Archive for Jesus
(This is part six of a series liveblogging Tim Suttle’s book, Public Jesus. You can read the introduction to the series here, my post on the first chapter here, and a discussion on Suttle’s Introduction here. Each chapter will be liveblogged.)
Have you ever read a novel so captivating that you find yourself lost in another world? Watched a film so enthralling you were literally on the edge of your seat? Heard a sermon or lecture that challenges your way of thinking, not in a confrontational way, but in a way so refreshing you find yourself not caring that it just questioned everything you’ve previously believed? If you’ve tasted of this kind of “languaging”, you will have a sense of the Christian vocation.
Artisans of written word and the craftsmen of stories know intimately the power of language. Language can be a weapon or an instrument of peace. It can tear down or build up. It can unite and divide. It can reject and accept. We are communicators swimming in the ocean of language, yet many of us often fail to recognize how poorly we use our language in ways that honor God.
While we certainly have the power to shape our language, it is also true that language shapes us as well. Without getting too philosophical about it, a simple example will do. Libertarians often stop an argument between a conservative and a progressive by saying, “You both are framing the argument in the wrong way.” The key here is framing. (By the way, I’m not claiming libertarians don’t poorly frame arguments.) In the same way our simple debates are shaped by the words we use, language itself is so deeply rooted that it affects our world view.
As citizens of the Kingdom of God, followers of Christ ought to be willing and able to do what Jesus did: use the power of language to describe a different vision of reality. When we do, Tim Suttle believes that “God just appears and happens in the moment and leaves us forever changed.” Most of us tend to ignore nuance and look at the world in binary: conservative/progressive, rich/poor, black/white, attractive/unattractive, and so on. But think about what Jesus did; he sided with the unclean, the outcasts, earning himself the title “friend of sinners.” Somehow, Jesus was able and eager to say “yes” to those on the “wrong” side. In doing so, he was able to communicate a vision more radical than a mere elimination of “them” (the bad ones). He came into the world to redeem it, to rescue it, to bring it new life.
Suttle’s chapter on “languaging” God could be condensed into this: “The Christian’s most sacred vocation when relating to another human being is to try to become the conduit through which that person comes into contact with the risen Savior. As we relate to one another, God can ‘happen’ to us over and over.” The whole point of the incarnation is that “God can happen to anyone, anytime, anyplace…” When we pay attention, we can be a part of that. But that’s the hard part, this paying attention business. Without being hostile, we often treat those unlike ourselves indifferently, being inattentive in an equally dehumanizing way. The first step to languaging God is to refuse to ignore the world around us.
There are two things we’re supposedly not to talk about in polite company: religion and politics. Why? It’s divisive, almost inherently so. Good dialogue about such topics takes time. Discussing controversial topics thoughtfully is an art, and takes patience. It takes little time to rouse the passions of the opinionated. It takes gracefulness and humility to dialogue meaningfully. This is why how we speak and how we listen is so important.
Instead of using our words to divide, we ought to use them to embrace. Do we frame discussions in such a way that tilts the conversation our way? Or do we use grace and humility to hear out the other person? When we look into helping those in need, are our words and actions showing them pity or love?
When we become artisans of a new way of speaking, we language God to our world in a way that honors God and respects our neighbor. In this way we bring peace while we preach peace, something both libertarians and Christians are passionately committed.
Tags: Jesus, Kingdom of God, language, peace, public jesus, Tim Suttle, vision
Recapping the interesting and significant news and articles of the past week.
American Christians should be concerned about drugs not because the drugs themselves harm (some do, and some not so much), but because the United States government uses drugs as an excuse to wage total war on the American people. Anthony Gregory recently published reasons why the Right should oppose the drug war at AmCon Mag.
I’m also excited to announce that our very own Laurence Vance is releasing a new book about the drug war on September 30th. He is sending me a copy with haste and I look forward to telling all of you about it soon.
Rand Paul, to me, is somewhat of a mixed bag, but sometimes he really surprises me. For instance, at the recent Values Voter Conference he clearly argued for a non-interventionist foreign policy, even saying, “I don’t believe Jesus would have killed anyone.” Kudos to Rand for sticking to the peace message here.
I would be remiss to point out, though, that one can also be a Christian nonvoter like Jim Fedako. Whatever you choose, do so knowing why you do it.
Did you know that the Federal Reserve now has police powers? And that they’re buying massive amounts of ammunition? So much for being a “private” institution (as if it ever was one)!
How about another infographic? Here is one on online piracy that is… very informative!
