Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Lingering Legacy - Part III

This is the final edition in a three part series on how the unique ministry of Trinity Family Church is still having a kingdom impact.

This post doesn't need much writing from me. In fact, all we need is the writing of my good friend Michael Palmer who is quickly becoming a better writer and blogger than yours truly.

Strippers and Saints

Update: The above link is now correct.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Lingering Legacy - Part II

This is part two of a tree part series on some of the lasting legacies of Trinity Family Church in Gardner. Of course, TFC still lives on in midtown Kansas City.

Last week, a group of ladies from Indian Creek Gardner helped Erin create and deliver the gift bags for this month's Love Wins ministry outreach. It's been great to see the Love Wins ministry find a new home and a new life with ICG. What's maybe even better was the conversation I had with our old pal, Guido who was impacted by our Love Wins ministry back when working at one of the clubs.

Guido called me the other night excited to share a story with me. After playing phone tag for awhile, I finally got to hear his story.

Guido is now working with a club in Topeka. There just so happens to be a large church near that club. That church has taken the relational approach of most Conservative Evangelical church in interacting with groups who don't share their morals; they don't have a relationship and try to use power overcome that group. Guido says despite his offer to get together with the pastor, the church refuses to talk with them and have used the Christ-like approach of picketing the club.

While the employees of this club have been complaining about the judgmental Christians, Guido has been passionately assuring his co-workers that not all Christians are like that. He then went on to tell them about how much TFC and Love Wins changed some of his views on Christians and even on God. "You guys had a really big impact on me, more than you know." A ministry like Love Wins, however was not just in Guido's past, but soon to be in his present.

A little while later, some timid looking ladies knocked on the door of their club and nervously explained they were from a church in town and wanted to pass out gifts to the dancers in their club. Guido burst out laughing, instantly shattering the confidence of the ladies at the front door. Guido quickly built their confidence back up, though by telling them all about his experience with the ladies from TFC. He shared the positive impact we'd had on them, shared with them the address to this blog, how the TFC ladies had become comfortable in the club and even how they'd thrown us a baby shower.

It looks like there's about to be another positive relationship developing between some church ladies and some workers in the adult entertainment industry. And because this pastor and wife are adopting, there might even be another baby shower.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Lingering Legacy - Part I

I'm going to be posting a short series of some ways that the legacy of Trinity Family Church's unique ministry is still having a Kingdom-sized impact.

A few weeks ago, I had dinner with Scott Sidusky. Scott and I had a tough final few months of ministry together. Mostly because I was living with fear and guilt (fear of the church failing and guilt over burning people out) and Scott was had stretched himself really thin and was feeling that pressure (something I became all too familiar with during my short stint with TFA and KCMSD).

So while we had about three great years, the last few months left us both feeling a bit apologetic toward and frustrated with each other. As a side note, it's sad that the system creates guilt, fear and burn-out. But during our dinner the other night, it was clear that all the bad memories had faded into the appropriate position of a distant second to the all the good experiences we shared together.

Scott is now helping with worship and leading the teen ministry at Faith Journey Church of the Nazarene in Olathe and during our dinner, he told me all the ways that his time with TFC is positively impacting his current ministry.

Scott also let me know how much he misses TFC. A couple of lines that stuck with me were, "We had a really good thing going" and "we reached a lot of people." We were having such a good time reminiscing that for a few minutes I considered doing it all over again.

But it's TFC's uniqueness that made it unsustainable, at least in the small-town context we were in and the in the traditional model of a full-time pastor.

But as I like to say, "we did more in 7 years than most churches will do in 70."

Monday, November 14, 2011

I Swear my Unquestioning, Unthinking and Blind Allegiance

I went to the Chiefs-Broncos game this past Sunday and had a great time. During the day, however, I was struck by how many ways we are manipulated by the Empire in which we live. There are so many different ways we are either brainwashed by ritual, emotional manipulation, displays of power or group-think.

