amy courts: en route


Missing [my other home] Gulu
October 5, 2009, 8:42 pm
Filed under: Activate, africa, Culture, Faith and Faith Life, Humanitarianism, Missions, Music

I can’t recall ever taking so long or expending so much energy and patience to write a blog. But what I want to tell about Gulu – and more specifically about my experience and why I’ll hopefully never be the same – deserves more time, more editing, more energy. I want to give you the best of what they gave me, with as few errors or potholes of distraction as possible. 🙂

Or maybe I’m just an obsessively compulsive perfectionist. Wink, wink.

Either way, until THE blog is ready, I’ll share a few pearls I’ve threaded into a necklace I intend to wear daily.

The Acholi people (the largest tribe in the country, who occupy most of Northern Uganda, and who have for the past two years enjoyed the first tastes of peace after a 23 year civil war waged by Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army) are eager and generous with their love and kindness. From daily half-a-block walks to and from the internet cafe marked by countless toothy grins and “How are you? I’m fine!”s, to giggling children who are simply overcome with joy by the fact that Mzungus (white people) want to hear them sing their songs and dance their dances, their love is an effortless and unconditional kind unlike anything I’ve ever seen. They expect and want nothing but a genuine smile.

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Having all lost so much and so many to terror, violence, disease, and disaster, they know how fleeting a moment can be and embrace each with ferocious joy. It’s hard not to define them as a dizzyingly happy people, because it’s rare to see anyone without a smile. Even when they’re feeling ill and asking for prayer, they do it with a smile.

But still, you know they carry the burden of recent history and understand in a special way that life can change or end at any second, so if this one is good, it ought to be celebrated. And celebrate they do.

For me, just being an observer among them for a week was liberating. It may be because the economy won’t allow for it, or more likely because they just know better than to waste time with such pettiness, the Acholi have little time and patience for vanity. Clothes don’t match and are rarely perfectly clean. Cosmetics are an expensive luxury, one most refuse in favor of covering their feet or feeding their families. Self-expression through fashion or hair style seems unlikely, as their clothing is either the “imported” castaways from America’s thrift stores or made from cheap materials; and most men, women, and children alike wear short or shaved hair. It’s better to keep away lice and other bugginess. And deoderant? What’s deoderant?

I can’t describe how freeing it was to be among people who aren’t silently analyzing my fashion choices or checking my legs to see if they’re shaved. It was nice to know that if, after a long day of painting, my Secret was all worn off, no one would notice much less care. I’m white, so I’m going to I stand out. Any details beyond that aren’t worth following.

What’s more, I saw in them a desire simply to show us they’re kind and warm, forward-moving and modern; That they’re cheerful and can find beauty and humor in nearly anything; That they’re resourceful and creative, hard working, intelligent, and most of all good. They love and crave God and His goodness. They have much more to offer than war. They want to learn and teach. They want to create.

Above all, they are a community-driven people. They’ve all lost family and friends to war, so they ferociously grip the relationships they now have as a life source. It was rare to see anyone walking anywhere alone. And in the evenings, when most Americans are holed up in their giant homes on acres of “private property” watching fake lives play out on flat screen TVs, safe from the annoying distractions of other humans, the Acholi are hanging out and enjoying one another. One evening, we saw a group of at least 50 people gathered around one small TV for a major soccer event! They don’t go home until the restaurant’s generator is turned off and they’re sent away. And whether they’ve known you for years or you’re meeting for the first time, they treat you as a kindred soul and intimate friend. Even the Mzungus.

The children are no different. Whether walking home from school in groups, navigating the market for dinner, giving you the tour of their school or orphanage, or selling sugar cane across the street, they’re quick to extend a hand to shake and even quicker to offer a wide grin to a stranger. I guess, to them, no one is a stranger.

Quite simply, they want to love and be loved.

