Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wow…that’s a relief….

Almost always on my web journeys, I stumble upon sites that totally resonate with my spirit…and I am blessed.  Other times I stumble upon things that cause the totally opposite reaction and I am saddened, sickened and angered.

I came across a site today that fits into the “other times” category. I’m not linking to it. You can google it if you feel in the mood for a bit of hate speech this afternoon.  It’s a blog that proclaims it is “upholding the Biblical standards on sexuality”….specializing in homosexuality.  And it hones its focus a bit more with the title…..the gay christian movement watch.  

Hey, it’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it.  What a relief someone is looking out for our Christian interests and upholding the biblical morals of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I will sleep so much better tonight knowing this. 

Yep, this site is a triple header…it saddens, sickens and angers.  

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jesus said…Ye shall know them by their fruits…

LOL…LOL..LOL….!!!  This video is hilarious.  Catchy tune, too…if you like twangy country music.  And using parody, Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours remind us that Christians are indeed ambassadors for Christ…



This morning…since o’dark thirty, I’ve been going through some old stuff…files, bookmarks, draft copies of emails in my “Send Later” file, message board posts and ideas for blog posts.  I came upon this video on a site called …that I saved long ago and faraway.  I revisited this morning.  There were several videos there that impacted me.  More about them in a later post….if I don’t get distracted and lured down some rabbit trail by an interesting but unrelated notion.

Anyway…this video reminded me of a joke I have oft heard told on Christian message boards and email lists….

Mistaken Identity

A man was being tailgated by a stressed out woman on a busy boulevard, when suddenly, the light turned yellow, just in front of him. He did the right thing and stopped, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.

The tailgating woman hit the roof, and the horn, screaming in frustration as she missed her chance to get through the intersection.

As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up. He took her to the police station where she was searched, finger printed, photographed, and placed in a holding cell.

After several hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.

He said, I'm very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you, and cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the 'Choose Life' license plate, the 'What Would Jesus Do?' bumper sticker, the 'Follow Me to Sunday-School' bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk.

Naturally, I assumed you had stolen the car.

2 Corinthians 5:20

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. KJV

From the Message -

We're Christ's representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God's work of making things right between them. We're speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he's already a friend with you.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Definite Maybe?

The following quote is from Greg Boyd’s latest blog post …that he thoughtfully delivered directly to my inbox this morning….

…don’t wait for what supposedly “will” happen in the future. Instead, work with God to help create the future by acting on the maybe’s that are in front of you right now.

Boyd is an open theist.  I’ve mentioned that here before on my blog.  He has gotten lots and lots of flack for that view.  In his latest post he talks about words and phrases like “might” and “might not”…”will” and “will not.” While I agree (concede) that there are will and will not circumstances in our lives, things that are going to occur (or not)come “hell or high water,” I also think there are might and might not circumstances. As my friend annie has said (paraphrased) Do I believe in free will.  Yes.  Do I believe in sovereignty?  Yes.  It’s not either/ or.  It’s both /and……


Artwort designed by Brothers of Weston Priory


Designed by Brothers of Weston Priory – Benedictine Monks in Weston, Vermont

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Excluded From Most Kingdom Ministries

A few weeks ago I listened to a podcast entitled Religious Deception.  The link came to me via an email from Kingdom Ministries. There was also a link to sermon by a pastor from The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit...R.E. Paulk.  I am going to post a few snippets from that sermon tomorrow....
But for today, following are a few quotes from Gary's sermon....
If you believe in a higher power, or if you don't believe in a higher power, you know there's got to be something greater than you....just call out to whatever that is.  And I guarantee you he will meet you right where you are.  If you're in alcoholic's anonymous...if you're in Buddhism, if you're in Hinduism, no matter your culture, no matter your background. And this is what got me excluded from most kingdom ministries....because I say God does not care about your doctrine.  He doesn't care about your intellectual knowledge, he wants your heart.  So no matter what culture, no matter what religion, no matter where you are, if you'll just cry out to Him
Yeah' I can see how that might stir up some kingdom ministries.  So many of them depend on correct doctrine and intellectual knowledge...all the t's crossed and the i's dotted.  The correct view of free will/sovereignty....the right theory of the atonement....preterist, full preterist, partial preterist. Everything has to scripturally correct...fall into it's place.  One card taken from the house of cards and it all comes tumbling down. Gary goes on to say....
Once you cry out to God, he will be your leader.  He will draw you out of any religion you're in.
There is only one teacher and that's the comforter.
A verse from Ezekiel comes to mind.....I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep.
You have an anointing and that anointing abides in you.  The anointing that you have received abides in you and you have no need of no man to teach you....for that same anointing will teach you and it's the truth.  You have an inner guidance system that will not lead you astray.  Oh your mind will!!  You mind will lead you down many paths but when you learn to sit in the quiet and you learn to hear that inner guidance system, its infallible.  That's what all of us have.  But we don't listen to that.  Many times we will listen but then we'll go to the preacher and he'll say, "Ah Brother, you can't listen to that." I've had many preachers tell me I was in deception and hearing demons and angels of light.  But you have to learn that the anointing is in you and you can trust it.  You can trust that anointing above what your preacher says, above what Gary says.... God is wonderful...

