Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Repost: 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 with 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 please God, we reinforce our personalities’ wall power to accomplish what most pleases us.

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 with subversive streaks. But if we devote all of our time to undoing others’ work, none is left for our work. 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 are 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 with us, 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.

Sometimes we serve others by tearing down walls that unjustly limit them; at other times, we build their faith to destroy their walls themselves. 

(Tomorrow: Lamenting and Laughing)


Mariah and Byron Edgington said...

Tim: First, thanks for the kind words reference our recent post about progress. Someday all the walls will come down. When we see walls of any kind in human interaction we see fear, mostly. Our way forward may not be to appease so much as to assuage and to educate if there's an opportunity to do so. In my (Byron) position with Marriage Equality USA we're directed to always focus our energy and attention on the 'movable middle', those reasonable people who need only affirmation and encouragement to see and act on their own very real sense that injustice to anyone is injustice to all. Ironically, erecting walls and subverting the legal protections already in place is the radical idea; observing the law and extending its reach to everyone is actually the very conservative, sober and reasonable thing. Thanks again for the comments, and keep yours coming.

Tim said...

Byron, as I said at your place, it's great finally to have time to revive acquaintances that fell dormant due to recently heavy workload and personal obligations. Your blog, Caffection!, never fails to lift my spirits and I truly missed it while slogging through all I had to do. Ironically, when I most needed it (and the lifts I get from many others), my capacity to get to it wasn't there. So coming back around is twice as sweet!

Beyond the gentle words you and Mariah regularly publish, I'm awestruck by all you do to promote marital joy in general and equality for GLBT couples in particular. There's great wisdom in your efforts to reach the "movable middle" because I completely agree that these people genuinely abhor injustice of any kind. Once they're enlightened to see marital inequality as a perversion of deeply cherished principles and an infringement on their personal freedoms, they'll mobilize to tear these walls down.

As you suggest, champions of wall power fuel their cause by pumping out fear. It seems to me the best and only way to foil their efforts is by appealing to the middle's innate sense of mercy by reaching their minds. Once they understand barring marital equality to all radically violates every citizen's fundamental rights, their sense of mercy will compel them to speak.

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but it's our responsibility to realize arguing with the blatantly misnamed "sanctity of marriage" crowd is futile. Building up underdeveloped moral strength in millions of presently disengaged minds and hearts is how the walls will come down.

But here's a tough question: can those of us currently denied marital rights quit pushing our victim mentality and entitlement agenda long enough to expand the issue to include everyone? Because everyone's at risk of losing here. If we're only consumed with harping constantly on what we don't have, those who already enjoy what we're asking for will never get that preventing its access to anyone is exactly what they don't need.

It's ever a pleasure to see you here, Byron, and always a great joy to meet at your place, too. I pray God's richest rewards for your boundless compassion and commitment to all of His children.