A Covenant for Civility (Sojourners)

[You can sign this covenant online at the Sojourners site. I have added underlines and bolds to the version below.] How good and pleasant it is when the people of God live together in unity. -Psalm 133:1 As Christian pastors and leaders with diverse theological and political beliefs, we have come together to make this covenant with each other, and to commend it to the church, faith-based organizations, and individuals, so that together we can contribute to a more civil national discourse. The church in the United States can offer a message of hope and reconciliation to a nation that is deeply divided by political and cultural differences. Too often, however, we have reflected the political divisions of our culture rather than the unity we have in the body of Christ. We come together to urge those who claim the name of Christ to “put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Private Prayer and the Stupidities of Public Life

Connie and I recently watched Karol: A Man Who Became Pope. It portrays Karol Wojtyla’s life from his late teens, when the Nazi’s invaded his city and nation, through WWII, then through decades of Communist rule (as a satellite of the Soviet Union), up to the day he became Pope John Paul II (1978). I. A Real-life Example: The Future Pope Working Under Nazi and Communist Oppression in Poland Karol Wojtyla, (pronounced something like “VoyTEEya”) was known as a man of prayer, and it seems to me that his life-long habits (and style) of prayer – developed in his late teens – were a key factor in his effectiveness in the real world and in his continuing rise to greater and greater worldly power. He was introduced to “mystical prayer” early in WWII by an older man (Jan Tyranowsky) who became a spiritual mentor to several young adults. I was familiar with the story from previous study, and though this version is a movie, not a documentary, it still rings pretty true. One poignant scene shows him discovering a poster announcing the murder (“execution”) of a good friend, a young priest, by the Nazis. Wojtyla sinks to the ground

What Do We Want in 2009?

Here’s the article I wrote for our church’s monthy newsletter for January. We need, want, and should want lots of good things. But I was looking for a list specific to a local church’s situation. This is derived from the first of the two letters we have from Paul to the church of the Thessalonians. While it is local-church specific, it seems to me to have profound applications and implications far beyond that scope. What Does God Want To Do Here in 2009? That question – What does God want to do here in 2009? – no doubt has some answers we cannot figure out here in January. But I think God has made a lot of it pretty apparent. Here’s a short Bible study from I Thessalonians – looking for what had been seen, or would be seen, as desirable developments in the believers in Thessalonica. God wants to see more people doing / experiencing these things, and these things being done better and more consistently. What do you think of this list? Does any part of it particularly stand out to you? PEOPLE WITH FAITH AND LOVE.

The Prophet Who Loves His People in a Bad Time – Like Jeremiah

Here are two very important words of advice we are not allowed to follow: 1. Pick your parents very carefully. 2. Pick the century and year of your birth carefully. Jeremiah, often called “the Weeping Prophet,” perhaps did ok in picking his parents, but he picked a horrible time-frame in which to work! Below is a list I found of short descriptions of this prophet.* 1. He was at once gentle and tenacious, affectionate and inflexible.

Thoughts About the Future of Religious Right Extremism (w/ Update Nov 14)

I. Pessimistic Here’s a sad quote from a good Catholic philosopher, going from his own knowledge of history: In nearly every historical case we can think of, the bias of a group lasts the lifetime of the group… Truly moral communities hardly ever result from the reformation of a previously selfish community. They nearly always spring from prophetic leaders who gather members from among the disenfranchised in other communities. That is, the institutions of the religious right are unlikely to reform themselves, and are likely to continue losing people to more carefully Biblical fellowships.

Shallow and Insulting Reactions from Christians About the Election …

Did you see the recent comment from “Donna”? It stirred me up! Come on people! Christian integrity and humility should compel you to allow that those who voted for Obama are NOT thereby proven to be ignorant or reprobate! I know that my response refers to the behavior and attitudes of the “religious right” as if they could be sterotyped. But in fact, in my experience, these problems VERY consistently show up in people who get their input from those sources – they are stereotypical responses. On the other hand my experience with Christian Democrats shows them almost always to be much more welcoming and open to information and to real discussion. Here’s my response (The numbered headlines are quotes from Donna’s comment.):

Damaged by False Prophets? Let’s Do It Better From Here On.

I.  Young Adult Attitudes Toward American Christianity Recently I wrote about how young adult “outsiders” – people not involved in churches – think of Christians in this country, based on research overseen by David Kinnaman and reported in his recent book. [My posts: "They Will Know", "World's View".   Kinnaman's book is unChristian, based on an extensive research project by The Barna Group. It's valuable but not pleasant reading.] At the end of each of his main chapters Kinnaman includes comments from other Christian leaders. Here’s some of what Brian McLaren had to say (p 172). (Here are a few posts on this site that mention McLaren’s writing.) II.  How We Got There – The Role of the Prophets of the Religious Right

Fear, Prayer, and Human Hearts – Another Confused Email

Scary Email I received an anonymous forwarded email the other day that combined a bit of good spiritual advice with a lot of classic Republico-Christian fear-mongering. Actually, it wasn’t totally anonymous. It was signed (several senders back) by “Carolyn”. This is the scariest election WE as Christians have ever faced. I know what SHE thinks are the reasons. Americans seem to be ready to vote for a black Muslim Democrat. How could things be more frightening? (Obama is not a Muslim, but the other two charges are true.) What she SHOULD mean is that many Americans are still supporting government by cliche, diplomacy by temper tantrum, continuing dishonesty about abortion and “moral values,”

World’s View of Christians – A Problem With Fruit [Update 9/9/08]

How does “the world” see us? Recently I wrote about David Kinnaman’s treatment of that in his book, unChristian, based on an extensive research project by The Barna Group. Remember, Kinnaman is writing from within the conservative Christian establishment. He’s writing about himself, about us

“Stoplight” Call to Pray For Rain – Insulting, Blasphemous, and Retracted

The Stoplight Video I’ve tried to watch the Focus on the Family short video “Stoplight” releases in the past, but it’s not good for my blood pressure. This recent one, asking people to pray for rain to disrupt the Democratic Convention’s last day, is a prize-winner for shallow thinking and unChristian behavior. I appreciate that Stuart Shepard apologized for that video in a follow-up video.