The Rev. James H. Cone founded black liberation theology, which has roots in 1960s civil-rights activism. In an interview with Terry Gross, he explains the movement — and comments on controversial sermons by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's longtime minister and a black liberation theology proponent.
31 March 2008
The Rev. Peter M. Carey
From the Philadelphia NPR station, WHYY, on the program "Fresh Air," Terry Gross interviews not only the founder of Black Liberation Theology, James H. Cone, but also the University of Chicago Divinity School theologian, Dwight Hopkins on this important topic. I had the good pleasure to read a lot of James H. Cone's work last year as a part of my M.Div. Thesis, and am fascinated by the interest in this important topic (I'd love to see the dialogue move to a more constructive level, and am so glad that Terry Gross brought out these two thoughtful theologians for interviews today).
Go to WHYY and check out the program Fresh Air from today's program.
The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Listen to Monday's show · March 31, 2008
satire from Tominthebox Network
31 March, 2008
Berkeley, Ca - In a shocking turn of events a Berkeley California Court has ruled that parents in the state have no legal rights to raise their own kids. The ruling was handed down on Wednesday by Judge William LaHelm. The ruling comes just weeks after a controversy concerning a law that threatened the legality of homeschooling. Those in support of that law also supported the recent ruling.
"Times are different these days than they were 200 years ago," said LaHelm in his ruling. "It is clear that parents are incapable of taking care of their own children. So many kids are being brainwashed with religious superstition, hate and discrimination against homosexuals, and other nonsense. This is now a job for the government to take care of to ensure the peace and order of our society."
The law has not yet gone into effect, and numerous court battles are expected. But if the law passes parents will be required to deliver their kids to specified locations where they will be taken into the custody of the state.
"If the law takes effect, parents will have one month to get everything together for their kids" said state representative Mary Harrington-Long. "The state will setup special boarding schools where kids will be taught the importance of tolerance, justice and veganism."
TBNN has learned that plans are already on the table for the building of 2200 new boarding schools as well as converting older schools into the new boarding facilities. Children will remain in the schools until the age of 18 when they will be free to leave. During their tenure at the schools they will learn important subjects such as environmentalism, womyn's rights, alternative lifestyles and the best of Cher's music.
"This shows tremendous progress for our great state," said Berkeley City Council member Patrick Winn. "I believe that children are our future, so we need to teach them well and let them lead the way, we need to show them all the beauty they posses inside." FULL STORY
26 March 2008
My life has been threatened many times. I have to confess that as a Christian, I don’t believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadoran people. As a shepherd I am obliged by divine law to give my life for those I love, for the Salvadoran people, including those Salvadorans who threaten to assassinate me. If they should go so far as to carry out their threats, I want you to know that I offer my blood to God for justice and the resurrection of El Salvador.
~ Oscar Romero, shortly before being assassinated on March 24, 1980, quoted in Jesus the Rebel by John Dear
hat tip goes to Inward/Outward Blog (one of my favorites for wonderful quotes!)
J.K. Rowling has retired Harry Potter, but the fictional boy wizard lives in on college classes across the country where the children's books are embraced as literary and academic texts. Her books are often analyzed in the context of other relevant texts. Drawing on their expertise in theology, children's literature, globalization studies and even the history of witchcraft, professors have been able to use Harry Potter to attract crowds of students eager to take on a disciplined study of the books.
Danielle Tumminio, a Yale Divinity School (photo - left) graduate student and the instructor for Yale's Harry Potter course "Christian Theology and Harry Potter," said her academic background in literature and theology, combined with her personal interest in the books, inspired her to design the course. The course uses all seven Potter books and the students examine Christian themes such as sin, evil and resurrection.
Although Yale's course is its first Harry Potter-themed offering, other universities, including Georgetown University, Liberty University, Pepperdine University, Stanford University, Lawrence University, Swarthmore and Kansas State University, also have integrated the series into their curricula.
Cat Terrell, a student in Tumminio's course at Yale, said regardless of whether the books are worthy as literary texts, they have helped enhance her understanding of other academic disciplines, including theology.