They were concerned not with appearances – with impressing us with fancy clothes or fresh scents, huge hotel suites, or five-star meals (though they did an incredible job at making our stay as comfortable and upscale as possible within the context of their culture) – but with making us, the Mzungus, feel welcome, comfortable, and at home.

And I did. I felt as at home with them as I ever have in America.

Toward the end of the week I took a moment to sit down with Judith, one of the hotel staff who seemed to rather enjoy my silliness and my inability to speak their language correctly despite both our efforts. She thought my self-depricating jokes were hilarious. She liked that I wore crazy-looking shirts. And, pulling me aside, she said, ‘Miss Ahh-mee, you are very down to ground. Most Mzungus don’t like us…they think we’re bad and useless, just full of war and disease. But you…I like you. And I like that you like me.” I told her she was quite easy to like, and she liked that too. We both decided we were soul sisters, and that one of us – most likely me – was just born the wrong color and on the wrong continent.

One of our team later told me that Judith told him I’m actually African.

And recalling that makes me miss my other home, my other family, even more.

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I’M FINALLY GOING TO AFRICA!!!
August 17, 2009, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Activate, africa, Uncategorized

HALLELUJAH!

I’m so excited to report flights are booked, schedules are being finalized, and I’m finally, Finally, FINALLY (!!) heading to Gulu, Uganda (Africa) September 22 – October 3 to Mocha Club’s Child Mother’s Village of Hope. As many of you know, I’ve been longing to visit Gulu for the last four years, and am convinced that God has saved me for this trip specifically, as I’ll not be going “just to go,” but will be joining the people I and many of you have been supporting and gathering support for in the Village of Hope over the last two years through my artist partnership with Mocha Club. It seems that what began as a small seed planted by Mercy’s tragic story and my never-quite-enough involvement with Invisible Children has grown inconceivably bigger. This isn’t just about taking a missions trip; it’s about traveling to the other side of the world to meet my heart-family and gather up a piece of myself I didn’t ever know had been planted in Africa long ago. I’m leaping for joy over this opportunity! (If you want to know more about the lead-up to this trip and my “history” with Africa, check out this blog!

voh

ABOUT GULU.

Gulu, Uganda is replete with people who have lived in fear for over 20 years. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel paramilitary group in Northern Uganda, has terrorized villages, raiding homes, stealing children either to add to their army (boys as young as 5 years old) or use as sex slaves (women and young girls), killing villagers, and destroying the village. While LRA leader Joseph Kony denies it all, the women of Gulu, aptly named “Child Mothers,” tell a different story of abduction, soldier training, and sexual slavery to rebel soldiers in the LRA. Now that they’ve escaped or been excused as expendable, the community at large rejects them and their children. But through The “Village of Hope” in Gulu, over 500 of these child mothers live in a safe community with shelter, job training, a medical facility, and a school for their children. And they have “The Butterfly Center” a refugee center where receive love, acceptance, support, Christian counseling, and a safe haven.

OUR TEAM.

Thanks to our artist leadership team at Mocha Club, a group of seven passionate artists (including yours truly) from across the U.S. will be traveling together. Once we reach the Village of Hope, we’ll be spending our days painting murals in the Village’s various facilities, teaching the kids how to paint/sing/dance, worshiping and leading Bible studies with the men, women and children, and doing whatever else may be helpful to the ever-growing ministry in Gulu. We pray this trip will be a foundational one on which we’ll build a lasting partnership with Ugandans and the leadership at The Village of Hope!

I NEED HELP!

As always, I need your help to get there and back! In the next few short weeks leading up to September 22, I need to raise $3500 to cover travel expenses, room & board, and to purchase supplies we’ll need while we’re in The Village of Hope. There are a number of ways to offer financial support:

>> Send in some cash (well, more accurately, a check or money order) to the address below, or send a quick donation online via Mocha Club’s parent organization, African Leadership. Simply scroll to the bottom, select the “Other” option, enter your amount and put “Amy Courts – Mocha Club Uganda Trip” in the ‘note’ field, and they’ll make sure it goes to the right place. It’s quick and easy, and helps a LOT!

