Christian Ethics and the Conundrum of Gun Control

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As a follower of Jesus, I am often far less interested in the opinion that a person holds on an issue than I am in how the person arrived at that opinion and, even more important, how the person engages both with those who hold a similar viewpoint and those who approach the issue with different convictions.

I have long believed that arriving at a passionately-held opinion is the least-demanding portion of ethical discourse. Strong opinions, while they may involve a certain degree of deductive or inductive reasoning and sophisticated cognition, require no artistry, nuance, or relationship. They demand nothing more than an individual’s intellectual assent to an articulated position. Following the intellectual assent, the opinion itself often becomes as comfortable as rhythmic breathing, rarely contemplated, but regularly expressed.

Holding strong opinions is the easy part. Everyone can do it and normally does.

The real challenge of ethical discourse, however, involves the territory that surrounds the opinion. Has the opinion been reached in a manner that is intellectually holistic and experientially reinforced? Has the opinion been cultivated with a reasonable attentiveness to all of the available data and not simply the portions of data that reinforce our preexisting predilections? Has the opinion been liberated from the weight of rhetoric and tested with the scrutiny of an open and rigorous mind? And is the opinion held with the kind of flexible intellectual grip that permits engagement with differing viewpoints? These are the questions that lead a person well beyond the simple “speaking of one’s mind” and into the undulating terrain of ethical contemplation and moral decision-making.

If one is a Christ-follower, the task becomes even more complex. Christianity’s narrative is one that is rich with seemingly absurd instructions: Do not simply speak the truth (or, translated a bit differently, do not simply speak your mind), but “speak the truth IN LOVE” (Ephesians 4:15). Do not simply insist on a particular course of action, but conduct yourself in a spirit that is “not arrogant or rude…or irritable or resentful.  (1 Corinthians 13:5). Do not become idolatrous about particular opinions, but be perpetually aware of the fact that “our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect” (1 Corinthians 13:9).

In the face of a rather complex social issue in his day, the Apostle Paul addressed the question of what Christ-followers are to do about eating meat that had been offered to idols, since there existed an ethical and theological disagreement between those who felt free to eat what they wanted and those who felt obligated to adhere to strict dietary laws. Paul’s counsel in the matter bears witness to his conviction that, at least in certain ethical and spiritual matters, the particular opinion one holds is less important than the manner in which s/he holds it: “We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak…If food is the cause of [people’s] falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall” (1 Corinthians 8:8-9, 13).

In this revelatory moment in Paul’s ministry, he expresses the rather countercultural idea that one’s individual viewpoint cannot be so monolithic and uncompromising that it refuses to be subordinated to the integrity and preservation of that diverse and heterogeneous community that Christians call church. In other words, to borrow Paul’s language from earlier in this same portion of Scripture, agapic love is the governor of individual opinions, since “knowledge puffs up but love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1).

What does all of this have to do with the current debate on gun control? Much, I think. Followers of Jesus, if they are to be true to the narrative by which they are called to live, must be specifically Christian, not only in the opinions that they hold, but also in the manner in which they arrive at those opinions, steward those opinions, and communicate those opinions.  To borrow the Apostle Paul’s framework, Christ-followers are simply not permitted to elevate a particular conviction about eating meat (or, for that matter, owning guns) above their moral responsibility to preserve the kind of Christ-centered community that is durable enough to accommodate differing viewpoints without rancor, without malice, and without a sharp-edged insistence upon one’s own rightness.

The Christian narrative, of course, in no way removes from the Christ-follower the opportunity to develop and hold passionate viewpoints and convictions. Christians are not called to be devoid of individual perspective. What is powerfully unique about the Christ-follower’s individual perspective, though, is the way in which the Christ-follower is called to manage and articulate it. Specifically, Christ-followers are called to hold and offer their convictions in a manner that bears consistent witness to their stubborn refusal to value their opinions over their relationships with those who do not share them. I see this as a critical portion of the sanctification of individual perspectives.

