Thursday, October 30, 2008

American Democracy or Hypocracy?

Now don't go misquoting me here. i'm more conservative than than Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson put together. The difference is, i'm biblically conservative which is very different from being politically conservative. Therefore, i believe that heterosexual marriage is the God intended practice for humanity. At the same time, i also believe that Christians are never to force their relgious values on those who do not profess belief in the Christian faith. Jesus said, "Whosoever will, let them come". In the Greek this means that those who freely choose to follow his way are welcome to do so, but he will not force anyone to follow him.

i think this is what it means in English too.

So, back to America. As far as i've been told, America was founded on the principle of religious freedom. i'm pretty sure that means that people are free to practice whatever relgion, or even lack thereof, which they choose.

It also seems to me that the only reason we Christians oppose homosexual unions is because of our "religious" convictions. If the Bible did not say that same sex relations were inappropriate and contrary to God's design, then we would not have any reason to oppose such relationships. Again, this is a religious issue and conviction. One which i share with the Evangelical Church.

Here's my hangup...

America was founded on the principle of religious freedom. Why are we forcing our religous convictions upon people who do not share those convictions and do not even claim to be Christian, Muslim, or Jewish? Are we attempting to maintain a theocracy rather than a democracy? Wouldn't that = hypocracy?

i hold firmly to the principle that Christian clergy and churches should not sanction homosexual marriage. But what does civil union have to do with the Church? Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's.

Now don't misquote me. i am a radical biblical conservative. i make Jerry Fallwell and Pat Robertson look like liberals when it comes to the Bible. i don't support homosexual relationships, but i also don't believe we should confuse the role of the church and the role of state.

Jesus is looking for people who will freely follow him. It's not as though he differentiates much between homosexual practice and civil union. It's not like he's o.k. with the situation so long as there are no tax breaks involved.

What are we doing?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Overturning Roe vs. Wade

Many Christians feel that their stance on abortion gives them only one option for voting: Republican. The idea is that the Republican party will overturn Roe vs. Wade and abortion will be illegal once again. There are a couple of things to think about here:

First, when the Republican party had both the presidency and the house, they failed to overturn Roe vs. Wade. There was no point in history when there was more opportunity to overturn this verdict than under the Bush administration. It didn't happen. Which also means, it is highly unlikely that it will ever happen.

Secondly, overturning Roe vs. Wade will not make abortion illegal. It will simply return the law making power concerning this issue back over to individual states. With the majority of American's being pro-choice, most states will continue to keep abortion legal. For those states that make it illegal, one just need to head on over to a neighboring state in order to perform the operation.

Overturning Roe vs. Wade will not make abortion illegal.

Both parties need to work together in order to accomplish something that is achievable and that both sides can agree on: reducing abortion rates. There are many ways to do this. It has been estimated that we could reduce abortions by 200,000 a year if we just make birth control (the pill) available under medicaid.

Sounds like a pro-life initiative to me.

Don't trust politicians. They want to get elected. If they can get elected simply by stating they are "pro-life" then why would they want to resolve the issue? The fact that abortion is legal helps their campaign. If it were actually made illegal then they would lose their leverage with many Christians who are single issue voters. Is it possible that they would rather cut the umbilical cord than cut off their own foot? i think this should be considered.

Rather than be bamboozled, i believe Christians ought to put pressure on both parties to demonstrate their capability to be the party that most effectively reduces abortion rates. It's not pro-life to ignore reduction solutions in favor of unattainable dreams. It's not enough to want to do something about the problem, we must actually do what is within our means.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Great Melting Pot

(the 3 little white kids are all mine)

While i believe America, especially in its conception, has committed many hurtful practices against non-whites, the great melting pot distinctive of this country is something to be proud of. In fact, it is one of the closest examples of the society of the Kingdom of God based on mixed ethnicity and cultures that you will find on planet earth today.

This summer, as my kids were playing in Millennium Park in Chicago, i watched with deep gratitude as they were running and splashing by the tower falls with kids of all different races. There they were, all splashing alongside one another, weaving in and out of each others tracks. It was a great eye opening experience and i was proud to be part of the great melting pot called America.

