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Posts Tagged ‘America’

Unfortunately the time in which we live is plagued by fear and war. This is nothing new to the human race, and as Ecclesiastes states, there is nothing new under the sun. Every age of man is full of war, plague, and strife. How can it not be? Man has sunken to the depths of its own animus, barely reminding itself that it is greater than beast. For man looks at those who are made in his own likeness and greets them as brothers, yet he despises those who bear even the slightest of differences from his own appearance or behavior. This too, is nothing new. Our ancestors enslaved others who were not their own. Perhaps for speaking a different tongue, or having a different colored skin, or even perhaps a different religion. Man will find any excuse necessary to cause pain, war, and death. It is the way of the world.

But need it be this way? By all accounts the way of the world is full of strife and is generally unpleasant. When evil is done, it requires not only equal payback, but great wrath upon all who stand opposed. It is for this that the law was written, “an eye for an eye”. Not that justice would be certain to be meted out, but to ensure no greater than equal justice was served. For the wrath of mankind is prone to vengeance above and beyond fair and equal measure.

The Christian voice goes above and beyond this fair and equal measure of violence, and dispenses with it altogether. As the apostle Paul says, we battle not against flesh and blood, but against dark forces. Our battle is against the forces of darkness which control the nations of the world, and which daily battle in the heavenly places. For the message of Christ is that we do not retaliate against those who do us harm, but that we conquer evil with love and forgiveness. As our Lord has commanded us to turn the other cheek, we must obey. For he disarmed Peter in the garden, so has he disarmed us.

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I remember the first time I was introduced to Christian Pacifism. It made literally, no sense to me whatsoever. As an eighteen year old kid (saying that as a twenty-six year old kid), the thought of Christian Pacifism was anathema. The very idea made me sick to my stomach. Pacifism wasn’t Christian in my eyes, it stood in direct contrast to everything I had been taught to believe by my culture.

My parents didn’t raise someone who was so easily turned away from differing viewpoints, however. The more the idea of pacifism disgusted me, the greater I wanted to delve into it and see why someone would commit to such lunacy. It also required me to confront head-on passages of Scripture that not only went against my worldview, but against the very god I believed in.

Having a crisis of faith is never fun. People don’t do this for kicks and giggles. The very bedrock of your faith is shaken to its core, because it was built on something that you’re not sure will withstand the test of time. Jesus gives a parable about this in the Scriptures. Everyone who builds the foundation of their faith upon the teachings and actions of Jesus will be able to withstand all the winds and rains and storms that may come. But those who do not build their faith upon the example of Jesus, will be like a man who builds his house on sand, and the first storm that comes will knock it down. And great will be its fall. (Matthew 7 & Luke 6)

The more I dug into Scripture, and the more I read the words of Jesus, the more my foundation began to crumble. My faith, my house, was built on sand. And the fall was great indeed. I became confronted with the very same question that plagued C.S. Lewis during his own crisis of faith. Either Jesus was a madman, or he was the Son of God.

Fortunately beneath my sand, was a bit of bedrock. That happens sometimes. My house fell, but I was able to clear away the sand, and begin building anew. It took some time, but I knew the foundation was firm (although I do still find granules here and there). My neighbors and friends and family laughed at me. I probably felt a bit like Noah, my faith being mocked. Yet I knew that somehow everything would be alright, because my new faith was built upon a Gospel that was solid. A Gospel of Love.

There have been some bumps along the way. Faith journeys are never easy. And there have been storms, Lord have there been storms. I’ve had hurricane winds blow against my heart and soul, and there have been times when it was all I could do to not give in. But our God is a mighty fortress, and happy are those who put their trust in Him.

The journey isn’t over yet. I still have a long road ahead of me. I’m still learning this path of love and peace, trying to show mercy and grace. (It’s been eight years since I started on this road, and you’d be surprised how little you actually learn in that time). A little something that helps me along in this regard is a quote by Stanley Hauerwas: “I say I’m a pacifist because I am a violent son of a bitch. I’m a Texan. I can feel it in every bone I’ve got. And I hate the language of pacifism because it’s too passive. But by avowing it, I create expectations in others that hopefully will help me live faithfully to what is true. But that I have no confidence in my own ability to live it at all.”

