Who Needs a “Jubilee of Mercy”?

“Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world: have mercy upon us.”

UnknownEach one of us, many times during our lives, have raised our voices and cried, “Lord have mercy.” Mercy is the kind of forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly. From a Christian perspective, it is the gift that God or another person offers to someone by not treating him/her in the way they deserve.

For many, this cry for mercy is a perpetual line of their daily prayers. It expresses our deepest inability to cope with the pain in our hearts or the desperate frustration with the challenges of our sinful human condition.

We all long for mercy. The tragedy is that we are not prone to offer it to others.

This past March, Pope Francis announced, to the surprise of many, a holy year. From Dec. 8, 2015 to Nov. 20, 2016, Catholics throughout the world are called to celebrate a “Jubilee of Mercy.” The celebration of a jubilee originated in Judaism and it was the occasion to offer forgiveness and reconciliation.

I tend to believe that mercy is not something we should celebrate in an extraordinary way, like in a “year of jubilee”. The fact that Pope Francis feels the need for such a celebration speaks to the reality that we, as the people of God, have forgotten or relegated this grace to be given only on extraordinary circumstances.

Maybe we need to be reminded that God’s mercies are not extraordinary. The prophet Micah said: “Who is a God like you? You forgive sin and overlook the rebellion of your faithful people. You will not be angry forever, because you would rather show mercy.” (Mich. 7:18) And we are reminded that the mercies of the Lord “are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:23)

We may not be conscious of the reality that, in order to successfully live in community, we are dependent on the mutual exchange of the gift of mercy. For most people, this is something natural, at least when required by our normal misunderstandings or common offenses. Things get complicated when we are challenged to offer mercy when major offenses has been committed, or when one of the sins in our “top ten” list has been committed.

Allow me to demonstrate this with a very contemporary issue. I recently read an article by Jeanne Bishop titled, “Lord, Have Mercy” (America Magazine). Ms. Bishop works as an assistant public defender in the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender in Chicago. In the article, she articulates in a very profound way her journey from pardoning, to experiencing and offering mercy. Ms. Bishop’s sister, her unborn child and her sister’s husband were killed by David Biro. She shares how, after a long struggle, she has forgiven the killer, said his name, and even prayed for him. But she still was not certain if she wanted him to serve less than his full life sentence.

I suppose that this would be the bottom line for many of us. Doesn’t he deserve at least to be put away for the rest of his life? Some would even question why this man was not given a death sentence.

Ms. Bishop had, what I must call, an epiphany moment. She writes: “And in the very next moment, like daylight breaking into darkness, I knew something else. I’d always thought that the only thing big enough to pay for the life of my sister was a life sentence for her killer. Now I understood: The only thing big enough to equal the loss of her life was for him to be found.

What a profound and revolutionary truth. In dealing with His children, God is not driven by revenge or a sense of satisfaction or even pleasure. At the very heart of God, there is a desire for redemption, for restoration. The psalmist clearly expresses this truth on Psalm 130:

  1. Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
  2. Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
  3. If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
  4. But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

7. Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption.

Full redemption is what God is all about. That redemption is experienced when God shows His unfailing and redemptive love towards us. Pope Francis said that, “Mercy is not just a pastoral attitude; it is the very substance of the Gospel message.” The redemption and transformation of our hearts and souls can only be achieved by the mystery of God’s mercy and love operating in and through us.

A “Jubilee of Mercy” can be a redemptive event; it will certainly do good, not only to Catholics, but to all Christians.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matt. 5:7).

Guest Author:

Carlos L. Malavé, a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCUSA), lives in Louisville, Kentucky. He served for eleven years as associate for ecumenical relations in the Office of the General Assembly. Since 2012 he has been the executive director for  Christian Churches Together (CCT).

Created in 2001, CCT is a forum of more than 35 churches and Christian organizations that encompasses the broad diversity of Christianity in the U.S. ― Evangelical, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Pentecostals, historic Protestant, Racial and Ethnic churches.

 

Posted in Biblical Theology, Forgiveness, God's Character, Jesus, Roman Catholicism, Spirituality | 11 Comments/Likes

Fr. Leo Walsh on Christian Unity

Fr. Leo Walsh serves as a priest in the diocese of Anchorage, Alaska. He is an active participant in the Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation. He is also actively engaged in ecumenism, both in his local parish and in the wider context of the North American church.

