links: this went thru my mind

Church attendance, commitment, culture, time & trends: The Most Important Trend of Church Trends in 2015 and What to Do About It [essential reading]

“Specifically, in the last 2 years, I have see one common thread become a common rope. It’s presence is now ubiquitous; every church I talk with mentions this problem when we discuss the Local Predicament in our Kingdom Concept work. (challenges and opportunities expressed in the local culture). I have never seen a problem discussed this commonly amidst a diversity of church sizes and denominational affiliations. What is the one trend? Your Most Committed People Will Attend Worship Services Less Frequently than Ever in 2015.”

Caricature, hatred, Islam, Muslims & stereotyping: How Not to Kill a Muslim [essential reading]

“The chief issue of Muslim-Christian tension in the United States is lack of relationship. Because many white middle/upper-middle class Christian citizens do not have meaningful relationships with a single Muslim, we are left to fill in the gaps of experience with stereo-types, caricature, and exaggeration.”

Cinema, Exodus, film & movies: Three Takeaways from ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’

“Whatever one might think about the explicit divergences from the biblical story (e.g., the conversation at the burning bush is too limited in the movie, the omission of the opening confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh, absence of Pharaoh-Moses interaction about the plagues, etc.), the story is told to make a point(s) for contemporary audiences. I heard several points, but here are my major takeaways. 1. Israel wrestles with God. … 2. Jewish Holocaust Relived. … 3. Not by Israel’s sword, but by the Lord’s right hand.”

Conversion, conviction, discipleship, gospel, kingdom & transformation: Have You Taken a Gospel Immunization Shot? [essential reading]

“Why does being ‘Christian’ in America make so little difference in so many people’s lives, when the kingdom movement revealed in the New Testament revolutionized people’s lives? … people give their mental assent to certain beliefs and are thereby ushered into a ‘kingdom’ that looks almost identical to the earthly kingdom they were supposed to be called out of. They can keep all their cultural assumptions, and, apart from avoiding certain behaviors that are singled out as the deal-breaker sins, their lives can continue on just as before. “All who are invested in the kingdom Jesus inaugurated in this world must find all of this deeply disturbing. … It’s as if they are a husband or wife who has security in their marital pledge rather than in the quality of the relationship he or she pledged to have. Many people today resist the need to cultivate an actual marriage-like relationship with Christ because they find their security in their past pledge.”

Desensitization, humanity, killing, military, violence & war: The Images Used to Teach Soldiers to Kill

“In my project Targets I look at the present day. I visited 30 countries to document the appearance of the targets with which soldiers today are conditioned to shoot, or as one trainer said: ‘They are supposed to learn to hit, not shoot.’ Another said, ‘It sounds cruel, but you have to learn to kill automatically in order to function.’ “How is he represented today – the enemy that soldiers are later expected to kill? Is he an abstract figure? Does he have a face, and if so, what kind? Has the image of the enemy changed?”

Ministry: Joe’s 10 Iron-clad Rules for Success in Ministry (some of which need more ironing than others)

“So, you’re new in the ministry?  And you want to get this right, of course. You have definitely come to the right place, friend.  Pull up a chair and get ready to take notes.”

this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

V-for-violenceC.S. Lewis, military, United States & war: The Lion, the Witch and the War

“‘Nothing clears a room faster than questioning the righteousness of our military.’ … One of the biggest stumbling blocks in following the teachings of Jesus is our tendency to do whatever we want, and to then convince ourselves that Jesus supports our agenda. This is especially true when it comes to His peace teachings.”

Loving your enemies: Is It Harmful to Tell People to Love Their Enemies If You Never Teach Them How?

“While the commandment to love is often proclaimed from Christian pulpits, seldom is it explained how we might cultivate such genuine compassion. With the absence of practical guidance we hear this commandment as a near impossible ideal and become burdened with shame and guilt at our inevitable failures. Our angers and fears, drives and repulsions erupt with primal power; we feel grossly unchristian for having these feelings in the first place, yet inadequate in our incapacity to free ourselves from their grip.”

