my mom would love this

I have a new favorite blog: http://mamamonk.com/

Her latest post is called, “How to be a hero for Mother’s Day: prosperity candle and preemptive love coalition.” It is a fantastic reflection on the recent news of the killing of Osama Bin Laden and our call as Christians to be peacemakers. She encourages us to think of the crowds of faces that are normally invisible to the media… and to take action on their behalf.

I always think of mom a lot this week, as Mother’s Day approaches. For some reason, my birthday and Mother’s Day are the times when my heart aches the most for her. You would think it would be the anniversary of her death or her birthday, but it’s not for me for some reason. It’s now… Anyway, she would love the idea of this post on mama:monk. She believed in peacemaking and she believed in women. She did correspondence Bible Studies with women in prison, offering them hope and compassion. She believed in preemptive love… solving violence and poverty, not through more killing, but through taking action to empower the voiceless. It’s our Mennonite way. ūüôā

So, in honor of my mother, I’m going to jump in on this beautiful Mother’s Day project! Will you, too?

Solving Conflict in 3D

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about peace, violence, non-resistance, conflict solving, protecting human life and our military… and what role a commitment to follow Jesus plays in these issues.¬† I am not really qualified to make a definitive pronouncement on any of these issues, and I have been in enough discussions and arguments among Christians to recognize the messiness of the problems that result when 6 billion people from thousands of countries and thousands of religions live on one planet with limited resources.

I recently discovered, on facebook, a professor from my undergrad years at Eastern Mennonite University, Lisa Schirch. I took a few sociology classes with her (two, I think) and immediately connected with her style and perspective. She is well-educated, well-read, and has learned how to communicate with people from many different backgrounds and belief-systems.¬† I do not think she is an idealist. Rather, she is realistic about the complexity of national and international conflict. I think she is open to other points of view. However, I also think she has a deep commitment to Christ-like living and a fresh take on policy and strategy that our country needs… and it resonates with our call as Christians, our call to walk as Jesus did, to love our enemies and solve human conflict with mercy and love (not naivete, but serious grace grounded in realism and humility).

Check out her professional webiste here:¬† http://www.3dsecurity.org/¬†¬† (make sure you find the “3D Memo to the Obama Administration”)¬† The first thing that strikes me about this site are the pictures at the top. Dr Schirch is walking and talking with military personnel, meeting with middle-eastern delegates.¬† Her work is not done in the cocoon of Christian pacifist circles. She is out there working with other experts, even working with “her enemies,” so to speak– the people in uniform carrying guns! (not actually our enemies, but I fear that sometimes we make them out to be enemies when we– Christian pacifists– talk about them) I love that her circle of influence is so wide and deep, and I have great respect for her approach to Christian peacemaking! Your thoughts?

Amen, sister!

Follow the link below to a great post by Emily Hunter-McGowin. I find her wise, articulate and mature.

She put into words many of my feelings regarding our behavior during this election season.

http://thinklaughweepworship.blogspot.com/2008/11/on-evangelical-response-to-presidential.html

If you’d like to engage in some conversation regarding Emily’s post, you are more than welcome to here at Driven to Wonder or feel free to comment at her blog, too. She seems very open to discussion.

Values and Errors

I often go to ABC News’ website to catch up on headlines and stories throughout the day. I noticed today that there was a story concerning some products being sold by a conservative political group, spoofing Barack Obama. The product was offensive on quite a few levels, although the product itself made me laugh: Obama Waffles: change you can taste. Now who wouldn’t laugh at that?? It’s clever and mostly harmless.¬† Except for this– On the waffle box, Obama is pictured with a turban on his head and the box says something about ‘turning toward Mecca.’¬† Whether or not you buy into Obama’s version of Christianity, these aspects of the product are highly offensive and not based in fact at all.¬† In addition, the graphics also contained strong allusions to ‘Aunt Jemima,’ which plays on images of slavery and black kitchen help. Please. Totally un-called for.

You can find the waffle product here: http://obamawaffles.com/pages/indexPALIN.html¬† (look for the depiction of Obama with a turban on the top flap… the Mecca reference is also there, but you may not be able to read it due to such small print)

I sighed and thought to myself, “Well, … Republicans and Democrats alike have done their fair share of dirty ads and funny cartoons. Whether it’s age-ism, sexism or racism, it’s offensive, but I’m not surprised.” But then I saw that one of the co-sponsors of the event where this particular product was being sold, was James Dobson’s organization Focus on the Family. My stomach turned.

