So-called "mountaintop experiences" are often called "beyond description" by those who are careful about sharing religious experiences. I know. I am one of those people, with podcast episodes like this one being an exception. With a connection to the team building concepts in the previous show on spiritual development, let's go behind the scenes -- metaphorically around the campfire -- at a spiritual retreat or two.
Different Drummer: Max Lucado
In Inappropriate Conversations #129 (on “Biblical Literacy”), I said that the parable of The Good Samaritan might be the best known New Testament reference. Although no one wrote me to disagree, I'll paste Luke 10: 25-37 here in case I was wrong.
A lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” And he answered, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.” But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” [NASB]
This week, the governor of Arizona is facing a choice about signing pro-discrimination legislation into state law or sitting idly by and allowing it to happen. A veto is required to stop this.
Some Christians, not even all of the religious right, have called for this “right” as a response to gay marriage – which is not currently legal at the state level in Arizona. The suggestion is that florists and bakeries should have state blessing to use a Jim Crow approach to their customers based on sexual orientation.
I started this post with the words of Jesus for a reason. It is where all Christians should go for wisdom, example, and guidance. So, where do we find this faction of Arizona Christians in the parable of The Good Samaritan?
Are they asking for legal protection to pass on the other side of the road rather than interact with marginalized members of society? Perhaps they are the Levite selectively refusing to help or serve. I reject the notion that they may be the priest because those professions are not inherently religious. I will defend pastors and priests who refuse to lead any couple into holy matrimony for any reason. Their “conscience” is a completely different matter from a company that rents tables and chairs.
I’m sure we can agree that these Christians are failing to follow Jesus’ advice and emulate the Good Samaritan. Not even close. Some have suggested the comparison is closer to the robbers. Certainly the equivalent groups in Russia fit the description perfectly. The images of beatings are on camera for any to see.
Perhaps the best comparison is the innkeeper, but not the person Jesus described. Jesus told of a merchant happy to run his business and meet the needs of his customers. So-called “conservatives” in Arizona (anti-business conservatives, I suppose) would tell the Samaritan to get his filth out of his inn and take any scum that would hang out with him, too.
I wonder what Jesus would have said about this Arizona innkeeper. It certainly would have ruined his parable. Clearly, though, Jesus is a better storyteller than anyone speaking up for this legislation in Arizona.
So, Governor Jan Brewer faces an interesting challenge. It isn’t her job as an elected official to save Christianity from these types of Christians. It is, nevertheless, her opportunity.
Rejecting this law is what Jesus would have us do. So, Governor Brewer, what kind of leader are you? What kind of person are you? What kind of Christian are you? Are you, in fact, a Christ Follower at all … or merely a PAC (politically active Christian), content to leverage Jesus for the marketing clout his name too-often provides?
Community building relies more heavily on understanding the stages of spiritual growth than we often realize. Team building does not hinge upon every member being at the same level of maturity and experience. It is crucial, though, to understand the progression and manage those differences with unity as the common purpose. Sadly, this does not describe very many groups in our society today, including churches.
Different Drummer: M. Scott Peck
Storytelling has always been a part of Inappropriate Conversations. Sometimes that involves telling the stories of others to make a point. Other times it truly is personal storytelling in the realm of nostalgia. I learned an important lesson this month about the power of personal storytelling, as if answers to questions I was raising might be coming from the grave.
Different Drummer: Frank Capra
Whether we can call a church a home if children "must know their place" within its walls?
My position on gambling tends toward indifference. I'm less likely to make obvious observations about criminal activity or other societal implications than I am to reject ideas that state-sponsored gambling lowers taxes or drives tourism. In narrow (and largely long past) circumstances, that may have made some sense. Now, it is clearly less sustainable than the average "reality TV" show.
Different Drummer: Tom Waits