Martyrdom: Perpetua’s Father

“… Vibius, the father of the martyr Perpetua of Carthage. Perpetua is perhaps the most endearing and disturbing of all the early Christian saints, a young mother who kept a prison diary while being held before her execution in the Roman arena in AD 203. (The charge against her seems to have been her refusal to sacrifice to the gods of Rome, which was a form of treason.).”

Perception & violence: Turns Out Cities are Safest Places to Live

“The risk of injury death is more than 20% higher in the country than it is in urban areas. … Most Americans believe that the nation’s crime rate is getting worse. … You’re much less likely to die from a gunshot wound than you are in a simple accident.”

Self-defense, stand your ground laws & statistics: Does Strengthening Self-Defense Law Deter Crime or Escalate Violence? [a 43 page Texas A & M study]

“Results … indicate that expansions to castle doctrine do not deter crime. … More significantly, results indicate that castle doctrine laws increase total homicides by around 8 percent.”

Violence in the OT: Violence in the OT (parts 1 & 2) [two video clips, 8 min. & 10 min. respectively; essential viewing; simply outstanding!]

“My colleague Lawson Stone has two excellent posts on violence in the OT. See what you think.”

links: this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

V-for-violenceCapital punishment & the death penalty: * The Heresy of Capital Punishment [required reading];  Some Responses to Critics Regarding Capital Punishment

* “”It is my considered opinion that belief that capital punishment, at least as it is known and practiced in the U.S. today, is a heresy when espoused by Christians. It manifests an embrace of the myth of redemptive violence by humans and flies in the face of the ethic of Jesus which forbids violent retribution. It is absolutely, incontrovertibly contrary to love. And it is, as practiced in the U.S. today, manifestly unjust.”

* “… if we’re going to appeal to the authority of the God of the Old Testament to support capital punishment, then … to those of you who use Romans 13 to argue that Christians should support capital punishment: Do you then … And, to those of you who demand proof texts before I oppose capital punishment (or call it a heresy): What do you say about … to those of you who refer to the OT’s commands to execute certain people: Do you then … And, finally, to those who like to think of Jesus as a warrior …”

Gun control: How Could We Blow This One?

“More Americans die of falling televisions and other appliances than from terrorism. Twice as many Americans die of bee or wasp stings annually. And 15 times as many die by falling off ladders.

“Most striking, more than 30,000 people die annually from firearms injuries, including suicides, murders and accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. American children are 13 times as likely to be killed by guns as in other industrialized countries.

“Doesn’t it seem odd that we’re willing to spend trillions of dollars, and intercept metadata from just about every phone call in the country, to deal with a threat that, for now, kills but a few Americans annually — while we’re too paralyzed to introduce a rudimentary step like universal background checks to reduce gun violence that kills tens of thousands?”

Military & special forces: The Future of U.S. Special Operations Forces

“U.S. special operations forces are doing more things in more places than ever before. They are now active in some seventy countries and, since 2001, have seen their combined budget nearly quintuple—a trend that seems likely to continue.”

Non-violence & pacifism: It’s Easy to be Pacifist in Indiana. Try Gaza! [essential reading]

“If the early church was pacifist, or close to it, would that impact your views for today?”

this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

V-for-violenceApologies, reconciliation & torture: Britain Apologizes For Colonial-Era Torture Of Kenyan Rebels

“A 60-year-old wound in Kenya has finally found its recompense. Last week, the British government finalized an out-of-court settlement with thousands of Kenyans who were tortured in detention camps during the end of the British colonial reign. The historic apology — and the unprecedented settlement — has been years in the making.”

Bible, children & violence: Is the Bible Too Violent for Kids?

“How did you balance the need to convey the Biblical message and keep it age appropriate? How do you respond to the modern desire to keep children from being exposed to the violence in the Bible?”

Christians, hypocrisy, prayer & the military: The Hypocrisy of a Warring Christian

“Just stop and think about it for a minute. Every Sunday, if not every single day, thousands, if not millions, of prayers are offered up in the name of the Prince of Peace begging the God of all reconciliation to please end all wars and ‘bring the boys home safely.’ We pray for our leaders to make wise decisions about the use of our tax dollars. We pray for love and charity to overwhelm the powers of hate and evil.

