Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Joes for Jesus...

Growing up, I loved the cartoon G.I. Joe. On the screen in front of me strode incredible men and women who represented their country as “Real American Heroes” and who sported sweet nicknames to boot. My mom wasn’t super-fond of the show. She said she didn’t appreciate the violence. I have a sneaking suspicion her dislike stems from her being a girl and all.

The funny thing about my mom’s objection was that I took it to heart and exercised constant vigilance in order to find non-violent elements to redeem the show. I undertook this task with solemnity because I recognized the intimate connection between my mother’s approval and my continued ability to partake.

In response to her distaste for stylized warfare, I offered up great lines of logic like, “Mom, they’re just shooting lasers, not bullets,” (in my mind, decidedly less violent), and “Mom, the planes never crash from the sky or anything. They just catch on fire and then disappear” (She stumped me on cross-examination: “Disappear to where?”). Then, the show responded for me. At some point a new character was introduced. Someone had watercolored my trump card. Code name: Lifeline.

Lifeline was the Joe team’s medic. He was the goodest of the good guys. And here’s the best Mom-can’t-argue-with-this part of it: he didn’t carry a gun. Yup, that’s right. Lifeline didn’t pack heat. He said it seemed a little incongruous (I’m sure he used a different word). He couldn’t see how it worked out for him to swear to “do no harm” and then mow folks down like he was in a Scorsese flick.

I thought about Lifeline today. I decided that I want to be more like him. Here’s some context.

I recently heard someone use warfare imagery to refer to evangelism and service. In fact, the audience was encouraged to adopt a “wartime mentality” and to prepare to “bring back captives.” Granted, these figures of speech stemmed from a larger conversation which I didn’t partake in. I won’t destroy the speaker, since I love and respect him and since the context in which those phrases were first spoken would likely influence my understanding of the snippets I heard. Yet, at its base, there is something disturbing about such terminology.

This was my primary critique of John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad. I thought that he really overplayed the military and war imagery. Before the Piperphiles begin commenting incessantly, let me say that I in no way disagree with Piper’s point about our need to have a passionate desire to see the light of Christ shined in dark places. I totally support mission endeavors to reach the previously unreached. I’m simply saying that I found the military theme a bit distasteful.

Perhaps I’m overly sensitive about the fact that young men and women have been going off to a real bullets war for the last couple of years and giving their lives. Perhaps from my post-9/11 perspective, such metaphors just seem hollow. I admit that I read Piper from a different place than that in which he wrote. I know that. I own that. Yet…

Here’s the point. Paul certainly never shied away from military imagery. Battle is not against flesh and blood. Armor of God. I’ve read all that. But, what if Christians are enlisting for the wrong types of jobs? What if my role in the Lord’s Army is not first gunner but rather field medic? What if we’re called to find the wounded—on both sides of the lines—and tend to their wounds with the balm of grace?

I have a feeling that those of us who serve the Great Physician have likely been given the duties of medic anyway, even if we didn’t realize it. That doesn’t mean that we don’t address the cause of the wounds. A good field medic not only treats the superficial wounds, but removes the shrapnel that caused the wounds, too. As believers, we must address the spiritual lostness of those around us. But, when someone is lying on the battle field of life, wounded by the malicious weapons of the enemy should we throw another grenade at them or break out the bandages? Me, I’d rather see Christians left and right signing up to be field medics.

That’s military imagery I can support. That gets me excited. I guess deep down, I’d really rather be Lifeline than Roadblock. I have a feeling that that type of soldier would even make a mother proud. And a Father, too.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

I would have shared my faith but it was too damn hot...

The other day I was in a high school classroom that featured a political cartoon taped to the wall. In it, the President addressed global warming. His comforting message? “Sure, the planet's going to get a little warmer. But it won’t feel so bad because you’ll be ankle-deep in water.”

Five years ago, who could have anticipated that global warming would develop into the cause du jour? We’ve already got major awards shows that somehow evolve (yes, I can use that word and not worry for my salvation) into extended public service announcements. How long until we see television commercials with has been actresses (I vote for Janeane Garafalo) weeping uncontrollably while they lament the steadily decreasing ski jacket market?

The thing is, there are some who refuse to believe that global warming is a real threat. Or even real. That’s cool (ha, a weather joke!) with me. I don’t know if it’s real, and if it is real, I'm not sure it’s man-caused. There are super-scholars on each side who swear up and down that their view is the right one. And far be it from a cat who never took chemistry to trifle with them. If it’s real, okay, if not, okay. But, here’s the thing…some people are telling me I should be more concerned because of my faith.

Jerry Falwell recently commented that global warming is more than a hoax, it’s dangerous that Christians would pay it any heed. Falwell insists that global warming is drawing believers away from the real task of sharing their faith. That to believe that there’s a problem with the environment and take steps to fix it is, somehow, un-Christian. I’d like to nominate willful exploitation of the environment as un-Christian.

Falwell’s rant essentially says that to take the steps outlined by the “liberals” is to deviate from our task of evangelism. What if evangelism is more holistic than simply, believe these things and your soul’s good to go? What if environmental care is the strongest sort of evangelism to those with whom our paths rarely cross? In the end, it’s all about what sportscasters like to call “upside.” Let’s play the environmental version of Pascal’s Wager.

Let’s imagine for a moment that global warming is real, and we believe it. In response we become more responsible citizens. We reduce, reuse, recycle. We save energy by turning off lights. We drive automobiles that reduce emissions. We become heroes to the next generation.

Let’s imagine for a moment that global warming is false, but we believe it’s real. In response we become more responsible citizens. We reduce, reuse, recycle. We save energy by turning off lights. We drive automobiles that reduce emissions. The next generation admires our fervor—misplaced as it was—and they enjoy the benefits of our concern.

Let’s imagine for a moment that global warming is false, and we believe it’s false. We respond by continuing to consume non-renewable resources. By wasting energy, oil, and trees, knowing that the weather won’t be affected. The next generation regards us as greedy, self-concerned opportunists.

Let’s imagine for a moment that global warming is real, and we believe it’s false. Actually, let’s not.

That’s the point here. There is far more to be gained by living as though global warming is a real danger than by living as though it’s not. What Falwell fails to establish is the downside.

He asserts that if evangelicals are taken in by global warming, they will be distracted from the task of sharing the gospel. Simply untrue and the problem with “slippery slope” arguments. A Christian driving a hybrid can share their faith just as well as one driving an SUV. And if the person listening is environmentally sensitive, perhaps the Hybrid driver has an even better chance.

Falwell sees this as a case of believers being carried away by empty and deceitful philosophy. I see it as just one way our generation has the opportunity to become all things to all people.

Scripture insists that someday God is going to remake the heavens and earth. If the broader biblical pattern is any indication, this will not be a “start from scratch” kind of a thing, but a re-creation of what’s already here. Why wouldn’t Christians reflect a similar attitude toward the earth and lead the way in environmental causes? As those created in God’s image, let’s resolve to treat the rest of God’s creation as though He cares about it, too. Because He does.

Someday, perhaps we’ll be ankle-deep in blessing.