What's Tony Thinking

June 9th, Another Week Ends


“Christianity is thriving if you know where to look,” says Sheluyang Peng in a truly fascinating article about his parents and the church they pastor in Brooklyn. Peng’s parents fled China during the Cultural Revolution and have built one of the many thriving Christian congregations in their Brooklyn Borough.

Readers may recall the piece, “The New Face of Christianity,” I wrote on the vitality of Christian churches all across North America that are pastored by and serving immigrants. Here’s a line from Peng’s article that grabbed me. “People say immigrants do the jobs that native-born Americans don’t want to do. Going to church is one of them.” Wow! Here’s that sentence in context:

“If I had never strayed from Sunset Park [in Brooklyn] and had no access to the internet, I wouldn’t have guessed that Christianity is supposedly in decline in America. Preachers both on the coasts and in our heartland express worries over a sea of gray hair in pews and lament that among younger generations, Christianity has a negative connotation.

“But Christianity is thriving if you know where to look. People say immigrants do the jobs that native-born Americans don’t want to do. Going to church is one of them. Over two-thirds of today’s immigrants to the United States are Christians, and prominent religious scholars forecast that immigrants will single-handedly reverse Christianity’s decline in America.”

Meanwhile, Seattle’s Quest Church is in the headlines. Quest, founded by Korean-American, Eugene Cho (now President of Bread for the World), has decided to leave its denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church. The reason is that Quest’s accepting/ affirming stance on GLBTQ Christians is at odds with the ECC. It was likely that Quest would have expelled from the denomination at the ECC’s national meeting this summer.

Readers may recall that I worshipped at Quest for a time (it is located in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, where we live) and was impressed by its combination of evangelical faith and passion for social justice. I also loved that the congregation was easily the most racially and ethnically diverse church that I had ever been part of. Lot of recent immigrants there too, principally from Korea and Africa.

Quest’s lead pastor, Gail Song-Bantum, had this to say about Quest’s decision leaving the ECC. “This belief  (accepting/ affirming LGBTQ) emerges from our identity and values as an ECC church, not despite this identity and these values. We leave the denomination grieved that the ECC refuses to recognize God’s work in our midst, and yet hopeful for the ways the Spirit is moving in our community.”

One of life’s little ironies is that Quest occupies the complex of buildings in Ballard that were once the home of Mars Hill Church, pastored by Mark Driscoll. Driscoll and Mars Hill were pretty  much the furthest thing from being LGBTQ affirming.

Is There a Silver Lining on the Wildfire Clouds? It wouldn’t seem so. Having experienced the smoke-filled skies brought on by wildfires I know it’s awful. Not only is the air quality terrible and many have trouble breathing, but the smoke-laden skies are singularly oppressive. It feels otherworldly, and not in a good way. There is something both ominous and terrifying about it. You begin to think in “end of the world” terms. My heart goes out to those on the east coast who have been engulfed in wildfire smoke wafting south from Canada.

Maybe I’m groping here, but could there be a silver lining? One of the problems with Climate Change is that CO2 is invisible. You can’t see what is making our climate warmer and driving so many other changes. If CO2 were, say, blue we’d all be tinted blue by now. But wildfire smoke is visible, so visible that at times little else can be seen. The catastrophic fires of two years ago in the Northwest got more people’s attention, when it comes to Climate Change, than anything else to date. Here’s hoping that the current situation in New York and D.C. gets a lot of people’s attention and moves more to action.

Trump Indicted Again! This time on federal charges related to the classified documents case. Trump, of course, describes this as “the greatest witch-hunt of all time,” because he has “done nothing wrong.” He is the victim of a justice-system being used for political purposes.

Note the implications of all this. Trump is telling his throng, and America as a whole, that our judicial and court system is corrupt and cannot be trusted. Which is the same thing he has already done with our elections. In other words, he is undermining two absolutely crucial elements of our democracy. I won’t be the only one to note that undermining elections and the courts are two classic moves of would be dictators and autocrats.

It drives me batty that Trump and his minions claim to be such great — the true — American patriots even as they attack and undermine our elections, our courts and our government. This is a very gnostic, if you will, variety of patriotism. It exists in an other-world of the super-patriots who have no truck with an actual system of governance.

Back to the Wallowas for me!

But before I go, a word of thanks to a number of you who have dropped by Javasti Cafe in Wedgewood to see a current show of my paintings. That show is up until July 15. Javasti is located on 35th NE, just north of 86th. Picture at right is a photo of Wallowa Lake. I have done a painting based on it.

I am hoping to have paintings in two exhibits in Joseph, Oregon this summer.

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