I want to repeat some things that I have said before because of some current political circumstances both in secular politics and within the Church: True morality consists far more in how well we care for others than in the external behaviour we demand of others. This why moralism is truly immoral and, moreover, moralism is the last refuge of the pervert.
What is true cannot be a heresy and what is false cannot be sound doctrine. We must stop telling lies as if we were doing so to defend doctrine. We cannot demand of educated people that they must choose between God and truth, but that they cannot have both. Nevertheless, this is being done, and it is not only immoral, but it is feeding atheism far more than any militant atheist could ever hope to.
Fear cannot produce sincere repentance, but only trigger a survival instinct which produces a false formula of repentance. Such repentance is not about being sorry for sins, but about regretting that you cannot get away with them. Only love can produce a true, heartfelt repentance.
Moral outrage is a form of public confession; we hate most in others what we fear most in ourselves.
Orthodoxy of the mind is merely an intellectual exercise. Until one attains to Orthodoxy of the heart, one is still an alien to the faith. This is why the prayer of the heart directs us to bring the mind into the heart.
With some sort of power, you can brutalise and bully people into what you consider correct external behaviour according to one or another "moral code," but like the law of the Old Testament, this cannot save anyone, it cannot serve for the transformation of the inner person.
Hypocrisy is among the greatest acts of immorality and sin. It is 100 times worse when the hypocrite is a hierarch or priest. It not only destroys the soul of the hypocrite but forms a stumbling block to others who seeking to follow Christ.
"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).
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).
Liberalism was, in origin, criticism of the old established order. Today, it is the voice of the establishment. – George Grant
George Grant was Canada’s most significant public philosopher, meaning that his public was Canadian. – Graeme Nicholson
They are foolish and ill-educated men who don’t recognize that, when they get into bed with liberalism, it won’t be they who do the impregnating—but that they will be utterly seduced. – Grant letter to Derek Bedson Sept. 21 1965
The inside flap on the recent book about George Grant, Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Theology, Philosophy, and Politics (2006), says this: “George Grant (1918-1988) has been called Canada’s greatest political philosopher. To this day, his work continues to stimulate, challenge, and inspire Canadians to think more deeply about matters of social justice and individual responsibility. However, while there has been considerable discussion of Grant’s political theories, relatively little attention has been paid to their theological and philosophical underpinnings”. There is little doubt, in short, that Grant was the most important Christian public intellectual in Canada in the latter half of the 20th century, and for those who take their faith with some intellectual seriousness, much can be learned from George Grant the prophet, theologian, philosopher and engaged thinker.
Athens and Jerusalem walks the extra mile to highlight the deep theological well where Grant turned to slake a thirsty and parched soul. There is more to Grant, though, than the theological and philosophical underpinnings for his public vision. George Grant was an Anglican, and, sadly so, his Anglicanism has often been ignored. In the midst of the culture wars in the Anglican Church of Canada, Grant can offer us a way through and beyond the theological and ethical tribalism of left and right, liberal and conservative that so besets and divides us these days.
The five poems of Lamentations are some of the most graphic and evocative passages in the Old Testament, which seem to raise more questions than they answer. Who wrote it? When? Why? Even these are disputed, although it is commonly agreed that the event described is the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586BCE.1 Beyond these are deeper questions: How can such suffering be tolerated? How can a just God allow it? These are the real issues at stake in a book that is not only about the fall of a city, but about the privileges and consequences of a covenantal relationship with YHWH God.
In his commentary, Provan asserts, "Perhaps the most immediately noticeable feature of the poems in the book of Lamentations ... is their alphabetic nature."2 However, surely the most immediately noticeable feature is the pain.3 Written as laments,4 they are filled with suffering of every kind: grief, despair, abandonment, guilt, desolation, anger. The descriptions of torment and starvation are horrifyingly vivid, and the need to explain what has happened leaps off the page. Nevertheless,
Provan is correct in the sense that the first step towards understanding these laments is to examine their acrostic composition.
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1. For example, see Delbert R. Hillers, Lamentations: A New Translation with Introduction and
Commentary (New Haven: First Yale University Press, 2009), 9-10; or David M. Carr, An Introduction to the Old Testament: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts of the Hebrew Bible (Chichester: Blackwell Publishing, 2010), 171. One notable exception is Iain Provan, who insists that insufficient information exists to form any conclusion. Iain Provan, The New Century Bible Commentary: Lamentations (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 11-15.
