Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year - New World

As we move into the new year i hope to hear a new anthem sounding among Christianity. May we move in our theology and practice toward a vision of a new world.

Jesus teaches us to pray that his kingdom would come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. He teaches us to live toward a world which works to establish justice for the least and the weakest. He declares a kingdom, which he will establish, upon which he will rule, here on earth. His kingdom will be defined by peace.

The Scriptures say that Christ died for the sins of the world (for all that tore us and this world apart). That his plan will include a new creation, which will be a new earth and heavens (universe). All that is good and worthwhile of the old creation will be incorporated into the new, while all that is useless and destructive will be no more.

His desire is to restore all things. All humanity. All creation. To make one people of every tribe, tongue, and nation. To make one anthem resound throughout the world.

In this new year may we embrace Christ's new kingdom, putting off visions of some distant and ethereal paradise, and embracing His vision for a New Earth and a redeemed people. Instead of the voice of exclusion, may we embrace his radical inclusiveness, which seeks to redeem all people and all things. Rather than speaking in terms of "us and them" might we take hold of the biblical teaching that we were all made in the image of God and are all loved by God, from the least to the greatest, for with God they are all the same.

["Christians Wrong About Heaven" Time interview with Bishop NT Wright]

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Truly Living

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
–Mahatma Gandhi

Advent Week 4: Mary's Song

“My soul glorifies the Lord
 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.”
Luke 1:46-55

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Border Walls Keep Out Mary and Baby

by Maryada Vallet 12-18-2008

She walks the trails until her ankles swell and her back pulsates with pain. Her abdomen, swollen with eight months of pregnancy, slows her down, and with each step she cannot help but think, “Will I be left in the middle of nowhere to give birth among the dirt and desert pines? Does anyone out there care to take me in, give me shelter?

Similar questions were certainly asked by Mary, the brave young woman who carried Jesus across borders trying to please the mandates of the Roman Empire. Only this time, “Mary” does not have a partner or a donkey to help, and there definitely is no pleasing the empire.

After two days of searching and wandering, someone does hear her cry, but instead of giving her shelter, warmth, and hospitality, she is thrown into a cold detention center without medical attention, food, or water, and she is told, in no uncertain terms, “at the United States border, there is no room at the inn.”

This “Mary,” or Maria, pleads and cries as she is released back to the other side of a borderline, dumped into the violent and vulnerable streets of Northern Mexico. That’s where, as a No More Deaths humanitarian volunteer, our lives recently connected and my season of Advent came to life. Maria asks me how it is possible that there is no room on the other side, when in comparison to the desperate and poor conditions of Oaxaca, the land to the north is like a five-star hotel. Even more, she wonders, how it can be that there is no room when she has already spent years laboring in U.S. factories and chicken slaughterhouses? Indeed, the situation is even more complex as Maria thinks about her other children, two little boys — American citizens, waiting for her with anticipation and grief to return to their home in a Midwest city.

With every day that passes, Mary is closer to her due date, which could possibly be Christmas. It appears as though she has no other choice but to give birth on Christmas day in a humble stable, far from all family and friends. More than likely, poor shepherds and neighbors who have heard the news will visit her and the new baby. This stable sits juxtaposed to great power, wealth, and large walls.

As we sing carols, look at lights, and admire the miniature nativity scenes adorning our homes this holiday, let us not forget the most foundational elements of the Christmas story and how they come to life in our lives even today. All around us are strangers wandering the land looking for an open door and asking for compassion and justice — not detainment or criminal status. May we not miss our chance to welcome them, as they have much to bring and to teach. In fact, they are the hope for our future that comes to us humble and expectant. Not unlike the baby Jesus.

Maryada Vallet works with No More Deaths, a humanitarian initiative on the U.S.-Mexico border that promotes faith-based principles for immigration reform.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A New World Order

Just the mention of the phrase raises resistance in the heart of most Christians. When i wanted to put the World Flag in the chapel i was told that it is the Devil who wants to establish a new world order.

i realized soon enough that most of Evangelical Christianity does not want to wage peace. They prefer a world that is torn, because their interpretation of the Bible tells them that a world that is united is of the Devil.

"Don't pray for world peace" one Christian told me "That will be the beginning of then end."

Isaiah 9:6 boldly declares "For to us a child is born. He will be called 'Prince of Peace'". Yet we Christians cling to war and turmoil as though it were a security blanket. So long as everything in the world is all wrong, we know things are all right.

"Blessed are the peace makers, for they will be called 'children of God'." Mt 5

i don't know where this violent theology came from, but i'm guessing it's a misapplication of a misinterpretation based on the book of Revelation.

To work toward world peace is always in line with God's will. He himself will establish a one world kingdom that is characterized by peace. The devil at best works towards the illusion of peace, while Christ works toward the reality of peace. This is the difference.

Please, don't be afraid to wage peace!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Us and Them

CNN had a good article recently concerning how ordinary people find themselves taking part in such heinous acts as mass genocide. The key is to build an "Us vs. Them" mentality, and to make the "Them" into something less than human.

Most people also have an innate sense of justice. Therefore in order to commit great atrocities they must also come to believe that the "other" is receiving their due penalty. Their just reward, if you will.

i've been troubled by language i've heard used by Christians concerning this "war against terror". The mentality is that the people we are fighting are "evil" ("them"). We therefore are "good". Of course our humility runs too deep to blatantly say we are "good", so let's leave that as "implied".

Jesus' teaching on this is difficult. Can human beings be "evil"? In one instance Jesus says, "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Mt 7:11.

In another place Paul clearly says that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Eph 6:12.

So if there are evil people then we ought to greet them as brothers and sisters, since we are all evil in some way, according to Jesus. But you know, consider the source.

At the very least, we've all been influenced by evil. Yet Paul says we do not wrestle against flesh and blood (a.k.a other humans), but against spiritual forces of evil. Spiritual forces in this instance being something other than human.

Therefore, to launch an attack against human beings with the justification that we are fighting evil may sound rather virtuous, but it is clearly not Christian.

If by "evil" Christians mean "sinners" then i agree. Yet i believe the New Covenant gives us a non-violent alternative to dealing with "sinners". In the words of Tori Amos, "Why do we crucify ourselves?" Surely Jesus never thought we'd be so unsatisfied with his atonement for the world's sin that we would start crucifying others for their sins against us. You can almost here Jesus say, "Is nothing I do good enough for you?"

A final word:
Be careful where you thrust your sword, lest you pierce the heart of Christ.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Modern Existentialism

Existentialism is my philosophy of choice, hence my child's name "Søren" after "Søren Kierkegaard" the "Father of Existentialism". My second philosophy of choice is the GPS unit. If you need direction in your life this divine little guide is sure to help. Karla and i will be getting a GPS unit this Christmas as our gift to one another. Knowing this, someone sent us this comic strip: