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May 21, 2010

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Wayne Northey

Thanks, too Arthur for your irenic posts.

One scholar I neglected to mention, Chris Marshall, wrote a defining text on a Christian response to crime: "Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision for Crime and Punishment" (Eerdmans, 2001). More about him and his publications here: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/religion/staff/chris_marshall/index.html.

Some further reading that has occasioned alarm are the following. I believe we are experiencing the slow erosion of human rights in Canada not unlike Niemoeller's scenario, though history in repeating itself is invariably contextual, never inevitable. This reminds of the proverbial heat being turned up on the unsuspecting frog in the water until too late. Please see:
http://reviewcanada.ca/essays/2010/05/01/fear-driven-policy/;
http://www.cbc.ca/news/pdf/a-flawed-compass-final-web-distribution-sep25-09.pdf;
http://www.nationalpost.com/Canada+inhumane+prison+plan/3086246/story.html;
http://www.nationalpost.com/Black+unlocked+truth+about+prisons/3094816/story.html;
http://uhri.cfenet.ubc.ca/images/Documents/violence-eng.pdf.

I am reading much more. Ron Dart calls this "connecting the dots" in "The Armageddon Factor" by Marci McDonald, reviewed elsewhere on this site. (Where one need not agree with every example, but discerns concerning patterns. One need not be alarmist nor conspiracy theory friendly either. One just knows "The heart [my heart!] is deceitful... (Jer. 17:9)".) Jesus in Matt. 26:41 says: "Watch and pray..." We need to take this to heart in this context. Some new victims, possibly democracy itself, are in danger of crucifixion in Canada.

Conrad Black (who as prisoner and historian "knows" some things) says cogently in the article on Canada's inhumane prison system:
"The principle that the rape of the rights of the least is an assault on the rights of all is attributed to Jesus Christ and is at the core of Judeo-Christian civilization and the rule of law in both common and civil law jurisdictions."

Again, Lord have mercy on us all!

Wayne

Arthur Friesen

Wayne, thank you very much. I appreciate the time and effort you took to write such a friendly and detailed response

Logan Runnalls

Fortunately, I've never made the mistake of misreading someone as two-dimensional. [cough]

It looks like you are reading Wayne's article assuming the theology is ancillary to the political reality (so. "I also found it interesting that in criticizing Stephan Harper and Vic Toews, you attack their personal understanding of their faith, not only the policy you think wrong.") If theology is secondary than of course this is a flippant article because it never gets to the primary issue. If we reorient ourselves to read this primarily as an article about belief and action-about faith-than it confronts us (me) with the question “Is this not ridiculous?” Surely, it is not flippant to ask that for us.

_

Luther’s tone with Erasmus as well as his fellow reformers is simply an exaggerated example of a common tactic used throughout the history of Christian thought. I may as well have mentioned Athanasius and the Arians or Paul and the Judaizers. What I was (barely) suggesting was that even if Wayne was mocking and being disrespectful the only sort of judgment of his own faith we could make would be that he feels that the mistake being made is a serious offense to our faith.

Arthur Friesen

The problem with words, is that they often come across as two-dimensional as the paper upon which they are written, even though the thoughts are three-dimensional.

Therefore, the understanding of what is being read could be two-dimensional.

What is politically right or left is often in the eye of the beholder.

According to Wayne, the belief and action of Harper and Toews do not line up. In the personal evaluation of Toews and Harper, their belief and action do line up. Otherwise they would not be doing what they are doing.

The seemingly flippant spirit of a published article concerned me. Also, Toews and Harper have no possibility to defend their conviction.

Concerning Luther, it is incongruous to compare Luther, Calvin and Zwingli's tone with each other to our time. It is like comparing Joan of Arc to Dwight Eisenhower.

Logan Runnalls

A Comment from the Side:
While I find the posts here often view those to the political right in a two-dimensional fashion I do not find the mocking or disrespectful tone you alude to in this article (certainly nothing to the extent of someone like Luther). Wayne seems to be saying that Harper and Toews are behaving in an absurd manner: belief and action are not lining up. It is only absurd if there is some respect given to their faith--if we _expect_ the belief to determine the action.

