I love thinking about the meaning of life. It’s basically all I do, every day. It keeps me busy, and it keeps me from being a consumer and from oppressing others. A life of pondering is a sustainable way to live.
So here it is, the purpose of programs and activities in Christian ministry: (My official title is the ever-fancy “Director of Program Ministries”, so I often wonder what that means and implies.)
1) Revolutionary Education: We must relearn much of what the powerful teach us. A dominating ideology is ingrained into our minds, and we must teach our children well. We must foster compassionate principles rather than oppressive ideologies. This is the search for Truth.
2) Religious/Spiritual Enlightenment, Revival, and Journey: This is the inner path, the quest towards understanding the world and ourselves in a deeper, more comprehensive way. Philosophy, poetry, scripture, and art are the means of this journey. By encountering these means, we are able to reach a deeper level of feeling reality. We seek to feel, taste, hear, smell, and see in new and better ways, for we are now blind in many ways. This is the search for Beauty.
3) Solidarity with the Marginalized/Poor/Disenfranchised: Social action is a necessary–not optional–step in realizing our purpose in life. But solidarity is more than action, it is also complicating the way we define ourselves, especially the ways we define ourselves against others. Solidarity with the poor means spending time with the poor, listening to them, letting their stories break our hearts open, falling in love with them, and being ruined for life. Solidarity means we must break down societal and economic barriers so that we, the privileged, share our resources (financial, etc.) with the poor. Solidarity also necessitates that we advocate for the well-being and rights of the poor to affect their society. We are all called to be voices for those who have no voice. Solidarity is the search for Goodness.
But more so, solidarity is the encounter with God. While searching for truth (revolutionary education) helps us come close to God, and religious enlightenment helps us to internalize pieces of God, solidarity truly brings us into a life-changing encounter with the living God. More than a search for goodness, solidarity is an encounter of Love.
I’m trying to corrupt your children. I want to put their lives in danger. I want to ruin them for life. But this is no secret. I’ve tried to be quite clear in my purposes for youth ministry. The secret is this: I want the same for you, their parents. And I want the same for me. I want to corrupt us, to endanger us, to ruin us for lives, for I know this is the power of the gospel. We risk our comfortability; we risk the status quo. And by risking our own status quo, we risk the greater status quo, the one of society at large. And this is what gives me hope. If I, in my privileged state, am threatened by the compelling force of the good news of Christ, then I know the other powerful and wealthy people of the world will also be threatened. And if I can change, I know that others can change as well.
The liberative Gospel of Christ shakes me to the core. It calls my every action into question, it puts me at risk for losing all my possessions and my life, and it ruins me for life. It changes how I see and hear and feel everything. The life of Jesus and the spirit of the living Christ haunt my surroundings and impregnate and insaturate the internal processes of my mind-body. I cannot escape! But of course, this is Grace–the ever-lasting Love that is always within us and within reach.