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Friday, 3 January 2014

Atheists, Pastor John Hagee, and me: forever connected

A few weeks ago a small group of staff and church members gathered around a table to talk about how we might promote a conversation about the use, for good and ill, of technology and especially social media by our children. We decided that, over the course of 2014 we would like to engage people in the congregation as well as the broader community in thinking about how these things affect our lives. What is good and faithful and ethical about our connecting with others through social media, and what is destructive and harmful about it.

This Sunday, as we explore the Gospel of John, chapter 1 --"The Word became flesh and dwelled among us..... full of grace and truth," I hope to help us begin this conversation.

One thing I am realizing as I read and reflect in preparation for Sunday, is that we have become, in this world of internet, "networked" people. We don't see ourselves in the kind of atomistic way that has been so characteristic of Western society until the quantum and computer age came along. For good and ill we are seeing ourselves in more connected ways.

Dwight J. Friesen, in a good book called "Thy Kingdom Connected: What the Church can learn from Facebook, the Internet and other networks" suggests that understanding ourselves as "networked people" my help us be agents of reconciliation. Here is how he talks about it:

"A networked person embraces conflict with the faith that hidden inside every conflict is an opportunity for the reconciling gospel to be made visible; the greater the conflict, the greater the opportunity for the gospel to be manifest. If reconciliation is the gospel in action, then every time a networked person encounters an 'enemy,' they see an opportunity for grace to transform a relationship. In God's networked kingdom, reconciliation is the eschatological hope embedded within enmity.

"The networked person embraces their need for others, including their enemies..... Relationships with other people who differ in profound ways provide a unique opportunity for the networked person to reflect, forgive, repent, or differentiate in hope of encountering the other. In many ways, the transformational process of being formed in the image of God as seen in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit happens best when we have the privilege of being in relationship with those who differ from us or even those who consider us their enemies (p.70-71)."

In San Antonio last week, my brother in faith and fellow clergyman Pastor John Hagee preached a sermon in which he suggested that atheists should just hop the next flight to somewhere else and leave the good ol' USA to those of us people of faith who understand and appreciate that this nation was founded ON faith. Another option he suggested was, if they didn't like being wished a "Merry Christmas," they could just "stuff their Walkman in their ears."  Given that most likely there are many atheists (listening to John Hagee's sermon?) who do not have enough money for plane fare, he could have added "or go jump in a lake of fire."

Given that Pastor Hagee referred to a Walkman, I'm thinking he doesn't yet realize that he is a networked person. He thinks music is contained in a device that exists in isolation from other devices. Not so.......... my husband was just talking with me last night about posting a playlist on the "cloud" and that others could listen to it, comment on it, share their playlists and suggest additions to his.

I may not like what Pastor Hagee said, but I know that I am connected to him in more ways than I can count. We cannot escape each other. Why try? And why would he want to disconnect himself from atheists? As an evangelical Christian, wouldn't Pastor Hagee's deepest desire be to have conversations with atheists? To understand their joys and sorrows, their wounds and thinking, to better be able to offer the grace-filled news of Jesus Christ?  In suggesting that disconnection between atheists and believers in the US is even possible is to misunderstand the nature of our human existence: that we are connected.

In this world of social networks, perhaps by brother John Hagee will read these words one day. And maybe he can tell me more about what he was thinking. Even with 6 or more degrees of separation we have become conversation partners of sorts. And the conversation is now forever open to whomever would like to join in.

Meandering toward Sunday...........


2 comments:

micah6 said...

Well said! May your congregation be blessed in its quest to strengthen networks among believers and with those whose beliefs present a challenge (including Pastor Hagee).

Virginia Gilbert

Jorgina Villegas said...

Hello Rev. Allen

My name is Jorgina, I am a student at St. Mary's University and wanted to know if you would be interested in being a speaker on a panel for the President's Peace Commission.

Dr. Hanneken mentioned your name when I asked him about the sol center and wondered if you would be willing and able to attend. It will be on Thursday February 20 from 12:35-1:50 pm

If you could please email your response to jvillegas4@mail.stmarytx.edu it would be greatly apprecited thank you

Sincerely,
Jorgina Villegas