The Aurora Killings: One Way to Help

I’m not going to say much about the Aurora killings, due in large part to this excellent article. But like everyone else, I wish I could do something to help out.

If you want to do something to help one family of a victim of the Aurora killings, here’s how you can get involved:

A guy named Matt McQuinn was one of the 12 victims. I didn’t know Matt, but he grew up in Springfield, OH and two of my good friends, Anthony and Abby, were in youth group with him.

Matt’s mom doesn’t have the money to get him home and bury him, so some of her friends have banded together to raise the $10,000 she needs to make this happen. As of writing, they’re only about $2,000 short.

UPDATE: The fundraisers easily met the original goal, so increased to $15,000. One week after this initial posting, they’ve raised a little over $12,000 to help cover all Matt’s parents’ costs. Thank you for all your help!

So if you want to help in one small way to bring some healing to those affected by the Aurora killings, you can give.

Click here to donate.

Here’s more on Matt’s story.

Sacrificial Lamb Jesus

Last week I took a look at Hippy, Left-Wing Jesus so I thought I should work towards the other extreme this week.  You know, to keep things balanced.  So may I present to you Sacrificial Lamb Jesus (a.k.a. “Scapegoat Jesus”, “Passion of the Christ” Jesus:

Fun fact: SL Jesus prefers colder climates, because all that wool gets VERY itchy in the heat. And a sweaty Jesus is a stinky Jesus. Sacrificial Lamb Jesus came to die for your sins.

And that’s all.

His whole purpose in becoming human was to come here and die in your place so that you can go to Heaven and be with God.  He didn’t die until he was in his early 30s, and he came as a baby, but no one is really sure what he was doing the rest of the time.  I heard he taught some stuff and did some miracles (which are NOT devil magic like Harry Potter), but that was all sort of like A1.  Some people think it makes the steak taste better and some don’t, but either way, it’s not the main course.

No, the main course was his horrible, terrible death on the cross.

See, every time you talk about how SL Jesus died, you have to use as much gruesome detail as you possibly can.  Your listeners need to know every painful, awful detail of crucifixion so that they understand exactly how awful, wicked and sinful they are.  Because, after all, when you talk about SL Jesus, you have to make sure everyone knows that he died in their place.  This was his only purpose.  If they don’t understand this, then they miss Jesus entirely.

The problem with this view of Jesus is that it’s too narrow; it ignores too much of his story.*

Evangelicals are (in)famous for focusing on the Cross nearly to the exclusivity of anything else, and here we’ve made a misstep.  At the Cross, Jesus defeated Death and Sin, but these were not ends to themselves.  Jesus’ story starts before the beginning of time, according to John.  And his mission was not to defeat Sin and Death, but rather to reconcile all things to himself – everything that had been lost in the Fall.  Sin and Death were standing between Jesus and his goal, but they were not the end of his journey.

Jesus’ ultimate goal was to restore the world to its original purpose – to be the place where God lives with all creation (including us).  Something in humanity is broken – that’s evident if you look at what we do to ourselves, each other and our world.  When Jesus came, he came not only to heal us, but to show us what a fully human person looks like.  That person is concerned with neighbors and creation.  Not because it’s hip or trendy, but because Jesus is all about shalom, the whole world existing as it was created to be.

That’s why we have to pay as much attention to Hippy Jesus as we do to SL Jesus.  We need them both.  We need his life and his death.

What do you think would happen if we stopped looking at the wounds of the crucifixion only as our source of healing but also as Jesus’ means of identifying with the brokenness in our world?  How might that change what we think it means to follow Jesus?

*If you just thought to yourself, “I like to be narrow.  Jesus said the road to Heaven is narrow,” then please follow these instructions: Place your hand on the desk in front of you.  Take a pencil in your other hand, and jam it as hard as you can into the desk-hand.  Have you done that?  Good.  The pain you are now feeling is nothing in comparison to the pain SL Jesus felt on the cross for the sin you just committed of taking Scripture so grossly out of context.  Lesson learned!

