Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Shades of Hate

When I was growing up, I learned of the idea of something called a Shade.  This was a creature that existed as a shadow- a real life type of shadow of evil that with a chilling touch could destroy a person.  They were more dangerous than the undead and difficult to find as they could hide in any shadow.

I have come to believe that maybe these Shades are not as imaginary as I was led to believe.  For I think there are shades of hate all around us:

1.  In the minority of people who complain that our President is not American or a Christian.  In spite of evidence contrary to both these statements there are people who are mistrustful of our government and its current leadership.  I believe they use these statements to presume that Obama is less of a human being... as if being Muslim and un-American is sinful or wrong in some way.  There is a shadow here of hatred, a shade of mistrust in people with this attitiude.

2.  On both sides of the gay marriage issue.  People who oppose legalizing gay marriage are immediately labeled as homophobic, ignorant and intolerant.  On the other side people are called demonic, perverted, and anti-Christian or anti-Biblical.  Very little is talked about the ability to respectfully disagree. 

There are more example that could be named on other topics.  The concern I share is how quickly we seem as a nation and as individuals to label someone with whom we disagree as wrong, evil, or worse.  The insidious mark of hate colors us all and stains our spirit with the cold touch of death. 

I find it hard to reconcile these forms of hate with the gospel message of Christ.  How does our understanding of the call from Christ impact our understanding of those with whom we are in disagreement?  How can we lovingly disagree with others and where is the line drawn for this disagreement.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Dramatic Ministry

In the time my family has returned to the Indianapolis area we have re-discovered our love of musical theater- specifically community theater.  It has been a great source of release for all of us from the stress of work, family, etc... in the times we get to pretend to be other people and sing our troubles away.  In developing my professional and personal goals for 2012 one of the specific commitments I made was to be a part of at least 2 different shows in the year, a goal I am happy to say I have reached.  For me, theater is a important spiritual and emotional release for me.  I love the chance to step outside of my normal person and play someone else who may or may not be such a great person.  I love being a part of something magical that happens on stage with all my cast-mates, tech people, and staff.  I find my fellow actors and musicians to be a pleasant cross section of a community that I might not ever get to meet otherwise and find that some of my closest friends currently are from our community theater family.

Something else has happened to me since our return to this area.  In many ways I have come to consider myself the pastor/spiritual caregiver to this community of musical theater.  I am pretty sure there is not another professional minister in the area also involved in theater.  I have no statistics to back up these observations but I find that around 90% of the people I encounter in this community do not attend religious services regularly if at all.  Around 75% of them do not have any kind of spiritual relationship with Christ.  Even worse, there appears to be an inherent level of distrust about religious entities in this community and folks are usually shocked when in our friendship they find that I am a professional minister.

And so, by what I consider to be a sort of divine appointment, I feel that I have been called to minister with and to such a community.  The artistic abilities and interests of these folks (again this is only anecdotal observations) tend to marginalize them from other social circles.  Artistic people tend to view the world differently from those inclined with other gifts and their appreciation for art in its various forms takes top priority for their life and their dealings.

I know of very few religious communities attempting to minister to these starving artists.  And make no mistake, they are starving.  While some are working out an existence in the pursuit of their love others have caved in to the demands of life and taken secular work.  They share a common theme with the rest of our nation (and local community) in that they are striving against isolation.  Being artistic in many ways heightens this sense of isolation as their approach to the world is so different.  Even though we think of these talented musicians and actors as a community in many ways it is an unfair label on a wide and diverse group of beautiful, wonderful people.  What they have in common is their appreciation for art, music, poetry and prose, etc...  but even in their appreciation everyone responds differently.  It leads me to wonder if there is no other group that feels such a great deal of segregation as artists. 

It is into this community that I believe the truth about God needs to be shared.  I know of very few churches who would consider community theater to be such a group and find some of those who do have a very limited appreciation for such artists.  It leads me to ask:  Who did Jesus minister to during his time on the earth?  The marginalized people in society- then they were lepers, sinners, the demon-possessed... here and now one group (and I will admit there are many more) are artists.  Should we not be sharing the good news about the present Kingdom of God with the lost?  Jesus came to this earth so that God could reveal that Divine presence and show us that it is real and really connected with creation and particularly with us as human beings.  Those people who entertain us, who sing and dance and emote their hearts out give us such a gift with their talent.  Is it not possible for us to give them something in return?