Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
In my 12/13 journal entry I was not meaning to suggest that absolutes don't exist. I believe that they do - however, we never encounter absolutes in an absolute way. And our personal knowledge (see Polanyi) of the Absolute can never be communicated absolutely.
As such, absolutes don't exist inherently in any text, (Scripture, my life, nature, etc) - including what I write here. The words that you read point to a reality (if you will) that is beyond the screen, beyond the page. There is no "magical hermeneutical system" that will unlock the capital "T" Truth that is hidden within the page.
Any encounter of the Absolute is a relational encounter and cannot be reduced to any propositional or narrative form. By nature the Absolute must be occasional and unique to the time/place/relationship/person/community.
This is why following Christ is a relational/communal/faith journey. The Holy Spirit guides all toward Truth - Truth as a person. To hold to the Absolute is to look beyond self and beyond all systems of belief to Christ alone.
To hold externals as absolutes may in fact signal a weakness of faith and a desire to conquer our doubts and fears within systems of our own making.
The issue is not can I know what truth is, as much as the issue is, can I/we trust God to make Himself known and to guide us to Himself.
Update: Better add this:
Moral relativism is the highest from of morality that exists for Christians. If you are
Christ's (whatever that means) and God's Spirit is leading you to deny self, love God and
others, than morality as a legal system is obsolete.
We choose law, because we're afraid to embrace the freedom (relativism) that Christ
invites us to. Religion has always been about law, and will always be about law. Christ
fulfilled but we don't trust Him enough to live the reality of freedom that he longs to give.
It seems to me that we cannot change the way we read Scripture and keep the same
definition of sin. A bipolar Christianity would seem to be inevitable. (Dec.12, 2003)
Update: Yeah. ok, I am really liking this guy.
...Back to the point there is no doubt that how we understand the "fall" or what I might call the "emergence of humanity," has a direct impact on our understanding of the Gospel. Many of the NT passages so appropriately cited stress God's hatred for sin while imagining a life of followership. Is this not what we do with our kids all the time. When they are young, we give them clear rules, (maybe even 10 of them, call them commandments if you will), this are basic, they are written on heart of every child, be still we speak them. And Still our kids break them. As they grow, our emphasis on commands shift and we focus more and more on the heart, we stress love of God and love of fellow persons, and our discipline changes. The goal is never obedience though their obedience reveals their love. The goal is reciprocity. Aiding our children to develop into humans who can deny self in favor of loving others, including us.
The sin of our children is not our enemy. Sin is an unwitting participant in the training of children who can love. (Oct.3,2003)
Thursday, December 18, 2003
In recent years a French philosopher and anthropologist named Rene Girard has explored that very question, explored it so deeply, in fact, that to the consternation of his secular colleagues he converted to Christianity. It struck Girard that Jesus' story cuts against the grain of every heroic story from its time. The myths from Babylon, Greece, and elsewhere celebrated strong heroes, not weak victims. In contrast, from the very beginning Jesus took the side of the underdog: the poor, the oppressed, the sick, the "marginalized." Indeed, Jesus chose to be born in poverty and disgrace, spent his infancy as a refugee, lived in a minority race under a harsh regime, and died as a prisoner, unjustly accused.
Jesus admired people like a Roman soldier who cared for his dying slave; a tax collector who gave away his fortune to the poor; a member of a minority race who stopped to help a man accosted by thieves; a sinner who prayed a simple "Help!" prayer; a shamed woman who reached out in desperation to touch his clothing; a beggar who ate crumbs from a rich man's table. He disapproved of religious professionals who refused to help the wounded for fear of soiling themselves; a proud clergymen who looked down on sinners; the rich who offered only crumbs to the hungry; a responsible son who shunned his prodigal brother; the powerful who lived on the backs of the poor.
When Jesus himself died ignominiously as an innocent victim it introduced what one of Girard's disciples has called "the most sweeping historical revolution in die world, namely, the emergence of an empathy for victims." Nowhere but in the Bible can you find an ancient story of an innocent yet heroic victim dragged to his death. To the ancients, heroes were heroic and victims were pitiable.
According to Girard, societies have traditionally reinforced their power through "sacred violence." The larger group (say, German Nazis or Serbian nationalists) picks a scapegoat minority to direct its self-righteous violence against, which in turn bonds and emboldens the majority. The Jewish and Roman powers tried that technique against Jesus and it backfired. Instead, the cross shattered the longstanding categories of weak victims and strong heroes, for the victim emerged as the hero.
The apostle Paul touched on a deep truth about Jesus' paradoxical contribution in his claim to the Colossians. A public spectacle it was when Jesus exposed as false gods the very powers and authorities that men and women take such pride in. The most refined religion of the day accused an innocent man, and the most renowned justice system carried out the sentence.
As one of Flannery O'Connor's Soudiern characters commented, "Jesus throws everything off balance." The gospel centered on the cross ushered in a stunning reversal of values that went on to affect the entire world. Today the victim occupies the moral high ground: witness recent Nobel Peace Prizes awarded to a black South African clergyman, a Polish union leader, a Holocaust survivor, a Guatemalan peasant woman, a bishop in persecuted East Timor. That the world honors and cares for the marginalized and disenfranchised, concluded Girard, is a direct result of the cross of Jesus Christ.
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Friday, December 12, 2003
Monday, December 08, 2003
As the year 2002 drew to a close, Washington was teaching an ugly lesson to the world: if you want to defend yourself from us, you had better mimic North Korea and pose a credible military threat, in this case, conventional: artillery aimed at Seoul and at US troops near the DMZ. We will enthusiastically march on to attack Iraq, because we know that it is devastated and defenseless; but North Korea, though an even worse tyranny and vastly more dangerous, is not an appropriate target as long as it can cause plenty of harm. The lesson could hardly be more vivid… (p. 38)
...As these few examples illustrate, even the harshest and most shameful measures are regularly accompanied by profession of noble intent. An honest look would only generalize Thomas Jefferson's observation on the world situation of his day:
We believe no more in Bonaparte's fighting merely for the liberties of the seas, than in Great Britain's fighting for the liberties of mankind. The object is the same, to draw to themselves the power, the wealth, and the resources of other nations. (p. 48)
Today I was reading the Japan Times, a mainstream English-language newspaper here, and I came across an article about the current situation in Uzbekistan. Here is an exerpt, but read the whole thing.
"You will have to make up your own mind," the hotel receptionist said when I asked her why only a few people were allowed to share in the National Day celebrations with the president and his family.
After a month in Uzbekistan I was able to make up my mind. Uzbekistan is potentially a reasonably rich country, with oil and gas, gold and other metals and extensive high-quality cotton production. The benefits of these resources are, however, restricted to just a few families that support the exploitative economic mechanism established and maintained by the president and his cronies...
...The mass opposition is kept under control by fear. Apart from one or two groups of friends of the leaders, there is no nongovernment organization in Uzbekistan and no political parties except those that support the government. The legal system and enforcement agencies, including the military, are part of the regime that exploits the country. They depend on the survival of the regime for their own survival.
There is another difference between Georgia and Uzbekistan that makes revolution unlikely in the latter. This is that, while the United States is withdrawing its support for the Shevardnadze regime, reducing aid and putting pressure on him to allow fair elections, in Uzbekistan the U.S. is increasing its economic support for the regime and does not put any pressure on it to reduce its exploitation or to allow its people democratic freedoms. It makes no mention of fair elections...
...As long as the government is supported by the U.S., as many other brutal dictatorships have been supported, there is no prospect of such justified and disenfranchised dissent turning into a successful revolution.