My hope is that we Americans will grow in our global identity. The idea that we are a part of humanity at large. Obviously the recent racism against Arabs reveals that we still have a lot of room for growth. Yet the possibility of the election of a black man is one giant leap for mankind...or at least America.

i hope no matter what side of the party lines Americans fall on, that if Obama wins this election, all will be able see beyond partisan politics and be able to celebrate one of the most amazing moments in American history.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Guest Post:: Joe the Pastor

by Jim Wallis 10-24-2008

A new figure has entered the 2008 election campaign. His name is “Joe the plumber,” and his concerns about his future have now entered the message of this political year. He’s the guy Barack Obama met while walking a neighborhood near Toledo, Ohio. Joe asked the candidate whether his taxes might be raised under Obama’s plan — if Joe were to ever succeed in buying his own plumbing business. John McCain heard about Joe the plumber, raised his name in last week’s presidential debate, and has turned him into one of his campaign’s central themes. Joe is now famous.

The whole incident and the media coverage surrounding America’s newest political celebrity has made me think of another figure who may also influence this presidential election: “Joe the pastor.” The views of Joe the plumber and Joe the pastor provide a sharp contrast in moral and political philosophies that may be in conflict this – or any – election year. While most pastors I know have not followed the bad advice of some groups to endorse candidates this year, they have been talking to their congregations about the kind of values that should motivate the voting behavior of their parishioners. And while most are careful not to take partisan sides and divide their congregations — which are made up of Republicans and Democrats — they are preaching about the concerns that people of faith ought to bring into the voting booth.

Liberals often get very angry at working-class voters like Joe the plumber who sometimes vote against their own self-interest because they hope to get rich some day. And conservatives often try to focus those same working-class voters on “wedge issues” that might trump their economic interests. But Joe the pastor is more likely to try to focus the congregation on the values that could trump both self-interest and narrowly conceived “moral issues.” While Joe the plumber seems mostly concerned about what might happen to him, Joe the pastor tries to focus the community of believers on what is going to happen to other people.

It’s called the “common good,” and it finds expression in pulpit preaching across the theological and political spectrum. Many pastors are asking their members to consider how their vote will affect the poor in our country and around the world, the victims of human trafficking, those suffering genocide in places like Darfur, and the threats to God’s creation like climate change. They ask us to focus not just on our problems but on the plight of the most vulnerable, from unborn children to the 30,000 children who die daily around the globe from hunger and disease. Many pastors are now asking their church members to remember the increasing number of people whose homes, jobs, and security is being threatened by the growing economic crisis, or those without health care — some sitting beside them in the pews. Many congregations have families with members in Iraq and Afghanistan, but have profound questions about the wisdom of our strategy in the war against terrorism. Many pastors care about moral issues such as torture and the moral standing of our nation in the world, not merely our political power.

Joe the plumber is mostly asking what could happen to him, but pastors have the obligation to ask their congregants to go deeper than that. In Faithful Citizenship, a helpful pamphlet published for the 2004 election, the United States Catholic Bishops wrote, “Politics in this election year and beyond should be about an old idea with new power — the common good. The central questions should not be, ‘Are you better off than you were four years ago?’ It should be, ‘How can “we” — all of us, especially the weak and vulnerable — be better off in the years ahead? How can we protect and promote human life and dignity? How can we pursue greater justice and peace?”

Asked what he is preaching about this election season to his Vineyard congregation in Columbus, Ohio, evangelical megachurch pastor Rich Nathan said something quite similar: “God is always on the side of the marginalized, the people who are the weakest and poorest. That includes the unborn and their mothers, but it also includes people who lack health insurance and folks who can’t find jobs in a global economy. It includes children and women who are being trafficked into sex slavery, and it includes the people of Darfur.”

