Monthly Archives: May 2011

That of which we should not speak

It had been a while since I heard it said, but recently someone commented again that religion and politics tend to be ‘taboo’ when it comes to friendly conversation.  Why is that?
Are we, as a culture, unable to speak about things of depth and substance, or have we made those things of depth and substance so simple that they no longer have meaning?
I wonder if we don’t talk about those things because we tend not to inform ourselves on such things.  We tend not to be informed on politics, or religion, as a culture.  Is that a fair statement?
A young person, shortly before the election on May 2, said they weren’t going to vote because all the political parties are the same – so it doesn’t matter.  I replied, “really? are they the same?”  This person admitted they did not know much about any of the parties platforms, or the positions of the local candidates.
I’ve also heard people make sweeping statements about the church.  When a few of us gathered for reflection and prayer outside the down-town Rainbow Coalition centre, a young person came up to me and was visibly angry that there were people of faith at this place.  At the point that they came by, nothing had been said – so they really had no idea from what perspective comments might be made.  And, as it turned out, they were not part of a faith community, nor were they even loosely connected to the Rainbow Coalition.  After the prayer and reflection, I went to find the young person to find out how they were feeling.  They had changed their opinion.
It seems to me that assumptions are made, and conclusions are jumped to, based on only a little bit of information.
Why don’t we talk more – and invite open discussion, not heated debate – about the things we value?  …they’re things that affect us!
And perhaps, if we can achieve a real level of openness, we might all find some common ground.  Perhaps we’ll find that our views are confirmed, or challenged, and that we come away from the conversation having learned something.
Without a doubt, it’s not easy to talk politics or religion.  It requires something of us.  It’s easier to talk about sports, or sitcoms – some form of entertainment.  But those remove us from reality (which is fine from time to time).  Where, then, do we engage with reality?  Who, then, creates the rules by which we all must abide in real living?
During the election campaign leading up to May 2nd, I recall hearing young people talk about their views on life together.  Some said that each person ought to earn what they get; some said that we need to make services available to all without charge.  In some cases, it seemed apparent to me that a political party’s platform had taken root – that they were speaking words they heard uttered in a campaign commercial, or perhaps by a party leader in a televised event.  In other cases, the position seemed to originate from a different life-experience – having lived outside of the country and experienced a different system, or having lived in a community where they had a role to play that affected the living of others.
It’s important to be aware of where our positions stems.  Why do we believe what we believe?  Why do we value what we value?  Why do we feel the way we feel when presented with a different point of view?
It seems to me that, if we’re to actually take the time needed to unpack a person’s point of view, we’d rather just get a quick snapshot, or general idea, and not take the time (hours, days, weeks, months…) to get to know someone and what they believe.  I think that’s a down-side to the instant-communication and instant-information age in which we live.  We expect things to be quick, and we expect the whole thing right away.  Getting to know a person – and their values and beliefs: what makes them unique – sometimes takes too long for our attention-spans.
To me, that’s a reason for faith community.  Come together – take time away from daily routines – and learn about each other.  Come together in a caring and patient way, seeking understanding.  In the Christian experience (and this would apply to Jewish experience as well) we speak about “sabbath rest.”  We gather on a “sabbath day” to remove ourselves from daily duties in order to just be with each other.  Ideally, we should also be getting to know each other and be open to each others’ experience.
We need to strive to have friendly conversation about things like religion and politics more often!