Chomsky echoes this:
...Saddam was not the only monster who won the acclaim of the current incumbents. Among others were Ferdinand Marcos, "Baby Doc" Duvalier, and Nicolae Ceausescu; all were overthrown from within, despite strong US support until their fate was sealed. Other favorites included Indonesia's President Suharto, who competed with Saddam in barbarism. The first head of state honored with a visit to Bush the elder's White House was Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, another high-ranking killer, torturer, and plunderer. The South Korean dictators also received Washington's strong support until US-backed military rule was finally overthrown in 1987 by popular movements. Even minor thugs could be assured of a warm welcome as long as they were performing their function. Secretary of State Shultz was so enamored of Manuel Noriega that he flew to Panama to congratulate him after he had stolen an election by fraud and violence, praising the gangster for "initiating the process of democracy." Later Noriega lost his usefulness in the contra war and other enterprises, and was transferred to the category of "evil"- although, like Saddam, his worst crimes were behind him. (p. 112)
... Also at least partially familiar is the long-standing support of the present incumbents for Saddam Hussein, often attributed to obsession with Iran. That policy continued without change after Iran's capitulation in the Iran-Iraq war, because of "our duty to support U.S. exporters," the State Department explained in early 1990 - adding the usual boilerplate about how aiding Saddam would improve human rights, regional stability, and peace. In October 1989, long after the war with Iran was over and more than a year after Saddam's gassing of the Kurds, President Bush I issued a national security directive declaring that "normal relations between the United States and Iraq would serve our longer-term interests and promote stability in both the Gulf and the Middle East." (p. 111)
... In December 2002, Jack Straw, then foreign minister, released a dossier of Saddam's crimes. It was drawn almost entirely from the period of firm US-UK support, a fact overlooked with the usual display of moral integrity. (p. 130)
It's the hypocrisy that Chomsky can't stomach. It is not so much that a powerful nation is using its power to, often brutally, protect and advance its interests - that is pretty much the story of history. It is that this particular nation so excessively uses the language of truth and justice, and then mocks these words by its actions. Chomsky takes the role of a sort of secular prophet, a small and obnoxious, yet incessant voice revealing truths that we, in our comfort and plenty, tend to want to ignore. He reminds the powers that their main thrust is not altruistic as they preach it, but self-interested.
And even if half of what he says is true, we should be bugged; at the very least strengthened in our skepticism toward governments and political systems that pretend they share the same goals and dreams as Christ. For me, Chomsky is helpful in making my allegiances clearer.
Anyway, let's get down to some of the meat. He spends a lot of time discussing recent history, and delves into the Kennedy administration in light of some of the discovery's that are emerging from recently declassified documents. In building his case on America's incredible double standard in regards to "international terrorism" he mentions the discussions of the Kennedy administration regarding Cuba:
...After the [Cuban Missile] crisis ended, Kennedy renewed the terrorist campaign. Ten days before his assassination he approved a CIA plan for "destruction operations" by US proxy forces "against a large oil refinery and storage facilities, a large electric plant, sugar refineries, railroad bridges, harbor facilities, and underwater demolition of docks and ships." A plot to kill Castro was initiated on the day of the Kennedy assassination. The campaign was called off in 1965, but "one of Nixon's first acts in office in 1969 was to direct the CIA to intensify covert operations against Cuba."
Of particular interest are the perceptions of the planners. In his review of recently released documents on Kennedy-era terror, Dominguez observes that "only once in these nearly thousand pages of documentation did a U.S. official raise something that resembled a faint moral objection to U.S.-government sponsored terrorism": a member of the NSC staff suggested that it might lead to some Russian reaction, and raids that are "haphazard and kill innocents... might mean a bad press in some friendly countries." The same attitudes prevail throughout the internal discussions, as when Robert Kennedy warned that a full-scale invasion of Cuba would "kill an awful lot of people, and we're going to take an awful lot of heat on it." (p. 85)
One might wonder to what degree our first world lifestyles are lived out on the backs of the third world. Chomsky contends that just such a situation exists and is far more than just an temporary consequence of the free market - it is foreign policy:
...These patterns have not been restricted to the domains of the Monroe Doctrine. To take one of many examples from other parts of the world, while Washington was facilitating the "democratic rebellion" in Brazil and seeking to overcome Cuba's efforts to "take matters into its own hands," elder statesman Ellsworth Bunker was sent to Indonesia to investigate troubling conditions there. He informed Washington that "the avowed Indonesian objective is 'to stand on their own feet' in developing their economy, free from foreign, especially Western, influence." A National Intelligence Estimate in September 1965 warned that if the efforts of the mass-based PKI "to energize and unite the Indonesian nation . . . succeeded, Indonesia would provide a powerful example for the underdeveloped world and hence a credit to communism and a setback for Western prestige." That threat was overcome a few weeks later by a mass slaughter in Indonesia and then the installation of the Suharto dictatorship. From the 1950s, fear of independence and excessive democracy—permitting a popular party of the poor to participate in the electoral arena—had been driving factors in Washington's exercises of subversion and violence, much as in Latin America... (p. 93)
Chomsky's reporting of the history of Reagan's contravention in Latin America is gut-wrenching. And it is not like this is hidden stuff, this isn't conpiracy theory history. It's not hard to find, but, like the gay cousin in a Mennonite family, we tend to not want to talk about it much. He talks about the School of the Americas (based in Florida, I think):
...The famous School of the Americas, which trains Latin American officers to carry out their missions, proudly announces as one of its "talking points" that the US Army helped to "defeat liberation theology," the heresy to which the Latin American Church succumbed when it adopted "the preferential option for the poor" and was made to suffer its own "terrors of the earth" for this departure from good order. Symbolically, the grim decade of Reagan-Bush I terror was opened, shortly before they took office, by the assassination of a conservative Salvadoran archbishop who had become a "voice for the voiceless," with thinly veiled complicity of the US-backed security forces; and the decade closed with the murder of six Jesuit Salvadoran intellectuals whose brains were blown out, and their housekeeper and her daughter murdered, by an elite Washington-armed-and-trained battalion that had already compile, a record of bloody atrocities.
The significance of these events in Western culture is illustrated by the fact that the work of these troublesome priests is unread and their names unknown... (p. 91)
Sunday, December 07, 2003
"If 'to become a Christian' means to receive the real, objective Christ, then the only way to be saved is to become a Christian. But nothing in Scripture proves that Socrates was not a Christian in this sense. If on the other hand 'to become a Christian' means to knowingly profess the orthodox faith in Christ, then you do not need to be a Christian to be saved, or else Abraham is unsaved, and so are all who believe orthodox ideas. How unorthodox do your ideas have to be in order to send you to hell? Where is the dividing line? Does God give you a theology exam?"
via Jeremy Olson
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Most of my friends know that I hate talking on the phone, and I regularly leave calls for the answering machine, or just send an email. Well, that gets all the more dangerous when you are walking around in public areas with a cell phone in your pocket.
A friend of mine told me a great story this week. He was sitting on a bench in downtown Nagoya when one of his co-worker friends went walking by. He thought it would be funny to give him a call and then walk up behind him as they are talking (yeah, can you see it coming...). So he makes the call and gets burned as his friend takes out his phone, looks at the call display, sighs deeply, and then puts the phone back in his pocket and walks on. My flabbergasted friend couldn't think of anything to do other than immediately send the guy a phone mail saying "I saw that". The next time he saw him, the guy apologized profusely, but jeez, damage done.
It made me nervous because I have done that same thing SO MANY TIMES!! But I will be checking over my shoulder the next time I do it in public...
Sunday, November 30, 2003
The Iraqis had very complex feeling about their 'liberators'. He spoke with a mother who was in the hospital with her 2 daughters and 3 sons who had all been wounded by shrapnel. She was holding a photograph of her 3 year old daughter who had already died, crying.
"I was there asking her questions and she looked at me and she said 'I know what you're doing, you want people where ever you come from to cry, but they don't care, they're not going to cry.' And I just looked at her and I thought you're right, they're not going to cry."