Indeed he is....

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Problem of Good….?

Many..many times...on many, many lists and message boards, I've participated in discussions about the POE. 
The. problem. of. evil. 
Suffering. Disasters. Disease. Pain. Loss. Heartache.
In my web meanderings I came across a quote I thought was kind of interesting...looking at it from a different angle....

The older ways of talking about evil tended to pose the puzzle as a metaphysical or theological conundrum. If there is a God, and if he is a good, wise and supremely powerful god, why is there such a thing as evil? Even if you're an atheist, you face the problem: Is this world a sick joke, which contains some things that make us think it's a wonderful place, and other things which make us think it's an awful place, or what? You could of course call this the problem of good, rather than the problem of evil: If the world is the chance assembly of accidental phenomena, why is there so much that we want to praise and celebrate? Why is there beauty, love, and laughter?
To read more from the article God, 9/11, the Tsunami, and the New Problem of Evil…where this quote came from…go HERE.

And I recently posted about Greg Boyd.  In that sermon marathon I talked about in my post…that I listened to on my way to Ellwood City, there was one called The Gospel of Suffering that I thought was pretty good.  You can find it HERE.

The POE...not something we are all likely to agree upon anytime soon. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Warrior Jesus?

A few weekends ago, when I drove to visit my mom about four hours away, I helped pass the time by listening to a series of sermons downloaded from Woodland Hills, the church where Greg Boyd  is senior pastor.  The series I listened to was about the outrageous love of God as told through the parables of the prodigal son, the lost sheep and the lost coin.
An interesting thing he mentioned about the parable of the lost coin...there was a custom during that time period...brides wore necklaces made of a symbol of the marriage bond.  The coins were the wedding ring.  Losing one of the coins....definitely not cool.  So she looked and looked until she found it....just like God seeks until he finds us....ALL of us.  And then there is rejoicing.  This view of the parable is not unique to Boyd.  He credited Wiersbe with introducing him to the idea.

While I'm on the subject of Greg Boyd...on his blog he recently posted a writing called,  Revelation and the Violent Prize Fighting Jesus.  It is a response to a comment in Relevant Magazine, by Mark Driscoll (well known pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle)
“In Revelation, Jesus is a prize-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.”
Wow...think he might have missed the gist of the teachings of Jesus?  Jesus didn’t come the first time to make someone bleed…HE came to bleed and die on the cross.  And even if I believed in a literal, bodily return of Jesus the next time around, I’m thinking he wouldn’t come to kick anyone’s ass. 

Boyd responds:
.....the model of Jesus as a “prize fighter” with a “commitment to make someone bleed” allows us to indulge it. (our tendency to resort to violence) If we can dismiss the peace-loving Jesus as a “hippie, diaper, halo Christ,” then we’re free to wish and even inflict vengeance on our enemies all we like — and feel righteous about it! 
He mentions his upcoming book...
A Questionable Peace: Responding to Alleged Violence in the New Testament). It will serve as a prequel to my book offering a non-violent theological interpretation of the OT (The Crucifixion of the Warrior God).  Because the literalistic, violent misinterpretation of Revelation is so prevalent among evangelicals, I get asked about Revelation frequently. So I thought it might be helpful for me to share with you fine folks a few of the scholarly works I’ve found that support a non-violent interpretation of this book. How I wish Mark Driscoll and others who embrace the “prize fighter” perspective would digest some of this material!
He lists a dozen or so books that address the issue of an apocalyptic Jesus and a violent, literal interpretation of Revelation. I may not purchase the Questionable Peace book...but the other book...the Crucifixion of the Warrior God will be a must read for me.  It addresses something that has always bothered me.  The different face of God in the Old and New Testament.  Almost as if God was “two faced”…. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Faith vs. Works??

