Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Upcoming Genesis Covenant:: Core Beliefs & Personal Convictions

It's been a while since i've done any serious entries in my blog. A number of my poems i've posted directly to Facebook (most of them already having been copyrighted via PostPoems).

In order to clarify a few things, i've decided to express a number of personal beliefs and opinions in this entry. First and foremost, i'm a Christian. This means that i am a follower of Christ. I do not conform to any particular "denomination," even though i was raised in a Southern Baptist church. I think a lot of denominations are divisions over points of dogma, sometimes insignificant. Jesus said of the Pharisees, "You strain at a gnat and swallow a camel!" I suppose a more familiar metaphor would be "You can't see the forest for the trees." What does being a follower of Christ entail? This was outlined in the Covenant that i have signed to join Genesis Community Church. Christ is the Son of God, who died for our sins, and rose from the dead, ascended to Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God. I belive that the Bible is a necessary and sufficient guide to the Christian life . . . all the Scriptures we've been given as Christians have value that can be applied to daily living. I also believe that the Holy Spirit, which is likewise God, walks with us and guides us, and gives us insight into the Scriptures, and in effect provides a "direct hotline" to God through prayer. Of course, God doesn't always answer prayers in the way we expect, and certainly not on our schedule . . . which is why a lot of people seem to dismiss prayer. Prayer isn't handing God a wish-list; it's communication with God, actually CONVERSING with the Creator--that's pretty phenomenal in and of itself! As far as attempting to defend my Faith, i am not versed in apologetics, and not of a rational bent . . . i can only offer my own experiences, subjective though they might be, as personal testimony to my belief. I don't "beat people over the head" with the Bible, don't try to force God down people's throats, because--quite honestly--that's not how Jesus did it.

This is not to say i don't struggle with issues. Many of my close friends know the nature of my struggles, and i don't feel it necessary to detail that here--i've been warned before about "casting pearls before swine," and have learned that lesson the hard way--but suffice it to say that i understand that only God's grace and mercy could save me from disaster and, ultimately, doom. Part of the Convenant for Genesis involves, to quote from it, "righteous and loving discipline." This is both in giving and receiving. The Bible urges us to "lovingly correct" a fellow believer when they're out of line, and to accept such correction when it is given. This makes us interdependent, functioning as the body of Christ, much as a human body functions . . . if one part of the body hurts, the rest of the body is hurt by it. I certainly don't want any of my personal beliefs to become a stumbling block to fellow believers. There may be things that we do not agree on . . . but as a Christian i have to be willing to avoid becoming a hindrance to those who might be new in the Faith. I need to be held accountable, and to hold my fellow believers accountable. This is the only way a community can function effectively or healthily, Christian or otherwise.

My beliefs about poetry, spoken word, and such, are probably as self-evident as my Faith. They are deeply connected, because i feel that poetry is somehow my gift AND my calling. It is, along with the arts in general, one of the ways in which i feel the phrase "made in God's image" becomes evident. We have, within us, the desire and capability to create. When we do this to God's glory, God affirms our creations, and honors our using of the gifts He gave us. In addition, i feel that poetry and spoken word are particularly necessary, both as coping mechanisms and as communication. Paul told us to be "good citizens." In America, that's a particularly troublesome task, because if we hold to "the law of the land," those laws are represented in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This means that, in effect, we ARE the government, we ARE supposed to "watch the watchmen," and if we don't, we're falling down on the job. Freedom of Speech entails within it the possibility that some people might not like what's being said . . . but, we all need to remember that linked with that freedom is the Freedom of Religion, which as Christians we enjoy here in America to the extent that we often forget other nations or other times where this was not a guaranteed freedom. It is often through the spoken word, through poetry, that the alarm is sounded. I have a number of Christian performance poet comrades in New Jersey and NYC, and they are as adamant about this as i am, if not more so. The ability to work with words, to craft poetry, is also a heavy responsibility. When we are careless with our words, we can cause harm or confusion (not to mention looking pretty slipshod in the process). The status quo disregards poetry as a whole, dismisses it or downplays its significance, forgetting--perhaps--that when the Old Testament prophets spoke, they often phrased their prophecies in poetic form. (From what Pastor John Ault has told me, it's more evident--and more beautiful--if read in Hebrew). Psalms and Song of Solomon are, in addition to Scripture, timeless poetic works that have influenced hundreds of generations, religious and secular alike. The oldest evidence of written work we have is a Babylonian epic called Gilgamesh; there are examples throughout history of the impact of poetry on society, and this isn't even taking into account the fact that song lyrics are poetry, as well. It is important that we be aware of the erosion of the rights and liberties we enjoy, and decry the injustices in this country and abroad that are often falsely perpetuated "in God's name." Oppression, regardless of the target, benefits no-one. Racism, though not the only modality of oppression, is surely one of the most egregious and historically prominent examples. I'm going to take a flying leap here: Christianity and racism are mutually exclusive. Period. There's no way you can use the word of God to justify hatred and oppression. That is, in fact, taking the Lord's name in vain (i'll refrain from going into a rant about the fact that the words "In God We Trust" printed on our money is almost blasphemous, considering Christ's warning that "you cannot serve God and Mammon"). The spoken word, and the arts at large, are a powerful way of expressing these things, of airing grievances, of proclaiming truth, of openly communicating . . . and also of expressing joy, comraderie, love, and the whole span of emotions.

In my relationship with Genesis and this group of believers, i desire to be a useful and active part of the body of Christ. This means taking the talent i've been given and bearing fruit, of investing it wisely and to the glory of God. I realize that there will be those who will "politicize" some of my statements . . . i am willing to listen to them, and to explain my statements and the convictions that gave birth to them. Becoming a fucntioning and beneficial part of Genesis is something i have longed for ever since i split away from Grace Covenant before i moved to New Jersey; it was something i looked for in NJ and NYC, but never truly found. The sense of "coming home" to Genesis is powerful, and i sense the affirmation of the Holy Spirit that, yes, this is where i'm supposed to be now.

I've talked quite a bit about my feelings and beliefs about the Christian life, my thoughts about my part in Genesis, and about poetry and the spoken word as something that was God-given, and about the responsibilities all these entail. There are quite a few other things that i believe in or feel strongly about, but the ones i've discussed are in the forefront of my mind. It is Christ and the Cross that form the central point of everything; everything gets its meaning and is put in its proper perspective by focusing on Christ. I expect quite a few blog posts in the upcoming weeks to deal with some of my other tenets, and how they relate to the central point. I am fully aware of my limitations--my "thorn in the flesh," which may simply be a confluence of out-of-balance brain chemistry, keeps me intimately aware of them--and the periodic rages, depressions, flights of fancy, or racing thoughts, are things that i'm going to have to wade through and pray through, and having the support of a strong body of fellow believers as i do this will be a major blessing.

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