It is easier for a feeble straw to resist a mighty fire than for the nature of sin to resist the power of love. We must cultivate this love in our souls, that we may take our place with all the saints, for they were all-pleasing unto God through their love for their neighbor.
– Saint Elizabeth the New Martyr
This is a powerful quote, but even more powerful when taken within the context of her life. Her story is compelling to me for several reasons. Like me she was Protestant; unlike me she was royalty. Her husband, a Grand Duke, was Orthodox and when they married, they had two wedding services—an Orthodox service and a Lutheran service. On her own volition Elizabeth became Orthodox after a couple years of devotion to studying the faith.
Most compelling to me about Saint Elizabeth is her response to the terrorist who killed her husband on February 4th, 1905. After seeing her husband’s body blown to pieces from a terrorist bomb, her response to this horrific and tragic event makes her words ever so sweet, like myrrh washing over my heart, so full of anger, bitterness and rage. Readers can find a more detailed account of her story here (http://incommunion.org/2007/08/04/lest-guilty-blood-be-shed/), but in short, after keeping vigil for two days by her husband’s coffin, it was impressed upon her (by her deceased husband) to go to the terrorist who was responsible and to forgive him. Needless to say he wasn’t very welcoming to her invitation for forgiveness. Elizabeth so loved the man who murdered her husband that she pleaded to Tsar Nicholas not no execute the man for his crimes, despite his lack of remorse.
As a foolish catechumen in the Orthodox Church, I must confess that at times, I find Orthodoxy can be a bit frustrating. Today, with access for lay people to so much information, the idea that the Orthodox Faith stands in complete unity seems quite misleading. There are a lot of voices out there and many come from dear brothers who have been Orthodox much longer than I. This includes Priests, Bishops, Metropolitans, the Fathers, etc. Oddly enough my fellow laymen also want to tell me what is and isn’t Orthodox and be the first to let me know when I’m on the edge of a supposed heresy.
"If we don't know where the gates of hades are, no wonder the church doesn't know where the church is going ... The church is a movement with a downward arrow, following Jesus from heaven into the realm of death."
"The story of Lazarus' resurrection is a model for our ministries, rolling away stones and unwrapping those Jesus is bringing back to life."
Chris Hoke is the author of Wanted: A Spiritual Pursuit through Jail, among Outlaws, and Across Borders (HarperOne, 2015).
The civilized world, especially those in the West and in Russia, is disgusted by and extremely angry about the recent terrorist acts of radical militant Muslims in Mali, Egypt, Lebanon, France, and now California. Most of these violent terrorist activities have been planned, orchestrated, and executed by militant members of Daesh (ISIS or ISIL), the Muslim caliphate now in Syria and Iraq.
Many in the West are demanding a violent military response. There is even talk of invoking Article 5 of the NATO treaty which means all member nations of NATO will go to war in Syria and Iraq against Daesh. A major regional war, possibly world war, seems imminent.
A lot of Neoconservatives (War Hawks), especially the talking heads at Fox News and nearly every U.S. Presidential candidate in both parties, are beating the war drums. It is important for people to understand the "Big Picture" with the current conflict the West is having with Daesh. It is essential that we understand and briefly review who the major players are and what interests drive their current policies and actions.
An internal civil war within Islam--between the Sunnis and Shiites--has been going on for centuries. In the contemporary Middle East setting, we see it being played out between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Each side is trying to gain dominance in the region. We see it with Iran in Yemen and the Saudi armed response there.
It seems to me that if we want to find any passion and determination inside of ourselves (collectively or individually), we need to have some clear and shared sense of which enemy we are really wanting to fight. If we can find a common enemy that crosses political (or theological) lines, so much the better.
What many politicians throw at us is these days is that the enemy is “terrorism” – a ridiculous, if not laughably pathetic, answer given that a) the statistical odds of being directly affected by terrorism in North America (and most countries) is minuscule and b) when we want to identify the enemy we would be better off identifying the disease (which is present everywhere) and not the symptom (which is mostly present in the places already devastated by the real enemy). Terrorist acts are the predictable effects of a much greater enemy, and that is the enemy we should be trying to track down – the enemy that has proven itself capable of continually generating fresh pockets of terrorism.