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It is remarkable to me that there are so many who view the Catholic Church with such disdain, even now. Do not misunderstand me, I’m no Papist. My great-grandfather’s dying words were, “Damn the Pope!”. But surely we have come to a point in the Christian religion where we can disagree on secondary issues, even so far as to call each other out on where we disagree, without questioning the salvific status of the other person.

No man has knowledge of who will enter the gates of Paradise. But I do not see how one can damn another professing Christian, especially when it is a man like Pope Francis who seems so remarkably intent on spreading the Good News of Christ to the poor and the least of these. It seems to me, that Pope Francis is the most Christ-like pope there has been in ages.

Do I have issues with the Church of Rome? Absolutely. For starters, they can begin to renounce papal infallibility when speaking ex cathedra, begin to consecrate women to Holy Orders, and allow Latin Rite priests to marry. But these are not salvific issues. None of them contradict the message of the Gospels, which is salvation through faith in Jesus Christ evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit.

However, I have noticed a remarkable lack of the fruit of the Spirit when it comes to folks who lambaste the Catholic Church and Pope Francis, and refuse to acknowledge his stature and prominence in spreading the Christian religion. They would sooner gnaw off their own foot, than to admit that the Pope may indeed be a Christian, and may indeed be advancing the cause of Christ.

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I’m still trying to figure out how to define my experience watching “Selma”, last night. The closest I can come to, is that it was a spiritual experience. “Selma” is heart-wrenching, and beautiful.

The entire film, I could not help but think, “My God, what have we (white Americans) done?”. The answer to my question came in the movie itself. When any white person stands by, and does not speak out against racism when it rears its ugly head, we have implicitly condoned it. It is our sin of omission.

“Selma” also illuminates the activities of Dr. King in Selma, Alabama. His leadership of a non-violent protest against those who sought to harm and kill him. How disappointed I was to learn that while “Selma” had a full audience, a film that glorifies the life of a military assassin was sold out.

This is the sin of the Church in America – we have failed to speak out against the violence of this nation. We have implicitly stood by as our government systematically oppresses and murders its enemies – at home and abroad. Many in our churches have even explicitly supported or participated in such efforts.

We have glorified the military industrial complex as our savior and have placed our hope in our elected officials. Yet the Scriptures speak out, and proclaim a new way of life. That in the Kingdom of God, swords are beat into plowshares. That those who live by the sword, shall die by the sword. The Gospel of Christ is this: Love thy God, love thy neighbor, love thy enemy, love thine own self. Love.

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Which then is the love of Christ? The killing of enemies for national pride? Or the sacrifice of one’s life for the freedom of others?

Skip “American Sniper”, Church. Go see “Selma”.

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With the Texas elections, there was an overwhelming victory by Republicans across the board. Many view the officials who have been elected to be valiant defenders of life. And perhaps these men are valiant protectors of the unborn (though I may disagree with their methods). I believe abortion to be a difficult decision, but one that is bereft of any moral or spiritual goodness.

That being said – being a champion of life extends to far more than simply ensuring fewer abortions. With fewer abortions come children who are born into unwanted and possibly dangerous situations. These children have an increased risk to grow up in a situation of generational poverty, and become victims of societal ills. With an alarming population of Texas’ children already going to bed hungry, and with Republicans fighting tooth and nail to cut funding for schools and welfare programs, are these officials really defenders of life?

Children who grow up in these scenarios have a higher likelihood to become juvenile offenders, and many end up in a cyclical pattern – repeating mistake after mistake because society did not offer them the same privilege given to children with better resources at hand. These juveniles grow into adults who cycle in and out of prison, many of those die on the streets, or are sentenced to death in the prisons that many of them have called home for the majority of their adult (and possibly adolescent) lives.