Okay, changing the topic a bit....I wrote the following post a week or so ago when I was visiting my mom for a few days.....

For the past few days, I’ve been visiting my mom in a small town in Western Pennsylvania…Ellwood City. It’s economy went down the crapper back when the steel mills packed up and left and it’s never really recovered. Still it is cleaner and more thriving than many towns in this area and I’ve lived here off and on throughout my life. As a baby…as a child…even as a young adult. I would probably never move back to Ellwood, but it feels “"homey” to me in some ways.

My mom is not into technology…proof of that…..she doesn’t even own a TV. Nope, no TV…and no computer. No computer equals no internet. I’ve been without internet for four days….except for my daily pilgrimages to the closest McDonald’s. (fyi…McD’s has free wifi at most of it's locations across the country. Easy to connect to with a minimum of fiddling with the wifi settings on your computer. And they have great coffee…equaling Starbucks or Dunkin’ in quality but cheaper )

For the times, I knew I would not be hanging out at McD's, I downloaded a few websites (using a nifty free app called Backstreet Browser) to read offline. One was an eclectic site called The Nazarene Way…lots of obscure, odd writings there. The other site was Richard Beck’s blog, Experimental Theology. I’ve spent most of my offline web browsing at Experimental Theology checking out the archives. I’ve come across a lot that has resonated, piqued or stirred….and I plan to write about some of the topics here on my blog…..beginning with this one.

On Being a Practicing Christian: Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy – 6/23/06

New word for me…orthopraxy. But not a new concept to me or to Christianity. Actually, it's been the topic of much debate down through the centuries.

Faith vs. works. Right belief or right action. Faith IN Jesus or the faith OF Jesus. Orthodoxy or Orthopraxy?

The Bible is not silent on the issue. Trouble is, like most issues the Bible addresses, there are conflicting views both laid out in scripture.

James addresses it head on in James 2....

14What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

So does Paul….

(Ephesians 2:8-9) - "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast."

And so does Richard Beck on his blog

For me, beliefs are like the tides, they ebb and flow. But how I treat my neighbor, how I practice my faith, should be constant and unchanging.
"How can you be actively engaged at church, call yourself a Christian, and be agnostic?" I responded, "Easy. You're a practicing Christian." The students responded, "What? How can you be a practicing Christian? If you don't believe then you are not a Christian." I responded, "Well, what about times when your faith fails or falters? Wouldn't continuing to practice Christianity during that dark time help keep your faith alive while you struggled? If so, practicing Christianity might actually be more important, more vital, than believing in Christianity.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Okay…except for this one more thing….

