Guns don’t work

November 28, 2016 — 8 Comments
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Photo Credit: BigGreengo Flickr via Compfight cc

Lately I have been more and more impressed with the undeniably nonviolent character of the life and teaching of Jesus. I believe it has tremendous significance for our day and age as Christians seek to answer the question: What does it mean to follow the Lamb who was slain?

Yesterday I was talking with a good friend about the plight of the poor and oppressed (news concerning the death of Fidel Castro got us moving in this direction). While I wondered how world leaders could speak admirably of a man who allegedly murdered so many people, my friend urged me to consider the political and historical context that formed Cuba’s circumstances in recent decades.This led to a discussion about the role of violence in resisting evil: To what extreme must we who follow Jesus hold the conviction of nonviolence? What allowance should we make for those oppressed peoples who finally break under pressure and decide to hit back? How much can I really relate to their suffering as a white American male living in the shadow of the world’s greatest superpower? Continue Reading…

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Photo Credit: @superamit Flickr via Compfight cc

“Community” is something of a buzzword these days; different people use it to describe different things. Overall, though, most people who use the word envision deeper, more intimate relationships between themselves and other people.

Christianity community centers around the person, work, and teaching of Jesus, but the core concept remains the same: Community means sharing life with each other. Church leaders, ministers, pastors, small group practitioners, and workers of all sorts are engaged with this question of how to form, create, build, or otherwise enjoy a deeper experience of community. Continue Reading…

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Photo Credit: Tom Kavana Flickr via Compfight cc

In case you haven’t heard, there was an election in America last week. People are up in arms about it on both sides of the table, with some even taking to the streets in protest. Social media is aflame with opinions, accusations, predictions, and scapegoating of every sort. World leaders are watching with angst over what it will mean for their countries. Minority groups are afraid for their very lives. Indeed, these are strange and trying times for many people.

Israel once experienced a similarly distressing time of transition: Her king, Saul, was descending into madness, while her soon-to-be king, David, was amassing an army of malcontents in the wilderness. Saul was hunting David like a dog in a wild bid to prevent David from gaining the throne, but the people who had tired of Saul’s reign were defecting to David day by day and revolution was in the air. Scripture says that among the people who joined David’s ranks were “men from the tribe of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).

As I survey the landscape of the western world today, especially among the professed followers of Jesus, I wonder: Where are the men and women of Issachar? Where are the people who understand the times and know what we should do? Does the Church have any prophetic voice left in her? Can she speak to the issues of our day with any vestige of divine authority?

I spend a lot of time with both liberals and conservatives, and most of them are well-meaning human beings, believe it or not. I often lament with Elbert Hubbard that “if men and women could only know each other, they would neither idolize nor hate.” Yet I also realize there are genuinely bad people in this world who have no business holding positions of power and that there are systems in place which desperately need to be renewed. These matters should not be ignored.

What should we do, then? I don’t know. What I do know is that both the political left and right are continually speaking past each other. Politicians are pontificating as usual and social media pundits are hurling anathemas to no practical end. Opinions abound, but the clear voice of authority–the word from God–is hard to decipher amidst the cacophony.

Where are the men and women of Issachar? Today, unfortunately, I have only the question and not the answer.

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Photo Credit: Don Pino Esposito Flickr via Compfight cc

I’ve been a fan of Shane Claiborne since I read his first book, The Irresistible Revolution, way back in 2006. It’s been ten years since I discovered his work and I can tell he’s been busy since then. Lately his focus has fallen on the death penalty, in particular on abolishing it. As he says in his latest book, Executing Grace, “Death is the problem, not the solution.”

