Bad Times – Bad Religion – Bad Relationships

These are things the Bible deals with over and over. If we want to be Bible-honoring Christians, these are among the most important things for us to pay attention to.
The ancient prophets Isaiah and Micah, among others, have much to say about these issues. Micah says,

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

One way Jesus summarizes it is this:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

“Bad Times – Bad Religion – Bad Relationships – Hope” is not the way Isaiah (or any of the others) say it. It’s my summary of the major concerns they deal with. There might be a better way to say it, but this is a fair summary.
People can argue over minute points of Bible interpretation, or about whatever they currently want to stress. But to honor the Bible like we want to and should, we have to emphasize what the Bible emphasizes. We should not let these huge issues fade into the background just because a) they are uncomfortable for us or b) we have other more controversial issues we’d like to focus on.
This is a matter of being true to The Book – of being careful in our Biblical interpretation – just as we hope other people will also be true to The Book.
Isaiah is a bit touchy about the practice of talking publicly about how we honor God and the Bible, while not practicing, privately or publicly, what God and the Bible strongly emphasize. He says it like this:

Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God. (Isaiah 58:1,2)

I like being part of a church where the people are concerned about these major Bible themes, and try to avoid getting distracted by smaller, more questionable matters!

Christ Asks Us to Choose His Way, Not Caesar’s.

. . . switch sides from Caesar’s way to Jesus’ way – before it is too late.*
- Brian McLaren

“Caesar’s way” stands for secular, temporal government or authority. The usage derives from Jesus’ saying, when asked about paying taxes:

So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. (Mt 22:21)

Jesus does not promote treason – even against the brutal tyranny of Rome. He does not in fact promote the idea of protesting against the government by refusing to pay taxes.

But Jesus clearly draws a line between God’s interests and Caesar’s. It’s obvious to us that 2000 years ago Jesus’ way and Caesar’s way were quite opposed to each other.

It’s funny how today some tend to assume that Jesus’ way just offers support of Caesar’s way – as long as the Caesar in question is American. Is that too blunt? It seems to me that being good Christians is often assumed to mean being good Americans first, at least as energetically as we are Christ-followers. Some folks even, unfortunately, think those are one and the same thing.

“Caesar’s” powerful way is powerfully seductive, Continue reading

Freedom – From Fear

No government can ever guarantee that you or I will have nothing to be afraid of. And as the American Founding Fathers well knew, no government, not even ours, can be trusted with freedom to do just as it wants. The Founders built “checks and balances” into the US Constitution for very good reasons.

Political parties, political movements – your neighbors – even your friends and family – can harm you in a variety of ways. It might be accidental; sometimes it is deliberate. Most of us have experienced it at some level or other.

There is no law we can pass, no person we can elect, no agreement we can make that will guarantee that any particular person or group will never turn against us or persecute us or hurt us. So what is a Christian to do in this unpredictable and sometimes very dangerous world?

It is precisely this problem that prompted Jesus’ disciple Peter Continue reading

God Doing Improv !

[A Review of Resurrection City: A Theology of Improvisation, by Peter Goodwin Heltzel. 2012. Wm B Eerdmans Publishing Co.]


Resurrection City is substantial and consistently stimulating. Heltzel is an associate professor of theology at New York Theological Seminary, with a strong grounding in Biblical values, Christian theology, Black theology, American history, and current justice concerns in American and world life.

A white boy from Mississippi, he manages fairly well to achieve the perspective of an outsider to the American mainstream – primarily an African American perspective. This is always of value when done responsibly; the Biblical prophets to whom he appeals were often in comparable situations.


“Meanwhile, outside the prayer closet, it’s another day of extortion in the marketplace, bribery in the courts, and intentional ignorance of the orphans, widows, immigrants, and prisoners.” p126

Heltzel applies that Continue reading

Activism, with Prayer and Silence

(This is my review of Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for  a New Generation, by Adam Bucko and Matthew Fox. 2013, North Atlantic Books.)

I was very pleased with this book.  It is a conversation between a young activist and an old oneAdam Bucko (late 30’s, raised a Catholic in Poland, helps run a ministry to homeless youth in New York City) and Matthew Fox (late 70’s, a thinker, educator, author, and former Dominican, was evicted from “The Church” by the Vatican – in effect for talking too much, sorta like Socrates.  He then became an Episcopal priest).

