Friday, October 31, 2008

End of a Season

For a couple of years now, I have been a participant on Naznet.com (a site I affectionately refer to as "the Naznet"). The Naznet is a site for members and friends of the International Church of the Nazarene. I was first introduced to the site by Anita Henck, when the owner of the site, Dave McClung became president of my alma mater. That was in 2001. Ever since then, I've gone through periods of varied levels of participation. I've gone months without even checking in on posts, let alone posting myself. Then there have been times of extended interaction. For the most part, I've enjoyed interaction on the Naznet. But it's not been without frustration and controversy.

It was when I was in seminary that I saw a confederate flag bumper sticker (I forget what it said, but it was blatantly racist) while driving around Kansas City. I posted it on the Naznet and asked what people thought. I was befuddled when some simply said, "You just don't understand the culture [of the south]." My thought was, "You don't understand the nature of symbols!" I mean, just because everyone's favorite wave in Boston involves the middle finger doesn't mean I can excuse myself as "living in that culture" and go around giving the one-fingered salute to everyone I see.

Probably the most embarrassed I've ever been because of my interaction on the site was when I posted about some missionaries (good family friends) who were in trouble in a country in Africa. One of them had accidentally done something that was punishable by law. I was told by a reliable source that it was possible that the missionary could receive the death penalty in that country for what had happened. I posted about the possible consequence, which was completely untrue. I received private messages and e-mails blasting me for this for about a week. I learned the hard way to be sure of what I posted (I thought it was innocent, but understand the concern!). The missionary couple and members of their family have seemed distant since then. I regret that.

Then there was the time that it came out that President Bush could possibly address the General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene. I, like many others, thought it was a horrible idea. I posted a pretty passionate post about it. Many of them thought I was an idiot. I laugh at that time period now.

The craziest times around the Naznet are surely during presidential elections. I don't remember much about the 2004 election on the Naznet (I must not have been participating much then), but I do know that the Current Events Discussion Board was shut down for a while after that. (There are different boards for different topics: Current Events, Community Discussion, Theology, Technology, etc.).

The Naznet has grown considerably in the last two years. This is in great part thanks due to the switch from the Ceilidh software to vBulletin. It's also due to a general rise in internet communication. I believe that there are now 20 discussion boards, almost 20,000 threads, over 200,000 posts, and hundreds of members across the world.

That's one aspect that I've loved about the Naznet. I've been able to hear and learn how God's people are being moved throughout world. I've been enlightened by people from the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, and Canada, not to mention Oklahoma and Texas (often these states seem more foreign than the aforementioned countries).

In many ways, conversation on the Naznet has confirmed some of the ways that I have felt like God is speaking to me, particularly on the Theology forum. It's given me a forum on which to discuss some pretty deep things, and concepts and understandings of God and the Church that have stretched me and I believe, made me a better follower of Christ. One of the advantages of the Naznet over blogging is that we can have well-organized, timely, and searchable discussions. Blogging is rather one-sided and commenting features are often difficult to follow.

At other times on the Naznet, like some of the above instances, I've not been who I want to be. It happened again this week. Frankly, due to some other circumstances, this has been a difficult week. And then when this new thread occurred, it got the worst of me.

However...I am pretty tired of the condescension from some given in the direction of younger members. In many instances, and by only a handful of members, the voice and posts of a younger generation are dismissed on the basis of age and experience. It's very disheartening.

I think that the title of this blog gives pretty good implication that I am willing to learn. I have no fear in stating that I've got more stretching to come in my life. I've not learned it all. And sometimes I have used the Naznet as a source of information. I've posted threads asking for some input on a given subject or situation. Many times people have come through, and simply to help me. Or, I might simply give my own perspective on something (which is what everyone does!), with the thought that I'm throwing myself out there in vulnerability, expecting to hear different responses and certainly different perspectives and insight. I expect it!

But I don't expect condescension or derision. Apparently, many come to the Naznet with a feeling of already having been terminally educated (which is sad in light of my understanding of holiness - a constant growth in the grace of God). They only see their role on the Naznet as one of information provider and could hardly stoop to consider themselves an information seeker. And in the last couple of weeks:
  • I've been labelled as "in the spirit of antichrist";
  • I've been told I'm too young to understand (the actual phrase was: "I am old enough to be your grandmother Jeremy and have lived/survived a very painful history," which had little to do with what we were talking about. It was simply a dismissal of me for even talking.);
  • There was a post that said: "To the younger people, before you vote, study some history.";
  • And I could point out a number of other things that have been in a general spirit of, "You're too young [or inexperienced] to know."
I think that perhaps the greatest disappointment for me in this has been that I have a hope for the Church of the Nazarene that she might actually survive postmodernity in the United States. But if she is going to, there is going to have be a sharing of the reigns and an understanding that those affected by post-modernity cannot own anything that they cannot discuss. I am fortunate that I am on a district that is doing this.

I am done posting on the Naznet. I've done this before. In fact, I began this blog as an escape from the Naznet. If I know myself, it's likely I'd end up there again. But too many times it's affected me beyond what's good. I emphasize again that this is only a handful of experience amongst a great many. But when the few overshadow the many, I need to protect my ability to think and minister throughout the day. Which is what I'm doing. I'll likely keep tabs on the discussions, but I'm not able to post. They'll not miss me, nor do they need me. But I will miss participating with them.

I hope to blog more often, as I have been a bit lately. (I'm still working on my Top 25 Musical Compositions of All-Time.) I'm also well into a clergy discussion group on Fridays here in Hingham, a group for which I am very thankful. I'm about to begin a study of Greek with the staff of South Shore Baptist (imagine that!). I'm not a big Piper fan, but I'm looking forward to this opportunity with some good guys, people with whom I've got way more important things in common that overshadow Wesleyan-Arminianism and Calvinism. And lastly, I'm about to begin a book study with two other elders in the CotN, both of whom together have somewhere around 60 years of service in the CotN (I hope they let me talk!). Just kidding, I know that they will. So I have other avenues of stretching and discussion. I'll maximize them in place of the Naznet.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Prayers for Election Day

Those who know me well know that Stanley Hauerwas has been pretty influential on my thinking. Here's a prayer of his from Prayers Plainly Spoken called "A Prayer on Election Day":

Sovereign Lord, foolish we are, believing that we can rule ourselves by selecting this or that person to rule over us. We are at it again. Help us not to think it more significant than it is, but also give us and those we elect enough wisdom to acknowledge our follies. Help us laugh at ourselves, for without humor our politics cannot be humane. We desire to dominate and thus are dominated. Free us, dear Lord, for otherwise we perish. Amen.

And then my own prayer in these days (largely taken from scripture):

God in Christ, lead us by your Spirit: We, like sheep, have gone astray. We've sold out our devotion to you and your Son, the God-man, for the eloquent words and safe promises of men. Thank you for the sacrifice that's already taken care of our iniquity. Yet...help our love to flourish more and more now, as we seek to make discernment. As we cast a vote for the future of an earthly nation, remind us foremost of the coming of your Kingdom in and through us, your subjects, the citizens of the eternal nation. Even as I enter the days ahead, be them down one path or another, help us, your people, to love and submit to one another and Christ. Amen.

(I have another one for the day after the election. If I don't post it, somebody remind me.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Do you believe that God loves you?

My friend Brad Grinnen posted this video on Facebook. It's tough stuff.

Do you truly believe that God loves you?