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Everyone has a voice, and a choice to use it well, use it poorly, or not to use it at all.


Monday, February 3, 2014

A Few Reasons I'm Sad You Came Out as a Progressive Christian

This post is written in response to a piece written on the Formerly Fundie blog by Mr. Corey, titled "10 Reasons I'm Glad I Came Out as a Progressive Christian." If you haven't read it yet, this post will make more sense if you do.

For those who would rather not read the original I'll simply list his 10 points. This is necessarily an oversimplification, but I'd rather summarize than add to his words:


1. I’m no longer the person in the room with the strangest views.
2. I don’t have to vote for the Republican candidate for president simply because they’re a Republican.
3. Having the freedom to openly re-explore and rediscover my faith is exhilarating.
4. I’ve been welcomed by a community that doesn’t insist I become a clone of them.
5. I now know the new friends I make won’t one day walk away because they find out I’m progressive.
6. I no longer have to find creative theological arguments for why I’m excluding people.
7. I’ve learned how diverse the body of Christ is, and I’m actually free to express how much I appreciate that.
8. I’m free to follow the teachings of Jesus wherever that takes me.
9. I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not.
10. I’m comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life.


The first thought that springs to my mind is that most of these ten new developments in Mr. Corey's life have applied to me for quite a while. I'm no saint, yet I am also not a Progressive by these standards - in fact, I belong to the group Mr. Corey contrasts with progressive Christians - conservative evangelicals. 

The second thing I noticed is that most of the ten on the list involve public opinion - or at least the opinion of one's own group. Public opinion is important, but much less important than the truth and mission of the gospel which we as Christians devote ourselves to. 
I think what Mr. Corey is actually saying is that he realized he had very different political and moderately different theological views than the Christians he was hanging around. So, he decided to let them know he had different views, and maybe start hanging around Christians with more similar views. That sounds a little like Martin Luther, so as a conservative Evangelical I can't say that is necessarily wrong.

I do take issue with his decision to present conservative evangelicals as the enemy of each of the positives in the list above. Sin is not a conservative or progressive issue -it is a human issue. Likewise, his presentation of the progressive crowd as the only place one can find peace and authenticity seems pretty, well, un-progressive.


It sounds like Mr. Corey found more Christian treatment from the progressive Christians in his life than from the conservative evangelical Christians in his life. That is lamentable, but it does not mean a political ideology is the key to becoming like Christ. Christ is the key to becoming like Christ


So, if you have different political views than your friends, first realize politics is not the salvation of the world. Jesus is, and good men and women in political power are one of many instruments He uses to guide its course. In a community of Christians who realize Christ is the source of our unity, peace, and authenticity, "coming out" as progressive or regressive or democrat or communist ceases to matter much at all. It is like announcing to a group of golfing friends that you changed views on the proper way to make a rugby tackle, or telling a the executives of your business you decided to write your memos on a different brand of paper. 


Friday, August 10, 2012

Summer

A deeply nestled joy burns in my chest now, as I am a man of twenty two years (and not dead yet!), swimming through the stars on my eternal journey. Joy like this comes only from one place - and I mean joy of a particular kind, not the highest joy. The highest joy is Christ. This joy - born of a beauty and a breath - is wild and uncertain, full of hope and increasing confidence in the cupped places of the universe. Cupped and overflowing, like hands held under gleaming folds of liquid life from a mountain stream. And confidence grows as again and again I jump, slip, and walk into them. And turn to find another palm-full poured over me. (Whose hands are these? I recognize them by their holes.) A universe like this, full of these - well now, it is good.

The highest joy now, Christ alone, oh how my fitful soul exalts in him! There must be a certain way in which each spirit delights in Him. The pagan lost find no delight in Christ, and thus have no true delight at all. The redeemed - we who are like mean weeds transplanted in a magnificent garden of wild and wonderful growth - each appreciate the Son according to their capacities and natures. I have seen Christ from the bottom of a filthy hole, and His face is all the sweeter for it. I continually come in tatters, my feet bloody from a path of broken glass, my mind full of the shame of my foolishness and sin, and LEAP into the pool of Siloam. Christ himself. I called to you for help, and you healed me. Healing is better than help.

So now, with joys of different varieties expanding my insides, I enter into what I expect and pray is my last semester at college. Hopeful for the land of beyond is what I am. Two years ago I walked into my first class at EKU, my mind shaped by Nepal more than by High School, the taste of dal bat still lingering in my mouth. Four months from now, God willing, I will walk out of my last final, and into something else. Patagonia, California, Nepal, Kentucky, work, seminary, or a life of moderately modified vagrancy...God knows where and how. A lifetime of ministry, adventure, and good, solid, sanctifying, redeeming work. 


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Brotherhood

There is an earthy transcendence about time I spend with brothers in the backcountry.

There, around the fire, under the stars, roasting meat, we are as men have always been when away from women and the duties of the day.

We talk with solemn freedom of the questions which surround us like the night - metaphysics, philosophy, and ethics; thoughts of God and purpose- not because we want to assert our knowledge but because we perceive that the man across the fire has wisdom to speak to my wondering. Iron on iron. Not because we want to "vent" (achieve emotional relief through mere flapping of the gums), but because here there is deep understanding. David and Jonathan.