And now for you’re moment of Zen…
The chemist in me found this very, very funny.
Have you been to LCC recently? If not, here are a few posts you may have missed:
- Painting Government Into a Corner
- Dealing with Colossians 3
- Lies, Damn Lies, and the Republican Party Platform
- Do you still have a 9-11 Mentality?
Have something you want to share? Please let us know in the comments. I read every comment and respond to most of them. Thanks for your support!
Tags: ethics, foreign policy, infographic, Jesus, News, News of the Week, Rand Paul, voting, war, war on drugs
All libertarians seek the path of non-violence. Even those with anarchist leanings will concede the possibility that the State has a legitimate, albeit minor, role in society (we usually call them miniarchists). But Christian libertarians have a clearer path to follow: the Way of Peace. Not optional. It is, in fact, absolutely essential. If our kingdom is led by the Prince of Peace, how ought we to propose conflict resolution in a society where institutionalized violence is acceptable? I hope to write about this in a future article, but the Way of Christ as demonstrated in and by the Scriptures is a commitment to living and espousing an alternative way of imagining life as we know it—specifically in contrast to the empires of this world.
Life presents us with plenty of opportunities for improvement, whether in the form of problem-solving (repairing something) or life-enhancing (inventing something) activities. When it comes to solving problems, the way it is approached can be summed up in two possible phrases:
“Something ought to be done…”
“There’s gotta be a way to…”
At first glance it seems these two statements are similar enough to be nearly the same. But consider the contrast between the mind which says, “Something ought to be done about pollution,” and the mind that says, “There’s gotta be a way to address the problem of pollution.” It’s subtle, but the difference is in the attitude. The former is an assertion uttered based on the premise that somebody else (usually the State) ought to take care of the problem. The latter assertion is by somebody who will find a way to solve it without initiating force.
One is the way of violence. The other, the way of peace.
Without making too much of the contrast in these phrases, I believe it stands at the heart of competing worldviews, evidence that the world is full of both producers and looters (can anybody guess what book I’ve just finished?). Those who want somebody else to take care of it, and those who solve problems themselves. Those who wish to outsource their social responsibility with the legal apparatus (not inherently a bad thing), and those who take personal gratitude in shaping a positive social outcome.
Political solutions are often approached as if a single entity ought to take care of social problems. Libertarians are typically already against such assumptions, though some are still minarchists. Many Christians (even Christian libertarians) are minarchists. Whatever your position on the role of the State, consider it your highest responsiblity to yourself and to your fellow human beings to always cherish and pursue nonviolent solutions.
Tags: Bible, Jesus, nonviolence, peace, Prince of Peace, way of peace
I am a man of peace; but when I speak, they are for war. – Psalm 120:7
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes.” – Luke 19:41-42
All men desire peace, but very few desire those things that make for peace. – Thomas a Kempis
I recently heard praise among churchgoers for the movie, “Act of Valor”, a movie about Navy SEAL’s funded in large part by the Navy itself. (And, judging by the previews, it’s basically a military recruitment film.) There is even a Bible study that coincides with the movie and is based on the SEAL code of honor. I was unexpectedly overcome with grief when a Christian excitedly described this to me at church.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the terrible contrast I had just experienced. The sermon that very morning was on this verse from the Beatitudes in the book of Matthew:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”
Blessed are the peacemakers. And yet here Christians had high praise for a code of conduct espoused by an outfit whose entire purpose is to kill ruthlessly and efficiently. And not merely to kill, but specifically to kill whoever they are commanded to kill by the political powers in the United States without question. The very first tenet in the SEAL code of conduct is “Loyalty to Country” which means, in practical terms, obeying the orders of your superiors who are supposed to represent “the country”, however ill-defined the term.
Not only does obedience to the first tenet render obedience to any of the rest impossible, it is unfathomable to me how a Christian could find this a suitable basis for a Bible study intended to make men into better Christians. The first tenet of this code means quite plainly to forsake your own conscience, do not question the morality of your orders, do not seek to understand why you are supposed to be at war with whomever you are told to be at war with, do not investigate whether or not your targets are a genuine threat or deserving of death, but simply pull the trigger.
The Evangelical Church in America today looks very little like a body of Christ followers and more like a body of state and military followers. American flags grace many a pulpit. Veterans Day celebrations are common. Prayers for the success of military ventures are not unheard of. Calls by politicians and pundits for the use of violence in almost any country for almost any reason will almost always gain the unwavering support of the entire Evangelical community. Anything – including torture, assassinations, and “collateral damage” – can be excused and even praised if it is done “for the country” and under the stars and stripes.
