Month: July 2018

LIFE UPDATE: Website Changes, Beginning Job Searches, Health and Wellness, life after February 20th.

The following is an brief, personal update from me about life in general, changes to the website and future changes in life.

 

HAMILTON MA. God has never ceased to amaze me, yesterday I was riding alongside Gordon College’s Chebacco (spelling) Lake watching the sun rise before returning to my bike and completing the 7 mile bike ride that has become a regular part of my morning. As I sit a few days away from my first Annual Gathering of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (CCCC) and my final summer class (both occurring in the same week AHH!!!) and how this year has gone so far, from academic success to the loss of Shalom to being added to the CCCC pulpit supply list and getting a call for supply within five minutes of being on the list. God has cared so much for us this year as our hearts have healed from the miscarriage we suffered in February. He has surrounded us with so many amazing people, some of them we have never met in person but who have reached out to us through GodsHeart and the GoFundMe we ran to help cover the counseling bills. You and so many others have loved us with the complete love of God and we cannot thank you enough for your love and support.

You will notice, and may already have noticed, that God’s Heart is going through a number of changes in the previous week. That is because this site, while continuing to function as a resource and commentary on the intersection of Theology and Cultural Issues will also serve as a portfolio for me as we enter our final year of seminary and begin the search for a post-seminary call. God has seen fit to plant us in a denomination that is in need of pastors and who supports its pastors while maintaining congregational government in its member churches. Next week I will be fully affirmed as a conference member and then the trickle of resumes that have gone out already will become a flood as we seek God’s call. We know where we would like to go, the great state of New Hampshire, but ultimately where God has called us to minister to and alongside His people while we raise a family. This change in the website will mean more activity, more posts, more sermon uploads as I re-record the sermons I lost when my computer crashed last summer. This means you, the reader, will have a greater chance to get to know me and interact with me as we will also use this medium to share updates about our family, time in Seminary and the search. We hope this will mean we can get to know you better as you get to know us better. This means you will get more content, more recommendations and regular life-updates as well as new sections for churches looking for information that you too can peruse at your leisure.

Rachel always tells me that she wants me to be around as long as I can, there has even been something about her having to go first when we are 90 so that she does not have to live without her. I kind of hope we go together in our sleep so neither of us has to live without the other, kind of like The Notebook only, we can remember who we are. For this reason I have begun a more stringent exercise plan to go along with the many dietary changes that have come with marriage. There is a stigma about Pastors that we tend to not take good care of ourselves, and that can be true, though sometimes we are trained to burn-out cycles (as I was in my first church) and not to a healthy work-life balance. Seminary has been partially about establishing a healthy balance to avoid the disastrous and nearly deadly consequences that came with my last burn-out. That means exercising and putting away the work to spend time with Rachel and our friends. All while making my relationship with God a priority through prayer and scripture reading and investing in my hobbies (I have taken up the Banjo) to make sure that I am not just physically healthy, but emotionally and spiritually healthy. I want to get to spend life with my wife for a long time, I like her, and love her, and so I am going to make exercising a part of my daily routine beyond the weekly game of ultimate frisbee.

As I said, God has been good to us in-spite of the pain we have felt this past year. He has surrounded us with beautiful people and showered us with love and grace and beauty. As we look to the future, which includes a weekend in New Hampshire with some close friends and a Christmas trip to my parents in Ohio, the writing of my thesis and untold other adventures. We renew our invitation to come after the beautiful, wild, loving heart of God with us as we seek to do His work both online and off.

Jonathan David Faulkner

 

Book Recommendation: Oneness Embraced by Rev. Tony Evans

In my seminary and pastoral careers I have been asked to read many books, required to read many books. This book, which I had originally bought as summer reading, appeared on a requirement list for my Summer III course Preaching Reconciliation. This was then, the first book I read for the class.

Here Evans’ lays out a path towards and vision for Reconciliation and oneness in the Church that embraces oneness and unity without destroying the many cultures that make up Christianity. This book is filled with practical wisdom, deep theological insight and beautiful examples of Oneness, reconciliation and unity. Evans has woven together a road map along the lines of Brenda Salter McNeil and others and his voice is one we need to listen to today.

When No One Is Human: No Civil Discourse without Humanity.

Jonathan David Faulkner

I have read a myriad of articles recently on the need for civility in our public and private discourse, especially in relationship to politics. Some of the writers have advocated for civility, some have argued against it, some have advocated for a mixture of the two. The reasoning being that sometimes, in some places, the blunt comment is necessary and carries more weight than the civil word. Christian Organizations like Civilitas have sought to engage in a civil conversation on matters of Racial Reconciliation and reclaiming the doctrinal basis of Evangelicalism thus moving it away from the cultural and publicized form that so enthusiastically threw itself behind a president that does not share genuine Christian values.

I think these are important conversations, however I think before we can talk about the need for civility we have to begin to acknowledge the humanity of one another.