In light of the urgency of this sanctification, I offer the following thoughts. These are my own personal opinions, held firmly but with a flexible grip:

1. Christ-followers would do well to make peace with the fact that intelligent people of deep and authentic faith reside on both sides of the issue of gun control. Several months ago, I shared a meal with two Christians that I greatly admire, one of whom is a pacifist who sees no value whatsoever in most gun control legislation (since, in his words, “the peace we are called to manifest will never be legislated”). The other Christian at the table was a soldier, hunter, and gun-owner who believes that new regulations related to gun and ammunition control are “desperately needed in this country, if for no other reason to establish the right boundaries for how the issue is approached.”

While I personally gravitated toward the viewpoint of the soldier, I found myself deeply encouraged by the absence of bitterness in the conversation. These were not rhetoricians insisting on the absoluteness of their own rightness. They were brothers in Christ who seemed genuinely interested in how the other person arrived at his conviction. I did not have the sense that either man had become idolatrous about his opinion; or that either man felt that the Kingdom of God (or the United States Constitution, for that matter) depended upon the promulgation of his viewpoint; or that their individual perspectives were more important to either of them than their shared friendship. Rather, I sensed that I was in the presence of two men of deep intellect and even deeper faith whose respectful disagreement about gun control found a comfortable home in the context of their mystical and durable oneness in Christ. On that afternoon, the salad bar at Eat’n Park became a Eucharistic meal where differing opinions were nothing but optional side dishes to the shared Bread of Heaven and Cup of Salvation.

2. Christ-followers would do well to remember that, in a specifically Christian conversation about moral behavior, the foundational question is never “What do I have the right to do?” but rather “What IS right to do?” It troubles me when Christian people limit their ethical conversations to debates about the nuances of their constitutional or civil “rights,” since, for Christ-followers, the primary concern is not the preservation of identified rights but the transformational and Spirit-enabled pursuit of righteousness.

This is not to suggest that the clear enumeration and protection of constitutional and civil rights is not an important conversation in which to participate. Such rights, after all, are an integral portion of the maintenance of a fair and just nation.  In a specifically Christian morality, however, the concept of unalienable rights (which is not a Biblical concept) is never the starting or ending point of any conversation.  Rather, Christocentric ethics are grounded in a different set of questions: What is the most right thing for me to do? What is the most helpful and edifying thing for me to do?  Am I being called to sacrifice something for a greater good? Am I being called to defend something because of a Biblical principle?  What decision will represent my very best effort to work toward a just and merciful outcome? How can I best bear witness to my primary identity—not my identity as an American citizen with inalienable rights, but my identity as a baptized follower of Jesus whose national citizenship, while important, is secondary to his/her Christological citizenship?

Such questions will not always lead two Christians to the same ethical viewpoint, especially on a controversial matter like gun control. My fear, however, is not potential disagreement. My fear is that, in the current climate, too many Christians are arriving at an opinion without an honest wresting with the right questions.

3. Christ-followers would do well to remember what history has all too frequently taught us—that vitriolic fundamentalism of any sort normally distorts the pursuit of moral truth and replaces the dynamic hunger for righteousness with a stifling and malicious desire to protect and promulgate a particular ideology. Concerning the particular issue at hand, fundamentalism is alive and well. It might come in the form of one of these viewpoints:

*“They will have to pry my gun out of my cold dead fingers!”

*“People who aren’t in favor of gun control are ALL addicted to the pathological violence of our culture.”

*“I don’t see how ANY CHRISTIAN could NOT be in favor of stricter gun laws, especially in the aftermath of what happened in Las Vegas.”

*“The ONLY WAY to ensure our freedom as a country is to preserve the right to arm ourselves with the same kind of weapons that our military has. It is our ONLY protection against the development of tyranny.”

These very real and current viewpoints may raise significant issues for the conversation, but the tone of the viewpoints resonates, not with a passionate yearning for a just and truthful discernment, but a fundamentalistic impulse to fixate on a conviction while dismissing or demonizing those who do not agree with it. The church behaves like the church only when it refuses to allow any ethical conversation to be stifled by the compartmentalizing rubrics of fundamentalism.

