If the last 78 days have shown us anything about who we are, once again the issue that defines us continues to be money.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the friends and acquaintances who went into overseas missions, and have wondered how they would respond to my challenge for the church to bring them home. In order to begin the process of contacting them about this series, I made a list of names and mission fields and their current status.
I’m 16 years old. Wanting to ride a rush of All-Ontario-Youth-Convention enthusiasm for service and the potential for youth to make a difference, we combine Teen Club and Young Peoples and rebrand the new super-group as YouthWorks. We hand out flyers at church, address council, speak from the pulpit and wait for our numbers to climb.
I am not for an instant dismissing as irrelevant the work that is being done overseas; any one of us can undoubtedly rattle off a dozen examples of lives or communities that have been changed.
I’ve been called a lot of things, but never hateful. Yet if the Conservative government gets its way, what I’m about to say could make me guilty of hate speech.
In an episode of the most recent season of House of Cards, when U.S. President Francis Underwood has a late-night spiritual crisis, he summons the bishop and heads to church. The bishop tells Underwood – the protagonist and villain of the show – that there’s no such thing as absolute power. “You weren’t chosen, Mr. President,” he says, pointing at the altar crucifix. “Only he was.” After, left alone for a few minutes of reflection, Underwood stands in front of the statue and stares it down. “Love. That’s what you’re selling,” he says, and spits in Jesus’ face.
If our goal is to understand and witness to our Muslim neighbours so that God can change their hearts, perhaps the best approach is simply to journey with them back into their sacred texts and their history. Love them enough to learn, as it were, and let God work on their foundations.
Your Muslim neighbour, whose name you can never remember, enters the park and shoos his kids towards the swings. He sits. You chat. When the conversation shifts to religion, you sense a certain opportunity, and ask him some questions about him and his faith. He does the same. Some time passes. Both families’ children gather at the grownups’ feet to listen and learn.
Before that Talib boarded her school bus and shot her in the forehead, she was already blogging against the Taliban’s systematic oppression of girls’ education. All through her painful recovery, through death threats and intimidation, she was not silenced. Even now, trying to quantify the importance of her ongoing advocacy and obvious success is daunting: the Nobel Prize looks small by comparison.
Corktown is an old neighbourhood, one that has weathered the rises and descents of a steeltown like Hamilton. You can see century homes on the same stretch of block as faceless apartment buildings, and you can walk from one end to the other in about five minutes and 30 seconds to see the whole range of then until now. And sometimes you can guess who’s renting and who owns their small patch of this railside neighbourhood by how many mailboxes you can see or how well the gardens are tended.
The future of faith among youth – read: Millennials – and those who minister to them is a popular discussion. You’ve encountered it before, of course, especially in church publications, framed by sobering statistics about declining numbers of churchgoing youth, and often positioned around two questions: What’s happening? How can we entice/bribe/win/encourage them back?
Keeping each other from asking difficult questions about an issue so fundamental as missions, even in a historical and cultural context that shows how outdated our approach might be, allows Christ’s mandate to become just another sacred cow; a protected, lumbering animal that does little more than get in the way.