Dr. Watson’s Wednesdays @ Whenever about Whatever
“The Phoenix Affirmations”
It would be hard to deny that the recent events in our country in terms of racial justice seem like something new, like a tipping point. Time will tell. As time marches on and things change, hopefully for the better, you and I can either lead, follow, or get out of the way (as the old saying goes). Getting in the way is not an option.
Last week I began a series of “Wednesdays @ Whenever about Whatever” talks about my theological journey. This will be a patchwork presentation of some things that I have learned over the years rather than something that is presented in chronological order. So, here is my offering today. I am very aware of the timing of this:
In 2006 a book was published, written by a fellow United Church of Christ pastor, Eric Elnes, titled, “The Phoenix Affirmations: A New Vision for the Future of Christianity.” It is a commentary based on twelve affirmations or principles written by a group of clergy and laypeople from Phoenix, Arizona, including Rev. Elnes. They received a lot of input from various scholars around the country.
Before I read them to you, let me share the biblical context for it. The Phoenix Affirmations are based on the three great “loves” in scripture: love of God, love of neighbor, and love of self.
I remember this vividly: In 2006, members of an organization called CrossWalk America spent five months walking 2,500 miles from Phoenix to Washington, D.C. to deliver the Phoenix Affirmations for a Labor Day rally. A film was later produced about this event, called “The Asphalt Gospel,” as well as another book titled, “Asphalt Jesus: Finding a New Christian Faith Along the Highways of America.”
Here are the Phoenix Affirmations, based on the three great loves from, specifically, the Christian tradition:
CHRISTIAN LOVE OF GOD INCLUDES:
- Walking fully in the Path of Jesus without denying the legitimacy of other paths that God may provide for humanity.
- Listening for God’s Word, which comes through daily prayer and meditation, studying the ancient testimonies which we call scripture, and attending to God’s present activity in the world.
- Celebrating the God whose Spirit pervades and whose glory is reflected in all of God’s Creation, including the earth and its ecosystems, the sacred and secular, the Christian and non-Christian, the human and non-human.
- Expressing our love in worship that is as sincere, vibrant, and artful as it is scriptural.
CHRISTIAN LOVE OF NEIGHBOR INCLUDES:
- Engaging people authentically, as Jesus did, treating all as creations made in God’s very image, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental ability, nationality, or economic class.
- Standing, as Jesus does, with the outcast and oppressed, the denigrated and afflicted, seeking peace and justice with or without the support of others.
- Preserving religious freedom and the church’s ability to speak prophetically to government by resisting the commingling of church and state.
- Walking humbly with God, acknowledging our own shortcomings while honestly seeking to understand and call forth the best in others, including those who consider us their enemies.
CHRISTIAN LOVE OF SELF INCLUDES:
- Basing our lives on the faith that in Christ all things are made new and that we, and all people, are loved beyond our wildest imaginations—for eternity.
- Claiming the sacredness of both our minds and our hearts, and recognizing that faith and science, doubt and belief serve the pursuit of truth.
- Caring for our bodies and insisting on taking time to enjoy the benefits of prayer, reflection, worship, and recreation in addition to work.
- Acting on the faith that we are born with a meaning and purpose, a vocation and ministry that serve to strengthen and extend God’s realm of love.