4. Christ-followers would do well to practice the spiritual discipline of acknowledging (to themselves and others) the fact that they might be wrong in their opinions, no matter how right they believe themselves to be. Again, by this I do not mean to suggest that Christians are to relinquish their strong views on important issues. I am convinced, however, that we practice specifically Christian ethics only when we operate with a keen awareness of the important differences between “conviction” and “certainty.” Convictions are discerned and lived. Certainty is established and protected. Convictions can live peacefully with opposing convictions. Certainty normally seeks to defend its territory. Convictions can be held firmly but gently, with a profound awareness of our incomplete knowledge. Certainty often demands a tighter grip and the illusion of omniscience.

Related to the issue of gun control—and all other issues—Christ-followers are at their best when they manifest the kind of genuine humility that heartfelt convictions permit but that rigid certainty resists.

5. Christ-followers would do well to commit themselves to making certain that their contemplation and discussion of gun control bear witness to the “new creatures” that they have become in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and the new birth that Christ makes possible (John 3:3). No matter whether one opposes or supports gun control reform, it is essential for the Christ-follower to resist the ethical schizophrenia of being Christologically reborn but behaviorally and practically heathen. If Christ has made one new, then even the manner in which one articulates one’s perspectives and participates in public debate must be under the transformation of sanctification.

Practically speaking, this will mean that Christ-followers will listen respectfully and attentively to opposing viewpoints, thereby avoiding the temptation to become nothing more than “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

It will mean that Christ-followers on both sides of the issue will refuse to allow the issue itself to become a divisive litmus test for relationship, thereby ensuring a commitment to being “patient and kind…not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.”

It will mean that Christ-followers will be far more interested in standing on the solid ground of ever-expanding discernment than they are in jumping on the bandwagon of convenient and divisive rhetoric, thereby generating a spirit that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Most of all, it will mean that Christ-followers will live with a perpetual and holistic awareness of the fact that, irrespective of what decisions are made related to gun control reform, our life-giving hope and deepest deliverance are not to be found in the preservation, reformation, or interpretation of a constitutional amendment, but in Christ’s astoundingly gracious invitation to participate in an often countercultural and radically peaceable Kingdom in which “faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

Opinions, Convictions, and Community

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It is an extended season of rancorous debate. In the surrounding culture, the tone of political conversation has a sense of frightening desperation about it. Even in the ecclesiastical world in which I live and breathe (United Methodism), the divisions in our church are often clearly and painfully illuminated.

As a follower of Jesus, I am interested, not only in the particular position that one holds on an issue, but also in the process by which he or she arrived at that position and, even more important, the way in which he or she engages with those on both sides of the issue.

I have long believed that arriving at a passionately held opinion is the least demanding portion of ethical discourse. Strong opinions, while they may involve a certain degree of deductive or inductive reasoning and sophisticated cognition, require no artistry, nuance, or relationship. They demand nothing more than an individual’s intellectual assent to an articulated position. Following the intellectual assent, the opinion often becomes as comfortable for its holder as rhythmic breathing—rarely contemplated, but regularly expressed.

Holding strong opinions is the easy part. Everyone can do it and normally does.

The real challenge of ethical discourse, however, involves the territory that surrounds the opinion. Has the opinion been reached in a manner that is intellectually holistic and experientially reinforced? Has the opinion been cultivated with a reasonable attentiveness to all of the available data and not simply the portions of data that reinforce our preexisting predilections? Has the opinion been liberated from the weight of rhetoric and tested with the scrutiny of an open and rigorous mind? And is the opinion held with the kind of flexible intellectual grip that permits illuminating engagement with differing viewpoints? These are the questions that lead one well beyond the simple speaking of one’s mind and into the undulating terrain of ethical contemplation and moral decision-making.