PATRICK GRAHAM, FREELANCE REPORTER from CBC'S Uncensored Stories of the War
Friday, November 28, 2003
"Folks, the world knows what this is supposed to look like. Years ago in New York City, I got into a taxi cab with an Iranian taxi driver, who could hardly speak English. I tried to explain to him where I wanted to go, and as he was pulling his car out of the parking place, he almost got hit by a van that on its side had a sign reading The Pentecostal Church. He got real upset and said, "That guy's drunk." I said, "No, he's a Pentecostal. Drunk in the spirit, maybe, but not with wine." He asked, "Do you know about church?" I said, "Well, I know a little bit about it; what do you know?" It was a long trip from one end of Manhattan to the other, and all the way down he told me one horror story after another that he'd heard about the church. He knew about the pastor that ran off with the choir master's wife, the couple that had burned the church down and collected the insurance - every horrible thing you could imagine. We finally get to where we were going, I paid him, and as we're standing there on the landing I gave him an extra-large tip. He got a suspicious look in his eyes - he'd been around, you know. I said, "Answer me this one question." Now keep in mind, I'm planning on witnessing to him. "If there was a God and he had a church, what would it be like?" He sat there for awhile making up his mind to play or not. Finally he sighed and said, "Well, if there was a God and he had a church - they would care for the poor, heal the sick, and they wouldn't charge you money to teach you the Book." I turned around and it was like an explosion in my chest. "Oh, God." I just cried, I couldn't help it. I thought, "Oh Lord, they know. The world knows what it's supposed to be like. The only ones that don't know are the Church."
"When you joined the kingdom, you expected to be used of God. I've talked to thousands of people, and almost everybody has said, "When I signed up, I knew that caring for the poor was part of it - I just kind of got weaned off of it, because no one else was doing it." Folks, I'm not saying, "Do something heroic." I'm not saying, "Take on some high standard, sell everything you have and go." Now, if Jesus tells you that, that's different. But I'm not saying that. I'm just saying, participate. Give some portion of what you have - time, energy, money, on a regular basis - to this purpose, to redeeming people, to caring for people. Share your heart and life with somebody that's not easy to sit in the same car with. Are you hearing me? That's where you'll really see the kingdom of God."
Saturday, November 22, 2003
He talks about the weaknesses of the satisfaction theory, which has been the norm in evangelical and fundamentalist circles during the 20th century:
... These solutions to the atonement question require the essential categories of humanity and Deity, and situate them in the context of legal relationship between God and humankind. However, understanding atonement in terms of a legal construct removes it from our world or places it outside of the historical world in which we live. But it is precisely in that historical world that we discuss how to live in ways shaped by the reign of God. Stated another way, atonement defined in terms of a legal paradigm does not make use of what is learned about Jesus from the story-shaped and story based Christology sketched above...
Then he makes the point that post-Constantinian Christianity became incompatible with a theory of atonement that paid close attention to the life and teachings of Christ, so revised understandings emerged:
... The sword provides perhaps the most easily understood example of this separation of ethics and salvation. The church accepted the sword and acquiesced to the imperial army fighting in the name of Christ and under a banner bearing the cross. In doing so, the church had shifted the orientation of its ethics from Jesus to the exigencies of the social order. The functional question for ehtics was no longer "How can we live within the story of Jesus?", but "What must we do to preserve the social order?" The normative reference for ethics had shifted from Jesus, who reflected the reign of God, to the emperor, whose policy was determined by the needs of his empire. Ethics had become separated from atonement and salvation, and the atonement motifs of Anselm and Abelard fit that context. This argument is not a claim that Anselm and Abelard were unconcerned about ethics. It is rather a recognition that their atonement motifs reflect a church which came to consider the content of ethics and the characteristics of the saved life apart from the teaching and particular narrative of Jesus.
In contrast to satisfaction and moral influence theories, the historicized Christus Victor motif as sketched above anchors the discussion of atonement and salvation in the particular, historical life of Jesus. The story based Christology that also constitutes a statement of Christus Victor uses the life of Jesus as its foundational categories. To be saved means to be located within the particular narrative of Jesus and to have a life shaped by that story. This approach pays particular attention to the life Jesus lived as a human. That life reveals the character of the reign of God, which Jesus embodies.
He goes on to outline what he sees as the strengths of the Christus Victor theory:
... In opening his public ministry at Nazareth, Jesus use of Isaiah 61 poses the reign of God in social and historical terms - good news to the poor, release of the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom of the oppressed - as a contrast to the kingdoms of the world. That it is a clash of reigns is acted out in the expulsion of Jesus from Nazareth. In the course of Jesus' mission, healings, exorcisms, and nature wonders such as a miraculous catch of fish or stilling of a storm indicate the power of the rule of God over the physical and spiritual forces which enslave individuals, as well as over the created, natural order. The confrontation between the reign of God and rule of Satan reached its culmination with the crucifixion. In apparent weakness, the reign of God as present in Jesus confronted strength. Brute force killed Jesus in what appeared, momentarily, to be a triumph for the powers of evil. Three days later God raised Jesus from the dead, displaying the power of God's reign over the ultimate enemy - death. The victory of the resurrection inaugurated a new era for the reign of God in our history.
... this confrontation between church and empire constitutes the historical matrix [ooo, matrix] for the atonement called Christus Victor. This image portrays salvation as escape from the forces of evil, as being transformed by the reign of God and taking on a life shaped within the story of Jesus, who makes visible the reign of God in our history. This view of salvation understands becoming Christian (or identifying with Jesus Christ) and the discussion of ethics (or how Christians live) as two dimensions of the same question.
The language in the last quote so closely echoes Wimber's preaching on Kingdom theology, that it made me ponder a little bit about why so many of us young Mennonites were attracted to the Vineyard. Wimber, coming from a Quaker background, preached a great deal about Kingdom theology and the kingdom of light breaking into the kingdom of darkness. This motif strongly reflects the Christus Victor rendering of the atonement, where "the life of Jesus is understood as a making of the reign of God present in the historical realm". I haven't read the book yet, but do any of these atonement themes come up in Morphew's book, Breakthrough?? Anaways...
I think that to young anabaptists like myself, Wimber added to "peace" and "the poor" the more supernatural side of the confrontation with darkness in areas like healing and the prophetic. Putting them altogether, for me, was (and is) attractive for its complete attention to the life of Christ, but that sort of holistic approach seems to be a rare bird indeed.
Incidentally, the book was a good read in light of an essay I wrote some time ago on my thinking on the atonement. From what Weaver says, I suspect my thoughts were roughly a re-stating of Abelard's moral influence theory, just with more of a connection to the life of Christ perhaps.
The first Great Commandment: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind"
The second Great Commandment: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself"
Doesn't it seem weird to anyone else that Jesus was only asked by the lawyer what the greatest commandment is, not the two greatest? Here's my guess as to why he gave two answers. Jesus knew that one who loved God would naturally serve others because the two ideas are intricately linked so much that it is impossible to do one without also doing the other. The second is the fruit of the first. If someone is not doing the second, I would argue (and it would seem that Jesus is hinting at it), that the first is not being done either. Trying to do the first without doing the second is void of meaning...
Friday, November 21, 2003
...cue Twilight Zone music...
Todd Hunter in A Tale of Two Gospels
And an interview with him that I hadn't come across before.
Update: Cool! And on the same site, an email by fellow blogger Linsay Martens who tells about what he learned about "evangelism" through his visit to a mosque.
So anyway, Mitch and I were talking about ruler's and their relationship to a Christian witness. Mitch had this to say:
My view of the atonement is that Christ's mercy is for everyone, even political and military leaders who have to enforce laws and put down rebellion, even with the sword. When the Centurion came to Jesus to ask for his servant's healing, did Jesus tell him to lay down his sword and resign his office? Did Peter say this to Cornelius? Did Paul suggest this to Felix or King Agrippa?
