links: this went thru my mind

 

 

Bible, credibility & historical reliability: Is the Bible Reliable?

“Today some critics complain that we are biased if we heed works such as the gospels. Yet few critics would so readily dismiss the information in ancient biographies about other persons. One must wonder, then, in which direction is the bias really working?”

Greeting, guests, visitors & welcome: Smiling is Not Enough: The Top Ten Mistakes Your Volunteers Make Welcoming Guests at Church

“Here are the top ten mistakes I see when volunteers are helping me as a first time guest.”

Minimum wage & poverty: Highest Minimum-Wage State Washington Beats U.S. in Job Creation

“When Washington residents voted in 1998 to raise the state’s minimum wage and link it to the cost of living, opponents warned the measure would be a job-killer. The prediction hasn’t been borne out. In the 15 years that followed, the state’s minimum wage climbed to $9.32 — the highest in the country. Meanwhile job growth continued … above the national rate. Payrolls at Washington’s restaurants and bars, portrayed as particularly vulnerable to higher wage costs, expanded by 21 percent. Poverty has trailed the U.S. level for at least seven years.”

Persecution: When Persecution Is Persecution

“We really know nothing of real persecution. … Our right to assemble is guaranteed, our freedom to worship together is protected, and we live in the most Christianized nations on earth. And while we may be surrounded by people who are hostile to the Christian faith, we know nothing of the fearful plight of the persecuted church. … It’s hard for me to use the word “persecution” to describe the social pressure or personal rejection I may occasionally experience here when Christians are being tortured and murdered for their faith around the world. And if I’m fearful of rejection or insults, criticism or prejudice here, then I thank God I don’t live in countries where I might be tortured or killed for my faith for I would too quickly deny my Lord. The persecuted church knows something about faith. They know something about hope. They know something about endurance.”

Syria: Three Years of Strife and Cruelty Put Syria in Free Fall

“It is not as if the world has no evidence of Syria’s ordeal, which has killed an estimated 150,000 people. … Analysts say that 42 percent of all Syrians .. have fled their homes. … The Syrian refugee crisis, meanwhile, has not peaked. Unicef says 5.5 million children need aid, a number that has more than doubled in a year. Child refugees quintupled to 1.2 million, 425,000 of them younger than 5 …”

War: The Unlikely Road to War

“Yes, the Great War, the end of empires and the old order, was triggered by a teenager. … The unthinkable is thinkable. Indeed, it must be thought. Otherwise it may occur — soldiers reduced … to ‘fodder locked in the same murderous morass, sharing the same attrition of bullet and barrage, disease and deprivation, torment and terror.’”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Accountability, awareness, Christian faith, knowledge, social injustice & violence: We Cannot Say We Did Not Know [essential reading]

“The sage in Proverbs 24:11-12 warns us to rescue those being led away to death: ‘If you say, “We did not know this” – does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it? And will he not repay all according to their deeds?’”

Children, parenting & sex: 7 Suggestions for Talking to Children about Sex

“I recognized that helping my children live pure and healthy sexual lives would be a challenge in a culture that is often defined by sex. I wanted to be the primary influencer in their development as adults, because I knew no one had a stronger desire for them to make wise choices than me.”

Church membership: The 7 Commandments for Choosing a Church

“If you don’t like the church where you are, the problem is probably you (or at least partially you… but probably mostly you).”

Forgiveness, intercession, love & ministry: The Chaplain from Missouri Who Tried to Save the Black Souls of the Nazis at Nuremberg

“… he would ultimately minister 13 of 21 of Hitler’s most malevolent Nazi leaders on trial in Nuremberg after World War Two for their heinous war crimes.”

Guests, visitors & welcome: 7 Ways to Connect with Guests Beyond the First Greeting

“Your God is awesome. Your church is wonderful. Yet guests who visit your church don’t often return. No true connection was made. A parking lot greeter in our church expressed that concern: ‘We’ve got to figure out how to actually connect every guest with another person. Our flippant hellos or glad-you-cames just aren’t adequate.’ Why not challenge every member of your church to use these seven tips to connect with guests.”