If one is a Christ-follower, the task becomes even more complex. Christianity’s narrative is one that is rich with seemingly absurd instructions: Do not simply speak the truth (or speak one’s mind), but “speak the truth IN LOVE” (Ephesians 4:15). Do not simply insist on a particular course of action, but reflect a spirit that is “not arrogant or rude…or irritable or resentful” (1 Corinthians 13:5). Do not become idolatrous about particular opinions, but be perpetually aware of the fact that “our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect” (1 Corinthians 13:9).

In the face of a rather complex social issue in his day, the Apostle Paul addressed the question of what Christ-followers are to do about eating meat that had been offered to idols, since there existed an ethical and theological disagreement between those who felt free to eat what they wanted and those who felt obligated to adhere to strict dietary laws. Paul’s counsel in the matter bears witness to his conviction that, at least in certain matters, the particular position one holds is less important than the manner in which she or he holds it:  “We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak…If food is the cause of [people’s] falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall” (1 Corinthians 8:8-9, 13).

In this particular moment of Paul’s interpretation of Christian ethics, he expresses the rather countercultural idea that one’s individual viewpoint cannot be so monolithic and uncompromising that it refuses to allow for the preservation of that diverse and heterogeneous community that Christians call church. In other words, to borrow Paul’s language from earlier in this same portion of Scripture, love is the governor of individual opinions and not the other way around, since “knowledge puffs up but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1).

What does all of this have to do with us? Consider this: Followers of Jesus, if they are to be true to the narrative by which they are called to live, must be specifically Christian, not only in the opinions that they hold, but also in the manner in which they arrive at those opinions, steward those opinions, and communicate those opinions. To borrow the Apostle Paul’s framework, Christ-followers are simply not permitted to elevate a particular conviction, whatever that conviction may be, above their moral responsibility to preserve and honor the kind of Christ-centered community that is durable enough to accommodate differing viewpoints without rancor, without malice, and without a sharp-edged insistence upon one’s own rightness.

The Christian narrative, of course, in no way removes from the Christ-follower the responsibility of developing and holding passionate personal convictions. Christians are not called to be devoid of individual perspective. What is powerfully unique about the Christ-follower’s individual perspective, though, is the way in which the Christ-follower is called to manage and articulate it. Specifically, Christ-followers are called to hold and offer their convictions in a manner that bears consistent witness to their stubborn refusal to value their opinions over their relationships with those who do not share them. I see this as a critical portion of the sanctification of individual perspectives. Granted, a person may eventually discern that it is time to separate from a particular segment of community because his or her convictions differ so substantively from the direction of that community that the convictions can no longer be lived out with integrity. Even on those occasions, however, the separation must be stewarded with the kind of durable love that seeks to build more bridges than walls, more understanding than condemnation.

Practically speaking, all of this will mean that Christ-followers will commit themselves to listening respectfully and attentively to opposing viewpoints, thereby avoiding the temptation to become nothing more than “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

It will mean that Christ-followers on both sides of an issue will refuse to allow the issue itself to become a divisive litmus test for relationship, thereby ensuring a commitment to being “patient and kind…not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.”

It will mean that Christ-followers will be far more interested in standing on the solid ground of ever-expanding discernment than they are in jumping on the bandwagon of convenient and divisive rhetoric, thereby generating a spirit that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Most of all, it will mean that Christ-followers will live with a perpetual and holistic awareness of the fact that, irrespective of what decisions are made related to various issues, our life-giving hope and deepest deliverance are not to be found in a particular collection of viewpoints, but in Christ’s astoundingly gracious invitation to participate in an often countercultural and radically peaceable Kingdom in which “faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

Half a Century In

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About nine months ago, I shared with some of you a very rough version of a song I wrote to mark a personal milestone–my 5oth birthday.  Today, I am sharing an updated version of the song that is a little bit clearer and better produced.

It is a song fueled by both nostalgia and navigation; both whimsical remembering and earnest introspection; both reflection on the past and acknowledgment of a growing up that is still taking place .  In short, it is a song about life.  My life.  Your life.  All life.

