Continuing to expect Jesus’ healing here and now is often harder than writing it off as unrealistic or something to be awaited on the other side of death. Everywhere I travel lately I meet people and communities crippled by disappointment.
A man in Iceland prayed for days that his sister would come back to life after a drug overdose. A pastor of a church in the UK died of cancer in spite of massive prayer efforts. A close friend’s Pakistani Christian friend who advocated for minorities was gunned down in Islamabad in March. I myself have been discouraged by the slew of revenge killings in a Honduran community dear to my heart—and now by a close friend’s decline in a long prayer-bathed battle against cancer. What disappoints do you have, small or big?
“How many of you have been disappointed by God?” I asked a group of inmates back in July. Many were honest enough to admit frustrations at God not apparently answering prayers: their girl friends’ refusal to turn away from drug habits or the courts denials of their requests to be admitted into drug court rather than going straight to serve long prison sentences. Others were afraid to admit their disappointments—especially at a time when they really need God’s help. Many assume that being honest with God might get you on God’s bad side.
The greatest speech ever made? Really? Some really inspiring rhetoric and near prophetic analysis by our dear comic. His diagnosis, poignant. His prescription? Uh ...
Also some serious delusion historically: the ultimate triumph of human progressivism? fighting for freedom that produces peace? salvation by science? triumph of the human will in the name of democracy?
Yes ... an amazing mixture of truth, but also the new mantras that continue to produce technological goose-steppers. Lampooning the mustache and uniform of Hitler was supposedly ironic, but the images are not. I don't know how much the creator of the video even realizes how much of it demonstrates how Chaplain's very advice has been central to creating the very monstrosities he sought to overcome. From supposedly disparate roots comes similar scenes of tyranny.
While working my way through 2 Kings recently, I came across a recurring theme, mainly, “the sins of Jeroboam.” Repeatedly throughout 1 and 2 Kings, we find out that the kings of Israel who did evil in the sight of YHWH were often lumped together with the “sins of Jeroboam.” For example, in 2 Kings 3:3, we find out that Joram, though not as evil as his father Ahab (who, we find out, was one of the worst), nevertheless, “clung to the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.”
Or, take the case of King Jehu. Though he was obedient in killing all of Ahab’s family (2 Kings 10:17) and in destroying Baal worship in Israel (2 Kings 10:28), nevertheless “he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit” (2 Kings 10:29). (For some other places where the “sins of Jeroboam” are spoken of, see 1 Kings 16:31; 2 Kings 3:3; 10:29, 31; 13:2, 11; 14:24; 15:9, 18, 24, 28; and 17:22).
Why are Christians hesitant to call themselves feminists?
I would describe myself as an egalitarian, but more and more I'm wondering, why not a feminist? These are my top three insecurities with making the label change:
1) I don't want to become the stereotype: i.e. a single woman seeking ordination, writing a masters thesis on gender (har har, oh the irony!).
2) It's already hard enough being an egalitarian in the evangelical Christian world, how would being a feminist make it any easier?
3) If I label myself a feminist, what kind of baggage will I have to spend the next decade of my life sorting through to convince myself and my peers that feminism is indeed a Christian ideal?
Perhaps assuming a label of any kind---egalitarian, complementarian, feminist---is the problem to begin with. But in a world where categories seem to necessarily order our lives, I can't help but wonder why I feel uncomfortable with a label that encapsulates so much of what has been good and transformative in my Christian journey; here, two experiences in particular come to mind:
When the first plane smashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center I was in the delegates' dining room of the United Nations finishing a talk at the Annual International Prayer Breakfast. My theme was reconciliation. To illustrate just what enmity can bring about, I opened and closed the talk quoting from "Death Fugue," Paul Celan's haunting poem about hellish hatred, which during World War II sent millions of Jews to their "grave in the air." Minutes after I ended, we had to evacuate the building for fear that we ourselves may find our grave in the air as so many in the Twin Towers did. Only hours later, New York was a ghost city, abandoned in a hurry by people in shock. The whole nation, wounded and humiliated, was soon gripped by fear, which gave birth to anger and determination to "kick some ass" internationally, as one of our eloquent political leaders put it. That was then, immediately after the attack. Where are we today, 10 years later?
One way to approach the question is to ask whether, as a result of the 9/11 trauma, we have become better people? "Better" measured by what standard? I am a Christian theologian and although America is not "a Christian nation," many of its citizens are Christians. So I'll use moral standards derived from the Christian faith, which are largely shared by people of other faiths or no faith at all. Have we become better people? Some of us and in some regards have, and others of us and in other regards have not.
"And when He [Jesus] had looked around at them in anger..." (Mark 3:5).
Jesus certainly was angry; but what did He experience in His anger? Did Jesus experience what I experience when I am angry?
The Fathers of the Church teach us that there are two basic "natural passions" (sinless passions or feelings) that might be called desire and irritation. These two natural passions are corrupted by sin to become lust in all of its many forms and anger in all of its forms. Most of the time when we speak of anger, we are referring to an experience that is laced with, if not completely consumed by, sin.
When the Bible speaks of Jesus being angry, we must keep in mind that Jesus is sinless. Jesus experienced all that is natural for a human being, yet without sin. Jesus experienced both desire and irritation, what the Bible normally calls anger and sometimes wrath. However, the "anger" that Jesus experienced was completely free of sin: it was a passionless anger. By "passionless" I do not mean that Jesus did not feel it emotionally. What I mean is that the feeling was not touched by sin and it did not control, push or knock Him off balance. What Jesus experienced was nothing like anger as we generally experience it.
In his bizarre and surrealistic novel, The Master and Margarita, the critically acclaimed 20th century Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov creates a fascinating conversation between the Roman governor Pontius Pilate and the Galilean preacher Yeshua. When asked about his views on government, Bulgakov’s Yeshua says, “All power is a form of violence over people.” Yeshua goes on to contrast the governments of power and violence with the peaceable kingdom of truth and justice. In response Pontius Pilate rages, “There never has been, nor yet shall be a greater or more perfect government in this world than the rule of the emperor Tiberius!” When Pilate asks Yeshua if he believes this kingdom of truth will come, Yeshua answers with conviction, “It will.” Of course, Pilate cannot and will not stand for this.
“It will never come!” Pilate suddenly shouted in a voice so terrible that Yeshua staggered back. Many years ago in the Valley of the Virgins Pilate had shouted in that same voice to his horsemen: “Cut them down! Cut them down!”…And again he raised his parade-ground voice, barking out the words so that they would be heard in the garden: “Criminal! Criminal! Criminal!”…“Do you imagine, you miserable creature, that a Roman Procurator could release a man who has said what you have said to me?…I don’t believe in your ideas!”
Well, I got through 9/11... I preached on Eph. 1:10 (as scheduled) about God's Wonderful Plan to reconcile all things in heaven and on earth under Christ...
I tried to somehow tie this to "remembering well" - with insights from Miroslav Volf.
But what I should have done is prophesy.
What I should have said was what Brueggemann would have said:
We are situated, as prophets most often are, in a national security state that imagines itself to be autonomous and ultimate, an act of distorted imagination that puts us on a path to death...
The national security state MAKES PROMISES it cannot keep, promises of well being and safety;
The national security state invites systemic and PERVASIVE ANXIETY from which it offers no respite;
The national security state breeds efforts at a RELIGION OF CERTITUDE that is sure to be idolatrous.
Prophetic ministry is to expose such a state of mind and such an ideology of public life, to name the false PROMISES, the pervasive ANXIETY, and the ill-gotten CERTITUDE. Prophetic ministry, in the face of such lethal practice, offers a world of fidelity that is alternative to the ersatz world of security and certitude.
Against such formidable claims, prophetic ministry proceeds one text at a time -
one oracle, one poem, one narrative, one metaphor -
that leads to VULNERABILITY and SURPRISE.
Such practice is not carping; it is not scolding; it is not confrontation.
It is, rather, a TRUTH that makes free, a HOPE that heals.
There is a desperate waiting among us for such a performance.
Amos, in justifying his venturesome vocation, did so with two statements and two rhetorical questions (Amos 3:8):
Statement: The lion has roared;
Question: Who will not fear?
Statement: The Lord God has spoken;
Question: Who can but prophesy?
From Amos to us, the question lingers and haunts, Who indeed?
Excerpted from Walter Brueggemann, Disruptive Grace (Fortress Press, 2011), 154.
This morning I read an op-ed piece by a local freelance journalist entitled “Finding Their Religion”. In the column the journalist writes rather disparagingly about “organized religion,” likening it, as Nietzsche did, to “herd mentality.” The writer tells us how she vowed that her children would never be part of the religious herd. Instead, her children will be left to “find their own path” so that they might possess “beliefs they can wholly claim.”