Monthly Archives: October 2010
Dorothy is an excellent Bible teacher that I trust and respect. She taught me how to “dig for treasures” in the simple stories of the Bible. Here is an example of us digging together in our latest e-mail exchange:
I’ve been thinking about a story found in Matthew 8:28-34.
In the story, Jesus heals two demon possessed men. The demons ask Jesus to permit them to go into the herd of swine. Jesus says “go” and the herd ran violently down the steep place and perished in the sea. Those who kept the swine fled, told everyone in the city what happened, including what happened to the two men, and the WHOLE CITY begged Jesus to depart from their region.
Here’s what I’ve been thinking about. I want to know if you think that I’m reading too much into the story or if my observations are ACTUALLY IN the story?
Doesn’t it seem odd to you that Jesus would allow an entire herd of swine to perish to heal just two men? I mean, didn’t people’s livelihood depend on those swine? It seems that Jesus was willing to sacrifice another person’s livelihood, or at the very least, short term profit to heal two men that would have been at the very bottom of the rung in society.
Is there a message here that people are more important than profit?
If I’m on the right track with this story, then what does this story tell us about how SOCIETY treats the least of these? At the end of the story, the WHOLE CITY comes out to beg Jesus to depart from their region. The people in the city had a choice, but it seems that they put their economic well-being ahead of the two men at the bottom of the rung.
So what might this story say to business owners, or political leaders? Could this story actually be teaching us that Jesus puts a priority on the poor and the outcast over the economic well-being of the business class?
I’d love to hear your insights.
I see and agree with your observations and your applications. There is a ton of treasure in this story
Ok. let’s kick it up a notch and view just a few!
I think I just saw some things. To get there, it helps me to understand that aspect of the story to know that the city of Gadera was maybe 8 miles inland from the Sea of Galilee, on the East side Jordan and the inhabitants were not Jews, they were Greeks. (Put in the introduction as it is in the Bible, well the “Greek” info maybe not.)
Yes Jesus took away their livelihood, so your obs-apps work, but also….
What were swine to Jews and where did that belief come from? (put in intro)
Wow! What had these keepers of the swine, these Gaderans, non-Jews just seen that day?
Do you see any part of what they had seen being deniable? What do you see there, as to what kinds of activity Jesus had been involved there?
Who all saw what Jesus did?
When they saw, what did they choose to do?
I am thinking, what other choices could they have made?
Also who did these amazing feats?
Do we know if anyone else been able to cure the two “crazy” men?
What had those crazy man been consigned to and were the locals affected in any way?
How do you see Jesus treat the crazy men?
Is it possible that Jesus’ treat of the men can that show us anything about Jesus?
What other ways might Jesus have responded to the demons’ request?
Is it possible that what Jesus did with the demons can show us anything?, maybe multiple anythings!
Could what Jesus did have sent any messages to the Gaderens?
I wonder? Could Jesus’ actions indicate any positive interest in the Gadarenes?
Who all saw these activities and decisions that day. Impact on each?
Has anything in this exchange pricked your thinking regarding this story?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Okay, this is just looney. Here’s the latest e-mail I received from my good friends at the ACLJ.
President Obama has talked about ”unwavering” support for Israel, but we’re seeing something quite different. As Congressman Mike Pence correctly put it, ”This Administration has become the most anti-Israel Administration in American history.”
It is imperative that we – as a country and as individuals – never falter in our support of the State of Israel.
As you know, we are at the International Criminal Court this week to defend Israel’s right to sovereignty and the right of every free nation to defend itself from terrorists. The impact of this case is global. And now, more than ever, it’s clear that we have a distinct and special role in standing with the nation of Israel and its people.
I urge you to read Jordan’s latest online Washington Post article, ”Why Christian Conservatives are Israel’s Ambassadors.” It explores this critical issue and explains why the American Center for Law and Justice is so focused on protecting Israel and its future.
Once you read the article, please post a comment about why you support Israel at the Washington Post website.
I am truly grateful for you and other committed ACLJ members who have stood, and continue to stand, alongside us in support of Israel and its people.
As one of America’s greatest and most trusted allies, Israel represents what we in this nation cherish most – democracy, freedom, and sovereignty.