As at all public gatherings, we started with the National Anthem. Just think of how many times you have sung that song. It's a ritual meant to burn the anthem into our minds. Immediately after the the anthem, a Stealth Bomber flew over the stadium in order to remind us of the awesome power of our Empire. We then had a stadium card stunt in which "thank you veterans" was spelled out across the stadium in red, white and blue. There were many different soldiers celebrated during the game, causing the crowd to both applaud and cry. A pilot who flew missions over Iraq was introduced. Among all the applause, there was no mention of the international illegality of the US' preemptive strike on Iraq nor any mention of the Iraqi children who undoubtedly died as "collateral damage" during the air strikes. Of course, were I to even suggest that those two omitted realites get mentioned, I would've been called all kinds of terrible things.

While it was, obviously Veterans Day weekend, this isn't going to slow down anytime soon. During Thanksgiving football games, we'll be shown messages from soldiers posted overseas. Christmas commercials will show soldiers coming home to the surprise of their families. The Superbowl will highlight veterans as will Memorial Day, Independence Day, Patriot's Day. We're never too far away from another holiday in which Facebook will be full of posts about soldiers to whom we basically owe our very existence.

Before going on, I'd like to state that a couple of my closest friends are veterans. I'd like to validate the self-sacrifice of people who leave their families and put their lives on the line for a cause in which they believe.

But there is a reason that soldiers are almost always the ones who carry out the flag for the national anthems preceding sporting events, instead of firemen, teachers, Peace Corps Members, Red Cross aid workers; people who also put their lives on the line in service of their country. The reason these other national servants are omitted is simple; they are not actively expanding the economic interests of our Empire. All throughout history, Empires have relied upon their military might to funnel the world's resources into their own economy and the American Empire is no different.

So if the Empire can create an automatic emotional response of gratitude to the (mostly) good intentioned but misguided service men and women who carry out its wars of expansion, then the Empire is freed from teh need to be accountable for the waging of unjust wars.

If a person dares to even question the Iraq war, the common response will be "support our troops" or "freedom isn't free." We're a bunch of Pavlonian dogs. There is absolutely no room for a citizen of the Empire to critique the way government's military policies while still caring for our soldiers. It's either one extreme or another.

And that's not by accident.

The Empire knows what it is doing.

And it's nothing new to our history.

By now, most Americans know that Vietnam was our nation's most heinous atrocity of the 20th century (though likely not worse than the 19th century atrocities of the Indian Wars and the Mexican War). But the phrase "love it or leave it" started during that era in response to those calling for an end to that evil war.

I’m current reading a book entitled War Crimes and the American Conscience, which is an analysis of US war crimes during the Vietnam War (particularly the My Lai Massacre) in light of the principles of the Nuremburg Conference. This book is a collection of the notes from the 1970 Congressional Conference on War and National Responsibility.

“There is ample evidence that high officials in our government have participated fully in the practice of portraying the ‘other side’ as an aggregate of evil demons. This imagery has become so prominent and routine in official pronouncements and in the media that only people with some determination to think for themselves can resist adopting it as a matter of course. Among high officials, as among the general public, the dehumanization of ‘the enemy’ tends to spread, so that now those who dare to demonstrate against our Vietnam policy are called by the Vice President ‘parasites,’ ‘goats,’ and ‘creeps.’

The implications of public utterances like those of the Vice President are not far to seek. ‘I think,’ a nineteen year-old infantryman told a reporter, ‘someone ought to kill those long-haired, qeer bastards back in the world. Anyone who demonstrates against the war ought to be lined up and killed, just like any gook here.’ I know from personal experience that this is not an uncommon sentiment.” - Dr. Edward Opton, reprinted in War Crimes and the American Conscience from a 1970 issue of The New Republic.

The Iraqi war is my generation's Vietnam but to say Bush mislead his nation and broke international laws by invading Iraq is heard by many as "you hate America/ soldiers/ freedom/ etc." But would we be any less free if we hadn't invaded Iraq? Not likely. What is clear, however is that Vice President Dick Cheney's companies profited greatly from the Iraqi war.

While most of our nation's wars have been offensive rather than defensive, we are taught to see our military's actions as a "defense of freedom." While we may have the legal right to offer dissent, critiquing our nation's war is social suicide.

And it all starts with the National Anthem we'll sing this Friday night before the Trailblazer's playoff game.

"Hail Caesar! The Son of God, the Prince of Peace!" - citizens of the Roman Empire

"You shall have no other gods before me." - Exodus 20:3