Now Dobson has made no secret of the fact that he does not appreciate Obama’s perspective on Christian faith or politics. That is his right. I have no problem with that (although a friend of mine raised the ethical question of a non-profit religious organization declaring support for one particular candidate… should they lose their tax-exempt status? I don’t know.)¬† But to co-sponsor an event where this particular product is being sold?? That makes my blood boil. Now, before I jumped too far into my outrage, I began scouring the internet for any record of an official apology. I realize that there are probably scores of vendors at these types of rallies, and I’m sure Dobson’s people could not and did not vet each one.¬† I was hoping that Dobson would have the class and character to recognize the depth of this error, take responsibility for it and apologize for any offense. I went to Focus on the Family’s official site. Nothing. I went to Citizenlink, their political arm’s website. Nothing. I Googled “Value Voters Summit,” where I found an apology from the other co-sponsor… but nothing from Dobson or Focus on the Family. Nothing.

I am disappointed, and I am angry. To think that this product, this piece of trash, was connected to a Christian organization makes me want to vomit.¬† Dobson and his organization have claimed to serve Jesus Christ, and they obviously have a huge influence on Christian evangelicals in America. Dobson has claimed the spiritual authority to teach people how to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. He has taken on a huge amount of leadership. And while he doesn’t support Obama or what Obama stands for, he has got to recognize that this was wrong and extremely un-Christian… yes, I said it, un-Christian.

Though this story has been around for more than a week, he should, right now, apologize and ask forgiveness. Dobson needs to take responsibility for what goes on at events that his organization sponsors; and when something so offensive is connected with his name, I would think he would want to make it clear that he does not endorse nor does he support such things.¬† And, quite frankly, the fact that he has not acknoweldged this error in judgment, concerns me greatly.¬† What does that say about him and his organization? It is one thing to dislike a candidate’s position on the issues or his/her beliefs, it is quite another thing to lie about their background and make allusions to something as horrible as slavery. A great test of the character of a leader is how they handle moments of error. So far, Dobson is not passing this test, at least in my book.

A Revolutionary Revolution

I have been reading NT Wrigth’s THE CHALLENGE OF JESUS, and it has been both exciting and a little scary. Exciting because he affirms much of the world-view that I grew up with in the Mennonite tradition of Christian faith (a tradition that says the warfare we wage is not earthly or militaristic, but rather spiritual and won through love).¬† It has been scary because, based on his study of the first-century world of Jesus, Wright challenges our basic understandings of the Gospels.

Here are a few examples:

“Jesus attitude toward the Temple was not ‘this institution needs reforming,’ nor ‘the wrong people are running this place,’ nor yet ‘piety can function elsewhere too.’ His deepest belief regarding the Temple was eschatological: the time had come for God to judge the entire institution” (p. 64).

“During his Galilean ministry, Jesus acted and spoke as if he was in some sense called to do and be what the Temple was and did” (p. 65).

“Jesus healings, which formed a central and vital part of his whole symbolic praxis, are not to be seen, as some of the early fathers supposed, as ‘evidence of his divinity.’ Nor were his healings simply evidence of his compassion for those in physical need, though of course they were that as well. No: the healings were the symbolic expression of Jesus’ reconstitution of Israel” (p. 68).

“Whereas Josephus was opposed to armed revolution because he was an aristocrat with a nest to feather, Jesus was opposed to it because he saw it as, paradoxically, a way of being deeply disloyal to Israel’s God and to his purpose for Israel to be the light of the world… Jesus was offering as a counter-agenda an utterly risky way of being Israel, the way of turning the other cheek and going the second mile, the way of losing your life to gain it. This was the kingdom-invitation he was issuing” (p. 44).

Wright goes on to contend that Jesus’ parables and his symbolic actions (in the upper room, with the fig tree, etc.) were all centered around this judgment of the Temple system and Israel’s failure to fulfill her calling to be a light to the world.¬† The prodigal son is Israel– Jesus is re-telling the old, old stories in a revolutionary way… in a way no one could have guessed they would be retold.

In another work, Wright says, “Jesus is retelling the Israel-story in order to undermine the present way of understanding the nation’s identity. It is as though someone were to tell the story of the development of America, or of the British Empire, not as the Americans and British normally tell them, as the stories of freedom and cvilization and how they were achieved, but as stories of Promethean ambition achieving deeply ambiguous power, handling it with irresponsible self-righteousness, and facing imminent disaster as a result” (p. 179, The Praxis of a Prophet).

Why is this a little scary for me, even though my spirit resonates with much of this perspective? Because in a way, this means the Gospels weren’t meant for me… The parables weren’t told for me, the symbols weren’t given for me. I’m not the audience. Granted, they were meant for me in the sense that they say now I get to be part of the people of God (the reconstituted Israel).¬† However, I feel like I’ve lost something, too, if I buy into Wright’s perspective. I lose the very personal nature of the parables and the Last Supper. I lose the Pauline reading… the justification-by-faith reading.¬† And it saddens me, even though I do think Wright is correct.

