Category: Member Blogs

Was the American Civil War About Slavery?

Ted Grimsrud—March 20, 2019
As I continue to read and think about the American Civil War, I find many questions to struggle with. A significant one is on the surface fairly simple: Was slavery the main issue over which the war was fought? Of course, this question turns out to be anything but simple. A lot depends on where one stands in relation to the Civil War itself.
Two different viewpoints
Clearly slavery was a contentious issue during the first half of the 18thcentury. However, a related issue was also central: How much freedom to pursue pro-slavery policies would individual states and regions have? This question led many, especially in the South, to pose the issues as centering on what came to be called “states rights,” or the relation between the self-determination of specific states and the authority exercised over states by the federal government.
So, in the years after the war ended in 1865, the general take in the South (and by many in the North) was that slavery was kind of a peripheral issue and that the war actually had most of all to do with the need the Confederate states felt to defend states rights and the Southern “way of life” in general—even to the point of defending them against invading forces from the North. This came to be known as the “lost cause of the Confederacy”—the “lost cause” being the just cause of defending those rights and that way of life that, though defeated, was honorable and worthy. This view intentionally marginalizes slavery itself as a reason for the war.
On the other hand, the view I absorbed growing up in my “Yankee” environment was that indeed the Civil War was fought to free the slaves. After all, the key moment came when Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863 to order slaves freed. That statement made it clear what the stakes were in the war, and it energized the North to make sure to win the war so freedom for slaves would be attained. Perhaps that hard won freedom was compromised a bit in the decades following the end of the war, but the ending of slavery was a sure achievement, one that in fits and starts the country has tried to sustain and expand.
Doubts about the main views
As I have learned more about the Civil War era and what followed, I have come to have serious problems with both approaches. Or, rather, I think there may be some truth in each one and even more truth in considering some other key factors. I certainly reject the “lost cause” argument insofar as it minimizes the roll of clinging to slavery (and white supremacy) in the South’s willingness to fight this war. I also reject the idea that the main dynamic in the war was the South defending its territory from the northern invaders. It seems to me that the South initiated the war from the beginning.
However, the glimmer of truth in the southern perspective is its implied critique of the centralized, top-down power in the Union position. Ironically, this notion of power actually seems to have not been present in a strong way at the beginning of the war. However, warfare as a rule tends to have the effect of strengthening the forces of centralized power. Thus, by the end of the Civil War the stage was set for a much stronger federal presence in the US, especially in relation to the use of military power (note, in particular, the Indian wars that followed on the heals of the Civil War as the Union completed the conquest of Native American populations under the leadership of Civil War generals such as William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan).
At the same time, I question the narrative that places the liberation of slaves at the center of the concern for the North. While the evidence seems irrefutable that the Southern leaders were indeed deeply committed to holding on to (and expanding) the institution of slavery and that that lay at the very heart of their motivations, I don’t think the North went into the war with the intent of liberating slaves. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was mostly a tactical move to prevent England and France recognizing the Confederacy as an independent nation and to in other ways bolster Northern morale in a difficult period during the war. It is telling that the Proclamation only “freed” slaves in territories notunder Union control.
It is the case, though, that Lincoln’s edict did take on a life of its own in energizing black Americans to devote their energies to a Union victory—a result that played a major role in fueling what became a juggernaut of northern power that ended up obliterating the South’s war machine. It is also the case that the North was now committed to the ending of slavery should they win the war. And that indeed happened.
Nonetheless, had Union General George McClellan acted decisively in his approach to Richmond early in the war, the North might have actually defeated the South only months after the war began—with the likely consequence that slavery would have remained in place. And it seems clear, more importantly, that the underlying issue with relation to slavery—white supremacy—remained very much in place even with the formal ending of slavery. The tragic career of Reconstruction between 1865 and 1877 and the condition of those who had been enslaved a generation after the Civil War ended show clearly that actual social transformation and genuine justice for the victims of slavery were far from the intentions of the North.
Mixed motives
So, my sense now is that the Civil War was and was not about slavery. It should not be seen as a victory for the forces of justice and liberation. It was mainly a victory for the forces of warism—and part of the lesson to be learned from it is that war is not an effective tool to bring about racial healing and the righting of wrongs.
The Civil War was indeed about slavery for the South, in that it was criticism of slavery by (a minority) of northerners and restrictions on the expansion of slavery in the western territories that triggered profound paranoia about threats to “the Southern way of life”—which essentially meant threats to systemic white supremacy. My sense is that this threat was not nearly as dire as the Southern elite perceived it to be. In any case, many in the South explicitly justified their militaristic response to their sense of besiegement in the name of slavery.