Arthur Friesen

Wayne,

you never did answer my question why you showed disrespect to Harper and Toews, making fun of their Christian faith. Eric wrote a good response but did not actually answer this question either.

This shows something of your Christian faith.

Arthur Friesen

Dear Eric:

Please send me an email to awfriesen@freenet.de.

I would like to send you something.

Sincerely

Arthur

Eric H Janzen

Wow, Arthur, that is quite a picture of 'faith' that you shared. Listening to their ipods... and seemingly treating the central Christian rite with a real lack of understanding of just how profound its meaning is. Sadly, you are right when you speak of the faith of 'things to do' vs. a faith of 'how to live'. The more reports I hear from friends who travel the globe visiting churches, the more I realize that we all need our passion restored, we need, and desperately it would seem, to return to our first love, Jesus Christ. Your account made me so sad as I pictured these young people who don't know just how much Jesus not only loves them but wants them to know Him deeply and personally. It would be easy to get judgmental wouldn't it? But instead I think Jesus is calling us to pray for our brothers and sisters everywhere to be awakened to true faith, that living faith that worships our risen and living saviour with vitality and the deepest gratitude for all that He has done for us. Help us Lord, and have mercy on us.

And to Victor: glad you have been encouraged. :)

victor

you know?...

the conversation you are having here...

your willingness to listen, and to hear each other,
fills me with hope.

it is the only way to wring out goodness and truth from the vast amounts of dirty laundry.
(so to speak, and please don't misunderstand)

thank you

Arthur Friesen

Dear Eric, very succinctly and eloquently written. I do agree with you. I will look into your book.

My hypothesise is this concerning Germany: because the Catholic Church, but especially the Lutheran Church has reduced “faith” to two sacraments (infant baptism with confirmation later, and communion) with little meaning in between, faith has become a religion. having little relationship to daily life.

This was most dramatically evidenced by our family when a friend of our son was confirmed in a small Lutheran church in a little village in which we used to live. Some of the young people being confirmed wore their ipods during part of the service. At the communion, a mother of one of the boys, after drinking her wine called up to her boy in the front row, saying very loudly ,”Bring me another cup, I need a second helping!”, and then laughing uproariously. I do not mean this as a judgement of the two main stream churches in Germany.

This is probably only the result of the historical development of the Lutheran church, beginning already with Luther and in the Catholic church with the counter revolution , institutionalising faith into a series of “things to do” than in “how to live” in an attempt to tie the people to the church through actions.

However, with the general fear in Europe of becoming Islamised (Turkey becoming part of the EU with the forecast migration of Turkish citizens to the “Christian” part of Europe), the fact that the two churches are still more closely tied to the government structure than in other countries, some people see them as the John III Sobieski’s of our age.

Eric H Janzen

Arthur, the following is an excerpt from my essay 'The prophetic culture of the kingdom' where i attempt to sort through some of these same issues. Thought you might find some of it interesting, even if you don't agree with it, which is perfectly OK. The whole long book is under my name on this site Eric H Janzen.

At last we come to the vital importance of living according to the spiritual culture of the kingdom. The Christian style of life is more than being Christian. The authentic Christian life is the expression of kingdom culture and is a prophetic way of living. Our love points to the love of God, reflecting his love to the world. Our forgiveness points to the forgiveness of God, reflecting his forgiving nature to the world. The prophetic significance and relevance of the Church is found in being the people of God living according to the spiritual culture of the kingdom. This is what it means to be his witnesses in the world. Our testimony that Jesus lives is found in the way we live because of his presence in us. A prophetic style of life is more powerful than words. We convince few people of the truth of the Gospel with mere words. When the presence of Jesus reaches through us to others we become a doorway for them to encounter the living Christ, the person instead of the idea. An active Christian style of life acts as an invitation to meet Jesus Christ. He is the ‘why’ we live the way we do, the ‘why’ we love others, the ‘why’ we care for the poor, the ‘why’ we do something as unthinkable as forgiving our enemies, the ‘why’ we oppose injustice in all its forms etc… He is our prophetic message and the only message we have to give. Our kingdom culture is what makes the Church a prophetic community. Where we have abandoned that spiritual culture for religious and world cultures, we have abandoned our prophetic role in the world. To be relevant in this world we must return to our prophetic identity as those who live the way Jesus has taught us to live thus embodying the prophetic message that he is the way and the truth and the life.

