• This Is Our Faith

    My friend Carol sent me a link to this video over the weekend of Egyptian Christian’s responding to the murder of 21 of their own by ISIS last month. I wish that everyone would see this video, because this is what the Christian faith looks like. This is the faith of the apostles, the saints and the many unknown faithful through the ages, as taught to us in Christ. I would that when the name of Christ was spoken, this is what people thought of. Please, please, please take a few minutes to allow these dear ones to teach you what it is to be a follower of Jesus. And then pass it on so that others might know the true face of our faith as well.

    I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven . . .  ~Jesus

    Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. . . Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. . . Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ~ Paul to the church in Rome

    HT to Simply Church for sharing this video.

  • Bring the Smelling Salts and Set Your Alarm Clocks!

    So there’s this lovely woman named Judy who produces the radio show Up For Debate with Julie Roys on Moody Radio. And I think she might be slightly incompetent. I mean, I’m no expert in these things and I certainly can’t predict the future, but it seems likely that come Monday morning she’s going to be having a serious conversation with someone higher up about whether she has the judgment required to perform her duties. Why do I say this, you ask? Because the poor dear went and asked yours truly to be part of an hour long discussion on the church, race and Ferguson. And I, having a big mouth, lots of opinions and no qualms about taking advantage of dear Judy’s foolishness, said yes.

    So, if you’d like to hear me engage in my usual tomfoolery (hopefully without the typos, grammar glitches and random gibberish that I like to sprinkle in my writing), tune in. It’s on Moody Radio from 8-9 am, central time, tomorrow morning. Program info and station information can be found here. And if you really love me, call in and gush about how amazing I am and how every good Christian should listen to everything I say. Depending on how it goes, I might need the help!

    In all seriousness, say a prayer for me. Continue reading

  • Manhunt for Peace in the Dark Heart of Africa

    You know my thing about Africa that I’ve mentioned a couple of times lately? Well, allow me to share a story out of the Congo and Uganda. Now, in Western minds, this part of Africa was long considered “the dark heart” of Africa. And unfortunately in the last few decades, there have been times when anyone who was paying attention would wonder if there wasn’t some sort of curse on that area.

    The details of the back and forth that got and kept the conflict going are long and boring. But the basic outline of what happened is this:

    A political uprising originally brought on, in 1986 and 1987, by genuine oppression (and thus serving objectives justified in the eyes of those who took up arms), so quickly mutated—by the end of the 1980s already—into a practice of radical violence, with no other aim, at the end, than its own perpetuation, beyond even the effective survival of the group.

    (This quote and all others used from the excellent story Sign Warfare, by journalist Jonathan Little, Asymptote Journal, April 2014)

    The way the conflict was fought was the sort of stuff you don’t say out loud when the kids are around and only in whispers in private. You don’t want it in their head that such things could exist. You wish it wasn’t in yours. So this conflict is the stuff of nightmares here. This is the conflict that gave us Kony 2012 and boy soldiers, the lost boys that some churches took in.

    Today, the government, which triggered the original conflict by refusing to allow freedom for an oppressed, mistreated minority, is engaged in a manhunt to find the last 150 or so soldiers still fighting. 150. That’s it. They can’t just ignore them because they are so violent. 150 is so few, but they still have the power to kill thousands. And I’ll tell you what? If you ever have to make a bet on a face-off between a Navy Seal and one of the Congolese soldiers involved in hunting them down, I wouldn’t be too quick to write off the Congolese soldier. I’m just saying. They’re kind of bad asses.

    But anyways, this isn’t your typical manhunt. What they really want is for the soldiers to desert and surrender:

    [The combatants] who surrender are well-treated, they are interrogated but without violence, it isn’t necessary, once out of the bush they have nothing to hide; then they’re sent back to Uganda, where they’re granted amnesty, go through a program of psycho-social reinsertion and sometimes get some professional training, before being sent back home with a little money and a few household supplies, or joining the army, more or less voluntarily. 

    The biggest reason for the ongoing conflict at this point is that the combatants don’t trust the government. They think offers of help are a trick. Because it’s been that kind of war. But this time, it’s real.