So, there would have been no Civil War apart from the South initiating it—and the South would not have initiated it apart from slavery. By couching their uncompromising commitment to retaining the slave system in an appeal to “the Southern way of life” with its resolute affirmation of white supremacy, the Southern elite managed to gain the support and participation of the masses of non-slaveholding whites. These were the ones who died by the tens of thousands for the sake of protecting a “way of life” that not only viciously enslaved blacks but also thoroughly exploited whites such as themselves.
For the North, though, the Civil War was mainly about retaining and expanding the hegemony of the centralized nation-state. This motive was couched in terms of the sacredness of the Union—but really, it was the Union for the elite, not for the majority of its people. The southern rebellion was seen as a threat to this Union—a Union that included the southern states, slavery and all. Appeals often were made to the 18thcentury vision of a single Union of separate colonies that had energized the Revolutionary War and the other great works of the national Fathers.
It does not seem that the North fought with nearly the passion of the South. Northerners were not defending a “way of life” so much as an idea (the Union). The massive anti-conscription riots and the fact that by the end of the war over 50% of northern troops were either foreign mercenaries or southern blacks would seem to reflect that lack of passion. The northern victory does seem inevitable given the extraordinary advantages the North had related to shear resources—population, manufacturing, infrastructure, financial. In fact, the North grew stronger as the war continued while the South grew progressively weaker.
Lincoln’s priorities
In the lead up to and in the early period of the war, northern leaders continually insisted that they were not fighting to free slaves but to preserve the Union. Lincoln famously stated numerous times (even after issuing the Emancipation Proclamation) that if he could preserve the Union without freeing a single slave he would happily do so.
Now, it did turn out that Lincoln decided that he would have to free slaves in order to preserve the Union. But his decision to do so created a strongly negative backlash among many northerners who did notsee themselves risking their blood and treasure for the purpose of ending slavery. Lincoln, in fact, feared that the Emancipation Proclamation could cost him his re-election. As it turned out, important military victories in the months just prior to November 1864 assured his victory. But there was not a strong anti-slavery consensus in the North. Abolitionists, in general, were quite unpopular.
At the same time, the Emancipation Proclamation unleashed tremendous energy among black populations, both in the North and in the South. The passion to end slavery on the part of those who suffered under its yoke was immense. Historians do not agree on the impact of this passion, but clearly the northern victory was made much easier by the military contribution of the formerly enslaved as well as what historian W.E. B. DuBois has called a massive “general strike” among the enslaved that profoundly undermined the Southern economy.
The energy for ending slavery grew mightily as the war neared its end, due in part to the rise in political power among “Radical Republicans” who did genuinely hate slavery and desire a broader transformation offering genuine justice for the enslaved. So, the Thirteenth Amendment formally ending slavery was passed just before the war ended (helped, of course, by the fact that the Southern states had no voice in that decision).
Lincoln’s death and failed opportunities
It’s hard for me at this point to discern how to assess the impact the death of Lincoln had on what followed after the war. Certainly, the ascent of white supremacist and former slaveholder Andrew Johnson of Tennessee to the presidency was a disaster (I still don’t know much about how Johnson was chosen for the position—he was not vice-president in Lincoln’s first term—and what role Lincoln had in that selection). Johnson completely wasted any chance that genuine change could have been implemented quickly while the North was setting the terms of how Southern society would be shaped following the crushing of the Confederacy. At the same time, Johnson’s egregious behavior and his incompetence surely created a backlash that unified all the Republican leaders to take the steps that the Radicals favored—more so than had a more moderate Republican been in the presidency. It could be that neither the Fourteenth or Fifteenth Amendments (neither as strong and effective as would have been ideal, but both nonetheless taking strong steps toward bringing the formerly enslaved into the civic community) would have passed had Johnson not unified his opponents to strongly.
In any case, the decade after the end of the Civil War provided an opportunity for some quite positive steps toward alleviating the injustices of American white supremacy. And many creative and sincere people, white and black, worked very hard to utilize this opportunity—even, as it turned out for many, at the cost of their lives. It has finally become clear to historians as a group that Reconstruction, contrary to the picture painted by adherents of the Lost Cause mythology who dominated almost allof American historiography until only about forty years ago, was a creative effort to create a just society. But it failed—or, rather, it was defeated by terror on the part of many southerners and passivity on the part of many northerners.
With the defeat of Reconstruction, the legacy of the Civil War dramatically changed. It was not a war that addressed the injustices of slavery. It was not a war of liberation. It was a war that deepened the centrality of warism to the American psyche. It was a war that ultimately vindicated those who believed that white supremacy was worth ruthlessly fighting for. It was a war that also vindicated the American nation-state and deepened its centralized power. As a consequence of this war, the American nation-state managed in time to reintegrate the white supremacists as its strongest supporters while continuing to disfranchise people of color and the economically vulnerable. And continued racial injustice at home and a lot of carnage around the world was the result….
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Syndicated from Thinking Pacifism