In a recent post, I included a link to the speech Imam Rauf gave at the memorial service for Daniel Pearl.  I only faintly remembered his kidnapping and death…and so I did what I always do to fill in the blanks.  I googled it. 
And I came upon the website of his wife, Mariane Pearl.  She’s written a book, A Mighty Heart. There is info about the book on her website. I read most of the essays there.  The following excerpt is from “Why Good Hearts Must Go Public.”  When her husband Daniel Pearl was kidnapped she was disheartened the Pakistani people were silent.
During this ordeal, I was surrounded by individual Pakistanis and Muslims as courageous and beautiful as those terrorists appeared ugly and without souls. I can never be grateful enough for their graciousness, a ray of hope in the midst of darkness. In the five weeks when I waited in Karachi for Danny to come back to me and our unborn son, the Pakistani police reported at least 11 killings of Shiite Muslims in Karachi alone. Those slain were mostly doctors and professionals. Sectarian terrorists were pursuing their work of destruction. They were planting even deeper the seeds of fear in the hearts of people, making the silence of the majority even more painful to hear. Such fear and terror can destroy a society. When I finally had to acknowledge Danny's bloody murder, I decided not to leave Pakistan right away. I wanted to show defiance against fear. In those days, absorbing the murder of my husband, I received the most heartfelt letters of support from all over the world. And finally I heard from the majority in Pakistan as it abandoned silence.
Pakistani people wrote to me about their feelings. "May God give you strength. Danny's murderers are not Muslim and should be brought to justice." They shared their shame with me: "I am really saddened by the news and astonished that a Pakistani brother can do this." There were beautiful letters printed in Karachi's English-language weekly, The Friday Times. "Danny Pearl is not just a dead American journalist," a writer stated. "His suffering in our midst has made him a martyr to the Pakistani people. He died because Pakistan's enemies could not bear to see the country retake the course of tolerance and moderation that its founding father envisaged." Then I heard about a Web site in which Pakistanis bravely signed their names to a letter of condolence. They wrote: "We unequivocally condemn the perpetrators of this enormity: they are a plague to Pakistan, and the majority of her citizens would prefer to see their kind destroyed." At last count, the signatories numbered 3,767.
Just a side note here…
In many of the discussions I have been involved in about Islam, Muslims, the mosque, terrorism…a common criticism is that the moderate Muslims do not speak up and condemn the radicals.  Well, according to Mariane Pearl 3,767 (as of April 2002) spoke out…and signed their names.  They did this publically.  They did it in a country where it actually endangered their lives.  I wonder how many of those critics of moderate Islam would be brave enough to do the same thing?  And she continues….
Pakistani letter writers had left aside prejudices and appreciated my husband as an individual. One writer commented, "Your husband had a great smile -- a happy mixture of Pope Paul and Dean Martin."
Most captured the sentiments of a writer who called Danny's murder "a crime against the people of Pakistan." These voices give me the strength to believe that the hope of a modern, strong Pakistan still lives and that the people of Pakistan will help me see that justice is done. I'm told there is a hadith, a saying of the Prophet Muhammad, that tells Muslims that if they see an evil they should act to remove the evil. If they cannot do that, they should speak against the evil. If not that, then they must condemn the evil in their hearts.
The strongest expression, however, is to act against evil. In memory of Danny and for the future of our son, who is almost here, I also want to ask the people of Pakistan to act upon the sentiments they have expressed and build a memorial for Danny in Karachi. I will bring our son to this memorial and tell him this is the land where his father died, but that the people here stood by us so that his death would not be in vain.
Check out her website.  You will find information about her books…her son Adam and the life they’ve made since the death of Danny. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Whose Hallowed Ground Is It….?

For an interesting perspective on whose hallowed ground…whose burial ground it was long….long….before 9-11 check out the article in Mother Jones. And for a much more caustic look at the issue check out the article in loon watch about the article in Mother Jones.  It claims that many slaves….some Muslim…were buried there long before the Towers ever stood on that patch of real estate. 

And for another interesting perspective about monuments built at sacred sites, check out this article on Mount Rushmore. Excerpt….
For the uninitiated, Wounded Knee is where, in 1890, Union soldiers killed more than a hundred Oglala in the dead of winter, on account of a particular form of religious expression called the "Ghost Dance," which the federal government had declared illegal. Just two South Dakota blocks* away from the monument, you'll find the town of Whiteclay, Nebraska, a town built almost exclusively to sell alcohol to Indians on the reservation—after alcohol had been banned on the reservation. Of course, the reason they were living on Pine Ridge in the first place was because the US had reneged on an established treaty and driven the Sioux out of their sacred grounds in the Black Hills, because someone had found gold. When that was finished, they marked the occasion by carving a massive monument to themselves on the side of a mountain. They even found a Klan-member to design the thing. And voila, Mount Rushmore.
What the white settlers did to Native Americans is another one of those “oh that” topics….the travesty of which is dismissed or downplayed.  There are many ways to tap dance around the issues but the truth is that America belonged to the natives who lived here.  The Indians.  White European settlers took it from them in the most underhanded, sneaky ways.  These white European settlers were our ancestors,  We, too, are culpable. 

And one other topic to check out is a refutation of the catchy little ditty that goes something like….

Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all (most)terrorists are Muslims. 

“Except the 94.6"% that aren’t”  Check out this article that challenge the truth of that belief in the States. And check out "Except the 99.6% that aren't" that challenges that belief in Europe.  

And with this post, I bid this topic adieu…at least for the time being.  

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Imam, the Mosque and Hallowed Ground - 2

For a look at Imam Rauf from a bit of a different angle check out  Parsing the Record of Feisal Abdul Rauf -     

It is not the radical, uncaring, anti American image that is often found on the internet. 

His father was a leader in the interfaith movement.  Actually his parents were taken hostage twice by more radical elements of Islam.  It contains quotes from his book and anecdotal stories from his childhood and young adult years.  Interesting read....about two cyber pages long....

