09 January 2020

January shorts


Peace on the bridge. This evening, I joined the crowd lining the north side of the Hawthorne Bridge here in Portland, Oregon, USA, in a demonstration linked to MoveOn's "National Day of Action." No speeches or grandiose programming, just citizens telling our government that they do not have our permission for war with Iran. At a time when our nation's top officials seem to treat congressional oversight with contempt, this concern should unite Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, in a common defense of our Constitution: no president may commit the nation to war without the consent of Congress.

Note repurposed sign, "NO IRAN WAR."
I was glad to see that there were people willing to be out in the 40-degree ((F) weather for an hour, lining a busy thoroughfare during peak commuting time, waving signs at the cars and buses and encouraging each other in the process.

On the other hand, I'm still puzzled at the apparent passivity, even near-invisibility, of today's peace movement in general. And where are the evangelical Christians? The peace movement is one of the most obvious mission fields and community-building opportunities for discipleship-oriented believers. It's a wide-open chance for Christians to disprove the widespread charge that they've (we've) sold our precious legacy for the counterfeit legitimacy promised by the Trump cult.





Hebron in Abraham's time
Going public. I was grateful to Ministerios Restauración (the Hispanic Mennonite church that meets in what used to be the First Friends meetinghouse here in Portland) for their invitation to me to speak last Sunday about my three months with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron, Palestine. It was my first opportunity to speak publicly about those experiences.

I decided to begin by putting Hebron's location in the context of the biblical patriarchs. At least four times in Genesis, God promises Abraham and his family that the nations of the world will be blessed through them because of Abraham's obedience: Genesis 12:3, 18:18, 22:18, 26:4.

Even after the centuries of conquest and reconquest, and the current realities of an illegal occupation, I chose to believe (I told the congregation) that the promises to Abraham remain in force.

Please contact me (johan@canyoubelieve.me) if you'd like me to visit your church or meeting to talk about the promises and realities of Hebron.



My return to the USA after the months with CPT in Hebron was not exactly smooth and seamless. Gratitude for being home alternated with missing our team immensely, and even with guilt for the ease with which I could leave.

Obviously, as any pastor or counselor who deals with retired missionaries could tell you, there are no simple formulas for easing re-entry. But Judy found a method that, for me, has worked wonders. She invested in good speakers, the first real high-fidelity speakers, at least by our standards, that we've ever bought in our decades of marriage: Edifier R2000DB bookshelf speakers. She chose them based on reviews, and I'm now happy to confirm the positive press they've gained.

To provide input, I can plug the speakers into my Amazon Fire or my phone, or I can use Bluetooth to play files from my laptop's hard drive. On a hunch, I dove into the stuff we still have in storage from our pre-Russia lives, and dug out our old DVD player, which we no longer use in this era of streaming video. To my delight, it still worked. Turns out it has an optical audio output that I'd never even noticed. The speakers came with the necessary cable and optical input, so now I can play all our old classical CDs without disconnecting the other inputs.

However, most of the time, I just play streaming audio from several reliable Web stations, to which service I've dedicated an old Chromebook that I hardly ever use anymore. Out of hundreds of choices, I've bookmarked four classical stations:

NRK Klassisk, Oslo.
Radio Orfei, Moscow.
RTE Radio Clásica, Madrid.
All Classical Portland.

When I'm listening to the Oslo station, it reminds me of happy childhood hours in my Norwegian grandparents' living room, with the music interrupted at regular intervals by the melodious voices of Norwegian announcers.

The old DVD player takes care of my blues and gospel requirements, thanks to years of collecting and making my own home-burned compilations, but what I can't find there is almost certainly on Spotify.

$250 for speakers isn't an amount we can part with very often, but on the other hand, given our health care finance system, that amount might pay for just two hours of counseling. I know that's not actually a fair comparison, but I can vouch for the mental health benefits of having good music in the air.



What we need to be faithful in a time of panic and extremism: Mike Farley testifies to the central importance of the Real Presence.

Russell P. Johnson writes for Martin E. Marty's Sightings: How war bypasses morality. Example:
Leaders in a military conflict may approve of a military action because, while it may not be morally perfect, it is better than doing nothing. These comparisons serve to make a morally objectionable action seem like the only viable option.
Let's suppose that domestic and international law are a form of applied morality. How might we assess the killing of Soleimani in light of legal norms and precedents? (A Lawfare podcast.)

Iran and the American conscience: Was Iran responsible for hundreds of American deaths? Why do some evangelicals advocate war with Iran?

A newly-identified trio of galaxies dates 95% of the way back to the origins of the universe. What are they telling us about how the galaxy was reconfiguring in that era?



Flávio Guimarães e Álamo Leal

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