And so my very late but still applicable response is:
Arguments from silence are a dangerous way to form the principles that drive our practice because they can lead us a long way from the things that Jesus did say very clearly. It is a risky thing to live your life according to what Jesus didn't say. We might note that Christ was also silent about Zacchaeus' life as a corrupt tax collector, but was overjoyed when Z understood the implications that Christ had on his life, and made a change. Might it have been the same with the rulers and soldiers you mention?
But while we are drawing arguments from silence, perhaps a more compelling one is that at no point does Christ (or Paul) qualify or add conditions to their words on the radical call of living out Love. At least in the case of divorce Christ says it is wrong "except for marital unfaithfulness". But when it comes to loving enemies there is no hint of "love your enemies, unless you are a ruler or a soldier, in which case this is of course impossible". It is a common argument that Paul's words on governments being instituted by God is a case of this, a place where, as the argument suggests, Paul makes service in an army just a matter of obeying the government God has put you under. But do we really dare include within that obedience to authority cases in which our government calls us to violate the teachings of Christ? According to such reasoning, a WW2 German Christian joining in on the killing of Jews would be completely off the hook, as one who was simply acting in obedience to the goverment.
Whether it is Jesus saying, "love your enemies, do good to those who hate you," or Paul saying, "for though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does," the call is universal; every believer is invited to at least try to join Christ in the impossible task of loving enemies. Is that journey more difficult for the rich and the powerful? Jesus words to the rich young ruler would seem to say yes. And maybe that is why Jesus spoke of his gospel as "good news to the poor" - because the call to give up your power and your money sure ain't good news to the rich.
So I agree, grace is for everyone, but entering in to Christ's grace has big implications on how you live your life. It has to, otherwise the life and teachings of Christ are irrelevant to how we live now, and the atonement becomes an "atonement of death", as Todd Hunter puts it, little more than a get-out-of-jail-free card.
Monday, November 17, 2003
Update: Bloody hell. The permalinks don't work. What did I do wrong??
Friday, November 14, 2003
In the wake of declining tithes and offerings, churches from coast to coast are partnering with corporate sponsors to supplement their budgets, in exchange for high profile if controversial ad placement.
Isn't the Vineyard at home doing this with KFC??
Mahatma Ghandi, the great Hindu sage, suggested that if Christ could only be unchained from the shackles of Christianity, he could become "THE WAY", not just for Christians, but for the whole world:
"The gentle figure of Christ, so patient, so kind, so loving, so full of forgiveness that he taught his followers not to retailate when struck, but to turn the other cheek - was a beautiful example, I thought, of the perfect person."
He said he thought of Christ as "a martyr, an embodiment of sacrifice", and of the cross as "a great example of Jesus' suffering", and "a factor in the composition of my underlying faith in non-violence, which rules all my actions".
"I refused to believe", he said,
"that there exists a person who has not made use of his example, even though he or she may have done so without realizing it... The lives of all who, in some greater or lesser degree, been changed by his presence... And because Jesus has the significance, and transcendency to which I have alluded, I believe he belongs not to Christianity, but to the entire world; to all people , it matters little what faith they profess."
"Leave Christians alone for the moment," he said. "I shall say to the Hindus that your lives will be incomplete unless you reverently study... Jesus. Jesus did not preach a new religion, but a new life" said Ghandi. "Jesus lived and died in vain if he did not teach us to regulate the whole of life by the eternal law of love."
This is the challenge of Christi-anarchy - to find a way to live "the whole of life", in the light of "the eternal law of love", embodied in the shining example of the person of Christ.
Thursday, November 13, 2003
I still think if we compare the different creeds we'll see that they have 80% of stuff in common and disagree on the rest. That 80% is important though and shouldn't be redefined. The rest we can pick and choose as long as we still love one another :-)
Hmmm. Actually, I didn't intend to be re-defining the creeds themselves, but what place they take in our life of faith. In fact, I can honestly say that I can agree with every point in the Apostles creed (I even went over to Rob's site to check - though you gotta admit, the bit about the holy catholic and apostolic church is a bit of a stretch for both of us;-), but I don't think that agreement is what makes me right with God, what brings salvation. So I probably don't consider "the 80%" as highly as you do. To me Christ linked salvation to a heart transformed by the kindness, compassion, and freedom that he demonstrated and taught. Believing in a creed doesn't necessarily get us there...
But as i was pointing out previously, I don't really consider this to be making a mockery of "Church" history either, as throughout history, there have been groups inside and outside of what historically has called itself the Church (from the Franciscans, to the Waldensians, to the Bogomils, to the Anabaptists) who thought this way. Codes and creeds tend to be favoured by the ones in power, but there is no reason why we should assume, again going from Christ, that the ones in power were the only ones who could legitimately be called "the Church".
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
As we move towards the centre, Christ, we can move beyond the scriptures, creeds, rights, rituals, ceremonies, and even religions that divide us. 'One, greater than the Bible, is here,' Jones says:
"We love the Bible, honour it, assimilate it, for it leads us to his feet. But the Bible is not the revelation of God. It is the inspired record of the revelation. The revelation we have seen in the face of Jesus Christ. 'You searched the scriptures, imagining you possess the eternal life in their pages - and they do testify to me - but you refuse to come to me for life' (John 5:39 - 40). Eternal life is not in the pages; it is in Christ who is uncovered through the pages."
'One, greater than the creeds, is here,' Jones says:
"The creeds attempt to fix in statements what we see in Christ. We are grateful for these attempts - grateful but not satified. A fixed creed becomes a false creed. Christ is ever beyond us calling us to new meanings. Hence our creeds must be eternally open to revision - revision towards larger, fuller meanings."
One greater than our rights, rituals, and ceremonies, is here, says Jones: 'no right, ritual, or ceremony of any kind is essential for salvation. We are saved by Christ.'
He starts out without a historical snapshot of the incredible evil that has been perpetuated in the name of Christ. He revisits the idea that in the evolution of the Church from Christ to Constantine, already the church as an institution has become contrary to the teachings of Christ:
According to A.N. Wilson, the Nicene Creed, to which all Christians now subscribed on pain of banishment, notably 'contained not one jot of the ethical teachings that Jesus had once preached.' Not for the Emperor was a Jesus who called upon his followers to 'love your enemies... love them, not hate them... bless them, not curse them... turn the other cheek... take up your cross and follow me'; but the 'unthinkable, impossible, perfectly ridiculous ' imperial Christ 'riding a fiery white stallion... and shouting - "Heigh! Ho! Forward charge!"'
From that time onwards no one Christian territory has been safe from Christian tyranny imposed in the name of an imperial Christ. Jaques Ellul laments the fact that 'freedom finds little place in church history'... He says - as we have witnessed for ourselves - that 'whenever the church has been in a position of power, it has regarded freedom as the enemy'.
I have found myself increasingly coming to believe that when Christ says things like "those who Love me will obey my teaching" and "many will say Lord, Lord, but I will say 'I never knew you'", it means that what we look back on and call the Church may be completely different from what Christ sees as his Church throughout history. I have come across various groups in history who were very deliberate about living out the teachings of Christ, and most often they were labelled heretics by the "Christians" in power, as their lifestyles subverted the rulers' power. Andrews touches upon some of these groups and deals well with the power-laden use of the word "heretic".