I suppose it’s possible that the parables have two readings… the first-century reading and the Pauline reading.¬† I’m also beginning to believe there is another reading. May I call it the “revolutionary reading?”¬† If we have chosen to follow Jesus and proclaim him our Lord and King, and if he has shown us and told us how to be God’s people, how to be the light of the world– then we must live as He lived!¬† His revolution is one of the cross, of redemption through suffering, of victory through love and forgiveness.¬† His revolution calls into question the usefulness of any earthly power.¬† He rejected political power whenever it was offered to him.¬† And He won the victory through dying on the cross. American Christianity could learn a lot from a revolutionary reading of the Gospels (whether we’re Republicans, Democrats or Independents).

One more Wright quote in closing: “We do not– we dare not– simply treat the cross as the thing that saves us ‘personally,’ but which can be left behind when we get on with the job. The task of shaping our world is best understood as the redemptive task of bringing the achievement of the cross to bear on the world, and in that task the METHODS, as well as the MESSAGE, must be cross-shaped through and through” (p. 95).

May our lives be cross-shaped! May we undertake an utterly revolutionary revolution and not buy into our western notions of what a revolution is!

provocative thoughts from a Southern Baptist

A former professor and good friend of mine has written a great post on the second ammendment and the hard teachings of Jesus.  Todd is a pastor in Oklahoma and also coordinates the Etrek courses with my seminary here in Hatfield, PA. I have a great deal of respect for Todd, and I hope some of you take the time to surf his site a little bit and read some of his musings on life and faith.

http://www.toddlittleton.net/2008/07/27/flipping-the-subject-and-the-object-%e2%80%a6/#more-966

A different kind of foreign policy

I find Obama’s thoughts on foreign policy intriguing. If you care to listen to (or read) this speech, which I know some of you may not, listen for the way he talks about the rest of the world, people who are not Americans.

http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/newstrategy

I do not claim to have much knowledge about foreign policy, but I do see a marked contrast between the current administration’s posture toward the rest of the world and Barack Obama’s.¬† Idealistic? Naive? Maybe. But perhaps it is time, as he suggests, to stop using our military to solve international problems and start using a different kind of diplomacy.

Rights and Interests

I’ve told a good friend of mine a number of times that I have a terrible political mind. I find it difficult to think like a politician. It’s terribly uncomfortable for me. Let me illustrate: There is a phrase that the candidates have been using lately that grates against my values.¬† “I will protect American interests overseas!”¬† Now, I’m sure that’s what politicians are supposed to say. I’m sure that is what our¬†government servants are supposed to do, protect our interests above all others… but I don’t like it. I don’t think that, as a Christ-follower,¬†it is something I can fully and whole-heartedly support. (I told you…. bad political mind)

Here is my problem (and I’m wondering if there are any other evangelical Christians who struggle with this, too): My citizenship knows no national boundary.¬† I have brothers and sisters all over the world who also have interests and rights, some of them are rich and powerful and some of them are poor and have no voice in their government or its policies. Some of them own no land, no¬†home, have no job.¬† Some benefit from our country’s¬†foreign policy, but some of them suffer greatly from our actions (such as our sanctions against abusive governments, but also because of American corporations and the laws that protect them).

We consume so much of the world’s resources and spend so much energy trying to police the governments of the world…. our politicians promise that we will have what we “need” (more likey¬†“want”)¬†for years to come if we elect them.¬† They promise to keep us safe.¬† But at what expense? Who is looking out for the rest of God’s people?¬† How can I be at peace about politicians promising to protect our interests when I am aware of people all over the world who have no one (or at best, very few) people promising to protect theirs?¬† I am MORE than an American. That is my problem with American politics.

And then there is all the lingo about rights– my rights, your rights, the rights of the unborn, the rights of the accused, the rights of immigrants, the rights of single parents, of underage children, of animals, of women, minorities,¬†men.¬† Who decides whose rights are valued more, who gets first priority? Sadly, it seems wealth and power often decide… as a white woman, I have seen both sides of this. I have such privilege and opportunity as an American. Yet, I have seen and felt what it is like to be pushed down, unheard, hands tied, passed over… a small taste, but I have experienced it.¬†¬†My right to pursue happiness may collide with someone else’s right to survive.¬† Your right to eat until you’re satisfied may mean someone else cannot.¬†His right to the job he wants may mean someone else has to take a job that pays barely enough to feed his family. America’s right to oil and its right to prevent attacks against its citizens means other people die.

