sure, we all know that abortion and premarital sex are evil. But have we ever really stopped to think about procreation, sex, and all that deals with reproduction? I don’t think so. In many ways we’ve become narrow in our mindset. Yet contraceptives were only accepted by the church seventy years ago. A few hundred years ago abortion was considered acceptable–of course it wasn’t abortion as we know it today. Back then they understood life to begin at “quickening,” when the mother can feel the fetus move or kick. Before that point in time it was acceptable to abort the fetus. It was not yet considered a living person, and therefore acceptable to discard it.

Now with modern science we have a difficult time deciding when life begins and knowing when to interrupt the process to control pregnancy is a moral and spiritual issue. Do you even interrupt the cycle at all? Many Christians so easily dismiss abortion but then warmly accept contraceptives, without considering the issues. Is there ever a time when abortion is acceptable? What about a woman in China who must abort her child to comply with the one-child per family law? Having the child would mean a severe fine and a 10% cut in salary, measures that would threaten the well being of the child she already has. Opting to nurture and protect her one living child, she volunteers to have the abortion. Is that acceptable? What about the pill? Using hormones to alter the body’s natural rhythm, causing uncertain side effects. The result? Sex without responsibility, the very thing Christian abstinence advocates warn against. Should a married Christian couple use the pill and feel no sense of responsibility when they have sex?

Sometimes as Christians I think we sidestep these issues and it doesn’t get us very far. There are some difficult questions that need to be asked, and I don’t think the answers are prevalent. However you see things, God designed sex as a wonderful gift for us. It brings both life and pleasure, and neither of those can be forgotten. Sex without the pleasure and joy a married couple should experience is just as insulting to God as sex without the understanding of the responsibility of bringing a newborn life into the world.