Grace: Redefined ?

September 26, 2010

Is “Grace” a dirty word?

By its dictionary definition, grace means “beauty of form,” or “a pleasing or attractive quality.” Other definitions include “favor or good will,” “mercy,” and “pardon.”  In Christian theology, Grace usually adapts these definitions to become God’s Love, God’s favor, God’s pardon, God’s influence, or as the good folk(s) who posted it on Wikipedia word it [under Grace (Christianity)] “a spontaneous, unmerited gift of divine favor for his [God’s] children- a favor most manifest in the salvation of sinners.” Overlooking the obvious lack of inclusive language which in a “dictionary” definition in 2010 borders on theistic silliness, the Wiki for this obviously comes down very specific on one (which isn’t the only) traditional interpretation of this “grace” concept.

As a religion student, I have experienced an overload of grace these past few weeks–in concept that is. Studying Medieval Theology in one course and  Reformation and Catholic Renewal Theology in another course, I’ve been pouring over the nuances various Christian intellectuals have devised in working out what this grace thing is all about and who it is truly for. In other areas, say in my study of Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism, I’ve yet to find a strong parallel to the concept; is Grace in this manner unique wholly to Christian thought?

There’s a world of difference between “God’s Love, freely given” and “God’s favor, freely given.” Favor translates to preference, as in “chosen,” as in: God picking one person (or group) over another. This is an old concept, one that predates the towering thought of Augustine whose radical approach to the doctrine of grace shadowed over every version to emerge after in theological quandaries of grace; the idea of God “choosing” and having favor for one over another is actually found in scripture itself, notably “Jacob have I loved but Esau I hated.” Paul quotes that Genesis passage in his letter to the Romans, a letter that was pretty much the sum total of Martin Luther’s theology and arguably Calvin’s as well. The concept of election is one of the many threads that runs throughout the entire Old Testament and that concept was given a baptism and thus seen through a Christian lens in the letters and documents that became the New Testament.

Yet…election as expounded by Christian thinkers starting with Augustine in 4th century CE is something quite different than election as followed by most Jewish thinkers, believers, and expounders of the Hebrew scriptures. Election for the Israelites meant they were chosen by God to be a special people. That choseness resulted in responsibility; that election held those in Covenant with God to be keepers of Torah and to be the people through whom God would transform all of the world. As I understand it, the Israelites were elected to be held to a higher standard, to be set apart, to live and be the way that God’s love would be shown to all of the world. The status of being God’s elect for those descendants of Abraham and Moses came with an obligation to do justice for all–to be mindful of the stranger, the outsider of the clan and people, but not with the goal of bringing that outsider into the faith; typically in history Jews have not thought others must be Jewish to be in right standing with God.

So, as I mentioned earlier, as of yet I haven’t found a true parallel to the Christian concept of grace in other faiths. In Islam, the law can be held by any who submits to God–one isn’t expected to wait to be chosen, one simply must submit to the One true God and keep God’s commands and ultimately “salvation” comes through that submission. In Hinduism (though that’s somewhat of a misnomer since Hinduism is a wide range of beliefs and practices amongst its sects), karma isn’t based on anything arbitrary–you pay the price for your actions, you are not chosen to be born a certain way. In Buddhism, enlightenment is not a random outside placed benefit, it is something one must strive for. And as just discussed, Judaism sees election as a responsibility more than a reward.

Christian theology starting with Augustine did something quite different, however. Augustine wrote in favor of free will and one’s personal involvement in salvation early in his career, but claimed that grace simply wouldn’t allow him to hold to such false perceptions–in the end, Augustine submitted to what he felt was a rather hard doctrine but one that was true and reflected the Sovereignty of God–grace for some, but not all. For Augustine, Grace became the will of God. Grace is God’s favor for some–God’s act of placing a person in a particular time and place, that they might be born in a context in which they would hear the gospel, accept it as true, live it out, and persevere until the end. Grace became an all encompassing act, one reflecting God’s utmost sovereignty; God has such complete control and acts in such particular attention to the details that no one will attain salvation without God arranging every detail in a way that they will hear and accept the one exclusive and particular truth. Furthermore, no one can know who is truly given that gift of grace because for it to be real it must “persevere” until the end of that persons life; one might be dying in a hospital bed yet be undergoing a transformation born of grace and the rest of the world would not know it; one might lead a perfectly moral life until the day they die yet “slip into sin” that very day, hours before dying and thus ruining the whole run. Yet all the while, these events are ultimately through the actions of God. No one can choose to do the good in Augustinian thought–one can, in their human sinfulness inherited with birth, only opt for evil. The act of doing good, the act of accepting truth and persevering is a gift of God–it is Grace–and it is given freely by God with no personal merit earning it . One cannot even prepare for God’s grace–it comes when it does and it is irresistible. A person can neither reject nor pursue it. This works out to justice for Augustine because only God is good and due to Augustine’s conception of original sin, we are all born deserving hell and damnation so the very fact that God opts to “elect” even a few is merciful.

