just an apprentice

the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Nonjudgmental Presence...

To the degree that we accept that through Christ we ourselves have been reconciled with God we can be messengers of reconciliation for others. Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence. We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label. When we walk around as if we have to make up our minds about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we only create more division. Jesus says it clearly, "Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge;...do not condemn;...forgive" (Luke 6:36-37)

In a world that constantly asks us to make up our minds about other people, a nonjudgmental presence seems nearly impossible. But it is one of the most beautiful fruits of a deep spiritual life and will be easily recognized by those who long for reconciliation.

--Henri Nouwen

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Color Purple: On finding the middle in a country divided into red states and blue states

John Danforth and Barack Obama are two political voices I highly respect. Two of my favorite leaders, in the political arena. They are men of integrity, character, and values. They are both bringing a message that is needed. If this country is not going to spin off its axis to the right or to the left (or implode in a toxic, uncivil partisan political quagmire)...I believe we need centrist voices like those of these men.

You can read an op-ed piece by the former senator John Danforth that appeared in the New York Times last year.

Barack Obama appeared on the Today Show last week. Here is that interview. I will also include links below to the keynote address that Senator Obama gave at the Call to Renewal conference sponsored by Sojourners.

Keynote address (part 1)
Keynote address (part 2)
Keynote address (part 3)
Keynote address (part 4)

While I am cautious as to how I talk about politics, I believe it is imposible to consider oneself a citizen of the Kingdom of God and a follower of Jesus and not address political issues. The question is how we do it and with what tone. The former Senator Danforth and Senator Obama both talk about how faith has influenced the political system and process in a detrimental way.

I saw an interview on 60 Minutes last week of David Kuo, who was high up in the Bush administration working on the Faith-Based Initiative. He also expresses some keen observations and goes as far as to say that "the Church (Christians) should take a 5-year fast from political engagement. A call I have heard before from John Roth, Charlotte 2005.

"God and politics had become very much fused together into a sort of a single entity. Where, in a way, politics was the fourth part of the trinity. God the father, God the son, God the holy spirit, God the politician."
David Kuo

Jesus is reduced to a precinct organizer and special interest lobbyist for Kingdom values. Not the Jesus I see in Scripture.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Myspace generation

At the seminar hosted by SMC last week, Ken Mueller showed this very funny video clip from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In this piece, Dimitri Martin highlights the phenomenon that is social networking and online journaling (weblogging).


I have been thinking of doing a post on the sociology of blogging. Cultural analysis. Sociology of blogging. Communication. I believe their are different levels. Let me just off the top of my head see how many I can think of.

1. Those who don't know what blogging is.

2. Those who have heard of blogging, but have no desire to enter the stream of this communication/sociological phenomenon.

3. Those who read the blogs of others, but do not feel comfortable expressing their own comments for anyone to read (either by creating their own web identity/journal...or by commenting on the blogs of others).

4. Those who read the blogs of others and post comments from time to time, but do not leave a name. They remain anonymous contributers to the conversation. No "I/Thou".

5. Those who read blogs, post comments and identify themselves so as to become more personal participants in the conversation.

6. Those who create their own web presence and invite communication, exchange of ideas with the broader world via cyberspace.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Is God Green?

“Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: ‘I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you…every living creature on earth.’”
Genesis 9:8-10

“For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God’s curse. All creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.”
Romans 8:19-21

I watched a documentary by Bill Moyers last week entitled—Is God Green? You can watch each segment from that PBS program at this website. It is encouraging to see evangelical Christians embracing the Biblical imperative to care for creation. It is disheartening to hear the counter voices like the theologian from Knox Seminary who does not see any connection between faithfulness to the God of Scripture and the care, conservation and good use of earth’s resources.

Tri Robinson, pastor of the Boise Vineyard, has begun to teach his congregation the importance of viewing care for creation as part of our responsibility as Christians (watch the clip of this segment--Chapter 1 of Is God Green?). Indeed, pollution is a sin issue. Not because we owe it to “Mother Earth,” but because the earth is the Lords (“this is my Father’s world) and everything that is in it.

So we don’t treat the earth as if it is sacred in and of itself—pagan spiritualities. Nor, on the other hand, do we use and abuse its resources in a way that leads to pollution, global warming and ill health effects. The bottom line in our treatment of the earth is not just the almighty dollar—a cost/effect analysis. A Biblical view of creation care will be distinguishable from the forces of market capitalism.

This statement, on Christians and Climate, was signed by many influential evangelical leaders, including Rick Warren. The statement bascially calls Christians to see care of the environment as a part of faithfulness to the God of Scripture. It takes into acount the empirical research of serious science that indicates that global warming is real. Christians are bringing their faith into the political arena on a broader range of issues. It is more important to Biblically consistent and politically inconsistent than visa versa.