“And we scream like a bunch of scalded dogs when the military suggests that we no longer need the base down the street. …

“Christian brothers and sisters – can we not stop and think about this for a moment? Of what earthly or heavenly good does it do to pray for peace, of what earthly or heavenly good does it do for us to pray that God end all wars if we proudly and stubbornly refuse to turn our swords into plows? And why, among all peoples, are disciples of Christ among the most vociferous defenders of our killing machines?”

Drones: “I felt like a sociopath” – Drone Operator Says He Is Haunted By The 1,600 He Killed

“[Brandon] Bryant, now 27, served as a drone sensor operator from 2006 to 2011, at bases in Nevada, New Mexico and in Iraq, guiding unmanned drones over Iraq and Afghanistan. Though he didn’t fire missiles himself he took part in missions that he was told led to the deaths of an estimated 1,626 individuals. In an interview with NBC News, he provided a rare first-person glimpse into what it’s like to control the controversial machines that have become central to the U.S. effort to kill terrorists.”

Gun control: Democrats Quietly Renew Push for Gun Measures

“Americans remain broadly supportive of legislation that expands background checks on gun purchases but are skeptical that such a bill will pass.”

Gun sales: Smith & Wesson Booked Record Sales as Gun Debate Raged

“The past 12 months have been bad for gun violence, but good for Smith & Wesson. The gun maker reported preliminary results Thursday showing that sales for the fiscal year ended April 30 hit a record $588 million, a 43% increase versus the year prior.”

Military expenditures: F-35 Fighter Jet Struggles to Take Off

“After a decade of administrative problems, cost overruns and technical glitches, the F-35 is still not ready for action. … The GAO estimated the program would cost an unprecedented $12.6 billion a year on average through 2037 — that’s an average of about $1.4 million an hour for the next two and a half decades. The per-plane cost estimates have climbed to $161 million today from $81 million in 2001, the GAO said.”

this went thru my mind: on violence

 

V-for-violenceAmerican Civil War: The Great Civil War Lie

“Civil War buffs have long speculated about how different the war might have been if only the Confederacy had won formal recognition from Britain. But few recognize how close that came to happening — and how much pro-Southern sympathy in Britain was built on a lie.”

Americans & the military: Americans and Their Military, Drifting Apart

“… the greatest challenge to our military is not from a foreign enemy — it’s the widening gap between the American people and their armed forces. Three developments in recent decades have widened this chasm.”

Guns & suicide: Which Combination of God and Guns Produces the Fewest Suicides?

“Back-and-forth columns prompt one analyst to do the (hypothetical) math.”

Turkey: Turkey: What to Know and How to Pray

“I’m praying: * That the protests geared toward the government will lead the people away from increased Islamization and to greater religious freedom. * For the safety of ‘workers’ serving there right now. * For the safety of Turks and for a just end to the violence. * That Turks in Turkey (and the 75 million Turks around the world) will turn to Christ in the midst of the tumult.”

this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

V-for-violenceDrones: White House Defends Drone-War Killing of Americans by Olivier Knox

“These strikes are legal, they are ethical, and they are wise.”

Ex-military experience: * ‘Nightmare’ at Home for SEAL Who Shot Osama bin Laden by Jamie Gumbrecht; * The Shooter by Phil Bronstein

“‘They spent, in the case of the shooter, 16 years doing exactly what they’re trained to do, which is going out on these missions, deployment after deployment, killing people on a regular basis,’ said Bronstein, executive chairman of the Center for Investigative Reporting. ‘They finally get to the point where they don’t want to do that anymore.'”

“‘I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I’ve ever done, or the worst thing I’ve ever done?'”

Faith, gun control, logic & theology: * Toward a Theology of Guns: A Christian’s Perspective by T. Michael Halcomb [eight-part series; required reading]; * Guns and Jesus in America by Rich Little

Links to parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven & eight of Halcomb’s posts.