Posted in ACT 3, Missional-Ecumenism, My Christian Unity Story | 8 Comments/Likes

What You Can Do About the Kenya Massacre: Choose to Love

Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe

IMG_9498Once again the senseless massacre of almost 150 students in Kenya has demonstrated the fallenness and depravity of humanity. It is impossible to comprehend the depth of brutality that human beings can perpetrate against others, particularly children and young people. Lives filled with so much hope and potential were snuffed out by the barbarity of those who seemingly will stop at nothing to promote their twisted ideology and beliefs.

What should be responses to such acts of cruelty? We have already seen swift military action by the Kenyan government in retaliation for the atrocities committed. Yet what should your response be, and the response of every individual Christian before God? The natural inclination is anger, to lash back, to punish the perpetrators. Yes, justice demands we respond and hold accountable the killers. But is that all we can do and will it bring an end to these senseless attacks?

It is a primary responsibility of governments to protect its citizens. However, given the fact the growing threat of terrorists is not contained within a specific geographic border, no individual government can be the sole solution. International cooperation amongst nations must become the norm rather than the exception. This shared action goes beyond cooperative military, intelligence and relief initiatives. In order to diminish the growing impact of these radical movements we must deal with the very ideology that seems to be mobilizing thousands of willing and young terrorists.

I am convinced a part of the strategy to challenge the underlying foundation of the radical jihadists is found in the followers of Jesus. That’s where you come in.

Jesus calls His followers to another way. A way that seems contrary to our human instincts. The best way to visualize this new way is to be reminded of those brave Egyptian Coptic women who extended forgiveness to the brutal killers who massacred their husbands, their sons, their fathers. They chose the path of love, not hate. They chose the path of Jesus.

Some say this is naive. They object and say it’s no way to respond to the brutality of radical jihadists.

I remember a conversation with a pastor who has a deep hatred for Muslims. I asked him about the words of Jesus, who asked us to love our neighbors. His response, “We tried, and didn’t work.” Really? Did Jesus really propose something that does not work? I don’t think so.

So when we think about the slayings of innocent young students in Kenya what does choosing to love actually mean? It can be expressed in the following ways:

1. Seeking to enter into the pain of those who are suffering from the loss of their loved ones and pray for them;

2. Understanding from Scripture suffering, persecution, and forgiveness. We can engage devotionals* around these themes to acknowledge our own prejudices against and stereotyping of Muslims;

3. Seeking to build friendships with “the other”. The others in this case are Muslims. One of the goals of the radical jihadists is to create a narrative that Christians hate all Muslims and Christians are the enemy. In the midst of feeling helpless we can deny the radicals victory by loving our Muslim neighbors. Multiply these loving friendships by the millions and you begin to change the narrative:

4. Seeking to educate ourselves about the current global struggle with radical jihadists separating myths and reality; and

5. Supporting the humanitarian efforts for those organizations who not only assist the victims of persecution but also the disenchanted youth who are the most vulnerable for radicalization.

At the end of the day, what we should not do is be complacent or overwhelmed into paralysis. Recognizing that Jesus offered another way, not a short-term solution but a radical way, we as Christians move toward changing the world by choosing love.

Guest AuthorIMG_9498

The Rev. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe is Chairman of the Board of Advisors of Christian Media Corporation International (CMC); advisor of “A.D. The Bible Continues”; global strategist for Crossroads Global Media Group; YouVersion International Ambassador; “Unashamedly Ethical” Global Ambassador and Strategist; and former secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance.

 

Posted in American Evangelicalism, Current Affairs, Politics, Separation of Church & State, Spiritual Warfare, The Church, The Future, The War on Terrorism | 2 Comments/Likes

The Spirituality of Designer Religions (Monte Wilson)

DSC00542You can’t read a magazine or watch TV without hearing some rock star or movie actor gushing on and on about being a “spiritual person.” Same goes for Facebook, where people post such profound bon mots as, “I am not religious. I am spiritual.” Maybe it’s just me but this always leaves me wondering: You’re spiritual? To what spirit are you referring? It begs the question, doesn’t it?

“Being spiritual” doesn’t say enough for me to have even the slightest clue as to what you are describing or asserting about your beliefs. If we have a Buddhist, a Baptist, and a believer in Brahman, each saying he is spiritual, aren’t they all saying something categorically different? And if a word can mean so many different things to different people, why confuse your listeners with such an amorphous word?

Why, indeed.

While there are probably more reasons than I can imagine, I believe that most all of them can be traced back to two.