If the prophetic message of the Church is Jesus and his kingdom and that is its only true message then other messages should be understood as false prophecy. The voice of the Church should be focused on Christ and his kingdom, not the kingdoms of this world. The voice of the Church should be focused on the values of the spiritual culture of the kingdom, not on the values of the cultures of the world. It is here that the Church has blurred the lines between its loyalty to Christ as Lord of his kingdom and loyalty to world systems. There is a stream of the Church that believes political power and influence is a sphere to be sought after. The problem with political power is that it does not lead to kingdom power. The kingdom is not about dominating the wills of others. In other words, you cannot use political power to Christianize a society, for to be Christian is to freely give oneself to Christ. A faith culturally and politically forced on people is not authentic spiritual or biblical faith. Obtaining political control in order to enforce kingdom culture is not a spiritual action. It is an approach based on using the values of world culture and the power of that system enforced by the state. Such a situation is the very scenario Jesus opposed during his earthly ministry. A society is transformed through the spiritual impact of the presence of the kingdom. It is the inner city minister bringing the love of Jesus to the streets that can transform people’s lives. It the objection by the Church to the oppression of the poor that points to the kingdom. The Church’s tools have always been spiritual in nature and not earthly. If political power and control of world systems were effective then surely the ‘Christian’ nations of the world would be in far better shape than they are. Jesus surely would have left some instructions on how we were to dominate society by wielding political power in his name…but he didn’t because it was not his way, and nor is it the Church’s. When the Church looks to political power as the means to enforce a Christian culture and paradigm on society it is using a false form of prophetic action. The answer to the darkness of the world is the light of Christ found in his people being the light and salt in the earth. The answer is not found in a political attempt to dominate the darkness.

The Church ought to be a force in society by being the voice of the Gospel, by being the prophetic community it is meant to be. The leaders of nations are appointed by God and answer to him. The Church’s responsibility is to remind those leaders of what God expects of them (justice, mercy, taking care of the poor, freedom from oppression etc…). However, the Church cannot expect the state to fulfill the call of the Gospel. It must do that work itself because it is the presence of the kingdom and its culture within any given society. We do what the state should be doing, but most likely is not, because we are the followers of Christ. Where the Church is actively living out the culture of the kingdom it is a prophetic sign to the state of what God values and expects from a society and how the state should be conducting itself. To use the voice of the Church to prop up the political power of the state is a misuse of the prophetic voice of the Church. We have the authority to hold the state accountable to the standards of the kingdom, but we do not have a calling to politically control the state or a society using earthly power. If we want to see our societies transformed we must be on the forefront of that transformation with the message and the style of life found in the Gospel.

Where the Church has taken on a belief system that seeks to establish an earthly kingdom on behalf of Jesus it would do well to recall that this was the same mistake the disciples made with Jesus. The kingdom of heaven is a spiritual kingdom being established in the hearts and minds of people everywhere, in every nation and every tribe. There will be no one Christian nation on the earth until Jesus himself returns and asserts his reign over the whole earth. We cannot take seriously, if we believe the bible, the idea of a Christian part of the globe vs. a non-Christian part. Our family extends beyond all earthly borders to every corner of the earth wherever Christians may be found. The community of Christ is a kingdom without physical borders as we have seen. Jesus is calling all people out from their world cultures into his kingdom and the Church’s voice should be prophetically echoing this call. Jesus is extending his kingdom culture all over the world and the Church’s mission is to follow his action. The Church should be the primary voice calling for the values of the kingdom to be adhered to globally. The plight of the poor in Africa, for example, is a kingdom matter not a political one. It is enough that they are in need that the Church should be leading the way in taking action to meet those needs. In so doing it acts prophetically pointing to Jesus, the reason for our action, and pointing to the kingdom in which we live where the poor are to be cared for.