>> Sponsor me in the USAF Half Marathon I’ll be running on September 20 in Dayton, OH! You can sponsor a mile for an amount of your choosing (which will inspire me to RUN the full race!), pledge a specific amount per mile run under 9:00, 9:30, or 10:00, or pledge a specific amount based on my finish time (i.e. $100 if I finish under 2:00:00; $75 if I finish under 2:05:00, etc)…and invite your friends to do the same. It’s an easy way to support me and keep me healthy and fast! If this is your method of choice, shoot me an email and I’ll send you the forms.

>> Buy Amy Courts Merchandise! We’re past the 6-month marker for 2009, so buy some stuff – CDs, tshirts, stickers, posters, etc. – from my online merch store to give away as Christmas, Birthday, or “I Like You” gifts.

>> Make up your own method – host a garage sale; form a kazoo band and play for tips on street corners and send in whatever you earn. Feel free to get creative about it; I know I am!

Of equal importance, I’ll need ground support – your prayers on a daily basis while I’m abroad. We’ll be facing more than just your typical speed bumps, as this journey will take us to places that are incredibly dark, where evil is often a palpable, physical thing. As Jesus once prayed, our prayer is not to be removed from the world but protected from the evil one. We’ll need constant prayer, for each individual and for the team as a whole: for health, strength, unity, clarity, and simple steadfastness of spirit. I’ll keep you posted as much as possible on specific prayer needs!

I hope you’ll prayerfully consider how you might be part of my team. It is overwhelmingly exciting to be finally making this journey, and I am humbled by how dependent I must be on God and His people to provide. But I’ve never been more confident of His wondrous will, and am resting peacefully in His ability to provide in abundance! And I so look forward to sharing the stories of hope, redemption, reconciliation, and resurrection I’ll undoubtedly bring back from my ten days in Africa!

With Love and Increasing Excitement,
Amy

All contributions are tax-deductible. If donating online, please choose the “other” option and specify “Amy Courts – Mocha Club Uganda Trip” in the note. If donating by check/money order, please make checks payable to Mocha Club, with “Amy Courts – MC Uganda” in the memo. They may be mailed to:
MOCHA CLUB | 233 WILSON PIKE CIRCLE, STE 2A | BRENTWOOD, TN 37027



The Heights of Success
June 12, 2009, 9:16 am
Filed under: Activate, Culture, Missions, Music

Yesterday morning, as I ate some cereal, drank some (delicious) coffee, and perused Little Rock’s local-yokel magazine, Soiree, reading about “women to watch” in the area, I got to thinking about success.

I suppose it was a natural progression of thought springing from the definitions given by the watchable women, most of whom agreed success was tied either to greater levels of wealth or power in the ever-changing, dangerous organism that is capitalism at work.

And perhaps it had a little to do with the fact that I was waking up from a two day stint in Little Rock, where I gave two of what I’d consider my best concerts ever.

Neither was particularly “well attended.” One was a private concert for the men and women served by Little Rock’s Union Rescue Mission, and followed a couple hours of serving them dinner and hearing some incredible life stories. Including the kiddos, there may have been fifty people hanging out on the lawn in the balmy evening heat to listen to me sing and talk. The second concert was  URM open to the public but predominantly attended by young people ranging from 13 to 16 in age. Again, when all was said and done, numbers counted and all, there were probably about 50 of us hanging out for the evening.

But wow. As I drove away this morning, I felt pretty successful.

