Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Heaven and Hell, and Virginia Tech

Well, I expected to come home last night and update my blog with a bunch of great stories from a great vacation. They will come later. My world has been turned upside down.

My favorite preacher says he has a hard time understanding a God who would condemn his most favored creations to an eternal torment (with him there). But, everyday, he sees people who choose to bring hell (or alternately heaven) to this earth. So, he supposes, people who choose hell here and now could potentially choose hell for eternally. Yesterday, someone chose to bring hell to my slice of heaven on earth.

Very few people who know me, even only a little bit, don't know about my love of my alma mater and Blacksburg. I was born a few miles up the road, and my parents took me for walks on campus long before I can remember. This is the place I grew up, became my own person, met my lifetime best friends. I spend a lot of time and money travelling back to Blacksburg every fall to support the football team.

Watching the news last night, they were looking for someone to blame. Since the perpetrator took his own life, I guess we need to find another's head to serve up on a platter. They wanted to blame Virginia's lax gun laws or the laws prohibiting concealed weapons on campus. They wanted to blame the police or President Steger for not reacting to the first incident.

I'm not interested in blame. How, then should, we react? I know I will be sad for a very long time. Jesus, the first recorded time he taught in public, read from Isaiah 61 about a time when there would be no mourning, when our broken cities would be rebuilt, broken hearts would be bound, the blind would see, and the prisoners released. He also said that that time was fulfilled in his teaching. Was Jesus a liar? No, it means Heaven and Hell are our choices here and now. Our only choice then is to live as if the Kingdom of God is, as Jesus repeatedly proclaimed, here and now. We must be emboldened in loving our neighbor, feeding the hungry, healing the sick. The first thing I will do tonight is hug my wife and tell her how much I love her. And call my parents and sisters and tell them the same. Then I will head to my other alma mater (NC State) who is having a candlelight vigil tonight.

We all have had dreams for Tech. President Steger has dreams of Tech as a top 20 Research Institution. Many dream of football or basketball national chapionships. I've dreamed of working or retiring there. Now Tech will always be known for the Virginia Tech Massacre. Not the stuff of dreams. I hope these other dreams will persist.

If this happened at Tech for any reason, it's because we're one of the best equipped university communities to handle this sort of thing. We already had each other in our hearts. We already had a heart for service (Ut Prosim: That I may service). We've lost more students and alumni in armed conflict than any other university other than the service academy.

Thanks to all who have expressed their condolences. The university community needs your continued prayers.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Another Update

Well, the move went fine, other than Debbie spraining her ankle right before the trip to the Grand Canyon. The new house just doesn't feel like home, yet, but my drive to work is much better. I guess 7 years in the Durham house and Durham in general makes for a bit of transistion time.

I continue to read at a lighting pace, and have finished the Irresistable Revolution and also The Myth of a Christian Nation. I received both books when I went to the conference at Rob Bell's church in January. Both were outstanding, but since I finished the latter last night, I wanted to capture some thoughts on it.

Usually, when I read a non-fiction book, I either agree with it and like it, or disagree with it and dislike it. However, I have to say I really liked this book and disagrees with a quarter to a third of it. I can never remember not believing in God or attaching that belief to Jesus. I also can never remember not leaning towards democratic politics, despite growing up in the Southern Baptist church. (Both my favorite modern presidents also grew up Baptist and Southern. Confession time: I voted for Dukakis in my first presidential election!) When I was in high school, I decided that the peace and social justice of the gospels matched up much better with the ideals of the democratic party. I am still a Christian, and still lean left, but this book has convinced me they are much more seperate concepts.

Some things I liked:
  • The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Man are entirely different concepts. A nation or a political party cannot put the earth right with it's Creator. Only God can do that, so we need to stop thinking politics is a road to redemption.
  • Jesus never sought political power, and as Christians (those who attempt to act like Christ) we should stop seeking political power and get about our commision to build up the Kingdom of God by revolutionary acts of love.
  • Likewise, Jesus did not act as a moral policeman for the world. He did point out errors in the way the religious leaders and disciples thought and acted, but Christians are not called to force everyone to conform to a certain moral code.
  • The whole idea of Chritianity as a social religion of America that does not have much to do with the Bible or Christ. Certainly the church often acts to establish basis of morality and social order for the country. As the author points out, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but also has little to do with following Christ.
  • America is not a new Israel. We are not called by God to be his chosen people. If we have been, we're doing a crappy job.

Some things I didn't necessrily 100% like:

  • America is not a Christian nation. I agree with a lot of what he says here, but also recognize that we are as Christian of a nation as has ever exisited. We have a lot of people going to church, talking publicly about their beliefs, claiming the faith, and we have the freedom to do these things. While it might not be a true faith according to the author (and I may agree with him), I don't see any other nation or time doing any better.
  • God doesn't care about freedom or democracy. I believe God rejoices at the religious freedom we have in much of the world, including the US, and I believe that this freedom is also present in God's kingdom. Our country compels us to do very little, other than pay taxes, which Jesus actually said was okay to do. There are no laws that prohibit us from living exactly as Christ calls us to do if we choose to live this way. Once again, I think if you look across time, we are in a very blessed position.
  • Christians shouldn't serve in the military. I think that a Christian could be called to serve in the military. Nations are given authority by God to promote justice and provide protection for its citizenry. For Christians to refuse to serve would therefore be irresponsible. I agree there is no such thing as a just war, and the particular war we're in now is non-sense. But, if anyone is to lay down their lives for their country, Christians should be participating. We should balance it, however, with standing up against unjust actions of our military.