Saturday, February 27, 2016

Putting the Bern on Christian Charity

Bernie Sanders has taken the American populace like wildfire and many Christians and conservatives, while opposed to his ideals seem clueless as to the reason he has become popular. Bernie isn't popular because he's promising free stuff. He's popular because he sees some of the problems in America clearly and is actually trying to address them.

There is a vast amount of injustice present in the US, largely because of two factors: Finance and Race. Of the two, finance probably plays a larger role. I say this because, while white individuals are given more implicit credit in general, if a non-white gentleman dresses as though he has money and acts respectably, as we expect the wealthy or well-off to act, then he will be treated with greater respect than he would if he were wearing grubby jeans and an undershirt.

What is Bernie doing in his campaign? He is addressing the financial and justice gap between the haves and have-nots and, honestly, he is the only candidate to do so. Every other candidate is geared towards the middle class, upper class, or businesses. So, that makes sense, then, why many of Bernie's supporters are from the lower echelons of the socioeconomic status ladder. It also explains why many millennials have flocked to his cause.

I don't know if you've noticed, but almost every social justice movement in the past few years has been spearheaded by millennials. We have seen how pure Capitalism chews up and spits out those on the bottom rungs for the sake of those higher up. We see how difficult it is to escape cyclical patterns, like poverty, or even abuse and neglect. We also have seen how the church has done nothing.

Is it any wonder, then, that some of our youngest and brightest minds are campaigning for greater governmental oversight? They see that something needs to be done. They have grown jaded towards the church, seeing entrenched hierarchies and hypocrisy, turning away towards other philosophies in which adherents actually live out the ideals they espouse, and embracing ideals of humanism.

So, then, why would a cohort disillusioned with the church petition the church or God to act in the face of injustice? 

That society is turning instead towards the government, the highest establishment of man, to right these wrongs is the greatest indictment against the modern Western church.

Some Christians are realising this, using passages such as Acts 2:42-47 to support socialist policies, justifying society's leaning on the state and encouraging Christians to get behind this goal because that is how the early church acted.

I would argue this point. We say the early church engaged in socialist policies, because we are familiar with those words. I would use a different word, however, to describe the church's actions: Charity.

Charity, as defined by Webster is:

  1. Benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity

    1. Generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also, aid given to those in need
    2. An institution engaged in relief of the poor
    3. Public provision for the relief of the needy

    1. A gift for public benevolent purposes
    2. An institution (as a hospital) founded by such a gift
  2. Lenient judgment of others
Charity is derived from the Latin, Caritas, which, according to is a love identified with justice and goodwill.

Now, if charity and socialist policies have similar goals, why do I support one and not the other?

Charity is an outpouring of love. It is a response of obedience to the love of God for all man, a response of worship to God, and a response from the overflow of the love and kindness of God given to us.

Paul writes very clearly in Romans 2 that the kindness of God is for the leading of man to repentance. In John 13:12-17 Jesus gives the example of servanthood in washing his disciples' feet and shows them what obedience looks like. In Matthew 25, Jesus very explicitly indicates that those who follow him will care for the needy. Even James, the brother of Jesus, states that worship that God finds pure and unadulterated cares for the needy.

Socialist policies, on the other hand, substitute love for law. God is removed from the picture and the state becomes the provident entity. Where before, love addressed iniquity and spurred men and women to action in order to help lift those able to self-sufficiency and care for those unable, we now have the state implementing a state of stasis, in which all are seen to, but are not encouraged to do more, either through taking from the wealthy or merely giving to the poor. To give a medical analogy, where before we had curative treatment with some palliative care, we now have total palliative care. Where once we had antibiotics, now we have morphine.

So, that's my beef on social policies, but here's the thing, we brought this on ourselves.

When we, as the church, stopped loving others out of charity, we waived our rights to caring for the needy and standing up for the oppressed. When we started caring more about our wallets and our Sunday dresses, our houses and cars than our neighours, we passed the role of caring and tending for our neighbour to someone else.

Church, let me ask you some questions.

Who built the majority of hospitals around the world?
Who built the majority of homeless shelters?
Who started the majority of orphanages around the world?
Who advocated for the rights of natives to colonising powers?

Now, Church, let me ask you some more questions.

Who runs the majority of hospitals around the world today?
Who runs the majority of homeless shelters today?
Who runs the majority of orphanages around the world today?
Who advocates for the rights of indigines and the previously disadvantaged to the societal powers today?

Answer those questions both in context of the US and worldwide, because the difference in answers may surprise you.

To the church in America, I ask you, what is more important? Do we resist socialism because it infringes on our individual, social freedoms or do we give of ourselves to those in need, rendering socialism unnecessary?
"For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." - Luke 9:24

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Deal or No Deal?