Seriously Mr. Sekulow? Obama is the most anti-Israel president in history? Would you like to back that up please? Because last time I checked, Obama has increased military aid to Israel, increased intelligence cooperation with Israel on Iran, and strengthened trade relations between our two countries.
Gullible people are going to believe you.
Because the president’s name is Barack Hussein Obama.
For an excellent article on Obama’s support for Israel, click here!
Not getting much sleep these days. Wondering if I’ll ever get to sleep through the night again. I’ve heard that having small children changes your life. Consider that confirmed. So what’s been going on in my sleepless head? Been thinking about the Kingdom. You know, the one that Jesus talked about? The one that’s not supposed to be of this world? What exactly is the Kingdom of God?
For many, the Kingdom of God is an inward spiritual condition, the joy and peace that transcends circumstances. There’s some Biblical justification for this, as Paul says, “The Kingdom of God isn’t eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17) But is an inward spiritual condition all that the kingdom represents? After all, I’ve met some pretty joyful and peaceful Buddhists over the years. While I’m certainly happy for people that find joy and peace through whatever faith tradition or philosophy that helps them get through life, Jesus seemed to think that He was the only one qualified to reveal the nature of the Kingdom to the world. While it may be fashionable to put Jesus on par with other philosophers and religious leaders, Jesus didn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle-room for competitors when He said things like, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27).
For others, the Kingdom of God is a set of moral and ethical principles designed to help people get along and to restore what is broken in our world. In this view, the Kingdom of God is good news for everyone because it transcends religious distinctions. This also carries a grain of truth. If I as a follower of Jesus decide to make the Sermon on the Mount the moral foundation of my life, that’s good news for my Muslim neighbor, Buddhist neighbor, Hindu neighbor, and non-religious neighbor as well. So when the Kingdom of God is in operation, it’s good news not just for people that call themselves Christians, but for people of all faiths. And, of course, it’s also true that when people of other faiths follow the teachings of Jesus, whether consciously or unconsciously, everyone benefits.
Still, Jesus walked around like He owned the Kingdom. He said My Kingdom is not of this world. So while I respect people that decide to live virtuous lives based on their philosophy or faith tradition, it makes sense that only that which is done in Jesus’ name can rightly be called the Kingdom, at least in the Biblical sense of the word. So the real question is, when Jesus announced the Kingdom of God, what might that have meant to His Jewish listeners?
Now I think we’re getting somewhere. I was reading the Book of Daniel the other day. Daniel prophesied to the King of Nebuchadnezzar that his empire would be the first of four great empires, and that at some point during the fourth empire, a new Kingdom made not with hands would arise that would crush all remaining Kingdoms (Daniel 2:44). The Jews would have certainly known that the Roman Empire was the fourth great empire that Daniel prophesied about, so they must have been looking for someone that fit the following description:
“I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
So when Jesus walked around calling Himself the Son of Man and talking about His Kingdom not being of this world, He was essentially telling His Jewish audience, “Remember the prophecies of old? They’re talking about me! I’m the one you’ve read about that’s going to take over the planet and crush the world’s Kingdoms. Follow me.”
Sometimes I think we forget that the Kingdom of God is about a real King with a real domain with real citizens. So my question is, how does understanding the Jewish context of the Kingdom of God help us understand the nature of Jesus and His mission? I’m sure it must have been a shock that the long-awaited King acted more like a slave than a King, which is probably why a lot of people rejected Jesus and His claims, so what do we make of the earth shattering Kingdom prophesied in Daniel? Perhaps more importantly, how should believers in Jesus relate to existing earthly Kingdoms in light of the fact that we serve a King that seems more interested in “crushing” and “consuming” earthly kingdoms (Daniel 2:44)–than fixing them?
So why don’t moderate Muslims speak out? I get this question all the time. The answer is they are, but the problem is they don’t get the same media attention that the suicide bombers, acid throwers, and church burners get.
Here’s a statement from prominent Muslims that clearly renounces any and all violence against people exercising their rights to freedom of speech:
DEFENSE OF FREE SPEECH BY AMERICAN AND CANADIAN MUSLIMS
Posted Sep 21, 2010
A DEFENSE OF FREE SPEECH BY AMERICAN AND CANADIAN MUSLIMS
We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible.
We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation.
We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims. We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur’an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed.
We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.
