Posts Tagged speak

Go into the world and ‘speak God,’ Merritt tells CBF Advocacy conference|

| MARCH 21, 2019 – BaptistNewsGlobal.com – By Blake Tommey

“The world needs you to speak ‘God,’ especially in this moment,” Jonathan Merritt, award-winning writer on religion and culture, said at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s annual Advocacy in Action conference on March 14 in New York City.

Jonathan Merritt speaks at 2019 CBF Advocacy in Action conference.

“Do you believe in God?” Merritt continued. “That is, do you love God and have you taken a step of faith? Then that spark should start a fire on your lips. Even though ‘speaking God’ is in massive decline in America, all is not lost. I believe we can revive the vocabulary of faith and that’s my prayer for each of you—that you’ll become courageous, vulnerable, passionate God-speakers again.”

Advocacy in Action, traditionally held each year in Washington D.C., kicked off March 11 at host Metro Baptist Church, where more than 60 participants from across the Fellowship engaged the work of advocacy and the urban church. Throughout the four-day conference, participants visited the United Nations, the historic Riverside Church, Tenement Museum and learned about the work of immigration advocacy, religious liberty and racial justice from area Baptist pastors, CBF field personnel and community and government leaders on homelessness and hunger. Participants also visited Brooklyn’s Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims, a congregation founded by abolitionist leader Henry Ward Beecher and a central stop on the Underground Railroad.

Merritt, a resident of Brooklyn, joined the participants for their final day of conversations at MBC, where he followed a panel on urban hunger with a plea to reclaim overt faith language. Advocacy, in the name of a loving God, takes place in our everyday speech and conversation, Merritt said. The problem is, he added, hateful and destructive faith language dominates the conversation because moderates and progressives have shied away from talking openly about faith.

“Believers like you and me stop speaking God because we don’t like what these words have come to mean and the way they’ve been used,” said Merritt, whose latest book is titled Learning to Speak God from Scratch: Why Sacred Words Are Vanishing—and How We Can Revive Them. “But when we stay silent, all those people who are causing the problem get to hog the microphone.” Too many problematic voices—televangelists preaching for profit, politicians spreading xenophobia and bigotry or pastors peddling condemnation—are setting the tone for Christianity with their words, Merritt explained. “They dominate the conversation because we’ve stopped speaking God.”

In fact, he said, more than one-fifth of Americans admit they have not had a spiritual conversation at all in the last year, and only seven percent say they talk about spiritual matters about once a week. That’s surprising, Merritt explained, because the vast majority of Americans say they believe but do not speak about their faith. As for practicing Christians who attend church regularly, he added, only 13 percent are having spiritual conversations about once a week.

But how does the church find its voice again? How do we regain confidence in the language and vocabulary of faith? First, Merritt explained, Jesus followers must cultivate the courage it takes to have spiritual conversations, even with strangers on the subway or in the workplace. With courage, he said, the church can push past the skepticism and cynicism that typically dominates the public sphere, especially in urban settings like New York City.

Second, he added, Jesus followers must cultivate the vulnerability necessary to make faith language authentic and generous.

“To speak God doesn’t mean to preach at people,” Merritt said. “It means opening your heart and your spirit to share what is inside, to discuss your doubts and your darkness, your struggles and your sorrow. And that takes vulnerability. What are you doing in your life—this month, this week—to nurture vulnerability? You’ll need it to speak God.”

Finally, Merritt charged the church with developing the passion it takes to reclaim faith language. Instead of falling back on cognitive belief statements—a not-so-helpful result of the Enlightenment—Jesus followers must rekindle a genuine love and passion for God, Jesus and the spiritual life, he said. When you truly love something, Merritt explained, you will naturally speak openly about it.

“You know something in your head, but you believe something in your heart,” he said. “In fact, perhaps the best synonym for the ancient word ‘to believe’ is the word for ‘to belove,’ not ‘to know.’ Paul says that we fall in love with God, Jesus and the spiritual life, and that begins to bubble up and spill out of our mouths. So, what are you doing to stoke your love of God and spirituality each day? By nurturing your passion for God, you’ll find that it becomes easier for you to speak God again.”

