Let’s play a little game. I’ll ask some questions and you answer them. OK?
First question: Did God tell Abraham to kill his son?
You say, yes? (Adding that God didn’t actually require Abraham to go through with it.)
Next question: Did God tell Joshua and Saul to kill children as part of the “ethnic cleansing” of Canaan?
Is that a hesitant yes I hear — like walking in untied shoes?
My next question is simple and straightforward: Does God change?
Well then, since God doesn’t change — and you have already acknowledged that in times past God has sanctioned the killing of children — is it possible that God would require you to kill children?
You say you don’t like this game? I understand. I don’t really like it either. But stick with me, I have one more question.
If God told you to kill children, would you do so?
I know, I know, I know! Calm down.
Of course you answer without hesitation that under no circumstance would you participate in the killing of children!
Yet in answering with an unequivocal no to the question of whether or not you would kill children are you claiming a moral superiority to the God depicted in parts of the Old Testament? After all, God commanded the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanites, including children…didn’t he? Yet you obviously find the very suggestion of participating in genocide morally repugnant.
So what is going on here? Is genocide something God used to do, but now he’s changed?
But you already told me God doesn’t change. God is immutable. God doesn’t mutate.
So if God used to sanction genocide and God doesn’t change…
Yes, you’ve been painted into a corner. And something has to give!
Gitmo Is Killing Me By SAMIR NAJI al HASAN MOQBEL Published April 15, 2013 in the New York Times
GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba
ONE man here weighs just 77 pounds. Another, 98. Last thing I knew, I weighed 132, but that was a month ago.
I’ve been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity.
I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial.
I could have been home years ago — no one seriously thinks I am a threat — but still I am here. Years ago the military said I was a “guard” for Osama bin Laden, but this was nonsense, like something out of the American movies I used to watch. They don’t even seem to believe it anymore. But they don’t seem to care how long I sit here, either.
When I was at home in Yemen, in 2000, a childhood friend told me that in Afghanistan I could do better than the $50 a month I earned in a factory, and support my family. I’d never really traveled, and knew nothing about Afghanistan, but I gave it a try.
I was wrong to trust him. There was no work. I wanted to leave, but had no money to fly home. After the American invasion in 2001, I fled to Pakistan like everyone else. The Pakistanis arrested me when I asked to see someone from the Yemeni Embassy. I was then sent to Kandahar, and put on the first plane to Gitmo.
The Regehr family was among approximately
120,000 Mennonites who lived in the Soviet Union during the 1920s. Mennonites are an ethnic
and religious Anabaptist group who traditionally practice pacificism, voluntary
adult baptism, and a rejection of oaths. Following the teachings of a Catholic priest
from the Netherlands, Menno Simons (1496-1561), the Mennonites were forced to
frequently migrate to avoid persecution from both church and state authorities
who were, at times, hostile to Mennonite religious practices. In the late-18th century, Empress
Catherine II offered religious freedom and exemption from military service to
Mennonites who would settle in Russia. But after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917,
Ruth Derksen Siemens writes, “the exclusiveness of many Mennonite communities,
their perceived prosperity, and their religious practices [attracted] the
attention of Marxist revolutionaries.” The Mennonites’ status within Russia as
a distinct group with special privileges was revoked, and following the
collectivization of agriculture and the Mennonites’ reclassification as kulaks, many fled the USSR.
Originally from Altonau in the Sagrdowka
colony of present-day Ukraine, the Regehr family, consisting of Jasch and Maria
and their six children, attempted to flee the Soviet Union in December 1929,
hoping to travel by train from Moscow into Latvia. Approximately half of the estimated 10,000
Mennonite refugees who congregated in Moscow by November 1929 escaped to
however, the Regehr family was stopped at a railway station only a few hours
after relatives, the Bargen family, managed to escape. The Regehrs missed their opportunity to
escape the Soviet Union, perhaps due to a decision to delay their departure by
just twelve hours.
Regehr family was arrested in June 1931, and transported to the northern Ural
Mountains where they were initially held in a work camp in Tarabunka before
spending time in Lunowka, Ulaxma, and Polowinka between 1931 and 1933. From these locations, the Regehrs wrote many
letters that made their way to the Bargen family, who, after leaving Russia,
settled in Carlyle, Saskatchewan. Through these letters, translated and
compiled in Ruth Derksen Siemens’ Remember
Us, the Regehrs inform the Bargens about their lives, expressing the pain
and suffering that they must endure working low-status camp jobs, harvesting
lumber, working in mines and agriculture, as well as building rail lines, all
while fighting off frostbite and starvation in the Soviet north. In a
letter from 10 January 1933, Jasch writes, “if it would be possible to write
all our days into a book under one title, it would certainly be called
‘Lamentations.’” Whether or not Jasch specifically intended to
draw a comparison here between the Regehrs’ situation in the Soviet Union and
that of the Jewish people following the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem in the
biblical book of Lamentations, the Regehr letters appear to follow much the
same structure and function as the laments in the book of Lamentations. This means that, as well as allowing them to
express pain and despair, by using a biblical form of lament, the Regehr
letters act as a form of dialogue that allows them to address both God and the
Mennonite community, calling for and expecting change. It is through these laments that the Regehrs
attempt to solicit material support and maintain hope for the future.
 Lucille Marr, “The History of the Mennonite Identity:
Developing a Genre,” Journal of Mennonite Studies 23 (2005): 49.
 There is
still debate over whether there is a distinct Mennonite ethnic identity. Both Ruth Derksen Siemens and John B. Toews,
the main sources for my overview of Mennonite beliefs and history, contend that
Mennonites are a distinct ethnic group due to community migration and isolation
from wider society. See notes in
Siemens, 37 for more information about Mennonite ethnic identity.
 Walter Brueggmann, “Lament as Wake-Up Call (Class
Analysis and Historical Possibility),” in Nancy C. Lee, Carleen Mandolfo, eds.,
Lamentation in Ancient and Contemporary
Cultural Contexts (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2008), 228;
Kathleen O’Conner, Lamentations and the
Tears of the World (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002), 10.
Sequence of Repenting: "He knows repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness; it is what we do because we have been forgiven. It serves as an expression of gratitude rather than an effort to earn forgiveness. Thus the sequence of forgiveness and then repentance, rather then repentance and then forgiveness, is crucial for understanding the Gospel of grace."
In December of last year I was on a panel at a public meeting about religion and politics in Chiliwack, B.C.. One of my fellow panelists was Ron Dart, Professor at University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford B.C., who recently authored a book entitled Keepers of the Flame - Canadian Red Toryism. The book is a collection of essays by Dart that explore in various ways the possibility and the need to challenge "the imperial nature of liberalism" in Canada and North America. In Dart's view the successful challenge is to be found, if it is to be found at all, in the Red Tory tradition in Canada, and certainly not in the "icy blue Toryism" characteristic of the Multoney Tories, or especially the current Conservative government. In an essay clearly written before Stephen Harper became Prime Minister, Dart criticizes the merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives as the unfortunate creation of a new right of centre republican party that is no real alternative to a Liberal party by then already more Americanized and heading futher rightward under Paul Martin.