17.9.08

The Conditional Servants

Burnside is in the middle of fundraising right now, and every penny of your donations help. We believe Burnside serves a valuable purpose in propagating discussion, art and critical thought.

But we also know there are other amazing people and organizations who need your assistance, and we hope you'll give generously to missionaries, churches and charitable organizations as well as Burnside.

Take, for instance, our friend Heather Colletto. Heather is a budding writer, and she and her husband Mike (also a talented writer) are currently raising money to work in Bratislava, Slovakia with Trans World Radio. They'll be serving in the Public Relations department, fundraising to broaden TWR's scope into more languages and countries.

They have to raise $37,000 dollars ($15k by the end of November in order to leave in January), but fundraising hasn't gone as well as they hoped. The Collettos had planned to get be in Bratislava in October, but they understand God will get them there in His time.

Recently, though, the Collettos suffered a major set-back.

Last week, they learned from a close friend that people who had received the Colletto's support-letter did not feel comfortable supporting their ministry because of Heather's support for Barack Obama. Her decision, they claimed, "allowed for the assumption (she) had changed (her) core beliefs" on two issues: abortion and gay marriage. Her friend told her if a few people believed this way, then surely many more on the support list felt similarly. She told Heather this was probably the main reason the Collettos were having difficulty raising funds.

Heather spoke to another friend who seconded the assertion. To make matters worse, Heather was beginning to doubt if the money would ever be raised, if they'd ever make it to Slovakia, and if they'd heard God's call correctly.
"Of course, there are a million things I wanted to say and ask those people, but where do you start with something like that? My friend thought I should write a blog reiterating my Christianity, and I started to, but I realized that I shouldn't have to defend myself as a Christian and missionary because I'm not voting Republican. God called us into full-time ministry knowing full-well I'd vote for a Democrat. If we're good enough for Him to do His work, that's good enough for me."
How did those people know Heather's stance? Her Facebook page, which had the word "Obamarama" under her political views, and a blog posting where Heather wrote about gays and the military. Heather sheepishly admits the post was a "little sassy" and blames "the darn Daily Show" for her rant.

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Another thing you need to know about Heather: she's pro-life. She is so fervently pro-life, in fact, that she was nearly kicked out of Cedarville University in rural Ohio.

I asked Heather to clarify how she'd run into trouble at a very conservative Christian college for her pro-life stance, and she told me she'd applied for a receptionist position at an abortion clinic.

"Wait...what?!?" I replied.

"I decided that the abortion doctors had to hear about Christ, and I couldn't figure out how they would hear otherwise," she told me. "So it made sense in my head to go to them."

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So some people are reluctant to support Heather because of her Presidential preference. Why?

We're asking honestly here, because Heather and her husband want to know. Do her political beliefs raise concerns for you? Do a missionary's ideologies affect their actions in the mission field?

Off hand, I'd say 'yes' to some extent. Missionaries are ambassadors for Christ and the Church, and they should be held to high standards. My concerns about a potential missionary might be more along the lines of patience and whether they have an understanding of the culture they are entering into, as well as a genuine love for the people they will serve.

But, on the other hand, we don't often see God taking the same measures. Paul wasn't a particularly patient guy, right? Moses was marble-mouthed. And Peter hacked a guy's ear off, for pete's sake.

I could understand if Heather was raising money to work for MoveOn.org. But Trans World Radio is a well-regarded, influential and long-serving Christian-based ministry using mass media to spread the message of Jesus as well as fight white slavery, poor health conditions, and abortion in needy nations. (Here's a more extensive look at TWR's Strategic Plan.)

Perhaps most importantly, Heather and Mike are doing something. They may like one presidential candidate over another, but they are not content to check a box on a piece of paper and call it good. They've heard Christ's call, and they're taking action while most of us sit on our butts and wait for the government to fix problems like fatherlessness, abortion and poverty.

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But back to Heather supporting Barack Obama.

"How are you reconciling your pro-life beliefs with Barack Obama's positions on the subject?" I asked.

"
My husband just made me explain this to him last night. There's a pro/con list between the two candidates, and a big con on Obama's list is his pro-choice stance. But I cannot ignore all of his other pros, considering many have significant, global consequences."

"Abortion is an issue that I think can only be changed at this point on a personal level. I can't vote on that one issue legislatively hoping maybe a bill actually comes up. Not much happened in the last eight years, you know? And I do respect Obama's desire to lower the number of unwanted pregnancies. He's not waving a 'women's rights' banner. He seems to understand it's deeper than that."

"This election, I like both candidates. I really do. But my brother Dave puts it this way: If you're on a plane that's going down, would you ask the pilot 'Are you pro-choice or pro-life?' No, because you don't care. What you want to know is 'Can you fly the plane?'"

Considering the Dow's drop two days ago, I'd say it's a fairly apt analogy.

"As Christians, at the very least, we should respect Obama's message of unity--it's bridge-building, it's peaceful, it's productive," Heather continues.

"But it's not about Obama. It's not about any candidate. It's most certainly not about us. It's about Christians seeing beyond the traditional black-and-white issues to see the larger picture of what Christ calls us to be in this often very political world. It's about putting aside political differences to further the kingdom of God. I think that's something everyone can agree on."

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You can follow the Collettos at their blog, Heather and Mike's Blogislava. For information on helping them get to Slovakia, visit their fundraising page. I'd love for Burnside readers to help Heather if you're so lead, especially since the Colletos have promised to write a column for us once they're overseas.

22 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this beautiful, sad, powerful and inspiring story.

    "Obamarama"?

    Brilliant.

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  2. It's unfortunate that so much of today's church culture is really just that: culture. You don't "match," then you don't fit in. You scare folks.

    It's easier to shun differences than to ask oneself the question, do I need to rethink this?

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  3. I'd be surprised if I got money from emerging/missional folks if I had McCain/Palin plastered on my pages.

    And, to be honest, this seems a fair bit immature. They want to be independent, to say what they think on even unrelated issues, but they want people's money. They want to be both offensive and make people support that.

    Paul is a great example. He was offensive. And he didn't raise money. He supported himself.

    People are tired of politics being injected into everything, particular politics not only of goals but of personalities, cults of personalities that seem to suggest a new messiah (whether this is on the right or left), and that leaves people with a very respectable choice. There are a whole lot of people out there who need money, and maybe a number who are so tuned in with their mission they don't have time to be diluted by the political machinations of contemporary American politics.

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  4. that just pisses me off.

    i have nothing intelligent to say.

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  5. Very sad that Christians are so black and white and can't think of the bigger picture. I'm pro-life. I'm voting for Obama.

    There's a great article by Frank Schaeffer (Francis Schaeffer's son) on the Huffington Post about how he can be Pro-life and vote for Obama. To find it, just go to huffingtonpost.com and search for Frank Schaeffer.....

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  7. I love that Heather got a job in an abortion clinic to reach out to the doctors. I like the way she thinks. And she just be one of my new heroes.

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  9. @paddy o. -

    "I'd be surprised if I got money from emerging/missional folks if I had McCain/Palin plastered on my pages."

    You're probably right, and I hope this post will be seen as a stance against that sort of hypocrisy as well. I would've hoped all of us, could we go back in time, would've supported Paul's mission work regardless of his offensiveness.

    To be fair, Heather reiterated over and over that she wouldn't have posted "Obamarama" on her facebook page if she'd known it would affect her opportunity to serve.

    I understand being tired of politics being injected into everything...I get tired of that, too. And a missionary who focused solely on their field might be preferable, but it's not as if we have a surplus of missionaries.

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  10. Douglas Kmiec was denied communion because he endorsed Obama. True story:

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/stevenwaldman/2008/09/the-day-i-was-denied-communion.html

    I mean seriously. Seriously??

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  11. I have said this for a long time- abortion is no longer a political issue... how can it be? You're not going to change the everyone's pro-life/choice views whether it's legal or illegal, and I don't EVER see it becoming illegal. Because I don't like labels, I am neither pro life/choice. My personal decision (as I am pregnant now with my husband) is that I would not have an abortion, but I can understand in some rare cases how an abortion would be totally needed in order to save life... which is exactly what I've heard come from Obama's mouth. He is not supportive of frivolity in abortions, and as a medical student, I KNOW for a fact that some abortions are medically necessary to save life, and while it's unfortunate anyone has to die, I believe God would see it as wasteful if we chose to purposely end 2 lives when at least one could be saved.

