Category: Culture and Current Events

Believe in Something

So it seems Nike’s new 3oth anniversary ad campaign featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick is causing a bit of a stir today. Kaepernick is, of course, famous for his decision to kneel during the American national anthem before a football game to protest police brutality and racial injustice. Kapernick has been unable to land an NFL job since then. He is currently pursuing a grievance of collusion against the league and its owners who he says are keeping him out of the league because of their displeasure with his protests and his politics.
At any rate, the Nike campaign contains an image of Kaepernick with the following line:
Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just do it.
Predictably, this has had a rather polarizing effect (is there any other kind of effect that something can have in the digital age?) out there in the world—everything from breathless affirmations of celebrity support to people burning their Nike shoes or cutting the famous swoosh out of their apparel. Kaepernick’s anthem protests have been a lightning rod for a variety of issues in these politically charged days—everything from the nature of patriotism to racial justice to the limits of free speech—and this ad campaign certainly seems poised to ratchet things up another notch.
My interest, perhaps predictably, is with the line in the ad itself. Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. It sounds pretty courageous and admirable, particularly if you’re inclined to generally agree with Kaepernick’s politics, which I am. But of course, if we actually move beyond the emotions that the image and the words have been engineered to stir up in us and analyze the words themselves, things descend into incoherence rather quickly.
Believe in “something?” Like what? Anything? Alt-right white supremacy? That the earth is flat? That our chaotic cultural moment has been engineered by Russian bots? That professional football should be banned due to its contribution to brain injuries? That pro sports in general is an idolatrous expression of a cultural sickness? That polygamy ought to be allowed as a concession to individual freedom? That Jesus Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead? I’m guessing that there at least a few things that Nike isn’t terribly interested in people believing, no matter how much we’re willing to lose for believing them.
And what about the “Even if it means sacrificing everything” part? Surely, we don’t have to think too hard to come up with examples of people who have lost everything—even their very lives—for beliefs that we would not be anxious to validate. Suicide bombers come to mind as the most obvious example, but there are all kinds of people who have lost family, friends, money, status, jobs, reputations for believing in things that many of us would consider certifiably insane. Being willing to sacrifice everything for your beliefs isn’t  necessarily the most reliable indicator of the merits of said beliefs.
Believe in something, even if it costs you everything. Well, yeah, maybe. Sometimes. I guess it depends on the beliefs. The Nike ad is, of course, a symptom of the confusion that characterizes our cultural moment. Believe whatever you want as long as you believe it sincerely. And as long as it fits within the boundaries of what is deemed socially acceptable by the drivers of mass media. I suppose that’s a bit clunky for a billboard.
I’m probably expecting too much (accuracy and consistency) from an advertising campaign slogan. Nike is selling athletic apparel, for heaven’s sakes, not trying to pass an exam in an introductory logic course! Except, well, they’re not just trying to sell stuff. Advertisers shape and reflect public consciousness in ways many of us are probably barely aware of. So maybe it’s not so bad to occasionally take a step back and say, “You sure about that? Is that really what we want to say?”

Syndicated from Rumblings

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On Departing from the Script