As you listen to it, I hope that you are inspired to hold in your thoughts the nature and the nuances of the human pilgrimage–its beauty, its fragility, and, certainly, its brevity.

I am grateful that all of you have been part of my first half century.

Half a Century In (words and music by Eric Park)

Feeling not so young
Feeling not so old
Seeming less high strung
At least that’s what I’m told

Looking toward the past
Covers ample ground
I guess I got here fast
And I’m glad I’m still around

The year I joined the race
Silent were the sounds
Trekking into space
Soldiers on the ground

History has a way
Of wearing different skin
That’s how it looks today
Half a century in

Half a century in
Half a century in
Upheld by a steady grace
Half a century in

Tender are the thoughts
Prone to reminisce
Connecting all the dots
Through souls I dearly miss

Laughter shapes the joy
Grief refines the pain
A man with shades of boy
A journey to maintain

Half a century in
Half a century in
Grateful for the wonderment
Half a century in

Sweetness of parental care
Hymns to Jesus sung
Reborn through love and quiet prayer
Getting old, but still so young

Covenants and wedding bells
Two lives are intertwined
The story that our marriage tells
Is how my life’s defined

None of this deserved
None of it was owed
Like a banquet served
A feast of grace bestowed

Looking now ahead
Wondering what will be
Grateful for the threads
And the woven tapestry

Half a century in
Half a century in
Transformed by the pilgrimage
Half a century in

Half a century in
Half a century in
Saved by grace and growing still
Half a century in

After the Election

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Do you ever experience a night in which sleep becomes secondary to prayer and in which outcries to Jesus become as natural as breathing and every bit as desperate? Last night was that kind of night for me and, I suspect, for many others, simply because of the sense of urgency around this presidential election and all that is at stake in the days ahead.

May I speak to you about the nature of my prayer today, in the hope that my feeble petitions might resonate with your own prayerful spirit?

I am praying for President-elect Trump, that his heart will break for the issues that matter most; that the noblest portions of his character will find dynamic expression in his leadership; that repentance, where necessary, will become authentically transformational for him; and that his presidency will be devoted to the kind of work that broadens our country’s grandness (in the most honorable sense of what grandness means).

I am praying for President-elect Trump’s family members, that they will be protected as much as possible from the harm that global scrutiny so frequently causes and that they might be inspired to love and nurture one another with intentionality and integrity in these days of important transition.

I am praying for Secretary Clinton and her family, that they might experience a profound sense of rest and accomplishment today.

I am praying for the healing of a nation that is starkly and frighteningly divided and whose divisions reflect substantial ideological differences that cannot be reduced to Facebook pronouncements and a smug dismissal of “the other.” I hold in my heart today my dear friends who see this election as a long-awaited answer to prayer. I also hold in my heart my dear friends who see this election as a bold exclamation point on America’s moral and cultural decline. Both types of people are part of the nation that President-elect Trump is preparing to lead. Both must be taken seriously.

I am praying for those who have felt wounded, mistreated, and diminished throughout this election season, that their vision and hope might be fully restored.

I am praying that the people of our great country (elected leaders and neighbors on the block or in the pew) will move toward a more comprehensive, reasoned, authentic, and respectful way of talking with one another about the vitally important matters that this election season has illuminated—including issues of race, gender, immigration, abortion, gun control, and healthcare. I long for the kind of sustained and integrated dialogue in which people refuse to become so exclusively fixated on their own viewpoints that they can no longer value the perspectives and experiences of others.

Finally, I am praying for the church, which is the portion of the world where I spend most of my time and where I invest most of my hope and energy. May the church commit itself afresh to the healing of a nation and to the hearing of all voices. May its people devote themselves anew to the work of justice, mercy, and Gospel-grounded transformation. And may its sacrificial ministry be a prophetic indication to the world that, while the church approaches the election of our political leaders with reverent seriousness and commitment, our deepest hope lies in the reign of God and the reconfigured lives and communities that God’s grace makes possible.

