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
To read the rest of this article, click here. (UBP)
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).
The Jewish Tradition, at its noblest and finest, has bequeathed to the Western Tradition a high and noble ethical vision. The oral prophets such as Elijah and Elisha never flinched from staring down power when those in power used it in a way that abused the weaker and less fortunate. The minor and major prophets embodied the best of the oral prophetic tradition and left the West a literate and passionate tale of faith and politics. Amos, like Jonah and Hosea, were active in the 8th century BCE, and they initiated the path and passage of the Minor Prophets. There is no doubt that these Jewish prophets tell us a great deal about their understanding of who God is and the relationship between God, Israel, dominant empires and the social/political/economic/military conditions of the time.
Thomas Merton: Peacemaker
I think that Thomas Merton could easily be called the greatest spiritual writer and spiritual master of the twentieth century in English speaking America. There is no other person who has such a profound influence on those writing on spiritual topics, not only on Catholics but non-Catholics, as Merton has.
Lawrence Cunningham, Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton p.183
With Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton (1915-1968) personified the potential of the Catholic peace tradition in America. Merton stands out as one of the most brilliant peacemakers in the entire Catholic tradition.
Ronald Musto, The Catholic Peace Tradition p. 249
Merton never fully embraced pacifism. Like Thomas More and Erasmus, he believed in the theoretical applicability of the just war. Yet, like the Renaissance Humanists, he looked at the horrors of contemporary warfare and concluded that the just war theory was irrelevant in practice. He was, in fact, one of the first “nuclear pacifists”.
Ronald Musto, The Catholic Peace Tradition p. 250
I Merton: War and Peace
On the last day of January 1915, under the sign of the Water Bearer, in a year of great war, and down in the shadow of some mountains on the border of Spain, I came into the world.
Merton, indeed, came into the world ‘in a year of great war’. WW I dominated Europe when Merton was born, he lived through the carnage of WW II, the Korean War, McCarthy-Cold War years and the emergence and devastating nature of the Vietnam War. Merton’s social conscience became more public with the civil rights movement in the late 1950s, the nuclear threat, the rise of ecological consciousness and much American domestic violence in the 1950s-1960s. In short, Merton lived through a period in 20th century history in which war and violence were the order of the day, and he sought, through a variety of means, to be a moderate and peacemaking voice and presence. How did Merton become the significant peacemaker that he did, and what was Merton’s understanding of peacemaking? This short paper will, in a suggestive and historic way, answer these questions.
It is a deep personal privilege to address a nationwide Canadian audience. Over and above any kinship of U.S. citizens and Canadians as North Americans, there is a singular historical relationship between American Negroes and Canadians.
Canada is not merely a neighbour to Negroes. Deep in our history of struggle for freedom Canada was the North Star. The Negro slave, denied education, de-humanized, imprisoned on cruel plantations, knew that far to the north a land existed where a fugitive slave, if he survived the horrors of the journey, could find freedom. The legendary underground railroad started in the south and ended in Canada. The freedom road links us together. Our spirituals, now so widely admired around the world, were often codes. We sang of 'heaven' that awaited us, and the slave masters listened in innocence, not realizing that we were not speaking of the hereafter. Heaven was the word for Canada and the Negro sang of the hope that his escape on the underground railroad would carry him there. One of our spirituals, 'Follow the Drinking Gourd', in its disguised lyrics contained directions for escape. The gourd was the big dipper, and the North Star to which its handle pointed gave the celestial map that directed the flight to the Canadian border.
Martin Luther King Jr.
The quotation from Martin Luther King Jr is taken from p. 1 of
Conscience for Change, published by CBC Learning Systems in 1967 - the printed form of the 1967 Massey Lectures, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
"No Contact": Here's a sneak peek from the upcoming album by Hollow G (Teddy), produced by local Christian producer Loc Saint (complete lyrics below).
For the last five years, Chris Hoke has gone with Bob Ekblad to the Skagit County Jail in northwest WA where they read the Bible and pray with men of all races and criminal levels. Inmates, especially the young Chicano gang members, have been vocal about how much they appreciate Chris' singing and guitar playing before the dialogical Bible studies. One particular young gang member would sing all the new raps and rhymes he'd write in his solitary confinement cell to Chris when they would have one on one visitations. "One day, Chris," he'd exclaim, "we're gonna record together. You and your white boy guitar with my gangster raps!"
That day has come. Only the song, "No Contact," laments that the original homie who had the idea is still locked up in prison, along with most of the young men Chris has ministered to in the jail and gangs. The vision came to fulfillment with another young survivor of the gang life--who goes by Hollow G--who has grown alongside Chris, the Tierra Nueva community, and the Holy Spirit bringing G into God's family. Hollow G is working on a full album about the life of an American alien growing up into the gang life, "Raised By the Streets."
“In Revelation, Jesus is a prize-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” (You can find the original interview here).
I frankly have trouble understanding how a follower of Jesus could find himself unable to worship a guy he could “beat up” when he already crucified him. I also fail to see what is so worshipful about someone carrying a sword with “a commitment make someone bleed.” But this aside, I’m not at all surprised Driscoll believes the book of Revelation portrays Jesus as a “prize fighter.” This violent picture of Jesus, rooted in a literalistic interpretation of Revelation, is very common among conservative Christians, made especially popular by the remarkably violent Left Behind series.
It's always been hard for me to hear good news in Jesus' parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13. I've been thinking about it a lot lately, feeling that it's especially important for us now. I share the following reflections-- inviting you to share yours.
Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins who went out to meet the bridegroom invites rapprochement with the church as bride waiting the imminent return of Jesus as bridegroom (2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:25-32; Jn 3:29; Rev 19:7; 21:2, 9, 17.) The number of virgins and their differentiation between “wise” and “foolish” has always unsettled me, suggesting that individual attitudes and practices matter, and that groups will be distinguished from the whole. Jesus means to put people into a crisis, inspiring them (and us) to be ready for his return, the subject of the preceding chapter (Matt 24:42-51). Jesus means to provoke us to ask: “Am I one of the wise, or am I among the foolish, and what’s the difference?” The reader wants more information about what distinguishes the ready from those who risk missing out, and what that might mean for us now?
[NOTE: This was Wayne Northey’s first devotional as new Executive Director given at M2/W2’s Annual General Meeting, May 21, 1998.]
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:”Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Frankly, I struggle to understand the picture of God I find in some Scripture. This is especially the case when I read portions of the Old Testament. I am heartened nonetheless by the realization that Jesus is the fullest revelation of God to us who summed up the entire sweep of Hebrew Scriptures ethics with: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Whatever is difficult to understand in Scripture must first pass through the sieve of the revelation of God in Christ according to John and Hebrews 1. Jesus is the “key” to unlock the interpretation of all Scripture – something he demonstrated himself, as you remember, after the resurrection with some despondent disciples on the road to Emmaus.