When I say that I am spiritual, I am letting you know that I believe in something higher than myself, but am not suggesting – the pantheon of gods forbid—that my spirituality is superior or higher or nobler than your spirituality. Well, unless, that is, your “spirituality” includes what you believe are divinely given moral codes with which I disagree: then you are “religious.” My spirituality makes no base and disgusting judgments about the behavior of others because doing so is my one sacred prohibition.

Okay. There are some behaviors upon which my spirituality demands I call down hell and damnation.

It always baffles me when people go on and on about the horrific nature of God’s Ten Commandments, only to discover that they actually have created far more sacrosanct laws than we find on Moses’ two tablets. They sit there telling me how restrictive The Ten Commandments are, how morally reprehensible or barbaric it is, and then, when I light up a cigar or order a 24 oz porterhouse or they hear about my stash of banned light-bulbs I am still using or my belief in a free market economy or of the one hundred other sacred cows of theirs that I am goring by my behavior, they want me stoned or shunned…or at least have my right to vote taken away.

Which brings me to the second reason. By referring to myself as being “spiritual and not religious,” I get to believe and behave however I choose. Is that cool, or what? There are no dogmas, no codes of behavior, and no traditions, other than those I create for myself. Maybe I’ll take a little from Buddha, a smidgen from Hinduism, and something from Jesus about loving others, and, Voila: I have my self-created designer religion that demands nothing of me other than what I want it to.

Why not just say, “I have designed my own religion”? I can’t say that because it would make me sound like I have a god-complex. Then what about professing that I practice syncretism: a combination of various beliefs and practices taken from many religions that were chosen according to what makes me feel good about myself, fits my personality, and supports my chosen cultural mores.  O. Wait a minute. Those are basically saying the same thing, aren’t they.

Guest Author

Monte E. Wilson

Monte Wilson trains individuals, teams, and organizations to develop personal and team effectiveness. His work has taken him around the globe and for 40 years he has trained thousands of international leaders in the fields of communication and persuasion, education, and non-profit organizations. As a Corporate Trainer and Life Coach, he has specialized in working across cultural lines throughout the world to establish and sustain successful businesses, both large and small. ESPN, ABC, United Technologies and Best Buy.

As an authority on leadership development, Monte has worked with men and women across five continents, teaching them how to reinvent themselves, their communities and their organizations.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2015

Posted in American Evangelicalism, Discipleship, Leadership, Spirituality | 1 Comment/Like

Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian (A Review)

DanToday’s guest writer is Dan Brennan, author of the important book, Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and Women.

Where was I to find love? Where was I to give love?

If Scripture and the Christian tradition were right that I shouldn’t

try to find a husband, surely the apparent corollary couldn’t also be

right—that I was therefore cut off from any deep, meaningful

form of intimacy and communion. Could it?”

Wesley Hill

 

As an evangelical who has significant interest in the connection between sexuality and friendship, I was eagerly awaiting the delivery of Wesley Hill’s Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian. He did not disappoint.

Although Hill writes from the perspective of a gay celibate, he writes as an evangelical who seeks to integrate a post-Freudian view of sexuality with friendship. To be clear, Hill doesn’t use that phrase. That comes from take. In my own language, some of the distinctive features of a post-Freudian sexuality are that it 1) affirms we are all spiritual-sexual beings, 2) expands the meaning of sexuality beyond genital engagement, and 3) embraces friendship love in relational sexuality.

Friendship love has two different dimensions for Christians in a post-Freudian world. Evangelicals are just beginning to explore the friendship love within marriage. That’s the first dimension. What does spiritual friendship mean in marital sexuality? The second dimension focuses on the question of what it means for two sexual persons to love one another wholeheartedly not as romantic partners but as friends. Hill’s book centers on this dimension exploring the meaning of friendship love as a gay celibate.

For gays who are committed to a traditional sexual ethic, the friendship love in the first dimension is not an option. However, what about friendship love in the second dimension? Gays living within the current evangelical sexual milieu are faced with a rigid two-choice dilemma: seek the almost impossible task of changing their orientation or face a life destined for despairing loneliness.

Hill’s book courageously offers gay celibates a breakthrough out of that evangelical gridlock by boldly claiming friendship love in the second dimension. In popular evangelical sexuality, the message for evangelical gays is so strong: they have no choice other than this two-choice dilemma. This evangelical gridlock is a powerful narrative precisely because it is comprised of a number of mini two-choice dilemmas presented as gospel truth. In contrast, Spiritual Friendship explores how friendship offers gay celibates authentic, life-giving, life-affirming choices beyond those dilemmas. We’ll look at three such dilemmas for this post.

