Thursday, 18 April 2013

Hard to Belieb

I was about to post this when the bombs at the Boston Marathon went off… It seemed to flip to publish that day.  However, it is still rattling around in my brain and on my hard-drive, so here it is:

It’s everywhere…
   I posted it on Facebook (so you know that it must be news)…
      Justin Bieber said something really stupid.
Shocking, I know.

Stephen Harper was secretive
Thomas Mulcair was confrontational
Justin Trudeau was really pretty
(more things that you just didn’t see coming…)*

So, the young Mr. Bieber visited the Anne Frank Museum for a private tour.  At the end of the tour he was invited to write in the guest book and wrote the following:  “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber."


Now, you might defend the statement by thinking that it was great that Justin was able to recognize Anne Frank as a little girl; a child who had dolls and toys and should have grown up to giggle about love and go on a date.  Justin’s ability to see her as “girl” and not just as a tragic icon reminds of the horrific loss to all of humanity: millions upon millions of little boys, girls, men and woman who were exactly like you and me lost to mass murder.

But, it still came off as flippant -  as if our Pop Star believed that if not for the genocide, she would have been so into his crazy dance beats.  How unlucky for them both.

It bothers many of us, that in face of the atrocities of the Nazi regime, Justin is still thinking about his music; his celebrity: Himself.
But should we be surprised?

No doubt, he is surrounded by all manner of “handlers” and assistants… people to fetch his water, make his breakfast, plan his day, fix his hair, keeps annoying strangers away, tell him how wonderful he is, keep his secrets and basically cater to his whims… For all intents and purposes, the world that Justin Beiber lives in IS all about him.

AND he’s not alone.

The M.S. St. Louis with 937 Jewish Refugees was not allowed to land in Canada in 1939… We didn't want them.
After two months and 1600 kms, a group of Cree youth were not greeted by our Prime Minister, because he was having his picture taken with Pandas in Toronto (a much better photo-op).
My cat comes calling at 6am each morning, and if I pretend to be asleep, she will wake my wife -  who can then get up and feed the cat, leaving me to luxuriate in my own bed.

To varying degrees, it always seems “to be about me”.  (or us… or him…  them… you know what I mean)

Our society certainly supports and promotes this attitude, as advertisements arrived through the mail, television and social media telling me that “I’m the one”… “I deserve this”…  “My future is important.”…   Facebook even tailors ads directly to me based on my history of “Liking” and commenting.  (still not sure why I’m getting so many ads for Lipitor and Cialis… what did I say? And to whom??)  In a Facebook and Twitter world it is all about me.

However, before I lay it all on the shoulders of Social Media and Coercive Capitalism, I think that religion deserves a poke, too.  I will speak only for my faith tradition, but feel free to adapt to be critical of your own.  In Christianity we have put quite a premium on and have a long history of emphasizing personal salvation.
Have YOU been saved?
Are YOU born again?
Is Jesus in YOUR heart?  
             (and he walks with me and he talks with me... and he tells me I am his own...)
Why weren't YOU in church last week?

I enjoy the looked of confusion when people apologize to me for not having been in church for the past few weeks and I reply, “I’m not really one to judge, after all, I’m paid to be here… “  But they have a serious sense of obligation; that somehow it is their job to get their bodies into a place of worship every week.

I can do whatever I pleases,
‘cause I’ve got my plastic Jesus,
on the dashboard of my car…           
  (here ends the sing-a-long portion of this blog)

It really is all about us.

I was asked recently by a very intelligent, committed individual as to the purpose of church.  She said, “If we’re all love by God – and I do believe that – than what’s the point in going?  To be reminded that we are loved?”

I offered that hearing and being assured that we are loved is important… we wouldn't let our children grow up without being told frequently how much we love them.  I added, however we can further mine this parent/child God/humanity metaphor when we consider the way that we love our children.  We want what’s best for them, we want them to make good choices, we want to offer our insight and experience as they decide… we hurt for them, we get upset with them and we sometimes hold their hands through hard times… so on-going church experience can mirror that.  The give and take of relationship… the sharing of love, more than just a statement of fact or condition: YOU ARE LOVED.

But, more than that, I added… we also go to church to be reminded that it’s not all about us.  We aren't just in this world to be personally comforted and saved.  We are in this world to be free… free for the other.  We are in this world to announce, promote and be the Kingdom of God: A way of being that is not coercive or violent, but just and loving.  Justice and Love are abstract notions until they are enacted; lived out by people.  People like us… and church equips us to be loving and just.  It challenges us to make a difference in the world.  It picks us up when we fall, encourages us when we doubt… it opens our hearts and minds, so that we can love one another, fully and completely.   Church exists to celebrate that it is NOT all about us…  And if we could really embrace that, truly live such an attitude and perspective, we might soon discover that hunger is not impossible to eradicate,
Violence need not be prevalent
Justice can be real
Passion and commitment can be honoured
Photo Ops can wait.
Refugees can be welcomed and embraced.
I can get up and feed the blessed cat
And Justin Beiber can visit the Anne Frank Museum and be left speechless.

At least that's what I believe (of course, it's not all about me)

*With apologies for foolish exaggerations and caricatures … I know that Prime minister Harper is not just secretive, Mr. Mulcair can be more then confrontation… Mr. Trudeau is not THAT pretty.

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