Now, Augustine’s view of Grace, though radical at the time of it’s introduction, became the norm in most aspects; it was from that perception that all later Christian thinkers worked, either in favor or in opposition to it. Prosper of Aquitaine worked tirelessly in defending and spreading this view at the beginning of the medieval period before developing his own unique view which separated Grace into 4 categories (running the gamut of general grace which is love for all to the real saving grace which is only for a few). Eventually near the end of the Medieval period, those like Julian of Norwich hinted at a universal grace which would result in the love and salvation of all in the end (though Universal Salvation had already been teased at and worked on by, to name one person, the brilliant early Christian theologian Origen who was later declared a heretic). Then came the time of the Reformation and grace became a key concept in the division between the Catholic Renewal and the formation of Protestant churches. When the dust settled, protestants like Luther and Calvin held tightly to a freely given, unmerited grace that is irresistable and for some, not all; this grace is saving and a person cannot work towards or even prepare themselves for it. Grace works to make our sinful self appear righteous to God since Christ “stands in” for us through his living sacrifice (which opens the whole can of atonement since it assumes substitution atonement is the correct view from the start, an issue there isn’t space for here). For Luther, you can never be good enough so the idea that Grace is random and free and not contingent on any good works was very freeing; his anxiousness and certainty of burning in hell could be abated and he could relax in the knowledge of his own justification and head to the pub for beers. Calvin held to the same basic theory but rather than relaxing as a result of believing it instead began the process of Puritanically structuring Genevan society to reflect “proper” Christian piety to display the affect and proof of justification. Now for Catholic Renewal Theology, on the other hand, as expressed at The Council of Trent and in books like Teresa of Avila’s autobiography, a person must do a bit of work in their own justification. Those like Teresa wrote of “preparing” one’s self for spiritual depth by praying no matter how difficult it might seem. The Catholic Church came down on the side of salvation coming through both faith and works, that a person must prepare themselves for receiving Grace. Even though that preparation is aided by God it still involves the choice and active participation of the individual.

Okay…so wading through and contemplating these various looks at Grace and salvation, trying my best to understand them, I began pondering how odd it is that a word that sounds so compassionate can mean so many things that are exclusive, cold, and even distant.  I’ve written on this site before about things like salvation and even posted my own reformulation of the main articles typically contained in a statement of faith, and I realize my ideas and opinions take on a much more pluralistic view of things so much of traditionally exclusivity I reject out of hand. I also realize that in the past, even in earlier articles on this site, I’ve rejected positions without attempting to fully understand them. When I first jumped back into studying religion and theology, I came down fast and hard on disproving or discrediting a lot of traditional views in favor of the “correct” ones I had discovered; a lot of that came from my own hang-ups, of seeing the drastic difference between the type of theology and church I had found after years of not having one and the type I thought I had known and rejected. To be honest, my raking over the coals of a figure like John Piper occurred when I didn’t fully understand the basis of the theology he was trying to reclaim, specifically that of Augustinian Grace.  So looking now at Augustine and trying to be objective, I will say that there is beauty and care in it; the idea that God moved every molecule to choose you as an individual must seem like pure awesomeness to one who accepts it. It pictures a detailed and fully involved God who is concerned with every detail and the belief that you are one of God’s chosen must give an incredible since of “somebodyness” to a person, especially someone who has and is facing terrible situations. Furthermore, this theory can fit nicely together in a package with scripture, church, and service. The idea that this concept can be found in scripture is not false; it links together nicely and it is certainly a thread there to see and hold to. I think a view of inerrancy in conjunction with a theology that holds biblical authority at the highest works well with this theory.