    That is amazing. This is not how human beings deal with their enemies. Especially enemies who are driven by a logic no higher thanwe just kill for the sake of killing. It humiliates the government, that’s good enough for us.” Those are the enemies you kill. The ones that you and your people and generations to follow never forgive. The people who, at the very least, must be held accountable for their crimes. 

    What is going on in the Congo has never been done before. We’ve never ended our conflicts by forgiving and helping our enemy get well. Never. I am not saying that the government is now perfect or that this particular policy is the be all and end all. But this is something amazing which uses the logic of God’s Kingdom to defeat the power of the enemy’s kingdom. Continue reading

  • The Quality of Mercy

    I want to follow up on that last post with an account of a sermon given by a Christian man who is doing what he can to change our broken system. His name is Mark Osler. He used to be a federal prosecutor in Detroit and sent many men, particularly, black men to prison for drug crimes. He did it with the best of intentions, motivated by a genuine love for his home town which was falling apart before his eyes. But eventually, after he left the job to take a position at Baylor University in Waco Texas, he began to question the justice of what he had been involved in. He was seeking ways to bring his work and his faith into proper relationship with each other, and in the process has become one of the most influential lawyers working to change our drug sentencing laws and bring a different sort of justice to people caught up in the drug trade. Justice which is joined with mercy, not justice which demands the sacrifice of the lives of young men of color.

    “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh,” Osler reads before getting to the less frequently cited sentences. “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.”

    Osler pauses. “Sometimes,” he says with a grin, “the Bible is not very reassuring for a fairly affluent straight white guy from Edina,” referring to the Minneapolis suburb where he and his family live. “But that is me, and this is one of those times. In this passage, Jesus is talking about turning everything—everything—upside down. The poor will have the kingdom, while the rich will face woe. The hungry will be filled, while those who are full will be hungry. Those who are reviled will be blessed, and it’s bad when all speak well of you. This teaching, this idea of turning everything upside down, is dangerous.”

    Continue reading

  • Black and White Drug Dealers in America

    Late last Saturday night, my husband and some friends were driving home when there was an accident a ways ahead of them. A piece of debris from the accident punctured the gas tank of our family’s only vehicle. Which, of course, we had used our last pennies to pay off the day before. Because, of course.

    On the upside, one of my husband’s friends has stepped up and is driving him to and from the bus stop while they work on replacing the damaged gas tank. He took my husband to buy the replacement, brought over the tools needed and has spent at least 6 hours so far on our cold, filthy garage floor helping my husband remove the damaged tank. Obviously, he’s a very good friend.

    However, about 15 years ago, he was our town drug dealer. He sold everything, but particularly cocaine and meth. And he had become a meth user himself. He says that the first time he tried meth, he felt so good that he thought, “this is what I want to do with the rest of my life.” Big ambitions.

    He was still in high school at the time and one day, just a few months short of his 18th birthday, he was caught on school grounds with a large quantity of drugs and cash in his car. At this point, his fate was in the hands of the county prosecutor.

    There were enough drugs and cash in the car that it was obvious he was the source of a lot of the drugs being used in the area. And he had been found with them on school property, during school hours. He was close enough to his 18th birthday to be charged as an adult with multiple felonies and sent away for a long time. In fact, the DA and the local police would be able to make some real political hay with the case. Plus could hold a press conference with the drugs and cash laid out on a table, announcing that they had just taken out a major player in the local drug trade. Continue reading

  • abortion

    The Surprising Way Abortion Really is Destroying the Country

    Just for fun, how about I start off the week by pissing everyone off? And what better way to piss everyone off than by talking politics? Specifically abortion and politics. And even more specifically abortion, politics and the faithless Christian response to both. Now there’s a recipe for upsetting everyone! See – we’re having fun already!

    Almost since Roe v Wade was handed down 40 years ago, high profile (and many not so high profile) Christian preachers have been warning that America’s embrace of abortion, among other things,  would bring down God’s wrath and destroy our country. Yesterday, looking at the mess our country’s in at the moment, it occurred to me that these preachers were correct. Only it’s not working quite the way they thought it was going to work. Because primary blame doesn’t go to the abortionists or pro-choice politicians or women who get abortions for the destruction. It’s those of us who oppose abortion while claiming the name of Christ who bear the lion’s share of the blame.

    Now, if you’ve been following me for a while, you already know that I’m kinda-sorta-pretty-much pro-life. Like I think that abortion is bad and it’s prevalence is a sign of our failure as a society to create a culture which is welcoming and supportive of life, families and children.

    And yet, I believe that if there is judgment coming (or being made manifest) from God due to abortion, it rests heaviest on the shoulders of those of us who are pro-life. We are the ones who have failed. We have been disobedient and our whole country is reaping the consequences.

    The problem is the same one I have harped on many times; we reject the actual instructions of Jesus because they are naive, unrealistic and we don’t think they will work. Instead, we fall back on the ways of men – a will to power, anger, argument, control, guilt and condemnation. As is so often the case, we chose being right over being faithful. In doing so, we have both lost the fight and are bringing down judgment.

    Jesus gave us specific instructions for dealing with our opponents. He said to love them. He said not to resist the evil man. He said that if someone won’t repent of their sin, we ought to let them go their own way. He ran off those who would condemn a sinner and then said, “neither do I condemn you. Go freely. Sin no more.” When faced with aggressive evil, he advocated for those doing it in the spiritual realm saying, “forgive them Father. They do not know what they are doing.”

    Paul instructs us not to be argumentative. Like Jesus, he tells us to serve our enemies. Make sure they are cared for. He tells us that we are to do as Jesus did – give up our rights as an act of humillity. Read the book of Philemon; Paul says that he would be in his rights to demand that Philemon set his slave Onesimus free, but that he is choosing not to do that. Instead he offers no judgment or condemnation. Even when the life of a man he loves hangs in the balance, Paul follows Jesus’ example and gives up his rights in humility and makes an invitation to love.

    I ask you in all seriousness, when have we Christian pro-lifers done any of these things? We haven’t. Instead, we responded to the evil of abortion exactly the same way men have always responded to not getting their way. We organized to gain political power. We sought control and influence. We stood outside clinics and threw stones – sometimes literally. We called people baby killers and put pictures of mutilated pre-born children in the trick or treat bags of small children. We offered condemnation and tried to guilt people into changing their minds about abortion. We tried to physically stop people from gaining entrance to clinics. Our tone has consistently been combative, angry and condemning.

    In response to abortion, pro-life Christians have been an ugly portrait of disobedience to the one we claim to follow.  And we’ve done it in the name of God. We Christians ought to know that God will not be mocked like that. He does and will judge.

    When faced with evil, the obedient, faithful thing to have done would have been to follow Jesus’ instructions. To love more. To serve more. To visit the sick and imprisoned. To feed the hungry. Take in the homeless. Give away all we have. Offer forgiveness.

    We would have been kind to our opponents. We would have been patient with the process. We would have been extremely sparing with our anger and when angry, been angry over the sort of suffering which leads a woman seek an abortion. We would have given up our right to power, control and influence in favor of love and forgiveness. We would have put our faith in the ways of God and not in the ways of man.

    Of course, there are those who have responded to abortion by serving those in need. Who have poured love out on men and women facing an unplanned pregnancy. Who have ministered love and forgiveness to those who have had abortions. In fact, if every dollar which has gone to support pro-life causes and especially “pro-life” politicians had gone to those sorts of Christ-honoring efforts, this country would be in a very different place right now. But the reality is that such efforts at offering a Godly response to abortion struggle for money and attention while politicians blowing the pro-life whistle rake in combined billions.

    Overwhelmingly, pro-life Christians who have actively sought to end abortion have done so by trying to move the levers of power. Abortion was made legal through the levers of power, it was reasoned, so to undo the harm, we must take control of those levers and move them ourselves. It was a lazy, disobedient tact to take. It required very little of us personally other than showing up to vote and sending in a few bucks. Maybe spend a few hours at a rally feeling like part of a righteous tribe headed towards victory. The only suffering involved was the pain of losing from time to time. But now, it is through these very levers of power we grasped at that judgment is coming down.