After the concert on the lawn for the URM, one woman wrote and passed me a note about her experience. She said she couldn’t explain it in a conversation, because she’d end up crying her way through. But in her note, she spoke of the lost years she lived as a prostitute and drug addict, which were odd juxtaposed to her upbringing under a Baptist minister. She appreciated what she called “fearless” songs; songs that look at the darker, harsher, deeper sides of life – sides so many people can’t relate to, much less discuss, much less publically. She appreciated the “real”ness of it. And while thanking me for being usable in Lord’s hands, I was quietly thanking God for affirming me and my passion. And what a gift it was to go back to the Dorcas House today and spend a bit more time with those women who spend their days overcoming.

autographarmsThe second concert was equally encouraging, though in different ways. Like I said, it was for youth. Teenagers who don’t have a lot of money to either buy CDs or join Mocha Club. Teenagers who typically don’t appreciate the deeper things as much as we old soul’s do. Teenagers who might have been humoring their youth pastor by sitting quietly through my concert. But these guys…they were fun. They were generous. And they gave of themselves. They came and served with me at the URM. And after the concert, they gave up their money for bigger things. Many of them joined Mocha Club, and set the age of selflessness just a couple years younger. Many wanted to buy CDs and purchase jewelry or bags created by women rescued from sex slavery, but only having the money for one, chose to be part of the rescue efforts. And a few of them even let me sign their arms…and thought THEY got away with the best end of the deal.

Yeah.

As I look back over the last couple days, I feel lucky. I feel affirmed. I feel hopeful. I feel an overwhelming sense of awe as leaves take form on the branches of trees that were mere seeds in my palm just a few years ago. And I know I’m moving in the right direction and tilling the right soil when I am part of the passing out of Hope to people who know to grab hold of it, or am able to facilitate – or just watch! – young people stepping into the role of giver while most of their peers remain content simply to receive.

Indeed, money or no money, tour bus or no tour bus, arena or no arena, fame or no fame…Tonight, I am satisfied in my soul and in want of nothing.



My Anthem
May 6, 2009, 3:56 pm
Filed under: Activate, africa, Humanitarianism, Music, Uncategorized

I decided to go ahead and make a little home video of it. Not sure why, since that’s not something I typically do. Usually, I just say “Catch it at a live show.” But this song is special. Not just because it’s been waiting to be written for over a year, but because of where it comes from in my own heart.

So I’m going to break my own rules and tell you the story behind it. It begins with the simple fact that , for reasons totally beyond me, God has chosen to graciously (and I mean that) surround me lately with women who have suffered abuse that I can’t fathom. Two of them are particularly close to me; close enough to get under my skin and break my heart in a very personal way. Abuse has always been something I’ve know about. But now I think I’m truly aware. Not just of what happens, but the aftermath. The shame and fear and perfectionism and fear of rejection so many of them live their lives with. This song is as much about them as it is about the two girls I’ve named.

And these two girls are real. Though separated by thousands of miles and twenty years, their stories are the same, and have both changed me.

The first girl is one a friend, Mark, blogged about after returning from a trip to Africa. Hers is actually the story by which God initially broke my heart for those people. She was a five year old who attended the Compassion school in her community. But, as Mark told it, she was unlike any of the other kids in that she rarely smiled and almost never spoke. He learned that it was most likely because, at her young age, she’d already been raped many times, often multiple times each day, on her way to and from school. Five years old.

So, during his week there, Mark took it upon himself to try and earn her trust enough to tell him her name. He spent the week holding her, loving her, smiling and playing with her, and showing her the kind of righteous love Christ meant…the kind that defeats the darkness. And at the end of the week, just before he left, Mark picked her up and asked her once more if she’d tell him her name.

She leaned in and whispered in his ear, “Mercy.”

The second girl is Dusty, a neighbor of mine who was the first to ever earn the title “Amy’s Best Friend.” We played around the neighborhood all the time. From everything I can remember – though, granted, I was five when we moved away, so my memories of her are only so clear – she was one of my only friends. She was always nice. And she always came over to my house. After we moved away, I didn’t see her again until 7th grade. And even then, our reunion only lasted a few months, until she unexpectedly left.

Anyway, I learned a couple weeks ago that she was repeatedly and violently abused by her father. As it turns out, the reason she left school in 7th grade was because she was pregnant. With his child.