Day #13: Hospitality

He looked up and suddenly saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from his tent entrance to greet them…
-Genesis 18:2
Recently, I asked an acquaintance to coffee, someone I’d known for years, a little-known but long-seen acquaintance who always seemed older, cooler, more confident, more competent. I was hesitant to ask her, and I felt awkward and imposing the whole (almost three hour) conversation. When she reached out later and said, “Let’s connect again soon,” it occurred to me for the first time that perhaps I was not an inconvenience in her day. I was surprised to realize she was not making a charitable indulgence to me, but actually experience a mutual sense of connection. In a culture that worships busyness, it often feels like a burden to ask someone for their time or company. In Genesis, Abraham boldly and effusively welcomes the strangers who pass by him in the desert. On sight, he offers water, bread, a place to rest. He offers hospitality without worrying about what else these strangers might have on their tight agenda or what he will do if they say no. Turns out, the strangers are actually God. If even God had time for a drink of water with whiny Abraham, who are we to assume our hospitality is inconvenient? Hospitality is the choice to move through the world assuming other people welcome connection. It’s the courage and the resilience to not wait around for someone else to make the first move.
Takeaway: How would you move differently today if you acted like everyone you met genuinely welcomed the chance to connect with you? As if you were not an inconvenience in their day? It’s easy to talk yourself out of reaching out to others. We avoid connection, for fear of imposing on people who seem far cooler and more together than we are. And yet research overwhelmingly concludes Americans (and others) have high rates of loneliness. Today, extend hospitality to someone. Whether it’s buying coffee for the stranger behind you in line or speaking to an acquaintance you’ve always wanted to make a deeper connection with, find a way to extend Abraham levels of hospitality. For today, believe people will welcome your invitation as if you’re offering them a shady tree in the hot desert. (And if they don’t–well, you’ve got 12 days of resilience behind you to remember how awesome you are anyway.)
Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).