The death penalty has been with us for a long time and has existed in many different forms. In fact, it is so historic and common place that most people just take it for granted as a necessary evil in society. At least that was the notion I took toward capital punishment whenever it crossed my radar as a young Christian. At first I didn’t think about it at all; when I did, I just kind of accepted it as part of the fabric of life in a fallen world.  Continue Reading…

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Photo Credit: Mimadeo Flickr via Compfight cc

Lately I’ve been reading Edith Hamilton’s classic book on mythology, in particular her chapter on Norse mythology. I was struck by what she describes as the dominating characteristic of the Norse mythos:

The world of Norse mythology is a strange world. Asgard, the home of the gods, is unlike any other heaven men have dreamed of. No radiance of joy is in it, no assurance of bliss. It is a grave and solemn place, over which hangs the threat of an inevitable doom. The gods know that a day will come when they will be destroyed. Sometime they will meet their enemies and go down beneath them to defeat and death. (314)

The only consolation for the Norse people in the face of ultimate defeat (the inevitability of death) was to face it with unrelenting courage. Despite being aware of their mortality, the gods were committed to resist their demise to the bitter end. Humans took their cue accordingly and sought to attain a place in Valhalla (one of the halls in Asgard) through similar acts of bravery, though even Valhalla was destined to perish all the same. Hamilton continues: Continue Reading…

The following essay was the final assignment for a college course I recently completed, and while I was limited to only five pages for the assignment, I would like to expand this content into a more comprehensive treatment of its subject: the Christian's relationship to war. I would appreciate your feedback on what direction to go from here. Leave a comment or shoot me a private email with your suggestions. Thanks!

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Photo Credit: Håkan Dahlström Flickr via Compfight cc

History knows him as Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish Rabbi and figurehead of the world’s largest religion; Christians know Him as Lord of all. When once the King of kings stood before a Roman governor in question over his alleged crimes against the state, He answered, “My kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my kingdom is not of this world” (NLT John 18:36, emphasis mine). Jesus then bore witness to this truth by laying down His life on a Roman cross, and in doing so He set the standard of nonviolent resistance over armed conflict for all who would come after Him. Continue Reading…

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Photo Credit: silaaa via Compfight cc

As a writer, I know the challenge of the blank page.

The blank page stands witness to all this is not and all that could be. It invites the writer to express his innermost thoughts and to form them into an offering worthy to present to the world.

For this very reason, the blank page intimidates, as well. For there it sits–an invitation, yes–but quite possibly an invitation to failure. What if the words don’t come out right? What if they fall on deaf ears? What if nobody cares?

These are the kind of thoughts I normally center upon when, as a writer, I consider the blank page.  Continue Reading…

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Photo Credit: Patxi Arsa via Compfight cc

The most significant discovery of my life has been the indwelling presence of Christ. I see that my entire calling in life is simply to enjoy this Presence and walk in its Light, to cultivate fellowship with God just as the Master did with His Father, until everything I do or do not do springs directly from this inner well.

Did you know that this is your entire life’s calling, too?

I’ve written a number of posts over the years dealing with our walk in the Spirit, though at best I consider myself an infant-in-arms at the practice of God’s presence. Continue Reading…

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Photo Credit: dougwest403 via Compfight cc

“To do theology without history is to study cut flowers, not living plants.” So said Michael Blecker, and so I too affirm. In fact, this little series on the cross is governed by that maxim. We are looking at the development of thought concerning the Cross through 30 or so years of New Testament history.

The last post took us through the first ten chapters of the book of Acts, a time period covering up to ten or more years, depending on your chronology. This is the point at which I like to read the letter of James; i.e. sometime after the dispersion of the Jerusalem saints (compare Acts 8:2 with James 1:1). Please understand, however, that though James is traditionally believed to be one of the earliest New Testament writings, most people are not comfortable with placing it in the late 30’s or early 40’s. Nonetheless, I proceed. Continue Reading…

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Photo Credit: RGNodak via Compfight cc

In the last post I introduced a new study series on the Cross and the hermeneutic with which I am going to approach it. In the weeks to come, we’ll be looking at the progression of thought in the New Testament concerning the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice.

For instance, what did Peter say about the cross on the day of Pentecost, and how did his understanding broaden over subsequent years? At what point(s) in the Story are we introduced to new concepts and further dimensions of the work of Christ? These are the kinds of questions we’ll be analyzing for a while here on the blog. Let’s start at the beginning.  Continue Reading…