Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Heart of America

I would say the heart of America needs stirred, that there are issues
that need some national conversation and an infusion of hope and

Through recent blog conversations, I took exception that a message
such as "Abortion is murder" or "Terri Schiavo is an innocent woman
who we are starving to death" does not engage the nation. Much of
America has already decided on the issue (about 50-50) and such
statements continue to polarize. They do (this is not sarcasm)
influence 15 year olds, which does help to create a future generation
on the "side of life."

Brant challenged me to try to engage the nation. I tried. Brant
judged it a failure, which I accept. (The guy pegged the North
Carolina/Illini outcome. Who am I to argue?)

Is it possible to express a voice such as the voice of Christ, where
the crowds (pagans and religious folk all together) were amazed? What
would that voice sound like? There is no question to me that
fundamentalist would say that voice was dangerous. Ultra liberals
probably wouldn't even notice the conversation. But would the heart
of America engage in the conversation?

Maybe not. Maybe the heart of America is dead, hardened, corrupt. If
so, then "Doom on you." But if not, then the conversation about
stirring the heart of America is one of the most important
conversations American churches can have. The conversation must
recognize that the American church is ethnically diverse,
traditionally diverse, and doctrinally diverse.

Can the death of the pope be a talking point about life? (Not the
whole conversation, just a talking point.)


Shawna said...

What does it take to stir the heart of America? I think people long to be loved. Just as they are. Which is what Jesus did. He genuinely loved the people he came in contact with. They did not HAVE to change for him to love them--he already did. I think the church and Christians pay lip service to that, but I don't believe we "love" our neighbor as they are. We like them, we see what they could be, but ultimately to genuinely love them, they would have to change. There are always strings attached! So I think people are cynical.

Brian said...

I agree with you. To play Devil's advocate though, consider some of the Schiavo discussion. One commenter on Brant's blog said pulling her feeding tube is just like shooting her in the head. It is hard to see Jesus having a loving, open, non-condemning conversation with a man who just shot his wife in the head, even if it was "for the purpose of mercy."

Can we set our revulsion to certain sin aside to love people?

I would argue that Jesus did that when he came down to earth in the first place. Another example, the pope forgave the man who shot him, visiting him in prison, and forgiving him in person.

The other issue is that perhaps we love Michael Schiavo, but we abhor the court system that let him do what he did. And we want to change it. So we lobby for laws against gay marriage, abortion, and such and at the same time try to communicate, "We hate sin, but we love the sinner."

This may be possible but there is a stench about it. The stench is our revulsion to those sins.

I don't tend to get outraged by Shiavo, abortion, or homosexuality. Child abuse pushes me a bit. At the same time, I wouldn't say any of those actions were ok or justified or righteous.

So either my heart is numb to what outrages God or my heart is focused on loving the heart of a hopeful humanity. I honestly don't know that I could judge that for myself, and I suspect I could get a number of opinions, even from those who know me.

sherri said...

My question is: Does America have one heart that can be stirred?

Brian said...

You would have to assume that the human heart reflects the image of the Creator and that the heart can be stirred by that voice. Certainly not every heart will fully respond.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the American church seems more interested in changing people to make their own lives more comfortable, rather than being genuinely concerned with souls. That is my feeling. The only evidence I have to back it up is the vehement opposition fundamentalists offer towards homo-sexuality, while winking at other sins, and the personal testimony of non-Christian friends. If we want to stir America, the conversation has to be about Grace. Christians, including myself, need to be more graceful.

rob smith

Shawna said...

What Jesus can do, which we obviously can't because we are not divine, it's perfectly understand what is behind the behavior. The person who shoots their spouse in the head as an "act of mercy" or whatever sin is usually not THE issue in a person's life. There is something far deeper that needs to be addressed first and somehow Jesus would make the conversation be about that, not about the obvious.

I appreciated what Rob had to say--that Americans tend to make changes so that their personal lives will be better, not because they are sincerely concerned about people's souls. I throw myself into that generalization for sure. Whenever I get irritated with something/someone, I want it to change mostly because it will make me not be irritated anymore and it is secondary that it will be in the best interest of another person. Ouch--that's a painful observation.

Outrage vs. numbness. I love the passage of scripture in 1 Corinthians 12 that talks about us being one body, but made up of different parts. We all have attributes of God and it takes all of us working together to get a clear picture. Therefore we need people who are focused on loving others just as much as we need people who are outraged by sin. God is both. Together we can find balance..alone we are extremists!

"Can we set our revulsion to certain sin aside to love people?" I don't know. I find it easier to set aside my revulsion if I already have a love relationship with the person. And it is easier to deal with the revulsion the more I know about the person's story. My guess would be that we need to start looking deeper at people and why they behave/believe the way they do. Find the common ground and go from there. Jesus did that...the woman at the well he found common ground in a conversation about water/ with the woman caught in adultery he found common ground by asking who was sinless.

interesting conversation...

Anonymous said...

The difficulty with stirring the heart of America is finding commom ground. The potpourri of economic, social, and even generational differences make this difficult. Shawna is absolutely right on with her comment about common ground.

rob smith

Anonymous said...

In my spare time, when I'm not challenging people to "engage the nation" (?) and offering "outrage" (?) in defense of Terri Shiavo, and offering messages of doom-on-you (?) sometimes I like to play Scrabble (TM).

I shouldn't need to say that this leaves me with quite a bit of time for Scrabble. But I do need to say this, which is increasingly strange.

I have said there's are times that we recognize urgency in human rights, as, say, Bono does, in speaking forthrightly, even at risk of offending. (Somehow, Bono is lauded; I'm on the side of the doom-on-you voices of outrage. Maybe I need some wrap-arounds or something.)

And, I said:

"Here's to that wonderful pursuit of grace AND truth. One without the other? We're screwed. Straight-up."

I'm a-throwin' the "unfair" flag. 15 yards. Martinsville keeps the ball, repeat first down.

There really ARE people who take the approach you're arguing with here, please leave me out of it at this point. I've got enough words in my mouth without you helping.


Brian said...

When I said, "Through recent blog conversations," I was referring to the wider conversation of all who commented, not just Brant. Brant certainly was on the civil side and my "quotes" aren't Brant's words. They are in fact somewhat generalized.

Since I mentioned Brant by name, it must have seemed I was lumping it all him. My bad. Sorry. I'll back up 15 yards and even give you the ball back.

Anonymous said...

What happened to my post about truth and the post modern world?

Anonymous said...

Sorry that last post was me.

rob smith

Brian said...

I don't know Rob. Blogger has been acting a bit funny. Do you mean that you had a recent comment that has disappeared? I did recently switch commenting systems.