The first thing I did this morning was trudge off to the post office with two very important documents to be sent by express post to the National SCIS Processing Unit of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. An SCIS is a “Secure Certificate of Indian Status,” otherwise known as a Treaty Status Card. Our kids have had Treaty Status numbers since birth, but we’ve not bothered to get an actual card until now. Adulthood and post-secondary studies loom ever more immediately on their horizons and, well, we’re rather keen to secure them whatever financial benefits they’re entitled to going forward.
The second thing I did this morning was answer a call from someone wondering if I was listening to CBC Radio. “You’d find it interesting,” they said. I went online and started listening. Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien was being interviewed and he apparently had some interesting things to say about his time as the Liberal government’s Minister of Indigenous Affairs. He had pursued some unpopular options at the time, including “The White Paper” which was a Canadian government policy paper that attempted to abolish previous legal documents pertaining to Indigenous peoples in Canada, including the Indian Act and treaties, and assimilate all Indian peoples under the Canadian state. That’s the kind of thing that might get you drawn and quartered in today’s political and discursive climate!
It was a fascinating conversation to this point, to say the least. But my ears really perked up when the host asked Chretien about his own son, Michel. Chretien and his wife Aline adopted Michel, an Inuit, in 1970. “How do you process conversations about white parents adopting native children in light of what’s been uncovered by the TRC, etc?” the host asked him. Chretien responded by refusing to even discuss the TRC. Instead, he said that at the time of his own adoption he was told by the chief up in the northern community where Michel comes from, that people will take any baby except an Indian boy. “Indian girls, Latin American kids, African kids, Chinese kids, no problem. But nobody wants to take Indian boys.”
Jean and Aline Chretien said, “We’ll adopt an Indian boy.”
It hasn’t been an easy road for Michel (now 49) or for Jean and Aline. I did a quick google search and found a number of articles itemizing Michel’s brushes with the law over the years. Drugs, alcohol, sexual assault charges, prison time… the list is not pretty viewing. The host on the radio program mentioned this history to Chretien—“You’ve stuck by Michel through some hard times.” Chretien, now in his eighties, responded simply, “It’s what a mother and a father do, what a mother and a father should do.”
I was in high school when Jean Chretien became Prime Minister of Canada. I recall that he was something of a laughingstock to this mostly ignorant teenager and his friends. We made fun of his French accent and the way his face was partially paralyzed by an attack of Bells Palsy in his youth. I had uncritically assimilated most of the anti-Quebec, anti-Eastern rhetoric that drifted around rural Alberta in those days (and today) and Chretien was a perfect lighting rod for all this. To top it all off, he was a liberal, which was almost as bad as being from Eastern Canada back then. He was a figure that was easy to ridicule and dismiss.
I grew up a little during Chretien’s three terms in office. I left behind a lot of the ignorance, stupidity, and cruelty of my youth. I grew to appreciate Chretien a little more, but to be honest I cared little about politics for most of my early adulthood and I didn’t know much more about the man himself when I sat down to listen to the interview this morning than I did as a teenager. Needless to say, my perspective changed over the course of the fifteen minutes or so that I listened to Chretien discussing Indigenous issues and his own family’s story.
I’ve been thinking about these things this morning as my precious SCIS documents make their way to Gatineau, Quebec for processing. I feel somewhat conflicted. I wonder if I am a hypocrite for trying to secure financial benefits for my kids from a system that, like Chretien, I’m not at all convinced is good for Indigenous people. It feels kind of mercenary. But then, I also think that these status cards represent a direct connection to their band, their history, their culture. They are an acknowledgment that Canada has obligations to indigenous people, however inefficiently and inconsistently these obligations have historically been understood and acted upon.
I wonder about Michel Chretien. I wonder if the dark roads he has wandered down are direct evidence, as some say it is, of what happens when non-indigenous parents raise indigenous kids. I wonder what gives people the right to draw straight lines like that. I know plenty of parents who have agonized over their biological prodigals. And the older I get, the more suspicious I am of straight lines and easy explanations anyway. Particularly when it comes to a human life, a human family. It’s so easy to make summary judgments from the outside. It’s so easy to be ignorant, stupid, or cruel.
Most of all, though, I am full of admiration for Jean and Aline Chretien. For taking an Indian boy that nobody else wanted. For standing by him when few else would. For departing from the script. For doing what fathers and mothers should do because they love their children.
Image source

Syndicated from Rumblings

SCOTUS & The Benedict Option

SCOTUS & The Benedict Option.
We may be appreciate Rome and its body politic, with its form of government and revolutionary human rights. In many ways we are inheritors of a long Western tradition. But just before you start getting nostalgic for the return of Christendom, just remember: Rome fell to the barbarians. The structure could not hold back the wave of moral decay – with its tribalism and hatred.

The opposite reactions of hope (on the “right”) and despair (on the “left”) towards the recent nominee, reveals a deep lie that both sides believe: that morality trickles from the top-down, and change comes from the outside-in. The Christian position has always been that a person is transformed from the inside-out, an idea reinforced by various social teaching. If the society is the individual writ-large, then the alarm bells need to be rung.