Another big point that Andrews gets into, which I think is pivotal to changing the way we view our mission as followers of Christ, is the view of salvation as a "bounded" versus a "centered set". Bounded set is the one where we all know the rules plain and clear and the prayer you have to pray to get "in". In that view, we come to believe that the "rules" are so clear that we can pretty much look around us and judge who is in and out just as well as God can. From there we can really go get our condemnation on. The centred set is not quite so clear about the rules, and leaves the judgement up to God:
Peterson assumes that the only way to have a boundary between 'not being saved' and 'being saved' is by having a set boundary. Thus salvation can only be understood in terms of a Bounded Set. However, though there are no set boundaries in the Centred Set, there are still boundaries. And one crosses the boundary, from 'not being saved' to 'being saved', by choosing to follow in the footsteps of 'the Saviour'. In the Bounded Set, the boundary is in the same place for everyone, no matter where they are coming from. However, in th Centred Set the boundary is moving all the time to accomodate anyone who makes a move toward the centre, whether they cross a set boundary or not. The gospels show that 'being saved' depends on choosing to 'follow in the footsteps of the Saviour', but that may mean 'different paths for different people', depending on where they are coming from.
Christ called everyone to follow in his footsteps. But he expected one person to leave home (Mt. 8:22), while he expected another person to go home (Mk 5:19). His expectations of them were exactly the opposite of each other, based on their personal circumstances at that particular time and place.
Christ challenged everyone to give generously to the poor. But while he expected one person to sell all that he had to give to the poor (Mk 10:21), he expected another person to sell only half of what he had to give to the poor (Lk 19:8-10). His expectations were not 'set' standards, but variations on a common theme.
This all sounds a lot like C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity.
I suppose we place so much value on these doctrines because we think assent or non-assent directly affects our salvation. If you believe in the Nicene Creed you are in the orthodox category and are numbered mong the "saved". If you are a JW or a Mormon and you don't hold to some of those ideas about God, etc, you are outside the fold and are unsaved (well, from the Evangelical perspective anyway - for the JW's and Mormons I supposed it would be exactly reversed). But my problem is this notion of saved/unsaved doesn't really line up with anything we see in Christ. Christ was so vague about adhering to a set of beliefs, yet so clear about what brought salvation. For him, a person's conversion/ acceptance into the Kingdom of God has to do witha heart transformed by Love that consequently manifests loving actions.
Look at the story of Zacchaeus. The moment at which Christ declares that salvation has come to him has nothing to do with doctrine. There is no sinners prayer, no assent to the deity of Christ, no agreement with the notion of a triune God. Rather, he decides that he is going to give away a bunch of his money, and that single act is indication enough that a heart has changed and Zacchaeus has crossed over from death to life.
Same with the rich young ruler. He has been a good boy, been keeping the commandments. But when he asks Jesus what he must do to really get it right, Christ's answer again has no relationship whatever to mental assent to doctrine. Instead, it again points to the truth that when a heart changes, a turn from selfishness results in loving action, and that is what God requires.
I suppose Matthew 25 would also fit into this category (the sheep and the goats). Again, entry into paradise is dependant on the loving action that reflects a changed heart (it should be noted that this loving action isn't one of the heavy, duty-driven, I-have-to-do-this-because-God-demands-it variety, as the sheep don't even realize that they have been touching Christ as they reached out in compassion. They were only doing what happen naturally when a heart comes to be motivated by the kindness of God...)
How about this idea? I think much of our desire to hammer out creeds and codes to assent to is control based and has much to do with the freedom/law question of a few posts back. It is much easier to check off a list of beliefs to reassure yourself of your own right-ness with God, rather than living within the "gray area" of Love, where you must continually interact with God, and reorient yourself in his direction. We seem to want to kow for sure who is "in" or "out". But is that even in our job description? This is one area where I am firmly with the Eastern Orthodox in their belief that it is no one's job to judge salvation except for God himself. But then, what is the job description? I would say that it has a lot less to do with enforcing doctrinal conformity and a lot more to do with making the focus of our faith the acting out, the demonstration of the unconditional Love of God.
...more on this later....
Monday, November 10, 2003
For some, transformation means getting the word out there and letting it do its work. To me, that approach seems too mystical and magical. I've become a bit of a pragmatist in my old age. I doubt the power of a 25 minute lecture to effect change, no matter how good the preacher.
Even moreso the fifty minute variety...
From Len H.
Friday, November 07, 2003
Thursday, November 06, 2003
Tired of that heavy guilty feeling associated with all those illegal mp3 downloads? Well, how about this:
I was asked where one could go to pick up the CD, Think Again, that I put out a couple years ago. The answer is, with me in Japan, basically nowhere, because all the CD's are sitting in my basement at home, along with all the other projects that went nowhere. So, if you are interested in some free music (though I warn you, it may be possible that this CD went nowhere for a reason) I will make it available for download here, thanks to the web space of the very talented (really, you should hire him) Chris at upsidedowndesign.
So here it is: Think Again. Oh, and a review of Think Again (see, he liked it)...
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
For contrast sake, in Japan the WWJD bracelets (the real deal, with the story of how they changed lives somewhere in Michigan...) are sold in the sports department next to the other sports accesories that Allen Iverson wears, like "finger guards", wrist bands, etc.
Sunday, November 02, 2003
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
...One of the most shining examples that history has preserved for us is the life of Christ. Obeying the inner call of his vocation, Jesus voluntarily exposed himself to the assaults of imperial madness that filled everyone, conqueror and conquered alike. In this way he recognized the nature of the psyche which had plunged the whole world into misery. Far from allowing himself to be suppressed by this psychic onslaught, he consciously assimilated it. Thus was a world conquering Roman Empire transformed into the universal Kingdom of God. His religion of Love was the exact counterpoint to the politics of power. Jesus pointed humanity [to] the truth that where force rules there is no love, and where love reigns force does not count...
...There is a story in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov about Christ coming back to earth during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. It's called 'The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor', and in it Christ appears in Seville the day after a hundred heretics have been burned at the stake in a great auto-da-fe. He appears as he did during his lifetime, and the crowds recognise him at once, and he heals the sick. At the steps of the cathedral he meets a funeral procession for a little girl, and he has compassion on the mother and brings the child back to life. Just at that moment the Grand Inquisitor is passing and sees has happened and orders his guards to arrest Christ and throw him into prison. And that night the Grand Inquisitor, an old man who has served the Church throughout his long life, visits Christ in the dungeons and talks to him.
It is in fact a monologue, because Christ remains silent throughout. And the Grand Inquisitor tells Christ that he will have him burned at the stake the next day, as the worst of heretics, because he has come back to undo the work of the Church.
The point is that the Grand Inquisitor understands perfectly, well that Christ came originally to offer freedom to mankind: he wanted man's free, unforced love, in place of the ancient rigid law. This lies at the heart of the temptation scene in the desert. If Christ had agreed to turn the stones into bread, he would have had no difficulty in persuading men to follow him - people everywhere would have flocked to him. But Christ rejected that option - he resisted the temptation. He refused to coerce mankind, he didn't want blind obedience: he preferred freedom - without freedom it would all be worthless.
But, says the Grand Inquisitor, that was a mistake. Man doesn't want freedom, he wants simply to be happy; and the only way to make him happy is to deprive him of his freedom. Man's greatest need is to find someone to whom he can hand over this gift of freedom as quickly as possible, and that, says the Grand Inquisitor, is where the Church stepped in. The Church, not Christ, had man's happiness in mind., the Church had the good sense to correct Christ's work, to take away man's freedom, and to give him the bread he asked for. What mankind craves is simply someone to obey.
As I said, throughout this monologue Christ remains silent. When the Grand Inquisitor has finished he waits for a reply - he longs for Christ to say something, however bitter, however terrible. But suddenly Christ gets up and comes over to the old man and softly kisses him on his aged, bloodless lips. That is all his answer. The old man shudders. He goes to the door, opens it, and says to the Prisoner: 'Go, and come no more'. And he lets him out into the dark alleys of the town: the Prisoner goes away.