Breathe in, friends. Breathe out. Pray deeply. Be gentle with one another. And then meditate on this: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

The Lord’s Prayer

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Here is a song about an old and important prayer–a prayer taught to us by a Savior who wanted us to pray well and who hoped that we might glimpse in our praying the potential for God’s will to be accomplished “on earth as it is in heaven.”

While I wrote this song about the Lord’s Prayer twenty years ago, Tara and I (along with Rick Witkowski) just recently reworked it in an effort to keep it fresh in our hearts and minds.  I hope that it helps you to pray on this 2016 Election Day.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Good Father who reigns in heaven

Holiness breathes your name

Your kingdom come, your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven

Give us this day our daily bread

Forgive us our sins as we forgive

Lead us not into temptation’s way

But deliver us now from evil

Yours is the kingdom, power, and glory

Forever and ever the same

And so to these things we now say “amen”

May the prayer of our heart be a song to you

Your kingdom come, your will be done

“Let’s Talk Politics!”

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“Let’s talk politics!” Wow. Could there be any weightier phrase to utter in these tense and difficult days? Do you feel your anxiety increasing, even as I ask the question?

It is sometimes hard for the church to know what to say during a Presidential election. In every church, after all, there are Republicans and Democrats, Independents and Libertarians, along with people who don’t quite know where to locate themselves on the political spectrum. Some want the church to be absolutely silent about the election, so that worship might be a safe and restful sanctuary from the world’s political conversations. Others long for the church to be more aligned with a particular party’s platform, since they believe the issues of that platform to be essential to the moral health of our nation.

Having been a pastor for nearly twenty-eight years (during which time I have walked with churches through seven Presidential elections), I have come to conclude that it is not the church’s best work to advocate for a particular party or candidate. It is absolutely the church’s best work, however, to incarnate and practice the alternative politics of God’s Kingdom and God’s Way, irrespective of who is President and which party’s voice is dominant in our nation. My goal has always been to preach a Jesus who consistently refused to be coerced or co-opted by the political systems of his day and who, two-thousand years later, continues to both transform and transcend the political landscape.

But, if the church cannot lobby for a particular party or candidate, what CAN the church offer to this angry, anxious, and politically divided nation? At the very least, perhaps we can demonstrate a way of approaching the election that reflects the transformation that we believe Jesus is bringing about in our individual lives and in the world—a transformation in which perfect love casts out all fear and in which visionary justice and radical compassion commingle in a spirit that is more about a shared humanity than it is about dehumanizing the “other.”

What will it take to bring about that kind of approach to an election? It might take a sacrificial and deeply personal commitment to a few counter-cultural and thoroughly Biblical impulses:

First, perhaps we can commit to the kind of durable civility that enables us to hold our political convictions deeply and personally while at the same time refusing to disparage or demonize those whose convictions are vastly different than ours, even if we believe that they are fundamentally wrong in their conclusions. Scripture calls us to “be of the same mind” (Philippians 2:2), but it never demands that we hold precisely the same opinion or viewpoint. Christ-followers who can recognize the sacred personhood of individuals on the other side of a political or philosophical divide will be able to bear witness to the way in which Jesus continues to bridge the chasms that so often exist between us.

Second, perhaps we can allow the Holy Spirit to help us to recognize that, if a person does not stand where we stand on the vitally important issues that this Presidential election has raised, our political and philosophical differences do not entitle us to come to definitive conclusions about that person’s faith, integrity, or moral character. As soon as we declare that someone cannot be listened to—or cannot be a Christian—if she or he supports this person or that person, this cause or that cause, we have traveled well beyond the boundaries of our limited discernment and claimed an authority for ourselves that is simply not ours to claim.

Third, perhaps we can pray our way into a desire to pursue the hearts and minds of the people who see things very differently than we do, so that we might become every bit as passionate about hearing as we are about being heard, every bit as desperate to understand as we are to be understood.