One book that every Christian needs to read in this season of confusion and despair is_The Benedict Option_. Partisan politics aside, we all feel the odd mix of despair and hope, loss and gain. Despite the value for religious expression afforded, and extended, by the election of Donald Trump, and the appointment of SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh – oh the times, they are a changing.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I may not celebrate everything Trump has said or everything he does, but I think he has done a good job picking these nominees. Besides channeling his inner-exorcist, this is one of the main things he is actually good at. But this won’t save us.
As Dreher has said elsewhere, the appointment of a conservative judge, who will most likely rule in favor of religious conscience and expression is not a proper disinfectant (no court is!) for the banal reality of a church that has been thoroughly colonized by modernity/secularism. Tradition was replaced by slogans like “just Jesus,” and meantime, students passionately worship with hands raised, and at the same time can’t articulate the faith, nor live in such a way that is recognizable to New Testament Christianity (see Christian Smith on the subject).
Just the other day, a friend of mine was explaining how she was talking to someone who was known for being a passionate Christian, and yet doesn’t understand why her brother would get married to his wife before they lived together to “test things out before taking the plunge.” No irony. No “I’m just kidding.” Just – “this is obvious, and clearly you must feel the same way.” (Did I mention than this person was a leader in the church?)
It may be anecdotal, but it is a perfect snapshot of the kind of hollowed out practice that has relegated the faith to a series of emotional rock concerts with Jesus’s name in lights.
A conservative judge is not going to be able to salvage the years of secular catechesis that has completely transformed our radical and revolutionary faith into a personalist niche, co-opted by Scrooge on one end, and Mr. Rogers on the other. (Apologies to both Mr. Scrooge and Mr. Rogers. At least they knew who they were!)
“What is more, the system has become so ossified politically that there is practically no way for such nonconformity to be implemented within its official structures.” – Havel
What’s the answer?
Christians (according to Dreher) should use the next two more years of temporary reprieve to build strong institutions that run together, not simply against, the norms and structures that are already in place. This is what Dreher and his sources of inspiration (Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Benda) call the “Parallel Polis.” We are already such a movement, whether we realize it or not.
In other words, we should not rely so heavily on electoral politics and the existing structures to continue to provide the social support we need to truly live as a people who freely associate with one another, without fear of hearing and speaking the truth. We run less of a risk of ghettoizing the faith if we instead seek to run parallel institutions that do a better job at facilitating truth, virtue, and dissent, than the existing structures, which have failed.
(The retreat into religious ghetto’s, as well as religious tyrannies, would make the church completely unrecognizable to itself.)
I’m not saying that America is a dictatorship. We have the separation of powers, the one miracle of the constitution. But I do believe that given our obsession with the technocracy, and willingness to become completely servile to modern technology, completely reliant upon its corporate whims and decisions, makes us servants of the most totalizing system known to mankind. (It is a unique turn in the history of totalitarianism that an entire people would become their own tyrants.)
What good is “freedom” if its ultimate objective is to do whatever one wants to do – to live according to desire alone? The individual may be “free” in the temporal sense, but a complete slave in the soul.
The church who focuses on more than just heaven is the “church militant.” She fights in the realm of transcendence, but also in the immanent, for re-souling of the world, and the salvation of peoples. As Havel says: “While life ever strives to create new and improbable structures, the post-totalitarian system contrives to force life into its most probable states.” If we have life, we should produce structures.
Rod Dreher says this, from his blog: “The Benedict Option is about getting ready for what is here now, and what is yet to come. If you’re only retreating, and not fighting, then you are wasting one of the few chances we likely have left. But if you’re only fighting, and not also retreating (in the sense I mean: to within a defensible perimeter), then you are leaving yourself, your family, your church and your community vulnerable.”
Five possiblities:
1. Churches should practice dissent and freedom of speech within its own walls.
2. Churches should celebrate limited government, not because they are filled with Republicans (who are no longer for limited gov’t anyway, just look at their spending habits when they are in power), but because a limited State makes the religious community more empowered to take up more space in the public life, which, I’m arguing, is always a good thing.
3. Churches should practice more solidarity with the victims of immigration, violence, divorce, abortion, and general societal decay. The family should once again be lifted up as the pre-political good in society.
4. Churches need to bolster their efforts in education, not only creating new classical schools in the area, but making sure that they are affordable for poorer families. Why can’t churches with loose associations, with their multi-denominations and philosophies, come together and fund a school whose goal is to build virtue within its young people? (I’m sure their SAT scores would exceed every public and private competitor!)
5. Churches should unite in more than just prayer and worship, but also in church discipline and in the construction of a parallel polis (society). This gives me the most hope.
6. The church should see acts of mercy as an eschatological hope, which we don’t expect to get much in the immediate, except that we continue to radically sow seeds of love within the hearts of the marginalized and the disenfranchised. In this, we would all do better to learn from the radical catholic socialists, such as Dorothy Day, and the more conservative, but still radical, Heidi and Roland Baker.
7. And finally, the family home should be re-ignited as the primary “school of conversion,” by which people outside of the atomic family are brought in, and children are taught the ways of the Kingdom of God.
Look, I don’t have all the answers. I’m sure I’ve missed some things along the way. This is just a post. It probably will not make much of a difference in the long run. But if I have glossed over anything then please forgive me. I cherish your thoughts and questions.
Cheers!