Syndicated from gathering the stones

Third Sunday of Lent 2019: The Epistle Passage – More teachings during Lent

“I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.” (I Corinthians 10: 1 – 5)
I may have to change my schedule when I write to which passage – many times when I sit down to write for the second day I do not have much patience with the writer of I Corinthians, or most all of the other epistles.
I raced off to consult the biblical commentators as to what Paul was talking about! Here is the easy-to-understand version. The Corinthian believers were being asked and invited to parties where worship of idols was the party theme. They thought that since they were devote Christians and believers it was not harmful to party around idols that they knew had not power. But Paul said, “not so fast! The Israelites had Moses to lead them and tell them right from wrong, and they still messed up when it came to idols. Don’t take chances!!!”
“Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.” (Verses 6 – 10)
Paul is equating the Lord God, who the Israelites and Moses looked to, with Christ – since according to Paul the Lord God and Christ are the same Divine. It also makes it easier to explain things to the Corinthians if you are not parsing out the “old” Old Testament Lord God with the “new” New Testament Lord God Jesus Christ, but placing them under (if I may) one Triune Lord. But let us read on.
“These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.
No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” (Verses 11 – 13)
The perennial question comes to my mind – what does that have to do with us? We are not the Hebrew/Israelites that wandered around for at least one generation until they got their faith down pat and were lead to the promised land. Nor are we the Corinthians who could see danger if it plopped down beside them. Are we? Maybe we need to look at verses 6 – 10 again.
The season of Lent. Traditionally a time that we work extra hard at living an accountable life, and “navel gaze” to see where we have gone wrong. Do we worship the wrong things in life? Do we consider faithfulness and integrity to friends and family as optional attributes? Do we get ourselves into untenable situations and then call for miraculous rescue rather than face up to what we did, confess our wrong doing, accept the consequences, and ask for forgiveness? Do we complain that living a Christian life is hard, too hard and exacting?
The season of Lent. It comes every year. It comes to every Christian life. And thanks be to the Lord God the Divine – we do not have to go through it alone and without hope! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

The Miracles of Jesus #5 – Jesus’ Scars

The miracles of Jesus demonstrate Jesus’s absolute authority and power over the devil, sickness, death, and nature, thereby confirming to all that he is indeed the Messiah and the Fully Human One. He is the human we are destined to become. Also, the signs and wonders of Jesus testify to his limitless compassion for people and his longing to see people set free from all bondage. This series focuses on the humanity of Jesus through the lens of his miracles. (Not to the neglect of his Divinity, just in case you were wondering.)

Syndicated from PangeaCast - Pangea Church

Did the Crucifixion Allow God to Atone for His OWN Sins? (podcast)

Greg considers God’s nature and if he could sin. Dan confesses an old gambling habit. Episode 477 Send Questions To: Dan: @thatdankent Email: Twitter: @reKnewOrg Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher | Google Play | RSS art: “Christ Crowned With Thorns” by: Horace Pippin date: 1938
The post Did the Crucifixion Allow God to Atone for His OWN Sins? (podcast) appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.

Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

Peace for the Going

Many Sundays, our worship service ends with me or someone else saying three words to the congregation: “Go in peace.” These are good last words. They are words I like to speak and words that I like to hear before heading out into another seven days of God knows what. Peace for the going is surely what each of us craves, even if only in the substrata of our consciousness.
As it happens, “Go in peace” provided the coda for the gospel reading during morning prayers today. In Luke 7:36-50, Jesus finds himself the recipient of a dinner invitation from one of the Pharisees. And Jesus rarely refused an invitation to dinner. As they’re getting ready for a delicious evening of food and theological conversation, an unexpected guest shows up. A “sinful” woman. Her sin is not identified, but we can use our imaginations. She begins to rather embarrassingly start fawning at Jesus’ feet, bathing his feet with kisses and tears, anointing his head with expensive oil. The scene was almost certainly uncomfortably sensuous and distasteful in all kinds of ways, and the Pharisee says as much. If this Jesus were any kind of prophet, he would know what kind of degenerate had her hands all over him. Jesus proceeds to use the scene as an object lesson about the connection between forgiveness and love. The one who has been forgiven much, shows much love. The one who has been forgiven little (or, more precisely, imagines they have been forgiven little) shows little love. “Thus concludeth today’s theology discussion,” I can imagine Jesus saying.
Jesus then says three things directly to the woman. “Your sins are forgiven,” “Your faith has saved you,” and “Go in peace.” These are three pretty remarkable statements. They are all the more remarkable given the scene that they are in response to. The woman, so far as we know, has said precisely nothing. She has made no professions of faith in Jesus’ lordship. She has not itemized and repented of her sins. She has not discussed theology with Jesus. She has not prayed or recited a creed. She has not verbally assented to a statement of faith. She has not declared her intentions to march off with Jesus to change the world.
What she has done—again rather embarrassingly—is shamlessly thrown herself at Jesus’ feet in context where she would have been most unwelcome. She has ruined a nice dinner by spreading out all of her sorrow and desire and longing and pain on the floor in a painfully vulnerable display of naked need. She has, not to put too fine a point on it, caused a scene. And yet it is this posture, not the abstract, forensic approach of the Pharisee, that Jesus praises. This, apparently, is evidence of the love that Jesus longs to see.
Like many people, I have friends who run the gamut from the very theologically conservative to the very theologically liberal. My very conservative friends sometimes treat the life of faith as a glorified theology exam with Jesus as the headmaster. There is much talk of right doctrine and proper interpretation of Scripture and agreeing to enough of the right facts about God to secure salvation. Our duty is to believe rightly enough about God to win the prize.
My very liberal friends sometimes treat the life of faith as a moral checklist or a political agenda with Jesus as the activist-in-chief. There is much talk of doing enough Jesus-y things for the right marginalized groups and severely denouncing all the very wrong and very bad people and systems and structures that oppress the vulnerable. Our duty is to act rightly enough to win the prize.
And then there are those who vacillate between these two poles, rarely able summon the requisite conviction for either. These people attach virtue to their grim realism and are deeply suspicious of anyone who seems more confident in their rightness (whether in the realm of beliefs or ethics) than is warranted. Our duty is to drift around above the fray, helpfully pointing out the errors and inconsistencies of others (for Jesus’ sake, of course).
I sometimes wonder if all of us—wherever we find ourselves on the spectrum above—might learn from the “sinful” woman who unceremoniously crashed the Pharisee’s dinner party. We are not nearly as smart or moral or humble or self-sufficient as we imagine ourselves to be. We are human beings. We are needy and poor (and, as Jesus reminds us in this passage, this is never more evident than when we are convinced that we are not). At the end of it all, beneath all of our shiny theology and estimable virtues and oh-so-humble and self-aware detachment, each one of us longs for precisely the same things that this woman did.
Forgiveness. You are not defined by your worst moment(s). Nothing is broken irreparably. There is nothing you have done that cannot be healed and transformed.
Salvation. Your faith will be vindicated. No act of hope and devotion to Jesus will ultimately go unnoticed and unrewarded. At the feet of Jesus is the best place for tears. God will rescue, restore, and redeem.
Peace. You need not be plagued by anxiety, worry, and guilt. There is a way of being in this broken world that can be received and extended as gift and grace. Whatever the road ahead holds, there is peace for the going.
The featured image above is taken from the 2009-10 Christian Seasons Calendar. It is a creation of Wayne Lacson Forte and is called “Mary’s Sacrifice.”

Syndicated from Rumblings

Day #12: Improvisation

During their journey, as they camped overnight, the LORD met Moses and tried to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a sharp-edged flint stone and cut off her son’s foreskin. Then she touched Moses’ genitals with it, and she said, “You are my bridgegroom because of bloodshed.” 26 So the LORD let him alone.
-Exodus 4:24-26

