Monday, September 29, 2008

scattered thoughts about social politics

This is a presidential year but I have nothing to say about national politics. My husband listens and reads a lot from different sources. My daughter's very good friend is working for a regional candidate. All three are knowledgeable, thinking differently and though polite, quite vocal.

I do think about relationships and social politics - group politics - not because I like them or understand them. In my late 40's, I served on what turned out to be a very political school committee (which everyone knew but me long before they ever got involved)

I told a friend "I really hate politics."

She said, "Well, you can't be part of a group and avoid them."

And that was the day I realized why I don't particularly like groups.

Maybe it had something to do with starting kindergarten when I was 4 and being the youngest in my classes at school for the better part of 13 years. Maybe it had something to do with the cliques in Jr. High where I found it so frustrating that you couldn't just like everybody and be friends with everybody. Doesn't matter now. I always had a couple of friends. Not sure how.

I recently learned some great info about canine body language - a different but not so different side of social/relational. I've been doing work I really love, volunteering with people I didn't know very well but who knew each other before I did. It's a bit of a social/relational adventure but I love the work and the people.

So I thought about kids in groups, pondering things that Jesus said about human/relational social politics, things we probably take for granted but I don't know if we actually do them. If we take the things Jesus says seriously and do them, would the group social politics of churches, Sunday schools, and Christian schools look the same as they do in the world?

Do our classrooms look like secular classrooms? If so, why? Should they? How do we reinforce what Jesus teaches in our classrooms? I'm not saying we go for different so we appear different but if we do what Jesus says will our social dynamics look different from those of the rest of the world?

When I was little and in Sunday school I remember hearing the passage, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." and, being a child, I took it literally and being me I decided that I was going to live that way. I remember being very decisive about that. This was a traditional Presbyterian church my parents and grandparents attended - not evangelical or charismatic or Baptist. My sisters will tell you that I was still pretty bossy but I remember a distinct conflict between people telling me I needed to look out for myself and my doing what I understood that passage to mean. Then there was the other side of that passage: if I wanted people to leave me alone, I left them alone. I wouldn't ask someone else to do something I didn't want to do. The theory being in any relationship, if two people are looking out for each other the way he/she would look out for him/herself - one would loan the book and one would give it back or the loaner wouldn't care because every loan - every act of giving- is a gift freely given.

We visited a church one time. Apparently after children's church my youngest daughter (about 6 years old) had been given some new guest gift like candy or something. On the way to class one of the kids befriended her and said, looking at the candy, "Jesus wants us to share," and my daughter, being the conscientious child she was, shared her candy but she was pretty indignant. What do you do in a situation like that? Would you intervene?

Another story: a relative of mine (born-again believer) visited some family members (also born-again believers) in another church and the kids argued over who would bring her to Sunday school and get points for bringing a guest. My relative had a really hard time with that. She felt more like a treasured commodity than she felt like a treasured loved one.

Our own kids would get very very frustrated with us because for us it wasn't about who was right, who was wrong, or even what was just. It was about how you love people and how you respond when someone mistreats you. As the supervising adults, it usually meant adjusting things at both ends.

We have Paul's "one anothers" in the epistles but what does Jesus teach us about groups and social relationships? It appears that Jesus was interacting with groups of people all the time - some on a regular basis. What did it look like? What does it look like for children interacting with one another?

How do we reinforce and model His teaching in our classrooms and churches? How did Jesus model? teach? correct and adjust?

We can regurgitate what we've been taught and what we think we know, but it's never wrong to keep going back to the scriptures to read, listen, and observe. If the spirit of Christ Jesus is living in us He'll continually open up His Word to show us things we didn't or couldn't see before. We'll never stop growing and changing - because we want to know Him and He's promised that if we seek Him with all of our hearts He'll let us find Him.

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