Now Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor is a very good example of what we now call a Fundamentalist. The only uncharacteristic thing about him is that he is fully conscious of the implications of his philosophy: he actually intends to correct Christ's work, to rewrite Christianity Most Fundamentalists persuade themselves that they are imitating Christ, even to the extent of making the farcical allegation that they share his attitude to the infallibility of the Bible. But that apart, the Grand Inquisitor illustrates perfectly the following features of Fundamentalists- a distrust and fear of freedom; a belief in the importance of authority and in controlling what people believe; a corresponding preference for obedience rather than love; a desire to give people what they want rather than the truth: a refusal to allow themselves to be in the least disconcerted when they are confronted with the true nature of their religion; and a readiness to persecute and exclude anyone who is of a different persuasion.
To reduce that to convenient headings, the Fundamentalist is uncomfortable with freedom, truth, and dissent.' and very much at home with authority, obedience, and conformity But the most striking feature of the Fundamentalist is that, whether he is conscious of it or not, his approach results in the total contradiction of what he professes to believe... (from Peter Cameron's "Fundamentalism and Freedom" (Doubleday; Sydney: 1995. pp. 6-7).
...The English word "heresy" comes from the Greek word hairesis which means "choice"...
Hmmm. Yeah. I tend to be of the opinion that "heresy" is just a word the powerful like to use to abuse those who are of a different opinion but are lesser in number. I mean, to a great degree, "truth" in such affairs is democratic. I mean what would happen if orthodox Christianity was living out heresy? It wouldn't matter much would it. As long as you have the numbers or the money or the power in general, you are "orthodox"; it is pretty easy to ignore or condemn the protests of the few.
...Pelagius, an Irish monk of "high character" turned up in the city of Rome at the beginning of the fifth century, and took exception to the establishment over this issue of "choice". He asserted that the concept of "choice" was essential to any meaningful notion of virtue or liberty. And he argued that, if there was no place for choice, there was no place for virtue or liberty either. According to Pelagius, "to be able to do good is the vestibule of virtue, and to able to evil is the evidence of liberty".
Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, promptly denounced the ideas of the noble Pelagius as a danger to law and order. He declared that "free will" could very well undermine the foundation on which the Empire was built. He contended that the "use of force" was necessary "to compel" all those people , involved "in heresies and schisms," outside the fold of the "true" faith, "to come in". And he concluded, adding insult to injury, by saying, "let them [that are compelled] not find fault with being compelled!". Those who persisted in finding fault with "being compelled", like Pelagius, were excommunicated at Augustine's behest.
From the on all public debate on religious subjects was banned. And over 270,000 ancient documents, collected by Ptolemy Philadelphius, and 700,000 classical scrolls , kept in the Library of Alexandria as they were considered questionable, were burned (Christi-anarchy, p. 27).
I think freedom to choose is the absolute foundation of God's relationship with us humans, the beginning of the gospel. Love itself stands on a foundation of freedom - in creation we see God creating beings with a capacity to either embrace him, or reject him, which was the only way that true Love can exist. There can't be any coercion in love, or it just ain't love anymore. Any kind of force or manipulation that enters in to a relationship - whether human or divine - taints the purity of the unconditional and just basically free nature of what the God kind of love is.
And that same principle is the entire difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Paul talks about God giving the Law to show us just how un-workable trying to get to God in that direction is. God's ways apparently don't get written on our hearts when we are trying to obey a list of rules with the threat of punishment hanging over our heads. History (and my own personal experience) would say that that way only makes us dig in our heels and rebel, I guess because at the core of who we are, we hate to be forced to do something, because at the core of who we are, we were created to be free to choose.
But the law is, in so many ways, easier. It is easier to follow some rules and based on that think you are righteous rather than knowing that we have the responsibility to learn to be loving and compassionate, which is infinitely harder. And freedom is scary, because by its very nature it gives up control. And you are bound to see as a result the very depths of evil, because some people will take their freedom and reject God (or reject Love, I think the two are interchangeable... God is Love). But you also get the very heights of true Love, as it seems nothing is more pleasing to God than when a person who is totally free to reject him, decides to enter into Love, and to learn to be compassionate, and to become like him.
And it seems from scripture that God has no interest is the lukewarm middle ground that the "rigid ancient law" (as Dostoevsky puts it in the Grand Inquisitor) seems to give rise to. By the very fact that he made us free to choose it would seem that God accepts the great evil that human freedom creates, as only through the gift of this freedom can humans create love. And somehow that creation of love by us humans seems to be what it is all about, what God made us for. Because if God is in essence, love, then creating beings that would commune with him must have been about creating beings that would be all about love....
Ok, this is what I mean about stream of consciousness writing. I am tired and repeating myself and a little confused. And I haven't even gotten to what that means for my "mission" yet. I will...
Saturday, October 25, 2003
Well, there is some stream of consciousness.
Friday, October 17, 2003
An idea came from the thought that so much of the grossness that comes up in the worship music world comes from people wanting to receive and give the praise for the creation of a worship song more to an artist than to God. Combine that with the notion that the highest form of generosity is the anonymous gift, where no one knows you are the giver except for you and God. I heard that was an idea from ancient Judaism. Such a gift makes it very clear that the gift was done unto God, as only he can give you credit for it.
So we were thinking that we (or someone) should make a web site called Anonymous Worship or Audience of One or something like that, where one could download church worship songs and the music for them. There would be no royalties paid, no artists named, just songs you may use for the purpose of prayer and getting in touch with God. The artists who donate the songs get no credit for them whatsoever, they just give them because they want the song given to them by God to be sung back to him by others. Nothing more.
It was just an unexamined initial thought. Would that work??
Thursday, October 16, 2003
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
... Here again we discover a major distortion stemming in part from the institutionalization of the Church (which went from being an assembly of people united only by love, in the same faith, to being an organization with power). As the institutionalization of the Church hardens so does its dogmatism: truth considered as a possession (in which case it ceases to be truth) leads to judgment and condemnation. Love when institutionalized produces authority and hierarchy
Thus the Church was the joyous outcome of the unity of believers confident of their salvation, as they met together and showed forth God's love. But it became a structure, a custodian of authority and truth, representing God's power on earth. "No salvation outside the Church" originally meant that those who recognized that Jesus Christ had saved them met together to give thanks (thus, outside the Church, there were no people living this faith). But the phrase came to mean that all those who are outside the framework of the Church are doomed! This reversal of meaning is quite a serious matter.
Jaques Ellul from Jesus and Marx chapter, "Anarchism and Christianity".
Friday, October 10, 2003
Anyway, if you are interested in reading along, I found a remarkable website today that provides a lot of books to read online - and many of the kind that I am interested in. It is at www.jesusradicals.com (look under the library link). I am just starting to read the last chapter of Ellul's book, "Jesus and Marx" which is called "Anarchism and Christianity" So I might eventually have something to say about that.
Yesterday, Paul Fromont sent me another article, as he does, and come to think of it he must have some sort of gifting as an intellectual encourager, because the articles he sends often get my wheels turning and me reading and thinking on things beyond simply whether I will eat salty, miso, or spicy ramen.
Interesting point of note: I just spell-checked this post thus far with the blogger feature, and blogger's own spell-checker didn't recognize the word "blog". Aim higher guys.
Anyway, Paul's article. It was by Dave Andrews who is a guru to me. Here is the quote I am latching on to:
The danger in dreaming is that our dreams don't come true. And it's hard for us when things we envisage don't work out. But the danger in not dreaming is that without our dreams we don't know what to do. And though it's hard for us when things we envisage don't work out, it's even harder for us to work for things we can't envisage.
Now Andrea wants the computer... I finally sit down to a blog entry, and she wants to search for something about fish and aquariums (is that aquaria?) and such. Oh well, I guess everyone gets a hobby...
