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Purged

I was a part of a religious body of churches—something like a regional denomination or collaborative partnership—called the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends (NWYM).

A year ago, that organization determined that my congregation and several others were no longer welcome. It determined certain kinds of people were no longer welcome.

We were purged.

Despite feeling frustrated, bewildered, and disappointed in a number of people in light of this purge, I’m fine. But being “fine” is a luxury, reflecting my privilege. Many others affected by the purge are not fine. They may not be fine for a long time.

I would not say I have suffered. Other than whatever relatively minimal suffering comes from being an empathetic listener. Or from watching people bully others or develop ever-tougher litmus tests of who’s in and who’s out (and who seemingly diagnose their “toughness” as a righteous pursuit or protection of truth). Or from witnessing a train-wreck but being unable to help, either because I lack the power to do so or because I lack the courage.

But I do wish to add my voice to the chorus of lamenters, even though what I see is limited. So take it with a grain of salt.

Why You Believe What You Believe

I hold certain beliefs. I defend them. I am sometimes blinded by them. I modify them, if I can see that they need modified. I am guided by them. In some ways, I depend on them.

But why do I believe what I believe? Why do any of us believe what we believe? Why do we believe what we believe and not something else?

I don’t see things the same way I did five, ten, twenty years ago. It is likely that I’ll believe differently in a few years. Not because I’m dissatisfied with my present beliefs but because I anticipate that new discovery, new experience, and new voices will continue to shape my ideas, values, and vision.

Before expressing what we believe, I think it’s worth considering why we believe what we believe in the first place. What causes you to believe what you believe about God and all matters divine, eternal, spiritual, and sacred?How would you answer this?

I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but maybe you’d say something like one (or more) of the following…

Ten Resolutions American Christians Should Make for 2018

It’s a hopeful time of year, at least on paper.

During the Christmas season, Christians celebrate the hope of the Messiah and the ways he will bring relief, freedom, and peace. The hope of Christmas invites us to participate in the creation of a more peaceful, just world.

As the new year begins, our hope may shift to personal resolutions. This most often takes the form of a post-holiday sweets purge with a diet likely to fail (sorry! but you already knew that, didn’t you?) or other noble but vague resolutions like “be better” (unfortunately pretty worthless as a goal due to lack of specificity).

As 2018 begins, American Christians should resolve to cultivate virtues that will help us better live out our greatest calling: love. This is what many of us claim is the underlying reason for why we do the religious or spiritual things we do, right? To express love for God and for what God loves—neighbor and enemy alike.

Virtues may be my habits but ought to ultimately assist me as a social creature, enabling me to be a good citizen, good friend, good caretaker of the earth, and so on. So which virtues—habits of character—will best facilitate the kind of love to which God calls us? The following ten are a good place to start. Let’s resolve to cultivate these virtues in 2018:

1. The virtue of responsibility. Christians, let’s be less entitled. Let’s not confuse “protecting my rights” with “being cruelly self-centered and scared.” Let’s think less individually and more collectively, recognizing how the ripples of our choices impact (and in some cases hurt) others. Let’s be less deliberately ignorant or evasive. Let’s not avoid topics that make us anxious when the suffering of others is at stake. Let’s be more aware of our responsibility to others backed by the will to act upon that awareness. Less “not my problem” and more “how can I participate in the solving of what is definitely a problem?” Less “that’s just the way it is” and more “I refuse to accept the status quo.” Less “well I didn’t cause their suffering” and more “it’s suffering, period, so how can I help?”