Syndicated from Jon Beadle

Dear Greg: How Do You Handle Assumptions People Make About You When They Learn You Are a Christian?

Greg talks about demonstrating counter-examples in a world overflowing with assumptions and prejudices. 
Send Questions To:
Dan: @thatdankent
Email: askgregboyd@gmail.com
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Artwork: Self-Portrait with Masks
by: James Ensor
Original Title: Ensor aux masques
Date: 1899
The post Dear Greg: How Do You Handle Assumptions People Make About You When They Learn You Are a Christian? appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.

Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

How the Bible Sounds in Occupied Territory

One more reflection based on my time spent in Palestine and Israel over the past few weeks. After this, I shall endeavour to give this “blogging sabbatical” thing another, better, try.
 ——
It’s an interesting thing how geography and social location affects the way you read and hear Scripture. Most Sundays, I am reading and hearing Scripture as a relatively comfortable, white, middle-class Christian in a more or less peaceful country where religion often occupies a peripheral (at best) role in most people’s thinking and living. This affects how I read and hear the words of the Bible. My default, whether I want this or not, tends to be to listen in ways that will more or less endorse and validate myself and those who are like me. This is, as I said, most Sundays. Last Sunday, however, I worshiped in Palestine.
It was a tiny little Lutheran church where we gathered in Beit Sahour, just outside Bethlehem. It was a mixture of Palestinian Christians and foreigners who happened to be lingering around the town of Jesus’ birth. The liturgical forms in the service were familiar enough, even if the language wasn’t. But they had transliterated the readings and prayers and it was possible, with a bit of effort, to follow along. The Scripture readings were done in both Arabic and English. And given what we had seen and heard in the previous week about how the Israeli occupation was affecting our Palestinian sisters and brothers, the readings sounded, well, different.
Psalm 35:1-10
We began the service by responsively reading from this Psalm. I am used to reading psalms like this through the lens of either the ancient Israelites or the suffering church. But it was impossible, in this place, to not hear through the ears of those who presently find themselves on the wrong end of the score in the Holy Land—those who are harassed and harried by teenage soldiers wielding automatic weapons, those who endure endless checkpoints and discriminatory policies restricting where they can go and when and how, those who are increasingly sequestered into urban ghettos by legislation that seems cruelly crafted to drive them from their farms and their land.

Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me!
Take hold of shield and buckler, and rise up to help me!
[S]ay to my soul, “I am your salvation…”
For without cause they hid their net for me; without cause they dug a pit for my life. Let ruin come on them unawares. And let the net that they hid ensnare them; let them fall in it—to their ruin.
Then my soul shall rejoice in the Lord, exulting in his deliverance. All my bones shall say, “O Lord, who is like you? You deliver the weak from those too strong for them, the weak and needy from those who despoil them.”

I don’t really have anyone contending with me in Canada, no real need for a shield or buckler. But my sisters and brothers from Beit Sahour do. They long for a strong arm of deliverance from those too strong for them.
It is grimly ironic that those who see themselves as descended from the same David who penned this Psalm, those who were once the weak that needed rescue from those who despoiled them, are now the ones that Palestinian Christians are praying for deliverance from.
Luke 16:19-31
The rich man and Lazarus… One enjoyed the best things in life while the other experienced only suffering and deprivation. Both die. The rich man ends up in torment in Hades and cries out to Father Abraham, with Lazarus by his side, saying, “Please, just a drop of water for my agony!” Father Abraham says, “Well, you’ve had your good things, haven’t you? You’ve been on the right end of the score for quite some time, and now the tables are turned.”
Father Abraham.
It must be such a complicated thing for Palestinian Christians to reckon with the word “Israel” in their Scriptures. But here, Father Abraham, patriarch of the nation, speaks a word of hope to them, to those who endure water shortages and intermittent electricity in the blistering heat of summer, to those who look over the (large and imposing) fence and see their Israeli neighbours with unlimited access to water and gleaming shopping malls and newly paved freeways (that Palestinians can’t use)…
Father Abraham says, “Comfort is coming, even across this vast chasm.”
1 John 4:15-21
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
This land is often called “holy.” Everywhere you go, it seems, something holy happened once upon a time. This is the place where Abraham died or where David did this or that or where Rachel is buried or where Jesus was born or where Muhammad went on his night journey. This is where God has apparently done a great many special things for a great many special people in a great many holy books. But what makes a land “holy?” What makes it matter to God? How would we ever know?
According to 1 John, it would seem rather simple. A land is “holy” because of the presence of love and unholy where this love is absent. God abides in those who love. And, presumably, takes his leave of those who persist in enmity and strife and all manner of unlove. God has little interest in this or that chunk of dirt where this or that thing happened in this or that holy book—at least not when it isn’t accompanied by love.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.  We love because he first loved us.  Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.

