03 August 2006

August shorts

"The Middle East and the Barbarism of War from the Air"—an essay by Tom Engelhardt—came to my mind as I listened last night to discussions of the Hezbollah tactic of "using civilians as a shield," reasoning that apparently is supposed to justify the premeditated bombing of civilian areas. A quotation:
It may be that the human capacity for brutality, for barbarism, hasn't changed much since the eighth century, but the industrial revolution -- and in particular the rise of the airplane -- opened up new landscapes to brutality; while the view from behind the gun-sight, then the bomb-sight, and finally the missile-sight slowly widened until all of humanity was taken in. From the lofty, godlike vantage point of the strategic as well as the literal heavens, the military and the civilian began to blur on the ground. Soldiers and citizens, conscripts and refugees alike, became nothing but tiny, indistinguishable hordes of ants, or nothing at all but the structures that housed them, or even just concepts, indistinguishable one from the other.
When will an evangelical pastor who preaches the Gospel no longer be news? Last Sunday, the New York Times profiled Greg Boyd and his church, Woodland Hills Church in St Paul, Minnesota, USA. Although many are blessed by his against-the-stream message, about a thousand participants have left. What outraged them? Messages like this: "I am sorry to tell you that America is not the light of the world and the hope of the world. The light of the world and the hope of the world is Jesus Christ." From the study guide to that sermon, available at their site:
The early church exploded with growth because people were living kingdom values. They were willing to suffer and die for their faith. There was enormous power in this. They refused to take up the sword; rather, they chose the cross. When this is done, the power of the sword is undermined and the evil is exposed. Once the Church gained political power through Constantine, everything began to change.

The sword was now wielded by the church. Being a Christian began to have perks and benefits for those who would enlist. While the church was under persecution, being a Christian was a difficult thing and one really had to have conviction and strength to endure, even to the point of death. Christians who once turned the other cheek now cut off heads. Christians who once loved their enemies and willingly died at their hands now burned their enemies alive. Christians who learned to bless those who persecuted them now persecuted others. Can we not see that this is not victory for the kingdom but defeat? How we accomplish the building of the Kingdom of God is every bit as important as whether it gets built. Every time the church has picked up the sword, it has damaged its witness in the world. We who are to be known by our love demonstrate against ourselves. And don’t think the atheists don’t notice this! Be cautious of those who would tempt you to blend your passion for serving God with their political agenda. Few things are more dangerous than those who wield the sword with the passion of misplaced faith.
The more I hear from blues singer Janiva Magness, the more impressed I am. By the time she came to Portland recently, I'd already bought and downloaded tracks from four of her albums. She won me over completely with her presence, directness, intelligent delivery, and a wonderful voice that could range from sinuous and nuanced soulfulness to straight-ahead bluesy and almost liquid mischief. She and her band paused between songs while she chatted with her musicians—indications to me that split-second showmanship was not their highest priority. Instead, they projected confidence and delight in their music and each other. If merit were a more decisive factor, Janiva would be far better known.

Her Web site has a few audio teasers, but go to any site that has a good selection of her music (such as Yahoo Music) and listen to more samples. Here are some of my favorites so far: "The More I Keep On Losing," "Eat the Lunch You Brought" (great sermon on the concept of contentment and adequacy and the danger of envy), "Workin' on Me Baby," "Ain't Lost Nothin'," and the two songs I enjoy hearing together, "I Can't Stop Crying" and "Don't Start Crying Now."

Just a couple of righteous links this time: Yakov Krotov, Russian historian and radio commentator, has a Livejournal here. And at Northwest Yearly Meeting sessions we learned that long-time missionaries and missiologists Hal and Nancy Thomas are leaving the Bolivian Evangelical University in Santacruz, where they have spent the last years building up and leading the Center for Intercultural Studies. They are both joining the staff of PRODOLA as deans in what sounds like a fascinating and strategic ministry in Latin America.

Afternoon PS: That Friend speaks my heart. Kayla Walker Edin, our yearly meeting's peace education coordinator, sent out this e-mail:
From: "Kayla Edin"
Date: Wed, 2 Aug 2006 13:19:58 -0700
Subject: This morning's paper...

This morning, I picked up a copy of the Wall Street Journal that is a day or two old. One article on the front page broke my heart. It features several prominent “Evangelical” Christians calling for the continuation of fighting in the Middle East. They believe it is a fulfillment of prophecy and that God is behind the relentless slaughter of civilians. The quote below sums up my feelings about this hijacking of Christian values and of the misuse of Christ’s name to justify violence in any form:

"Sunday morning, I woke up to the news that an Israeli air strike hit a residential building used as a shelter in the southern Lebanese town of Qana, killing and wounding more than 65 people, including 30 infants and young children. According to tradition, Qana is the village where Jesus Christ performed his first miracle by turning water into wine (John 2). Now I hear of fellow Christians who enjoy seeing the turning of water into blood in the name of end-time prophecy. Their call should rather be to turn water into wine of gladness, peace, and life. Are we looking for the presence of Christ in Lebanon and Israel or for the presence of U.S. smart bombs?"

- Riad Kassis, executive director and chaplain at the J.L. Schneller School in West Bekaa, Lebanon.

Last week at Yearly Meeting, we approved a minute of peace, affirming our unique call as peacemakers in a broken world. Will these words remain on paper, pleasant to read but soon forgotten? Or will we live them out and insist that Christ’s gospel of peace knows no boundaries of race or people group? It is a gospel for ALL nations. And it is a gospel that is hindered by false interpretations of scripture, and by the misrepresentation of “God,” “Christian,” and “Evangelical.” It hurts my heart.

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