All together now

If you’re my Facebook friend, you know something about my political stripes.
I’ve been surprised, over the last while, at the voices I’ve heard in support of a system where each person has to earn what they have in life, or they’re “lazy.”
What surprises me is that such words are often coming from young people – young adults who, until recently (when they moved out to go to college, or such), have been living off the resources of their parents (and, in many cases, they continue to rely on their parents).
It seems to me that the work of civilization over the past several hundred years (since, say, oh, the Middle Ages) was to give all people opportunity and to reduce the amount of disparity between classes of people.  And yet, that seems to be where we’re heading again.  More and more there is a chasm between those who have much, and those who have little – and if you’re born into wealth, you can look forward to more wealth in life, and vice versa.
Since the early-1990s, or so, we’ve heard about “globalization” and a “global village,” either in negative or positive references. It usually has to do with products being shipped around the world for consumers all over the world; it can also refer to the fact that we’re able to get to more places faster. It’s true: with technology, modes of transportation, and trade agreements the way they are today, we’re all closer to each other than ever before.  Plus, with the population at an all-time high, and people living longer, we’re having to find new ways of ‘sharing the land.’
So if I’m cared for by my parents, and then they’re living well into their retirement years – to the point where they can’t live independently anymore, but still have reasonable health – then their well-being is, more or less, in my hands.  How could I ever say that I have only what I’ve earned, and that all that is in my possession is mine and mine alone?  And if I extend the framework to include neighbour – how could I say that I can live without them?
If we’re not to depend on anyone else, then we all need to make sure we spend enough time (and money!) learning about how to build our own houses, sew our own clothes, defend our own court cases, engineer our own roads, educate our own children, lead rituals to mark significant events, and so on and so forth.
So, to say that a system where each and every individual – alone – is responsible for his or her well-being seems like a ridiculous statement to me.  I can’t live without someone who can advise me on legal matters, or financial matters, or someone to help me heal when I’m wounded or sick, or someone to repair the pot-holes in the road, or someone to pick the apples which I like to have access to when I’m hungry, or someone to design and build the techie gadgets I like to have.  And not each of those folks are paid equally for the services they offer; not each of them have gone to school and had the exact same opportunities (be it that they were on full scholarship, or had family pay tuition, or had to work their way through school over an extended period of time).
We all need one another!  And, if we believe that, then we must also recognize that we need a system where all are accounted for when it comes to basic needs – like health, housing, education, infrastructure, food, clothing, and such.  And those who seek help from the system can not be considered drains on the system or lazy because you and I also use it – and we know that we have value and that we work hard to make a contribution!  Right?!
In some ways, all of the ways in which we have come to relate in our current form of ‘ideal civilization’ – which aspires to have a free market, minimal government interference, and an unlimited resource-base – the ways in which we relate, today, have been tarnished by money and an economy set by financial people and institutions.  It creates a competitive nature that loses sight of the fact that all have value and the ability to contribute, and it names a price for each person and their gifts which they bring to the broader whole – and the price is not always fair.  It begins to say that the cost of something or someone is what matters over that thing or person.  It, then, can lead to a sense of entitlement for those who already have, and a sense of despair for those who have little or nothing.
So we, as members of the civilization, ought to hold those in positions of power and influence responsible, and we need to make sure that we or they do not forget those who are not born into privilege, or perhaps have not had opportunities dropped in their laps.
If we have much, we are entrusted with much to share.

Can we have openness to diversity, or not?

This week, the Centre for Inquiry – Okanagan had their recent bus campaign ‘stopped’ by a vandal who removed the signs from buses parked in a lot.
It seems clear to me that this area – the Okanagan, but Kelowna more specifically – has been largely populated by white, Christian, rich people, and the idea of a community that may hold different views is a challenge to those who have been here and claim certain rights of entitlement.  …including entitlement to a specific world-view.
The federal election took place this week, too – and I see it as another reflection of people wanting to maintain the status quo of a certain kind of people with a certain kind of lifestyle.  Apparently voter turnout was 60.1% in the Kelowna – Lake Country riding, here, and the Conservative candidate won by a landslide (again) with 57.4% of the vote.
The CFI bus campaign, in a suggestive way – though not an offensive way – questions the existence of God.  “There’s Probably No God.  Now Stop Worrying And Enjoy Your Life.”
Why is such a message taken in such a way that someone feels the need to remove it?  Whether one’s set of beliefs includes an understanding of God or not, how does another’s set of beliefs matter one way or the other?
The removal of signs was not an overt act, it was done under the cover of night.  It was a cowardly act.  It seems to me that, to make a statement in this way of stealing signs that were legitimately posted, some fear the scrutiny of others – that their shaky faith may be challenged and found out to be that: without substance.
Regardless of how one takes the atheist movement of today, I think that it has invited conversation about what people believe and how we live that out.  It also invites conversation about whether there is an ultimate truth or not, and whether all ought to subscribe to only one view or if there’s space for many, reflecting the many cultures and expressions of life that populate this world.