When I heard that not two weeks ago, I fell apart. I was angry. At myself for not knowing better (though, at five years old, I couldn’t – and shouldn’t – have known better). At my parents for not kidnapping and then adopting her, and letting her live with good parents. At the system, whose cracks she fell through.

And I started wondering where she is today. Is she still a victim? Has she ever known her true value? Or is shame the only thing she’s ever been able to own? I don’t know.

Stories like these make me want to throw away my guitar, go back to school, and become a human rights activist or a lawyer for Amnesty International or simply a full-time social worker in the States or missionary in Africa.

But God has made abundantly clear that I am most effective operating within the gifts He’s given me. Using the stage and my voice to speak for those who have no stage and won’t be heard.

And so I sing.

“I Wanna Know”
(c)&(p) 2009 Amy Courts (amalia musica, SESAC)

Dusty lived right down the street
With her brother and a dad who beat him blue
And I know he hurt her too

But I couldn’t see the haunting in her eyes
I was too young to recognize
And much too young to do anything
And so I sing

I wanna know where she lays her head tonight
Does she sleep in peace beside
Someone who knows to love her right
I wanna know can the damage be undone
Given freedom would she run
Can the past be overcome
I wanna know

Mercy won’t tell you anything she knows
She keeps her secrets close beneath her skin
I know it’s crawling from within

She’s just a child, but carries sordid memories
Of things that I cannot conceive
Or in my darkest nightmares dream

And so I sing, I sing.

I wanna know where she lays her head tonight
Does she sleep in peace beside
Someone who knows to love her right
I wanna know can the damage be undone
Given freedom would she run
Can the past be overcome
I wanna know

And now it burns beneath my skin
And I don’t want to let it in
I wish I’d been a better friend
I wish I could go back again
Cause I would fight
I would carry her away
Or I would find the means to stay
Help bear the burden and the shame

It wouldn’t end this way
I wouldn’t let it end this way

For some the sun shines,
We’re the lucky ones
For them the rain fall
Seems like an endless flood

I wanna know where she lays her head tonight
Does she sleep in peace beside
Someone who knows to love her right
I wanna know can the damage be undone
Given freedom would she run
Can the past be overcome
I wanna know

**please forgive the homemade and new-out-of-the-box-utterly-unpolished nature of this song. it’s still becoming. just like me.**



I Need Africa
December 3, 2008, 10:20 am
Filed under: Activate, africa, Humanitarianism | Tags: , ,

As you all know, my involvement with Mocha Club has become the biggest reason for doing what I do on stages across the country. The work we’ve done throughout the continent of Africa – from building orphanages in Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, and more, to providing new hope to the people by providing medicine, education, and basic life-saving items like mosquito nets – is only possible because of people like you and I who have decided to give up two mocha’s a month and lend that $7 we’d otherwise spend on coffee to a better cause. But there’s more to our effort than being beneficiaries to the masses. What they give to us through their embrace of hope and their humility to receive us with open arms, lead us to say…

I NEED AFRICA MORE THAN AFRICA NEEDS ME

“When I think of Africa, the following images immediately come to mind: Starvation.  AIDS.  Child soldiers.  Genocide.  Sex slaves.  Orphans.  From there, my thoughts naturally turn to how I can help, how I can make a difference. “I am needed here,” I think. “They have so little, and I have so much.” It’s true, there are great tragedies playing out in Africa everyday.  There is often a level of suffering here that is unimaginable until you have seen it, and even then it is difficult to believe.  But what is even harder is reconciling the challenges that many Africans face with the joy I see in the people. It’s a joy that comes from somewhere I cannot fathom, not within the framework that has been my life to this day.” [read more]

Please consider lending your cash to buy the shirt and make the statement. Then use your voice to tell the story.



I Have a Family I’ve Never Met

I have brothers and sisters in Gulu, Uganda whom I’ve never met but have come to love more than I love my own life.