Of course it is political opportunism that has deliberately offered up “terrorism” as the replacement for “communism-as-master-enemy,” a very useful enemy that had the misfortune of falling apart after nearly a century of justifying nearly every evil imaginable. What after all (the powers-that-be seem to think) is a little genocide, assassination or economic enslavement here and there if it helped the West to protect itself from the spread of communism?
I’ll grant that communism was certainly a better suggestion as an enemy than terrorism in that it goes a couple of levels closer toward what I will soon suggest is the actual enemy. The problem, however, isn’t so much that communism was an “effect” of the real enemy (though that case could also be made), but that it was only “one example” of the real enemy. The crucial thing to remember is that all the violence and exploitation that was used to defend the “freedom” of corporate business interests reveal another example of the enemy closer to home.
In a brilliant but sobering moment, President Eisenhower in his farewell speech warned Americans about the dangers of both the “military-industrial complex” as well as the “scientific-technological elite.” This was now getting even closer to the naming of a true enemy; one sign that this is true is that his language named the enemy at work both at home and among opposing power blocs. (Never trust the naming of an enemy that is not at work at home as much as abroad.)
It’s quite possible that Eisenhower’s terms still have a great deal of currency, and I wouldn’t argue against anyone who still focused on those terms. However, when I think of today’s global corporate world, which is increasingly entangled through huge trade pacts that always sacrifice human scale (the small, local and personal) for the sake of mass global competition (and thereby always sacrificing the weak in favour of the powerful), then I think new language is now required.
So here is my suggestion, which I confess from the outset is, unfortunately, not nearly as catchy as “military-industrial complex” or the “war on terror.” I believe the enemy that we face is the “global system* of dehumanization based on exploitation, fear and violence that co-opts the participation** of masses of good people.” When it doesn’t occur directly through the exploitation, fear and violence, this co-opting takes place by cloaking itself either in inevitability or invisibility (i.e. layers of mass bureaucracy or laws and agreements that are indecipherable at any human level). There is a clear subliminal message that we are powerless to change any of this – so just submit, obey, and hope for the best. This is the enemy we need to fight, and I believe that it is an enemy regarding which we can join together across many of the arguments which divide us. (And it’s ok with me if you want to call this enemy Satan – though more accurately that probably refers to the “spirit behind the system.”)
Memorial to the Victims of Communism (Prague)
*I hesitated about making this plural or singular – certainly there are many systems, but increasingly these systems are all becoming entangled with one another and it may be fair to consider it as one mass network of systems. Of course, Walter Wink’s writings on “domination systems” are part of the inspiration for this perspective.
**The co-opting of the masses is a crucial aspect (in spite of the complication this adds) because no enemy is frightening and powerful enough if it doesn’t make us all participants in the evil.
We are a hardhearted people. From southern racists flying confederate flags, notwithstanding the pain this causes black passersby, to the New York Times defending using fetal body parts for experimentation– as if the only problem is one of legal technicalities– we human primates lack empathy.
The gun lobby insists on the right to carry weapons notwithstanding that children are gunned down as a result of easy access to assault weapons. And a Planned Parenthood official is taped eating lunch while casually discussing the dismemberment of unborn children and all the New York Times can come up with in defense of this callousness is that Planned Parenthood isn’t actually selling body parts.
What they do not dispute (because they can’t) is the fact that the tapes reveal a coldness of heart by Planned Parenthood when describing manipulating fetuses during abortions to keep certain parts intact while crushing the head in order to supply big pharma with organ tissue to experiment on.
We humans have a problem: We are apes with a glimmer of conscience. That goes for the self-described enlightened as well as for the far right. As a species we’ve evolved just enough over the last one hundred thousand years or so to worry about the fact we’re just animals who behave like… animals.
I was deeply troubled by news of this week’s killings of journalists at Charlie Hebdo, France’s beloved satirical newspaper, by two French Muslim brothers of Algerian descent, Chérif and Saïd Kouachi. I’ve been haunted by footage I saw of these gunmen’s shooting of a police officer in cold blood on a Parisian street where our good friends live and where we regularly stay. The killing of four hostages in the Jewish kosher grocery store by another jihadist activist, followed by the French police’s shooting of all three gunmen, has made this a traumatic week for France and the world.
Should we be surprised by these killings? Offense, resentment, and shame carried by many young Muslim men and others on the margins today incite rage. In this case, the rage is directed against the dishonoring gaze and mocking words of journalism that appears to consider nothing sacred, except free speech.