    I am an Obama supporter 110%, and I totally agree w/ Heather a million times on her stand to support Obama.

    I am 28 and this is the first time I will have ever supported in an election as a voter- by choice.

    I believe it is the most unintelligent, immature, and absolutely WRONG for churches or church people to judge you as a person because of your political beliefs. I believe most church people are unintelligent, immature and and absolutely wrong anyway, and once again- this story proves me right.

    I am sorry, sad & upset about the way Heather & her husband are being treated, but I'm not surprised at all.

    This is just a personal opinion, and as I realize the "world needs Jesus" just as much as we do, I don't understand why people aren't more focused on their own country. Even the world thinks the US needs more help than they do. I run into missionaries to the US from other countries all the time. What does that have to say for us?
    We have just as much poverty, homelessness, hunger and need as a lot of 3rd world countries have, but I suppose it's not worthy enough cause if the problem is right on your doorstep instead of 1/2 way around the world.

    Besides, as Christians say- "if it's meant to be, God will make it happen and he doesn't need men to do it!" (gag me w/ a spoon)

    anyway- enough of my rant.

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  12. ...ho, boy!

    ...God bless the reality and authenticity of this couple!!!

    ...I agree with Heather's words

    ...and am a pro-life, Obama supporter (who isn't fond of categories to define one's living from their soul) who is a 66yo former Republican, but switched so I could take place here in Colorado in the political caucus season

    ...and even as I type this now I am looking up at my bulletin board and can see my "I am an Obama Precinct Captain" button

    ...some of my own extra conservative friends think I've fallen off my perch and am turning liberal and losing some of my salvation (if one can even lose it in degrees)

    ...the one idea that bothers me in this blog is this...

    "...held to high standards..."

    ...when referring to Christ-following leaders of any stripe, hue, smell, taste or sound

    ...of course a leader "should" know better...hopefully

    ...some simply don't, for a myriad of reasons, personal and corporate

    ...but why put that just on leaders?

    ...we then elevate leaders beyond the humanity we all share, including the God/man, Jesus

    ...genuine, courageous, edgy, willing-to-follow-Jesus-no-matter-the-cost women and men, leaders and/or followers ALL are called by our Triune God to live by a different standard, not just the religious elite or "well positioned"

    ...I pray for this couple's strength and courage and great grace to those who don't know and love them deeper than political affiliations

    ...nuff said, "Dear Jesus, give us eyes to see Your truth."

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  13. There's a fellow by the name of Jonathan Sprinkles who said "The world doesn't change until somebody opens a checkbook."

    It's a damn shame there's this level of silliness in Christendom, but I think the real message here is that it's time to pony up, kids, and get these two to Slovakia!

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  14. There's a fellow by the name of Jonathan Sprinkles who said "The world doesn't change until somebody opens a checkbook."

    Oh my. Where do you suppose God banks?

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  15. noah was a drunk and a nudist. david was an adulterer and a murderer. if God could use these people, why not a democrat?
    but seriously, i don't understand why people who are pro life support mccain in any way... he has recently said that he thinks roe v wade was a bad decision, but up until he needed the conservative base his position was "let the states decide." in other words, "it's too controversial, i can't make a decision on my own." obama wants to keep abortion legal but rare, which is my stance. whatever your thoughts on roe v wade, overturning it is pretty much an impossibility at this point. if you really want to stop abortion, you need to worry about the root causes for why people turn to abortion or have unwanted pregnancies. i don't see any conflict in being pro life and supporting obama.

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  16. Personally, I'll probably write in Alan Keyes.

    Maybe the problem is purely pragmatic: according to Obama's record the man never met a tax he didn't like. I'm sure taxes will go up under McCain, but I'm fairly positive they will go through the roof with Obama.

    Look up his record, it's there.

    Then it becomes a question of why would I financially support a guy who is going to help keep me from supporting my family?

    That would be dumb.

    And what about this nonsense of 'bringing people together?' McCain was the guy 'reaching across the aisle' so much it drove his own party nuts.

    In the mean time, Obama has been crying 'racism' every time someone disagrees with him and promoting class war fare. He's as divisive as they come.

    And personally, I don't care for the way his campaign has treated Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.

    I hope these folks make it to Russia. If they don't make it this year, pray for the free market to heat up (which is more likely to happen without Obama) so people have extra disposable income next year.