Of course, every citizen has the right to ask how their vote will affect them, as Joe the plumber is doing. But we also have the moral obligation to ask how our vote will affect others, our moral responsibilities to our neighbor and our society, and our moral standing and leadership in the world. And for that, I’m glad we will have the influence in this election not only of Joe the plumber, but also Joe (and Joanna) the pastor.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Human Trafficking

Monday, October 20, 2008

A New Conversation on Abortion

by Jim Wallis 10-16-2008

In last evening’s presidential debate, the first steps were taken toward a new national conversation about abortion. For too many years, the old one hadn’t changed very much. It came up every four years during elections and seldom in between. The Republicans repeated that they think abortion should just be completely illegal; and the Democrats repeated their only mantra of a “woman’s right to choose.” And the number of abortions remained mostly unchanged.

“Pro-life” battled “pro-choice” when neither party was really either one. Those positions were more like postures, and they didn’t lead to solutions. What if “pro-life” really meant policies that would protect the precious gift of life wherever it is threatened and aim at dramatically reducing the number of abortions in America? And what if “pro-choice” meant extending the range of real choices available to women – not only to terminate a pregnancy, but also to make the decision to have a child with the necessary economic support, health care, and adoption services?

Last evening, both Barack Obama and John McCain took steps toward finding some possible common ground.

Both said that they would not use Roe v. Wade as a litmus test for appointing Supreme Court Justices in the future.

And both suggested some cultural commitments and policy directions that could be most effective in dramatically reducing abortion. Last night’s debate got that conversation started.

Barack Obama said:

I think that abortion is a very difficult issue, and it is a moral issue and one that I think good people on both sides can disagree on…. This is an issue that — look, it divides us. And in some ways, it may be difficult to — to reconcile the two views. But there surely is some common ground when both those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say, “We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby.” Those are all things that we put in the Democratic platform for the first time this year, and I think that’s where we can find some common ground, because nobody’s pro-abortion. I think it’s always a tragic situation. We should try to reduce these circumstances.

Then John McCain said:

We have to change the culture of America. Those of us who are proudly pro-life understand that. And it’s got to be courage and compassion that we show to a young woman who’s facing this terribly difficult decision. … But that does not mean that we will cease to protect the rights of the unborn. Of course, we have to come together. Of course, we have to work together, and, of course, it’s vital that we do so and help these young women who are facing such a difficult decision, with a compassion, that we’ll help them with the adoptive services, with the courage to bring that child into this world and we’ll help take care of it.

There are indeed profound moral issues involved in the decisions to have or not to have an abortion, and most Americans believe that. Most also believe the abortion rate in America is far too high but are hesitant to completely deny the difficult choice to have one.

Abortion reduction is the clear common ground that could unite the pro-choice and pro-life polarities and bring us together to find some real solutions and finally see some results. John McCain and Barack Obama last evening opened up the possibility of finding some new common ground in reducing abortions, reflecting the 2008 Democratic and Republican platforms. There is also now some movement in the Congress with pro-life and pro-choice members looking for common ground solutions for reducing the number of abortions that are proven to work. New and compelling studies make the clear connection between abortion and poverty, with fully three-fourths of the women who have abortions saying that they just couldn’t afford to have the child. It will be a great day when both poverty reduction and abortion reduction become non-partisan issues and bipartisan causes.

Life is precious. John McCain believes that, Barack Obama believes that, Sarah Palin believes that, and so does Joe Biden. In fact, I’m not sure I have ever met a person who believes otherwise.

Freedom is fundamental. John McCain believes that, Barack Obama believes that, Sarah Palin believes that, and so does Joe Biden. Again, I’m not sure I have ever met a person who believes otherwise.

Americans are for life. Americans are for choice. The challenge for our political leaders, our religious leaders, and every American is to hold freedom and life together even when they seem to collide. We should do all we can to make sure we have as much of both as possible. And we can start by having a better conversation about abortion in this election and beyond. Thankfully, the first steps toward that conversation were taken last evening.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Bright Side of Slavery

I stood dumbfounded as I had to second guess what I was hearing. Did I misunderstand? Did I mishear what was just spoken to me by someone I respect? Could this possibly be considered as justification of one of the most atrocious acts known to humanity?