So, uh, Trigger Warning: this reflection contains references to circumcision and murderous God. Exodus 4 is a strange story any way you cut it (no pun… never mind). Before we get into details, it’s worth noting that in the U.S.  roughly ¾ of infant boys are circumcised. The Centers for Disease Control actually recommends male circumcision for public health reasons. This story is early in exodus, after the Awe of the burning bush but way, way before Moses’ Boundary Setting (this is either referred to as the A.A. or the B. B. S. part of Moses’ life).  It’s strange, in part, because God was the one who sent Moses on this journey back to Egypt. Now God goes on a murderous rampage? We cannot overstate the weirdness of this story. But we can relate to the ways faith often requires improvisation, and Zipporah improvises before God. In circumcising her son, she ensures Moses will have maximum credibility with the Hebrew people he’s been sent to lead out of Egypt. It also sets the stage for Moses’ lifetime of improvisation, building a radically counter-Egypt culture in the middle of the desert with a group of nomadic escaped slaves. Moses’ whole life is like a massive improv show with God throwing the scene prompts. Resilience comes in the willingness to improvise when threatened.
Takeaway: The number one rule of is improv theater is to say “Yes, and…” Take what’s given to you and instead of denying or resisting it, add to it and turn the narrative a different direction. When you find yourself in a sticky situation today, say, “Yes, and…” Is there a way in which Zipporah—in this scene, in marrying a bicultural Hebrew man, in joining her husband’s social justice project, in returning to visit her father—says “Yes, and…” to God? Is there a way she says “Yes, and…” to despair? Channel the power of “Yes, and…” today.
Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).

Syndicated from gathering the stones

Process Theology & Open Theism: What’s the Difference?

Question: When ReKnew talks about Open Theism is it a mistake for people to equate it with Process theology, and if so what are the defining differences? I guess I am starting to lean toward Dr. Boyd’s thoughts for all things theologically egg-heady, so I thought I would ask the ...
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Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

Third Sunday of Lent 2019: The Old Testament Passage – Provisions and teachings during Lent

“Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)
In our household we use a lot of milk. Not very much wine – hardly any! But we use a lot of milk. We try to keep at least one full gallon of milk in the refrigerator because an open gallon of milk is usually an empty gallon of milk. We go through a lot of bread too. It seems like each member of the family likes a different type of bread; not just brown or white. But country white and 100% grain brown, and the more mundane as well. That does not count the rolls and buns we also use. Yes, milk and bread are frequent purchases; a purchase means someone has to have “labored” for it. We are no different, in that respect, than the writer of Isaiah’s audience.
The writer of Isaiah (using the voice of the Lord) goes on to talk about food items more rich and tasty than just bread and milk. And at no price! Well, sign us up! Of course, bread and milk, and other delicious food are just metaphors for living a contented and well-provided life. Still the question remains – what do we need to do (if not labor) to acquire this life?

“Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples.” (Verses 3 – 4)
If we just listen to the Lord, we will be the recipients of the same sort of covenant that the Divine made with King David?! We that sounds pretty good! However . . . . if one stops to think about all that King David went through, maybe it is not as simple and straightforward as it first appears.

Listening to the Lord and living for the Lord comes with its own set of priorities and statutes. It is not a life that is lived out quietly and unobtrusively as it first sounds.
“See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.” (Verses 5)
King David lived a life that was constantly on public display. When he did things correctly, his people demanded more of him. And when he did not live correctly all of his mistakes were on display. The writer of Isaiah does not disclose the “price” of the Divine’s bread, milk, and wine. The price is not dollars and cents but living a life that confirms to the Divine, and not to our human frail will. The writer of Isaiah is correct though – our human frail will does not “satisfy”. We labor and pine after things that are not good for us, or more precisely not good for our human spirit and soul.
“Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Verses 6 – 7)
And it is these last two verses the outline the difference between our thinking and the Divine’s thinking.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Verses 8 – 9)
As I remembered and anticipated these last two verses I could not help but think they explain so much about the difference I see in the Almighty that strides through the story of the Israelites and Judahites. Did the writers (the ones that wrote the history of the Israelites and Judahites) assume they knew the “ways of the Lord”? Did Isaiah, then, have a more accurate and attuned perception of the Divine?
Wondering about this, I went back to check in on the biblical commentators. And discovered I differ from them entirely on the meaning of these last two verses. The biblical commentators (actually I only looked up Albert Barnes, but I am sure the others come from the same perspective) take these last two verses as referring to forgiveness and pardon, and that the Divine forgives, pardons, and is merciful in ways that humanity is not. But that does not really connect with how this passage starts – seeking the wrong types of things, listening to the Lord and entering into a covenant like the one David had with God, and having attention brought to you because of the way you live.
What do you think beloved reader? I am not sure that anyone can, or should, say that one interpretation is more correct than another. The ways of the Divine encompass more than just forgiveness and pardon. If that were the case, the only case, we would be free to do whatever we want and still be assured of a pardon. No, it is more complex than that.
Lent is a complex season; recognition of sin and the way we have erred. The example set down by Jesus Christ. The expectations that the Lord God the Divine has. The gnarled and tangled road of the called and chosen people of the Old Testament. The new revelations and teachings in the New Testament. All of it seems to come together during Lent. And we are had pressed to discern it all.
I guess for me, I have to go back to the beginning of the passage. Listen carefully to the Divine. Chose the best way to live according to the example of Jesus Christ. And delight one’s self in living a Godly life. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Why is the Lord’s Prayer So Formulaic? (podcast)

