I think the article I'm linking to below is a thoughtful article about how ideology is destroying civil discourse and learning. As a follower of God in the way of Jesus Christ, I want to be allegiant to the Kingdom of God. I believe this requires me to be pastorally open to other people who think differently than me either from the right or the left. I know what I believe and it's rooted deeply in Christian orthodoxy but that doesn't mean I can't associate with people thinking differently than I do. What I have found is that ideology, both from the right and from the left, from conservatives and liberals, is exhausting and significantly dumbing down our culture. Just look at what is happening in Washington DC. Because we have lost the art of civil discourse, all ideologies have "political correct" litmus tests, which allow them to label, dismiss, demonize and dehumanize anyone outside of their way of thinking. Jesus Christ should have succumbed to this type of behavior in his day but he constantly looked into the face of the other and opened up new possibilities of what it means to be fully human in the world in which we live. The ideologues of his day crucified him. Whoever you are, whatever you so strongly believe in, if you really believe it, then you shouldn't be intimidated, nor afraid to dialogue with people who think differently than you.
This is a guest post by my friend and fellow Youthfront Staff Member Kurt Rietema, who is our Director of Justice Initiatives.
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one, new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” Eph. 2:14-17
A week ago I stepped out onto our front porch looking for a change of scenery with Leo. Armando was across the street stirring a kettle over a makeshift grill built of broken concrete blocks and found stones, an air of grilled meat signaled a possible and very welcomed invitation. He spotted me on the porch, “Kuuurt! Vente para acá!” Confirmation. Leo and I went over while the other boys ran circles with the neighbor kids. As I sat among old friends with tacos laden with meat worthy of a Levitical sacrifice and my baby in the arms of eager Mexican mothers, I took deep pleasure in watching Armando at his craft. Through smoke and burned fingers, it was as if he was conjuring up memories of the old country. He had this look of derangement and delight, thisrudimentary fire, an exile’s protest to stainless steel and liquid propane. He looked at home in his new home for the first time in a long time and it gave me great satisfaction.
A little while later, Alejandro from next door showed up and I overheard their conversation. Armando told him, “You know Kurt and Emily, they’re from a different class, but you wouldn’t know it. They’re educated. They’ve got some money. But they’re here with us, you know? They’re not like other güeros. They could be living in other places among different people, but they’re here with us. That’s why I like them. They’re one of us.” It was a moment that validated our efforts of downward mobility. The immigrant experience is often marked by feelings of being unwanted, second-class, and perpetually catering to someone else’s desires. It’s lonely, alienating, isolating and anti-shalom. But here, Armando was seeing the temporary rules of the world suspended as together in our neighborhood we’ve put aside what divides us, we preach peace to one another, and taste a new kind of humanity.
The week after Mike Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri, I was fixated on social media. The protests and marches had become about so much more than taking sides on Mike Brown’s presumed innocence or his guilt. It became the epicenter of racial pain in the US. On social media, I heard the pain and the raw emotion pour out, unedited from people of color in a way that I never had experienced before. And some of the most recurring, frustrated cries were the ones that wondered why their white brothers and sisters were so silent, echoing Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, a generation before. One reporter asked someone how he felt about Mike Brown’s death being a young, black man himself. His response cut right to the very alienation that was embedded and invisible within the question itself. “I don’t know, how do you feel about it as a human?” At their core, the marches and protests were about people of color looking for validation, emotional bids burdened by a desire to know they’re not alone. They wanted someone to acknowledge that their pain is real; to tell them they’re not crazy and that their frustration is not unwarranted. The Sunday after Mike Brown was shot, I called up a few friends and we went to Ferguson, not to take sides but to walk with them and tell them they weren’t alone.
When we walked up Florissant Avenue for the first time, we were the ones who felt alone. It seemed the only other white people were either cops or the media. Soon, we stopped to talk to a few people—friends of the Brown family as it so happened. They welcomed us in and shared some of their stories. They found out we were from Kansas City and they thanked us for coming down and joining them. They took away our anxiety and displacement and, from their response, it seemed their sense of alienation subsided as well by standing with them. If only for a moment and if only among a handful of people, the normal dividing wall of hostility was set aside and we experienced the new humanity that Jesus came to bring.
