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Monday
Nov052012

Enemy-Neighbors

On the cusp of Election day, my thoughts have found their way to a question that I can’t seem to ignore.  How does it happen, that we should be in such unfulfilling work as that of perceiving neighbors as enemies?  Maybe they asked for it by placing a campaign sign in their yard.  Maybe they were pushing the rest of us who don’t share their political opinions by drawing such brave deep lines along the surveyed boarders of landscaped hedges and picket fences.

It is inescapable, this feeling that we have become okay with the venomous air surrounding election time.  We see the campaign sign and immediately draw the most extreme negative caricature of beliefs that would provoke such a poor choice of political support.  We do not draw such good conclusions about our neighbors when the signs begin to sprout up.  And in the end, we make enemies of those who are neighbors.

There is an art to civilized engagement about politics.  It is the kind of art that is born out of severe disciplined love.  Only love can remove the defensive posture of apposing opinions.  Only love can settle a person in their own skin deeply enough to allow them to lift their heels and be teachable all the while standing in the trenches of a significant political discussion. 

We do love our tension though.  We need it.  It makes us feel like the story is going somewhere when the tension is greatest.  In another few months, after the political stickers have begun to peel and fold from the winter weather, and the signs have all been plucked back out of the hard earth, and a leader is cozily reading in the Oval office, we will see past the amplified filter of the two party system, and notice that there are some endearing commonalities about our neighbor-enemies.  We will find that life is more than votes or legislature, and we will have the perspective that currently eludes us.  We are all in the same garden, meant to grow together, flowers and weeds alike.  We are all watered by the same storms and brightened by the same sun.  We are not so different in the things that truly matter.  And even if we are different, we are still called to love well.

I look forward to recognizing the community of people I have been coerced into thinking represent something alien or dangerous or toxic, and enjoying a laugh, or a story or a meal with them.   I am reminded of a song that says, “We are one but we are not the same.”  And another song that says, “We are one in the spirit we are one in the Lord.”  Both are true.  And both represent something currently hidden in the fog of politics. 

Go vote, and then join with me in the messy business of turning back toward each other in anticipation of being once again neighbors.  

Monday
Nov052012

Politricks- a poem of obvious tension

 

                                  " Politricks -a poem of obvious tension"  

 

  1. vote for the person that tells the best jokes
  2. vote for the person who has matching skin tone
  3. vote for the person with the hottest wife
  4. vote for the person who is better at sports
  5. vote for the person who probably has similar music on their iPod as you
  6. vote for the person with the best sense of style
  7. vote for the person with the least amount of ear hair
  8. vote for the person you know is the better dancer
  9. vote for the person you would most like to go to a Dave Matthews Band concert with
  10. vote for the person who knows all the moves to Gyngnam style
  11. vote for the person who looks the least like a Bond villain
  12. vote for the person who uses a Mac
  13. vote for the person who is best parodied on SNL
  14. How would Snookie vote?
  15. Which one is the vampire? Which one is the werewolf?
  16. Which one looks the most like the President from your favorite disaster movie
  17. vote for the one that loves to kill babies
  18. vote for the one that worships aliens
  19. vote for the one that is secretly a Muslim terrorist
  20. vote for the one that hates public educational television
  21. vote for the one that wants to increase poverty in our country
  22. vote for the one that hates you because you are not rich
  23. vote for the one that wants to destroy the earth
  24. vote for the one that wants to deplete all of our natural resources
  25. vote for the one that wants to make sure you can’t get health care
  26. vote for the only one that is an American
  27. vote for the one that wants to dissolve the military
  28. vote for the one that LOVES war
  29. vote for the one that will allow you to forget about the poor
  30. vote for the one that will make everyone a God fearing Christian
  31. vote for the one that wants to take all your money
  32. vote for the one that believes in segregation
  33. vote for the one that believes exactly what you believe
  34. vote for the one that wants everybody to walk around with guns
  35. vote for the one that doesn’t think criminals are human
  36. vote for the one that hates Jesus
  37. vote for the one that uses manipulation
  38. vote for the one that doesn’t act like a politician
  39. vote for the one that knows you
  40. vote for the one that keeps you safe from foreign languages

 Now get out there and vote to keep America strong.  And by all means love your enemies/neighbors. "

 

                                                                                           -Anonymous 

Thursday
Sep062012

CLARIFICATIONS...

Well, there seems to be some confusion over the removal of comments connected to my blog entry.  

I deleted my entire blog entry to keep the focus on the prayer from the DNC, and not on the controversy or tension stirred by my entry.  When I deleted the blog, all of the comments attached to the blog also deleted.  I was unaware that this would happen.  

For those who believe I was weeding out criticism and only leaving positive remarks, that is not the case.  EVERY comment attached to the original blog was deleted.