Unfulfilled or Neutered?

In this courageous book, Hill dares to forge in the midst of the evangelical world a sexually safe space for gay celibates to enjoy friendship as gays without neutering their sexuality. In so doing Hill has to challenge conservative evangelicals who have uncritically accepted a When Harry Met Sally ethic as heterosexual gospel. If the sex part always gets in the way of friendship between two sexual beings, then evangelical gays are consigned to a haunting two-choice dilemma with no authentic alternative.

Can gay men be profoundly and authentically sexual as celibates and friends? Suddenly, evangelicals who enthusiastically endorse a When Harry Met Sally sexual ethic are faced with their own reductionistic corner into which they have painted themselves. Hill wants us to think deeply about authentic love in friendship without neutering sexuality.

For gay Christians and heterosexual Christians who hold to the When Harry Met Sally ethic, only romantic love/marriage provides an authentic way out of loneliness. Matthew Vines, the author of God and the Gay Christian, sets up this dilemma with his insistence that marriage for gays is the path out of loneliness. When I heard him speak, he immediately dismissed friendship for gays as a serious and authentic alternative to loneliness.

Hill deftly and daringly leads us deep into the heart of the landscape of sexual beings seeking authentic spiritual closeness in friendship as celibates. Sex is not the only place for sexual beings to experience the fullness of God’s presence; friendship, too, offers authentic fullness with no neutering of our sexuality.

Slippery Slope or Integrity?

As I stated earlier, evangelical gridlock poses a number of two-choice dilemmas. Gay celibates aren’t stuck with the narrow dilemma: slippery slope or integrity. Both choices are undesired alternatives for gay celibates. Of course, it’s immediately apparent that sliding down the slippery slope into gay sex is not a virtuous path for gay celibates.

Evangelicals typically cannot conceive of life-giving intimacy between two friends where romantic attraction may arise with no choice for marriage. But simplistic evangelical accounts for sexual integrity are also undesirable for gay celibates. In popular evangelical sexual ethics, integrity means staying sexually pure in the eyes of God.

For many evangelicals this would mean gay celibates could never enter into deep intimacy with someone to whom they could be physically attracted. In many popular straightforward evangelical books on sexuality, the message is to run away just as fast you can. Some even conflate sexual attraction and lust. This kind of integrity, of course, dooms the gay celibate to life-long shallow relationships.

Hill rejects those narrow two-choice dilemmas for gay celibates. “My being gay,” he writes, and saying no to gay sex may lead me to be more of a friend to men, not less.”

Unconsummated Love or Distant Intimacy? 

A sexuality centered on body parts coupled with a When Harry Met Sally sexual ethic pressures evangelical gay celibates to another narrow two-choice dilemma: unconsummated love or distant intimacy. Either choice is undesirable for gay celibates.

There is no deep peace when two individuals who are committed to celibacy desire an intimacy that leaves them just short of a consummated love. For evangelicals deep love and sexuality mean consummated love. Wholehearted love in evangelical sexuality translates into would-be, could-be, ought-to-be consummated lovers.

Distant intimacy for gay celibates would also be a frustratingly undesirable alternative. Contemporary evangelicals regard this kind of intimacy as the only kind of friendship connection that is appropriate. For straight evangelicals, friends can be left behind when romance enters the picture. Evangelical sexuality conflates romance and deep intimacy between two adults as the only road to fulfilling, generative, and longlasting love.

According to evangelical sexual scripts, friends don’t have to work at deepening intimacy. There is no expectation among evangelicals for two friends to intentionally pursue deep intimacy over the long haul. Distant intimacy between friends is what passes for meaningful connection with friendship lite expectations. Nor is there any expectation for romantic couples to share a life of intentional deep intimacy with celibates or with any others beyond the couple.

Hill peers into both the theology of friendship and the history of spiritual friendship; he wants evangelicals not to be stuck with these undesirable options of fragmentation. He does not gloss over the difficulties and challenges of nurturing a spiritual closeness within intimate friendship; nor does he run scared.

For Christians (progressive or conservative) who anxiously need to keep friendship as a distant intimacy in order to keep their sexual scripts, Hill’s book might not be good news. But for those who embrace a post-Freudian view of sexuality, the integration of the freedom of friendship with sexuality offers twentyfirst century Christians many “patterns of the possible” (the title of one his chapters).