Brothers and sisters who’ve experienced more grief, loss, disappointment, terror, fear, and hopelessness than I could ever begin to imagine from my cozy little townhouse in South Nashville.

villageofhopeThey’ve all lost family members. Some to AIDS and malaria, some to murder, some to the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Rebel force of Gulu, Uganda.

Some have been forced to kill their own brothers and sisters, parents and cousins.

My sisters and brothers have been forced by fire out of their homes that burned to the ground as they ran. Many of them were captured and made to be young wives who bear the children of rebel soldiers, or young boy soldiers-in-training, donning their enemy’s uniform in an effort just to survive.

But these sisters and brothers know a God I’ve never dared to ponder.

A God who is able to keep some of their bodies clean of disease, despite having been born to a family suffering of AIDS and malaria.

A God who is able to rescue and renew and revive even the bleakest of lives.

A God who restores hope and life, who provides all needs in abundance.

A God who is always present, in rain or drought, war or peacetime.

Most of my brothers and sisters have never known peacetime, outside of the presence of this great and mighty God.

Last night, I heard a story of one young man who boldly walked into a Rebel camp with two of his brothers to teach soldiers about the love and peace of Christ. They were captured and forced to choose between giving their own lives or taking life from a young, 9-, 10-, or 11-year-old recent captive. The first chose Christ, peace, and ultimately death, and his captor, a Rebel commander, willingly complied. The second chose the same, and a bullet found him dead seconds later. The third echoed his brothers saying, “no, I will not kill. I’ve come with the Peace of Christ’s gospel. I am here for Him and will go to Him.”

But when shot, the gun misfired. And a second time…and a third time…the gun misfired. Shot blanks.

And finally, another Rebel soldier told his commander they’d better leave, because these guys were tapped into Something they didn’t want to mess with.

Certainly his is a God much more powerful than my North American God of wealth and prosperity.

That man was freed and went on to become the leader of Men’s Ministry at the Child Mothers’ Village of Hope in Gulu, Uganda.

He went on to help rescue my brothers and sisters from sexual and spiritual slavery, and lead them into freedom. And now they are leading even more displaced brothers and sisters into similar freedom, carrying the torch of Christ’s love and mercy, the promise of medicine and education and HOPE to their neighbors into the surrounding IDP camps.

These brothers and sisters…They’ve started a revolution.

Most of you know that over the past few years, God has planted and watered what has become a rather consuming passion in me for those living in the aftermath of war in Gulu, Uganda. What began as a tearful response to hearing about night commuters – the nightly groups of 30,000+ children who were forced to leave their home villages and travel in the dark to refugee camps, in an effort to avoid abduction – has grown into an uncontrollable love for people I’ve never met face to face.

I don’t know any other way to describe it, but to say that I feel a connection to those people unlike any I’ve known outside of my biological sisters and to my husband and step-son. It’s as if I’m tied to them, and they to me. And this not being able to share my life with them, to touch and hold and love and be next to them, is a burden I can sometimes hardly bear.

But over the past six to ten months, God has whittled down my passion from a desire to simply “GO GO GO! It doesn’t matter where or who with!” to a place of patiently waiting for and seeking out the right opportunity with the right group of people.

As I’ve prayed and considered my options, there seemed only one left: to travel to Gulu, Uganda, to the Child Mothers’ Vilalge of Hope – the project I’ve been supporting and rallying support for through my involvement with Mocha Club – without the cameras that inevitably accompany artists on the job, but on my own, for the sake of learning the lay of the land and establishing relationships to be watered and nurtured in the years to come.

And finally, over the past two days, it seems this overwhelming and at times all-consuming dream of meeting my family in Uganda is beginning to find form.

I met with Jerry and Candis Bingham, the lead Missionaries at the Village of Hope, and was able to share with them my heart and my desire. And – amazingly enough – they were as overjoyed as I about the prospects of me spending the whole of next October with them and the Child Mothers in Gulu.