"If somebody says this isn't worth a Yale class, I would say if we were just reading the Harry Potter books for their literary merit ... I would probably agree with them. [But] the lens of the Harry Potter books actually makes theology ... easier to understand," she said. "It's amazing how many connections you can draw between the theology that we're reading outside of class and the Harry Potter that we've known for 10 years."
In later modules the students will learn how to do joined up writing and tie their own shoe laces.
25 March 2008
For those that have been confused by the rather muddled and frenzied discussions in the media lately about Barak Obama, Jeremiah Wright, and race relations in America, allow me to heartily recommend the various discussions of these things by my friend David Horstkoetter. David is a student at Union Seminary who has studied under James Cone and has a passionate interest in race and theology, and black theology in particular. He has blogged extensively about the current discussions, including some very helpful comments by J. Kameron Carter which clarify elements of this hoopla very well. I highly commend David’s critiques of the innane conservative backlash against Rev. Wright’s willingness to speak the truth about race in America. They are right on the money.
Einstein on Jesus
"As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene....No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.
Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrase-mongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot."
from "What Life Means to Einstein," The Saturday Evening Post, October 26, 1929
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) Physicist and Professor, Princeton University
March 25, 2008
Virginia Seminary has a long commitment to the formation and education of international students. Preliminary research reveals an international student who graduated in 1867. Was that the first one? Recently, our graduates have assumed leadership roles which require all that they have to give. They make us proud!
The Rt. Rev. Daniel Deng Bul (VTS, ’97), Bishop of the Diocese of Renk, has been elected as the next primate of the Sudan, succeeding Archbishop Joseph Marona who served as the Sudan’s primate for eight eventful years. Bishop Deng Bul was elected on February 14 on the first ballot out of a field of three nominees during an emergency General Synod at All Saints Cathedral in Juba, Sudan. Emmanuel Sserwadda, the Episcopal Church’s partnership officer for Africa, said of the election: “It is a big day filled with excitement in Juda.” Presently, I am making arrangements to attend the enthronement in Juda on April 20. It will be a delight to represent VTS.
On May 25, 2008, the Rt. Rev. Valentino L. Mokiwa (VTS, ’92) will be installed as the next primate of the Anglican Diocese of Tanzania. Most recently, Bishop Mokiwa was the Bishop of the Diocese of Dar es Salaam. I remember vividly my visit to Tanzania in 2003 when Mary Lewis Hix (until her retirement this past May the Vice President for Administration and Finance at VTS) and I met with Bishop Mokima to discuss his ministry and the Anglican Church’s work in Tanzania. His passion for the Gospel was not to be missed. Bishop Mokiwa was elected in Dodoma on February 28 at a special session of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Tanzania with its twenty-one dioceses sending five delegates each.
This coming summer a research effort of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies will focus on the seminary’s program for international students. What’s behind VTS’ desire to train international students? Is it the Gospel mandate and/or our missionary imperative? Are we interested in spreading a certain “brand” of Anglicanism—or Christianity? Are we doing a good job? What do our international students bring to us? Have they and are they changing the ways we form church leaders for the twenty-first century? My hunch is that our international students bring to us more than we give to them. Stay tuned as we document this long-standing VTS program and as we ask active international graduates about their experience on the Holy Hill.
The Rev. Barney Hawkins, Ph.D.
Executive Director, CACS
24 March 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
Jesus came with a job to do, to complete the work to which Israel was called. This work, from the call of Abraham onwards, was to put the human race to rights, and so to put the whole creation to rights. As the gospel writers tell the story, this task was to be accomplished by Jesus bringing about the sovereign healing rule of the creator God. Jesus was addressing the question, "What might it look like if God was running this show?" And answering, "This is what it looks like: just watch." And then, "just listen." In what he did, and in the stories he told, Jesus was announcing and inaugurating what he referred to as "the kingdom of God," the long-awaited hope that the creator God would run the whole show, on earth as in heaven.But the problem was, and is, that other people are still running the show. Other kingdoms, other power structures, have usurped the rule of the world's wise creator, and the forces of evil are exceedingly powerful and destructive. Jesus' task of inaugurating God's kingdom therefore necessarily led him to meet those forces in direct combat, to draw upon himself their full, dark fury so as to exhaust their power and make a way through to launch the creator's project of new creation despite them. That is one clue at least to the meaning of Jesus' crucifixion...
