Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Orthodox Peace Fellowship

I keep running into things from those Orthodox that I like. Might come in handy if I ever do make it to Russia. A friend just got back from Khabarovsk today. Why I am the only one who finds it an intriguing place?

For my future reference:

The Orthodox Peace Fellowship

and article:

Following Christ in a Violent World

And I thought this was interesting in relation to other stuff I have been reading of late:

The state and anarchy: Regarding Romans and "the sword," my New Testament professor once pointed out to me that there are basically two images from the Scriptures that the Church has used historically to describe the state.

The first is the "minister of God" image from Romans; Romans was written by Paul in a time when his citizenship in the Roman government was offering limited protection in his proclamation of the Gospel.

But the second is the Beast of the Apocalypse, a book written during a period of state-sanctioned persecution of the Church, and which regards civil government (the "kingdoms of this world") as irredeemably corrupted by the principalities of "this age," its power as deriving from Satan, not from God.

Historically speaking, the Church has tended to use one image or the other depending on whether the state was assisting or hindering the Church in its mission at the time. One cannot simply point to Paul's image in Romans as if this were the only way to think about the Church's view of state power; in the pre-Constantinian church, it is the image of the beast that predominates when speaking about the state, not the "minister of God" image.

Regarding anarchy: I think it is fairly easy to detect an underlying stream of what might be called "Christian anarchism" within the Orthodox tradition. For example, the Desert Fathers frequently harbored fugitives from the law, to the point that some abbas advocated lying to authorities in order to protect those charged with capital crimes from the very "sword" that St. Paul refers to in Romans.

The coercive power of the state was mostly unenforceable in Scetis, part of the reason the monks chose to settle there, and the early monastic communities felt free to subvert or ignore that power, in part because their view of the state was more like that of the Apocalypse than that of Romans; as Merton once wrote, they saw the entire culture as "a shipwreck from which every person must swim for his life." They refused to identify the enemies of the state as their enemies, heeded no call to arms, and regarded themselves as citizens of no earthly kingdom.

It is interesting to note that imagery from the Apocalypse forms a dominant theme in the iconography of the monasteries on Mount Athos, something you find hardly anywhere else (books have been written on this subject). This imagery represents, among other things, the deep-seated mistrust of the monks of all forms of civic government as representative of the power of the beast, their absolute non-allegiance to the kingdoms of this world. The anarchist spirit of Scetis lives on in Mount Athos through the fact that Athos constitutes a self-governing entity, not under the legal jurisdiction of any state.

Fr. Paul Schroeder

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Len points to William Law quote that I will store in my Christian Anarchy files:

It is very observable that there is not one command in all the Gospel for public worship; and perhaps it is a duty that is least insisted upon in Scripture of any other. The frequent attendance at it is never so much as mentioned in all the New Testament, whereas that religion or devotion which is to govern the ordinary actions of our life is to be found in almost every verse of Scripture. Our blessed Savior and His Apostles are wholly taken up in doctrines that relate to common life.

Reminds me of this related quote from a while ago:

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...

Now before you get offended because I am using the "a" word again, understand that I am not calling for the institutions to pulled down and for everyone currently in them to leave. I am just saying let's see the institutions as what they are - not something mandated by God, but something we erected in our searching for him. Hopefully seeing them in that light keeps us majoring on Jesus and what he majored on, rather than all the stuff we tried to build on top of him.

Band names

We are thinking about making a new band, coming up with band names. Whaddya think:

The Pitied Cherries

The Bloody Do-Gooders

Sumi Masen (only people in Japan will get that one)

Any Others?

Update: Actually, that gives me an idea. How about:

The Others

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Cute Japan moment...

I know this kind of thing drives some foreigners here nuts, but I thought it was so cute.

Two kindergarteners sit down beside me on a train, assuming, I suppose, that whitey don't speak Japanese, and start into this little dialogue:

Kid one: Whoah. A foreigner. Scary!

Kid two: Naw, I'm not scared. I'm used to foreigners.

Kid one: Wow. Not me. I'm not used to foreigners.

See, the times they are a'changin. A little.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Toilet humour

Well, actually he likely didn't intend it as humour, but, hey, he's talking about a toilet. Always cracks me up...

This is the toilet of my home in Tokyo. It has a control panel with some buttons. For what? Well, if I push them after stooling and then a washing arm is sticking out beneath my hips and washing my ass hole. It is a surprising experience.

And by the way, wherever I live next, I will import one of these - at any cost. Yes, they are that life-changing.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Toyohiko Kagawa (the Japanese Mother Theresa) on action

The religion Jesus taught is a religion of life. People who are fully alive, people who are living strongly, can understand it; but those who deny life, who do not want to live, cannot get its meaning. The God of Jesus is a God of Action. People who stay at home and read their Bibles and pray and meditate, and do nothing for the poor who beg help before their very doors - such people will find the God of Jesus unintelligible. His God is One who is naturally reflected in a man's heart when he has saved even one suffering human being, or lifted up one who has been oppressed. The loveless do not know God. Only when a man has plunged into the blindly struggling crowd and tried to save them from their sins and failures, can he know this God. Only through the active movement of love will he intuitively come to know the God of Action.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Prayer and action...