But…I don’t think this theory is a must, certainly not in the way that Augustine did. He felt it caught him and forced him to declare it even though he personally felt it to be a cold and hard doctrine. I see many other threads that run through scripture–the care for the stranger, the struggle for liberation, the radical inclusiveness of God’s love, the importance of good works, the here and now ever present yet needed-to-be-worked for Kingdom of God, the healing ministry of Jesus, etc. Everyone has a canon-within-a-canon, that set of passages and books that highlight a persons theology and if the Predestination and Original Sin crowd have Genesis and Romans, I hold even stronger to James, Luke, Exodus, sayings of the prophets and particular Psalms, etc. Furthermore, since I feel Scripture is holy more because it has become so through communal history and I believe that it is only in instances where the Spirit moves through a reading of it that it truly becomes the word of God, I certainly don’t put it at the top of my list of authority nor do I hold to a theory of inerrancy. I reject original sin for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is that I don’t hold to a literal Adam and Eve story (and yes, I’ve heard more post-modern views that attempt to keep it even in recognizing that story as Mythic). I don’t doubt humankind’s ability to do tremendous evil, and I certainly see that being born into systems of oppression and injustice assuredly start us off in a world of sin, but I do not start at Augustine’s starting point which assumes we all deserve damnation (well, I don’t hold to a traditional hell view either).

So I’m seeking a redefinition of the word Grace; where too often in the past it has come to signify exclusiveness, particularity, and the damned, I see it better defined by its other definitions- “beauty of form,” and “God’s love.” Grace is an inherent goodness of God; God by God’s very essence is the quality we perceive as love in the purest sense. God runs through all of creation and God is creation and all of creation came from that first spark of creation when God divided out and God continues to divide and spread and move outward, creating galaxies. Grace emenates from God and is there all the while, waiting for us as humans to recognize it, open ourselves to it, be filled with it and thus be filled with the Spirit; Grace is the beauty and goodness of God and God’s creation that not even the vileness of injustice, opression and sin can truly destroy. Grace is there for all of us if we choose to let it take us over. Once it does, we are free from the shackles of misguided goals and systems and our ultimate goal is then salvation of self (peace, contenment, love) and the work for justice so that all might receive that same gift. Grace is here and now and also afterwards in whatever truly awaits those it fills.

Peace.

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Justin Townes Earle arrived at Headliners in Louisville, Ky last night fresh from a night in jail in Indianapolis. According to JTE, it was a misunderstanding and emerged from “trumped” charges; the report here has quite a different spin on it. If it’s correct, I hope for the health and talent of this artist that he works his issues out. Regardless of what happened at the Radio Radio gig in Indy, Justin was in excellent form in Louisville.  He worked the stage and the audience with wit and charm. His voice is great, and matched with the overall acoustics of this venue, that voice sounded even better live than on record which is a rare occurrence these days. Jason Isbell, formerly of the Drive By Truckers and a great solo artist as well, plays guitar with Justin on the new record so I had hoped he’d also be on the road with him since he had already left the Truckers when I began seeing them live a few years ago; but it was a pretty streamlined show-Justin with an acoustic guitar assisted by a fiddle player for most numbers. One of the best moments came when Justin sat the guitar down and gave us an a capella cover of Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927.” There were a lot of great songs–“Midnight at the Movies,” his version of “Can’t Hardly Wait,” which he introduced as “Country and Westerberg,” noting that without that fusion there would be no Ryan Adams. Hearing his songs like “What I Mean to You,” make you feel as if you’re catching the spirit of Hank Williams (Sr) on the stage. His version of Guthrie’s “They Killed John Henry” was phenomenal, as it is on record, and every track he played off of his new record translated well to the stage–“Move Over Mama,” “Harlem River Blues,”  and especially the closer,  “Rogers Park.”  JTE blends the blues, country, and gospel in such a way that the real power of live Americana music comes through in great strength. So all in all, a wonderful show and combined with a very entertaining set by the Louisville band The Ladybirds who played a great bluesy rockabilly set of original songs and Jessica Lea Mayfield who did a very nice acoustic set, this was more than worth the price of admission ($11-12).

So, what about the album? Well, released the same day as the much anticipated new record by Jamey Johnson, which many are already calling the country record of the year, “Harlem River Blues” has my pick as country record of the year–sorry Jamey. Admittedly, Jamey works within the framework of traditional country more than Justin. Jamey hearkens back to the best parts of mainstream country whereas Justin is well on the periphery and could easily be better classified as “Americana,” with his mixture of folk, blues, gospel, and rhythm. “Harlem River Blues” is just a bit better than “Midnight at the Movies,” making it his most consistent work yet. Though I loved many individual “Movies” songs better than any of the individual ones here so far (“Mama’s Eyes,” “Someday I’ll be Forgiven for This”), I have a feeling that with time the overall flow of this record will win out. “Christchurch Woman,” “Rogers Park,” and “One More Night in Brooklyn” are fantastic. The title track and it’s album-closing refrain encase this entire affair in the ethos of celebrating giving up with joy in the mood and despair in the words. Yet it’s not a downer of a record, it’s very fun yet real. Whether singing about characters or himself, Justin places modern situations in the realm of a weird mixture of dust-bowl America and neon-light escapism of ’50s era Nashville.