While it may appear to the casual observer that sexuality is all about sex, a post-Freudian shift posits that there is much more meaning to sexuality than just sex. It is this shift toward a holistic meaning of sexuality that gives celibate gays like Hill a strong hope that deep intimacy of shared life between friends holds great promise.

The conversation of integrating sexuality and friendship advances another step in the evangelical world in Spiritual Friendship. Friendship no longer takes a back seat to the connection between deep intimacy and sexuality.

Guest Author

Dan Brennan has been married to his best friend, Sheila for thirty three years and has one adult son, Jonathan. He is a blogger, and author of Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and Women. Dan has been researching sexuality and friendship for the past decade. In his day job, he oversees quality control for a large limousine company in the Chicago area.

Posted in Culture, Current Affairs, Friendship, Sexuality, The Church | 20 Comments/Likes

Are We Ignoring Domestic Violence?

20138370-domestic-violence-and-abuse-as-a-abstractThe growing problem of domestic violence has come under profound scrutiny in recent months because the problem has surfaced quite often in the world of professional sports. Sports Illustrated, which has a great knack for solid journalism and good writing, has done some remarkably insightful reporting on the problem in several recent issues.

In the April 13, 2015, issue of Sports Illustrated, in a column called “Say What?,” the magazine reports that Dallas radio broadcaster Tim Cowlishaw asked female Dallas Cowboys fans to call into his program to complain about the team’s signing of defensive end Greg Hardy. Hardy, a talented and needed defender, recently had charges of domestic violence against him dropped. Cowlishaw writes that, “We got [only] three callers, and [they were] fully in support of it [signing him].” Cowlishaw added, “Cowboys fans want to get that next victory more than they care about moral implications.”

Before you castigate sports in general, or even Dallas in particular, think about this again. 20134666-illustration-depicting-a-set-of-cut-out-printed-letters-arranged-to-form-the-word-abuseWide-scale cultural shifts are not created by sports but they are reflected within it because s[ports puts issues on the center stage of life as we know it in our broader society. The fact that a solid football player’s signing trumps domestic violence is not shocking to me once you realize that domestic violence is not alarming to most people. From what I have seen this includes many Christians who are offended by other sins that are easier to criticize and single out but take a pass on domestic abuse. I am quite certain that significant numbers of the perpetrators of domestic violence are present within our churches. Thus I would also guess many pastors and leaders are loathe to take a strong stand against this serious issue and many fail to deal with it aggressively when this response is called for in specific instances. (I know some great exceptions and have encouraged pastors in this work.) Sadly, I know churches that counsel women to put up with violence rather than abandon their abusive husband. Something is terribly wrong with this picture. Are we reflecting culture or shaping it?

Posted in Culture, Current Affairs, Marriage & Family, The Church | 9 Comments/Likes

What a Classic Movie Can Teach Us About the Church

Quiet ManToday’s Guest Blogger is Dr. Dave Lescalleet

Every year our family watches the 1952 classic movie The Quiet Man as a way to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day.  This film, because of its Ireland location, is more and more associated with this national holiday.  The story, set in the 1920’s, stars John Wayne as retired American boxer Sean Thornton who returns to the village of Inisfree, Ireland, where he was born, in the hopes of finding peace and quiet but in the process finds love.  The beautiful and equally talented Maureen O’Hara plays the female lead as Mary Kate Danaher.  The feisty Danaher, quickly falls in love with the affable Thornton and easily proves his equal, giving as good as she gets.

The Quiet Man is a ‘fish out of water’ story as Wayne’s Thornton must not only integrate himself into the odd but endearing community of Inisfree, but along the way learn their old Irish customs and how they do life together.  To say that this is one of my all-time favorite films is an understatement.  From the rich characters to the enduring love story to the lush Irish scenery that only Director John Ford could deliver (he won an Oscar for his work), The Quiet Man, winning 2 Academy Awards and being nominated for eight total, continues to stand the test of time some 60+ years later.

But this year, when we sat down to watch, I was struck by something I had not really considered in the past many viewings.  From the beginning to the very end, The Quiet Man not only demonstrates a reverence and respect for the Christian Church and her clergy, but in many ways offers subtle lessons on the role that the Church must play in the life of any community.  Here are four lessons that The Quiet Man teaches us about the Christian Church.

