Monday, May 25, 2009

On Memorial Day

On Friday morning, I went to a well-known bookstore in Seattle and was looking around in the bargain section. I came across a Mark Twain anthology and looked at the table of contents. I saw that it had "The War Prayer", which is one of the few essays I vividly remember reading in high school English. With today being Memorial Day, "The War Prayer" popped into my mind again. Maybe because Mark Twain's short, but powerful, essay throws some light onto one of the many tensions I've been feeling lately.

On Memorial Day, we're supposed to remember and honor those that have served in the armed forces. Both of my grandfathers served in the military and I respect and love both of them greatly. But how do I honor them without honoring what they were part of? How do I communicate that I no longer pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America without it being a slap in the face to them?

I want to make it clear that I do not hate the United States. It is my homeland on earth and, like my parents' house, I love coming back to it no matter how far I've traveled. But I don't think it's where my ultimate allegiance belongs.

I'm just trying to figure out if there is middle ground here. How do I put feet to my utopian ideals in this very real world?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Letter to Mom

You're always asking for pictures of what I've been up to in Seattle so I put this album together for you. Enjoy!

Back in February, I went to Discovery Park (near Ballard) with a few friends. We had a picnic and walked along the beach until we found the old lighthouse.

After a long afternoon of walking, we passed out on the beach for a while. One older couple that passed by commented that they had thought that we were seals sunning on the beach when they were walking toward us.

I know that you told me that ice cream is not supper food, but I couldn't resist the ice cream sundaes when we stopped at Molly Moon's on the way home. And yes, I did have a stomach ache later. I know you warned me that would happen.

This is the table in Alabama that you inspired. You were right. Kids loved the candy and, therefore, loved me.

Last month, the sun came out for a few days and the cherry blossoms bloomed on campus. This is my favorite shot that I took.

Earlier this month, four of us went to Vancouver for the weekend. We slept in a (very safe and very clean) hostel, visited the market, and had fun downtown.

After realizing that the suspension bridge cost too much for us, we found a park half a mile up the road. We got to hike around this area for free!

On Saturday, I went to Pike Place Market. They had a lot of flowers there for Mother's Day. Since I couldn't actually buy you any, I took a picture for you.

On Sunday morning, I went to the Fremont Sunday Market. I bought some really pretty earrings that I'll wear when I visit home this month.

Fremont has a statue of Lenin that used to be in the Soviet Union. Don't worry. I've picked up a few ideas in Seattle but I haven't become communist.

This morning I went to the Museum of History and Industry. I learned a lot about Seattle's history and saw a Warner Bro.'s exhibit with original drawings. Still, my favorite item in the museum was the Toe Truck. Get it. Ha ha :)

Friday, May 8, 2009

How to Change the World

Recently, I was reading "Letter from Birmingham City Jail" by Martin Luther King Jr. where he defended his methods against the local clergy that wanted him to back off. Amazingly, I had never actually read this famous essay before. It's amazing because I took a upper-division class on post-WWII US history where a lot of attention was given to the civil rights movement. Anyway, while I was reading, a particular paragraph stuck out to me and caused me to think.

"There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Wherever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being 'disturbers of the peace' and 'outside agitators.' But they went on with the conviction that there were 'a colony of heaven,' and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be 'astronomically intimidated.' They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest."

Immediately after reading that, my mind went back to something one of the students that I work with said when we were talking about modern Christianity. She said something along the lines of "The world [the established structure] is supposed to hate us and the people love us. Instead, the people hate us and the world loves us." We're the opposite of what we're supposed to be. The early Christians, as MLK pointed out, were small in number and big in commitment. Today, we're big in number and small in commitment. The Christian faith is hard to "sale" to many people because we care more about ourselves than the hopeless people around us. More time is given to debating predestination than what can be done to stop sex trafficking in our own cities, much less the world.

More and more I'm seeing that the faith I practice is lightyears away from the faith that Jesus talked about. Jesus called us to be, as it says earlier in the letter, "creative extremists." Extremists for Jesus, extremists for what is right, extremists for loving both the people that we know and the people we don't. If the Church transformed into "creative extremists", we would change more lives than any evangelism program could prod us into and our world would look more like the Kingdom that God desperately wants us to live in.

Just a thought.