We were talking politics and somehow we got on the topic of slavery, as often happens when I talk about the days when America was a “Christian Nation”. The gentleman I was talking to was a pastor and very intelligent man, seemingly well versed in his politics.

But what he said was utterly shocking. He talked about the bright side of slavery and how it may have actually worked out to be a great benefit to Africans. He spoke of a young slave girl named Phillis Wheatley (slave name) who was bought off the auction block in order to care for someone’s ailing mother (having been stolen from her own). Phillis was treated well as far as comparison goes. She was taught to read and write, and became a great poet, writing patriotic verse. She even got to meet with George Washington.

Here is an excerpt from one of her poems:

‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Savior too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic die.”
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.

The argument was that since blacks were introduced to Christianity, their predicament actually was for the better. If they were left in Africa, they would not have had such a great opportunity.

Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Presidential CampCain and the Boston Massacre

The other day I was asked a trivia question by someone who happened upon it in a magazine: “How many people were killed in the Boston Massacre?” I knew there were ridiculously few, so I answered “eight”. “No, five” the person replied.

I didn’t think much of it at the time. It’s one of those interesting facts that most of us don’t know. Yet it is extremely relevant for today. Why? Well, let’s discuss a little American history.

British Parliament placed a tax on imported products such as glass, lead, paints, paper, and tea. Samuel Adams (the person not the beer) protested and called for a boycott against the new tax. The British government sent soldiers to Boston in order to collect the tax. A riot broke out and five colonists were killed. Yet Adams wanted the American’s to become enraged and retaliate. Since what happened was unremarkable in-and-of itself, he dubbed the conflict “The Boston Massacre” in order exaggerate the event and inflame anti-British sentiments.

…It worked.

Now back to the year 2008 and the presidential campaign. I am greatly disturbed by the white Evangelical response to the smear campaigning that is going on. Stories made up of half-truths are being spun in order to induce fear and by far it is the Christians who are consuming the lies in one swallow. Christians are telling me how they are afraid. They insist that Obama is an “admitted Muslim” who was planted in order to overthrow our country. Some have even told me they believe that if he wins then he must be the anti-Christ. This wasn’t a joke or exaggeration.

Friends, there was a riot in Boston, but there was no massacre. Samuel Adams was a politician with an agenda. When the truth couldn’t evoke enough fear or anger, then suggestive word associations would fuel the flames of fear and anger.

Christians have an obligation to seek out the truth and to refrain from gossip and false accusations. While I don’t believe these brothers and sisters intend to “lie” they also don’t intend to be sure of the truth.

When CNN and the Huffington Post cited Palin as having cut funding to special needs kids I was upset as well. These were reputable sources, not financed by campaign money or fwd: by email. I slipped and mentioned it to someone before waiting a couple of days to check the facts. I was so embarrassed when I found out it wasn’t true. I wrote a letter of apology to the person even though they didn’t know I was wrong.

Christians, we ought to be embarrassed by our behavior. We are being bamboozled by a political campaign and used as pawns in a game we are sure to lose if we allow ourselves to be played like this.

How many times did they falsely accuse our Lord and spin half-truths before the crowd started yelling "crucify him"?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Guest Post: Acceptable Racism?

Editor's note: Campbell Brown anchors CNN's "Campbell Brown: Election Center" at 8 p.m. ET Mondays through Fridays. She delivered this commentary during the "Cutting through the Bull" segment of Monday night's broadcast.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- You may find it hard to believe that this remains an issue in this campaign, but it does.

Campbell Brown says it's on the record that Sen. Barack Obama is a Christian, but why should that matter?

Campbell Brown says it's on the record that Sen. Barack Obama is a Christian, but why should that matter?

The candidates, both candidates, are still getting questions about Barack Obama's ethnicity and religion. If you are even semi-informed, then by now you already know that of course, Barack Obama is an American.

Of course, Barack Obama is a Christian. Yet just a few days ago, there was a woman at a rally for John McCain incorrectly calling Obama an Arab:

Woman at rally: I don't trust Obama. I have read about him and he's an Arab.