* “… is living in this type of fear good, healthy, or even responsible? The Christian’s answer to this should, echoing Jesus’ views, be a resounding ‘No!'” (T. Michael Halcomb)

* “It’s difficult to vigorously defend rights to own semi-automatic weapons while simultaneously sending a message of love, hope and peace to the world and expect the world to not see a conflict in this message. … One isn’t considered liberal because they support sensible restrictions on the first amendment, in fact great support for these restrictions has come from the Christian community, so it seems perhaps somewhat dishonest to hear Christians arguing that any restrictions to the second amendment is an ‘attack’ on the second amendment when they have never considered reasonable restrictions to the first amendment an ‘attack.’ However, when we come to the second amendment a different logic and argument is employed by many.” (Rich Little)

Desensitization, entertainment, media & murder: Murder Shows and the Lamp of the Body by Dan Bouchelle

“‘Are you going to watch another one of your murder shows?’ asked my 5th grade daughter as she was trying to decide whether to watch TV with us or go upstairs and read. … hearing my baby describe one of our principle TV genres as ‘murder shows’ hit me between the eyes like a sledgehammer. Do we really feast our eyes on human slaughter for entertainment? Has our family living room turned into the Roman coliseum?”

Pacifism & pacifist: When “Top Gun” Becomes a Pacifist by Kurt Willems [required reading]

“Not only in time of war or combat, but in any other type of aggressive conflict our first and natural reaction to any offender who seeks to harm is to retaliate.  How can I reconcile this with the words of Jesus who tells us to actually turn and offer our other cheek to them? As a soldier I could not do this since I was commanded to retaliate against any kind of aggression. … My weapon is not an M16 or .38. My weapon is not an AR-15 or 9mm. In fact, God tells me that none of my weapons are of this world. So, what am I doing practicing my shooting skills aiming to hit the silhouette of a human target at the gun range? No, as disciples of Christ our weapons are of divine origin, incapacitating our enemies not with bullets, but with truth, righteousness, peace, faith, the Word of God, and prayer.”

The conquest of Canaan, genocide & God: How Could God Command Genocide in the Old Testament? by Justin Taylor

“In the book of Joshua God commands Israel to slaughter the Canaanites in order to occupy the Promised Land. It was a bloody war of total destruction where God used his people to execute his moral judgment against his wicked enemies. In moving toward an answer it will be helpful to think carefully about the building blocks of a Christian worldview related to God’s justice and mercy.”

this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

V-for-violenceAustralia & gun control: I Went After Guns. Obama Can, Too. by John Howard

“… nothing trumps easy access to a gun. It is easier to kill 10 people with a gun than with a knife.”

Children, culture, guns, heroes, power & violence: Giving Up Chuck and the Daisy Red Ryder [required reading]

“My heroes have always been powerful. Heroes are and should be powerful, but how you define power… that makes all the difference. … The American definition of “power that solves problems” is intertwined with the cultural mystique of guns and violence. Once my definition of power changed, a few years ago, my heroes did as well …”

Christ’s cross, discipleship & violence: A Meditation on the Cross by Paul Smith [required reading]

“I’ll say it again. If you are nailed to a cross you cannot hold a gun. If your hand is wrapped around an instrument of death you cannot grasp the hand that was pierced with an instrument of death.”

Deception, fake quotations, & lies: Did Jefferson Really Say That? Why Bogus Quotations Matter in Gun Debate

* “‘The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.’ … staff ‘have not found any evidence that Thomas Jefferson said or wrote’ those words.”

Drone strikes: The Guilty Conscience of a Drone Pilot Who Killed a Child

“The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported last August that in Pakistan’s tribal areas alone, there are at least 168 credible reports of children being killed in drone strikes.”

Faith & guns: If I Can’t Take My Gun, I’m Not Going by Neal Whitlow

“Modern weapons and an individual’s right to possess them are not dealt with in scripture. All the texts dealing with warfare don’t seem to apply. However, there a few principles from the New Testament that inform my thinking on the subject.

“It is not the responsibility of God’s people to overwhelm the darkness by force of arms. We use other tools to fulfill our mission. Our weapons are truth, faith, patience, love, forgiveness, and hope. … God’s people defend the defenseless. …  Jesus calls us to abandon our compulsions of power and control. Let’s face it. A big part of the reason that Americans can’t let go of our guns is we are enamored with the feelings of power and invincibility they give us.”