May, 2011 – Paradox Newsletter

From the Pastor…

The Lord of life is ris’n this day; death’s mighty stone is rolled away;let all the earth rejoice and say: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! (Worship hymnal #385)

  As we’ve come through the season of Lent, and are now celebrating the resurrection, I’m seeing all kinds of media on Christianity (articles in the paper, documentaries on TV) and I’m thinking about our World Religions conversations we had in April.  I wonder about how much people take time to reflect – or not – on what it is they, or we, actually believe.

It’s easy for someone outside Christian tradition to say that we believe in something intangible, and therefore is not worth believing.  It may also be easy for someone within Christian tradition to say that everything we believe is stated plainly in The Bible.  But we, as Lutherans certainly, believe differently than either of those positions.  We believe that life has many facets that are often unique to one person’s experience over another, and – as we affirm in one of our statements of belief – that we are “capable of great creativity and great destruction, but called to choose between them.”

The good news of the resurrection story is not simply that Jesus’ tomb was empty, but that new life is a gift to all, even as we may go through events that seem so final and despairing.  I’m conscious that, with the election this month, people have made it their life’s work to make a democracy such as ours possible.  We enjoy all kinds of opportunities, and we have abundant resources available to us (collectively as a society, and individually).

  Our Easter celebration calls us to be mindful of how we have a responsibility to the larger web of life of which each of us is a part.  God is the source of life and love, and we are to share that life and love with others. -Pastor Tyler Gingrich

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– to Jesse for playing guitar for the Way of the Cross walk on Good Friday

– to Karen for her help at Holy Week services

– to Ken and Miriam for their support of our World Religions conversations in Lent

– to Melissa for the beautiful musical offerings

– to Caitlyn for taking on acolyte duties!

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There has been a perception among academics, journalists and other opinion leaders that secularism reigns and that organized religion, not to mention private religious conviction, have become largely irrelevant to people. That was certainly the common belief among my professors when I was a university student and my journalistic colleagues in subsequent years.

But far from fading away, religion has come to play an increasingly prominent public role in contemporary societies. One has only to think about the Iranian and Nicaraguan revolutions; the impact of liberation theology in places such as Brazil; the role of the church in Poland; the rise of the evangelical right in the United States, Canada and elsewhere; the rise of militant Sikhism and Islamic extremism. If ever religion was a marginalized force, it has rebounded markedly, and not always for the better.

Canada does not exist in a vacuum. An IPSOS-Reid poll reported, for example, that the vote of evangelical Christians and Catholics who attend church weekly was a deciding factor in the election of a Conservative minority government in January 2006. The question now is whether that pronounced religious vote is a blip or an emerging reality in Canadian political life…

The religious right is growing in power and political influence in Canada. Mainline Protestantism, as represented in the United, Anglican and Presbyterian [and Lutheran] Churches, has been in decline although it is showing some signs of revival. Conservative Catholics and evangelicals, who once disliked and mistrusted one another, are now engaged in a growing collaboration. Their political agenda is anchored in opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, publicly funded childcare and a resistance to various other social programs. […]

For their part, progressive Christians — in Protestant, Catholic, and even some evangelical congregations — have been marginalized in recent years and are now struggling to have their voices heard by politicians and the Canadian public…

There is a good deal of research and writing in the United States and elsewhere about how important it is to understand the motivation and tactics of religious groups that involve themselves in the political arena. Far less attention has been devoted to the topic in Canada.

 (Dennis Gruending, on his ‘Pulpit and Politics’ blog)

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“Jesus came to comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable”

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Worship Leaders in May…

Readers: May 1 – Jesse; May 8 – Ken; May 22 – ______; May 29 – Wally

Hosts: May 1 – ______; May 8 – Westereng; May 15 (soup) – _______ , _______; May 22 – ______; May 29 – Batke

Liturgists: May 1 – ______; May 8 – Darlene; May 22 – _______; May 29 – ________

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We welcome Rev. Dr. John Burton for a “Philosopher’s Café” style Souper Sunday,
May 15 – 5:30pm at The Centre (1476 Water St)!

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Coming up in June…

Ascension Day

June 2nd – Church Music Festival!

Annual BBQ

June 26th – Second First Supper!

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See our online calendar for programming!

Join our Facebook page for occasional updates!