Sen. John McCain: No ma'am, no ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. That's what this campaign is all about. He's not, thank you.

Now, I commend Sen. McCain for correcting that woman, for setting the record straight. But I do have one question -- so what if he was?

So what if Obama was Arab or Muslim? So what if John McCain was Arab or Muslim? Would it matter?

When did that become a disqualifier for higher office in our country? When did Arab and Muslim become dirty words? The equivalent of dishonorable or radical?

Whenever this gets raised, the implication is that there is something wrong with being an Arab-American or a Muslim. And the media is complicit here, too. Video Watch Campbell's commentary »

We've all been too quick to accept the idea that calling someone Muslim is a slur.

I feel like I am stating the obvious here, but apparently it needs to be said: There is a difference between radical Muslims who support jihad against America and Muslims who want to practice their religion freely and have normal lives like anyone else.

There are more than 1.2 million Arab-Americans and about 7 million Muslim-Americans, former Cabinet secretaries, members of Congress, successful business people, normal average Americans from all walks of life.

These are the people being maligned here, and we can only imagine how this conversation plays in the Muslim world. We can't tolerate this ignorance -- not in the media, not on the campaign trail.

Of course, he's not an Arab. Of course, he's not a Muslim. But honestly, it shouldn't matter.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Columbus Day

i always think it's appropriate to give a salute to our heroes. So a standing O for Christopher Columbus who in 1492 sailed the ocean blue. He arrived in the new land which held the hope of liberty and freedom.

That is if you weren't an Indian. What is an Indian? That is what Chris called the Native American's when he thought he had landed in the Indies.

The first Indians Columbus encountered were the Arawaks. This is what he had to say about the first encounter as recorded in his journal:

"They...brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned.... They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features... They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane.... They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."

And that's what they did. They enslaved this and other "Indian" tribes. Some they used as slaves on their own land and others they packed into boats and shipped back to the homeland.

"As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts."

What information could Columbus have wanted? The location of gold. That's what he came to find. Gold and slaves.

Columbus reported to the Court in Madrid that the Indians "are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone..." He concluded his report by asking for a little help from their Majesties, and in return he would bring them from his next voyage "as much gold as they need...and as many slaves as they ask."

He was a devote Christian man full of praise to the Lord:
"Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold."

Salute: Christopher Columbus, an American Hero

(A People's History of the United States 1492 - Present by Howard Zinn)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Political Correctness

i really respected McCain's recent responses to his supporters who are demonizing Obama. Though his campaign may be part of the reason for the demonizing. The statements in this video are all too familiar upon the lips of Evangelical Christians and i am glad that McCain is being reasonable and now helping us to act and think in a civil manner. Sometimes when we try so hard to fight what we think is the devil, we find ourselves being his pawns.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Give us this day our daily Bread

i must admit, Christianity is very diverse, and as frustrating as this is for the Christian, it must sound ridiculous to those who can't bring themselves to "believe". The question for many is not whether to believe or not believe, but "what to believe".

Election season of course brings out sharp contrasts in faith. For instance, i had to laugh when i looked across the table tonight at a church meeting to see an older woman wearing an Obama pin with "Victory" on it. Sitting on the side of her was a woman who's home i just visited today. She had a signed McCain/Palin picture taped to her outside door for all visitors to see on the way in. She believes Palin was hand picked by God and that a Republican win this election year is a Christian win. Both of these ladies are marvelous people. i had to laugh, but i remained silent about my observation.

Then, in our community preaching bible study we discussed the Lord's prayer. This time we focused on "Give us this day our daily bread". We talked about how it is not "my" daily bread but "our" daily bread. That when we have an abundance, we are responsible to redistribute to the part of "us" that does not have enough. We talked about how "daily bread" is simply what we need for "today" and not excess and prosperity. Those things may be nice, but they are not essential in God's eyes. Finally, i suggested that this verse does not guarantee us enough to eat, or shelter, or anything concerning this temporal world. Many who believe have starved, suffered at the hands of others, and died early deaths. Our needs run deeper than physical sustenance. Jesus himself said, "Man does not live on bread alone".