As Muslims, we must set an example of justice, patience, tolerance, respect, and forgiveness.
The Qur’an enjoins Muslims to: * bear witness to Islam through our good example (2:143); * restrain anger and pardon people (3:133-134 and 24:22); * remain patient in adversity (3186); * stand firmly for justice (4:135); * not let the hatred of others swerve us from justice (5:8); * respect the sanctity of life (5:32); * turn away from those who mock Islam (6:68 and 28:55); * hold to forgiveness, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant (7:199); * restrain ourselves from rash responses (16:125-128); * pass by worthless talk with dignity (25:72); and * repel evil with what is better (41:34).
Islam calls for vigorous condemnation of both hateful speech and hateful acts, but always within the boundaries of the law. It is of the utmost importance that we react, not out of reflexive emotion, but with dignity and intelligence, in accordance with both our religious precepts and the laws of our country.
We uphold the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both protect freedom of religion and speech, because both protections are fundamental to defending minorities from the whims of the majority.
We therefore call on all Muslims in the United States, Canada and abroad to refrain from violence. We should see the challenges we face today as an opportunity to sideline the voices of hate—not reward them with further attention—by engaging our communities in constructive dialogue about the true principles of Islam, and the true principles of democracy, both of which stress the importance of freedom of religion and tolerance.
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, PhD, Director, Minaret of Freedom Foundation Prof. Akbar S. Ahmed, PhD, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University Prof. Parvez Ahmed, PhD, Fulbright Scholar & Assoc. Prof. University of North Florida Wajahat Ali, playwright, journalist, and producer of “Domestic Crusaders” Sumbul Ali-Karamali, JD, LLM (Islamic Law), author of “The Muslim Next Door” Salam al-Marayati, Pres., Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) Shahed Amanullah, Editor-in-Chief, Altmuslim Hazami Barmada, Pres, American Muslim Interactive Network (AMIN) Farah Brelvi, Board of Directors, ACLU-NC M. Ali Chaudry, PhD, President, Center for Understanding Islam (CUII) Robert D. Crane, JD Lamia El-Sadek, political and human rights activitist Mohamed Elsanousi, Director of Communications and Community Outreach for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Mona Eltahawy, journalist Prof. Mohammad Fadel, PhD Fatemeh Fakhraie, Editor-in-Chief, Muslimah Media Watch Hesham Hassaballa, M.D., author, journalist, blogger – “God, faith, and a pen” Arsalan Iftikhar, author, human rights lawyer, blogger – “The Muslim Guy” Jeffrey Imm, Director, Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) Nakia Jackson, writer Prof. Muqtedar Khan, PhD, author of several books, Blogger – “Globalog” M. Junaid Levesque-Alam, writer, blogger – “Crossing the Crescent” David Liepert, M.D., blogger and author of “Muslim, Christian AND Jew” Radwan A. Masmoudi, PhD, President, Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID) Melody Moezzi, JD, MPH, writer and attorney Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore, author of many books of poetry Ebrahim Moosa, Assoc. Professor of Islamic Studies, Dept. of Religion, Duke University Sheila Musaji, Editor, The American Muslim (TAM) Aziz H. Poonawalla, PhD, scientist and blogger – “City of Brass” on Beliefnet.com Hasan Zillur Rahim, PhD, journalist Prof. Hussein Rashid, PhD, blogger – “Religion Dispatches” Sarah Sayeed, President of One Blue Robert Salaam, blogger – “The American Muslim” Raquel Evita Saraswati, activist, writer, blogger Prof. Laury Silvers, PhD Pamela Taylor, Co-founder Muslims for Progressive Values, Panelist for On Faith Tayyibah Taylor, Editor, Azizah Magazine Tarik Trad, writer, humorist, photographer, artist and activist Amina Wadud, PhD, consultant on Islam and gender, visiting scholar Starr King School for the Ministry G. Willow Wilson, author of “Butterfly Mosque” and “Air” graphic novel series
NOTE: If you would like to add your signature, please send an email with your name, title, and organizational affiliation (if any) to firstname.lastname@example.org — The list of signatories will be updated daily and the most recent list can be found HERE.