Like I said, the bible sounds different in occupied territory.
——
I took the picture above at Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. The man in this picture is the father of the boy in the poster below the UN sign. It is his thirteen year old son who was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier in that exact location. The father now spends most of his days volunteering at the UN center for his refugee camp.

Syndicated from Rumblings

Somewhere to Be

I know I’m technically on a “blogging sabbatical,” but I decided to interrupt it to offer a few reflections and observations on a trip I’m presently on to Israel and Palestine. One of the things we consistently hear wherever we go in this conflicted area is, “Tell others what you have seen and heard with your own eyes and ears.” It’s a serious call, and one that I feel an obligation to respond to given the privilege that I have of being here. Here are some assorted stories and reflections from my first few days here.
At 5:30 yesterday morning we made our way to the main checkpoint that Palestinians must take to get from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. We were coming a bit later in the morning—most Palestians (men, mainly) arrive before 4:00 am in order to ensure that they can get through in time to get to work on the other side by 7:00 or so. After a briefing from a few humanitarian monitors of the checkpoint, we proceeded through a labyrinth of cages and turnstiles and barbed wire and metal detectors and soldiers. We wanted to get a sense of what it was like to be a Palestinian for whom this is a daily reality.
But of course we only got a tiny sense of what it was actually like. It was far emptier than earlier in the morning. We got to sleep in until 5:00 am to get there rather than waking as early as 1:00 am to travel from surrounding villages to arrive at the checkpoint by 4:00. We had no need to consider if our employer would be waiting for us on other side, no cause to worry about a medical appointment we might miss, no anxiety about whether we might be turned back once we finally got to the Israeli soldiers, often for reasons as simple as expired paperwork or the fact that there were reports of someone in our village who threw a stone at an Israeli vehicle. Or less. We didn’t have a hard day of labour in the hot sun to look ahead to once we made it through the lineup (which can take anywhere from half an hour to two hours, depending on how many metal detectors they decide to open at any given point of the day). We didn’t have any anxiety about whether we’d even have a job waiting for us on the other side nor did we have to struggle with the grim irony that surely must accompany the common reality of Palestinian day labourers building helping to build Jewish settlements on what is supposed to be their land. We didn’t have to think about doing it all over again tomorrow morning. And the morning after that. And the morning after that… We got through with barely a disinterested glance at our passports and made our way back to the hotel for hot coffee and breakfast.
At one point when we were walking along the long walkway that felt like a livestock chute, an older Palestinian man said to me, “Welcome to our checkpoint, what do you think?” I shook my head and mumbled something like, “I don’t quite know what to say when I see something like this… What do you think?” He just smiled and said, “Every day,” before hurrying off past me. I suppose he had somewhere to be.
We spent part of Sunday touring through the Old City of Jerusalem. At one point, my wife and I wandered down from the Al Aqsa mosque toward a lookout point that faces over toward the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives. There was a structure there and I offhandedly asked the guy beside me if he knew what it was. He proceeded to summon his Holy Land tour leader to come over and answer my question. What followed was some interesting theology.
“Well, you see, this is the East Gate but the Muslims have walled it off and built a cemetery on the other side… And of course we know that when Jesus returns he will touch down on the Mount of Olives and make his way over here to institute the new temple… But he can’t set foot in the Muslim cemetery, of course (of course?)… Luckily, it was recently discovered that there was a fault line on top of the Mount of Olives… And of course (of course?) we know that this fault line is designed by God to literally split the earth in half and pave the way for Jesus to triumphantly reenter Jerusalem. My face must have looked rather blank as I pondered this image of king Jesus parachuting down from heaven onto the Mount of Olives to be ushered via earthquake through the remains of a Muslim cemetery to reestablish a Jewish temple. An interesting eschatological path to take for the Prince of Peace. Jesus, too, apparently, has somewhere to be.
As I reflected upon these two experiences, I wondered what might happen if the Holy Land tour guide I met would walk through an Israeli checkpoint. I wonder if he might get a glimpse into the grinding, soul-crushing daily reality that his theological fervour feeds into for ordinary human beings. Would he pause to wonder if his need for the nation state of Israel and Jerusalem in particular to be a staging ground for his particular version of eschatological pyrotechnics legitimates the kind of struggle and suffering for ordinary people that is obvious at the checkpoint? Would he soften his position in any way? Would he think twice before mapping out Jesus’ triumphant (and violent) return to Jerusalem for eager tourists every day? Or would he only see tens of thousands of potential terrorists being daily herded like cattle through a maze of steel and barbed wire?
I don’t know the answer to these questions. Obviously. I don’t know the answer to very many questions when it comes to this part of the world. But I do know that if this land is ever going to turn into somewhere to be for both Jews and Palestinians, it is going to require a determination to imagine things from the perspective of the other and to at least try to see a human being where it’s so easy to see only an enemy. It’s going to require Jesus-y things like forgiving what seems impossible to forgive, in turning cheeks that have been stung too many times with violence. It’s going to require walking miles that we have little interest in walking to places we would rather not go because we’re convinced that there has to a better future around the bend.