Youth ministry: Tribal Youth Ministry (Part 1): The Necessity of Age Desegregation in Our Churches [essential reading]

“This article is by Duncan Campbell and is the first of three outlining his approach to transitioning youth ministry toward a more intergenerational approach. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest questions facing churches today as we are beginning to see the connections between our traditional approaches to youth ministry and the disconnect from parents and other adults being a part of the faith development of our children, and the mass exodus from church by young adults.”

the Gospel argues against war—and yet we make war with … wild enthusiasm

 

The work we know today as the King James Bible (KJV, 1611) was strongly influenced by the first edition of the New Testament to appear in the English language, the work of William Tyndale (1526). In fact, 92% of the wording of Tyndale’s English NT was retained by the KJV’s translators. Tyndale’s English translation was based on the third edition of Desiderius Erasmus’ Greek New Testament (1522).

And so, it is interesting to note the view held by Erasmus – arguably the most learned man of his time in the entire world regarding the Greek NT - concerning Christian faith, the participation of Christians in military service and warfare, and the lust for war. His thoughts on such, quoted below, were penned in 1516 in a work created for the man who came to be known as King Charles V.

“Even if we allow that some wars are just, yet since we see that all mankind is plagued by this madness, it should be the role of wise priests to turn the minds of people and princes to other things. Nowadays we often see them as very firebrands of war. Bishops are not ashamed to frequent the camp; the cross is there, the body of Christ is there, the heavenly sacraments become mixed up in this worse than hellish business, and the symbols of perfect charity are brought into these bloody conflicts. Still more absurd, Christ is present in both camps, as if fighting against himself. It is not enough for war to be permitted between Christians; it must also be accorded the supreme honor.

“The Hebrews were allowed to engage in war, but with God’s permission. On the other hand, our oracle, which re-echoes again and again in the pages of the Gospel, argues against war—and yet we make war with more wild enthusiasm than the Hebrews.

“I would merely exhort the princes who bear the name of Christian to set aside all trumped-up claims and spurious pretexts and apply themselves seriously and whole-heartedly to making an end of this long-standing and terrible mania among Christians for war, and to establishing peace and harmony among those who are united by so many common interests.”

   Desiderius Erasmus (The Education of a Christian Prince)

links: this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

Drone warfare: Confessions of a US Drone Operator

“A former US air force drone operator has described how he is haunted by his time as a ‘remote killer’ functioning in ‘zombie mode’ in missions over Afghanistan and Iraq that claimed more than 1,600 lives. Brandon Bryant, a retired airman who operated remote-controlled Predator aircraft from US bases in Nevada and New Mexico, offers a rare military insider’s perspective on the US drone program …”

Guns: Bringing America Back to Life

“Other than car accidents, gun violence is the biggest killer of young people in the US.  One child or teen dies every 3 hours, 7 a day, over 50 a week. … I’ve seen a lot of the world, with travels taking me to about a dozen countries a year and this is what I’ve seen: In one year, guns murdered: 27 in Australia, 59 in England and Wales, 60 in Spain, 190 in Canada… and 10,177 in the US. …

“… [in the U.S.] we have around 90 guns for every 100 people, almost as many guns as people. The runner up was India, with about 4 guns per 100 people.”

Mass shootings: Explore the Data on U.S. Mass Killings Since 2006

“Mass killings — defined by the FBI as four or more victims, not including the killer — have occurred across the U.S. at the rate of about one every two weeks since 2006.”

Syria: * Syria Explained: How It Became a Religious War [required reading]; * In Syria, Doctors Risk Life and Juggle Ethics

* “How did Syria go from an internal uprising to a wider clash drawing funding and fighters from across the region? In a word, Middle East experts say, religion.”

* “The country’s once-functioning health system is in a shambles. More than half of its public hospitals have been damaged in the two-year-old civil war and 37 percent are out of service entirely …”

War: Justifying War: A Conversation with Nigel Biggar

“Professor Nigel Biggar is the Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology and Canon of Christ Church, Oxford. He also directs the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics & Public Life. … His most recent book is In Defence of War, published by Oxford University Press. This week he spoke to David Lincicum and Michael Law about just war, human nature, forgiveness as a non-religious act of morality, and whether Christianity is inherently pacifistic — and he tangles with Stanley Hauerwas over realism.”

links: this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

Christians, desensitization & violence: Why Don’t We Find Bloodshed Repugnant Anymore?

“Sociologist Rodney Stark has argued that early Christianity ‘brought a new conception of humanity to a world saturated with capricious cruelty and the vicarious love of death.’ He attributes much of the church’s remarkable growth to the fact that it ‘gave to its converts … nothing less than their humanity.’ A consistent pro-life ethic, by honoring what God honors, makes a powerful witness.”

