What’s the connection between recently invalidated voter ID laws and the fledgling Wesleyan Covenant Network? They’re both based on questionable, if not demonstrably false, assumptions, writes the Rev. Jason Valendy.
A couple of weeks ago, the Federal Court of Appeals 5th Circuit stuck down a 2011 voter ID law in Texas. The 5th circuit court is known to be a conservative court in case you may be thinking this is judicial activism. The Court agreed with the pla…
The Rev. Jason Valendy finds some wisdom for The United Methodist Church in an anecdote from the desert father of monasticism, St. Anthony.
The Rev. Jason Valendy finds that Moral Foundations Theory gives some insight into many political disputes, including those in The United Methodist Church.
A hunter in the desert saw Antony enjoying himself with the brothers, and he was shocked. Wanting to show him that it was necessary sometimes to meet the needs of the brothers, the old man said to him, “Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it.” So he did. The old man then said, “Shoot another,” and the hunter said, “If I bend my bow so much I will break it.” Then the old man said to him, “It is the same with God’s work. If we stretch the brothers beyond measure they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet their needs.” When he heard these words, the hunter regretted he had said anything, and he went away greatly edified by the old man. The brothers went home stronger. —The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers (Paraclete Essentials)
Different type of bow breaking.
This saying of Father Anthony may not come to mind when considering the current state of the United Methodist Church, but I believe it speaks deeply.
It is not appropriate to assign different characters to different sides of the UMC, that is far too limiting. Rather, what I want to submit is how some of us in the Church want change that stretches the Church in one way or another. This work to stretch the Church is good but if we stretch too much we will break. This is my concern. Not that we are not stretching as a denomination but that we are stretching with such intensity that we are stretched beyond measure and we are breaking.
Echoing Anthony, I submit that sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet the needs of others in the Church out of compassion and concern for their needs. If we refuse to do so we will surely see the great bow of the UMC break.
Part of the beauty of this saying is the repentance of the hunter. He was sorry that he was in a place of non-compassion prior to hearing the Abba. The other beautiful part is Abba Anthony. He has a clear sense of what Christian community (church) ought to look like, but out of compassion for the brothers, he let go of his sense of justice and purity in order to make the brothers stronger.
Can we admit that we have been like the hunter and said things out of non-compassion?
Can we see the great witness of Anthony was so free in Christ that he let go of his own ego of what the church should be for the sake to build up others?
A first-time delegate, the Rev. Jason Valendy explains something of how a jurisdictional conference works and part of why it took South Central so long to elect three bishops.
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and wonder how the heck they could say the things they are saying? Recently, I was introduced to what is called “Moral Foundations Theory” which has given me some language to better understand myself an…
A few posts ago I shared about how I desire to be a person helping move the UMC forward with a sense of God’s vision rather than just someone in the room when it happens. While I was only an alternate delegate, I was given the opportunity to participat…
Creeds are interesting in that they serve several functions in the Christian tradition. For many they are seen as a litmus test for who is Christian and who is not. I would submit that this is a misuse of the creeds of our tradition and to distill thei…
One Sunday July 10, 2016 I invited members of the church to join in a one day fast to consider ways in which we individually and collectively create monsters of other people. Objectify people is never a right thing. Objects are often used, consumed and dismissed. We never should make a human being into an object.
But objects are not the only thing that turn people into, we also turn people into monsters. When we make another person or a certain part of our own selves into a monster, we feel like we have a righteous cause and the moral justification to kill that monster. Just like the mob in Beauty and the Beast wanted to gather together to “kill the beast!” We will become that mob when a monster is present.
Saul was a person who made others into monsters. The followers of the Way were not doing right by the tradition Saul was brought up in. These people claimed to the eat flesh and drink the blood of their leader. These “cannibals” worshiped a man named Jesus who was an enemy of Rome and even the Jewish leadership. Jesus was so bad that when given the option, the people chose to release a religious zealot named Barabbas instead of Jesus. These Christians knew their actions were evil which explained why they met in secret and even had secret codes and symbols. These Christians were, in the eyes of Saul, monsters.
Saul’s conversion moved Saul away from making and slaying monsters. But this conversion was not on his own doing. He had an encounter with Christ. He was struck blind and needed the help of others. He fasted for three days. When his sight was restored, he was eyelash to eyelash with one of these Christian “monsters”.
I believe that Paul’s life is the archetypal Christian life and as such, the Christian must go through a conversion. While we cannot control the Spirit of conversion, we can make space for the Spirit to move us. While not formulaic, I asked anyone who would like to join me in a one day fast to reflect on ways we make monsters. In response to this invitation, I share with you some of the things I saw shared on Facebook.
It is my prayer that we might have a conversion from identifying people as monsters to identifying people as beautiful, beloved children of God. If it can happen to Saul/Paul it must happen in us.