We joke about truly funny things, enjoying the carefree lilt of the woods. Chivalry burns in each heart, I reckon, but here there is no need for chivalry - only respect, and respect allows some of what chivalry does not. So we sit in silence, laugh like lions, recite a few lines, pile a dead tree on the conflagration, poke a stick through a few more pieces of meat and roast them like a dead mammoth. "I was once, I declare, a stone-age man".

If we stayed long enough (a few weeks or years, depending) we would begin to miss what we left behind. Mothers and sweethearts, mostly. Missing a rib. For now, for these few hours, we sit, smoke, eat, laugh, and drink in a peace and joy as pure as bachelors can know in this world.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

B90X

Here at Eastern Kentucky University, I am involved with Cru. Cru is short for Campus Crusade for Christ, one of many dynamic campus ministries throughout the world. Cru's mission is to win hearts for Christ, build them in their faith and understanding of the gospel, and send them to the ends of the earth (to the fulfillment of the great commission our Savior gives to all the Saints).

This semester, we are reading through the New Testament of the Bible (the portion of the Bible written shortly after Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection) in 90 days - a rate of about three chapters each day. Upperclassmen are writing short posts to expound and explain each day's reading. I encourage you to follow along when you get a chance. Here is a link to a recent post I wrote. (CLICK) There is also a link to a reading schedule if you would like to start the B90X challenge.

By His grace and for His glory,
Willis

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ecuador Highlights

I recently returned from Ecuador, where I spent over a week in ministry and mountaineering. It was my first trip to South America and to the southern hemisphere. Because I did not have the money to go, I asked many people I knew if they would like to support me, and God provided. I am thankful for their giving, and that God involved them in my ministry.  Here are some photos of my time there. The good photos were taken by my friends Lane Dumm and Ian Hall.

(courtesy of google image search)
This is Rucu Pinchincha (15,413 ft). We climbed it to acclimate to the altitude.


This is our team at Remanso De Amor (The Haven of Love), a wonderful ministry run by a great man of God, Pastor Ramiro (kneeling, center, in blue jacket).


On the way up to Cayambe, one of out 4x4s had a slight issue. Fixed (by someone else) with the help of my Gerber multitool!

(courtesy of google image search)
This is the "Refugio" or summit hut where we stayed before our climb on Cayambe


We left about midnight, so as to travel on the snow while it was still well frozen. This photo was taken a little before dawn. 


I think this photo was taken at or near our high point of 18,370 ft on Cayambe. I'm on the left, my good Canadian friend Ian is on the right. This is by far the highest I have ever climbed.

 On our last day of ministry at Remanso De Amor, I helped "teach" a class of 4 and 5 year old boys and girls. My role was a combination of entertainer and enforcer.

This trip broadened my perspective of ministry, built new and existing relationships, increased my knowledge  and confidence in mountaineering, and got me even more excited about the transformational potential of experiential education.

Here is a poem I wrote about my experience on Cayambe. It may give you a better understanding of what it was like.


Cayambe

"Small, cold, slow start into the dark:
Big black boots make noise but no mark
On the big, black, volcanic rock
Piled like an old rascal piles blocks.

Snow comes white to meet us, laying
Flat and froze while we stand saying
Or praying thoughts to men and God,
As cold sits solid on the slopes.

Twelve steel knives give steady traction,
Slow, warm thoughts endow each action
With drive and purpose, happy glow,
Which does not mind that we go slow.

Our headlamps mimic Orion
Above, tramp on towards Zion,
Sing a hymn, chant a long low poem,
Stir minds like the pool of Siloam.

Stomp, stamp, champ, break and eat and drink
Some tea, punch out the chill and think
As we start again: this wild place
Loves like mother kissing my face.

Feel strong, sing song, some turn down
The chance to summit, I press on
Till dawn begins to break-make light,
Snowflake blur: walk by faith not by sight.

Surge forward now, one last good try,
Five thousand, six hundred meters high.
Summit like a moth out of reach
Flies away, we flow down without speech.

Each one reached a high point of soul,
Each mind wrapped it up as a whole,
Stowed it, stewed it, like a soup bone;
Shaped it, placed it, like a square stone."

I would love to go back to Ecuador some day, whether it be for mountaineering or ministry or both. What is the next step for me? By now I am done with the first week of the semester, with two more semesters to go after this one, God willing. This summer is an uncertainty, as is the whole expanse of time after graduation. I will walk as a sojourner in the path he has put me on, and continue to 1) search out the good deeds he has prepared for me to do 2) fight against the sin which still has a hold on this mortal body 3) keep my eyes in eagerness upon heaven and Christ.  All of this life is wonderful, but it is incomplete, and eternity beckons.

