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Colossian Blog
November 8, 2012 | James K.A. Smith

The Election is Over: Long Live the King!

The morning after an election can be a difficult time for Christians, no matter who is elected.  Inevitably, there will be some who are elated, others who are dejected, and if Facebook or Twitter are any sort of barometer, the relation between the two is not exactly a model of Christian unity.

Locked in the echo chambers of our fragmented “tailored-for-me” society, we too easily tend to assume that brothers and sisters in Christ share our partisan loyalties, and thus become shocked–shocked!–when we hear a fellow Christian who seems to disagree with us.  It turns out that what seems a straightforward relationship between our Christian confession and our political leanings is not so straightforward after all.  And our inclination is to then call into question our sister or brother’s Christian faith!

There is, of course, another option on the table here, which is to perhaps reconsider the supposedly straightforward overlap between our Christian confession and particular partisan loyalities.

It doesn’t take too much imagination to realize this case of political division within the body of Christ is analogous to the “party lines” that often separate us when it comes to matters of faith & science, creation & evolution.  And addressing such divisions is exactly why The Colossian Forum was launched.

While we don’t often articulate this, in fact The Colossian Forum is called The Colossian Forum because we believe Paul’s letter to the Christians in Colossae diagnoses a situation similar to our own.  The factions and divisions that beset the church in Colossae were a result of Christians allowing secondary matters to trump the primary conviction that all things hold together in Christ.  You might say their problem was disordered allegiance: they had let their allegiances to particular parties and factions–which emphasized certain “positions” on matters of secondary concern–to effectively trump their common and core allegiance to the risen Christ who was to “have first place in everything” (Col. 1:18).  Instead of “holding fast to the head,” the Colossian Christians were clinging more tightly to partisan identities (Col. 2:8-23).

Into this situation, Paul wrote his letter, admonishing the Christians in Colossae to find their center–their primary allegiance–in the One who is “before all things” and in Whom all things hold together (Col. 1:17).  That’s the admonition–and invitation–that The Colossian Forum wants to bring to the contemporary church in North America.  And it’s a timely word when our partisan loyalities–whether political, or positions on origins–threaten to trump our common confession in Christ.

I had opportunity to be reminded of this on election night this past week.  On November 6, 2012, the day of the presidential election, I  was at St. Andrew’s Church in Mount Pleasant, SC.  I had been invited to speak on the theme of the church and the sacraments at the Ridley Institute, their marvelous venture to equip the body of Christ through sustained theological reflection in the local church.  The invitation came a long time ago, and as we were a couple of months out it dawned on me: they had scheduled this for the night of the election!  I emailed Rob Sturdy, associate pastor and overseer of the Ridley Institute, to see if this had perhaps been an oversight.  “Did you realize,” I asked, “that you’ve asked me to come to speak on the night of the election?”  “Yes,” he replied, “it shouldn’t be a problem.”  OK, I said, a bit intrigued.

On the evening of the election, as polls were closing and first returns would begin to stream in, I was amazed: here were 200 parishioners at church on election night, eager to learn about ecclesiology, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.  What kind of place is this?, I asked myself.

Rob then stood up to introduce me, but first began with this announcement: “I know it’s election night, and I have some very important news that you’ll all be interested to hear: Jesus is still the risen King!”  Brilliant.  And true.  And just the kind of centering confession the body of Christ needs to hear in fractious times.

My lecture, as I said, was on the sacraments.  Following St. Augustine, I emphasized that the sacraments are really the “civics” of the City of God; they are the school of charity for citizens of the heavenly City.  This is why The Colossian Forum is committed to the centrality of worship as that practice which trains us to keep the ultimate ultimate, and the penultimate secondary.  It is in worship that we are re-centered in our primary allegiance to Christ, which should trump all secondary, partisan loyalties.  In the disorienting animosity that can follow an election, it is good to be reminded that all things–even nations–hold together in him.