Greg considers if Jesus was acting out of character when he taught the Lord’s prayer.  Episode 476 Send Questions To: Dan: @thatdankent Email: Twitter: @reKnewOrg Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher | Google Play | RSS art: “Girls in an Orphanage” by: Frederic Cayley Robinson date: c.1917
The post Why is the Lord’s Prayer So Formulaic? (podcast) appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.

Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

Wherever You are in Your Journey, Walk in Faith

Last spring I shared with my congregation that I felt a new wind of the Spirit blowing me to complete my pastoral ministry and to invest more deeply in my writing while also remaining open to ministry in a new setting. At the time I had a new book releasing in fall, another book contract … Continue reading Wherever You are in Your Journey, Walk in Faith
Syndicated from April Yamasaki

Day #11: Nonconformity

Why not test your servants for ten days? You could give us a diet of vegetables to eat and water to drink.
-Daniel 1:12

No one wants to stick out like a sore thumb. But what if you could stick out like a very polite middle finger? That’s what Daniel does in the verse above. This is Daniel before the Fiery Furnace (or, if you will, Daniel B.F.F.). Although Daniel is born and raised in a middle/upper-middle class family in Jerusalem, he has the bad luck to come of age at exactly the point when his nation-state gets obliterated by the Babylonian Empire. Educated and healthy, Daniel gets deported to Babylon to join the slave class of the civil service. Essentially, it’s an invitation to become part of the system that destroyed his life—if he can prove his loyalty to Babylon and reject his cultural and ethnic identity. It’s conformity and cycles of violence marketed as resilience. The first step of his journey is formal palace training, which means formal palace rations—including all the foods Daniel is not supposed to eat as a Jew. Daniel pushes for a nonconforming diet and after ten days he gets approval for this clean eating plan. It’s more than a nutritional win; it preserves his Jewish identity and a small piece of his core values. It’s an F-you to a system that demands conformity with values like wealth disparity, violence, and anti-Semitism. There would be no Fiery Furnace without this small act of integrity. Nonconformity is Daniel’s lifeline back to the values he shares and the person he wants to become. It’s his first refusal to become part of a system of oppression, and his choice to become resilient in a system that threatens to erase his history.
Takeaway: We live in a culture that loves to market the status quo as resilience. Our culture sells oppression back to us at every turn, insisting patterns of systemic oppression are necessary for self-care. Where is it easiest for you to fall into systems of violence, consumerism, environmental degradation, exploitation? Be consciously nonconforming today. Maybe that looks like calling your senator about gun violence or making art instead of watching Netflix or being vegetarian for a day. Maybe it means tipping your Uber driver $15 (congratulations—you may have just doubled their take-home salary for the hour). Do something that gives a polite little F-you to the systems of oppression that structure our lives.
Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).

Syndicated from gathering the stones

Lenten Daily Prayers: March 18-23

Suggested Spiritual Practice: Plant something this week. Think about the gardener in the parable of the barren fig tree. What does it mean to be fruitful? What does it mean to tend beauty? Music Links: “O God, you are my God” (Choral arrangement) “Your love is better than life”  (Acapella) “Come Ye” (Sweet Honey in…
Syndicated from Spacious Faith


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