Earle may have first gained attention for his famous father-Steve Earle–but it’s always been clear that although he makes outsider country music as his father did, his style and sound is wholly in his own path, with the obvious nods to Woody and every other great “traveling signer-songwriter,” as he would be apt to say.

So, if Justin’s arrest Thursday night is actually an indication of drug and alcohol problems, a sign that he’s struggling with the same forces that led him to heroin addiction and a time in rehab in his youth, then here’s wishing him strength and conviction to address that. With so few authentic and talented voices in modern day country music, Justin’s talent is too much to waste.

* The pictures from the live set were taken by my wife. The full setlist for the show can be found here.

Pop Culture Underdogs

September 13, 2010

“Resident Evil 3D” passing up “The American” in the weekend gross was the crowning cap on a week of “the underdogs” in pop art taking a beating. In a way, I guess it’s a bit odd to call a major motion picture powered by a “leading man” like George Clooney an “underdog,” but when you’re a character piece tinged with art-house leaning noir, full of subtlety and atmosphere and often slower on dialogue and action, in competition with the wham-bam flash and pop end-of-summer cineplex films, you’re an underdog. Now, I have no idea for sure if “Resident Evil 3D” is a terrible movie; it might be a lot of fun, but if it is I’m guessing it’s of the big dumb fun variety, which has its place but always seems to be the main course for the majority of folks. Conversely, I know that audiences and critical opinions are divided over “The American,” and while I admit it’s not wholly original or ground-breakingly new, I’m in the love it category and think it’s near the top of the best films that have been released so far this year. It certainly wasn’t destined to stay atop the high-gross mountain for long, if at all, but amidst the other few rumblings I spotted this past week, I found it to be a significant cap on these other pop culture happenings.

“Paste Magazine” announced early last week that it would soon be “suspending” its print publication, and details haven’t been too clear as to how extensive the digital version will be in the future. “Paste” has been a great indie magazine for about a decade, it has self-proclaimed its “search for signs of life in pop culture,” and even with the occasional hit-and-miss, it has done that quite well. Awhile back , Paste switched to a format that allowed subscribers to build a package out of their subscription including a print copy, access to a digital format of the issue, and a download of the 20+ song sampler that had previously been included in hard copy form with each issue. Now, it seems that financial problems have forced out that print version–I’m of the old school in which I find it much more easy and palatable to be able to hold a tangible copy of what I am reading, a preference that is steadily being forced to adapt in many school and work areas for me. But the question becomes, with a print form being axed, will the folks be producing and building a full magazine to be read through the viewing apps or will the site simply become a typical grouping of links, lists, and blogs?  The site material has drifted that way lately. I know many fans decried the possible demise of “Paste,” some angry that long-running and more main-stream publications like “Rolling Stone” continue on. I’m a fan and subscriber of both, have always found a wealth of great material in both and have often found it amusing when reviews conflict glaringly between the editorial board of each respective publication over a current film or album since my own personal opinion is often aligned or against one or the other. That said, “Paste” has done a great service for some time and I have been introduced to countless acts I otherwise would never have discovered without their articles, suggestions, reviews, and samplers. Here’s hoping they find a way to compete and stay relevant in the digital age.

Also on the digital front, Amie Street announced they will be closing up their site at the end of this month and will be moving their material to Amazon’s digital download department. Amazon has been a backer for Amie Street quite awhile now, but I can’t help but wonder if some of the biggest appeals of Amie will be gone now with full control by Amazon. For those who have never heard of the site, Amie Street is a digital downloading pay-per-item site that focuses on independent music, though it has some material from semi-major labels.  What’s been great and original by Amie Street is that they found the arbitrary 99 cent per song charge of folks like i-Tunes (who, by the way, have upped that to 1.29 on many of their catalog songs). On Amie, musicians can post their material and much of the material there is free; once a particular song or album starts selling significantly and creating buzz, that material starts to go up in price until it maxes out a cap which is never as much as the people at i-Tunes anyway. Consequently, you can get a lot of great songs for 12-75 cents a piece and be introduced to a lot of artists you would have never heard of otherwise. Hopefully the bargain buys will continue at Amazon and if not, hopefully independent artists will still be able to upload and distribute their music to larger audiences.