In my last post I listed several comments he’s made (gleaned from 30 years of public service) that "prove he is Un-American."  A handful of comments.....taken out of context from what I can tell.  Ironic too that Glenn Beck....have expressed opinions almost identical to the Imam (about 9-11) but for some reason that's different.  I found the following quote in my journeys.

Beck: While the U.S. did not "deserve 9-11," the U.S. was "in bed with dictators" and "that causes problems."

Talking about "why do you think they hate us in the Middle East," Beck said:

When people said they hate us, well, did we deserve 9-11? No. But were we minding our business? No. Were we in bed with dictators and abandoned our values and principles? Yes. That causes problems. [Glenn Beck, 4/15/10]

To see and hear Beck actually saying's not's the link....

So the irony to me is that these men are both American citizens....they both lumped themselves into the "we" of America's actions and they both feel those actions contributed in part to 9-11 but Rauf is accused of being un-American. Actually he is accused of being much worse. 

Another irony is that the comment has been taken out of context.  It was part of a larger conversation.  The Parsing the Record article says this:

The Cordoba Initiative elaborates: “The ‘60 Minutes’ piece was completely incorrect, as the statement was edited out of context. In the full interview, Imam Feisal describes the mistake the C.I.A. made in the 1980s by financing Osama bin Laden and strengthening the Taliban. This view is widely shared within the U.S. and the U.S. government today, and Imam Feisal underlines the importance of not supporting ‘friends of convenience’ who may in the future become our enemies. 

An excerpt from his book “What’s Right With Islam Is What’s Right With America,” echoes the gist of his 9-11 comment…that U.S. policies abroad do, in fact, color the world’s view of America….

“Terrorism is usually defined by the acting party’s intent to harm innocent people. If a suicide bomber intentionally takes the lives of innocent people, he is obviously guilty of terrorism. By contrast, if the United States and its coalition forces drop bombs on the wrong buildings in Baghdad (or any other city) and the bombs kill hundreds or thousands of innocent people, including many women and children, we define this as collateral damage, not terrorism. We draw this distinction because we had no intent to kill civilians. ...“By contrast, however, many Muslims in the Middle East look primarily at the result of our actions. ... The result is a common view in the Middle East that the U.S. is perfectly willing to kill innocent civilians when it suits America’s goals.”

That is also the view of many Americans. 

He also says in his book….

“The truth is that killing innocent people is always wrong — and no argument or excuse, no matter how deeply believed, can ever make it right. No religion on earth condones the killing of innocent people, no faith tradition tolerates the random killing of our brothers and sisters on this earth. ... Islamic law is clearly against terrorism, against any kind of deliberate killing of civilians or similar ‘collateral damage.’ ”

He has been criticized for comments about Hamas.  In a recent CNN Interview he said the following:

O'BRIEN: There have been a lot of questions, and I think a fair amount of controversy and criticism about questions that people have had about your take on Hamas. You were asked in an interview in the radio; the interviewer said, is the State Department correct in designating Hamas as a terror group? And you dodged the question. You went on a long time. But there was really sort of no answer to it.
So -- and I guess people sense that whatever that answer is, if you -- if you don't condemn Hamas, then in a way maybe you're supporting Hamas as a terror organization. So I guess I'd ask that question again. Do you -- you know, is the State Department right in saying that Hamas is a terrorist organization?

RAUF: I condemn everyone and anyone who commits acts of terrorism. And Hamas has committed acts of terrorism.

In 2003, Imam Rauf was invited to speak at a memorial service for Daniel Pearl, the journalist murdered by Islamist terrorists in Pakistan. The service was held at a prominent Jewish synagogue in Manhattan.  Judea Pearl, Daniel’s father was in attendance. 

For the full transcript of his speech….go HERE.

This post is getting too long.  More to come….

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Imam, the Mosque and Hallowed Ground

Even though I’ve droned on about this topic for quite a while now…since before the anniversary of 9-11 took me off on a rabbit trail….I still have a few things to post about the Imam, the Mosque and the Hallowed Ground where the Twin Towers stood.  This post is mainly about the Imam…Feisal Abdul Rauf that is one of the key figures at the center of the controversy. 

Keith and I watched the recent episode of 60 Minutes about the mosque.  It featured the real estate developer, Mr. El-Gamal, who is a Muslim, son of a Catholic mother and an Egyptian father….married to a Christian.  Talk about interfaith….this family is the epitome of interfaith.  He was very personable, likeable and convincing.  The Imam, not as much. 

