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Monday, December 05, 2005

Shouldering a Burden, Building a Bridge, Blogging a Convention

In my religious tradition, we talk of the Lord "putting a burden on your heart". It is difficult to explain to someone who does not share this tradition exactly what the phrase means. It is something like "finding a purpose" in your life, but not exactly. To say I have found a purpose puts the responsibility for doing so with me. I have found my purpose. Therefore I am responsible for achieving it. I will struggle and I will overcome or fail on my own. This is not what my religion teaches as the role of a Christian.

Instead, a Christian submits to the Lord's commands. Everywhere we look, there is pain and need and suffering. Once we turned a blind eye to it, stepping over the homeless, avoiding the poor and hungry. Now we must see them, as if it were our eyes from which the scales have fallen. It isn't an easy life that is offered. Paul talks of his heart being circumcised with Christ - the covering cut away so that it lies exposed to the world. Jim Wallis explains with the example of Dietrich Bonhoeffer that this is the cost of discipleship - that we are given much as Christians (salvation) but that Christ calls for us to give up much - although what we give up is as individual as our lives.

Your burden doesn't come from you - it comes from God. It is the discovery of injustice so great that your heart breaks a thousand times and a grief too great for tears fills your soul. It is when you stumble upon some hidden truth and find that no one else on earth but you can possibly fulfill this role that is unfilled. It is finding a purpose, not in a way that straightens your spine with pride, but that weakens your knees with humility. It is turning back a flood with a teaspoon, knowing that you will be consumed by your efforts and quite possibly never know if you have been successful, but being unable to even contemplate stopping. It is a burden as great as the cross that Jesus stumbled with, but it is not laid upon you physically. It is laid upon your heart so that you cannot sleep when you fail to give a full measure of effort, you cannot eat because you are sick with the knowledge that your efforts are fleeting, and it is an indescribably joy you feel when you find small victories and lives touched or saved along the way.

For some time now, my passion - perhaps my burden - has been to find a public voice for Christians of progressive political values. It is what moved me to begin this blog and what pushes me to discipline myself to write daily - something I've never been able to do on my own. I am motivated both by a sense of patriotism and a growing understanding of my faith. I believe in the great ideas upon which this country was founded. I count myself fortunate to have worn a uniform in its service and to now live proudly as a citizen of it. Yet this patriotism is tempered with my faith in God. The country in which I live has granted me great freedoms, but with great freedom comes great responsibility and it is my faith from which I learned responsibility. Everywhere I look, I see that these responsibilities have been violated, and worse, too often they are violated with the name of my faith upon the lips of the guilty.

It is not only Christians who are feeling this sense of outrage - though I am proud of the Christian brethren I have met (and hope I can be found worthy of standing in their shadows). It is also progressive Jews and Buddhists that are struggling to find the public voice they have lacked in recent years. Collectively, I believe we are trying to shoulder a burden that is too large for any of us alone. That burden, that burning need to somehow do more because so much more needs to be done, has led us to begin planning a Progressive Faith BlogCon. For far too long I felt like I was alone against the entire community of faith because my conservative brethren were so quick to shout down opposition. I have discovered that I am not alone in looking again and again to the Holy Scriptures for guidance and seeing social justice as the primary means of faith's expression.

There is much about the BlogCon that is unknown - will it be big enough to fill a stadium or small enough to have room left over in the living room? Will we find a host site? Will anyone even mention it after a week?

I don't know the answers to these questions. I only know that Jesus did not say, "When you know how everything will work out, come and find me." No, he said, "Take up your cross and follow me." Struggle, stagger, fall down and bloody your knees. Crawl if you must. Just follow.

Or in my case - just blog.

Progressive Faith Blog-Con 2006


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