    Allow me to explain what is happening. For a good number of Christians, opposition to abortion became the most important political issue. For these people, voting for a pro-choice politician was unthinkable. It was tantamount to rejecting the Christian faith, in fact.

    Politicians quickly learned that claiming a pro-life mantle guarenteed them a solid block of votes. It didn’t matter that even when pro-life politicians gained power, very little was done to end abortion. In fact, abortion rates tend to go up when putatively pro-life politicians have power. As long as voting for a pro-choice candidate isn’t an option, there can be no accountability for politicians who claim to be pro-life. They can literally say and do whatever they want without worrying that they will lose the support of their base.

    But the problem created by supporting and electing politicians who are completely unaccountable to their base for anything other than being pro-life is much more insidious than we realize. There is a well documented tendency among humans to resist evidence which makes us look bad. Repeated studies have discovered a strange thing which happens when we’re presented with documented, factual proof that something we believe to be true is actually false. We respond by holding our false belief even tighter. We are so resistant to accepting that we are wrong – perhaps terribly wrong – that we will deny reality rather than change our minds.

    So let’s go back to our unaccountable pro-life politicians. Let’s say that you are one of those one-issue voters who cannot even consider voting for a pro-choice candidate. And let’s say that the pro-life politician you support starts saying things like, “this new heath care law will create death panels to decide who gets treatment and who is allowed to die for lack of medical care. It is meant to bring euthenasia of those deemed worthless to our country.”

    Or “climate change is a lie made up by liberal scientists. It’s just a cover meant to allow the government to seize control of all aspects of our lives.”

    Or “cutting food stamps during a time of high under and un-employment is the most Christian thing we can do for poor people. But raising the minimum wage so people can afford to feed themselves would harm poor people.”

    Or “this president is a Kenyan-born, Muslim socialist who is bent on destroying our country.”

    Or “we have evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, is close to obtaining yellow cake uranium and gave support to the 9-11 highjackers.”

    For the person who supports “pro-life” politicians come-what-may, this creates a problem. All of these statements are false – they have no basis in reality and there’s plenty of evidence to disprove them. Withdrawing support from people who say such things isn’t an option when the alternative is supporting a pro-choice politician (or even just a less stridently ‘pro-life” candidate). But no one wants to believe that they are supporting someone or something which is evil, false or even deranged. So, without even realizing it’s happening, many Christians who vote pro-life do what human beings do – they reject reality in order to protect their sense of themselves as being on the side of right. Because they cannot face the possibility that the pro-life candidate doesn’t deserve their support, many people unconciously chose to believe the blatent lies these people spew instead.

    This dynamic is so strong that research has found that the more evidence a person is presented showing that their beliefs are false, the more tightly they cling to them. So, the more opposition these “pro-life” politicians face and the more facts that are thrown on the table, the more these sort of pro-life Christian voters will support them. In fact, with this dynamic in play it actually benefits these politicians to say more and more outrageous, false things. The more false things they say, the more their opponents howl outrage and the more support the “pro-life” politician gets from his or her base.

    The end result being that there are a lot of pro-life Christians believing a lot of lies. They are supporting politicians who are working to pass laws which are in direct and blatent opposition to the teachings of Christ. These Christians themselves end up adopting and advocating for these radically anti-Christian policies and the attitudes behind them. And not only is abortion still legal and common, but the witness of the church to the rest of the world has been pretty well destroyed.

    The bible tells us that this is exactly what God does with those who will not live in accordance to his instructions and instead cling to the ways of man:

    Since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind. ~ Romans 1:28

    We Christians were given the knowledge of God in the form of some pretty specific instructions for how to deal with evil and those who oppose us and God. We are supposed to love them, not resist, offer forgiveness, refrain from condemnation, meet their needs. Abortion has been with us since time immemorial, of course. We just didn’t have to face its reality until it was legalized. And when that time came, most Christians decided that this knowledge we had been handed in Christ wasn’t worthwhile. It wasn’t going to work and wasn’t going to fix the problem. So we let it go. And now much of the church is a living, breathing demonstration of what a depraved mind looks like.