A few months ago, Sarah Bessey, a Christian writer and blogger wrote a brave piece about how the world traffics in fear of the other and the unknown and how evil and hatred is propagated by fear. “Be afraid, the world tells us. And now, sadly, it seems many of our [Christian] media outlets and leaders are telling us the same thing. Be afraid. Be afraid of money, be afraid of losing “the fire”, be afraid of education, be afraid of theology, be afraid of growth and change...be afraid of the news, be afraid of Islam, be afraid of the President, be afraid of the UN, be afraid of immigrant children, be afraid of other churches, be afraid of the Pope, be afraid of socialism, be afraid of the government, be afraid of the world, be afraid be afraid be afraid.” Yet we know that there is no fear in love, forperfect love casts out fear. Throughout scripture, it seems that every angelic or divine encounter is prefaced by one message--don’t be afraid. And when Israel lived in terror in Egypt, they cried out andGod listened. When scared and helpless during the period of the judges, God didn’t abandon them. When living in fear under Roman occupation, God did not remain distant. Instead God took on flesh and moved into the neighborhood. When the world ran from the lepers, Jesus ran toward them. When the Jews flanked Samaria, Jesus cut through it. When the Temple cordoned off the Gentiles, Jesus took them for dinner. Do not be anxious about tomorrow and do not be afraid, says Jesus, for there is not one square inch of creation that is not mine.
God has given some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, pastors and teachers. Sometimes I’m not sure if I fit any one of those categories as cleanly as I, or others, might like. But it seems that one constant message that God keeps surprising us with is that the world is not such a scary place after all. Preaching peace both to those whose life is very different from me and to those who are like me is one thing I can’t keep silent about. For it is Jesus who casted off fear like he casted off demons, showing the world for the first time what it means to truly be human, what it really means to live, what it really means to love. Without fear, one new humanity.
This is a powerful TED talk by Zak Ebrahim who is the son of the man who planned the bombing of the World Trade Center. Hearing Zak gives me hope in the midst of all the craziness happening around the world.
I am still glowing from Sunday night's special, The Night That Changed America, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show. I remember watching as a six year old boy that night 50 years ago with my Dad and Mom. I have been a life-long Beatles' fan. I also like the fact that my kids also share a passion for the Beatles and also my other super group - U2. I love these guys and I'm looking forward to the release in June of their upcoming album Songs Of Ascent. Gotta love that name. Here is the new video of Invisible, the first song released during the Super Bowl from the coming album.
In response to the devastating typhoon that surged through the Philippines killing thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands, our Something to Eat distribution partners at Food for the Hungry are working with other crisis response agencies to assess and address the immediate needs.
Many have been asking how they can participate with Something to Eat and how we fit into this response. It's important that aid agencies know their timing and their place in disaster response. Flooding a country with food and medical supplies does no good if roads are impassable with debris, water isn't drinkable, and there is no gas or cooking supplies to prepare food. The good intentions of too many aid organizations are poorly timed, are often wasted or misused, and their help ends up hurting. Multinational organizations like the UN and Red Cross are providing this critical first step and are drawing from food stockpiles in the region.
But needs will soon surpass the stockpile of regional aid and the Something to Eat meals distributed by Food for the Hungry will provide 'just in time' aid. We have several thousand meals that are ready to be shipped and in the next few weeks we want to package even more to arrive in the Philippines precisely when they're needed most.
On Friday, November 29, when many of us are shopping for Christmas presents we really don't need, join us in packaging the most critical of presents this year. Take your family, your friends, church, small group, or office to celebrate Something to Eat's Pack Friday event. On Pack Friday, join hundreds of others in packaging thousands of meals that in the coming weeks will be shipped to the Philippines to arrive when regional food stockpiles run thin. Plan your day and prepare your group now.
My friend, associate and Youthfront board member, Dr. Dean Blevins recently posted a wonderful summary of the Youth Ministry and Race Relations Dialogue we held at NTS.