Those who know me know that I make a sharp distinction between Anti-Abortion and Pro-Life. I see the Anti-Abortion movement as necessary and even a fringe of the pro-life movement, in that it is for the life of the child in the womb, but employing questionable tactics or working to the exclusion of the greater pro-life movement. I believe that to be Pro-Life you have to hold up, acknowledge, care for and work for the flourishing of all human life. Some think this a Liberal idea, but if you understand God’s intent for Israel and Jesus’s biggest complaint against the Pharisees as a need to care for all people, even the stranger, so that the whole Earth can be blessed and God can be glorified in the flourishing of His creation. God created us to flourish as part of a relationship with Him and while those outside of that relationship cannot fully live in the way we can part of grace is helping others see the difference by being a blessing through servanthood and servant leadership. A human should be defined then as someone who is made in the image of God and worthy of inherent dignity and honor as a human.

The problem with our current discourse, and the discourse found in much of American History, is that it inherently denies the humanity of another. The Post-Modern milieu has given us the ability to look down on another simply because we have our own truth and our truth is obviously infinitely better than yours. When you dispense of absolutes, you dispense of the safeties offered by absolute definition. I can hold my belief as to what constitutes a human being absolutely, and Christians should because it is a biblical definition, but the post-modern thinker might say: “well, that’s all well and good, but what about….” To the post-modern thinker it is okay to add qualifiers, this is not knew and has been around, but the post-modern thinker will add an infinite number of qualifiers and hold them as “their truth” which cannot be argued with and will be justified.

If through my truth I can establish then, my superiority, I can thus lord over you with my high morals, even if those morals, when held up to the light of scripture and history are circumspect. Thus we justify and even glorify those persons or systems that do or did evil to human beings because those systems or people were able to remove the targeted group from the ranks of human. The most prolifically horrifying example is the long history of Anti-Semitism which gave us the Holocaust and whose spirit is still around today. Joseph Stalin was quoted as saying: “One death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.” Jim Crow was second to only slavery and the Nazi Death camps as a dehumanizing and destructive systems. The illegal practice of redlining, which still occurs today, keeps families in poor neighborhoods from getting loans so that they cannot experience the mobility available to middle and upper class families and are thus stuck in dehumanizing conditions.

Again, our current discourse not only allows this, but utilizes and encourages it. Basically, if I can establish that my opponent is less or inhuman then I can dismiss anything and everything they say. If I can do this I am then under no obligation to care what happens to that person simply because they are my opponent an think differently. To make things worse, we not only encourage this behavior in everyday life, we have legitimized it by electing a president who spent the entire election process dehumanizing his opponents both in the primary and in the general elections. One of the reasons Gods Heart supported John Kasich is because we saw in him a man who was not playing the dehumanization game. That was refreshing in a cycle where the ideological divides were ripped open and where insults flew from everyone (except Kasich). Where entire sections of the country were called “Deplorables” and mocked for liking certain TV programming. While one presidential candidate called his opponent “Crooked” and told his supporters to beat up protesters at his rallies.

So this is not just happening on the national level (yes, in congress too) but in the private and personal level where crowds stalk publish officials to mock and jeer them or where all white men are painted as racist, misogynistic liars. Where we see videos of open racism, where someone is verbally assaulting another simply because they are Mexican or for wearing a Puerto Rico shirt. Where the New York Times has to report that 311 calls in a gentrifying part of Harlem have increased.

If no one is human, then we have lost that which was made unique in us by God. Oh, it is still there, but we have lost sight of that which makes us different than the animals. When we choose dehumanizing rhetoric and what is little better than hate-speech we are effectively dispensing of humanity. For this reason, I do not care about re-establishing civility if we cannot first re-establish that which makes us human from womb to grave. Until we learn to be “human and humane” as Dr. Emmitt G. Price III puts it, we will never be able to establish civil discourse because civil discourse is impossible when no one is human. If we truly want reconciliation, transitional and social justice, then we must look at one another as human beings, made in the image of God, worthy of our inherent dignity and honor.

I know this is an uphill battle, though it is one that in the church is being won by the power of the Holy Spirit. But for the sake of our children and our children’s children we need to fight that war in the public and communal sphere outside of the church. We need to encourage the humanity of others by stepping in when we see someone being degraded and dehumanized, we can fight back against systems that engage in the stripping of humanity, we can stand up to those in government who practice this kind of dehumanization in speech and lawmaking. It is cliché, but through the power of the Holy Spirit we can actually be the change we want to see. As we continue to integrate across ethnic lines we will need to discuss deep and painful realities and histories, but that is part of the healing and reconciliation process and we can fight it through dehumanization or we can be better off by allowing God to do the healing work.

We must #EndDehumanization, and the end it, we must refuse to participate in it, call it out when we see it and treat people with the respect, dignity and honor that comes with being made in the image of God the Father.

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary working on Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel in the North Shore of Boston and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church.