Christianity, Islam, nonviolence & pacifism: * The Challenge of Malala to the Church; * Malala Yousafzai and the Tradition of Islamic Nonviolence

* “Like Malala, one must be willing to bear witness to the way of love and then say with a giggle, ‘now do what you want.’

“The thought I’m struck with watching this interview is this: if a 14-yr-old girl, raised in a culture that does not look to Christ or the NT for guidance, can see the truth and beauty of this insight, how is it that the vast majority of professing Jesus-followers in the western church today cannot see it, despite the fact that Jesus and the NT so emphatically and so clearly teach it (e.g. Matthew 5:38-48; Luke 6:27-36; Romans 12:14-21)?”

* “Malala’s nonviolence in the face of brutality brings up an important question about Islam. Many people assume that Islam is inherently violent and out to conquer the world. If that’s the case, then how do we explain Malala and the countless other Muslims who have fought for justice through nonviolence?”

Jerusalem, Micah, promises, prophesy & war: Micah 4:1-5 – Hope Despite the Injustices and War [essential reading]

“We invite all nations to enter the kingdom of God, that is, to come learn of God. … We invite all nations to learn war no more. If the kingdom of God, when it has fully come, includes the destruction of weapons of war and the pursuit of peace, then if the church is the presence of the kingdom within the world it must advocate and pursue peace. … We invite all nations to seek peace and prosperity without fear. … The church, if it is the presence of the kingdom in the present, must advocate for the poor, call the nations to peaceful prosperity, and seek to develop strategies that deal with poverty upon the earth. … Micah’s kingdom vision–his new heaven and new earth vision–calls the church to live as if the future has already come, as if the fullness of the kingdom of God has already arrived.”

John Howard Yoder: A Theologian’s Influence, and Stained Past, Live On

“… John Howard Yoder, America’s most influential pacifist theologian.”

links: this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

American exceptionalism & military intervention: Is Vladimir Putin Right?

“… Putin does have this to say in response to American exceptionalism: ‘There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.’

Desensitization, evil, forgiveness, labeling & violence: Good and Evil: Wearing Hitler [required reading]

“We think we have corralled evil to somewhere else, somewhere where “they” live, but then we hear evidence that suggests that if someone just puts on a white coat and pretends to be in charge we will push whatever button they tell us to.”

Government, nonviolence & pacifism: * Responding to Critics of a Pacifist View of the Syrian Crisis (parts 1 & 2) * Can Christians Ever Use Violence? A Discussion with Preston Sprinkle (Part 1); * Can Christians Ever Fight for Peace? A Discussion with Preston Sprinkle (Part 2) [all four of these entries are essential reading]

* “…  to say “God uses the sword-wielding authorities to punish wrongdoers” entails that every time authorities use their sword, God is using them. In logic, this is called a non sequitur – viz. ‘it does not follow.’ If I say, ‘Uncle Joe uses cow dung to fertilize his field,’ it doesn’t mean that every time Uncle Joe’s cows crap they’re fertilizing his field! This is why I stated that God doesn’t approve of the violence of governments: he simply uses them, as much as possible, as he finds them.”

* “Our call is to put on display an alternative to all the kingdoms of this world by refusing all violence and laying down our lives for others – even, and especially, those who identify themselves as our enemies.”

* “… before we ask the question, ‘Can a Christian be president,’ we need to first ask the question, ‘Does the Bible, especially the New Testament, allow Christians to use or command others to use violence to confront evil?’ Put more broadly: ‘Is there anything in the New Testament that encourages believers to put aside their Christian ethic for the sake of their vocation?’”

* “What if America killed all the bad guys, defended its borders, and exported democracy to every nation on earth? What would this accomplish? Would this further the kingdom of God? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe it would steer everyone’s gaze away from Jesus as the only true source of peace and toward America as the world’s savior—pax Americana. Rome almost did this in the first century: robbers were nearly stamped out, the Parthians were kept at bay, and Barbarians to the north posed little threat for hundreds of years. Pax Romana. And in Revelation 12 and 13, John said that they were empowered by Satan.”

links: this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

9/11, fear, priorities & terrorism: The Emotional and Spiritual Aftermath of 9/11 and Boston

“Strikingly, nearly three out of four Americans say that terrorism prevention is equal to or more important a priority than things like the preservation of families, immigration, healthcare, unemployment and education. Even 12 years after the 9/11 attacks, it would seem the threat of terrorism remains a powerful public motivator in America. For example, in a head-to-head prioritization, Americans rank terrorism prevention with nearly equal importance as family preservation (40% rank it higher and 38% rank it lower. The remaining 22% said they should be equal priorities.)

