I sent this to my church’s congregational pastor just a minute ago and realized I’d love to hear further thoughts on it from anybody who had some. I talked with Rah about this last weekend and came to understand that my questions have really be plaguing my thoughts lately. If you have any input, please feel free to share:

I saw online that you were the guy to talk to if there were any pastoral questions related to theological issues. I hope this email isn’t too much of a burden, and I’ll try to be as concise as possible to avoid a lengthy email, but I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept of “blessing” both Bethany and the Church in general has talked about, especially in the context of America. What’s been difficult for me is that I feel this term is relative to what we as humanity believe to be a blessing unto ourselves – especially within our affluent country. Yesterday at the end of his sermon Richard talked about how all that we receive comes from God. I believe this was in reference to the “good” things we receive, which, for example, some may attribute to getting into college, receiving a job, having a loan go through so that they may buy a home, or simply that they can just live in a comfortable, affordable neighborhood with welcoming neighbors. I mean, that’s what many of us pray for, and when answered, we give glory to God and thank Him for the blessing, right?

However, and getting to the point, I’m realizing more and more that what many of us believe to be a blessing in fact has ramifications we can’t see, which end up hurting other people. Or more specifically, what we think is God blessing us is actually the result of established social constructs catering to our race, gender, or economic status. For example, my ability to get into college appears to be highly contingent upon the fact that I received good grades in high school and can afford loans or even receive scholarships. Except much of why this is possible is because my white upbringing allows for me to be placed on advanced tracks within school, while the vast majority of people of color are cycled through the system that doesn’t offer the same advantages, if any at all (Waiting for Superman directed by Davis Guggenheim or White Like Me written by Tim Wise can be referenced for this). I can extrapolate further in deconstructing why race plays such a huge part in this, but for the point at hand, I guess I’m just curious on your thoughts of how God’s blessing can be discovered or discerned in the midst of societal brokenness where the current systems in place seem more determinant of why our lives are the way they are rather than God deciding to bless us with this or that.

As I work through this I’m trying to be careful not to create a dichotomy between God’s providence and human constructs because I know the two work intimately with one another, but I can’t seem to get past the fact that what we (I suppose in this case, white, middle to upper-class people) attribute to blessing is none other than perverse “overprivileging” on our behalf, which results in the macabre “underprivileging” of others.

Thanks so much for listening, and I’d love to converse via email or in person if/when you have the time. I hope this week finds you well!

Grace and Peace,


~ by Chris Kyle on July 25, 2011.

One Response to “questions”

  1. Seriously thorough questions. I hope you get a response from duder. I hardly know the answers to the questions you’re asking, but I’ll throw out my thoughts.

    I guess that at some level, unless you’re growing your own food, milk, clothing, or shopping very responsibly that most people are participating in oppressive societal structures whether on the giving or receiving end of oppression. God’s blessing clearly cannot be a neat sense of ontological good in such scenarios. Blessing seems to be blended with brokenness wherever you look. I agree that thinking about “good” in neat categories is a flawed approach. Good can’t be just the comforting things we receive in middle class America.

    However, In genesis 1 you get the idea that good is directed at creation. The earth, plants, animals, people, relationships these are all good things in the created order. It would seem that our own brokenness affects all of creation (including each other) shortly thereafter. Yet I would argue that the good of those things–watch as I let my not-thoroughly-reformed banners fly–can’t be shattered by our own shortcomings as people. God calls them good and so they remain. Broken, but good because He decides what is good and what is not.

    This drives me to think seriously about what the Lord’s life,death, and resurrection mean. At the very least we need God’s work to lift us out of our own brokenness. Each and every day. We need HIs help in redeeming our brokenness at a personal level and at a societal level. Our own best attempts at doing good, understanding good, and receiving good are limited at best.

    A trinitarian perspective on the issue is that we participate in the work of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit. We share in the work of reconciliation, redemption, love that happens each day. Through Christ we are connected to the source of all that is good: the Triune God. While we strive for the work of the kingdom (justice, peace, healing, etc…) I suppose we have to face the facts that our own brokenness hinders our process and we need to have faith in the One who reconciliation with God for us. We need to be carried. We need to be redeemed.

    I guess it comes down to the question of what we do with our need for redemption. Do we deny it in calling all things purely good? Do we ignore it and give up? Or do we live the complex task of doing our best to participate in what God is doing while at the same time acknowledging that we still need Him to turn our ashes to beauty?

    Hopefully that was more helpful than just a monologue. Love the thoughts brother.

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