fear

Yesterday I was driving to my office at the church when I saw a man sprinting down a residential neighborhood clutching a small child.  Since I don’t see this every day I flipped around to make sure the child was okay.  When I turned around I saw the man who was now beating a car to a pulp.  He was standing on top of the car jumping up and down.  He was throwing a scooter at the car, he had shattered all the windows and all the while, this kid was just watching this man go nuts.

Yesterday when I saw this, for the protection of the child, I called the police.  But inwardly I was grieving for the man, he didn’t look like a guy who had gone off his medication, he looked like a guy who was desperate.  He looked like a man who had been deeply hurt.

Today with the Spanish pastor of our church we walked the community and prayed.  We know a lot of people from the community but there are still many more to get to know.  It struck us how gripped our community is with fear.  Almost every house has multiple large scary dogs.  Each house has a fence around it.  There were many homes with signs that said, “Keep out” or “no parking.”

Today I had the realization that this community (and many like it) for the sake of privacy has lost what it means to be neighborly.  When you walk this community, you don’t get the sense that these people have BBQ’s together or have block parties.  You get the very real sense that people are afraid and have locked themselves in their homes to feel safe.  I began to wonder if any of the neighbors actually know each other or want to, and I began to ask and dream.  What would it look like if people loved their neighbors in this community?  How would the quality of life change?  Would someone reach out to the man having an emotional break down?  Would the neighbors have come together to stop the man?

The saddest part about yesterday was that when I was on the phone with the police, they told me that there were multiple other callers, and there were plenty of people on their front lawns watching.  But this is the precise issue; we’ve become spectators in the full contact world of community.

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live animal

I’ve previously mentioned our self-induced engineered lack of community in this world, and I want to tell you about Chad.  I don’t even know his last name, other than he is a one-man band called, “Live Animal.”  Chad and I shared a flight from Indianapolis to Denver.  He is the kind of vagabond that rejects the societal engineering that forces individualism.  He is a communal guy who finds hope in creative community.  He and I shared a two-hour conversation about politics, Dylan, Jesus, Nietzsche and community.  We hardly landed on anything except for individualism is putting a stranglehold on our society.

Individualism isn’t all evil, it’s good to have an individual personality so one can stand on their own two feet.  It is extreme individualism that is killing our culture and harming public morality.  Extreme individualism is inherently selfish, community is inherently selfless.  Individualism leads to excess while community leads to generosity.

These might sound like bold claims but just think about the very simple task of going to the grocery store versus growing your own food.  At the grocery store you can buy one apple and meet your need, but if you lived in a village that grew their own food and you grew an apple tree, you can meet the need of many people in your community.

Here’s another example, and warning, this is going to sound liberal.  Why do you pay taxes?  Probably because you are compelled to by the IRS, but what is the thought behind taxes?  We all contribute to a government that will be for the common good of its citizens. (I know this is idealistic and there is a larger question about whether or not the government is faithfully stewarding the peoples’ resources, but humor me a little, will ya?) So the question I have is would you pay $50 more a year in taxes for our schools to improve?  For many of us that is an easy answer, we would say “absolutely no new taxes.”  I understand this mentality; really I do because I struggle with this.  So now that we have all voted “no” what happens to your local school?  Teachers get pink slipped, class sizes increase, the quality of education begins to diminish, the people with the means pull their kids out and send them to private school, thus reducing school funding.  Then what happens to the culture of the town where this school is going down hill?  Maybe the dropout rate increases, maybe crime and drugs become more prevalent in your community, maybe you start seeing prostitution, maybe the value of your home drops.  There are a lot of maybes in this scenario, but let me ask one more question.  Would you pay $50.00 per year to maintain the value of your home over the long term?

I realize that our government is polarized and seemingly useless right now, but I think our answers to the questions above say something about what we value.  Do we value community or do we value individuality? Do we act in the common good of society, or the common good of the individual.

I am thankful for my conversation with Chad, it went everywhere.  We talked about schools and taxes and even though you might think my senario is far fetched, it is what is playing out in his hometown of Indianapolis.  When we reframe our perspective from, “what is the best for me?” to “what is the best for my community?” then we take a jump from selfish to selfless from an individual perspective to a communal one.

It is interesting to note that Jesus has a solid plan for taking care of the poor.  It is called community.  It is called jubilee.  It is called generosity.  Some people call it love in action or incarnation living.  It is called the church, or the community of redemption…But what happens if that institution too has become individualized?

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city love

Aristotle once wrote, “Man is by nature a political animal.”  People love this quote, especially the press around election season.  Although, this phrase doesn’t have much to do with politics as we know it.  The Greek word for “political” is, “polis,” polis means city.  The phrase actually means that man is a polis inhabiting creature.  The idea is that man is rational because he makes the decision to live in community.  It would be irrational to live in isolation, away from people who can walk through life with you.

I was flying into Chicago on my way home today and I couldn’t take my eyes off the city.  I have never been there before and I was disappointed that my layover was only ten minutes.  Even though I was anxious to see my wife and daughters, I wanted to experience the beauty of that polis. As I was flying in I was reminded of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem, he stopped and wept for the city. He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather you as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” As I was thinking about it the only other time that the gospels record Jesus weeping was at the death of his friend Lazarus.  In the entire bible God mourns at the death of the “wicked” and it even says that he would rather they be saved. (Ezekiel 33:10-11)  I think it is pretty huge to recognize that God mourns.  In this case he mourns his own rejection and the spiritual death of the rational polis people.