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  17. Never in one speach have I heard Obama call anyone racist who disagreed with his policies. I'm convinced that this country needs Obama right now. One thing that has been on my heart is this, how come there is so much outrage when it comes to gay marriage and abortion, and barely any when it comes to poverty? I live in California, and within two weeks of the courts decision on gay marriage there were already enough signatures to get it on the ballot, could you imagine if there was this much outrage for the homeless child who goes to bed hungry?

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  18. Well, prepare for more outrage because your going to see lot's more poverty. You can't tax people into prosperity, and that seems to be Obama's only plan.

    It becomes real easy to say, "The government should take care of everyone..." But where do you think the money comes from? The 'evil rich?' Or 'wicked' corporations? Sure, tax 'big' oil. My that's brilliant. Then what? Oil producers are supposed to bend over and grab their ankles? Economics 101: they pass on the cost. I would do the same thing!

    But don't worry, this socialist utopia is that much closer to happening with the recent bail outs. If you hadn't noticed, our economy was basically shut down last week. And it doesn't matter what sort of package they throw together, this is not going to be good. The fed controls more than half the economy now...just like Obama wants. We'll see if things get better or worse...

    Actually, you might want to hang onto your money, cuz right now we are like an airplane at 20,000 feet that's lost it's right engine....

    I see a bad moon risin,' I know there's trouble on the way...

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  19. ok, this is getting ridiculous. it's sad that people can buy into the idea that we need a republican to fix the mess the republicans have gotten us into in the past 8 years. if you haven't noticed, bush has turned clinton's surpluses into massive debt. he has spent more than any president ever, and has used very little of that to help normal people. bush's tax cuts, along with mccain's, are aimed at the upper 5%. obama plans to cut taxes for everyone but those 5%. you would have to be pretty wealth to worry so much about obama raising taxes. we had 8 years of prosperity under a democrat, then 8 years of downward spiral under a republican. i don't think i need to draw a map to show which candidate is more likely to help the economy right now, the one with bold new ideas or the one who voted with bush 90% of the time.

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  20. Seriously, it's a challenge to read this as a Christian, and a Canadian... I know there would be some who would say that even that would be an impossibility - a Christian Canadian?!?! Yikes - what's happening in North America when people stop being the "loving father" church and truly drive hard the "older brother" church approach (borrowing this from the amazing Reggie Joiner - Rethink). Come on people, seriously?! These people are disciples of Christ - hearts for the Great Commission - that should count for something don't you think? This I do know, that God will overshadow man's narrowmindedness, and still accomplish His plan - even through democrats and Canadians.

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  21. First, as a fundraised missionary currently serving long-term in Western Europe, let me say that I'm really sorry this young couple has had to learn the harsh reality of missions fundraising. Sometimes, it really stinks and American church people are really rude/ignorant. I could go on and on with stories...but I won't.

    Second, I agree that political preferences should not be the deciding factor in supporting a missionary.

    However, this is a perfect example of giving TOO MUCH INFORMATION, especially online. Yes, keep your supporters/potential supporters up to date with a blog, but do any of us need to publicly disclose all potential problems others might have with us?

    Should I have made sure that every time we spoke at a church to bring up the fact that we specifically don't want children--ever? Or that one of us used to be a "hacker" back in the day? These (and other things) would potentially upset certain personality types, and if we had been directly asked about such things, we would have answered honestly. But bringing it up out of nowhere would have seemed worse.

    Heather noted her Obama support on another public site; if you're willing to politically support someone publicly, be prepared for someone else not liking it. If you don't want the flack for it, then don't make it public. Besides, I don't see an Obama reference on Heather and Mike's fundraising site (prior to the recent defense). Why wouldn't it be there, too, if it shouldn't matter to people?

    But it does. So, the person that had a problem with Heather should have confronted her directly. Or, Heather should have taken more care with her public information. Would she and Mike wear Obama pins or make declarations for Obama during every church fundraising presentation? I'll bet not.

    They're public figures (of sorts) now as missionaries. Best to decide what battles to fight publicly and which ones to let go. By the way, they might want to show some restraint online anyway; people in your mission field will research you online. We found this out the hard way, and it can jeopardize your mission, depending on the culture.

    Godspeed to them; they will be different people after their mission.

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