According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Welcome to Shelbyville

Watching the PBS special reported by Christianity Today seemed very applicable to two earlier posts mentioned here on this blog. One dealt with "Tolerance, Pluralism and Accomodation" (http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2011/05/kingdom-of-god-has-come.html) and the other spoke of Christianity's postmodern global re-messaging by Carl Raschke's 2008 book entitile GloboChrist - (http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2011/03/postmodernism-carl-raschkes-globochrist.html).

More than ever Christianity has gone global due to the internet and social networking and is owned by no culture but by all cultures. This independent film documentary's portrait of a small southern American town  struggling to learn how to welcome America's newest refugees and immigrants succiently emphasizes how prejudices and biases must be banished in order to live together as "one nation under God" (to quote the American motto found on its coinage).  And from this writer's perspective, as one CHRISTIAN nation under God made from ALL the nations of mankind - if you will, a reversal of the ancient concept of Babel. For the kingdom of God has come upon men through Jesus Christ our Lord who will rule and be sovereign over all kings and kingdoms, powers and dominions. There is no nation but Christ's composed of all cultures, all heritages, all peoples from around the world!

- skinhead 
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Uneasy Alliances in the Heart of the Bible Belt

Tennessee town's tolerance tested in "Welcome to Shelbyville," airing on PBS

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These are familiar passages to many in the Bible Belt, including the residents of Shelbyville, Tennessee. But putting such words into practice is much easier said than done. That's the premise of Welcome to Shelbyville, a documentary airing tonight (10/9c) on PBS's Independent Lens.


It's a fascinating look at how a small town grapples with a rapid influx of foreign refugees, including a growing Latino population and, in more recent years, many Muslims from Somalia. Most of the film was shot in the days prior to the 2008 Presidential election, when America was already facing many changes. But for this small Tennessee town, the changes seemed to come faster than many residents were prepared for.


There are some expected comments from local rednecks and old-timers, mostly borne out of misunderstanding or fear, but there are some encouraging scenes involving local churches who are putting feet to the gospel, trying to roll out the red carpet for their new neighbors. It's a challenge, but it's a challenge they are working hard to meet -- whether through large events, door-to-door visits, or ESL classes. There are some sensitive (and some not so sensitive) insights from pastors and religious leaders.


"The movement of people from one place to another, how we acclimate to other cultures, and the resulting fusion of humanity has always fascinated me," says director Kim Snyder. "During my Masters work in foreign relations at Johns Hopkins, I was most interested in social change as it played out in more personal rather than national or historic narratives. Welcome to Shelbyville evolved out of a deep desire over the past decade to tell stories that would not only raise awareness about complex social problems, but that could go one step beyond to highlight people and communities that were tackling these problems with innovative solutions that might ignite social change.


"Welcome to Shelbyville chronicles a year in the life of one town in the rural South grappling with the challenges of rapid demographic change. With focus on Shelbyville as a microcosm of current day trends in immigration that are landing an increasing number of newcomers in rural locales, my intent was to provide a snapshot of this phenomenon through the voices of ordinary citizens, both U.S. and foreign-born, who are often navigating these challenges without much precedent or guidance." It's worth watching for any community or congregation that is serious about putting feet to the gospel, and reaching out to the strangers among us. Here's the trailer:





About the Film

Somali immigrant Hawo smiles in the foreground as she sits on a sofa with Guadalupe, a fellow Shelbyville resident.     Stephen, a white resident of Shelbyville, shakes hands with Mohamed, a newly arrived Somali immigrant as they enter a community meeting.

Welcome to Shelbyville is a glimpse of America at a crossroads. In this one small town in the heart of America's Bible Belt, a community grapples with rapidly changing demographics. Just a stone's throw away from Pulaski, Tennessee (the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan), longtime African American and white residents are challenged with how best to integrate with a growing Latino population and the more recent arrival of hundreds of Muslim Somali refugees.

Set on the eve of the 2008 Presidential election, the film captures the interaction between these residents as they navigate new waters against the backdrop of a tumultuous year. The economy is in crisis, factories are closing, and jobs are hard to find. The local Tyson chicken plant is hiring hundreds of new Somali refugees, and when a local reporter initiates a series of articles about the newcomers, a flurry of controversy and debate erupts within the town.

Just as the Latino population grapples with their own immigrant identity, African American residents look back at their segregated past and balance perceived threats to their livelihood and security against the values that they learned through their own long struggle for civil rights. As the newcomers — mostly of Muslim faith — attempt to make new lives for themselves and their children, leaders in this deeply religious community attempt to guide their congregations through this period of unprecedented change. Through the vibrant and colorful characters of Shelbyville, the film explores immigrant integration and the interplay between race, religion, and identity in this dynamic dialogue. The story is an intimate portrayal of a community’s struggle to understand what it means to be American.

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