In the twenty years of my chaplaincy ministry in our local jail and in prisons around the world, I have witnessed the consequences of the exercise of free speech over and over. Exercising your freedom of speech to say whatever you want in a prison context (and many other places too) is possible, but it is not advised, especially if your words increase offense and lead to a sense of powerlessness and shame when the offended one may not have an effective way to respond. If you disrespect someone’s mother, girlfriend, or even fellow gang member, you will likely pay the consequences at some point.
Cartoons of a naked Prophet Mohammed published by Charlie Hebdo, as well as images of the victims of Israel’s recent bombing of Gaza or America’s tortured detainees add to many Muslim people’s experience of being disrespected by the powerful status quo. Chérif and Saïd Kouachi sought to vindicate the honor of Mohammed (and his followers).
Luke 1:39-56 – The Magnificat. [Read the passage]
I have three questions for us today. The first is: what does this tell us about Mary? In my protestant church upbringing, there was great backlash against venerating Mary and the usual emphasis was that she was just an ordinary person, no different than us, to the point that we almost thought less of her. But I think that in picking her, God was saying that there was something special about her and that makes her worthy of our honour. And without praying to her or elevating her to godlike status, we can honour her for who she truly was and what God saw in her.
In this passage, we have Mary’s reaction to being given possibly the greatest honour in the history of the world. Really. In sitting with this passage, here is what I see.
Mary goes quickly to visit Elizabeth. At this point, Mary probably did not feel pregnant but Elizabeth was the sign the angel gave her. She goes immediately to check, which I think is a sign of faith. And God honours that in giving Elizabeth a word of confirmation the instant Mary walks through the door. Then Mary’s joy overflows because it really is true and Elizabeth is the safest possible person to share it with.
In picturing Mary, I imagine a young woman with dark hair and bright eyes. She is courageous, yet innocent and slightly shy. She is overwhelmed by the honour of God picking her. She can’t see any reason why he would but she is so glad that he did. I’m struck by her humility and settled contentedness in who she was and whose she was because she receives this honour without any grasping or groveling about not being worthy. She is simply awed that from now on all generations will call her blessed! You can hear her pure joy as she talks about how good God is. That is a woman worthy of praise.
My second question is what does this tell us about God? Try this on for size: Jesus is the only person in the history of the world who got to pick his parents, and he picked a peasant girl and her tradesman fiancé. And then look at what Mary says again. (Read vs 51-53) Do you see the emphasis on God lifting up the poor? This is more than just charity, this is God honouring the poor.
George Grant (1918-1988) is considered by many to be one of the most significant Canadian public intellectuals in the latter half of the 20th century---Grant was also a High Tory of the highest calibre. Grant was a prolific writer and many have commented upon his wide ranging renaissance breadth. There has, of yet, been no essays on Grant and Amnesty International and Grant and Edward Said.
Amnesty International published The First Torturer’s Trial in 1975. Grant did a review of the book in the Globe and Mail (June 14 1977).
The focus and reason for the publication of The First Torturer’s Trial was the trial in Greece in 1975 of 32 Greek police officers and military men who had tortured opponents in the junta from 1967-1974. The junta finally collapsed because of the courageous work of Archbishop Makarios (1913-1977) in Cyprus who had been elected as president in 1959, 1968 and 1973. Grant did a sustained commentary on the report, and, in many ways, Grant argued torture was the crudest form of the will to power of ideologues.
There are those on the political right that argue that it is the left that uses torture to inflict their will and way, and the left has argued that the right often uses torture to silence opposition. There can be no doubt that both totalitarian and authoritarian states of the left and right often use their wills to end meaningful civic and civil dialogue. Grant’s meditation on The First Torturer’s Trial brings this obstinate fact to the fore again and again.