Syndicated from Rumblings

Jesus’ Kind of Social Justice

For many, the primary way of building the kingdom is to influence politics in order to make America more Christian. Others take the opposite approach, concluding that Jesus didn’t try to overhaul the political systems of his day through political means; therefore Christian faith is only a private matter that has no social relevance. Both approaches get it wrong.
Because Jesus did not allow the society or politics of his day to define his ministry, he positioned himself to make a revolutionary prophetic impact upon his society and the politics of the time. Jesus did not buy into the limited options the culture placed before him. He rather exposed the ugly injustices in all kingdom-of-the-world options by offering a radically distinct alternative.
For example, Jesus never entered into the fray of particular debates about the status of women in society. He rather exposed the ugliness of patriarchalism by the countercultural way he treated women. Ignoring negative consequences for his reputation, Jesus befriended them and gave them a culturally unprecedented dignity.
In a similar way, Jesus did the same for social outcasts. He served lepers, the blind, the demonized, the poor, prostitutes, and tax collectors. His actions were a challenge to the inhumanity of social structures of the day that served as a mustard seed alternative that started small but grew slowly.
Jesus also exposed the inhumanity of certain religious rules, which was a political problem in the first century because religious leaders had political power. He exposed the evil of racial prejudice by fellowshipping with Samaritans and Gentiles, and he even praised them in his teachings. In addition, he healed and worked miracles on the Sabbath, something that religious leaders forbade.
Finally, Jesus exposed the barbarism of the Roman government by allowing himself to be crucified by them. Instead of using his power to preserve his life, he exercised the power of love by giving it.
The power of the kingdom is not one where Christians aim to attain “power over” like the kingdoms of the world. Instead, we exercise “power under.” We therefore must resist the demonic pull toward “power over” violence that characterizes all versions of the kingdom of the world. “Power under” unmasks the ugly injustice and violence that dominates our political and social systems and doesn’t wage war “against flesh and blood” but instead fights against “rulers, against authorities, against cosmic powers of this present darkness (Eph 6:12).
It is a beautiful kingdom that is not so much spoken as it is displayed through loving action.
Jesus called the church to be a community characterized by radical, revolutionary, Calvary-quality love: a community that manifests the love of the triune God; a community that strives for justice not by conquering but by being willing to suffer; a community that God uses to transform the world by providing it with an alternative to its own self-centered, violent way of existing.
How socially and politically revolutionary it would be if we lived up to our calling!
—Adapted from The Myth of a Christian Nation, pages 119-122
The post Jesus’ Kind of Social Justice appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.

Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

Let Us Remember: Slavery Built America

American slaves are just as much veterans as those who have served in the military.