In the clips I've seen,  he is soft spoken, monotone almost, the opposite of the developer who is quite the gregarious sort of guy. But he is an Imam, not an entertainer….and claims to be a man of peace.  And there is no proof he is anything but a man of peace.  Only speculation. 

There have only been a few comments, dredged up out of context, used to “prove” that he is pro Islamic to the point of being anti American.  I am sure many…many…have tried to dig deep into his background, his sermons, speeches and writings for statements much more incriminating than the ones that have been publicized. He has been in the public eye…in public service… for thirty years.  He was involved with the Bush administration as an envoy…a go between….a bridge between the Muslim world and the United States.  He is involved with the Obama administration.  In the clip I saw on 60 Minutes, he soundly denounced terrorism. 

Following are a few of the incriminating remarks gleaned from several sources.  I imagine his words, spoken and written, were scrutinized to way back when all the way to the present.    I wonder how you and I would fare if our words for the past three decades were mined for proof of a preconceived hypothesis…..

What are some of his controversial quotes?
“The Islamic method of waging war is not to kill innocent civilians. But it was Christians in World War II who bombed civilians in Dresden and Hiroshima, neither of which were military targets.” (Quoted in Sydney Morning Herald, 2004)

“We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaida has on its hands of innocent non Muslims.” (Speech in Australia, 2005)
And from an earlier 60 Minutes episode that aired not too long after 9-11
ED BRADLEY, CBS: (Voiceover) And throughout the Muslim world, there is also strong opposition to America's foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East because of its support of Israel and economic sanctions against Iraq.
Imam ABDUL RAUF: It is a reaction against the policies of the US government, politically, where we espouse principles of democracy and human rights and where we ally ourselves with oppressive regimes in many of these countries.
BRADLEY: Are--are--are you in any way suggesting that we in the United States deserved what happened?
Imam ABDUL RAUF: I wouldn't say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.
BRADLEY: OK. You say that we're an accessory?
Imam ABDUL RAUF: Because we have been an accessory to a lot of--of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, it--in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA. 
Note that when assigning guilt to the United States…he says “we.”  WE have been an accessory to a lot of—of innocent lives dying in the world.  He lumps himself in as an American.  I lump myself into the American....and being an American I bear some of the responsibility for the acts of my country, both good and bad.  Because, yes....America has indeed done things that are bad....

He mentions Hiroshima. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are blights on the reputation of a country that bills itself as a “Christian” nation.  Like the bumper sticker declares….when Jesus said to love your enemies, I’m pretty sure he meant, don’t kill them.  That would include using weapons of mass destruction...atomic bombs....on densely populated cities….cities filled with civilians.  Doesn’t the United States stand alone as the only country that's used weapons of mass destruction against civilians? Is the Iman simply calling a spade a spade in his comments about the actions of the United States?

The “oh that” attitude many Christians….many Americans… display toward events like the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is disgraceful.  Perhaps there was no other answer…although I have read articles that state otherwise…something I plan to take a closer look into someday. Perhaps we were between a rock and a hard place and the bombings were the only way to end the war and stop Japan….but let’s acknowledge it for the travesty that it was.  The United States has spilled innocent blood.  

And in my next post I'll take a look at the context of some of those remarks....similar remarks made by other Americans...and the flip side of the coin....quotes that are clearly anti terrorist and pro American.....

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Duty That Lies Nearest Revisited…..

I've been thinking about the tribe I wrote about in my last post.  In a land a world away, in both culture and distance, they felt moved to make a huge sacrifice to help the people of New York City.  In the scheme of things, it is really a drop in the bucket....yet, like the widow in scripture who gave sacrificially, it is huge. It seems to me that it was an act of generosity and compassion that was divinely inspired.  One of those acts Ephesians declares we were created for....
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. NIV