I appreciate your comments regarding my tunnel vision and my inability to accept criticism, which may or may not be true at various points of my day... However, those comments do not apply to this blog or the speculation surrounding the removal of comments.  

I do not weed out negative criticism.  It is in large part why I write and engage... I can not learn anything myself if I am not mixing things up with people who do not share my beliefs or opinions.  The value of the blog is diminished if I only hear from people who share my views.  Please enter into the conversation thoughtfully and I will listen.  

Carry on... -Dan

 

 

Wednesday
Sep052012

Passion vs. Humanity vs. Passion...etc

The intention of my original Facebook post was to celebrate the opportunity that Jena Nardella had to stand up and pray for our nation.  It quickly turned into a forum for people to express their hatred of the DNC.  Some of the comments responding to the post were moving the conversation into the tall weeds of abortion and politics.  I decided to write about how misplaced passion creates untimely and callous tactics.  This was my response to one persons attempt at taking a celebratory statement and turning it into something else. 

This post is not about the abortion issue, nor is it about politics.  The comments suggesting that I am pro-abortion are unfounded.  I took this post down last night after Jena Nardella’s prayer.   Quite a few people have asked to read it, so I am putting it back up.  

 

The original post:

 

I know, I know… It is a bit of a viper’s nest and no one should really spend too much time reading the comments… BUT… I did. 

I recently wrote this post on the Jars of Clay Facebook page:

“Immensely proud of Blood:Water Mission’s Executive Director, Jena Lee Nardella!  She was asked to give the closing prayer tonight at the DNC!  There could not have been a better Christian leader chosen for the task!”

I don’t know why I am still surprised at the responses.  But I had to bring a comment to the surface for a number of reasons.  First, because of the back handed nature of the comment and, secondly, because I am slightly shocked by the number of people who “liked” it.

The comment:  “Is she planning on mentioning the amount of innocent blood that has been shed by the millions of babies who have been aborted because the policies of the DNC?”

Where do I begin?  Why do people write such things?  Who does this person hope to persuade through this comment? What positive tactic does this person feel they are employing that will help draw people into the conversation in a constructive way?  And why do other people encourage this behavior by “liking” it? 

There are SO MANY things wrong with this comment the least of them is the implications that a political party drives cultural norms.  Blaming politicians for the actions of individuals and societies may be the biggest reason things do not ever change for the better.  As far as I can tell, people who feel the need to have abortions are not considering the legislative issues surrounding their present situation while they are in the midst of crisis.  As far as I can tell, people do not generally have abortions as a means of making a political statement.  There are societal pressures and situational stresses that play into the decisions people make, and ultimately people are responsible for their choices. 

Or is this just a high stakes version of a family vacation where the kids hit each other and neither will stop because the other person started it.  Do we not see the error of this kind of thinking?    

That aside, passion does NOT afford us the opportunity to be inhumane.  No matter what we are fighting for or against, our arguments become mute if we lose the care for humanity on all levels.  This small Facebook comment sent me a very clear message.   This person is passionate about unborn children and the fight to make abortion illegal.  In fact this person cares about saving lives so much that it causes a failure to be able to just celebrate the 700,000 lives that a person like Jena Nardella has helped save.  Passion is not a justifiable excuse for such tunnel vision. 

If your cause is so close that you cannot see any other good going on in the world and illuminate it and celebrate it when it is happening, you are too close. 

Another comment on the Facebook page said this:

“Jena has had babies named after her because of her life-giving dedication to bringing water to Africa.  How about focusing  on the amazing accomplishments she’s done and not your will for her.”

I couldn’t have said it better. 

In closing, Jena has the opportunity to pray for our nation.  She has been given the task of stepping into a room and asking God to be in the decisions of our political leadership.  She has the gift of standing before a nation and reminding us all that serving the poor around the world is transcendent of political party. 

That is worth celebrating even as we mourn the reality that people are still dying from preventable diseases.  We celebrate this moment even while our tears for the suffering still sting our eyes.  We rejoice that God is moving in our politics, even as the confusion over what is best for our nation weighs heavily on our minds and hearts. 

This is not a simple time with simple answers hanging low for the picking.  We would be wise to remember our passions were once sparked by a human story, and not let them become so great that we cease to be humane ourselves. 

Okay… I will step off my box once again.  Thanks.  …oh, and remember to vote, but remember to reach out into your community and do something to love someone else. 

Thursday
Jul192012

An Unfinished Record; An Uncharted Path

We have been in the studio for two weeks.  Taking a large piece of rock and chipping away to find the sculpture within.  Mostly, the songs are written.  There are lyrics to be finished, and obsessed over.  And the skin of each song has yet to be identified.  The tone of each song’s delivery will come in time.  And so I know that I am jumping the gun a bit here. But as I sit and listen to the developing songs, I am increasingly aware that there is a chance that not many people will hear this record.  Not because the songs are not good enough, or the recording less than excellent.  I think this will be a great record. The reason this record may be unheard is not musical in nature.