Read the rest HERE at the God's Politics Blog.
Dr. N.T. Wright is a New Testament theologian and the Bishop of Durham in the Church of England. He is the author of many books, including Surprised by Hope, and Evil and the Justice of God. This post is adapted from his lecture "Where is God in ‘The War on Terror?'".
doesn't lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy
lies in having no goal to reach. It isn't a calamity
to die with dreams unfulfilled,
but it is a calamity not to dream."
~Benjamin Mays (Bates College Alumnus, and mentor to MLK, Jr.)
23 March 2008
From CNN....read the whole article HERE.
Grim milestone: 4,000 U.S. service employees dead in Iraq war
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Four U.S. soldiers died in a roadside bombing in Iraq on Sunday, military officials reported, bringing the American toll in the 5-year-old war to the grim milestone of 4,000 deaths. Eight of those killed were civilians working for the Pentagon.
The four were killed when their vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device while patrolling a neighborhood in southern Baghdad, the U.S. military headquarters in Iraq reported Sunday night. A fifth soldier was wounded in the attack, which took place about 10 a.m. (3 a.m. ET).
The U.S. milestone comes just days after Americans marked the fifth anniversary of the start of the war.
Meanwhile, estimates of the Iraqi death toll range from about 80,000 to the hundreds of thousands, with another 2 million forced to leave the country and 2.5 million people displaced within Iraq, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
President Bush ordered U.S. troops into Iraq on March 19, 2003, after months of warnings that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was concealing stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and efforts to build a nuclear bomb.
U.N. weapons inspectors found no sign of banned weapons before the invasion, and the CIA later concluded that Iraq had dismantled its weapons programs in the 1990s.
Hussein's government fell in early April 2003, and Iraq's new government executed him in December 2006.
The news of the 4,000 mark came on the same day that Iraq's national security adviser urged Americans to be patient with the progress of the war, contending that it is "well worth fighting" because it has implications about "global terror."
Read the rest HERE.
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion - put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" from
The Country of Marriage, copyright © 1973 by Wendell Berry,
reprinted by permission of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.
found online HERE
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Archbishop's Easter Day Sermon
Sunday 23 March 2008
Given at Canterbury Cathedral
'The last enemy to be overcome is death' (I Cor 15.26)
Your hair and your nails may keep growing for a while after you die; but nothing else does. Death is when growing stops - the routine ways in which your body repairs itself and grows fresh tissue, and the ways in which the mind and heart stop developing. We know the suffering that is caused when the mind and heart have already apparently stopped responding even before physical death - the agonizing spectacle of vegetative states or dementia. That's why people sometimes speak of these conditions as death-in-life. Signs of life are signs of response and development, and when they're not obviously there, we don't know what sort of life is really present.
So too we talk of the death of a relationship when nothing moves it forward; and we say that individuals or whole cultures are in some sense dead when they seem to be producing nothing fresh; they've lost the skill of responding and can only repeat, like the unhappy person suffering from some sorts of dementia. We fear dementia because we fear being trapped in sameness, repetition; we fear the death of love and imagination; we fear death itself because it is the end of all change. And we know that it is inescapable.
Recognising that this is so, that all the processes we value because they enlarge and enrich us will one day simply stop, is hard but it is part of growing up. Artists, scientists and psychoanalysts have in different ways warned against the dangerous illusion of thinking we are immortal. Maturity lies in accepting the truth - and then making the most of every moment of sensation so that our response is as deep and wholehearted as may be. 'This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong, / To love that well which thou must leave ere long', as Shakespeare has it at the end of one of his most memorable sonnets (no.73).
Yet here comes the Easter gospel, apparently determined to upset this stoical maturity and to promise us just that eternal life we are urged to leave behind as a childish fantasy. Death will be 'overcome', 'swallowed up in victory'. (I Cor 15.54) Is the Christian gospel just a version of that popular but problematic passage sometimes read at funerals, beginning 'Death is nothing at all' and talking of it as just 'slipping into the next room'?