It is full of wisdom and good examples deriving from the integrity of the authors’ own spiritual searching and service.  There’s a strong Christian flavor, but don’t go here to learn conservative American Evangelical theology.  They show some preference for Christ and his teaching but are open to a wide variety of spiritual theories and practices.

“The Bhagavad Gita, for example, talks about the importance of service, but it’s more about fulfilling your role or duty … In Western traditions, there is more of a concept of individuation.  You’re literally called by name to a specific kind of task.  In this way, sensing your calling becomes a very deep connecting point with life and God.” (Bucko, p29)

They think and study carefully, they actually practice what they preach, and they do so with Continue reading

Good Comment on Christians as Republicans

Here’s a very helpful reaction to the article “Why Many Christians Do Not Vote Republican.” Thanks CT for putting things so well. I have added underlines and bolding.

This is a great article. Although I am not American, if I had to vote I would also struggle with voting Republican.

While I don’t agree with all of the policies of the Democrats, I believe they are by far the better option.

We cannot tar all Republicans with the same brush but from what I can see their policies are not consistent with the teachings of Christ nor will they bring people to Christ which is what we as disciples are called to do.

Regarding the obsession with abortion and homosexuality:

While I agree abortion is wrong, I don’t see how criminalising it will stop women from aborting babies. People need to have a personal conviction that abortion is wrong and that will not come from aggressive anti-abortion tactics or rhetoric. Instead, would it not be better to provide better sexual education so that less young women fall pregnant and provide better facilities for young mothers who may feel that they are unable to support a child alone? Would it not also be better to educate men from a young age about respecting women so that there are less cases of rape which would lead to abortion?

Would it not also be a good idea for schools to teach students about responsibility and the need to use protection. While as Christians we shouldn’t practice sex outside of marriage we can’t expect non-Christians who have neither the conviction nor the help of the Holy Spirit to do the same.

With regards to homosexuality, we are called to love our neighbour period. The bible does not tell us only to love those we look and behave like us. It breaks my heart when I hear the hate that some Christians direct towards homosexuals, as if Continue reading

Wear Your Diagnosis Lightly – It’s Not Really You

A lot of us have “been diagnosed” with specific personality or mental conditions. I don’t formally have such a diagnosis (I’ve not yet seen anyone qualified to do it for me); but I’m sure there are several people around who’d be glad to offer suggestions!

The thing I worry about is the effects I have seen such diagnoses have on people – the self-defining, self-shaping label it provides.

It does affect one’s self-perception, expectations of what they can probably do, or not do, and how they are likely to behave. It really does, in my experience. So it narrows a person’s view of themselves and their world – and thus clearly restricts their potential. Continue reading

“With Malice Toward None” – A Necessary Standard!

In pretty much his last words to the American people, Abraham Lincoln began the wrap-up of his Second Inaugural Address with these famous, beautiful ideals:

With malice toward none, with charity for all . . .

And I think he really meant it. In a nation that was an ocean of anger and blaming and malice, he asked us to move forward without malice.

“Malice: Intention to harm or deprive in an illegal or immoral way. Desire to take pleasure in another’s misfortune.” [Wiktionary]

Continue reading

When the Government – or Society – Is Against You: What Should Christians Do?

Some American Christians worry that we are being “persecuted” and that our “freedom of religion” is being infringed. That’s always true to some extent – and the idea is scary.

How did Jesus deal with it?

Jesus practiced non-violent non-cooperation toward evil persons. The results of his courage were both short-term and long-term, mostly good, some brutally bad.

Jesus’ immediate followers – the Christians of the first century, also faced lots of suffering.

  • They suffered government harassment, even arrest and execution.
  • They suffered from neighbors and fellow-citizens – the insulting or aggressive behavior of others around them in society.
  • They suffered all the normal pains and sorrows of human life, of which there are many. Continue reading

Limbaugh Has Judgment Problems? That’s Dangerous to Us – and Not a New Discovery.

I think the (verbal) behavior of Rush Limbaugh is a moral issue, and has a strong negative impact on the quality of citizenship in society. So, that needs to be said. This is my letter to the editor published in May 2006 in a small-town Nebraska newspaper.

Some of my best friends are Limbaugh addicts (“dittoheads”). You don’t always agree with all your friends, right? I personally am sad to hear Rush is coming back to McCook airwaves. I fear he will undermine habits of good citizenship, and will damage families and spiritual lives.

Unfortunately, he behaves like what Isaiah calls a “scoundrel.” Continue reading