2. Provan, Lamentations, 4.
3. Provan's assertion specifically refers to readers of the Hebrew text, but the same point stands.
4. Tremper Longman III and Raymond B Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Nottingham:
Inter-Varsity Press, 2007), 345.
A screed is a lengthy bit of writing that most readers generally find tedious. And tendentious. But today this has become a common genre among evangelicals of a certain tribe who are keen to shore up Christian support for the state of Israel at all costs. John Hagee is joining voices with Glenn Beck, and a host of evangelical bloggers who might benefit from a graduate-level course in theology or a refresher on the current political scene has joined in.
But today they are raising a new alarm: Evangelicalism’s historic support for Israel is slipping. This is such a concern that they’ve seen fit to name names and condemn institutions that apparently are contributing to this slippage. The well-known Willow Creek Community Church is on their list. But so are World Vision, Youth With a Mission (YWAM), the Mennonite Central Committee, the Telos Group in Washington, DC, Sojourners and Relevant magazines, Eastern University (Philadelphia), and my own Wheaton College (Chicago). And that’s just the beginning. Popular conferences such as Catalyst and Q are also indicted, not to mention Christian groups like Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding.
Anyone who simply raises troubling questions about Israel’s 47-year military occupation of millions of Palestinians (including many Palestinian Christians) is suddenly labeled “anti-Israel” or in some cases “anti-Semitic.” And their institutions are condemned in a convenient gesture of collective incrimination. Consider the case of Tom Getman of Washington, DC, an evangelical who was a legislative aide to the late Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-OR). Getman has worked tirelessly for the cause of justice for Israel/Palestine for decades. But you can’t be the country director of World Vision in Israel/Palestine, see what the Israeli occupation is really doing, and not ask tough questions.
So what do we know?
First, it is clear that a robust community of evangelicals is firmly and inflexibly in support of the state of Israel. This is easy to demonstrate simply through polling in the last 12 years. In 2006 the Pew Forum found that 70 percent of white evangelicals agreed with the statement, “Israel was given by God to the Jews.” In 2013 that same question yielded 82 percent agreement. In 2005 the forum asked, “Has Israel fulfilled Biblical Prophecy?” Sixty-three percent said yes. In July thousands of evangelicals gathered in Washington, DC for the annual summit of Christians United For Israel (CUFI). Speakers include pastors, senators, and yes, Binyamin Netanyahu. In the words of one of my students now home for the summer: “I struggle to discuss theology with my family members who grew up and still reside in a very conservative town. I have tried to discuss Israel-Palestine with them but it’s like talking to a brick wall.”
I hear dozens of variations of those sentences from people all over the U.S.
The conservative evangelical political position in America is basically this:
We have our Constitution -- created by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson.
But it will never work.
The Deist-created, Enlightenment-influenced wineskin of modern liberal democracy can never contain the powerful wine of the kingdom gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the end one will ruin the other; both will ruin one another.
We cannot form a modern nation-state around the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus' gospel of the kingdom. The two agendas are incompatible.
Only the new wineskin of the church (as a radical alternative community) is capable of containing and communicating the powerful wine of Jesus' gospel.
The agenda of the "Religious Right" (or the "Religious Left" for that matter) amounts to pouring new wine into old wineskins.
I think I'm right about this.
But what about leaven and dough?
Somehow I think there is a subtle, but essential distinction.
Yes, we exist within the wider culture as a "leavening" influence.
But we are under no illusion that the political structures of this age can be a faithful expression of the kingdom of Christ.
The role of leaven in the dough is to make it rise; to transform it.
This is what we can do (to a limited extent) within the wider society.
But the role of leaven in dough is different than wine in a wineskin.
The function of a wineskin is to contain, preserve, transport and administer wine.
This is something the political state can never do.
Our understanding of the complicated relationship of the church to the political state should not only be informed by the parable of leaven and dough, it should also be informed by the parable of wine and wineskins.