Fourth, perhaps we can pause more frequently to acknowledge with gratitude the fact that we are living in a country that allows for precisely the kind of political diversity that we are now experiencing. While the experience is painful and infuriating at times, it is also a reflection of a network of freedoms that many countries in our world have never experienced. A spirit of gratitude may very well go a long way toward ameliorating the resentment that we might be inclined to accommodate.

Fifth, when we hear a campaign commercial that sounds more like an attack on another candidate than an expression of compelling vision, perhaps we can discipline ourselves to pause, breathe deeply, close our eyes, and pray for the souls of both the candidate who approved the commercial and the candidate who is being criticized, so that we might cultivate compassion rather than cynicism.

Sixth, perhaps we can see this election as an opportunity to commit ourselves, more holistically (both personally and congregationally) to the things that God values, so that, irrespective of who is elected, we are trafficking in the “politics” and rhythms of the Way that Jesus inaugurated. I am speaking here of a refusal to accommodate injustice in any of its expressions; a protection of the voiceless and the vulnerable; a dynamic love for the least, the lost, the most painfully marginalized, and the most callously disenfranchised; and a wholehearted devotion to a worldview that values repentance more than rationalization and sanctification more than indifference.

Seventh, no matter for whom we vote, perhaps we can pause every day to pray for all the candidates and their families, so that our prayers might soften and strengthen our hearts and so that our petitions might become the supernatural conduits through which God can travel into the deep places that only God can reach.

Eighth, and perhaps most importantly, as Christ-followers, perhaps we can approach the voting booth prayerfully and with a deep spirit of peaceful rest and unshakable hope, celebrating the Truth that, irrespective of who resides in the White House, the most significant and influential political realm of all is an already-inaugurated Kingdom, the throne of which is occupied by a crucified and resurrected Jesus who never has to campaign, whose promises are supremely reliable, and whose superintendence of human history is beautifully secure.

I am praying. I am repenting. I am recommitting. I am hopeful.

A Litany for Father’s Day

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A Litany for Father’s Day

Always-parenting God, we cry out to you with a prayerful heart on behalf of our fathers.

Where our fathers have blessed us with their faithfulness, integrity, and love, deepen our gratitude.

LET OUR PRAYERS BECOME A SONG THAT PLEASES YOUR HEART.

Where our fathers have wounded, mistreated, or abandoned us, deepen our healing and forgiveness.

LET OUR PRAYERS BECOME AN EXPERIENCE OF YOUR EMBRACE.

Where children and fathers are alienated from one another, deepen either our reconciliation or our acceptance of necessary distance.

LET OUR PRAYERS BECOME INSTRUMENTS OF RECONCILIATION, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND PEACE.

Where good men have never been called to be fathers, or have never been given the opportunity to raise children, deepen the fatherly role they play in the lives of many.

LET OUR PRAYERS BECOME AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO ALL MEN AND AN ILLUMINATION OF THE CRITICAL ROLE THEY PLAY IN YOUR STORY.

Where fathers are grieving over the loss of their children and children over the loss of their fathers, deepen our awareness of your weeping and redeeming presence.

LET OUR PRAYERS BECOME THE CHANNEL THROUGH WHICH YOU MAKE YOUR WAY INTO OUR DEEPEST PAIN.

Where fathers are committed to loving their children comprehensively and raising them in a spirit of vulnerability, devotion, and gentleness, deepen the joy and purpose they find in fatherhood.

LET OUR PRAYERS BECOME A GRATITUDE THAT IS DEEPER THAN OUR WORDS.

Where fathers and children are struggling in relationships that feel broken, depleted or dysfunctional, deepen our shared compassion and encouragement.

LET OUR PRAYERS BECOME PART OF THE HEALING THAT YOU OFFER TO WOUNDED SOULS.

On this Father’s Day, engage us in a more dynamic communion with your holy presence, where fatherhood always finds its origin, its meaning, and its redemption. We pray this in the name of Jesus, whose perfect relationship with the Father is the source of our deepest hope. AMEN.