A Christian Response to a Dialog on Evil

Just need to get this out. It could be considered a rant, but it is more of me really thinking through with as level as my head can get around the orlando shooting, and so many other expressions of evil we’ve seen in our world this year and last year.

The problem of evil is always and will continue to be a reality in this world until a cosmic event like the return of Christ of a meteorite hits. So, when events occur that starkly remind us of the pain and utter heartache that evil thrusts upon us, it makes everyone hyper aware of injustices and the unbalances of joy and grief.

I’ve noticed a few common responses (on social media and in-person):

  1. Anger –

Anger as by-product of pain and frustration is a very normal response. In the good cases it is found with righteous anger, an expression of not being OK with injustice, but seeing healthy ways to express it through love (not cheep love, not cheep grace, but grace and love, none-the-less).

In the unhealthy cases this anger seeps into the selfish self and usually ends in attacks upon those that are different than ourselves, and usually feel, and sound no different than the expression of evil that stirred up all up in the first place. I’ve also seen attacks towards people that have many more similarities than they do differences, but for some reason those few differences are magnified and lifted up well above the similarities.

These attacks come around the issues of gun control, religion, human sexuality, etc… These attacks fueled by an unhealthy anger will only perpetuate the evil. We must stop the mindless responses and think through how and why we respond.

Are our responses grounded in a desire to love others and bring hope, or are they to prove a point or to harm existing or potential future relationships?

  1. Depression –

When confronted with the problem of evil several people become overwhelmed by it. They see the utter shame and pain of it all and it consumes them into depression and anxiety. Then, when they are attacked by others mentioned above that they thought were friends and loved ones…. Those attacks are even more damaging.

For example, the words against “praying” in times of obvious evil. The logic goes, “stop hiding behind your prayer and actually do something” or “its religions that screw up this world, so stop your so called ‘praying’ and get something done” (I hear this from Christians just as much as from non-Christians. The guilt depressed people feel overwhelmed by these events, and then to have others attacking them for saying nothing is pain upon pain. Without a strong intentional community coming around the anxiety and depressed to offer the grace of love and support then evil will prevail, sadly.

Again, do you make responses with other people in mind, or do you allow your frustrations and anger determine how you will heal or hurt your relationships?

  1. Silence –

While in some cases silence is a form of ignoring the problem of evil, I have a feeling most of the time it is simply the immediate response to evil from those that avoid conflict or simply a desire to take the time to intentionally listen before voicing. Of course, if people are using silence as a way of hoping the pain will simply go away, then we need to help them with baby steps on how to put a little more action in their lives to balance out that prayer and contemplative silence.

I can’t help but think that this is the response of introverts. And while it is seemingly not helping the issues immediately, it could be from this kind of calculated response that long term understanding and passionate love through grace can be offered. Obviously, some issues look like they have been occurring for a very long time (gun control and terrorists), but it is usually the responses from those that have really spent time with an issue are the ones I respect and listen to the most. Besides, I’f always seen these issues as the larger problem of evil.

So, what could be possible responses that would emphasize a healthy way of responding to the problem of evil and these curtain opening events that show the realities of pain?

To Christians I say:

Always assume positive intent. Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors. Seek to find the prevenient grace and prevenient presence of Christ within all the people you interact with whether they be Christian or not. You are not to make converts, you are to allow disciples to be formed through you providing opportunities for others to experience love and the presence of God. Let them be students of our faith and give them the space to work out if they’d like to choose Christianity as their spiritual major in life. You serve a Crucified God, and nothing within our faith suggests that the problem of evil will not still have consequences on this earth even though it has already been dealt with. Be patient in enduring the pain and evil in this world until the great return, and live lives that are leaning into the truth of hope and love that is found in our Trinity Godhead. Be slow to anger, quick in grace, and look for every opportunity to be love and hope in a hurting world. Make your life filed with prayer AND action, both are necessary acts of living out our faith.

To non-Christians I say:

I love you. I am deep enough in my faith that if you need to yell out your anger towards God or the church, please feel free to yell at me. Do you need a shoulder to cry on or ears to listen? Please know I want and will do everything in my power to be those for you. You can express to me what you would express to God, if God even exists (obviously, I’m a freaking pastor here, so you can assume I’m gonna be a little biased). And, please know not everyone is at a place of peace in the midst of pain and evil (especially Christians). So, you might have to reset your expectations when it comes to talking or dealing with them.

I’m so sorry if the church has hurt you and again, I love you.

I make a vow to you, myself, and “my” God that in all cases I will attempt to make sure my love will take precedence over my anger, frustrations, fears, anxiety, depression, my being offended, and my human tendency to emphasis our differences instead of seeking out the love and grace I believe is within each of us. Please know that I will need you to offer me grace and love in this attempt, because I know I will fail… often.

You should know that I will mention my love for my faith and the hope that it provides me, but I will not attempt to convert you. I will passionately desire for you to know and experience the same hope I have found in my relationship with the Trinity Godhead. Because, in my mind the greatest gift I can offer you or anyone is prayer and relationship. You don’t have to believe in God and you are more than welcome to call me an idiot, ignorant, or even stupid, but please look into my heart intentions and know that me offering hope in this world through relationship and prayer with/for you is one of my perceived greatest gifts I can offer. I am not alone in this matter, so if someone offers to be praying for you or for an specific instance of evil, please look at their hearts before you are fast to point out their ignorance or lack of your perceived reality. I personally might stay silent and not speak of “prayer” for you, because I wouldn’t want to offend you, but I want to respect you and your beliefs/thoughts.