Finally, i quoted Gandhi in saying, "God has provided enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed". It is the idea that when a child starves to death it is not because God failed to provide, but because humanity failed to properly distribute. There is suffering and death and much of it is due to our unwillingness to care for others. It is the unwillingness to accept that it is "our daily bread" and not "my daily bread".

Then i was challenged by someone with a different theological view. Sometimes i'm o.k with this. Other times i find it utterly frustrating. The view was that even people in 3rd world countries would be provided what they need if they had enough faith to believe God for it.

i truly like this person, but i was angry. i wanted to erupt. i was angry at all those who promulgate this message. i wanted to see God's wrath fall down upon "those false teachers" who trick such good people into believing such things. But instead i calmly replied that i didn't necessarily agree with that because the New Testament shows all the apostles and many believers suffering, even to the point of death. Paul himself declared that many times he'd gone hungry and been close to death, and other times he's had plenty, but learned to be content in both situations.

i tiptoed. i had to because i've got to respect other people's interpretations and beliefs. i've got to admit that maybe i'm not completely right and maybe i'm even wrong.
Yes, sometimes Christian belief is very frustrating indeed.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Guest Post: Where is our hope?

Filed under: Public Issues — Scot McKnight @ 12:30 am

This was published in my monthly column on the Out of Ur blog.

Somewhere between 6pm and 8pm, Central Time, on November 4th, 2008, the eschatology of American evangelicals will become clear. If John McCain wins and the evangelical becomes delirious or confident that the Golden Days are about to arrive, that evangelical has an eschatology of politics. Or, alternatively, if Barack Obama wins and the evangelical becomes delirious or confident that the Golden Days are about to arrive, that evangelical too has an eschatology of politics. Or, we could turn each around, if a more Democrat oriented evangelical becomes depressed and hopeless because McCain wins, or if a Republican oriented evangelical becomes depressed or hopeless because Obama wins, those evangelicals are caught in an empire-shaped eschatology of politics.

Where is our hope? To be sure, I hope our country solves its international conflicts and I hope we resolve poverty and dissolve our educational problems and racism. But where does my hope turn when I think of war or poverty or education or racism? Does it focus on November 4? Does it gain its energy from thinking that if we get the right candidate elected our problems will be dissolved? If so, I submit that our eschatology has become empire-shaped, Constantinian, and political. And it doesn’t matter to me if it is a right-wing evangelical wringing her fingers in hope that a Republican wins, or a left-wing evangelical wringing her fingers in hope that a Democrat wins. Each has a misguided eschatology.

Now before I take another step, it must be emphasized that I participate in the election; and I think it makes a difference which candidate wins; and I think from my own limited perspective one candidate is better than the other.

But, participation in the federal election dare not be seen as the lever that turns the eschatological designs God has for this world. Where is our hope? November 4 may tell us. What I hope it reveals is that:

Our hope is in God. The great South African missiologist, David Bosch, in his book Transforming Mission impressed upon many of us that the church’s mission is not in fact the “church’s” mission but God’s mission. Our calling is to participate in the missio Dei, the mission of God in this world. So, at election time we can use the season to re-align our mission with the mission of God. Therein lies our hope.

Our hope is in the gospel of God. God’s mission is gospel-shaped. Some today want to reduce gospel to what we find in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, while others want to expand it to bigger proportions (and I’m one of the latter), we would do well at election time to re-align ourselves once again with the gospel as God’s good news for our world. Therein lies our hope.

Our hope is in the gospel of God that creates God’s people. God’s gospel-shaped mission creates a new people of God. In fact, the temptation of good Protestants to skip from Genesis 3 (the Fall) to Romans 3 (salvation) must be resisted consciously. We need to soak up how God’s gospel-shaped work always and forever creates a gospel people. The first thing God does with Abraham is to form a covenant people, Israel, and Jesus’ favorite word was “kingdom,” and Paul was a church-obsessed theologian-missionary. Herein lies the challenge at election time. We are tempted to divide the USA into the good and the bad and to forget that the gospel has folks on both sides of political lines. Even more: we are tempted to think that the winners of the election are those who are blessed by God when the blessing of God is on God’s people. God’s gospel-powered mission creates a new people, the church, where we are to see God’s mission at work. Therein lies our hope.

