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Blinders on

Lots going on in here, so I hope to be able to piece together some coherent thoughts.

I recently met a young guy (also named Matt) who just moved back to the States after spending a few years living and doing missions among Buddhist monks in Tibet. Matt is considering joining the team at Adullam Denver, our community here.

Two immediate sidebars: First, Adullam is, for lack of a more precise term, the “church” we have joined in Denver. But I think it’s important to explain a bit more. The community takes its name and mission from the cave at Adullam where newly-anointed David hid out while he was being pursued by Israel’s King Saul. (See 1 Samuel 22) The term “Adullamites” has come to mean the troubled, discontent, outcast, etc. who have rightful claim to power and who are committed to pursuing it. In our group’s context, we seek to reclaim the spirit of those who follow Jesus and who have become disenchanted by modern and western conventions of what “Christianity” and “churchianity” have become. Many Adullamites see modern churches as houses of Pharisees and seek to live and love boldly in the “sacrilegious” ways of Jesus.

One of the most obvious ways I personally manifest this is by living a deconstruction of many traditional conceptions of “church” in an attempt to reclaim the spirit that led the earliest followers of Jesus. For example, should a “church” own a building for itself? In my view, doing so makes church a place and devalues the community of Jesus followers, all of whom are just components of ONE body of believers – or church – in the world. Further, should leaders of faith communities get ALL their compensation from ministry? I think that followers should provide monetarily out of duty and love to enable the leader to meet his or her needs, but the leaders should also be in and among the real world with real jobs every day to continue to be challenged to see God at work.

Insulation and isolation can be very destructive forces on Jesus followers, either individually or corporately.

Pretty heavy for a sidebar, but there it is.

Second sidebar: So my new buddy Matt – whom, because of his Tibetan experience, I refer to as “Sherpa Matt” (which is itself ironic because Sherpa Matt is about 6’2” and blond) – told me of his experiences coordinating Bible studies with Tibetan monks. He talked a lot about their openness to the message of Jesus. Considering the virtue of enlightenment extolled by Buddhists, it didn’t surprise me to learn of their openness. But he also spoke of the significant hurdle Buddhists face when choosing to follow Jesus. “Conversion” from Buddhism to any other dominant belief system carries with it some nasty Karma that impacts not only the convert, but also his or her family both now and for all subsequent generations. Whether that’s real or perceived, it’s a massive challenge for many Buddhists to consider.

Each of those tangents are just backstory, each of which could probably stand on its own. But these thoughts connected me back to something I really wrestle with. Sherpa Matt mentioned to me that he and a few of his friends have also done some work among the Lakota Indians on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. A couple of years ago I came across an article Ghosts of Wounded Knee (Harper’s Magazine, December 2009). That article explored the miserable lives of the Native Americans who live on the Indian Reservation in Wounded Knee, SD. I encourage you to read the article for yourself: Ghosts of Wounded Knee – HarpersMag Dec 2009

(Dear Harpers, I know I didn’t get your permission to post this. If you ask me to take it down, I’ll gladly do so. I’m certainly not profiting from it in any way.)

This is a Tedx(DU) presentation by the photographer who shot the photos in that Harper’s Magazine story.

Sherpa Matt said that living conditions there among the Lakotas remain deplorable and the hearts of the people seem cold and lifeless. It reminded me of Proverbs 29:18(a) – “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (KJV)

Aside from the wrongs of the past that should be righted, I read and hear stories about the Lakotas and about countless other hurting people and peoples near and far and wonder if providing a new vision of their future is possible. Can they reimagine their future? Can we with vision help them reimagine it?

My dad shared this ABC video link with me, also discussing the state of the Lakota today. Here’s a follow up to that story, too.

It’s easy to think that the conditions on “the reservation” are someone else’s problem, that “the next guy” will help, or that the lady on the street corner holding the sign essentially put herself there. It’s tempting to think that the problem of poverty inside the world’s wealthiest and most powerful economic superpower are self-imposed. But that shouldn’t absolve us of responsibility or assuage our consciences. At some point is it not incumbent on those of us who are so much more fortunate to respond to stuff like this? Sure, there are some circumstances that require voters to make the government right past wrongs. Sure, there are more problems around us than we’ll ever be able to solve. That clearly doesn’t get us off the hook to do something immediate to ease another’s pain.

I don’t know what to do with this, but it eats away at me sometimes.


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