So flying over Chicago I though of that moment when Jesus looked over his people with the desire to spread his wings and gather all of the people to himself.   It is rational that a creator would want to live in community with his people. It is rational for a God who lives in community with himself (trinity) to want people to live in community with each other.  In our cities we have many communities, some of business, sports, education and faith.

Sometimes the community of faith is really good about sticking together and that is really good, but sometimes that is all they do!  What if the community of faith experienced that same sorrow for the city?  What if the community of faith experienced the sorrow of Jesus and went on his mission in their own city, the mission of reconciling everything to Jesus.

What if that was your story?  What would it look like for you to have such a burden for people that you gave up everything to see relationships be redeemed?  What would it look like for you to walk co-workers through steps to forgiving others and themselves?  Really what I am asking is what does it look like for you to love your city?  What are you tangibly doing to love the place where you live in community with others?

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waving to babies

A few days ago I was in the grocery store and I noticed a disturbing trend. I was pushing Emma in the shopping cart while she was smiling and waving at everyone. She is a very friendly baby. I noticed that people turned their head and walked away. Probably one out of ten people waved back or said something. They saw this beautiful little girl and they just ignored her.

Who ignores babies?

I got to thinking, what if we all smiled at each other and waved? After the first few people ignored my daughter I did a little experiment. I started smiling at people and trying to interact with others. The results were predictable, nothing. One lady needed help grabbing something on the top shelf, but I had to offer the help.

It is amazing that somewhere along the line we have engineered life to have no practical need of our neighbors. Not only do we not need each other, we don’t care that we don’t need each other. Our thirst for independence doesn’t even allow us to acknowledge a baby when she waves.

The other day I saw a neighborhood watch sign that was old and banged up. It made me remember my childhood neighbor, Mary. Mary knew everything that happened within a three-block radius. She always had an egg when you were one egg shy on the cake you were baking. In a pinch she would watch the kids while mom and dad ran to the store. She was ever-present by her phone. When you were trying to sneak in after curfew Mary was there to catch you and tell your parents. I don’t know that any of us really understood the communities’ reliance on Mary until after she got sick and died of cancer. She was the connecting point for the entire block, after she died no one stepped up to fulfill that role; almost as if culture is shifting away from the practical need of someone like Mary.  She was even replaced by technology, webcams and security systems could effectively fill Mary’s role.

I wonder if we have so engineered our lives to be self-reliant that the practical need for our neighbors has become non-existent. I wonder if we’ve become so used to not needing our neighbors that we become cold to strangers. I wonder if this sense that, “I can do it myself,” has made us not wave to precious children who have nothing to offer but a wave. My daughter waving to strangers makes me think that she has it right. She isn’t tainted yet; she still needs people to survive. Her wave is a gentle reminder that we need each other.

This week:

Wave to babies

Realize the need for your neighbor

Be intentional about connecting with people

Do not allow the over engendered self-reliance of our culture to taint you to the point where you don’t wave to babies.

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who killed davey moore?

I was in Fishers, Indiana killing time in my hotel room when I stumbled across the court-news channel.  That day they were covering a capital punishment case.  I remember being disgusted at the crime and equally disgusted at how much people wanted this guy to die.

He had killed someone, he wasn’t a good guy.

I began to question what was alive in me.  What was alive in the hearts of people who were involved in this trial and in the hearts of America?

People wanted justice.  Justice equaled death.

But I’m not quite convinced that justice was served.  Those who were killed were not brought back.  The families didn’t feel better.  There was supposed to be closure but that is a myth.

I was left with a deep sense that somehow I was responsible for the man who died at the hands of another state so far away.  I was responsible because I kind of wanted the guy to get executed.

I began thinking of this song by Bob Dylan called, “Who Killed Davey Moore?” This song is high on the list of my favorite Dylan songs. The song exposes the responsibility of society in the death of famous boxer.  The song begs the question, “Is there somehow a corporate responsibility for murder?”  Did I have a role in the death of that murder because I wanted him to die?  Am I part of the public opinion that wanted blood?  Do I have blood on my hands because of an opinion or vote?

Think about it, when the public wants blood they gets it…We wanted Bin Laden’s head, we got Afghanistan.  When the general public wants blood that’s exactly what we get.

I wonder if the American public has shifted to much into individualism.  Maybe it was the cold war and the war against communism.  I’m not sure, but whatever it is,  individualism is not the way people operated for centuries.

To stand out would have been tantamount to shaming your community.  Communities all believed the same thing.  They took cooperate responsibility.  Now we want to know, “who’s a$$ to kick.”  Who do we hold responsible for everything? The reality is, it is us.

I’d like nothing more to get really mad and confront one guy from BP for this oil spill, on my way there I’d get my oil changed and fill my car with gas, drink from my plastic water bottle and realize that I am the guy who needs his butt kicked by the president.

In fact we all are, but that’s just one example.

So what if you were to analyze your voting record, your opinions that you’ve voiced, your blogs, and your facebook posts?  What is that all contributing to?

I wonder if war and the death penalty teach the youth of America that violence is the way to solve our problems.  Hitting back is good.   Do you proliferate the myth that violence can be redemptive?

I’m just left wondering, who killed Davey Moore?

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