Faith & nonviolence: Jesus’ Way Doesn’t Work by Tim Archer [required reading]

“The church heard Jesus’ message. They didn’t run away. They didn’t fight. They endured patiently. For more than two hundred years. They suffered. They died. They loved their enemies and prayed for them. They turned the other cheek. And they were killed for it.

“Because Jesus’ way doesn’t work. It doesn’t protect your from suffering. It doesn’t protect you from death. (well, not immediately) It doesn’t bring your enemies to their knees. It doesn’t protect the weak nor avenge the innocent. In the eyes of the world, Jesus’ way is a complete failure.

“If you’re looking for something that works, don’t look to Jesus’ teachings. But remember one thing: if you choose what makes sense to men, you’re choosing something that God despises.”

Gun control & President Obama’s plan: * The President’s Plan to Reduce Gun Violence [required reading; download the .pdf file]; * Joe Biden Addresses the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Jan. 17 [55 min. video; skip to 10 min., 20 sec. to begin]

* “Download the full text of the President’s plan.”

* Scroll down to the Opening Plenary Luncheon to find this video.

Gun control & public opinion: In Gun Control Debate, Several Options Draw Majority Support

“Fully 85% of Americans favor making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks, with comparable support from Republicans, Democrats and independents. Similarly, 80% support laws to prevent mentally ill people from purchasing guns, with broad support across party lines. But this bipartisan consensus breaks down when it comes to other proposals.”

Gun control & the states: * Gun Laws in the US, State by State – Interactive [very interesting & helpful]; * The Gun Challenge

* “… the majority of gun legislation in the US is enacted at the state level. That has brought broad variations across the country, with states taking different approaches to issues ranging from sales, permits, licensing, self-defence and carry laws.”

* “Inevitably, a bill like Wyoming’s has been filed in Texas.”

Guns & self-defense: * How Often Do We Use Guns in Self-Defense?

“We don’t know exactly how frequently defensive gun use occurs.”

Guns & the escalation of danger: Lessons From Guns and a Goose by Nicholas D. Kristof

“… that episode … underscores the role that guns too often play in our society: an instrument not of protection but of escalation. … One study, reported in Southern Medical Journal in 2010, found that a gun is 12 times more likely to result in the death of a household member or guest than in the death of an intruder. Another study in 1993 found that gun ownership creates nearly a threefold risk of a homicide in the owner’s household.”

Gun ownership: Why I Don’t Own a Gun by Brian Zahand

“I don’t own a gun because I don’t need one and I don’t want one. And that is perfectly acceptable. Please try to be at peace with this. As I said, I don’t own golf clubs either, and that’s bound to upset some people too.”

Gun violence & statistics:* Lack Of Up-To-Date Research Complicates Gun Debate by Carrie Johnson; * How Many People Have Been Killed by Guns Since Newtown? [interactive map]

* “Public health research dried up more than a decade ago after Congress restricted the use of some federal money to pay for those studies.”

* “The answer to the simple question in that headline is surprisingly hard to come by. So Slate and the Twitter feed @GunDeaths are collecting data for our crowdsourced interactive. This data is necessarily incomplete. But the more people who are paying attention, the better the data will be. You can help us draw a more complete picture of gun violence in America. If you know about a gun death in your community that isn’t represented here, please tweet @GunDeaths with a citation. (If you’re not on Twitter, you can email slatedata@gmail.com.)”

Military & prayer: How Do We Pray for the Troops? by Craig M. Watts [required reading]

“The language of public prayer should express a reality shaped by the creative and redemptive activity of God, not simply one that can be read from the pages of the newspapers or heard from the mouths of either marketers or politicians. …

“So when I stand to pray in worship I never pray that God protect our troops for the simple fact that we don’t have any troops. We do not gather as Americans who plead on behalf of national interests or partisan favor before either God or the world. We are the church. Who we are has been determined by whose we are. We are people of God. We gather as the body of Christ united with Christ’s body throughout the world. Yet I do pray for the protection of soldiers and civilians alike. I pray indiscriminately, without regard to borders because all people are creatures made by the hand of God and are so loved by God that God sent God’s only begotten Son on their behalf. May they be preserved from danger and be restored to circumstances where they can live without the threat of violence either to them or from them.”