When political powers oppose the kingdom of heaven we must choose our loyalty to Jesus over those political powers. This is the example that Jesus gave us throughout his life and the example we should follow. The Church becomes a kingdom presence within society serving their lord and king Jesus and not serving the political powers they find ruling their particular society. This is what it means to be culturally distinct, to be the citizens of the kingdom living a style of life based on the culture of the kingdom regardless of what culture and society they find themselves living in. We live in the world, but are no longer of the world, or perhaps we could say: We live in the world, but are citizens of the kingdom of heaven

Eric H Janzen

Thank you very much for the link Arthur..absolutely fascinating...as Mr. NT Wright usually is.

cheers,
eric

Arthur Friesen

Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham, gave an interesting lecture in parliament (London) on Wednesday 10 February 2010, concerning this subject

If interested, check out:

http://campaigndirector.moodia.com/Client/Theos/Files/GodandGovernmentNTWright.pdf

Greetings

Arthur

Arthur Friesen

Thank you for a thoughtful response

Eric H Janzen

It is true that crimes and traumas suffered by victims of evil are incredibly complex and such complexities cannot be dealt with or appropriately addressed in articles such as this. That inability can be frustrating indeed, but it does not mean that we can't discuss the implications of justice issues.

I found this paragraph interesting in your response to Mr. Northey's article:

"The Sermon on the Mount, turning the other cheek, all of Jesus’ statements on forgiveness, are they not meant on a personal level?"

Firstly, I was surprised by this statement. Jesus' teachings were always directed at the community of believers. The idea of an isolated personal only relationship with Jesus is very modern and very western. So I think the answer to your question would actually be no, rather he was speaking to both individuals and the community as a whole. The New Testament writers and Jesus always look at the Church as One Body and their teachings are for all in that context.

"Jesus was certainly not referring to governments and how they determine the relationship of crime and punishment."

I think you are right here. Jesus would never have trusted governments to operate a justice system that was truly just or righteous. Jesus came to set us free from the oppressive and unjust political powers of the world (such as the Roman Empire, one of the most unjust evil state entities to ever exist). Jesus' message is for those he is calling out of these Systems, calling them to his Way of Love that is very different from the world's.

"Romans13:1-7 gives a very different picture, the government using a system of reward and punishment. Of course, the laws should be formed with the Christian frame of reference, but a government has a very different responsibility in many instances to it’s citizens than the responsibilities between individual citizens."

I find this passage problematic on so many levels...it is one of those difficult pieces of Paul's writings that causes me some dread and some frustration, and I don't mind admitting that. At what point do we stand up and declare that some of the laws and rules set up by our governments are wrong? At some point our faith, our belief, our commitment to Jesus and his kingdom will come into conflict with world governments whose interests and power are most definitely not Christian or Christian based. Christians living in China, for instance, have to break laws and rules of their government simply to be people of the Community of Christ. Christians throughout muslim nations must break laws and rules of their governments, at very real risk to their lives, to be our brothers and sisters in the Church. It doesn't take long to see how the passage you have referred to is not so very simple and is filled with incredibly difficult and complex ramifications that can't be answered here, except to say that most governments around the world are not creating laws and systems of justice based on a Christian frame of reference.

These may be the kind of things that are differences of opinion, but we should all, including myself, try and keep our dialogue rooted in the core value of our faith, to love and have ears that are willing to hear one another without the need for judgment.

Interestingly, Paul's judgment of Ananais is not disproved or 'wrong' simply because he was the high priest. Paul simply displays the depth of his commitment to God and Scripture when he responds to the revelation that he is the high priest...(one has to wonder how Paul didn't actually know that and was perhaps playing possum for some reason). What he does show is that his respect for the law is even deeper than that of the high priest himself when he does respond... Can you imagine the buzz in that room? Paul really made Ananias look bad in front of the last group of people he would want to be made to look bad in front of. May we all have that kind of wisdom and insight if ever we are called to the carpet in front of the powers that stand in opposition to our God.

cheers,
eric

Arthur Friesen

Dear Mr. Northey:

It is with interest that I read your view on the new Bill C-23.

