Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Blue Like Jazz"

Just finished a pretty much fabulous book. It was so interesting to hear someone else talking about so many of the things I often ponder about the state of religiosity in American Christianity. So many times I would read something and think, did he somehow pull that thought out of my mind, or overhear some conversation I once had. I'm not saying I could exactly identify with everything he said, but so much of it rang true.
I often get so frustrated with the way so many people seem to think that being Christian means the same thing as being Republican, for instance. Or how the word tolerance has been shifted to mean accepting sin as being appropriate, rather than meaning to love people despite their sins. I've often ranted to people about how sad it makes me to hear people who love Jesus say horrible things about people because of their lifestyle changes. Rather than wanting to love them and encourage them to change through positive relationships, they merely talk about how sick and wrong the things they do are. I'm not saying we should condone their sin, but look at the people Jesus went out and loved. The prostitutes, the tax collectors, the people that modern religious Jewish society looked down on. But how often do we find churches just preaching against the horrors of homosexuality and liberalism, rather than talking about how sad it is that there are so many poor, sad, desperate people living hollow lives without Christ.
All this to say, I highly recommend reading this book. I was particularly drawn to the way he spoke of our need to reach out and love people. The importance of really seeing Jesus in the least of these, rather than turning our back on them because they seem too dirty to touch.
I've been in dialog recently with several people about the state of racial issues here in the Czech Republic. As an outsider, it is much easier for me to look on the different groups of people here as being all the same. I don't have generations of ill will built up in my system. So it makes it easier for me to be impartial in my views. I can understand how people would experience some bitterness if their business was undercut by the lower prices that the Vietnamese can offer. I can also see how the way the Roma seem uninterested in holding down jobs could lead to frustration amongst the hard working Czechs. But we have been called to love. (sigh) Many of the people here say that their opinions, especially of the Roma, are due to their behavior more than the color of their skin. At the same time, every time they see that darker skin they automatically become suspicious. Smells rather like racism to me. It's difficult to know how to combat these situations, or how to encourage positive discussions on the topic when these sentiments are so ingrained in the people here, but I hope that in some small way I can inspire people to be more sympathetic, more understanding of the people in need around them. I'm not saying that bad things haven't been done on both sides, I'm just saying that any time we lump people into mass categories we run the risk of condemning ourselves to the atrocities of the past that led to things like the Holocaust.
Okay, enough being really profound for the moment. Maybe the dreary rainy weather is responsible. I just hope people in the church will be able to remember things like the wise idiom that we should truly try to love the sinner and hate the sin, rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater...

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