"Every once in a while you realize you are in the middle of something really, really special. I have over thirty-five years experience listening to presentations in varying contexts, first in broadcast television news and later in academic settings. November 12th was special, as I sat in a pew and was drawn into a panel discussion over the issues of youth ministry and race." Read rest of the post here.
Dr. Dean G. Blevins currently serves as Professor of Practical Theology and Christian Discipleship at Nazarene Theological Seminary. An ordained elder, Dean has ministered in diverse settings and currently also serves at the USA Regional Education Coordinator for the Church of the Nazarene. A prolific author, Dr. Blevins recently co-wrote the textbook Discovering Discipleship and edits Didache: Faithful Teaching, a journal for Wesleyan Education.
For a couple of years Youthfront has been serving in the Argentine District of Kansas City, KS. Kurt and Emily Rietema moved into this wonderful
neighborhood and several Youthfront staff followed. One of the many things we've been able to be involved with is the resurrection of the beautiful Franklin Center.
Last weekend we had a big celebration at the Franklin Center. The neighborhood came together for a great time and hope for the future of the Franklin Center. We are also thankful for the Colonial Presbyterian youth group who came to serve all weekend. Check out this video.
The public outcry following the verdict of the Zimmerman trial last summer exposed anew the pain and reality of the highly
racialized society we live in. Our churches and our youth ministries
are not exempt from these patterns of racial isolation. Beginning at 8:30 am on November 12,
Dr. Brandon Winstead will address the historical, social and cultural
issues that have shaped the realities of youth ministry and race in the
US. In a second session, Dr. Winstead will lead a panel discussion with
other scholars and ministry leaders regarding the implications and
future this reality holds for ministry among youth. We will conclude at
Keynote: Dr. Brandon Winstead
Panelists: Rev. Montague Williams, Dr. Claire Smith, Rev. David Gilmore and our very own Youthfront staff member Kurt Rietema
Food for the Hungry Fights Growing Hunger Crisis in Haiti Food distributions and income generation projects meet acute needs
PHOENIX (July 1, 2013) – Approximately 1.5 million Haitians currently face severe food insecurity due to drought and crop failure, according to the United Nations. Food for the Hungry (FH) is responding to this crisis though emergency food aid and income generation projects, based on goat and rabbit breeding.
In partnership with Something to Eat, FH has distributed high-protein, vitamin-fortified meals to malnourished children and children under age 2. FH health and nutrition staff identify the most vulnerable children for food distributions. The program is taking place in Belledere and nearby communities on the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Additionally FH has provided goats and rabbits for families to breed. Families receive animals with training on animal husbandry and marketing. As animals breed, owners sell the offspring and gain income to buy food in local markets. This supplementary income is essential for surviving the food crisis.
“Food is available for purchase locally,” said Dave Evans, FH’s U.S. President. “But escalating prices for food staples are out of reach for the vast majority of poor farming families. These households are now faced with the double burden of poor harvests from their farms and the rising cost of food in the marketplace. It’s a very serious situation.”
Emergency food is distributed by FH in partnership with Something to Eat, an organization that recruits U.S. church youth groups and other groups to pack emergency food packets for shipment to food insecure countries. The food distributed to date was pre-positioned in the region in case of a crisis in Haiti or the Dominican Republic.
“An amazing part of this story is that the food was packaged by teenagers, impassioned by hunger issues, who personally raised the money to make it happen,” said Mike King, President/CEO of Youthfront, who organizes Something to Eat.
San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt and author of To Stir a Movement, who has organized Something to Eat packing events, commented on the relief activity saying, “This is exactly the kind of need we want to meet. Our goal is to get healthy food into the hands of the most vulnerable in the face of crisis. Now the challenge is to see this through till the crisis is over.”
FH plans to do more food and animal distributions this month. Staff are monitoring the situation closely and coordinating efforts with the Haitian government and the United Nations. The focus of FH’s development work in Haiti includes child survival, education, sustainable farming, disaster risk reduction and church strengthening.
### Founded in 1971, Food for the Hungry provides emergency relief and long-term development programs with operations in more than 20 countries to help the world's most vulnerable people. Learn more by visiting www.fh.org. Social connections include www.facebook.com/foodforthehungry and www.twitter.com/food4thehungry.