How did this happen? Can you imagine Jesus, or Peter or John with Kevlar vests and M-16’s kicking in doors, screaming ,“double-tapping” people in the head before yelling, “All clear!”’ and high-fiving each other? Can you imagine them dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima or Nagasaki? Can you imagine Jesus instructing his followers to study a code of conduct that begins first and foremost with, “Be loyal to the Roman government”?
Not only did Christ and the giants of the Christian faith refuse to aggress against others, no matter how sinful or evil, they even refused to use violence in self-defense and instead chose martyrdom. When Peter tried to defend Jesus with the sword by cutting off the ear of a soldier, Jesus rebuked him and healed the man’s ear.
Jesus did not instruct the disciples to go to the wilderness and train for a few months so they could plan a stealth nighttime assassination of the guards who crucified Him or any who opposed the Way. He told them to forgive. To Baptize. To turn the other cheek. To submit even to death for the sake of the gospel, rather than resort to violence. That is a radical message and they lived it.
And yet the Church finds herself cheering for the military and honoring them without questioning what they are doing, who they are killing, why they are doing it, or if it’s right. Worship of America and the myth of its righteousness have taken the place of any sense of individual moral responsibility on the part of soldiers or those who support them.
I left church with an immense weight on my soul. I wept. I wept because I knew exactly the sentiment expressed by most of the churchgoers that morning. I used to share it. I wept as I remembered my bloodlust after 9/11. I wanted the United States military to kill people. I wanted bombs to drop and guns to fire. I wanted somebody to get it, good and hard. I wanted death. I wanted war. I did not want peace. I felt no love, only hate.
This impulse is the most human of all impulses. It is also the very impulse Christ taught us to overcome and demonstrated how to do so by His own example. Even when others hate, love.
I wept as I saw in my minds eye the blood on the hands of nearly every Christian in this country. How many self-proclaimed followers of Christ have cheered on “the boys in uniform” during every conflict we’ve ever had, including wars of aggression, just because they’re “our countrymen” fighting for “our side”?
What are “the things that make for peace”? The belief that right and wrong trump nationality and patriotism. The belief that killing is only ever permissible as a last resort and in self-defense. An understanding that Congressional or Presidential approval of an action does not make it moral. That obeying orders is not a virtue unless the orders are virtuous, in which case they should be obeyed because they are right, not because they are orders. That voluntarily agreeing to kill whomever you are told to kill is not honorable. That love is better than vengeance.
Before you support any military action, conduct a brief mental experiment: imagine not the US Military, but you as an individual embarking on the mission in question. In the end it is only individuals who can act and bear moral responsibility for their actions. Imagine standing before God and saying, “I was only following orders”.
How many churches cheered for war against Iraq? Yet can you imagine a pastor standing before his church and saying, “For the next six months we are all going to train in explosives and guns, and we are taking a church trip to Iraq to kill bad people and make the world a safer place.” Who would support it? In moral terms, it is no different to support taking money from taxpayers to pay soldiers to do the same. In fact, the latter is in some ways more nefarious and less honest.
Most would argue that there is a difference between unjust violence and just violence – indeed there is. Some argue there is a difference between just war and unjust war – perhaps there is. But never in my years of observing church support for state military action have I witnessed a single discussion of whether the action was just or right. There have been a few discussions of whether it was “Constitutional”, but never whether it was moral. The morality of war is assumed by the mere fact that the war is waged by the United States Government.
Until the Church in America stops blindly supporting violence done in the name of patriotism, our hands are bloody and our witness is tainted. We say we are for peace, but we want war. We say we pray to the Prince of Peace, but we ask him to bless the violence committed by soldiers. We say “the law is written on our hearts” yet we ignore our hearts and only follow the laws of governments and call what they call right good, and what they call wrong bad.
In our ignorance, we support violence. We can cry out, “Father forgive us, for we know not what we do.” But after our eyes our opened and we begin to examine the morality of acts of violence, we will be held accountable for what we know. I pray we will be willing to oppose violence, even when doing so makes us “unpatriotic” or “un-American”; even when doing so may lead to our own persecution.
“He who surrenders himself without reservation to the temporal claims of a nation, or a party, or a class is rendering to Caesar that which, of all things, most emphatically belongs to God himself” — C. S. Lewis.
Tags: church, foreign policy, Jesus, military, pacifism, peace, prayer, war