I, of course, want my rights and interests protected, and those of my husband and children as well. They need to be protected. But I also want leaders who have a view wider and larger than this country. America is one among many nations. We are not the best. We are not always right or always good. There are other people out there with rights and interests. They should be protected, too. And if it’s not a Christian politician’s job to do that, whose job is it?

Political Humor

I know I tend to be a very serious blogger, so I offer this, in an effort to lighten the mood (it’s a favorite at our house):

Obama, Racism and Charitable Giving

I have gotten one public comment and several private ones¬†to my last post concerning politics.¬† Thank you for responding and for pushing me to reflect even more.¬† Seriously. I’m not just saying that.¬† The following are a few of my responses.¬† Again, I do not claim to have all the answers on politics or Obama or the very complex issues of racism or charity.¬† Just offering my perspective and hoping to keep a conversation going on these issues.¬† They are significant.

Racism

I have only taken two undergrad classes in sociology (which makes me barely even qualified to comment here), but I do feel the need to clarify some terms.  I was taught that racism is prejudice PLUS the use of power by one group over another.  Prejudices are attitudes, judgments, characterizations of groups of people.  White Americans exercised racism over African Americans, and in some ways this racism continues today.  African Americans have not exercised racism against white Americans. They may harbor prejudices against white Americans, but it is impossible for them to be racist. They do not hold power over us.

In the case of Rev. Wright, I agree that he has a prejudice problem.¬† He is angry and his anger is frightening.¬† I am, however, satisfied with Obama’s response to the issue of¬†racism in America and¬†the need for racial reconciliation and cooperation¬†(you can watch or read his¬†speech entitled “A More Perfect Union” at¬†www.barakobama.com).¬†¬†He is correct that sound bites are not a fair characterization of anyone’s remarks.¬†¬†He is very clear about where he agrees with his pastor and where he does not.¬† I¬†choose to judge Obama (and anyone else) by his own words and actions, not¬†someone else’s.

Obama took a major mis-step when he used the phrase “typical white grandmother” during a radio broadcast¬†in Philadelphia.¬† I do not think it would have been wrong for him to talk about his grandmother’s attitudes or actions in the specific, but when he added the term “typical” to the phrase… that is problematic and raises some caution in my mind about the way he sees white Americans and relates to them. As I continue to research his actions and writings, I will continue to keep my eyes open. But I will not judge him by this one sound-bite. I would not judge McCain in this way, nor Clinton.

Charitable Giving

Someone posted a “joke” on the ABC News website under one of the headline stories. It went something like this: A Dem and a Rep were walking down the street. They passed by a homeless man.¬† The Republican¬†stopped, handed the man a dollar and a job application.¬† The Democrat was so impressed that he thought he should do something, too, so he picked a $20 out of the Repulican’s pocket and handed it to the man and walked away.

Funny… and perhaps a fair jab at the “tax-and-spend” reputation of Democrats.¬†¬†I will¬†push back at the Republicans a little here, however.¬† How much good is a job application going to do someone who can’t read or write?¬† …or if they do not have an appropriate outfit to attend an intervew?¬† I could see Jesus taking an entirely different approach: “Take my hand, brother, and let’s figure this out together. I will walk with you to the shelter and the assistance office and will help you navigate all the obstacles that are standing in your way. You are not alone.” Calling for personal responsibility is good and right, but it can be blind to the societal barriers that keep people down.¬† It lets us off the hook when it comes to caring for our brothers and sisters.

Charity is not only about money. It’s about time and energy.

Yes, the Obama’s giving looks frighteningly inadequate.¬† I did hear him respond to¬†this issue¬†by saying that their giving went down as they invested in a home, land and paid-off their pile of student loans. That may or may not be an adequate¬†reason for lower giving¬†in your mind.¬† But let’s not only judge people by when they have written checks and for how much. Let’s judge people by how they spend their LIVES.¬† Obama spent significant time working for poor families in Chicago, even before he went to law school.¬† I am not letting him off the hook here. I think he needs to say more about how he has spent his money.¬† What I am saying is that it is easy for us to write checks and feel that we have done our duty.¬† It is much harder to orient our lives around service.¬† Even as we scrutinize politicians, we should be scrutinizing ourselves.¬† Again, let’s keep researching Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton.

Obama welcomes scrutiny. His actions have borne that out so far– he has freely released his financial records, has worked for campaign finance reform, has admitted his mistake in taking money from a criminal and has given that money away. He has not taken money from lobbyists.¬†H has acknowledged and answered questions about his church and his pastor.¬† We still have questions for him, and we should.¬† They are good and fair questions.¬† Let’s let him answer them himself– not the media, not the Republicans, not his other critics, not even his fanatical (crazy?)¬†supporters… but HIM.¬† Any candidate deserves that level of respect.

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