And so now, the planning begins. I don’t know how I’ll raise all the money. I don’t know exactly how my time will look. I’m scared to death of being away from my husband for a month, in a foreign land, and of living in conditions I can scarcely fathom, much less describe.

But I’m finally going to meet my family.

And that’s all that really matters.



Was Jesus a Socialist: The Discussion Continues…

A point of clarification I’m allowed to make 30-comments-in, just because I’m the blog owner (and I get to do what I want): While I believe the Christian values of caring for the needy, and the least being treated as the greatest are reflected in socialism, I don’t believe Jesus was an *actual* socialist, or that He would – were He walking among us today – endorse any of the various forms of government. In fact, I believe that since the Devil is currently in charge of the world’s governments (according to Matt. 4:8-10, when the Devil offered Jesus all the Kingdoms of the world [which Jesus turned down, obviously] which implies they were the Devil’s to offer), none will ever earn the endorsement of Christ. I ought to have said that from the start instead of saying “Jesus sanctioned socialism.” I was dumb to have said that…or at very least, not paying attention. But, you live and read comments and learn and amend. Moving along…

—————–

I won’t lie: I’m a little frustrated right now. My brother-in-law, who is a pastor in McCook, NE and blogs on theology, apologetics, culture, and more as part of his church’s ministry, responded in his own blog to my post-election thoughts. But that’s not what’s making me nuts. What’s driving me crazy is the fact that I can’t log in to respond to his blog on his blog.

So I’m left with one option: to move his blog over here and continue the discussion. I certainly don’t mind – but in fact, find immense joy – in the conversation.

I just hate technology sometimes.

Anyway, I’d like to respond point-by-point to his responsive blog entitled “Jesus Institued Socialism?” (which I’ll only quote here in red, to save space, but can be found in full here):

[Quoted from my previous blog: What we see happening in Acts 2 is exactly that: socialism, if not communism, even. The equal distribution and sharing of all wealth, goods, and property among all people so that no one is richer and thus more significant, or poorer and thus less significant.]

First, one will notice that Jesus is not even present.

Really!? Jesus wasn’t present with the early Church!?

Forgive the sarcasm. I think it should be obvious that while Jesus may not have been <i>physically</i> present with the early Church, He was most certainly present in their hearts, at the forefront of their thoughts, His principles, values, and teachings foremost in their consideration of how to “set up shop.” To assert otherwise is just plain silly. His promised Holy Spirit was among them, reminding them of Christ’s Way. So while Jesus may not have explicitly said, “This is how I want you to live in community with one another, by sharing everything,” His daily teachings and the way in which He continually engaged with His twelve closest disciples and hundreds of other followers is certainly reflected in their “share all things; have everything in common” lifestyle. They were, indeed, continuing His work in His Way. Whether sanctioned by explicit word or implied by deed, their way was Christ’s Way.

Second, we must consider that the church, not the government, is the primary subject here. There are distinct roles given to church and distinct roles given to government. What is the right and responsibility of one is not necessarily the right and responsibility of the other.

Indeed, the Church IS the primary subject here. However, while it’s not our government’s responsibility to obey Scripture, it is arguably every American Christian’s right and responsibility to vote for the candidate we believe most fully (though will never completely) reflects our Biblical values and makes Christian priorities National priorities (or abstain from voting if participating violates one’s conscience). This doesn’t mean seeking, electing, or promoting a “Christian” President, but supporting a platform that reflects Christ’s heart for people. (And, inevitably, we will often disagree about who’s platform best reflects Christian values.)


Third, Acts is written as historical narrative. It is not didactic in nature so what we find there is a record of what happened, but not necessarily what should be. A good example of this is the life of the patriarchs described in Genesis. Many were polygamists. We cannot make the leap that just because something is recorded that it therefore has God’s sanction. We must go elsewhere for our doctrine of marriage. In Acts we see that people are doing something (sharing their things), but that in no way makes it normative.