Here is the counter statement drafted as a response to Christians and Climate statement. This statement was drafted in large part by Calvin Beisner, Ph.D. (history/history of political thought), associate professor of social ethics at Knox Theological Seminary, co-founder of the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, coauthor of the Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship. This statement basically says that global warming is just a hoax a scare campaign by liberal, tree-hugging, save the whale types. No need to conserve pristine wilderness lands when we could dominate and use the resources there for our capitalistic purposes.

When Christians see taking care of our environment as part of faithfulness to the God of Scripture—that is good news. When other Christians just dismiss these voices as sell-out tree-hugging liberals—that is bad news. Humans suffer when creation is misused.

Check out the blog conversation that is taking place out of this program on PBS.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Gospel of peace...

Will Sampson has some interesting insights from a lecture by Chuck Gutenson on Pacifism.

1. No matter how much we spend on American national defense, the best we can hope for is “illusion of security.”

2. We cannot kill enough of “them” to ever reasonably defend “us”, and it is antithetical to the gospel to even think in such (i.e. us vs. them) categories.

3. The Iraq War was a bad investment and showed poor stewardship.

4. The Iraq War evidenced a lack of “due diligence in critiquing the case for war.”

5. We are all sinners; therefore, pacifists do not underestimate the enemy, rather, they properly estimate the sinfulness of human actors when suggesting that we are incapable of wielding faithfully the power to take a life.

6. Nationalism is a new form of idolatry and an “alternate soteriology.” (Yoder) We should, therefore, be highly suspicious of nationalist claims that cause us to act in ways not rooted in the model of Christ.


For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies:
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Protestant vs. Catholic heaven

First a disclaimer. I have never been an apologist for The Simpsons. In fact, I have never even watched one episode. If anything, my view would be that The Simpsons have had a negative impact on our culture. Nevertheless they represent an influential media phenomenon.

I found this bit of pop-culture theologizing to be interesting. For what it is worth (probably not much)--here is The Simpsons take on Protestant vs. Catholic heaven.

Anyone want to do a little cultural exegesis?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Plotting goodness...

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:21

But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Matthew 5:39

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death? Even the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’ No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
Romans 8:35-37

The Word of the Lord.

In a recent conversation, I was told that a large church in our area places armed guards at its doors. I presume their presence is inconspicuous. I also happened upon the website of another mega-church last week and was struck by the fact that one of their staff positions is director of security. Whereas the other staff positions included a photo, the picture of this person was a shadow profile.

The issue of how we respond to the problem of evil in our world today is a real one. The tragic events of last week at the Nickle Mines Amish schoolhouse raise even more questions about security, and protecting innocent lives. As Christians, how do we view the task of restraining evil—acts of violent aggression that bring devastation and death to innocent victims? How do we deal with the possibility of violence in a fallen world?

I see Christians answering these questions in different ways. Some go as far as to use armed security guards in places of worship. I wonder what Jesus thinks of this? What do we do with the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount? How can we pick and choose which words of Jesus we will take seriously, and which ones we will make optional—just not realistic in the “real” world?

Are we not called to walk in the same way that Jesus walked…loving our enemies, praying for those who persecute us, laying down our lives…

I do not raise these questions to impugn those Christians who read Scripture and have wrestled with what it means to follow Christ and have come out at a different point. I understand that sincerely committed Christians can come out at different points. I just am raising the question of what we do with the words of Jesus and the perspective we find in the Romans passages.

Must we not accept as authoritative ALL the teachings of Jesus, or reject him as an “out of touch” lunatic? Which words will we reject? The ones that are just too difficult to live out? The ones that require us to die so that he might live?

While we avoid facing up to our personal ‘monsters’ they actually have more power to intimidate us. That is why giving them a name is important—it begins to define them, to make them a known quantity. Fears need naming, and so do temptations; and lies brought into the light lose their power to destroy.
Aidan Readings (December 14), Celtic Daily Prayer

And then the prayer comes forth...

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Soothe Your suffering ones...

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
In the same way, let your light shine before men,
that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight,
and give Your angels and saints charge over those who sleep.
Tend Your sick ones, O Lord Christ.
Rest Your weary ones.
Bless Your dying ones.
Soothe Your suffering ones.
Shield Your joyous ones,
and all for Your love's sake.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Good vs. evil

This is not GOOD. When we use tactics that are not good, we are losing the battle. What moral basis do we have to name particular countries as the axis of evil? What moral basis do we have to conduct a war on terror whem we employ terrorist tactics.

Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy.