Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bulldozing and Building

A time to tear down and a time to build…

                        Ecclesiastes 3.3

Wall Power

Genesis teaches God creates beings, each of them equal, equally innocent and worthy of His name. From there, He gives us the reins and a second creative process begins. His objectives focus on the eternal; ours fixate on the temporal—on values that promote longevity. We create personalities, survival strategies that reject equality, spoil innocence, and deny those unlike us any claim to God’s promise. We forge coalitions of personalities based on similar survival strategies. Together, we build walls to stymie the progress of any who contradict or threaten our way of life. Instead of relying on our beings’ willpower to demonstrate God's love and mercy, we reinforce our personalities’ wall power to protect us from irrational fears.

Demolishing Strongholds

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10.4-5: “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Paul addresses our conflicts rather than the War on Evil that should unite us. He arms us with divine power to tear down walls constructed by anyone’s audacity to claim knowing what God knows. He identifies our power in Ephesians 2.14: “[Christ] is our peace… and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” When bulldozing time comes, we lay aside our personal preference for battering rams and wrecking balls and take on the peaceful nature of Jesus. With no confrontation needed, the engagement seems unexciting and non-dramatic. But its results are always spectacular.

Constructive Subversion

Divine power to demolish walls of injustice and ignorance has great appeal—particularly for those of us with subversive streaks. But if we devote all of our time undoing others’ work, none is left for work we must do. While we destroy divisions created by some, God authorizes us to build faith in others. As with peaceful demolition, it’s counterintuitive. We build their strength by owning our weakness. “We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong,” Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13.9, conceding his readers may be more sophisticated, better versed than he. Yet in the next verse, he stands firm, citing “the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.” This is constructive subversion at its highest.

Absolutely, we must speak divine power to walls. “Shout it aloud, do not hold back,” Isaiah 58.1 says. “Declare to my people their rebellion.” But times also come to inspire others to follow Jesus through our humble example, building their courage to demolish their own walls of fear and arrogance. “There are times for bulldozing,” Solomon writes, “and times for building.” One without the other is a job half-done.

(Tomorrow: Lamenting and Laughing)

Postscript: The Milk of Human Kindness

In the coming weeks, we’ll hear a lot about the late, irrepressibly great Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors—or any office in California—in 1977. His public service was tragically cut short when Dan White, a staunchly conservative former Supervisor, assassinated him. Milk’s victory granted him iconic status in the gay and liberal communities; his murder elevated him to that of a civil rights martyr. And while he’s never faded from public memory, a new film biography with a reportedly outstanding portrayal of Milk by Sean Penn no doubt will create a resurgence of discussion about Milk’s message, in life and death.

My nephew’s husband sent this youtube link to me in response to the passage of California’s Proposition 8, the initiative that nullified his marriage by restricting legal unions to heterosexual couples. His note said, “A great speech by Harvey Milk … very inspiring, especially given the recent passage of Prop 8.”

What Milk said over 30 years ago is all the more moving today, given how far we’ve come and yet how little we’ve changed. But my main purpose for including it here is how beautifully it exemplifies the power we achieve when we balance tearing down walls with building up people. I think one can safely say Harvey Milk understood better than most anyone that breaking through barriers means nothing unless human kindness flows behind it.

Don’t cheat yourself by not spending two extra minutes with this.


FranIAm said...

Oh my - Tim... what a beautiful post. God bless you so richly. Genesis. St Paul. Harvey Milk. I love you for this.

This will all work its way into a post at my blog.

Harvey Milk has always been one of my heroes.

You are one of my heroes too and I am deeply grateful to be in community with you out here on the tubes.

God bless you my brother!

Tim said...

Hi, Fran! Thank you for your comments. This was one of those wonderful moments when several strands of thought floating around mysteriously braided together into one idea. I'm always amazed when this happens, because it's so far beyond my intentions or capabilities that I can't imagine taking credit for it. I'm grateful no end to you for writing; it makes me all the more grateful to God for His guidance in keeping me "out of the weeds," as they say.

I was in New Jersey today on business and showed the Milk video to my colleagues, all of whom share our disappointment in Prop 8's passage. What surprised me most about their reaction was their vague sense of who Harvey Milk was. I naturally assumed that most everyone was vividly aware of him, but it seems his memory has faded more than I thought. That makes the upcoming movie and its attendant press all the more exciting, I think. God bless its makers, Penn, and the rest for daring to bring him back to the world's attention.

As I'm just getting in and haven't got over to your place yet, if you've not tracked down the youtube code, here's the link:

I hope other bloggers who are part of our community "out here on the tubes" will pick it up and use it also!

Be blessed, always, and keep fighting the good fight of faith! It's a great honor to have you as a my sister and role model!


John Shuck said...

Thanks for this Tim. Thank you Fran for shouting this out.

I posted it on my PFLAG Tri-Cities blog

Wonderful. Hope.

Tim said...

John, it's always a treat to see you here! Thanks for passing the video along. Milk's message is too compelling not to share with everyone we can! We must keep hope alive...


Jason said...

Uncle Tim!!! Thank you so much for sharing this with your loyal readers! I was watching some of the protests the other night in California on television and was just thinking how much I wish I could do more to be a part of this, even if my own marriage wasn't on the line, it would still be so important and something I would be intensely passionate about. Unfortunately, living in Atlanta, it isn't really easy or practical to get a dog in the fight first hand and participate. While reading through some blogs later that night I came across this video and it gave me goosebumps! I watched it about a dozen times and then immediately sent it out to all of my friends and asked them to do the same. Thank you for doing your part to pass it on and share the hope! When you don't live in a state where the fight is active and ongoing then the best you can do sometimes to feel like you're contributing to the struggle is to do your part to pass the truth along.

I can't wait to see you at Christmas!

Tim said...

Dear, sweet Jason, your determination to "put a dog in the fight" even from afar will be rewarded over and over. You're a sterling example to all of us who fail to rally around issues that aren't related to where we live.

When I think of you and T, and the wonderful marriage and life you've built together, I'm reminded of what Paul said after he listed the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.--all the things I see in both of you). When he finished, he said flatly, "There are no laws against these things."

Let them pass all the propositions they want. In the end, the integrity, commitment, and love represented your marriage, and thousands like it, will stand. It can't be outlawed!

I love and admire you both more than you'll ever know... and I'm proud as all get-out to belong to your family.

Love always,

Cuboid Master said...

That is a wonderful video! I cried. Thank you, Tim, for posting it. I will show it to my son tonight.

Davis said...

Franiam sent me over here and you have a wonderful blog. Blessings on you, friend!

Tim said...

Cube, thank you! When Jason sent it to me, I cried as well. And that you're showing it to your son makes it all the sweeter! God bless you for all you're doing to raise a healthy-minded, secure young man; as you do, you're making our world a better place. Harvey would kiss you for this!

Davis, welcome! And thanks for your kind words. I hope you come by often and contribute your comments. With the altogether amazing Fran as the link between us, I already count you as a brother! I just made a mad dash over to your blog; it's so cool, not only for what you say (very sound and also thought-provoking), but your visuals. They're exquisite! If it's cool with you, I'd like to link it here. I look forward to seeing more of you!

Peace to both of you,