Our hope is in the gospel of God that creates a kind of people that extends God’s gospel to the world. Chris Wright’s big book, The Mission of God, reminds us that election is missional: God creates the people of God not so the people of God can compare themselves to those who are not God’s people, but so that God’s people will become a priesthood in this world to mediate the mission of God, so that all hear the good news that God’s grace is the way forward.

Our hope is in God’s mission in this world, and that mission transcends what happens November 4th.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Date with Death

Well, it's official. i will die on August 2, 2025. If i weren't so pessimistic i could add another 25 years to my life. But how boring those years would be!!!

Want to know when you're going to die? Check out the death clock.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Why i Stopped Killing People

i recognize that Muslim extremists are a real threat to democracy and freedom. i realize that "doing nothing" could lead to the end of the way of life as i know it (or want it). i know what seems to be reasonable and rational. Yet, as a Christian i feel i have no choice but to depart from the ideology of "kill or be killed".

When what seems to be reasonable or rational places me in contradiction to the teachings of Christ, i must make a choice. Yes, the Scriptures tell us to adhere to our government. Yet this is only in as much as what they require is lawful and not contradictory to what God requires of me. When the law of the land departs from the teaching of Christ, i must depart from the law of the land.

The Christian war cry rises up along side the average American citizen. There is no difference between the citizen of the Kingdom of God and the citizen of the kingdom of the world. We take up our arms and fight along side one another for "freedom", "liberty" and "democracy". We fight to maintain the kingdoms of this world and to preserve "our way". Yet the cry of Jesus from the cross is one that calls us to lay down our arms. It calls out forgiveness upon our enemy even as they plunge their sword into our side. It does not fight to maintain the ideals of this world, and refuses to use force, violence, or coercion to advance the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the only Kingdom the Christian is called to take a stand for, and only through the use of the weapons the Lord has given us.

To love our enemy.
To bless those who curse us.
To do good to those who harm us.
To forgive even as we have been forgiven.

And so we pray as the Lord has taught us:

Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Forgive us our sins,
as we also forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into testing,
but deliver us from the evil one.

Could it be that the evil one tempts us to follow our own logic and reasoning? Would he dare test us by telling us to look for ourselves and determine what is good and pleasing to the eye (or mind).

When the government, or patriotic Christian brother comes a knocking and asks you to pay tribute to the emperor, what will you say? When he speaks to you of your duty and obligation for your country and the need to protect the kingdom, what will you do? When he tells you that it is a shame but you must choose the lesser of two evils and take up sword against your enemy, how will you respond? When he tries to convince you that your theology is unrealistic and idealistic, what will you think? When he reminds you that we are not Christ and therefore cannot respond as he did, nor should we, what will you believe?

Christian, you must come out of the world and stop fighting for its' causes, and instead take up the cause of Christ. If his kingdom were of this world then his angels would fight to protect it. Yet he has shown us another Kingdom, another way, another response to terror.

And though a friend might die for another friend, Christ died for us while we were yet his enemies. Be perfect (whole) therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and his rain to fall on the righteous and unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward do you deserve? Even Muslim terrorists do that. "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven."

This is the Christian response to terrorism, hate, and persecution. Anyone who tells you different finds themselves teaching contradictory to Christ himself. The quote above is from Matthew's Gospel, written to Jewish Christians who were suffering persecution. It was a manual on how the Christian is to respond to those who hate, abuse, and kill them. You will find no other teaching under the New Covenant. Should we teach or even accept some other way?

Who might have the boldness of Joshua, who in the face of national pressure to conform to their reasoning and logic would say:

"Choose you this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord."

(This post was inspired by watching CNN's documentary "Obsession" which was given to me by a Christian very concerned about what we have to do to stop terrorists from infringing upon our freedom. Get your free copy by following the link above.)