Ultimately, the story of God’s action in the world is the story of the power of words, Merritt said. With words, God brought life to all creation and endowed humanity with God’s own image. With words, Jesus proclaimed good news to the poor and release to the captive. Jesus’ last commandment was to go into the world and “speak God,” he added. As today’s religious, political and social tumult continues, Merritt explained, the church has an opportunity to reclaim this rich tradition of words and allow faith language to instill grace and hope once again.

Watch a bonus video interview with Jonathan Merritt courtesy of CBF-partner EthicsDaily.com.

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Be Kind

Parade Magazine in a major article on January 1, 2017 stressed the idea that we should all strive to be kind this year. The author suggests many reasons why this is a beneficial thing to do. I agree with the premise of the article 100 percent. Just be kind.

Being kind sounds simple enough, but when reality sets in it’s a different story. I was riding with friends this week when the car in front of us took longer than usual to move on. One of the passengers in our car became irritated and began to shout at the driver in the other car. His yelling served no purpose except it irritated me. I am afraid I was not too kind.

We all become frustrated. We often feel that we have been mistreated, taken advantage of, or put down. It is at these moments that we need to hit our pause button and re-think the situation. Be kind. The Parade article editor encourages us to write a Thank You note once a week for the following year – a great idea. About ten years ago I started Thankful Thursday on my blog. The idea is that each Thursday we will single out a different person to thank for their contributions to our lives. Please join me in doing that. Tell the people around you just how much they mean to you.

We are talking about simple things. Put the neighbor’s newspaper on his or her porch. Bring their recycle container back from the curb. Ask if a shut-in needs something from the market when you are going. Hold the door for a mom pushing a baby carriage. Just find simple ways to be kind.

Saying something nice to every person you meet is easy If that is too difficult, just smile at her or him. You can create a better world.

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The Cuban Missile Crisis – A Family Story

The death of Fidel Castro has brought a flood of memories and reminded me of one of the most unexpected and rewarding experiences of my life. I recorded this story in my book, Our Father: Discovering Family, published last year by www.WipfandStock.com. This began in October 1962 and continued for the next several months.

The Cuban Missile Crisis ignited while we were in Baton Rouge and the city was flooded with Cuban refugees.  Somehow I was asked to teach a course in oral English for them at the YWCA.  The television program, Sing Along with Mitch (Miller) was popular at the time; therefore my courses quickly became known as Speak Along with Mitch.  What a turn of events.  Remember I flunked Spanish at Mars Hill College.  This exposure and acceptance by members of a different culture broadened my knowledge and appreciation for people whose backgrounds were far removed from my own.  Again the teacher learned more than the students.

This is a story that has played an important role in my development and in my understanding of who belongs in God’s kingdom. Who would have ever believed that I would have this brush with history.

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Baton Rouge Still Has a Place in My Heart

During the past couple of weeks I have been grieving and praying for the people of Baton Rouge. Liz and I spent four years there and I went back for another summer to study German. Our children, Suzanne and Michael, were born in Baptist Hospital there. Baton Rouge is a beautiful, friendly city. The staff at the Cerebral Palsy Center and the folks at Goodwood Baptist Church, where I taught an adult Sunday school class, opened their hearts to us. The faculty of the Speech Department at LSU were some of the finest people I have had the privilege of knowing. You cannot imagine the friendliness and the professionalism of that department.

We were there during the anxious days of the Cuban Missile Crisis and I was asked to teach oral English to many of the Cuban refugees. It was during the time that “Sing Along with Mitch Miller” was on television and my course quickly became known as Speak Akong with Mitch. Paula Eagle, director of the Cerebral Palsy Center, Sally Coperthwait, occupational therapists and I were in Dallas the weekend that President Kennedy was assassinated and Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald. We were attending the convention of the National Cerebral Palsy Association.

We were very tempted to stay in Baton Rouge. We had developed so many friendships. I also had a private practice and was teaching in the Speech Department in addition to being a graduate student. The invitation to come to Charleston was too challenging to pass up. It was the right move for us, but Baton Rouge and its wonderful people still have a place in my heart.

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