Hippy Left-Wing Jesus

The fish is jumping out of the implied water. Because animals LOVE Hippy Jesus.  He's like a Disney Princess (R) in that way. Poor Hippy Jesus.  He’s all about Peace and Love, but for some reason everyone just loves to pick on him.  He was born all the waaaaaaaaaaay back in the early 1900s (if you can even imagine such a ludicrous time) when a group of Western intellectuals decided they should apply Christian ethics to contemporary social ills.  Where they’d get such a radical idea is beyond me, seeing as the real Jesus never mentioned anything about caring for the poor.*

Hippy Jesus really grew to maturity towards the late 1970s, after the sexual revolution and the polarization of the American political spectrum.  The Church was not exempt from that polarization, and it was during this time that Evangelicalism became a force to be reckoned with, thanks to the likes of the Moral Majority, Focus on the Family and Petra.

Christians quickly found it very important to know whether a person was ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’, with both sides demonizing the other.  Hippy Jesus got lumped in with all the left-winger because he thinks we should care about poor people and the environment and tends towards pacifism, among other things.

These days, Hippy Jesus is just as divisive as he’s ever been.

He’s hip and cool, has all the latest gadgets and is very socially conscious.  He’s usually sporting TOMs Shoes and loves American Apparel t-shirts (either that or TWLOHA).  And he has his fair share of enemies.  You might here a pastor rant about other pastors who are too metrosexual or people who are all caught up in the ‘Social Gospel’ at the expense of the ‘Real Gospel’.  Sometimes the debate gets downright ugly, and surprisingly Hippy Jesus doesn’t seem to mind.  For all his talk of love and acceptance, he can actually be pretty exclusive.  He does well with those he’s supposed to care about (you know, the poor and people like that), but when it comes to Christians who disagree with him, he tends to get a little bit…

…well, judgmental.  Condescending.  When he’s just with friends, he can be downright mean (in a hilarious way, and besides, the real Jesus reserved his harshest words for the religious people of his day, so it’s totally cool).**

It’s really easy for Hippy Jesus to get caught up in causes, to ignore Jesus’ death and resurrection (which are, after all, pretty violent).  But we have to remember that without the empty tomb, all our efforts to improve the world are in vain.  Without God’s final and decisive victory over sin and evil, the world would still be doomed.

Hippy Jesus would also do well to remember that the Gospel really is for everyone and that includes his enemies.  After all, if he’s really going to be a pacifist, he has to make sure that his grace extends to them too.

Have you encountered Hippy Jesus?  What are your thoughts about him?

* A person can only believe this statement if s/he has never actually read more than about four words Jesus says.

** Yes, if there was any doubt in your brain, this is another of my personal favorite Jesuses.

Book Review: PUSH (Precious)

PUSH is a punishing, brutal picture of a person who is a victim of the American Dream.  That person is Precious, a sixteen-year-old girl who at the book’s opening is pregnant with her father’s child.  For the second time.  Rather inexplicably because of this, Precious is expelled from her school (during which we discover that she is also illiterate) and sent to an alternative school.  Here she meets Blue Rain, a teacher who sees past Precious’ rough demeanor and begins to mentor her.

The result is a journey out of the night that has been Precious’ life towards a day of possibilities for her.  She begins to read and to evaluate herself and her life.  She learns to see that she is damaged, that the life she is living is not normal or acceptable.  She learns to protect herself from her parents.

And she learns to remember her past truthfully, to see her Self as fully human.

Precious sweeps us along on her journey, touching on the disembodiment our culture creates.  Some of the most painful moments occur when Precious envisions her ideal Self – skinny, pretty and white, and when she escapes her body as her father rapes her, imaging herself far off and away, detached from the prison of her body.

The miracle of the book is the path we discover along with Precious, a path that surprisingly leads towards hope.  She seems like such a lost cause, a victim of a broken, irredeemable system that destroys innocence, that crushes both the victim and the victimizer without respect for any persons.  But through Blue Rain and the community of girls at the alternative school, the system is overcome and Precious steps onto the path toward redemption and healing.

PUCH is cruel and unrelenting; for ever two steps Precious takes forward she is shoved back.  And the end is no fairy tale (:: ahem :: Blindside).  But for those of us who live in a real broken world, hers is the story we need.

Bottom Line: PUSH asks you to consider what hope and healing look like in the real world.  Do you have the courage to introduce yourself to Precious?