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The human factor - pastor's pen 21st June 2020

I guess I have a contrarian streak. The jury is out on whether it has served me well over the years. I drink the tart wine of skepticism from time to time, with my resting grumpy-face on. An example; in a previous Pentecostal Baptist church we attended, the youth pastor mid-talk would exclaim, "Everybody say JESUS!" or "Everybody say AMEN!" or something to that effect. In my case this was always a guarantee I would not say any of the things I was being urged to cry out. I felt no need to prove my enthusiasm or go with the herd response.

I tend not to throw my lot whole-heartedly in with the conservatives or liberals, whether politically or theologically, or at least not for long. Call me an 'irritable centrist'. There are things to like in Labour, National, Greens and NZ First, but all of them make me grumpy and roll my eyes at some point during the election cycle. Can I be both liberal and evangelical? Not sure.

The 'black lives matter' ground-swell gives me pause for thought, as does the vandalism of colonial statues in our own land of Aotearoa. The media presents titillating sound-bites and snap-shots of the most shocking examples on a particular day. I had a look at the 'Black Lives matter' official website. There is nothing much I relate to there, but I'm not the target market. The absence of reconciliation-talk does not inspire me. In Aotearoa, we seem to be getting our share of a groundswell for removing statues of those now considered racists or personae non gratae. How do I participate in good conscience?

I believe that Christians should definitely be involved in all these discussions that require us to address historical injustices, to listen well and stand in the shoes of others who continue to experience systemic inequality, abuse or violence. However, I become more convinced that social media, or media generally, is not the forum in which I can participate safely in these discussions. The instant polarization these media encourage just brings anguish and disquiet.

Far better that you and I bring our goodwill and influence to the actual communities in which we live. Where there is a need for reconciliation or debate, we address it practically and locally. We address it from a place within the reconciling love of God, which we ourselves have humbly and gladly received. This is a more difficult work than getting on a band-wagon. Each person, each statue, and each community has a unique story. Nearly always, there is another side to the story that has not been presented - the story of the powerless or the victim - a different perspective. It requires our patience and commitment to work through the whole story, and uncover the hidden parts of the context. We walk the neighbourhood and discern what God is doing.

I was just listening to a talk by Tim Keller from a couple of years back, which I found useful, particularly his treatment of corporate or national responsibility for sin from a biblical perspective. You too can enjoy it here. I'm thankful for the evangelical, pentecostal background that taught me sin and injustice are real and need to be addressed. How we address them is a worthwhile discussion, requiring more listening than speaking, and more loving, prophetic actions than mere words.

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