Are we ready for Sean?

David Watson presses the church to consider the implications of widening pre-natal genetic testing for Down syndrome.

[T]here’s a word for this kind of thing: eugenics. What we’re talking about here is the elimination of a people group. Many of us are uncomfortable talking about this matter because it relates to topic of abortion. Yet regardless of how we may feel about abortion, can we not say that the selective termination of pregnancies based upon genetic characteristics is unethical and unacceptable? If we think, moreover, that we can limit this kind of thing to Down Syndrome, we’re fooling ourselves. As genetic testing becomes more sophisticated, will we act in the same way toward children with other forms of cognitive impairment? Children with autism? Children who are blind, deaf, or missing limbs? We can imagine a host of other traits that could be considered “undesirable.”

It is the logic of our world that says children such as Watson’s son, Sean, should never have been born. It is that logic that likely would extend to my son, Luc, if people had the ability to test for autism.

I know that if there were a cure of autism, I would want Luc to have it. Some advocates for neuro-diversity would resist that. But I would not. Luc works hard enough to cope with the world the rest of us have created. If I could make his life less of a struggle, I would. That said, I would never suggest that the “cure” includes denying him life.

We in the church talk about life. We talk about hospitality. We talk about the last being first. We talk about serving selflessly.

Sean Watson and our brothers and sisters like him are giving us a chance to mean what we say. Are we ready, church, for that? Will we let him teach us how to be who we say we are?

Praying for all of us

Thank you, Sky McCracken for this story. May those with ears, hear.

McCracken tells a story about some Methodists from Mexico visiting his district’s office, which is in a church that closed after a church split led to dwindling membership and finances.

When our Mexican friends arrived at our district office, we met to talk about the Hispanic population in our area, which is almost all Mexican. Some work at nearby poultry processing plants, others work on large farms. After some conversation (with a translator), I took them on a tour of our facilities, which includes a church/sanctuary that is currently not being used (pictured). As we went in, their eyes got wide. They asked if they could pray. One man brought in a guitar and they sang praise songs. And then some went into extemporaneous prayer. One woman, Sandra (in the foreground), was praying and weeping. My Spanish is close to nonexistent, but I was told she was asking God to forgive us for our not being faithful with this building, for whatever disagreement that led to its closing. She didn’t pray “them.” Or “others.” She prayed, “us.” As if they shared in the sin of this particular church of being more driven by disagreement and pride than being driven by the Christ who was God Among Us.

Read the full post here.

Resident Aliens redux

God has put North American Christians in this world under an allegedly democratic polity in a capitalist economy and with state-run education, a military budget, and gun violence in the streets — as well as rates of incarceration higher than any country in the world. How then should we live now in light of the shock that God has raised crucified Jesus from the dead? That’s the political question before us.

The words come from foreword of the “expanded” version of Will Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas’ Resident Aliens. They get to the heart of the central issue of the book: How should the church be the church in post-Christendom?

It was about ten years ago that I first picked up a copy of this book. I used the new edition coming out as an excuse to buy a copy without my comments and underlining in it to read the book afresh, which I hope to do soon.

The new forward is mostly interesting for Willimon’s reflections on his regrets about the book — not enough Christology or pneumatology, too much ecclesiastical romanticism, and some irrelevant arguments with dead theologians — and few glimpses at how being a bishop sharpened Willimon’s sense that the book is still needed.

Here is Willimon’s summary of UMC in the 25 years since Resident Aliens was published.

My church (Stanley’s ex-church) lost three million more members without noticing. United Methodist bishops, clueless about how to challenge the lies told by American ideologues of the left or the right, take the easy way out and vow to end malaria in Africa. The Protestant mainline becomes even more fissiparous in fights over, of all things, sex. When pietism substitutes love by God for obedience to God it degenerates into safely personal, instrumentalist, suffocating sentimentality.

If you have an old copy of the book, you don’t need to buy a new one. The only new material is Willimon’s foreword. But if you’ve never read the book, I commend it to your attention. I know I am looking forward to reading it again.

How to fight for the faith

Dear friends, I wanted very much to write to you concerning the salvation we share. Instead, I must write to urge you to fight for the faith delivered once and for all to God’s holy people. (Jude 3, CEB)

It is sometimes implied that Jude does not deserve our attention because it is a disputed addition to the canon. We who say with Jesus our Lord that the last will be first, somehow hold Jude’s contested inclusion in the New Testament as a mark against it.

When I read Jude, though, I feel it is among the most timely texts in the New Testament. Its warnings and exhortations seem to speak directly to our day.

In this verse, Jude tells the church that he’d rather write to it about the salvation that they share — or that all Christians share — but he is compelled to address other matters. The influence of false teachers among them has left him with no choice but to exhort them to reclaim or hold on to the ancient faith of the people of God.

It is interesting to me that all the examples in the letter are Old Testament stories — even if some apparently belong to writings that were not in the Old Testament canon that would later be settled. We read of the Exodus, the revolt of the fallen angels, and Sodom and Gomorrah. We read of Cain, Balaam, and Korah. We read of Enoch and Adam.

And we read Jude’s counsel to the church — the means by which we should fight for the faith delivered to the chosen people and opened to all through faith in Jesus Christ.

But you, dear friends: build each other up on the foundation of your most holy faith, pray in the Holy Spirit, keep each other in the love of God, wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will give you eternal life. (Jude 20-21, CEB)

Build each other up. Pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep each other in the love of God. Wait for the mercy of Jesus Christ.

These are the tactics with which we are urged to fight for the faith.

In the verse 19 — right before the quote above — Jude names the scoffers and the ungodly as the source of division within the church. They are worldly and without the Spirit.

But what does Jude suggest as a response to these people who divide and disrupt the church?

Build each other up. Pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep each other in the love of God. Wait for the mercy of Jesus Christ.

We are exhorted to have mercy on those who waver and are led astray by false teaching and have mercy on those caught up in sin, even as we hate the defilement of the sin itself.

Fight for the faith, I hear Jude teaching, by being disciples of our Lord and Savior.