Tuesday

a compelling sort of beauty



Team Paul could use a new couch. Our foam cushions are unstructured to go any sort of distance, and we're seven years out and counting. We picked it out when I was very pregnant with Dylan and not, perhaps, in fighting form for big decisions.

The trouble is, it's got a perfectly good, if unsightly, matching giant chaise, and we'd need to replace both to get the most aesthetic bang for the buck. And it turns out, Jim is still not much for aesthetics. He's eager to buy another overstuffed eyesore, which I will not abide this time around.

So we're making do. I rearranged, hobbling together a makeshift sectional from the couch, chaise, and crib-turned-love-seat. I smile, remembering the "stadium seating" my friend's college boyfriend put up in his apartment, but what this lacks in beauty it makes up for in proximity to the fire and space to snuggle, put up your feet, or read.

Which is a compelling sort of beauty, too, now that I think of it.


Sunday

but what are you FOR?



When you've got an analytical eye, folks chastise your negativity. Why waste energies tearing down? Upright citizens less easily offended are actually contributing something worthwhile, so quit complaining and be a better person already!

Here's the thing, though: that binary is bullshit. We can critique and create. We can do and do better still, and analysis is one of many tools that can move us forward. Gardens must be weeded if they are to flourish, and weeding is as much work as planting, watering, or harvesting the fruits of our labors. Each of us is uniquely gifted, and there is value in all sorts of service.

But a lack of concern for systemic injustice (especially that which hurts others and benefits me and mine) exhibits neither moral authority or Christ-like leadership. Despite the common refrain (often from those with most at stake in the status quo), critics and activists are not the reason Why We Can't Have Nice Things. Hierarchy and protected power, secrecy, greed, and oppression inhibit shalom far more than "the surfacing of tensions already present." A peace that does not yet exist cannot possibly be kept by silencing dissent, discouraging critical thought, or demonizing the hurting and those with eyes to see.

But what are the rabble-rousers, troublesome "mobs," and angry "social justice warriors" actually FOR, anyway?

The Fruits and Fire of the Spirit


We are for wholeness, hard truth, and a preferential option for the margins. We are for hospitality, boundaries, and diverse gifts. We are for accountable leadership, transparency, and learning. We are for knowing better and doing justice.

We are for indicting and exposing systems and patterns antithetical to the Kingdom of God. We're for assigning positive intent and showing our work. We are for taking responsibility for our own feelings and actions. We are for peacemaking, conflict, repentance, and seeing it through.

We are for the fruits and the fire of the Spirit. We are for testing everything and holding it up to the light. We are for one holy catholic and apostolic Church, the least, last, and lost.

We are for embodied faith, common prayer, and all things made new. We are for subverting power, dismantling empire, and love with roots, feet, and wings. We are for liberation and not losing heart or giving up. We are for belonging to one another and the good, hard, messy work of practicing resurrection and working out our salvation together.

"Our Struggle Is Not Against Flesh and Blood"


The sin in our systems cannot be addressed solely on an interpersonal level, and our best intentions do not exonerate us from participating in or benefiting from patterns favoring the powerful over the marginalized. When criticism and a desire for accountability and consistency are pathologized as ungracious and even satanic, it baptizes, protects, and reinforces power, which is, more often than not: white, monied, influential, male, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied, neurotypical, educated, etc. "Mob" voices deemed malignant, irrational, and un-Christlike overwhelmingly belong (not coincidentally) to women, people of color, survivors, LGBTQ people, and those experienced in mental illness. Widely parroted ideas about civility and grace sound pleasing but may not resemble the way of Jesus.

Healthy leadership is accountable, humble, and willing to learn, and criticism is integral to public discourse. Pretending that criticism and social media are the exclusive domain of trolls is disingenuous, silencing, and frankly, ridiculous coming from the mouths of those who have built sizable platforms on both.

Criticism is a discipline that does not exist in opposition to Christian discipleship. Neither people nor criticism is the enemy. Our systems are sick, and it'll take surgeons' scalpels; healing hands; faithful prayer; and good, hard, all-hands-on-deck work to make us whole.

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