First, that Acts is written in historical narrative does not negate its usefulness as a model for the current day Church. In this instance, I believe the early Church is a model for the Church today and forever. Why? Because they lived, breathed, ate, and drank the life and teachings of Christ. Having been born of His death, resurrection, and ascension, and being the only examples we have of people who knew Christ in person as close friend, Savior, and God, it seems obvious by extention that their fellowship without His physical presence would model the fellowship they shared with Him. Theirs are the nearest hearts to (and thus, I’d say, the most reflective of) Christ’s heart for His established Church, all people worldwide, and future of His Kingdom that we can see modeled in action. They were living and setting up shop in the wake of the single most defining moment in the history of the God-human relationship. No doubt they did everything with deliberation in light of all Christ did and taught, explicitly and implicitly.

Second, I find the example of the patriarchs and their polygamy ill-fitting to the context, since polygamy was expressly condemned numerous times throughout the Mosaic Law (most notably in the Ten Commandments). We find no such condemnation – implicit or otherwise – of the Way of the early Church. His endorsement of their Way, though not explicit, I believe is inferred simply by their doing it.

Third, while its record in Acts doesn’t make the sharing of all things normative, the more-than 2,000 commands in Scripture to care for the orphan and widow, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and otherwise treat the least as the greatest certainly support their communistic fellowship as “standard behavior” for Christians. Certainly Christ’s explicit warning in Matthew 25:31-46 in which He describes exactly how He will separate the sheep from the goats – i.e. by whether or not we have fed the hungry, quenched the thirsty, clothed the naked, visited the prisoner, and welcomed the stranger – serves as ample evidence that this is the Kingdom Way: to give selflessly from every possible reserve, whether financial, time, or goods.


Should Christians be gracious? Yes. Compassionate? Yes. But here is the catch: grace cannot be mandated. For grace to be grace it cannot be a requirement. If it is required (such as a wage) it is justice, not grace. The church can therefore encourage its members to live out these virtues, but not even the church can put it into ecclesiastical law.

While I agree that giving and service to the church ought to be a matter of graciousness and selflessness – the deliberate decision of a cheerful giver (which God loves) – the mandate to care for the fatherless and the widow is, again, not optional. I don’t know how to make this more clear than to italicize and embold: True Christ-followers will be known, defined, and separated based on how they actively respond to the greatest commandment to Love the Lord their God with all heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbors as themselves. (Matt. 23:37-39, 1 John 2:3) Christ’s example, His teaching, and the teaching of His nearest discipes make abundantly and irrefutably clear that ours is a family, a nation, marked by love made evident in service, that the world may come to know the glory and salvation of Christ. We will be known (and judged, eternally) by our love and how its expressed in our selflessness (John 15:13, 1 John 3:16).

This is born out a few chapters later in chapter 5 when Ananias and Sapphira sell their goods and give it to the church (as we saw in ch 2). Their problem was that they lied. Peter makes it quite clear (v4) that they had no obligation to give it to the church. It was their money to do with as they pleased.

The difference here is that we’re not talking about tithing to the church or selling their stuff to give to the church.

We’re talking about the Biblical mandate, seen both explicitly and implictly throughout the entirety of Scripture and laid out in detail by Christ Himself, to care and provide for those in need, both physically and spiritually. This is not a matter of finances, but of how the true Gospel is spread and disciples are made.

If not even the church, as God’s ordained institution for effecting his will on earth, can make such demands on people, how can we legitimately make the leap to the government doing it?

Here we part ways. I believe God has commanded His people to care for and plead on behalf of the poor, impoverished, and desperately-in-need. And I believe my vote for Obama, whose policies reflect the Christian values and obligation to care for the least of these, is as justified by Scripture (I’d even argue more justified) as the votes of so many Believers who voted for McCain “on behalf of the unborn.”