The last “underdog” to fall this week really didn’t occur this week, I just happened to read about it on the i-fanboy comic book website. One of the best, most original and important comics I’ve read all year has been “Unknown Soldier,” from DC’s adult-geared (in the literary not pornographic sense) Vertigo line. “Soldier” followed the mishaps and missions of a doctor turned fighter in Uganda and across many troubled parts of Africa, touching on every conceivable social and hot-button geographic issue while also telling a vastly entertaining, suspenseful, exciting, and heartbreaking story complete with vividly drawn visuals. I found out about this upcoming cancellation after reading the last 2 great issues, and according to Josh Dysart, the writer, the series is slated to end at issue 25, leaving 2 more to go. Josh claims he’s been aware of the possibility for awhile and so he has geared the story to where it can end logically and solidly at that point. I’m hoping so, and I’m sure where it ends will cap off a great 25 issue run, but had “Unknown Soldier” been allowed to run for however long the author’s original story intentions projected, it would have been much better. Another Vertigo story, “Air,” about the politics of air travel in the 21st century (with hefty doses of fantasy, action, history and science-fiction thrown in) is also getting the cut…yet we have 10 or so “Avengers” or “X-Men” titles running over at Marvel being bought up each month by often the same age group. There’s nothing wrong with a well done super-hero tale, and the average non-comic fan would have no idea of the potential and depth many of those can have, but come on! I’d rather see a market with 1 or 2 “X Men” books for every 5 or 6 various “Air” or “Unknown Soldier” books. Anyway, Vertigo always runs this risk. I got very invested in an attached to “The Vinyl Underground” and “Young Liars,” to name a few from recent years, only to see them cut short long before their natural run would have lasted. Vertigo has produced a lot of epic book-shelf musts, like “The Sandman,” “Preacher,” “Y the Last Man,” “100 Bullets,” and the it’s-actually-still-making-it “Scalped,” but there have been far too many great artist and writer driven original works cut short long before their time due to the numbers game. A lot of comic fans understandably “wait for the trade,” as a result–waiting for collected story-arcs printed in book form, often waiting to start reading them when the entire series is finished; but if we all do that, if none of us support the original titles while they’re struggling for sales, many or most of them won’t get the company’s grace and will be preemptively ended. So, if you buy a few titles a month why not make at least 1 or 2 of them an independent (like RASL or Echo) or a Vertigo upstart–like “The Unwritten,” “Sweet Tooth,” or “Greek Street”– it appears that “Scalped” will make it, and even though “American Vampires” is young it’s generating significant staying-power buzz, so support a struggling work that is creatively fantastic and help it stay around until it naturally ties up.

Peace.

For all the talk of inclusion we often hear at the “progressive” end of the spectrum, I think there are notable exclusions to who we truly want to “include.” I’m not pointing fingers though, not without having the other four point right back at myself anyway.

Once we jump through the hurdles of gaining a little rationality and sense, once we strip away are inherent prejudices that we have developed simply by living and growing up in our environments, we can begin to learn how to extend our care, love, and welcome to those typically outside of the circle of inclusivity. The “least of these” in our midst become in; and that group of folks can be a lot of different things depending on where you live in this country. The battle for gay rights, though far from over, has at least finally extended a “place at the table” for LGBTQ folks, at least in most progressive factions of the field. Muslims in America, as recent news has shown, have a way to go before a good portion of America welcomes them, but many in the religious and political landscape of America see their place at the table as undeniable and welcome. Those of races, creeds, and countries of origin different than our own can clearly be seen as those we should include. The homeless, at least at face value, are obvious contenders for those “least of these” that our love and care must extend to—though it’s doubtful that in the flesh they will often get a “spot at the table” in many places. Most churches and social organizations have grown past the stigma of a disease like AIDS so much so that fundraising charity walks in support of AIDS patients and research are now the norm.

This is all well, this is all good, and the work to be done on behalf of and in cooperation with all of the above-mentioned communities is far from over; those of us in traditionally “liberal” churches and political groups certainly can’t pat ourselves on the back with a “mission accomplished” affirmation in this regard yet. But there’s a type of person that we all find difficult to extend this sort of care too—in fact, a sort of person(s) we find it difficult to extend even basic conversation to.