A while back I wrote a post about the "duty that lies nearest."  In it, I quoted an essay on the God Quest site:
But when we are able to hear God’s voice, what will God say to us? I believe God gives every person, eventually, the ability to live in two beautifully simple ways. He gives us all the ability to be faithful to the highest that we know; and, the ability to “do the duty that lies nearest” (Carlyle) as his Spirit reveals to us individually, simple opportunities to obey him in love.
 God has given everyone a “measure of faith.” Some people apparently have more than others. Are we faithful to the highest we know? Are we willing to do the duty that lies nearest—in the “now”? God is faithful to speak to each of us in these ways as we “image” God within us with a sense of His acceptance, love and kindness for us.
Being faithful to the highest we know is to know Him! This is Eternal Life; that is, to know of God’s nature, and to let Him imbue us with it. It is a state of heart that is able to enjoy the quality of eternal life right now. After all, all we have is “now” and eternal life can be enjoyed in the present. It finds its expression in obedience: doing the duty that lies nearest. This could involve writing a letter we have had intentions of writing, a phone call we’ve been meaning to make, forgiving a person who needs our forgiveness. God is faithful to continually prompt within us “duties” that we may in turn commit as love-offerings to Him. But this requires holy imagination—the ability to see God as he is. No one who has seen God for who He is, can live; that is, live in ones former ways of selfishness and fear.
And what is the duty that lies nearest?  I don't think it is necessarily the duty that is nearest geographically.  No...perhaps it is the duty that likes nearest to our heart, as in when God "lays it on our hearts" to do something.  To do one of those good works prepared for us to walk in?  The quote about the duty that lies nearest is by Thomas Carlyle

Do the duty which lies nearest to you, the second duty will then become clearer.
Keith has said many times that being obedient to the voice of God is the main thing in our Christian walk and overshadows all the woulda' coulda' shoulda's others impose upon us (and we impose upon ourselves)

I am also reminded of a true story by Loren that has been retold in many forms all of which carry the profound meaning related in the original.  It is from his book, The Star Thrower.   I will include it in this post, copied and pasted from a site called Bella Online...written by Deanna Joseph
The Starfish Story
adapted from The Star Thrower
by Loren Eiseley
1907 - 1977
Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
 One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
 The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
 "I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.
 To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "I made a difference to that one!"

Few stories have gained internet popularity the way "The Star Thrower" has. Most often it's sighted as "author unknown," but it is actually a classic from 1979 written by Loren Eiseley, who has been hailed as a modern day Henry David Thoreau.

Loren Eiseley was both a scientist and a poet, and to this day his writing is the subject of much discussion and inspiration. In this story he is the "wise man" touched by the innocence and determination of another soul.

"The Star Thrower" is a classic story of the power within each one of us to make a difference in the lives of others. And though it has appeared in many forms (sometimes it's a native american man who is throwing the starfish into the sea, sometimes it's a grandfather, or a young girl or boy) it is none the less a powerful reminder that we should be here for each other, and to seek to help, even in small ways, whenever we can.

In such turbulent times as these, when we may feel alone and small and unable to make any lasting changes we may find ourselves asking "What can I do that will make a difference?" or "What can one small person like me do?"

In reality we don't have to be rich, talented or even particularly intelligent to make a difference in the life of another. We just need to remember that we ARE here for a purpose, and that making small changes in the world eventually add up to something bigger in the life of another.

When we become throwers of the stars, we too, have the power to change the world

Saturday, October 2, 2010

14 Cows….

I started this series a few weeks ago...right around the anniversary of 9-11...with a post about Lee Ielpi...the New York firefighter whose son, Jonathon, also a firefighter, was killed when the Towers fell.  His story, and the story of other 9-11 families have touched the world.  On his blog, The Persistence of Memory, he recently posted about a visit from four members of the Maasai tribe from Kenya.  After the tribe heard about the tragedy of 9-11, they wanted to somehow somehow show their support for the victims and their families.  So they sold their most valued possessions.  14 of them.  They sold 14 cows as a contribution "to help New Yorkers get through this horrible disaster."

Mr. Ielpi goes on to say:
This gift came from the heart and was remarkable for showing that even in the furthest reaches of the planet, people were inspired to support our common humanity. The men who visited last week came to the United States on a mission to raise awareness for their organization, Namirisho (which means "Victory") Girls Community Outreach. They are striving to provide rescue and refuge to young girls who are under threats of abuse and discrimination of various forms in their country. Social practices include Female Gental Mutilation, forced marriages, child abuse, child labour, lack of parental care and lack of educational prospects due to extreme poverty and gender subordination are tremendous obstacles to their young people. Their main goal is to help the young girls of both the Maasai tribe and other tribes to become resourceful, responsible and educated members of society. 

The above picture was taken during their visit to Tribute WTC Visitor Center.   It reminds me that God promises to bring good out of even the most tragic circumstances.  Oh and for these 4 men to come to America, they had to sell 4 more of their cows.  As Lee Ielpi notes, they are that committed to their mission. I find this story so touching and inspiring. It is indeed a small, small world.  And HE has the whole world in his hands.....