Saturday, October 04, 2003
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
I think this loose structure is one of the keys to how the network works so well. Dave Andrews later told me how “being fuzzy and undefined is more inclusive.” While the structure is loose there are norms which give the community its distinctive identity. A weekly meeting at the unsociable hour of 6am on a Monday is one of the strands of the structure which keeps the network in communication across its disparate households. Members of the households are encouraged to engage with their local community in ways that are congruent with the core values of the Waiters’ Union. Having a focus on Jesus and Christianity is also an important dimension to what holds them together.
Once in awhile I see a picture that I find myself coming back to again and again. This one was taken of my father by my little sister this summer. It's a keeper for me because, symbolically, it says a lot to me about my Dad. He is in a church, a simple, beautiful place, and yet I might draw significance from the fact that it is actually a museum. However in this church my Dad is not facing the front, or even showing any interest in what is usually central in a church. Instead, he is at the back, studying the history on the walls. Next to him is a wash basin. And outside the light is so bright.
I sure do love my Dad; good and bad, there is so much of him in me. And I'm glad to be a part of his journey.
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Here are some things I said at church on Sunday in a talk about money:
The typical North American journey through adult life with money goes as such:
1) Graduate from High School
2) Take a loan and go to college or university
3) Work off this loan and get married.
4) Take a loan to buy a house and start a family
5) Work off this loan and start thinking about retirement – ie. Invest, Invest, Invest
6) Retire and live the life you’ve been postponing for 35 – 40 years.
This journey is not a moral journey. It’s just the typical path that our culture has chosen. It’s been different in the past, and it’s different now in other cultures. But many of us follow this pattern because maybe we’re unaware of other options. The problem is, as we’re moving along in this journey, we’re realizing that the things that we value most, our top priorities, are at the bottom of our ‘To-Do’ Lists… if they even make it on. If Kingdom living is supposed to be attainable on Earth, I’m thinking that maybe there is a flaw in our system somewhere. I don’t know the answers, but I would like to offer a few alternatives to this journey that have seemed to help Joy and I. They’re changes that seem to challenge the “givens” of our current culture.
It seems like having a full-time job, as a producer of some good or service, is a given in our society. For the past two years, I worked in Norway House as a High School teacher – Full Time. As with most jobs, the 8-hour workday doesn’t exist for teachers, it ends up typically being 10-12. When I took stock of my priorities – Kingdom living, family and community – the time I allocated to these, my most valued things, was miniscule compared to the time I gave to my job. Now I’m working part-time and my values and my schedule are much more lined up. ---- Here’s a little exercise I did that helped me analyze my actions vs. my values.
Important- Physical emergencies God, the poor, family, community
Unimportant- Work Watching TV or reading the paper
The things that fill most of our time are the Urgent, Unimportant things, whereas the things that we value most are probably the Non-Urgent, Important things. We need to give greater urgency to these important things.
The second given that I’d like to challenge is full-time life as a consumer. This goes hand-in-hand with full-time work, because full-time wage labour was not a consistent thing in North America, until it became socially acceptable for average people to go into debt by purchasing houses, cars, etc. In North America we really like to spend money that we don’t have, and this really fuels our economy the way it runs now. The alternative to this consumerism is something called Simple Living. As a Christian interested in simple living, the key verse is Matthew 6:33, “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” The first must actually be made first and maintained as first, and then all the rest can come along and find its place. If all the rest comes first, we’re not living in all that God has for us. It may seem like we’re living responsibly, but we’re missing out. A quick parable told by Soren Kierkegaard helps. A wealthy man was traveling by carriage and when it started to get dark he lit some lanterns to create a pool of light around him and his carriage. He felt secure, because thanks to these lanterns he could see and felt safe. A poor man was traveling the same night and as it go dark he had no lanterns to light his way, but one by one the stars came out, and each of his steps was safe and secure. The rich man had security, but it was security he had created, and of a lesser kind than what God had created or the poor man. In his poverty, the poor man was secure in a different way, as he did not have any possessions to hide the glory and faithfulness of God and his starry night. You might ask, “How could we live like this poor man?” Some practical suggestions to live simply are: bartering, car-pooling, living in community, sharing tools and major appliances, growing your own food – all of which is happening in our community. If you want to hear more practical examples, talk to me later. It seems that if you’re living with less and working less, you have more time to experience the kingdom of God through community. You can experience generosity, both giving and receiving, when possessions are shared, and you have the blessing of experiencing God’s provision, in a way that you wouldn’t by constantly meeting your own needs. Complete independence is not kingdom living.
The third given I’d like to challenge is our perspectives on attaining security. And this is linked to the first two. Traditionally, our concept of security is purely financial. We invest into RRSPs, pension plans, etc, to make sure our future is secure. The alternative I’d like to suggest is a much more holistic security. It’s not just financial, but it’s also spiritual, emotional, physical and mental security. This security comes from investing in people – investing in community. Financially, this means what II Corinthians 8: 14 says, and this was read last week, “At this present time, your abundance being a supply for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want, that there may be equality.” Holistically, this means investing your time, service, love, encouragement, and even money, when you have plenty, and receiving the same when you have need. Emotionally, Joy and I have had immense need recently, since River died. Our community came around us and supported us, and we felt very secure. Our son didn’t have life insurance, but we were totally provided for, with a house, with food, and everything else we needed in this tough time. This was a direct fruit of relationships built over time, and the cycle of generosity will continue from us, to others, when they are in need. Another example is, a friend of ours comes from a culture where the elderly do not rely on pensions to survive. They put their financial investments into their children. The money that might have gone into RRSPs went to their children’s education, with the understanding that their children would provide for them in their old age.
It’s amazing that somehow we trust God with things of such vast importance in the world, like maintaining Creation, the poor and the suffering Church, global catastrophes, and more, yet, after we give our 10%, we give Him little control over the other 90% because we feel we know better. It’s the same with community. We have faith that our community will support us spiritually and emotionally, but do we have faith to believe that they are capable of meeting our physical needs? Can we find the humility to place our security in the hands of our community? Again, independence is not kingdom living.
To recap, make sure that your highest values match up with how you spend your time. You’ve probably never heard of someone, on their deathbed, with their dying breath say, “Ohhh! I wish I had spent more time… at the office.” So make sure you become conscious of what you value most, deliberately become aware of what you actually do, and then give urgency to the things that are most important. Make sure that you “Strive, first for the kingdom of God” and maybe question where your security is placed.
Sunday, September 21, 2003
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
China is growing so fast and has been the fastest growing economy in the world since 1980. It is growing so fast that it is providing us with a glimpse of what the future is like when large numbers of impoverished people become much more affluent. And I remember in 1994 when the Chinese government announced that they were going to develop an automobile-centered transport system. And they solicited bids from major automobile manufactures like Toyota, Volkswagen and General Motors and so forth bids to build automobile assembly plants in China. And I thought about it and I asked myself what happens if China succeeds and one day has a car in every garage or maybe two cars in many garages as in the United States now. And the answer is that China would need more oil than the world now produces Eighty million barrels of oil a day. And last year we produced seventy-eight million barrels of oil per day and may never produce much more than that. And then I also looked at paper consumption. If paper consumption per person in China were to reach the U.S. level, China would need more paper than the world produces. There go the world’s forests. And what I think China is teaching us is that the western development model, the fossil fuel based, auto-mobile centered, throw-away economy is not going to work for China. And if it doesn’t work for China, it won’t work for India either which also has more than one billion people or for the other 2 billion people in the developing world. And in an increasing integrated global economy over the long-term it will not work for us in the industrial countries either. I think that is what China is teaching us. It is teaching us that the old economy fossil fuel based, auto-mobile centered, throw-away is not a viable model for the future...