What drives Church of Christ pastor Jarrod McKenna, and more than 40 other Christian and Jewish leaders, to occupy politicians' offices with the expectation that they will be arrested? Record InFocus interview with Kent Kingston. Your feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org
Retired, I have become an armchair criminologist, often lost in reading the papers or in thought about 20 or so years of experience and memories as a Canadian prison chaplain. Not too many require my services now that I am an out-to-pasture prison chaplain critical of the traditional rehabilitative prison idea. I have lots to think about though, and so much theological-philosophical reflection to do now with the daily grind and stress of my work-days behind bars behind me. With time to read whatever I want, I still seem to choose books on moral philosophy or criminology. Recently I stumbled across a book by Sir Walter Moberly: The ethics of punishment, London: Faber and Faber, 1968. It was written at the culmination of the author’s career, containing a wealth of a lifetime of wrestling with the same issues that I still struggle with: the ethics and efficacy of penal punishment. Written before the full onset of the modern phase of criminology influenced by neoliberal political ideology, the war on drugs, and the truth in sentencing policies, I can identify trends in criminology, which, like old clothes go in and out of fashion it seems, but always therefore kept in the closet. Shallow thinking about criminal justice issues as well as public malaise regarding justice reform was as persistent in England then as it is in Canada now. Yet the author was hopeful that respectful, virtuous, pluralistic dialogue would lead to more effective and biblically sound interventions in issues of crime; and so am I.
Due to my diminished circle of influence there are fewer people interested in my musings on restorative justice anymore, especially when I spell out specific applications to criminal justice. It seems that many would just like to leave any critical moral theorizing about the “inefficacy” of law and order and the over-reliance on carceral punishment in the dark and not think or talk about it, sweep the issue under the carpet, ignore it; or, paradoxically get on the partisan “campaign wagon” to call for more severe penalties and longer sentences for Canada’s lawbreakers. One can also hear said, “What does criminal justice and politics have to do with the church anyway?” The Church folk tell me that punishing the wrongdoer is the main responsibility of the state; and of course my Wardens told me, other than in my chapel responsibilities, keep religion out of prison politics. To ascribe limits to ecclesiastical abuse of power is wise, but to divorce heart from head in our political economic life is “foolish.” Working in this space between church and state has challenged any static, abstract, armchair creed I ever subscribed to; and, reflecting deeply on specific experience has transformed how I think about justice, love, and reconciliation.
Dear friends of Tent of Nations,
Yesterday at 08.00, Israeli bulldozers came to the fertile valley of the farm where we planted fruit trees 10 years ago, and destroyed the terraces and all our trees there. More than 1500 apricot and apple trees as well as grape plants were smashed and destroyed.
We informed our lawyer who is preparing the papers for appeal. Please be prepared to respond. We will need your support as you inform friends, churches and representatives when action is needed. Please wait for the moment and we will soon let you know about next steps and actions.
Thank you so much for all your support and solidarity.
Please follow us on Facebook Tent of Nations/Nassar Farm.
Blessings and Salaam,
Tent of Nations
–People Building Bridges–
P.O.Box 28, Bethlehem
Tel: +972 (0)2 274 30 71
Fax: +972 (0)2 276 74 46
Mobile: +972 (0)522 975 985
Christians have had enough of the detention of asylum seeker children. They aren't going to burn down politician offices, but they will sit in them and pray, writes Chris Bedding et al.
On Monday a nun was arrested. That's right, a nun. She was one of a crowd of Christian leaders who engaged in nonviolent sit-ins at the electorate offices of Bill Shorten and Tony Abbott. This is the latest#LoveMakesAWay action protesting indefinite imprisonment of children in our immigration detention centres. When nuns are cranky at this bipartisan brutality, its fair to say something is gravely wrong.
Recently, in a candid moment with the BBC, Malcolm Turnbull let slip what a lot of decent Australians are thinking, not just placard-waving radicals with witty Twitter handles, but families with mortgages who ferry their kids to weekend sport. "I don't think any of us are entirely comfortable with any policies relating to border protection," he said.
Malcolm is a team player, so he's never going to come right out and say it. But nuns will. Desperate people are coming to us seeking safety from persecution, and the way we treat them is wrong.
There's a long history of nonviolent protest in Christianity, but the average church leader doesn't actually break the law in this country. Australian Christianity has typically been a religion for the Prefect class - a good way to get a scholarship and be recruited by the right firm. There's even a new breed of Christian trying to convince people that they are cool. But all the Celtic cross tattoos and nasal piercings in the world can't hide the fact that Christianity is daggy.