I fear these recordings may get dismissed because Jars of Clay has a fairly entrenched brand conception. People outside of the general church community may not seek this record out.  And since the themes of the record are very far from evangelical Christianity, the church community will most likely not embrace this record.  Which, on one hand, is a relief.  I am pretty weary from years of pretending to be more of something than I am.  I am tired of carrying evangelical expectations on my shoulders.  I have never been so sure of my faith that I was able to find a true home in the church communities where we played most of our shows.  Our particular style of writing and the perspective that we have written from has not been an easy fit into an artistic community that has such a massive agenda and only a single idea of how that agenda gets accomplished.  I don’t fit there.  I may have at one point.  I did grow up as a youth group kid wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Jesus on it.  I did drive a car with a “Christian” bumper sticker on it.  And at one point, I was sure of who God was, and how God operated.  But I am not that way now.  And so it is impossible to write from that old version of myself. I am in the middle space. 

These songs are honest expressions of what life around us looks like.  The descriptions of love and pain, loneliness and hope are real to us.  It is what frustrates me about the general church audience.  If artistic expressions do not have an evangelical agenda, or they don’t explicitly cheer for Jesus, they tend to fail commercially.  In my experience, the music with those kinds of agendas is shallow and somehow not ultimately believable to me.  Ironically, what people probably want, and have a hard time articulating, is a description that gives voice to their experiences of doubt and faith and life, but they have been tricked into a very narrow view of where those descriptions come from.  And so they often settle for the Jesus cheerleaders or worship songs that have been loaded with sentimentality but not reality.  People set expectations that they are going to connect with real life during their worship services through the medium of worship music.  At the same time, people may forget entirely or dismiss the movie that described a portion of hard life that their soul found resonance with, because it wasn’t in a church context.  This doesn’t mean there is no space for evangelicalism.  But it is such a tiny sliver of the entire pie.  It is, “crumbs under the table. “  

I can’t begin to draw a map that leads us all into a better place.  And I wouldn’t change the path that got Jars of Clay to this point in our career.  I have to believe that God is in our story.  I have to believe that if God wanted to, we would be blissfully entrenched in a subculture, happy as clams to just rehash the same words to describe or even impose a right wing, conservative “Jesus figure.”  I imagine if God wanted us to have that kind of perspective, he could have barred us from so many enlightening conversations.  He could have kept us away from Africa or China.  He could have bent our ears away from the music of Depeche Mode, or U2, or XTC or David Bowie.  He could have kept us away from the magnificent artistic expressions of others walking this world in search of meaning.  He could have kept us away from the hard questions.  He could have blinded our eyes to the suffering of the world.  He could have never let “Blood:Water Mission,” with all its orbiting theologians and faithless figures and their coinciding conversations happen.  He could have never let us fall in love.  God could have never let us feel the weight of hard relationships.  He could have kept us from having children of our own.  He could have left us unscathed by the deaths of friends and relatives.  He could have done all of this, and we might be different.  He could have removed our longing to describe these things.  He could have removed the longing for connection that permeates every tone and syllable of a “Jars of Clay” song.  God could have kept us from asking good questions.

God gave us a story, and a space to fill.  And it isn’t really in the same neighborhood as the evangelical church.  And so our music will be disappointing to many.  People will inevitably engage us with the question, “Are you going secular?” or, “Why don’t you sing about Jesus?” or, “How come you don’t share the gospel?”   And some of those people will be angry.  Some of them won’t have the tools necessary to understand that anger, or the fear that creates it.  Some people will see our form of artistic expression as a threat.  Some will categorize us as “back-sliders.“  I wish I had more patience and time for those people.  But actually being present in my day takes a lot of energy.  Actually remembering who I am, and what my unique voice in the world is takes focus.  And I suppose I have been influenced by lots of angry people over the years until I woke up and couldn’t remember what my own perspective was. 

So, I wonder what people will do with this record.  I wonder if they will be able to get past evangelical hang-ups.  If they don’t, I have to assume that this record wasn’t for them.  I can’t wait to meet the people that this record IS for.  I bet they have lived some hard times.  I bet they have some unanswered questions.  I bet they pray a lot, without the motive of getting something, but rather, to remind them that the foundation is under their feet somewhere.  I imagine the person who appreciates this record will care about the nuance of both music and life. 

In a way, this record represents, for me,  a self-imposed eviction notice from a religious community that is unfit to live in.  I am packing up my things.  I will gather my questions, my opinions, my mistakes and confessions and start walking in search of….  Well,  lets not get too ahead of ourselves.