Does a champion of life only care about ensuring that a fetus is born into a human being? Does a champion of life care about ensuring that everyone has enough food to eat, clean water to drink, a roof over their head, and adequate medical care? Does a champion of life seize every possible chance to execute someone whom they deem to be past redemption?

No, a champion of life is a champion for all those who live. A champion of life fights not only for those who have yet to be born – but also those that have been born already. Especially those who have been outcast by society and have either by circumstance or by choice been relegated to lives lead in the dark. A champion of life champions not only his friends, and those who think as he does – but also his enemies.

A champion of life recognizes that all are made in the image of God. That all life is sacred. That all of us are broken – and that all of us are in need of redemption.

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God Bless the Refugees

To this land they have traversed,
From dangers only God can tell.
Chancing life and limb and sanity;
Daring climate extremes, and living hell.
For a chance at freedom, it was worth it all.
Some lost friends along the way,
They were herded like cattle,
Once reaching Freedom’s shore.
Their entire lives they dreamed,
Of a land that accepted the poor.
The hungry, and the weak they are;
The huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.
And what has America,
The haven of hope, decreed?
No asylum! No mercy!
Send back the refugees!
Yet I cannot help but wonder,
If it is they who should be deported.
Or perhaps those who believe freedom is a birthright
To only we few fortunate.
America could learn a thing,
Or two, from folks such as these,
For the very rocks and I cry out:
“God bless the refugees!”

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What constitutes being a patriotic citizen of the United States of America? This is a recent inquiry that simply will not leave my brain. Mainly because this is a season of fervor in regard to America and her independence the celebration of such being held on the fourth of July each year.

I shudder every year when this time rolls around, deep into my spine. Moreso than even usual, American churches are singing national hymns such as “God Bless America” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Many throw in the “Star-Spangled Banner” for good measure, as well as the recitation of the American Pledge of Allegiance. All of this is being done in churches on Sunday, amid sermons on how America is the Promised Land, and was founded upon Christian principles.

All of this confuses me so much that it often makes me literally sick to my stomach. Obviously American Christians place a high value on being an American, and a Christian. They perceive themselves as the most patriotic folks that there can be. Therefore my main question is: must you be a Christian to be a patriotic American?

Is patriotism a matter of faith in God? If so, then whose god? Does that mean that atheists cannot be good patriotic citizens? I would argue that atheists are often the best candidates for patriotic fervor, simply because disbelief in a higher power means that their ultimate loyalty is to their nation of origin, and not to a deity or religion. If it is a matter of faith in a deity, is it the Christian god? Does that rule out Jews and Muslims who also claim to worship the God of Abraham?

And if it is a matter of faith in God (the Christian one), then why do so many American Christians equate a lack of pride in America as a sin? Why do they give such honor to the Constitution of the United States, and proclaim that it is inspired by God? (This is exactly what folks are saying when they say that America was founded on Christian principles. They may not realize it, but they are indeed convinced that divine providence had a major part to play in American freedoms). Why do American Christians know the Pledge of Allegiance, but not the Apostle’s Creed? How do they know the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, and yet cannot name the Twelve Disciples? How can they read John Locke and Adam Smith, and not have read Irenaeus and Clement?

The Church in America needs your prayers, because it has forgotten that it is not a citizen of the United States – it is the Bride of Christ. Her citizenship is in heaven, not here on earth. The songs she sings should be magnifications of the Godhead, and the pledges she should recite are the Psalms. She should honor no graven image, and glory in no death except for the Cross and our Savior who was crucified upon it. Her freedom is bought with a price, but it wasn’t an American whose blood was shed for her – it was a homeless Jewish man who spoke no English, lived in a territory occupied by a ruthless empire, and at one point was a refugee in danger for his life. He lived and died in the region we call the Middle East, and spoke a language very similar to one spoken by those we now deem infidels.

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