After church, recently, I was asked what I thought of the Supreme Court (Canada) ruling that overturned the tough-on-crime policy set by our current government regarding sentence calculation which takes into account and gives credit for incarceration spent in pre-trial centres. The credit had been taken away by recent legislation, but this ruling was now overturned and credit has been restored. The headline in the Vancouver Sun was encouraging to me, for once. (Mike Blanchfield, the Vancouver Sun, April 12, B 1). It read,” Supreme Court gets tough on tough-on-crime agenda.” I thought the ruling, “a confirmation of common grace at work in our court system,” I said. The person asking was taken aback by my optimistic theological perspective. He referred to his longstanding fear of being victimized, a fear that had actually kept him from getting involved in the local M2W2 program to visit prisoners. “People commit a crime nowadays”, he said, “and then get out right away with no punishment”, He quickly referred to the Surrey Six, a gang land slaying in surrey, before the courts currently; a truly horrendous gang related crime, but not really representative of those in prison. In his opinion prisons need to be tougher, and he supports the tough on crime agenda with its truth in sentencing emphasis. I recognize that this person does not have the whole picture, and that his knowledge is largely 3rd hand from the media and has done scant theological reflection on this topic. He does not understand the difference between a pre-trial centre and a penitentiary; as well he believes that retributive punishment will create a safer society. With such strong suppositions, I had a hard time finding a receptive hearing.
Having spent many years in prisons as chaplain has infused in me a sensitivity to the content and tone of media reports and the general negative, fear-based, comments I hear around me in society. As I write this, the tragedy in Calgary, of Matthew de Grood allegedly stabbing to death five of his fellow university graduates is of high profile in the news; my heart goes out to all the families and friends of the victims; there are just no words to express the collective harm and pain. I carry in my heart also the horrendous life situation of young Matthew, his family, and his friends. I ponder, “What’s to be done?” He will likely spend lots of time in a remand centre; and, should he be found guilty, what kind of sentence calculation will address all the grief and loss of all those families affected, as well as the sensibilities of society at large? What kind of sentence calculation will satisfy God? What will make the community safer? This week I see again in the media, news items describing fear based appeals for specific prisoners not to be released on parole. Public opinion, potentially amplified now in our wireless era can have influential power, but like all powers in society, it can be abused and misdirected. I am thinking more in terms of social-cultural powers (systems theory), not simply that of individuals; I am thinking of bewildering powers such as those of for example, a racist culture, a gun culture, a culture of violence, or a culture in which winning is everything, to name some.
For the full article: Download Gettough
This is a demo recording but by popular demand I am making this available before the actual album is recorded later this year. This song (hopefully) speaks for itself... and while many have felt rejected by Jesus or God... the rejection really comes from people who either should know better... or don't really know at all.
Share the song around, listen or download it for free or if you want to help fund the revolution purchase the track at the price of your choosing. Cheers!
In October 2014, The People’s Seminary will pilot its first cohort Certificate in Transformational Ministry at the Margins. This 18-month course of study isdesigned for Christian pastoral workers called to pioneer holistic ministry among the poor and marginalized.
The foundation of the certificate is Tierra Nueva’s more than 30 years of ministry and reflection. Its objective is to train ministry leaders, missionaries, theology students, and pastors in transformational ministry that includes Word, Spirit, and Street categories. The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology is considering co-sponsoring this non-accredited certificate.
Editor's Introduction: This article is part two of a three part series by Jeff Imbach, a founding member of Soulstream. Soulstream is a dispersed contemplative community that offers training in spiritual direction and 'living from the heart.'
CONTEMPLATIVE RESPONSES TO OUR WORLD
How Do We Integrate Our Contemplative Action Both At The Level Of Interpersonal Relationship And At The Level Of The Larger Institutions of Society?
Thank you so much for your wonderful responses (both to me separately and to all the partners). They have been very honest and so true to our real experience. Many expressed fear that facing into the systemic and structural evil of our world will destroy us. Steve put it well in his response, “I tend to feel overwhelmed with the vastness and impossibility and will rationalize my way out of involvement. I easily excuse myself from involvement and getting caught in the heaviness of burdens that seem beyond my reach of attentiveness and action”
When we move toward attending to our responses to the world of systemic power we need to look at ourselves with a deep compassion. This journey is not easy. It is like looking at our false selves for the first time. We would rather look somewhere else, maybe anywhere else! It is important to allow the Spirit to lead us and care for us in this journey and not get down on ourselves.
1. Fear of Being Overwhelmed
First of all anybody, with any kind of heart at all, has to feel like they are being torn apart by the kind of evil in things such as human trafficking. The magnitude of the scope and the horror of such evil would easily crush anyone. We are very sensitized to the helplessness of children, and that kind of evil fills us with crushing horror that makes us wonder if we can survive.