Sunday, February 27, 2011

He-Man and the Sermon on the Mount

Sunday morning, I had the privilege of introducing my son to my favorite childhood hero, He-Man.  The introduction came via Hulu and when scrolling the episodes, I recognized what was my favorite episode as a child, "Dawn of Dragoon."  As a kid, it was my favorite episode because He-Man risked his life to save the bad guy. 

While trying to throw He-Man down the "bottomless pit of Tatoon", Dragoon is actually pulled over the edge and into the abyss.  Fortuitously for him, however, he's caught on a ledge.  In response to his calls for help, He-Man slides down to the ledge and then pulls Dragoon back up to safety.  Of all the He-Man episodes I watched as a child, that's the one scene that I remember.  It made quite an impression on me. 

Watching that episode 27 years later, however, the dialogue after that event (and believe me, He-Man has some lame dialogue) hit home with me in a new way. 

Dragoon:  “I don’t understand. You risked your life to save me? I wouldn’t have done that for you."
He-Man:  "That’s how we’re different. I believe in saving lives."
Dragoon:  "Even your enemies?"
He-Man:  "I may be your enemy, but you’re not mine."
Dragoon:  "Maybe I’ve been wrong. Maybe saving lives is better."

All the reading I do from authors who take seriously Matthew 5:38-48 believe that one of the (many) reasons Jesus doesn't want his creation to kill is because it simply perpetuates evil.  One can see in history that when a group of revolutionaries use violence to overthrow a regime, the new regime set up by the revolutionaries often becomes as, or even more, violent than the previous regime.  While a forced lack of conflict (peace through superior firepower) can exist for awhile, it's not a real peace.  Violence simply begets more violence.  To take someone's life sends them into eternity, rather than giving them the chance to chance through a self-sacrificial love - the love Jesus showed for his enemies on Calvary. 

But loving one's enemies opens up the possibility of them being transformed.  While it's certainly likely the act of love may cost the Christian their physical life, it introduces their enemy to the love of Jesus.  And the love of Jesus is what our enemies need to encounter.  The sword leads to more bloodshed.  The cross leads to transformation.

What's also so interesting about this He-Man episode is that it counters the prevalence of the Myth of Redemptive Violence found in most kids' cartoons that feature good-guys and bad-guys, as pointed out by Walter Wink in The Powers that Be.

Matthew 5:38-48
38 "You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.'*39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.40 If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too.41 If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile,* carry it two miles.42 Give to those who ask, and don't turn away from those who want to borrow.
43 "You have heard the law that says, 'Love your neighbor'* and hate your enemy.44 But I say, love your enemies!* Pray for those who persecute you!45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.47 If you are kind only to your friends,* how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Adoption is Complicated

An open adoption, like the one that exists between our adopted son and his biological family, is a bit complicated.  It is complicated in that it brings unique challenges not normally found in families based solely on biology.  I must say however, it also brings some unique blessings.  

Well, we’ve got another potential challenge and blessing.  Dawson’s biological mother is pregnant and due to give birth to a baby boy the end of May.  Initially, she was considering adoption and had asked us to consider to again be the adoptive parents of the boy she’s carrying. She wasn’t sure what she would do. Over time, she chose to parent this child.  The excitement of becoming parents again gave way to the loss of another failed adoption.  From our perspective, it’s like a miscarriage – but a miscarriage where you actually watch the baby grow up.  With that grief acknowledged, we also need to share that we’re excited for her. We’re excited to watch her experience the joys of motherhood.  That little boy will never lack for love! 

For Erin and me, it’s another sinking sense of loss to which we’ve become all-too-acquainted.  We’ll work through it though, we’ve done it before and we’ll do it again.  But what we’ve never worked through is the complication this brings into Dawson’s life.  There is soon to be another human who is Dawson’s biological brother but not a part of his immediate family.  What is Dawson’s relationship to be with this little boy?  We’re just not yet sure. 

We know we want to avoid extremes.  For one, Dawson is geographically so close to his biological brother that his sense of identity could lose its equilibrium. He might wonder what his “real” family is.  We also want to avoid the extreme of keeping Dawson from knowing another person who shares his blood.  Honestly, it’s not likely that either of those extremes would become reality.  Both of those extremes are based in fear.  And I know, in my heart more so than my head, that fear is not the basis on which we should live.  

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear." - 1 John 4:18

Dawson’s birth mother is a part of Dawson’s story, even though her part is still developing.  Even tonight, while pushing trucks across the couch, he repeated her name when he heard it.  We’ve always wanted Dawson to know her significance, to love her for who she is and to respect her decision to place him with parents who love him for the Divine gift that he is (writing that brings tears to my eyes).   Now there will be another character in Dawson’s story.  We don’t know how that boy’s role will develop nor do we know how the interaction between the two boys will develop.  There is no advance-script for this open adoption.  We’re trying to write the script out of love, even as we live out the complicated plotline. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Over There

Over the weekend, I took my sweet wife into the city for an over-night Valentine’s Date.  We used a gift card from Valerie Pogemiller for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and pricelined (is that a verb?) a hotel room on Main Street, between Liberty Memorial and the Plaza. 

That Saturday, we spent several hours under Liberty Memorial, in the National WWI Museum.
It was a good experience, but it was also quite depressing. A few times, I had to fight back tears while realizing the immense loss of life in such a pointless conflict. 

I also spent time in amazement.  Amazed by the familiarity of the rhetoric espoused by the leaders leading their people into war.  In summary, “It is clear that we’re the righteous ones and for that reason, God is on our side.  We must offer all levels of sacrifice, even the ultimate sacrifice, to protect our people, our families and our homeland from the evildoers who, because of the corruption of their hearts, wish to take away our way of life and freedom.”  Not only was I amazed by the similarity of the rhetoric surrounding that war to the rhetoric of today’s wars, but I was amazed that both sides fed their people the same BS – I mean, rhetoric.  Both sides were convinced of the righteousness of their cause and of the fact that God (or Allah) was on their side.  Can both be right?  Or maybe both were wrong.

But it’s still the same today.  Whether it’s several thousand civilians unfortunate enough to be working in a building that symbolizes global empire killed by self-proclaimed freedom fighters in hijacked airplanes, or the smart bombs dropped from the US’ unmanned planes killing innocent civilians unfortunate enough to be in the way of US targets, the rhetoric is still the same.  It’s religious: “God/ Allah is on our side.”  It’s nationalistic: “We must protect our nation.”  It’s playground-esque: “But THEY started it!” 

I realize war is complicated.  NO ONE is ALL good.  NO ONE is ALL bad.  I know this.  I know that in a fallen world, fallen humans will do terrible things. 

I also know that Jesus showed us a different way.  A way that leads not nationalistic pride, political freedom, economic stability but rather to nakedness, poverty and death.  Governments tell us that in order to stay free, we must kill our enemies before they kill us.  Jesus shows us that we are free to love our enemies, even to the point of dying for them.  The "end game" is neither a nation nor political freedom.  The "end game" is the Kingdom of God and the freedom found only in Jesus Christ.

"You, my church, told me it was wrong to kill … except in war.
You, my teachers, told me it was wrong to kill … except in war.
You, my father and mother, told me it was wrong to kill … except in war.
You, my friends, told me it was wrong to kill … except in war.
You, my government, told me it was wrong to kill … except in war.
But now I know, you were wrong, and now I will tell you, my church, my teachers, my father and mother, my friends, my government, it is not wrong to kill except in war. It is wrong to kill"
-George Mizo

To read the entire blog post from Shane Claiborne from which I copied that poem, click here.

And to see a reading list from Gene Sharp, the author of "From Dictatorship to Democracy" and a man who has inspired many different nations to undergo nonviolent revolutions, click here. Though it's not a part of normal thinking in our culture, there is a way to secure liberty by removing evil leaders without giving in to the "Myth of Redemptive Violence."  - to quote Walter Wink.