As the premise of the Clarion Journal states, “We cannot assume which way the wind of the Spirit will blow, because God bows to no political or economic system. Nor are the old theological battle lines adequate—evangelical vs. liberal, evangelism vs. social gospel, etc.” You should have included or “political opinion” in the first sentence as well.

First of all, from reading your opinion, I do not think that you have personally experienced the pain and destruction which occurs in the life of a victim when a heinous crime (murder or child sexual abuse and murder) tears such a life apart. The results are much too complex to be dealt with in such a simplistic manner as you hypothesize.

The Sermon on the Mount, turning the other cheek, all of Jesus’ statements on forgiveness, are they not meant on a personal level? Jesus was certainly not referring to governments and how they determine the relationship of crime and punishment. Romans13:1-7 gives a very different picture, the government using a system of reward and punishment. Of course, the laws should be formed with the Christian frame of reference, but a government has a very different responsibility in many instances to it’s citizens than the responsibilities between individual citizens.

Equating “personal rules of behaviour” with “government rules of behaviour” muddies the issue. You are comparing apples with oranges

I am not saying that a person, after “paying” for his crime, should forever be stigmatised. However, I would think that the government and it’s criminal justice system has the responsibility especially to the victims, not only to the perpetrator. Especially in crimes done to children, a stricter standard would be advisable. To wipe the perpetrator’s slate clean still leaves the victim’s slate marred and even destroyed for ever. Forgiveness does not meant forgetting. A victim never forgets the loss, the pain. The perpetrator also never forgets, but he has no loss(except the years in prison). You cannot equate these losses.

I also found it interesting that in criticizing Stephan Harper and Vic Toews, you attack their personal understanding of their faith, not only the policy you think wrong. You insinuate, that you have the “purer” or “more correct” interpretation of justice and forgiveness, putting them both at the judgment seat with you gloating about what their “predicament” might be at the Final Judgment.


The sentence that negates your whole argument is your last one, ”To them Jesus might say: Repent! You may yet find pardon.”

You put yourself up as a Consilieri (not a councillor. I assume you know the difference) to Jesus, putting words and a judgment of Harper and Toes in His mouth, that comes from your personal judgment (one could also say bias).

Reading your opinion, a verse of the Old Testament (Ex: 22:28), which Paul quotes in Acts 23:1-3, when accused of insulting Ananias comes to mind.

I quote:

1. Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, "My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day." 2. At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. 3. Then Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!"
4. Those who were standing near Paul said, "How dare you insult God's high priest!"

5. Paul replied, "Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: You shall not speak ill of a ruler of your people.'

The whole tenor of you opinion is disrespectful and arrogant. Christians do have varying opinions. An example: some Christians justify the death penalty with Romans 13:4, you don’t. That is the difference of opinion.

Mr. Northey, you very easily paraphrase in your opinion what Paul says in verse 3. Maybe you should take what Paul says in verse 5 to heart instead.

Yours Sincerely

Arthur Friesen

Wayne Northey

Thanks so much, Eric!

I love your last line - from James. And we sing "Kryie eleison" - "Lord, have mercy!"

Wayne

Eric H Janzen

Oh man this made me laugh: "One can imagine both next time in church belting out “record suspension” for “pardon” and the shocked looks..."

On a serious note though we, yet again, see how culturally and spiritually we are losing sight of the one of the central tenets/values/core truths of the Gospel. It is disconcerting to think how a culture of unforgiveness and an unwillingness to show mercy will play out both in the wide world of politics and society, and in the microcosms of our relationships with our neighbour. I have become increasingly aware that people hold more dearly to their own desire for vindication than they do to a Christian response of forgiveness and mercy to offenses. In conflicts people believe it is their right and duty to "win". This paradigm can only lead us to broken relationships and unresolved spiritual pain. We need to hear again and again the message of the cross, the message of Jesus: Mercy triumphs over judgment. Thanks Wayne.

cheers,
eric

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