Will D. Campbell is a Baptist preacher who was heavily involved in the Civil Rights movement—he was one of the four people who escorted the black students in the first integrated class of Little Rock, Arkansas and he was the only white person present when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Later in Campbell’s career he made a move that angered many of his friends on the Left and many of those same friends he marched with for Civil Rights—he befriended and ministered to many members of the Ku Klux Klan. This was not because he developed white supremacist ideologies of his own, it’s because in his opinion, “anyone who is not as concerned with the immortal soul of the dispossessor as he is with the suffering of the dispossessed is being something less than Christian” (as he wrote in his “Brother to a Dragonfly” book).

Now, there are aspects of Campbell’s political and theological positions that I myself do not fully agree or identify with, but both of these above-mentioned facets of his character and work are things I deem to be very admirable traits that all who connect with Christianity whatsoever should aspire to at some level. Seated where I am in my ideologies and as I hinted at from the beginning of this essay, I find his work in the Civil Rights Movement—as difficult, daring, and brave as it was—to be an easier pill to swallow, an easier struggle to commit to than the latter act, that of befriending and ministering to the bigots themselves.

An example of what this type of mindset might entail can take the current LGBTQ rights movement as a concern; straight people who take the concerns of that community and work for their inclusion and equality are viewed as “allies.” I don’t know how much work done for the community is required to earn such a term, but let’s assume someone is working tirelessly for LGBTQ equality—on a “small” scale by making choices in their daily lives that seek advancement for that community and on a large scale by making certain political decisions, etc. That someone, I feel, would typically not befriend many blatantly heterosexist/homophobic individuals. Should they? I say yes. Granted, it might be too much to ask for such a person to befriend a member of a hate organization, say of Fred Phelp’s infamous Westboro Baptist Church. That type of commitment would come from this movement’s equivalent of Campbell. But everyone knows people in their own lives who hold prejudiced views on this issue and a social networking explosion like what has gone on in Facebook has brought a lot of people in contact with a lot of friends they haven’t communicated with in years—odds are, the most progressive rights campaigner in the country was good friends with someone in High School that held some pretty homophobic opinions, opinions that person has yet to “outgrow.” Taking Facebook as an example might seem a bit generic, and it is in many aspects, but for the sake of simplicity let’s work with it. The above mentioned rights worker typically will “defriend” or ignore the old friend once they realize how disparate their adult views are now. Someone like Campbell wouldn’t though. Such a person can opt to remain in casual conversation with the other; always going after their opinion won’t typically work, so why not wait for topics of conversation that are relatable and dialogue with them there? You certainly shouldn’t pretend to think something you don’t, and if asked you should always bluntly speak truth; you shouldn’t waiver in expressing your own opinion about the issues they would disagree with to others where they might see or hear it either, though. The first step to overcoming prejudices is often finding that the “other” isn’t really that different from you in the first place.

I spoke of how we on the “progressive” end find a certain kind of person difficult to talk to, and that person is the “non-progressive,” a term which sounds insulting. But if we arrogantly think we are “progressive” and they are not, we are apt to lump all sorts of prejudices their way. It takes time to fight against prejudices, they’re instilled deep in all of us whether we like it or not—they’re a gut reaction probably rooted in our evolution, a way of taking care of our own tribe and banding together with those like us so that we can fight against those not like us. I think being inclusive must extend across to everyone, even the person with the most heinous opinion and shrill tone—we might not agree with them, we might loathe what they say, and we might be working our best to end much of what they are standing for. But we can “love” them on an individual, personal basis. Christian Ethics are built on a framework that asks the individual to do things that don’t always seem logical—after all, the leader of this group was a martyr who did nothing to avoid that martyrdom and according to the opinion of many segments of this camp went to that martyrdom purposefully and willingly. Loving the enemy is a result of that. Hell, doing away with the term “enemy” is probably a final result of that too.

Once again, I find myself commentating on a set of ideals I feel least able to live out on—I find it difficult to communicate with a Fox News fan at points in my life, much less with a Klansmen. But if I can’t be friends with someone with different political opinions than myself (when the entire political spectrum seems warped in relation to the kind of Ethics I’m talking about here anyway), then I don’t think I’m much of a Christ-follower even in the most peripheral of ways. It helps to remember though, that we all grow and learn and we all have many people that we’ve known and that have been important to us in our lives whose views were far less “enlightened” than the ones we currently think we have gained that have “figured it all out.” Peace.