Below is an ongoing conversation between me and my good friend Dan Sidey:
Question: One of the questions I’m wrestling with these days is how to be a Christian who is truly engaged in contemplative resistance. I realize that the US is not a peaceful country. I live in a small town that relies on the assets that come from our military. We have plenty of families that rely on the money made by troops and an airbase that nearly five times a day, with F-15s, tries to remind us that the US wants to own the skies of the world. The whole thing is disillusioning, yet so ingrained as deeply valuable in the mind of most folks here. I see the tragedy of this paradigm played out constantly in the violence in my own neighborhood. It is as grand as gang fights and as minute as unhappy parents neglecting their children to run from their own violent demons.
I’m beginning to believe negotiating with these powers for a share in their use is not our calling. We’re meant to denounce their ability to help as Jesus did. He calls us to love the least of these. Instead of climbing the ladder of success in search for the scarce resources of power we turn around and find an abundance of opportunity to serve in love those the empire considers a liability. Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove believes that we will finally find abundant life only in community with others engaged in contemplative resistance like this.
I’m looking for this message of Jesus fleshes out. I’m curious how you’ll wrestle with these ideas in your books. What does Carl believe about this message?
Thanks for dialoguing about this.
Thank you Dan.
I think that’s a lot to chew on. Of course, based on what you’ve written, I would say to you “Go for it!!” I think we have to keep in mind though that different people have different callings. Carl and I are primarily trying to speak to the evangelical world, telling them to reconsider their hate and prejudice towards 1.5 billion Muslims. That’s a pretty tall order! Carl travels and speaks quite a bit, so he wouldn’t fit nicely into the “beware of your carbon footprint” camp. I probably wouldn’t either since travel is a large part of my calling. I’ve come to realize that I can’t do everything and take up every cause, though that doesn’t mean that I can’t encourage others in their respective callings. As long as we’re loving Jesus, loving people, practicing non-violence, and taking the admonitions of Jesus towards the poor seriously (whether that means living among them or advocating for them politically), I think it all counts.
Not sure if I’m making sense here.
I hope this helps.
It’s true that many New Monastics are concerned with their carbon footprint, but thats not really one of the distinctives that I’m gleaning from them as paramount in my journey. It doesn’t surprise me that both you and Carl don’t either. Your interests seem to be more along the lines of mine, focused on a Christian response to Muslims and the practice of non-violence in the face of militarism, nationalism and radicalism.
So how do we engage the world as a political body? The political Body of Christ. Are we called to negotiate how the government uses force? Or are we called to have a prophetic witness that is not a stake holder in power, but a denouncer of force that points others to love? Maybe a little of both?
I recall in your book(at the very end) you said something about force being a possible asset in the face of extremes like genocide. Do you feel that way? Are we stakeholders in power?
Dan, this is one of the best questions ever posed on this blog! I love the way you frame it: How should followers of Jesus engage the world as a political body? Should we negotiate the government’s use of force or should we refuse to be stakeholders in power?
I love the way you frame this question, since it underscores a key point I make in my book “Alone with a Jihadist.” If you remember the last chapter, Powerless Prophets I make the case that followers of Jesus would be a lot better off renouncing earthly power (and by that I mean most political power positions available and definitely military power) for the very reason that you stated. When we become “stakeholders” in power (thank you for the phrase–I’m going to use it!), we lose our objectivity and our credibility as prophetic witnesses. Almost like a conflict of interest if you will. So, to answer your question, I don’t think it’s an either/or. It’s both/and. We renounce power not just so that we can withdraw in our caves and let the world self-destruct. No. We renounce power so that we can be a credible voice to the powers that be! At times this may take on the form of prescribing practical solutions for just peace making between warring parties, but we have to be careful here. Political solutions are almost always ambiguous. If a follower of Jesus isn’t well informed on the issues at hand, he or she should keep their prophetic distance and work for peace and justice in non-political ways. God uses all kinds!
That’s where I stand right now. If I end up moving my position, it’ll be in the direction of non-engagement, where we don’t even bother at all with telling the earthly kingdoms how to run their affairs. I’m not there yet because I still feel that if we refuse to participate in the violent structures earthly kingdoms use to advance their interests, the very least we can do is propose alternatives to mitigate the violence. I think John Howard Yoder has it right when he says, and I’m paraphrasing here, “We can’t hold earthly governments to Kingdom ideals, but we can hold them accountable to their highest ideals.”
I hope this helps!