“The generational differences of opinion reveal an intriguing pattern when it comes to terrorism: Millennials, currently ages 18 to 29, are among the most likely to prioritize preventing terrorism above other social concerns.”

Football & full-contact sports: * Our Shaken Faith in Football; * Is Football Too Violent? 11 Reflections on My Christianity Today Essay

* “If the NFL is effectively admitting that the game of football causes physical harm to the tune of nearly a billion dollars, does it behoove Christians to reconsider the game’s violence? I think it does.”

* “I just wrote this Christianity Today piece on football violence in light of the NFL’s nearly $765-million settlement with injured players. It’s stirred up a bit of interaction on Twitter, so say the least … [And so, here are a] few thoughts based on the response to the essay.”

Gun violence, shootings & youth: Program Fights Gun Violence Bravado With ‘Story Of Suffering’

“… Cradle to Grave, a violence prevention program … brings small groups of at-risk youth to the hospital to show them what getting shot is really like.”

Nonviolence & pacifism: Christian Pacifism: Relevant Beyond Syria [required reading]

“… many people fail to realize that Christian pacifism goes beyond just being philosophically opposed to war and violence — it’s about being a peacemaker. Instead of anti-violence and anti-war — it’s pro-peace. It’s not just about avoiding war and violence, it’s about bringing peace. There’s a big difference.

“Christian pacifism is proactive, doing everything possible to bring about peace (without the use of violence). Pacifism isn’t an ideology reserved only for when nations and armies go to war, but it’s a personal decision that should be incorporated within our everyday lives.”

Syria & war: * 9 Questions about Syria You were too Embarrassed to Ask [required reading]; * Respond, But How? What We’re Missing On Syria; * I Support War with Syria, Almost; Brutality of Syrian Rebels Posing Dilemma in West [satire]; * Brutality of Syrian Rebels Pose Dilemma in West; * Intervention in the Third World: A Case for Masterly Inactivity [required reading]; * Shane Claiborne’s Statement on Syria; * What I – a Pacifist – Would say to Obama About the Crisis In Syria [essential reading; outstanding!]

* “If you found the above sentence kind of confusing, or aren’t exactly sure why Syria is fighting a civil war, or even where Syria is located, then this is the article for you. What’s happening in Syria is really important, but it can also be confusing and difficult to follow even for those of us glued to it. Here, then, are the most basic answers to your most basic questions.”

* “When a head of state is responsible for the deaths of 100,000 of his people and has used chemical weapons against innocent civilians — the world needs to respond. … Doing nothing is not an option. But how should we respond, and what are moral principles for that response?”

* “War against Syria? Sure! Let’s do it! I’m game. I think it sounds like a great idea, personally. Or, it would be a great idea if …”

* “… while the United States has said it seeks policies that would strengthen secular rebels and isolate extremists, the dynamic on the ground, as seen in the execution video from Idlib and in a spate of other documented crimes, is more complicated than a contest between secular and religious groups.”

* “Cast your mind back to the 1950s, the last time U.S. policy was in the hands of an experienced and crafty general, who knew well the foolish advice military men often give civil authorities and could see through the machinations of the hydra-headed creature he baptized “the military-industrial complex.” General Dwight D. Eisenhower was President from 1953-61, a time when America’s superiority over the rest of the world was far greater than it is today. He received countless invitations and demands for U.S. intervention but always refused them. Only once, in 1958 and at the request of Lebanon’s president, Camille Chamoun, did Eisenhower agree to station troops for a short while. He withdrew them as soon as possible, three months later, without having fired a shot.

“Eisenhower’s record of nonintervention is worth studying … Ike recognized that getting involved in a military adventure was very easy, especially if you had the resources. But getting uninvolved was quite another matter and entailed the very real risk of humiliation and defeat. He therefore concluded it was best to say no–and did so.”

* “… you cannot fight fire with fire, you only get a bigger fire. You fight fire with water. You fight violence with nonviolence.”

* “I don’t believe Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching on the need for disciples to adopt an enemy-loving, non-violent lifestyle was ever intended to serve as a mandate for how governments are supposed to respond to evil.”