    Its harsh and many who read this may not want to believe it, but it’s true. And to prove it we have elected officials – all “pro-life” politicians – advocating against the needs of the poor in favor of the weathy, against good stewardship of the planet in favor of the exploitation of the planet and against the will of the American people in favor of their own preferences. And abortion is still legal and common. And the church is increasingly marginalized and rejected. That’s the fruit we grew.

    Now, given our tendency to reject evidence which says we are wrong, I’m sure some Christians who read this will be looking for a reason to reject what I say. I’m just a liberal twisting things to make a clever argument, perhaps. I could tell you that’s not true, but instead, allow me to issue an challenge. Or maybe an invitation.

    How about even if you are 100% sure that I’m wrong and probably defaming both God and the church, you do one little thing. You decide to be obedient to Jesus’ teachings. Even though they are naive and foolish and can’t possibly work or be meant to be taken literally. What if you decide that just as an experiment you will start taking them as actual instructions for a while.

    Next time you get angry, repent and pray that God would put love and compassion in your heart for the person who made you angry. The next time someone says something wrong or even evil, don’t argue or come against them. Instead look for your next chance to do or say something kind to them. The next time you see someone doing something outrageously sinful, advocate for them in the heavenlies: “Father, please forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” Next time you have the urge to speak out against someone, simply say, “I don’t condemn you. But I do love you.”

    When doing these things seems impossible and your righteous anger burns within you, turn to God and ask him to give you peace, joy, patience, lovingkindness in its place. When the darkness you see in the world threatens to overwhelm you, discipline yourself to follow the words of Paul: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent and praiseworthy – think about such things.” (In other words, turn off the news!) When you are certain that doing these things means capitulating to evil, remember that the end of the story is God wins – and he doesn’t actually need your help to do it. But he has given some pretty specific instructions.

    “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” ~ John 14:15

    Related Posts:

    Why I Don’t Consider Abortion When Voting

    Let’s Stop With The Glue Already!

    The Christian’s Role In Society

    What I Think God Would Say About Abortion

  • gay hurricanes

    God’s Judgment Coming Through Disasters

    gay hurricanesEver stop to think that maybe God’s really upset with open fields? And farmers? Seriously. Do you have any idea how many tornado’s go rampaging through open fields every year? We all pay attention when a tornado hits a populated area or a pro-gay church gathering, but the vast majority of tornado’s hit open fields and farm land. And since (according to some people’s thinking), natural disasters are a sign of God’s wrath, then God must have some big beef with open fields and farm land – right?

    Or did you ever think through the implications of the fact that our planet couldn’t support life if it wasn’t so dynamic? Without geological process which lead to earthquakes and volcano’s and even weather events like hurricanes doing their part, life could not exist on Earth. So if destructive weather events and earthquakes and volcano’s and such are the result of man’s sin (the teaching of some folks), then if everyone stopped sinning, the planet would become stagnant and we’d all DIE. Now there’s a reason to carry on fornicating if ever there was one!

    OK, OK, I’m being silly. Piper and Driscol their ilk not withstanding, I think all reasonable people understand that natural disasters are the result of the normal processes of the planet and not sent by God to punish us for pissing him off. And yet – believe it or not – I don’t think the “Hurricane Katrina was caused by Mardi Gras” people are entirely wrong to think that there is a link between God’s judgment and natural disasters. In the bible, natural disasters are sometimes linked quite explicitly to God’s judgment. But I don’t think it works the way some people think it does.

    First of all, major weather events and calamity aren’t caused by people sinning and making God angry. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornado’s, volcano’s and the like were happening long before we were here to piss God off. And life on earth does depend on these dynamic processes. The bible says that God “causes the rain to fall and the sun to shine on the good and evil alike.” Rain can mean flood and sun can mean drought, so this isn’t just a statement indicating blessings, but also disaster. So both good weather and bad weather will happen regardless of whether people are good or evil. Continue reading

  • light_in_the_dark__wallpaper

    The Power of Good vs Evil

    The other day, two very different news stories caught my attention. The first was the news of a young man shooting people at a mall in Oregon, killing two shoppers and himself. The other was news that the mother of football player Jerry Brown extended forgiveness to the teammate whose drunk driving caused her son’s death. I was struck by the contrast the stories presented. But also by the likelihood that the way we think about these two very different events reveals how little we understand the nature and power of good and evil.