Today is Memorial Day. A day where we celebrate our ‘victories’ and mourn our losses, while respecting those who have sacrificed. The past two years, I have written pieces regarding my frustrations and moral qualms with Memorial Day. While I could write further on the subject, this year I don’t want to be re-writing the same old thing. What I want to do, instead, is show how if we demand to participate in this day of remembering what our ‘freedom’ costs, we must remember the African slaves and anti-Black culture that dominates America. Without our racist practices, and without the free labor that slavery provided, our capitalist society, our war machine (and thereby war effort), and the ‘liberties’ we have today would be nonexistent and would have failed. Our heinous, evil practice of dehumanization is what got us to where we are today. Freedom costs us – it costs us our conscience. Which begs the question – are we really free?
Much ink has been spilled to show that without slavery, colonialism, and imperialism, the economic strength of America would be much more fragile. When one wants power, one must take it from someone else. Whether that be nationally, culturally, or individually. America is great at it.
Unfortunately, I do not have the time to put forth a well written piece, so my hope here is primarily to compile resources to show that we must remember that we are not the good guy. I repeat: WE. ARE. NOT. THE. GOOD. GUY. We have enslaved. We have pillaged. We have raped. We have destroyed. We have killed. All for our own selfish needs (don’t tell me we were justified in WWII. We refused to assist until we ourselves were bombed. We entered for selfish motive. I mean, let’s not forget we refused to help out the Jews seeking refuge while they were being burned alive.) – no questions asked. How dare we celebrate that? To do so is to spit in the face of Christ – The Suffering. The One who would rather die than kill. Who would rather carry a cross than a gun. But it is also to spit in the face of the 20 million Africans enslaved in the making of the American Empire. Without their forced free labor, without their lives being totally given to the American machine, without any say on their part, the American experiment would not have been nearly as successful as it is, economically speaking. Without the 200-300 years of slavery (slavery isn’t over. Don’t get me started on the subject of mass incarceration and unpaid/underpaid prison labor), we would not have had the resources to ‘win’ the wars we did. Oh the irony of a country that celebrates the “self-made man.” No such thing. If you’ve made it, you’ve made it because we have a history resting on a precedent of human bondage.
May God have mercy on us.
I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but in the broader narrative of American history, these black slaves, so dearly unappreciated, gave at least as much as veterans in the military. They gave the entirety of their existence. To this day, American culture is such that we have to consistently yell over the sea of white: Black Lives Matter. If we don’t, we forget. Heck, when we do, we’re deaf. Black people are the unsung heroes of this nation. They built it. We forced them to. They gave us our ‘victories.’ They are veterans. They deserve to be recognized. Celebrate Blackness this Memorial Day, not greed, not war, not murder!
As I always try to do, I want to be clear: I am not trying to de-value American veterans. While I think war is anti-Christ in nature, and to participate in killing is contrary to the message of Jesus Christ, I respect veterans. They are truly an underappreciated, disregarded piece of American culture. I appreciate that they have sacrificed their time, their energy, their limbs, their minds. They have given a lot. I would just argue, they did so for the wrong reasons. They did so for America, not for Christ. Christ has absolutely nothing to do with allegiance to a nation. That does not, however, diminish their importance as human beings. That does not mean Christ does not love them, nor does it mean I do not wish to try to myself, in my own frail way, of course. That does not mean when they come back home injured, bleeding, scared, alone, that we should discard them. We should care for them, help them along – welcome them with open arms. If you have served in the military, whether for this country, for North Korea, or the Nazi regime – you are beloved to Christ. But…so is the person you were sent to fight.
Below are some articles regarding how 300 years of slavery made our capitalist system possible, and therefore, our victories at war (given our economic abilities) possible. I encourage you to research, research, research. Ask questions. Seek to understand the world outside your own experience.
Peace be unto you.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2017/05/03/the-clear-connection-between-slavery-and-american-capitalism/#597eac097bd3
https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-slavery-gave-capitalism-its-start
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/24/slavery_n_4847105.html
https://www.chronicle.com/article/SlaveryCapitalism/150787
https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/slavery-and-rise-capitalism
https://isreview.org/issue/99/slavery-capitalism-and-imperialism
https://www.counterpunch.org/2015/12/18/how-slaves-built-american-capitalism/
http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/15556.html
 
 

Syndicated from Interdependently Independent

Thinking is Hard (Or, The Value of Squirming)