1. The Church is central to everyday Life and not just on Sunday

Almost from the opening credits, we see the importance that the Church plays in the comings and goings of those who live in the village of Inisfree.  Father Peter Lonegan (played by the understated Ward Bond) is not only introduced the moment that Sean Thornton arrives, but also serves as the narrator of the film throughout its entirety.  What better way to demonstrate the role of The Church ‘between the Sunday’s’ than to offer Father Lonegan as the voice through which the story is told?

But he isn’t the only one.  Although the village of Inisfree is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, the Protestant voice is equally loud.  The Reverend Mr. Playfield and his wife Elizabeth are portrayed as a gracious couple who come along side the outsider American just a few days after he gets settled.  Being the sports enthusiast that he is, Rev. Playfield serves as confidant to the boxer Sean and also as a marriage counselor when Sean’s marriage hits a rocky patch.

In fact, with most of the scenes in The Quiet Man we see the Church, represented through Father Lonegan and Reverend Mr. Playfield, as overwhelmingly present in the life of this small community.  The lesson is simple:  Life together in the community of Inisfree just would not exist apart from the Christian Church.  The rhythms of day to night and night to day are seen around and through what happens with the Church.  From the weekly mass where Sean is rebuked for playing ‘patty-fingers’ in the holy water, to the Celtic crosses that dot the Irish countryside, to the church bells playing off in the distance that signal it is time for church, The Quiet Man portrays a tight-knit community that is steeped in church activity.  Church is not an ‘add-on’ for the people of Inisfree; it is integral from the womb to the tomb (we are even treated to a somewhat humorous ‘death scene’ where once again the Church is ever present).

2.  The Church must always deal with tyrants

There are some who take exception with The Quiet Man’s portrayal of Christianity because we see Father Lonegan along with The Reverend Mr. Playfield and his wife Elizabeth, conspiring to trick (i.e. lie) to Will Danaher so that he’ll allow his sister, Mary Kate, to marry Sean.  I disagree.  I immediately saw their deception in the same vein as a number of examples that we find in Scripture.  For instance, in the book of Exodus, we read that Pharaoh demanded that all male Hebrew babies be killed and we are told that the Hebrew midwives lied to Pharaoh in order to save the infants (Ex. 1:17).  Later on in the book of Joshua we are told about Rahab the prostitute who risked her own life by lying and hiding God’s covenant people from the King of Jericho (Joshua 2).  Over in I Samuel 16:2 we read about the prophet Samuel who feared the power of tyrant King Saul, and it was God Himself who told Samuel to lie to Saul and was the one who provided the prophet with a deceptive strategy.

We see God’s people, when faced with tyrants, resorting to deception and lying, and they are blessed because of it.  In this movie, we see the same thing.  Wil Danaher (played by Victor McLaglen who earned an Oscar nomination for his part) is a tyrant that won’t allow his sister to marry the American and for no other reason than his sinful spite for Sean.  But through the clever deception of Father Lonegan and Rev. Playfield, the tyrant is overcome and Sean and Mary Kate are allowed to wed (Spoiler alert:  Only because of the clergys’ deception does Wil Danaher himself get restored to the community and find love in the end as well.).  This leads to the third lesson found within The Quiet Man.

3.  Marriages work best within The Church

One of the sweetest (and funniest) scenes is when Sean and Mary Kate have a ‘set-to’ over finances resulting in their not speaking to one another.  Mary Kate seeks out Father Lonegan, while Sean counsels with Rev. Playfield.  What I loved most about this scene was not only seeing both husband and wife immediately seeking out the church for answers, but also the counsel that both clergy offered to each spouse.

When Mary Kate went to Father Lonegan he did not try to ‘fix’ Sean.  Instead he rebuked Mary Kate for her sinful insolence to her husband.  When Sean went to Rev. Playfield, the good pastor explained why the Irish ‘marriage dowry’ customs were good (i.e. Mary Kate was right to be angry) and that Sean should honor his wife and try and see it from her perspective.  In the end we not only see husband and wife growing in their understanding of one another, but also in their love for one another.  This is something that happened only within the context of the Church.  Oh that couples today would seek out pastoral counsel just as quickly.  Oh that pastors would be as wise and longsuffering with their parishioners as Father Lonegan and Rev. Playfield.