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Fears and Loves
February 14, 2020 | Emily Stroble
Fears and Loves
Do you ever get a twist of anxiety in the pit of your stomach when a loved one is late arriving home on a snowy night? Or, do you feel a sudden jolt in your heart rate when you hear of something troubling happening near a loved one’s house or office? We are often reluctant, even ashamed, to say we are afraid. But often, fear is inspired by an underlying love. Fear is the natural prompting to protect what we treasure. At The Colossian Forum, we help you examine some of those fears to find the love that motivates you. By “fear,” we don’t mean only those feelings connected to immediate danger. Rather, “fear” is shorthand for all the concerns, anxieties, and urges to defend or protect something—those feelings that motivate us to protect our loves. Fear is both the anxiety that a loved one could be hurt and the concern that a political policy might harm our communities. This fear or concern shapes our reactions, emotions, and arguments. Unsurprisingly, our “opponents,” (the people who threaten or disagree with us) are also shaped by these fears and loves. You’ve probably seen this play out with the people you love. Even as I think of some examples I’ve heard lately, I feel my fear engaging, ready to protect what I love. I feel an impulse to construct my own arguments in my mind, ready to fight. You may feel the same urge. Let’s resist it for a moment. Can you see the beloved thing or person behind these arguments? If we throw away this verse and that verse, what is to keep us from discarding the whole Bible? If some of it isn’t true, or we decide it no longer applies, how do we know Christ’s miracles and teachings are true, or that the resurrection is real? If the church speaks nothing but judgment and rejection to the LGBTQ community, we are telling those people—our friends, sons, and daughters—that there is no place for them in the church, in the story of salvation. We are turning away people made in the image of God. We’re commanded to love the least of these—the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. That’s the simplest definition of Christianity you can get, and it should apply to our immigration policy. I can’t vote for someone who isn’t pro-life. I can’t give power to someone who will not protect the lives of unborn children. If you boil these statements down, you can see that they all revolve around a deep love for people and a powerful desire to follow God’s will for the world and their own lives. Often, the “other side” is not maliciously plotting our destruction. Rather, they are frantically trying to protect their own loves and urging us to see the damage we are doing to what they hold dear. If we pause, we might find that we love the same things. Yet, our disagreements arise when we have competing ideas about how to best protect those things or how to prioritize so many precious things when the brokenness of our world requires us to make difficult choices. Our disagreements are not insignificant. We all have a lot at stake. But just imagine how our lives and relationships would be enriched if we could unveil and understand each other’s loves behind our fears. Can you imagine how fruitful a conversation would be if we were disagreeing about the right things, rather than finding new ways to call the other side evil? We might begin to see the humanity of the “other side.” We might become aware of what our fears are prompting us to do. And we may even discover that our “opponents” are trying to love us well, wanting to protect us and our communities from something we haven’t yet seen. We may even be encouraged, edified, and enlightened. Identifying underlying loves can help us see other angles and outcomes we would otherwise be blind to. This practice of pausing in the midst of intense arguments to acknowledge our fears and the loves behind them is a crucial step in The Colossian Way. It alerts us to potential pitfalls in our approach and advocates for the precious and vulnerable (though perhaps hidden) things our brothers and sisters in Christ hold dear. Give it a try the next time you find yourself in a heated situation. As your own heart rate rises, ask: What do you fear you’ll lose if the “other” side wins? What does the other person seem most concerned for? (Ask them if you are understanding them correctly.) What do you hope for? What do they hope for? Do you hope and fear for anything in common or related? We would love to hear what you discover as you try this practice. Share your story with us on social media using the hashtag “#fearsandloves” or by emailing us at info@colossianforum.org. For more on this practice and others, check out our newest Colossian Way curriculum, Political Talk.
Living in a Time between the Times - January/February 2020 Prayer Letter
February 10, 2020 | Michael Gulker
Living in a Time between the Times - January/February 2020 Prayer Letter
As our country wades through an impeachment process and we enter yet another election season, it’s easy for Christians to lose our storyline. We know this but often feel stuck. What choice do we have? We can’t just pretend the choice between left and right doesn’t exist, can we? Perhaps it’s helpful to remember that we’re hardly the first Christians to be caught up in the drama of state politics. Way back in the fifth century, in his book The City of God, Augustine wrestled with the confusion created by being dual citizens, members of both the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of God. I hope you enjoy this video, in which we explore how we can apply Augustine’s lessons to our own politically divisive moment.  [embed]https://vimeo.com/389767996[/embed] Please join us in giving thanks for: Our new Administrative Assistant, Lexi Jones. Lexi also serves as an ordained pastor at Takeover Church, where she is the part-time children’s pastor. She is also a bowler who has competed on the national level, and she coaches bowling at Jenison High School and Cornerstone University. She graduated from Calvin University, where she studied English Writing, with minors in English as a Second Language and Congregational and Ministry Studies, with emphases in Youth Ministry and Missions. Calvin University showcasing our friends Darrel Falk and Todd Wood in a January Series presentation, Moving beyond Labels to a Christian Dialogue about Creation and Evolution. Over 3,000 people were able to hear the compelling story of these men, two scientists who deeply disagree on the topic of origins, share a common faith in Jesus Christ, and began a sometimes-painful journey to explore how they can remain in Christian fellowship when each thinks the other is harming the church. Watch here. To Explore our book capturing their story, The Fool and the Heretic. Your faithful generosity and visionary heart for your churches and communities in helping us meet and exceed both our $25,000 year-end matching gift and the additional $10,000 matching challenge, resulting in over $75,000 of support for congregations and communities in crisis and conflict. Thank you for coming alongside your brothers and sisters in Christ.  The completion of our Political Talk small group curriculum, now available. At a time when Christians are hungry for new ways to overcome division and forge fruitful lives together, we pray this new Colossian Way curriculum gives them the tools they need to navigate political differences faithfully. Eight groups will be running Political Talk in our Spring 2020 Cohort. To order a copy of the curriculum or to bring Political Talk to your church, please contact us at tcw@colossianforum.org. The fulfillment of a significant three-year grant. Since 2017, we have partnered with Templeton Religion Trust to develop and launch our new mode of conflict engagement, The Colossian Way. We began with a pilot program of Leader Training and small-group curricula, which has now expanded to four topical curricula: Origins; Sexuality; Political Talk; and Women and Men in God’s Image (coming in 2021). Through this grant project, we have engaged over 11,000 people with our mission and, of these, over 1,000 people have participated in small groups, resulting in over 28,000 hours of formation in The Colossian Way method of conflict engagement. Jenell Paris and her tireless, faithful work on our Colossian Way curriculum, Women and Men in God’s Image, forthcoming in early 2021. We are so grateful for her friendship, wisdom, and commitment to the work of reconciliation. Please join us in praying for the following: The United Methodist Church and others who are divided. We pray that all those impacted will find ways to engage these conflicts faithfully. The 18 churches and schools that are preparing to run Colossian Way groups in our Spring 2020 Cohort. We pray their experience blesses them and renews their hope and confidence in their faith as a resource to navigate our most complex disagreements. If you’re interested in taking up The Colossian Way in your community, consider joining us at our next Leader Training in Grand Rapids, MI May 7-9, 2020. Our Board of Directors as they meet in February and continue to guide The Colossian Forum into new territory and endeavors in 2020 and beyond.

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