I’ve been reading Alan Jacobs’ little book How to Think over the last few days. It doesn’t contain anything particularly new, but it has been yet another reminder of just how bad at thinking we often are and are becoming, particularly in the digital age. Jacobs does not paint a flattering portrait. Reactionary ideological sloganeering easily and often replaces careful, nuanced thinking about difficult issues. More often than not, the things we think are determined less by actual investigation and weighing of evidence than by our need for social belonging and our desire to have an “other” to define ourselves in opposition to. We are yanked around by emotional reactions and impulses and then tell a rational story to reframe our views as the result of logical analysis. We are masters at lying to ourselves about why we think the things we do, at taking shortcuts when we can’t be bothered to deal with complexity, and at regurgitating platitudes in the confident expectation that this will be affirmed by the people we seek to impress and the groups we hope to belong to. All in all, according to Jacobs, we’re not nearly as good at thinking as we think we are.
A few recent experiences have me thinking about the way I think. First, I was out in Saskatchewan last week speaking to a group of high school students. Not surprisingly, all anyone wanted to talk about was the terrible accident involving the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team that claimed sixteen lives. It was like an open wound in that part of the province, as I wrote about in my previous post. On the last day I was there, many people were talking about a tweet that was making the rounds online that was saying something to the effect of, “Do you think there would have been the same outpouring of grief and solidarity (and money! I believe the GoFundMe page that started to support the victims’ families is now over $13 million) if the victims weren’t white, male, and hockey players?
The tweet was as predictable for our cultural moment (there is nothing that we seem incapable of reducing to a referendum on identity) as was the response (a great deal of unbridled anger). We talked about this a bit in the chapel I was leading. I confess that my initial response to the tweet was also anger. Why would you turn a province’s mourning into an opportunity to play identity politics?! But then I asked myself why I was having that reaction. I brought it up with the students as well. Some of them became visibly angry at the mention of the tweet. But if we all were to press pause on the emotional responses and actually think about it, we must surely acknowledge that there is at the very least a question worth asking there, right?
What if the bus was carrying not young white male hockey players but indigenous kids coming back from a pow-wow or, say, a Christian high school girl’s choir returning from a competition? Could we imagine the same response? Could we imagine $13 million in a GoFundMe account? It seems unlikely to me. This is to take nothing away from the horror of the crash and the devastating ways in which it affects those who lost family and friends. But do we have the intellectual and emotional bandwidth to at some point (perhaps not in the immediate aftermath of tragedy!) ask questions about the role that hockey (and sport, more generally) plays in our cultural imagination and whether this is a good thing? Can we think about even harder questions involving race and gender without losing our collective minds (on either side of the spectrum)?
The second experience involves the ongoing crisis in Syria. Recent news has been dominated by the alleged chemical weapons attack by the Assad government in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. It has reignited public outcry and has led to military strikes by Western powers. This week, I have been having conversations with a Syrian Orthodox priest who has come from the besieged city of Homs to visit the families that our group of churches sponsored a few years ago. It has brought to the surface some political discussions that I mostly try to avoid with my Syrian friends. To put things bluntly, they do not have much use for the narrative of their country that we hear about in Western media. Syrian Orthodox Christians are mostly, although not exclusively, solidly in Assad’s camp. Where we see mostly honest reporting about Syria, they see a propaganda campaign against their president. Where many in the west see a courageous revolution against a brutal dictator, they see terrorists trying to overthrow a political regime that was stable and protective of their people.
This makes for some squirming on my part. The thought that people that I like and respect see someone like Assad as a hero is unsettling. But it also forces me to think a bit harder about why I think the way that I do. It has forced me to acknowledge that I am just as conditioned by the media that I consume as they are by theirs. It has led me to consider how I might feel if I was part of a 10% minority of Christians who had seen what happened in places like Libya when dictators are deposed and governments far less friendly to Christians moved in. It has given me pause to wonder how indebted I might feel to a government whose armed forces literally pulled my family out of the rubble of a war zone. Might I be inclined to see such a government differently? It feels more than a little silly (not to mention dangerously naïve) for someone who has never experienced war and who has only the most fragmentary understanding of the history and politics of the region to be pronouncing upon who the good guys and the bad guys really are. And it probably should.
These experiences have delivered to me a rather obvious and necessary reminder: there’s a lot that I don’t know. I try to read broadly and be reasonably well-informed, but there’s always another perspective to consider, always another experience to take on board, always another way in which my own self limits the views I’m prepared to consider and why. My thinking is profoundly constrained, often in ways I am barely aware of or willing to acknowledge. And so is yours. And so is the thinking of my Syrian friends and my grieving Saskatchewan neighbours and everyone else under the sun.
Thinking is hard.
Which is why I think that it a crucial starting point is self-awareness. We must look at the proverbial log in our own eye before presuming to straighten out the thinking of everyone else. We must be honest about all that we don’t know and about all the ways in which our thinking has very little to do with what we think and a lot to do with how we feel and what we would prefer to be the case and why.

Syndicated from Rumblings

Cosmic Signs Don’t Signal a Rapture (Next Week’s Prediction by David Meade)

I thought you might want to know that the rapture is set to occur on April 23rd. According to Christian Numerologist David Meade, we all need to be ready. <<<By the way, this reflection is based on podcast episode #4 from, Rapture Drill: Reframing Revelation, the End Times, & Our Weird Obsession with the Apocalypse.>>> Planet […]

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Syndicated from the Pangea Blog

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