Bottom line: The constitutional democracies of modern nation-states is an inadequate wineskin for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This past summer I had a dream. I found myself in a church service standing in the midst of a large circle of people. As I looked around the circle, I was startled to see that they were more like zombies than anything; their faces were thin and gaunt, their skin pale and wan, their eyelids half closed. I was frightened by the sight and I said,
“What’s wrong with these people?”
The Lord spoke to me in the dream and said, “They are passing away because they are not hearing my prophetic words for them. Their spirits are drying up within them.”
I was both saddened and disturbed. I knew I could not go around the circle and prophesy over every single person there. As I looked about, my eyes came to rest on a man and the Lord said “Go, prophesy over him.” So I went.
There were three or four people with me in the dream and we gathered around the man and began to prophesy over him. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness will be added to you. You can't attain it...you can't obtain it...he will add it to you.” The man was overcome with emotion and he fell to the ground weeping. He was a youth pastor from somewhere in the United States, and as we prophesied over him concerning his ministry he physically changed before my eyes. His body filled out, the colour returned to his skin, even his hair began to grow.
Then I woke up. I looked to the bedroom ceiling and silently prayed so as not to wake my wife, “What was that Lord!?”
The greatest speech ever made? Really? Some really inspiring rhetoric and near prophetic analysis by our dear comic. His diagnosis, poignant. His prescription? Uh ...
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. During his career as a CIA analyst, he prepared and briefed the President's Daily Brief and chaired National Intelligence Estimates. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
August 08, 2011 "Information Clearing House" -- Many of those preaching at American church services Sunday extolled as “heroes” the 30 American and 8 Afghan troops killed Saturday west of Kabul, when a helicopter on a night mission crashed, apparently after taking fire from Taliban forces. This week, the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) can be expected to beat a steady drumbeat of “they shall not have died in vain.”
But they did. I know it is a hard truth, but they did die in vain.
As in the past, churches across the country will keep praising the fallen troops for protecting “our way of life,” and few can demur, given the tragic circumstances.
But, sadly, such accolades are, at best, misguided — at worst, dishonest. Most preachers do not have a clue as to what U.S. forces are doing in Afghanistan and why. Many prefer not to think about it. There are some who do know better, but virtually all in that category eventually opt to punt.
Should we fault the preachers as they reach for words designed to give comfort to those in their congregations mourning the deaths of so many young troops? As hard as it might seem, I believe we can do no other than fault — and confront — them. However well meaning their intentions, their negligence and timidity in confronting basic war issues merely help to perpetuate unnecessary killing. It is high time to hold preachers accountable.
Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of the Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds,
and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end.
Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,
Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles.
Western civilization has always had two competing sacred texts: The Iliad and the Bible. We have long pretended we can form a nice synthesis of the two—that Homer’s Achilles and Isaiah’s Immanuel are somehow compatible ideals, but they are not. The rage of Achilles and the peace of Immanuel are fundamentally contradictory visions for the ideal of humanity in general and of manhood in particular. Those who derive their ideal of manhood from the pagan vision personified in Achilles will never be able to reconcile it with the ideal of manhood depicted in Christ. Achilles or Christ? Who is our model of manhood? We must choose. We must choose between the brutal way of Achilles and the peaceable way of Christ. And if you feel compelled to appeal to the whip-wielding Christ in the temple as an attempt to synthesize the two, let me simply say that Christ cleansing the temple is a world away from the violence of The Iliad that dominates imaginations from Homer to Hollywood; i.e. Jesus’ prophetic protest against religious exploitation is no endorsement of a “Walker, Texas Ranger” version of Messiah!
Believing means liberating the indestructible element in oneself, or, more accurately, being indestructible, or, more accurately, being.
In the year he died, the Trappist monk and best-selling author, Thomas Merton, published an essay addressed to “Unbelievers” apologizing for the inadequacy and impertinence of what had been inflicted upon them in the name of religion. It was not just because the manipulative antics and “vaudeville” of the defenders of the faith embarrassed him but also because it seemed to him that their “defenses” constituted “a falsification of religious truth.”1
“Faith comes by hearing, says St. Paul, but by hearing what?” he asked. “The cries of snake-handlers? The soothing platitudes of the religious operator? One must be able to listen to the inscrutable ground of (one’s) own being, and who am I to say that (the atheists’) reservations about religious commitment do not protect, in [them], this kind of listening?”2
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Jesus says, "I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me." (John 14:30-31).