4.  The Church Must Work Together

As a member of the fraternity of pastors, I’m always touched in the way The Quiet Man portrays the care and concern that the Roman Catholic Lonegan has for the Protestant Playfield, and vice-versa.  We see this notably in the film a couple of ways.  The first is when the two clergy, representing the Roman Catholic Christians and Protestant Christians conspire together against Wil Danaher’s sinful behavior (as mentioned above).  It serves as a beautiful example of Catholics and Protestants working together to defeat tyranny for the good of marriage and the health of their community.

But in the end we also see The Church working across denominational boundaries when Father Lonegan rallies the entire community of Inisfree to the aid of Rev. Playfield.  The Protestant population of Inisfree is very small (we are told in the movie that only 2 or 3 people show up for Protestant services).  The rest of Inisfree are members of Father Lonegan’s Roman Catholic Parish.  With Rev. Playfield’s Bishop coming to visit, there is concern that Rev. Playfield and his wife will be re-assigned to another part of Ireland.  Father Lonegan goes to work instructing his large Catholic parish to come along side Rev. Playfield, ‘Good man that he is,’ and to ‘cheer like good Protestants.’  When the Bishop comes through the town, he is obviously very impressed with the ‘Protestant’ love that the citizens have for their dear Rev. Playfield and the implication is that no pastoral changes will be necessary.  It is one of the most beautiful scenes of simple ecumenism between Catholics and Protestants that arguably has ever appeared on film.

I’m confident that on my next viewing of The Quiet Man I’ll see something else that I failed to see previously or mention in this post.  But perhaps even better than my pointing out something new, is your taking time to watch The Quiet Man yourself; I can’t think of a better film portraying The Christian Church than this one.  I think when you watch it you’ll agree and when you do, you’ll ‘Cheer like good Protestants!’ (and Catholics!). Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Lescalleet (Dave)Today’s Guest Writer

Since 2006, Dr. Dave Lescalleet has served as the lead pastor of City Church in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is a graduate of Southern Illinois University, Whitefield Theological Seminary (M.Div), and Knox Theological Seminary (D.Min).  At Knox he consulted formally with Dr. John H. Armstrong as an advisor on his doctoral writing project. In addition to his pastoral work, Dr. Lescalleet also serves as a chaplain for Christus Spohn Hospital and is actively involved in helping churches prepare for transition in pastoral leadership.  You can follow Dave on various social media. You can also learn more about his vocation through his website at pastortransition.com and his personal blog: Corpus Christian. You can find David and his church at https://www.citychurchcc.com and his Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/dave.lescalleet.

Posted in Church Tradition, Culture, Current Affairs, Film, The Church, The Future, Unity of the Church | 13 Comments/Likes

Christianity East & West: An Evangelical Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Dialog (Video)

Several years ago ACT3 staged a dialogue on unity and diversity between two Orthodox theologians and two Protestant evangelical theologians. This Sunday evening event was hosted by First Presbyterian Church of Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Greetings were given by Fr. Wilbur Ellsworth, an Orthodox priest who served as chairman of the ACT3 board for a number of years. I moderated the conversation. This is the first time we’ve made this older resource available for wider usage.

This dialogue runs for nearly two hours so you might want to mark it for use when you have the time to watch it. There are some real gems within the discussion we had on this evening.

Posted in ACT 3, American Evangelicalism, Missional-Ecumenism, Orthodoxy, Protestantism, The Church, Unity of the Church | 5 Comments/Likes

Cardinal Francis George (1937-2015): My Personal Tribute to My Friend

220px-Cardinal-Francis-George_110516_photoby_Adam-BielawskiChristian charity is a virtue that is widely recognizable. Where the church goes compassion and care for the poorest and weakest follows. Missionaries and Christian teachers have opened hospitals, cared for orphans, the widows and the poor. Where the Christian faith has advanced universities and day care have followed. Churches, from the beginning, have given to those in dire need with no expectation of direct response. One mark of the Christian faith is caritas, or love. In fact, the word caritas (Latin) means love.

But Pope Benedict XVI taught us that there is a somewhat less recognizable form of love for others that can rightly be called “intellectual charity.” Mother Teresa, respected in India and beyond, for her deep commitment to “material charity” said, “We are not social workers, we are brides of Jesus Christ.” She thus makes it clear that though material charity is important to Christian love “intellectual charity” is even more important.

The danger of material charity is that we reduce the other to a mouth to feed, a body to clothe, a need to be met, and we miss the great capacity that they have to be opened to the knowledge of the Father. In a recent appeal the Catholic News Agency Zenit said intellectual charity is “to enable every person to say with the same personal feeling of a St. Paul: ‘He loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20.’” The zeal for eternal life leads us to value the other, to serve them with humility and to regard the other person as better than ourselves.