You know when you're hitting the wall, like, so bad you'd prefer to write a blog post instead of pore over powerpoint slides of nephrons?

Well, guess where I am.

Actually, I wanted to copy something over from my Devo Notes page that I thought was particularly read-worthy. I generally don't like disseminating my devotional notes, using the blog more as a means of accountability and a tool for higher processing, but this little blip, I thought, was worth sharing.
"So, when you think about it, God's being very gracious in allowing us to exist, enduring the stench of our sin for the sake of redeeming as many as possible back to Him."
That's kind of an arbitrary, somewhat morbid statement, but it's true. I didn't get what I deserved when I accepted Jesus' sacrifice. Rather, What I deserved was taken on by Christ and instead, I get what He deserved.

That's not really a fair deal, when you think about it. It's like trading my entire potential med school debt (-$200k club, here we come) for a $1m check. I get the money, he gets the debt.

So, next time you're thinking that God's cutting us a raw deal in only letting the Christians enter heaven, take some time to think and realise that He's cutting his own throat* instead

*Great, now I'm picturing a dude in a robe with long white hair, moustache, and beard carrying a box with neckstrap, peddling salvation like CMOT Dibbler's pies

Thursday, February 18, 2016


I want to take the time right now to speak on a serious topic that's been particularly heartbreaking for me.

Those of you who've been reading my blog for a while know I grew up in Cape Town and, while I may not currently live there, I have many connections back home and so, I see a large amount of what goes on and what some of the key issues are.

South Africa and the US have a good number of similarities, as far as social dynamics go. One such similarity that's been building in my awareness is the disparity of perception and treatment based on the perception of wealth and degree of whiteness.

And that grieves me.

At the University of Cape Town, a number of events have occurred within the past couple weeks. I won't pretend to know the full thought and intention, but they prompt me to see that many people, students especially, are fed up with the non-progress of social equality in SA.

In the US, I see the federal neglect of water quality in Flint, where ~ 63% of the population is non-white and 42% of the population is below the poverty line. I see awards ceremonies where black artists are awarded in an "urban" category, but don't even really place in the grand running, or where black actors and actresses are only recognised if they make movies and shows appealing to a broader (read: white) audience.

We still live in a society where one's degree of whiteness or affluence affords an individual certain subconscious benefits and, let's be honest, we judge affluence by adhering to a white standard of dress and decorum.

Here's where it hits home for me: my children will not be afforded the same generosity of subconscious treatment that I have received. They will be born into a society in which even a drop of melanin darker than an Italian or body features more akin to Africa than Europe are sufficient to unconsciously define them as "lesser".

For over 50 years in the US and over 20 years in SA, racial equality has been the law, but as many conservatives are quick to point out on issues like gun legislation: you can't legislate behaviour.

White America, white South Africa, open your eyes. Your brothers and sisters, your countrymen are overlooked, underrepresented, and unseen. 
When someone with a different background and a little more melanin than you moves into your neighbourhood, how do you respond? Do you act differently if they speak, act, and dress like you? 
What about a new hire at your work, do you assume that he earned the position if he's white, but was given a position to help "diversify" the company if he's hispanic, black, or another such marginalised group?  
How do you talk about other people groups? Are you "Us" and the others "Them"? 
How do you react when you see some white teenagers walking down the street compared to black teenagers?

Church, what about you? Look within your walls. How many different colours can you see?
Are you monoracial or diverse?
Do you have an even spread across racial lines or only a token few not of the majority?
Are you reaching across racial boundaries to show Christ's love?
Are you stepping out in faith where you might be uncomfortable to take on the plight of another?

Take a look at James 1:27. Need I remind you, Church, that we are all one people under Christ, as Paul makes clear that there is no division like Jew or Greek? Why, then, do we allow this disparity of treatment by race to persist? 

If these things are troubling you, maybe striking a chord, I urge you to read a couple posts (The Passion of the Chris & Sodomy: A South African Love Story) from a pastor friend, Brett "Fish" Anderson.

Now, all that said, here's the thing: I'm not much better.

I don't want you thinking that I'm giving all my money to the poor or that I go every weekend to the run-down parts of town to do some kind of charity work. I don't.

I don't want you thinking that I am that amazing white man who understands the entirety of the racial struggle and can serve as cultural translator for both parties. Ask my wife - I've earned the right to ask her her thoughts on the modern race dynamics and have come to the point that I recognise I don't understand. And that's okay, because I'm willing to put in the hard work to be humble and ask.

~ ~ ~

Some of you may be wondering why I'm targeting everything at the white population. After all, there is racism perpetrated by other groups and negative attitudes and behaviours from other sides as well. To put it simply, I am white. I have no right to dictate patterns of behaviour to those not like me, especially when people like me have contributed to the problems currently in place