Friday, June 09, 2006

Daniel Vestal Article

The following is an article written by CBF's Coordinator, Daniel Vestal. I thought it was a great article, so I decided to post it here. For those of you unfamiliar with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, it is a group of moderate Baptists that split off of the Southern Baptist Convention in the early 1990's. It is not, however, a denomination in the same way the SBC is. There is no mechanism in CBF to do things like issue a position statement on a particular issue or suggest an action on such an issue (such as a Disney Boycott or withdrawl from public schools.) CBF does not own its own publishing house, news service or run its own seminaries. Rather, it partners with other organizations to preform these functions. For more information, visit their website by clicking here. You will see the phrase "It's Time" throughout this article. Vestal uses this phrase often, and it is also the title of a book he wrote.

Iraq, Immigration, Incompetence...It’s Time
By Daniel Vestal, CBF Coordinator 6/9/06

Iraq

In April 2003, I wrote an article which said, "The war in Iraq has been a sobering and disturbing experience for me. I have found it difficult to concentrate on the work at hand and stay focused on regular routine and daily responsibilities. Although Atlanta is far removed from the places where bombs have been dropped and soldiers have been engaged in conflict, I have felt close to this war. It has caused me to renew my own commitments to Christ and pray for peace with greater fervency."

That lament is more poignant today than three years ago, knowing now what we didn’t know then. There were no weapons of mass destruction; there were no connections between the attacks of 9/11 and Saddam Hussein’s regime. There was little planning for the potential of insurgency and possible civil war. There has been deception with the American people.

My wife and I talk almost daily about this war with a heaviness of heart. We grieve with the American families who have lost loved ones. We also grieve for Iraqi families who have lost loved ones. We pray for leaders who make decisions that there might be divine intervention, for peace. But most of all we lament.

Immigration

One of the reasons I am proud to be an American is because we are a nation of immigrants. We are a rich mixture of racial, ethnic, cultural and religious diversity. The freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution assure equality before the law and protect the rights of all. To be sure, we have very dark segments in our national history (genocide of Native Americans and the institution of slavery), but we also have remarkable segments. One of the most remarkable is the way we as a nation have incorporated people groups from all over the world.

The U.S. is a mosaic of humanity, and for that we should be proud. I personally believe we need a new commitment to secure our borders against illegal immigration, the creation of a guest worker program for those who want to work in the U.S., and a way for undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship. But most important, I believe we need a new respect for the dignity of every human being within our borders. This respect will result in less divisive rhetoric and kindness for "the other," regardless of the language they speak or their legal, social, or economic status.

Incompetence

As I see it, there is a major leadership crisis in this country. The Bush Administration has shown ineptness in response to disasters and indifference to the growing disparity between rich and poor. Congress seems incapable of accomplishing anything. Neither Democrats nor Republicans cast a compelling vision for the broad middle of the American population. They cater to their core constituents and create greater division among us. Business and corporate leaders seem to care only for their profits and offer little hope for the social fabric that holds us together. There are, of course, exceptions to this analysis. But the exceptions only make the leadership vacuum more obvious.

I yearn for competent political leaders who seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. I yearn for competent business leaders who lead by serving and sacrificing. I yearn for competent leaders in all areas of our society that believe in the common good more than they believe in their own agendas.

It's Time...

Early in my life I heard someone say that "man’s extremity becomes God’s opportunity." When circumstances are the most dire and when life is most difficult, we can and should have hope for God to work. And it has been my experience that God works through people.

"It’s Time" for urgency.

Christian discipleship means that we live out of faith not fear, out of love not anger, out of generosity not greed. Christian discipleship means we become activists and advocates on behalf of those in need.

"It’s Time" for us to find our voice and use it.

Words may seem inadequate but silence in the face of injustice is sin. When you hear a statement of bigotry, greed or anger, speak up. Perhaps you can say, "With all due respect, I beg to differ." If each of us would use our own voice and speak truth in love, changes would take place.

"It’s Time" for us to be unafraid.

I confess that even in writing this article, I feared what people might think or how they might respond. I had to face my fear and name it, and I had to let it not paralyze me or keep me from doing what I felt was important. Some of us are afraid of involvement. Others of us are afraid of rejection or conflict or the unknown or pain. Jesus said, "Be not afraid."

"It’s Time" for us to pray.

Christian spirituality and formation do not isolate us from the real world. If they do, they are a false spirituality and formation. The more we listen to the Spirit, the more we will hear groanings which cannot be uttered. The more we offer ourselves to God, the more we will see the needs around us.

"It’s Time..."

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