We can be Christians and ____ : a defense of ACU’s Optimist

This afternoon, one of my Facebook friends posted a link to the website of ACU’s student newspaper. The article featured was an editorial response to comments the newspaper had received after endorsing President Obama for a second term. If you would like some additional context for this piece, I encourage you to read that article, the endorsement, and the comments.

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Before I’d finished the response, I had to close the window. I spun out of my chair and walked back along the hallway toward the copy room, to make some coffee, clean the table…something.

The fist behind my ribcage quickened, and I could feel the blood pounding red, agitating my limbs, wanting action. But why? What’s another internet fight between Christians? It’s the daily routine: offense, anger, pride and biting speech filling up the comment boxes.

But these are my Christians. This is my school. Just a few months ago, I would have waited with my friends after chapel as the lines thinned, slid my card, stepped, haltingly, down the stairs under section K and grabbed my own copy of the Optimist.

So I went back to the computer, read the editorial, read the comments, readied my own response, rallying myself in support of the college students being virtually berated by 40 year old alumni.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…

And then this comment:

Tell me “How can one be a Christian and a Democrat [?]”

that saved a wretch like me…

It’s a phrase thrown out so easily, repeated too often: how can you be a Christian and…

And call yourself a republican?
And align yourself with the democrats?
And spend billions on the weapons?
And support the rights of gays to marry?
And encourage women in roles that contradict scripture?
And cling to a broken hierarchy?

I once was lost, but now I’m found…

Can’t you just hear the condemnation, the indignation dripping off those words? You can’t live out two contradictory identities simultaneously. So surrender your faith or admit defeat. Because you cannot possibly be a true disciple of Christ and ….

Because I am a Christian. I know what God wants. So how can we both claim the same God?

was blind, but now I see…

Because when we teach an inerrant, get-it-right-or-you’re-going-to-hell theology, we end up with Christians devoid of humility, unable to admit uncertainty lest they condemn themselves.

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear…

And when we preach a God born in 1776, tied irrevocably to the Manifest Destiny stretched between Washington and Washington, we end up with Christians who worship political parties, terrified that the wrong vote will oust God himself, banish him forever from these shores, like a deposed king.

and grace my fears relieved…

It is not enough to rail against the vitriol and the hatred. It is not enough to plead niceness. We need a better theology, a theology that can handle our disagreement.

How precious did that grace appear…

So we can be Christians and…

Because I believe in a God who is not threatened or empowered by political parties or policy makers. I believe in a God who does not need the President of the United States of America to be on his side. I believe in a God who existed long before Jefferson made his declaration and will continue to exist long after North America has devolved into the Hunger Games.

the hour I first believed.

Because I believe in a love that will not be weakened by my inadequacies. I believe in a deep, incomprehensible love for this mess of a planet that will not be thwarted by my endorsement or my vote or my ideology.

And because I believe that if I give everything I have to walk beside my God, to love with mercy, and to seek justice, that God’s grace is sufficient for the rest. Even if I get it wrong every single time.

I am not threatened by our disagreements. I am not frightened by Fox News or The Optimist’s endorsement. I am not afraid of admitting that I might be wrong. Because I believe in a grace that will cover the insufficiencies of our reasoning and a God that will not be stopped by them.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.

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Harry Potter and the Fear of Failure

Depending on how big a book nerd you are (and how many Harry Potter figurines you had as a child*), you may or may not know that J.K. Rowlings’ first post-HP book releases tomorrow.

It’s adult fiction this time, and much discussion was had after the announcement, mostly comments about how few authors succeed in multiple genres.

And I’ve wondered this week if it scares her, this new book. I wonder if she worries that no one will like it, that she won’t be able to live up to the expectations, that nothing she ever writes will be so beloved as that wizard boy under the cupboard.

I wonder if she ever experiences that heavy twinge of nostalgia when she remembers the midnight release parties, the millions waiting in lines and gathering excitedly in warm-yellow-lit bookstores, waiting together, sharing tangible anticipation for the stroke of midnight?

Maybe not. Maybe tonight, she’ll just enjoy a cup of tea and go to bed, glad that she doesn’t have to stay up all night.

But I wonder if it’s ever easy to create something you love, and then hand it over to the world. I wonder if we ever outgrow the shaky knees, the self doubt, the am-I-enough’s.

I wonder if the author who wrote what might be the most iconic book of a generation, who inspired songs and art and musicals and intramural quidditch games, is ever scared to write.

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

― J.K. Rowling

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At least we know the Barnes & Noble employees are grateful they won’t have to spend the morning cleaning the remains of pretzel wands and butter beer lattes.

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*Guys, I had drawer-fuls.I had figurines and boxes and a “collectible” edition of the first book. I had bumper stickers that my poor mother had to scrape off my bunk bed and my closet doors and my blue textured walls. Go ahead. Judge me. I won’t blame you.

I’ve calmed down since elementary school, but they still feature prominently on my bookshelf, and as far as I’m concerned, they always will.

Also, I wrote this ridiculously sappy post when the last movie came out. Tumblrs everywhere were all having a collective memorial, like someone had died, and I might have become a tad bit sentimental.