    It is seen as almost a given these days that these are dark times we live in. The world is going to hell in a handbasket and may never fully recover. Pessimism about the state and trajectory of things is practically the default position. However, a proper understanding of the power of good and evil reveals something entirely different going on. For example, which event will have greater impact: the shooting at a mall or the mother who forgives? The mother’s forgiveness. By a long shot.

    Odds are excellent that you are familiar with the bible verse which says that God will visit the sins of the father onto the sons. I had always heard it was to the 7th generation, but in scripture it says to the 3rd or 4th generation (Exodus 20:5). However, not nearly as much attention is paid to the fact that scriptures say that when we are loving and obedient to God, those blessings will be passed on through 1000 generations (Deuteronomy 7:9, Exodus 20:5). That is why no matter how dark the times appear to be, good is guaranteed to prevail. It is so much more powerful than evil. When evil enters into the system of humanity, if you will, it will do several generations worth of damage. But when good enters into the system, its benefits will remain pretty well indefinitely. And that is why despite all the attention paid to evil around us, it is not only rational to be hopeful about our world, but it’s irrational to be as pessimistic as we are. Continue reading

  • faces-vase

    “What is truth?”

    So, are you sick of the arguments yet? You know the arguments – Romney vs Obama. “Job Creators” vs Inequality. Creationism vs Evolution. Pro-Choice vs Pro-Life. Old Fashioned vs New Fangled. Text Speak vs Grammar Nazi’s. Toilet Seat Up vs Toilet Seat Down. Whatever it is, if we can figure out two ways of looking at an issue to divide ourselves into, we do it. And then we argue and argue and argue. We refine our arguments and wonder what the hell is wrong with the people who don’t agree with us. But aren’t you sick of it?

    I remember years ago an older, wiser friend told me, “arguments don’t work. You never change someone’s mind through arguments.” At the time I was a bit flabbergasted. If we didn’t argue, how would the other person know they were wrong? And if we can’t get everyone pretty much on board, how do we keep the world from going to hell in a hand basket? I mean, what was the alternative?

    Of course, today we have reams of research and endless gigabytes of internet conversations to prove that what my friend told me was true: arguments don’t work. They rarely change anyone’s mind. And I think all but the most die-hard believers are starting to get sick of them.

    So what is the alternative to argument? Do we just agree to disagree – you have your opinions and I’ll have mine? And what about truth? Aren’t some things just true and shouldn’t we stand up for and advocate for them? If we can’t argue and persuade our way into some consensus about what’s true how can we function together to get anything done? The live and let live concept sounds fine until we need policies to get the economy going or fix serious social problems. Then what? Continue reading

  • hafiz

    Bloggy Linky Goodness

    I saw a sign yesterday which said “‘Let’s agree to disagree’ is just another way of saying ‘you’re wrong but too stupid to change your mind so let’s stop talking about it’.”Oddly enough, my husband has repeatedly proposed getting through this election cycle by “agreeing to disagree”. And here I was thinking he wanted to agree to disagree because he was feeling threatened by my razor sharp logic and superior grasp of facts!

    I wonder why we have such a hard time dealing with people who disagree with us? Perhaps deep down we all feel like my mom did when she told me once, “I’d rather be wrong than change my mind.” I don’t have a particularly good answer to the quandary of conflicting opinions, but this week’s Bloggy Linky Goodness does have some excellent advice for those trying to find their way through this election season without being an ass. And some other excellent stuff as well. So here goes!

    Politics: A Biblical Approach I’m not entirely sure that this ought to be labeled “a biblical approach”, but it’s definitely a good approach anyways. I especially appreciate that she starts of with a warning to “be intentional in how you present history”. Today may not be ideal, but the past wasn’t nirvana either, folks! Continue reading