Monday, May 25, 2009

Suburban Myths Part 1

Just lookin' out of the window
Watchin' the asphalt glow
Thinkin' how it all looks 'hand-me-down'

Recently, Justin Taylor over at Between Two Worlds posted a link to an article that touched the age old (okay maybe it's not that old) suburban vs. urban debate. Part of the article states that for some it's cool to love the city and loathe the suburbs. As one who was born and grew up in the city, went to live in the burbs for a bit and have since returned to the city I thought I'd chime in on the subject. Some of you probably recognized the lyrics above from the closing song of the 70's show 'Good Times'. Many of us who were raised in poor black areas of America's large cities can readily identify with that song. Growing up in these areas I never met anyone from my family, friends, classmates, or anybody else who actually wanted to live in the city. As far as the city went the mantra of my parents, relatives and other adults in my life was 'get an education, get a good job and get out. My wife was the first black person I'd ever met who was raised in the city and still had a strong desire and determination to live in the city.

Over the last couple of decades much has been said about the mandate for Christians to move from the suburbs back into the city to bring the gospel to bear on the many challenges faced by those who live in the city. There has been however a fair amount of mythology that has also grown up around this subject. With that in mind then I'd like to do a short series of posts to expose and challenge some of these suburban myths.

Myth #1 - It is the church's responsibility to provide complete and comprehensive care for the poor. I call that a myth because while the church can and should certainly offer ministries of mercy toward the poor the entire problem of entrenched, generational poverty is not something we can or should try to solve on our own.

Myth #2 - White suburban evangelicals are indispensable to the recovery of our major cities, especially the poor black and Latino neighborhoods within those cities. I say this for three reasons. First, I don't want to ignore the ethnic dynamics of this discussion because it is still the elephant in the room. Second, I'm certainly not saying that suburbanites aren't welcome because they are (see next myth). Third I want to caution suburbanites against embracing a messiah complex with respect to the city.

Myth #3 - Moving into the city is the only way suburbanites can engage in effective ministry within the city. As Col. Sherman Potter would say 'that's horse hockey'.

Myth #4 - Ministry among poor blacks or Latinos is the only way suburbanites can participate in meaningful ministry. Trust me, having lived in the burbs I can tell you first hand that there are plenty of opportunities to serve the gospel among middle to high income suburbanites.

Myth #5 - The church can serve the poor most effectively by giving practical biblical advice and setting up practical anti-poverty programs.

In my view these are some of the myths that have grown up around the the urban vs. suburban ministry debate and thus must be addressed if we are to continue to work together to serve faithfully wherever our Lord has called us to serve.

To Him Who Loves Us...
pastor lance

Friday, May 08, 2009

Star Trek: Back To the Past

The Trek is back and you can bet your bottom dollar that this ain't yo daddy's Star Trek. The names remain the same but the feel you get from Star Trek: The Future Begins is most definitely different than the previous versions. As a life long Trekkie I considered it my obligation to see the latest incarnation of one of entertainments longest running series. So early this morning me and seven other Trekkies boldly went to a local IMAX theater to see if the wait was worth it.

And by and large it was. I'm not a movie critic and won't pretend to be one here. I can tell you that this Trek is good, well paced fare that will please Trekkie and non-Trekkie alike. You really don't need to know a whole lot about the original series (especially since more than enough ST lore is in our pop culture) to get a firm grasp of the film's plot. That said being familiar with ST will help with a number of the lines and subplots. One of the things I liked about this movie that was absent from all other TOS movies (TOS stands for The Original Series) is how the bridge crew (Uhurah, Chekov, Sulu and Scotty) actually did something other than sit there and say 'warp factor four captain'.
Kirk and Spock were portrayed with relish and in my view exactly the way an old Trekkie would have thought they'd be at the start of their five year mission.

One of the holdovers from the last few Trek films is the realization of actual, real evil. Star Trek was born with a belief in the basic goodness in humanity and by extension all sentient beings. The basic premise of the Trek is that eventually humanity and other sentient beings will evolve to a point where we will all live to explore the galaxy, cooperate with others and better ourselves. The first Trek was groundbreaking in that it featured an international crew that consisted of a Russian (remember this was in 67, the height of the Cold War) an African, Asian, Scotsman and others. TOS dealt with issues like war, racism and the existence of a supreme being. Though the Federation had enemies (the Romulans and Klingons) they were usually cast in a light that reminded humanity of what it once was. The idea seemed to be that even these folks would grow up, join the Feds and enjoy a peaceful, prosperous galaxy.

Apart from a few good episodes on other ventures within the franchise TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise usually stuck with the good guys vs. bad guys theme. The movies followed the same path. After a disastrous first try (Star Trek: The Motion Picture) the folks at Trek got with the program and gave into the all too human reality that there are real bad dudes who do evil things because they are evil. I'm sure Gene Roddenberry would have loved to make shows and movies that highlighted space exploration that featured the discovery of new life and how that facilitated the exploration of our own humanity. But that don't sell tickets which is why Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek VIII: First Contact are still the most popular movies. (that Borg chica was creeeeepy)

The caretakers of the Trek either have realized or just given in to the fact that evil will be present even in the 24th century. With all of our supposed evolution, technological advances and history of our past mistakes in the end we cannot breed, education or reason our way to an existence that's devoid of real, actual evil. The villains Trek portrays may be from other 'races' but that may only be due to an unwillingness to admit that forty years after we boldly went where no man had gone before humanity is just as selfish, greedy and evil as it ever was. 1960's science fiction may have given us reason to put hope in the moral progression of humanity but 21st century science fact reveals a far different story.

So the future for Star Trek's continuing presence on the movie screen may have indeed begun. But one thing is for sure: we can boldly go as far as our warp powered ships will take us, but we will still not outrun evil. So take and escape and catch the Trek, but put your hope in Jesus.

Live Long And Prosper