This, and all else good, is only by His grace and for His glory.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ecuador


This Christmas break, I have the opportunity to go to Ecuador with Summit Adventure to spend nine days in ministry and mountaineering. I view this as a phenomenal opportunity, because it combines two of the things that excite me the most: climbing mountains and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Mt. Cotopaxi

 For about half of the time,  I would stay in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, and serve with the Ecuadorian ministry Remanso de Amor, sharing the gospel in a variety of ways. The other half of the time would be spent in mountaineering training, including attempts on some impressive peaks. This training interests me because it will teach skills I need to know to pursue my vision for outdoor ministry in the future.

Quito, capital of Ecuador

I will send out letters to raise support for this trip in the next few days. Having seen God provide many thousands of dollars to sustain me in Nepal gives me total faith that He will can raise the $2,200 necessary to send me to Ecuador. I am praying that God will move people to give of what He has given them to support me in this ministry. I am excited for this opportunity, and hopeful that God will make it reality!

Visit my Ecuador Updates page for more updates about Ecuador.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blood and the Gospel

I just found this draft I began several months ago. Now it is ready to go!

I find myself with less school work than I had thought tonight, so I will write about something that Geography 100 brought to mind today. We watched the documentary "The Devil's Miner", about two young boys working in a Bolivian mine in very dangerous conditions. This film points to the gospel so clearly I could barely believe it as I watched.

Pointer # 1 - The Need to be Close to God
 Two young boys, one 10 and the other 14, go down into the mines daily. It is called "the mine that eats people", because so many have died there. In environments where life is a search for survival, rather than pleasure, human behavior and mental function changes. Maslow's hierarchy of needs will tell you as much, but I prefer the testimony of my friend, who recounted to me the experience of his close friend while on a glacier expedition. This friend, exposed to the elements and in an environment of high perceived risk, stopped thinking of school, and getting a job, and girls. His mind was totally focused on getting to the next place to stop, get warm, eat food, and sleep. He involuntarily focused on his most basic needs.

The situation of the Bolivian child-miners was somewhat different - they had higher actual risk, but less minute-by-minute discomfort. Their environment, however, caused them to focus on basic survival: don't slip down the shaft, don't jar the dynamite. And, interestingly, they were always very careful to pay homage to Tio. Tio was a idol made of clay, with horns and red eyes. When outside the mine, the boys went to church. When inside the mine, they worshiped Tio. An older miner said "Outside we believe in God who is our only savior. Inside things change. Inside we believe in the devil. Inside our God is the devil - Satan. Our belief is split into two worlds." Such a strange dichotomy is difficult to understand - there are very few I think who worship both God and the devil. I think it can be understood better by taking into account that those who are in dangerous situations are most likely to relate to deity as a protector, and come to deity in search of safety.
In this paradigm, it is understandable (though certainly not commendable) that the boys would worship the Christian God while they were in a church and felt close to Him, but not do so in a mine, where they felt far from Him. In that mine, where they were in danger and afraid, they still had an elemental desire for safety, paired with an instinct/urge that safety comes from spiritual power. What prompted them to turn to the devil for this safety, I cannot say; probably the underground blackness had something to do with it. The takeaway, apart from sorrow for their miserable state, is a recognition of the universal human need to be close to a spiritual protector.

Pointer # 2 - The Means to be Close to God
The idol Tio and small offerings to it provided the day to day peacekeeping between the spiritual and the miners. However, their big yearly ceremony gives us even more insight. Keep in mind that this is a human construct to fill a human need: the need to be right with God, to procure his blessing, avoid his wrath, and be close to him. (Isn't it interesting that almost as common as sacrifice to a god, is the perception that god has something against us?) Of course, it is possible that the perception of the divine is itself a human construct. However, given the global similarities between sacrificial rites, I think it is unlikely. Case in point: the Bolivians brought a llama to the mouth of the cave. As children looked on in a mixture of fear and fascination, a knife was sharpened. A bowl was brought to collect the blood. As the llamas throat was cut, its blood was collected in the bowl and thrown on the top of the stone entrance to the mine. A woman put blood on her hands and began smearing it on the faces of the individual miners.

Now compare that to accounts of Old Testament sacrifices in the Bible. A lot of similarities, aren't there? (click: Exodus 12:1-7) It is also very similar to the animal sacrifices I have seen in Hindu and Buddhist Nepal. Apparently, humanity has a basic understanding that blood is required to buy life, that the blood of an innocent living thing can buy safety for another. Where does that understanding come from?

It comes from God, that we might understand the GOSPEL, that the innocent Jesus paid for our sin, died the death we deserved, exposed himself to the just wrath of God so that we can taste the fullness of God's just grace. Wrath means eternal exposure to God's anger, Grace means eternal immersion in God's loving and awesome presence.

This is elemental, instinctual, but not pagan. Blood is not pagan. This following after Christ is not primarily comprised of silk ties in Church, of not cussing and being a good parent. Those things are the superficial (and good) veneer above the bloody, gruesome sacrifice. Physically He was an ugly spectacle, and spiritually He holds a beautiful truth. When you know that Truth, even his physical sacrifice becomes endowed with a majestic beauty amidst the horror. The sacrificial lamb is Jesus the Christ, and He knows perfectly what the Bolivian and Nepali sense dimly, and what most of America has chosen to forget: salvation comes through blood. Life comes only through death.