That's interesting to me because you often hear the very pro-globalization crowd saying that globalization is necessary to improve technology and standards of living in less developed countries. These sorts of statistics say quite the opposite, that we are in fact able to live our highly consumptively, first world lives because others do not.
Tuesday, September 09, 2003
The nicest guy
With the bluest eyes
And a will to try
More than getting by
Money and happiness
Every try, success
And demanding nothing less
Only one regret
He could have anything in the world
But he couldn't get the girl
Is it you feel free to lean on memories just like a crutch?
Is it irony or a tendency to think too much?
I get the feeling that you're gonna leave me alone out here,
Don't leave me alone out here
The other day
He came my way
He was going to go away
With no more to say
He could have anything in the world
But he couldn't get the girl
Yeah, those lyrics really don't cohese very well just yet. But they work better if you hear the tune, yeah, you gotta hear the music... ;-)
when Sharon targets the elderly representative of a people--the face of a man who could have been Tevia's father in Fiddler on the Roof--he has effectively stopped any hope of peace among this generation of leaders. i will not have part in the self-righteous political rhetoric and media silence that gives tacit and explicit license to Israel's policy of political assassination. specifically, i will not share in the presumption that a marginalized, geriatric's violence is somehow more heinous than that perpetuated by Sharon, Putin, Bush or any other commander of forces engaged in pre-emptive war making.
the world has turned a blind eye to international norms on political assassination in the case of the Palestinian debacle for far too long. it is blatantly disingenuous to legalistically claim that various leaders within the PA and related groups are not actual heads of state and thus do not fall under the no-assassination practices of our time. furthermore, it is nonsensical to meet out death and carnage from a position of profound military superiority and then expect those who are left with the remains of their families, their country and their pride to refrain from acting out in reprisal by whatever means is at their disposal.
Yassin is not without blood on his hands. neither are the Israelis. and neither are we.
actions of this nature--half ton bombs launched into multi-family dwellings from fighter jets and attack helicopters--carried out in an effort to kill anyone of standing within the variously inbred Palestinian humanitarian, military and governmental groups will guarantee an unprecedented death toll as the conflict escalates over the coming decade.
my words should not be viewed as justification of suicide bombing--nor, certainly, of terrorism. nevertheless, the convenience of quickly using standard story lines and labeling parties in conflict under the unconscionably ambiguous labels our various media traffic in masks the irreducibly layered complexity of this conflict.
peacemaking is a multi-generational practice. it is a long walk together. a privileging of conversation in the hardest times. a religious eschewing of ultimatums. a heritage passed from mother to son that finds voice and shape only in a community's life in aggregate.
we have to do better.
all of us.
Friday, September 05, 2003
C: Empire, yes, but I have to say I found it hard to read. I understood only parts, and what I understood seemed to me pretty well known and expressible much more simply. However, maybe I missed something important.
D: Yes, and the book arrives to the same conclusion as yours but through a more complicated, less readable way...
C: If people get something out of it, it's OK! What I understand seems to be pretty simple, and this is not a criticism. I don't see any need to say in a complicated way what you can say in an easier way. You can make things look complicated, that's part of the game that intellectuals play; things must look complicated. You might not be conscious about that, but it's a way of gaining prestige, power and influence.
D: Do you look at Foucault's work in this prospective?
C: Foucault is an interesting case because I'm sure he honestly wants to undermine power but I think with his writings he reinforced it. The only way to understand Foucault is if you are a graduate student or you are attending a university and have been trained in this particular style of discourse. That's a way of guaranteeing, it might not be his purpose, but that's a way of guaranteeing that intellectuals will have power, prestige and influence. If something can be said simply say it simply, so that the carpenter next door can understand you. Anything that is at all well understood about human affairs is pretty simple. I find Foucault really interesting but I remain skeptical of his mode of expression. I find that I have to decode him, and after I have decoded him maybe I'm missing something. I don't get the significance of what I am left with. I have never effectively understood what he was talking about. I mean, when I try to take the big words he uses and put them into words that I can understand and use, it is difficult for me to accomplish this task It all strikes me as overly convoluted and very abstract. But -what happens when you try to skip down to real cases? The trouble with Foucault and with this certain kind of theory arises when it tries to come down to earth. Really, nobody was able to explain to me the importance of his work...
And again here, in the things he says, I hear values that resonate with the things we pursue as a followers of Christ: humility, honesty, a desire to change your own evil before addressing someone else's.
D: When you talk about the role of intellectuals you say that the first duty is to concentrate on your own country. Could you explain this assertion?
C: One of the most elementary moral truisms is that you are responsible for the anticipated consequences of your own actions. It is fine to talk about the crimes of Genghis Khan, but there isn't much that you can do about them. If Soviet intellectuals chose to devote their energies to crimes of the US, which they could do nothing about, that is their business. We honor those who recognized "that the first duty is to concentrate on your own country." And it is interesting that no one ever asks for an explanation, because in the case of official enemies, truisms are indeed truisms. It is when truisms are applied to ourselves that they become contentious, or even outrageous. But they remain truisms. In fact, the truisms hold far more for us than they did for Soviet dissidents, for the simple reason that we are in free societies, do not face repression, and can have a substantial influence on government policy. So if we adopt truisms, that is where we will focus most of our energy and commitment. The explanation is even more obvious than in the case of official enemies. Naturally, truisms are hated when applied to oneself. You can see it dramatically in the case of terrorism. In fact one of the reasons why I am considered public enemy number one among a large sector of intellectuals in the US is that I mention that the U.S. is one of the major terrorist states in the world and this assertion though plainly true, is unacceptable for many intellectuals, including left-liberal intellectuals, because if we faced such truths we could do something about the terrorist acts for which we are responsible, accepting elementary moral responsibilities instead of lauding ourselves for denouncing the crimes official enemies, about which we can often do very little. Elementary honesty is often uncomfortable, in personal life as well, and there are people who make great efforts to evade it.
And one more article from an Indian writer speaking about Chomsky, wherein she speaks "as a subject of the U.S. empire". I thought it was another good one for helping us as Christians to face the dishonesty inherent in the notion of a "Christian nation".
Thursday, September 04, 2003
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Postmodern linguist theory makes it clear that we can only communicate in proximately. I can rarely (if ever) perfectly understand what you are trying to communicate. So basically all I can hope to communicate is a sense of my intended meaning.
In fact the receiver of my communication will hear and see many signs I never even intended. They read in from the vantage point of their uniqueness.
Each of our experiences of language, text, culture, relationships, etc shape our perceptions of language, text, culture, relationships, etc.
There are some great books on "post-Foundationalism" that can shed some light on some of the implications of pomo philosophy on our approach to Scripture. Grenz and Franke's book is a good one to start with.
So, is can the Bible still be authoritative in pomo world?
I'd say yes. But the "secret" to unraveling the mystery of the Word is not found in an historical-critical method of interpretation, it’s not found in arguing for an inerrant text, it isn't even found in trying to keep the context on any given sentence within special revelation, rather, the authority is a mystical authority. God Himself leading us to Truth; Truth being a person.
The fact is that God speaks in everything and every where. He is always at work. If God can speak through Babylon, Balaam’s ass, and a Roman cross, than surely he can, and is speaking through prairie style architecture, indie rock, sars, and ICP - whoever has ears to hear and eyes to see...
For protestants and especially for evangelicals the Bible has become something of a paper-Pope. The incarnational question is; can we trust God enough to lead us, (in-keeping with his Word), to live as Christ in our specific time and place? I’d say the jury is still out on our willingness to Trust God for the here and now beyond the written page. (Sept. 1 post, no hyperlink)
I agree. Very agree. (see Brian, we weren't the only ones thinking these heretical thoughts... but now they are even starting to write them down!!)