I thought of this when I reflected on the passing of my friend Cardinal George last week. He was a model of true charity, both in caring for the weak and the poor and in showing respect for the other. He possessed and demonstrated genuine love for the mind and heart of his friends, even for his enemies.

Francis Eugene George, OMI (January 16, 1937 – April 17, 2015), a native of Chicago, was the eighth Archbishop of Chicago (1997-2014). Cardinal George was created a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1998. He served as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2007 to 2010. On September 20, 2014, Pope Francis accepted Cardinal George’s resignation and appointed Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Washington, to succeed him as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago. In this unusual circumstance, George was permitted to remain as the incumbent archbishop until Cupich was installed to succeed him on November 18, 2014.

For many years Cardinal George suffered from cancer, having been initially diagnosed in 2006. He died from the disease last Friday. His funeral mass will take place this Thursday, April 24, at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.

George contracted polio at age 13. The effects of this disease caused him real difficulty throughout his long life but he was a fighter who overcame and served with great joy.  Due to his disability, he was rejected by a well-known Catholic prep school in Chicago and instead enrolled at St. Henry Preparatory Seminary in Belleville (IL), a high school seminary of the Missionaries  Oblates of Mary Immaculate. This led to his joining the Missionary Oblates on August 14, 1957, thus the OMI after his name. He continued his studies at the Oblates novitiate before entering Our Lady of the Snows Seminary in Pass Christian, Mississippi. He eventually lived and studied in Canada and Rome. He earned a Masters’ Degree in theology and philosophy as well as a Ph.D. in theology and philosophy, all of which leads me to my own tribute to my friend.

ACT3-Armstrong-George-032612My book, Your Church Is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ’s Mission Is Vital to the Future of the Church (Zondervan, 2010), was given to Cardinal George in the spring of 2011. A friend read a front-page story about George in the Chicago Sunday Tribune and saw a reference to his desire to see more conversation with evangelicals about ecumenism. (George was well-known for his work in ecumenism.) This friend found a way to get a copy of my book to the Cardinal. I thought, at the time, he’ll never see it much less read it.

In the summer of 2011 an email came to me from Cardinal George inviting me to visit with him at his residence. In August I made that visit. At the end of a delightful hour, an hour in which I observed “intellectual charity” as I had rarely seen it, I asked him, “Cardinal George, if I can secure Wheaton College for an evening would you come and sit down with me for a public dialogue on my book?” He agreed and plans began. We had that meeting, as many of you know, on Monday, March 26, 2012. The event was taped and you can watch it on the ACT3 Network website.

ACT3-Armstrong-George-032612What was most remarkable about that evening was not the stimulating discussion we had, which was refreshing and honest. What was memorable, at least to me, was seeing the Cardinal around others and talking to him before a crowd of 1,200-plus people. He was clearly the intellectual giant I expected him to be. But he was much more. He was a humble gentleman who loved deeply and it showed very clearly.

This was not the last time we shared time together. We had several private visits in the years following. And we shared a public moment at the first Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation in Mundelein in 2013. In every instance he not only knew me but asked about specific things in my life and told me of his prayer for me. He watched what I was doing in ecumenism and celebrated it, encouraged it and prayed for it as a friend to me and servant of Christ. What I saw in him is “intellectual charity.” He could have bested me in every way with his mind but he used his great intellect with charity and served me so that he could serve our Lord Jesus Christ! It is this that I remember today about my friend.

Rest in peace dear brother. You will be missed by all who knew you. You were loved by thousands of people, not just because you were a giant in our midst but because you loved so deeply. Your love for me had a profound impact upon my life and our dialogue at Wheaton that night was the “turning point” in my work, opening doors that I never expected to open in my life and ministry. I am eternally in your debt my dear friend.

Posted in ACT 3, Current Affairs, Death, Leadership, Missional-Ecumenism, Personal, Roman Catholicism, The Church, Unity of the Church | 39 Comments/Likes

Aaron Niequist on the Power of Christian Unity

Last week I shared some dynamic material from the ministry of my friend Aaron Niequest. Today you can hear Aaron on the power and importance of Christian Unity. His voice is one of a growing number of younger leaders who understand the importance of missional-ecumenism.

Posted in ACT 3, The Church, Unity of the Church | 1 Comment/Like