Sadly, there are may other Christians that believe they are supposed to covert you, and I’m so sorry that they do not see the beautiful person you are, but only see you as something to convert. This is not the God that I serve, and in most of those cases, again they simply don’t know any better and they honestly think they are loving you by berating you.

In closing….. I love you. I love you Christians. I love you non-Christians. Thank you for honoring me in reading these words (even if I know most of you skimmed through them all). It’s OK, I get it, I’d probably do the same to your words, when they are this lengthy. But, I still and always will… love you.

Mainline Shifts towards the next reformation, this time bringing unity…. This is big….Pt. 1

Ok. So, first off I realize the thoughts that I will be sharing in this blog post and the next one are very important and huge statements that I will be making. I will first give my thoughts around the whole idea and why I feel like I need to get these theories and ideas out of my head and into your hearts so that we can discern together what this all means and see if we can talk about the future with an emphasis on grace and hope. First off, Our Current Reality: I am a clergy in the United Methodist Church serving in the New Mexico Annual Conference. In the past I have been a church planter, an associate pastor, youth pastor, college pastor, and currently a Sr. Pastor. I have a deep love of the UMC and it is not my desire to see it die, but my deeper desire to allow it to be transformed into a deeper expression of ecclesia (church) that is not dependent on the current institution. Let me explain… Right now in most (or all, I’d love some comments from other denominational leaders on this) mainline denominations if you have a calling by God to be clergy, then one of the many requirements is for you to attend seminary. Mine and my wife’s education was a 96hr master’s degree of divinity. Along with that wonderful and amazing education came lots and lots of debt. YEA!!! And so the thinking goes, ‘But, if God is involved in this process that God will help us through this, because, “with God all things are possible”…. yeah, even bankruptcy’! ha ha ha ha Anyway, with the decline of the mainline denominations over the past few years, the case that is becoming more and more common, is that when a seminarian graduates they are told that they do not have any churches that can afford a full-time clergy(The UMC has minimum salaries, housing, health, etc…), and in the Methodist church they appoint them to a multi-church “charge” that can share the cost of a clergy, or they just will not appoint them until a church opens up. This habit is slowly becoming the norm. Anyone who does not see this reality, is choosing to not be in reality.  It is just one of the huge issues facing the institutional mainline churches today. I know of several churches that are lowering and lowering their budgets because lots of them are realizing that even if they go to a bare bones budget, cut all staff, and don’t give any money back to the larger institution, they would still not have enough money to continue the way they’ve always known church. There are, of course, many other things involved here, and even though I will be proposing the death of the current realized institutional church in this blog post, I still see God’s church and even the mainline churches continuing to “love to live and live to love” by bringing transformation into this world through Trinity Conspiring. But, much like Phyllis Tickle has proposed in her books (and others), I see a new reformation beginning. Yep, thats right the big scary R-word. But, in my happy positive thinking little mind I believe this one might bring back more unity that division with the Church (denominationally, generationally, etc…) I’ll get to more of this in Part 2. But, I believe that the current dying denominations must make room for future expressions of the church to occur. They must accept their evolution into God doing a new thing, but not commit their own self-death right now it will happen naturally, and it has the potential to be one of the most beautiful deaths ever to be experienced. The institution still has so much to give it’s future, and it has the potential to be a loving parent seeing it’s offspring live into their full potiental for the future of the kingdom. But, sadly most denominational leaders I’m running into are too worried about self-preservation, than providing an education, and R&D department for the future expressions of church to play, grow, and learn; to make enough mistakes so that they can thrive and grow into what God desires for all of our futures. I mean come on current expression of institutionalized church, its time to stop thinking about how you need to eat better or how should be getting on that treadmill…. you have lost your legs in the race, laying on a hospital bed with an O2 mask and a feeding tube in your nose. It’s not the time to think about how you can “come back”, or how much cryogenics costs, it’s time to allow your offspring to hear your wisdom, to find out how to handle their finances, to hear how proud you are of what they’ve become and encourage them to dream big, to conspire with the Trinity like you did, and to expect God to work! To be OK with the mistakes because we fail often to succeed sooner. Its a time to huddle up and listen to your children’s dreams and teach them discernment to follow their dreams as long as those dreams are from the Godhead and not themselves. How we can learn from your life mistakes and mature into deeper discipleship. No one wants to accept their own death at first, but when they do it is so freeing, and life affirming, that in the process of death you can pour what life you have left into your sons and daughters. So, with that said in the next blog post I’d like to give a few practical thoughts around how this new current mentoring and wisdom sharing from the institutional church can give its offspring empowerment and hope. The current church can pour itself into a living legacy that will be born from within it’s remnant, and the universal church’s new birth can be beautiful and transformational.

Image info:

Church ruins at Clonmore, Co. Louth
Ruins of the medieval parish church on the site of an Early Christian period monastic foundation of St. Columba.
Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Kieran Campbell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.