We knew that there were many who pray but do not act and many who act but do not pray. But it seemed to us that such people had misunderstood the meaning of both prayer and action. Prayer, for us, was the inspiration for action. "When we prayed, we came into the presence of a Love so profound that it challenged all our plans, opinions and prejudices, and called us to a cause of pure compassion. In the presence of that Love we had to act with love. Because to do anything else seemed utterly absurd. In the presence of that Love we were set free from a preoccupation with meeting our needs for a vocation of seeking peace on the basis of justice for all."

Thus it was, through prayer, we developed a concern for the people in our city. And it was, through prayer, we developed a commitment to the people in the slums. And it was, through prayer, we developed contact with the Kanjars, the so-called "Unclean Ones", that lived across the road...

...We were aware that there was a power that could be released in prayer that could be explained in terms of psychology and sociology. "A self-therapy takes place", Jacques Ellul explains. "There is the giving up of anger and aggressiveness, a validation through responsibility and meditation, a recovery of balance through the rearranging of facts on successive levels as seen from a fresh outlook."

But we were also aware that there was a power that could be released in prayer that was beyond the capacity of contemporary psychology and sociology to explain. Ellul calls it 'the effectual, immediate presence of the wholly Other, the Transcendent, the Living One'.

We knew that if we were to access enough power to break the bondage of our conditioning, so that we would be free to think, and talk, and work towards an alternative future with the community, we not only needed as much "self-therapy" as we could get, but we also needed something "wholly Other" than anything we had ever tried before.

Read the rest of the story about the Kanjars, down near the bottom. It's a good one.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Burger King mug

Buger King
Originally uploaded by fatblueman.
Remember these mugs that would buy at a garage sale for a quarter? Well, they are hip and cool here now and going as collector's items. See that price? That translates into about $250!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

No Longer a Christian

I was told in Sunday school the word "Christian" means to be Christ-like, but the message I hear daily on the airwaves from the “christian ” media are words of war, violence, and aggression. Throughout this article I will spell Christian with a small c rather than a capital, since the term (as I usually hear it thrown about) does not refer to the teachings of the one I know as the Christ. I hear church goers call in to radio programs and explain that it was a mistake not to kill every living thing in Fallujah. They quote chapter and verse from the old testament about smiting the enemies of Israel. The fear of fighting the terrorists on our soil rather than across the globe causes the voices to be raised as they justify the latest prison scandal or other accounts of the horrors of war . The words they speak are words of destruction, aggression, dominance, revenge, fear and arrogance. The host and the callers echo the belief in the righteousness of our nation's killing. There are reminders to pray for our “Christian” president who is doing the work of the Lord: Right to Life, Second Amendment, sanctity of marriage, welfare reform, war, kill, evil liberals. . . so much to fight, so much to destroy.
Let me tell you about the Christ I know. He was conceived by an unmarried woman. He was not born into a family of privilege. He was a radical. He said, “It was said an eye for and eye and a tooth of a tooth, but now I say love your enemies and bless those who curse you.” He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5: 3-9) He said, “All those who are called by my name will enter the kingdom of heaven." He said, "People will know true believers if they have the fruit of the spirit--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self control.“

He knew he would be led like a sheep to the slaughter. He responded with “Father forgive them.“ He explained that in Christ there is neither Jew nor gentile, slave or free male nor female. He explained that even to be angry is akin to murder. He said the temple of God is not a building, but is in the hearts of those are called by his name. He was called "the Prince of Peace." His final days were spent in prayer, so that he could endure what was set before him, not on how he could overpower the evil government of that day. When they came for him he was led away and didn’t resist his death sentence.

via Dwight

Monday, November 08, 2004

Brian McLaren interview at Next-wave

McLaren: Don't get me started on this, or I'll lapse into rant. Let me just say that I'm very very afraid of what's happening in the church in America. I'm afraid we're falling into a warrior trance, where the church baptizes the state or seeks to reclaim a kind of Constantinian power in the American empire. We're not listening to our brothers and sisters across the globe who are shocked and disappointed in our uncritical support of our government. We say we trust in the Lord, but it seems to me that our trust is pretty enmeshed with "horses and chariots" as the Psalmist said. We're succumbing to the politics of fear. We think that because we're pious---because we pray and sing and use lots of highly religious language - that we're immune to this kind of seduction, but it's happened a thousand times in history, and I think we're no less vulnerable. In fact, our wealth and power should make us more vulnerable to these seductions. As I said ... don't get me started.

"The principle of equality kills all initiative."

How sad that this is generally so true. But within the Kingdom of God, such a statement is patently false.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Jesus and the Non-Violent Revolution

Think I want to give this one a read if I can get it printed out so I can read it one the train: Jesus and the Non-Violent Revolution.

There is nothing fancy about Trocmé’s approach. With prophetic intuition rather than weighty analysis, he renders interpretations that are both subtle and provocative. His core argument is simple: Jesus inaugurated the kingdom of God based on the Jubilee principles of the Old Testament. These principles call for a political, economic, and spiritual revolution in response Jesus and the Nonviolent Revolution to human need. Jesus intended nothing less that an actual revolution, with debts forgiven, slaves set free, and land returned to the poor.

It was this threat to vested interests that awakened the hostility toward Jesus that led to the cross. Jesus understood the kingdom of God in terms of God’s work in human history; every sphere of life was a domain for God’s rulership. But he saw, too, that such rulership would always cost a struggle. The first Christians, who were charged with seditiously "turning the world upside down," understood their master well. They had caught this vision and begun to live it out.

I am needing to have my memory refreshed as to how and why Christ is central to how I live my life. This looks like just the thing.