That's not quite the tone of what St Paul or any of the other New Testament writers is saying - nor of some of the ancient hymns and prayers of the Church in this season. 'Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous', says one early mediaeval hymn (the Sequence of Easter Sunday); and the whole idea of a battle between life and death in the events of Christ's death and resurrection doesn't suggest an event that is 'nothing at all'. Death takes quite bit of overcoming; there's a struggle involved here. And Jesus as he faces death seems to take it with utter seriousness, acknowledging terror and shrinking from it in his desperate prayer in Gethsemane. Easter may tell us that death is conquered, but it doesn't tell us that there was never any contest.
Perhaps that's the clue. Easter is not about denying death, and the resurrection doesn't make the nightmare death on the cross unreal. Death is exactly what the artists and scientists and psychoanalysts say: it is a full stop to human growth and response, it is night falling on everything we value or understand or hope for. Fear is natural, and so is grief at the death of another (Jesus, remember, shed tears for the death of a friend). Don't attempt to avoid it or deny its seriousness. On the contrary, keep it in view; remind yourself of it. When the tradition of the Church proposes that you think daily about death and prepare for it, it isn't being morbid but realistic: get used to it and learn to live with the fear. And meanwhile - Shakespeare was being entirely Christian in this respect - get used to loving and valuing things and persons irrespective of the fact that they won't be there for ever. Love them now, and what you would want to do for them, do now. 'Night is coming when no-one can work', says Jesus. (John 9.4)
So what does it mean to say that, despite all this, death is 'defeated'? When death happens and growing stops, there are no more plans, no more hope of control: for the believer, there is only God left. Just as at the very beginning of creation, there is God, and there is the possibility that God has brought into being by his loving will. When death has done all it can do, God remains untouched and his will is the loving and generating will that it eternally is. When we look at death, we look at something that can destroy anything in our universe - but not God, its maker and redeemer. And if we accept that we shall die and all our hopes and schemes fall into the dark, we do so knowing that God is unchanged. So to die is to fall into the hands of the living God.
That is why the effort to keep death daily before us is a source of life and hope. It is to commend ourselves every day into God's hands, trusting that he is eternally a loving creator, in whom there is no darkness at all, as the New Testament says. (I John 1.5) And when we let ourselves go into God's hands, we do so confident that he is free to do what he wills with us - and that what he wills for us is life. The Easter story is not about how Jesus survived death or how the spirit of Jesus outlasted his mortal frame or whatever; it is about a person going down into darkness and the dissolving of all things and being called again out of that nothingness. Easter Day, as so many have said, is the first day of creation all over again - or, as some have put it, the eighth day of the week, the unimaginable extra that is assured by the fact that God's creative word is never stifled or silenced.
Celebrating Easter is celebrating the creator - celebrating the God whose self-giving purpose is never cancelled and who is always free to go on giving himself to those he has called. And resurrection for us is that renewed call: when we have fallen silent, when we no longer have any freedom to respond or develop, God's word comes to us again and we live. (II Cor 5.17) We can't really imagine it; it isn't just a continuation of our present life in slightly different circumstances but a new world. Yet all that God has seen and worked with in this life is brought into his presence once more and he renews his relationship with it all, spirit and body.
That is the overcoming of death - made clear to us in the only way it could be made clear, by the historical, tangible recreation of the life of Jesus, still recognizably who he always was, yet changed in ways we can't grasp in their fullness. Death is allowed to do its worst in him - not only in the form of physical pain and final extinction, but in the terror and desolation with which Jesus approaches it. He lets go of everything, even the hope that God will intervene to spare him. He descends into Hell, and is brought up again by the creative call of his Father. A true struggle, an agon as the Greeks said, an agony of conflict; and a victory - not a reversal or cancellation but a new thing, risen life, the new age begun.
And so when we proclaim all this today, we as Christians are charged to address ourselves to two different sorts of delusion. On the one hand: we face a culture in which the thought of death is too painful to manage. Individuals live in anxious and acquisitive ways, seizing what they can to provide a security that is bound to dissolve, because they are going to die. Societies or nations do the same. Whether it is the individual grabbing the things of this world in just the repetitive, frustrating sameness that we have seen to be already in fact the mark of an inner deadness, or the greed of societies that assume there will always be enough to meet their desires - enough oil, enough power, enough territory - the same fantasy is at work. We shan't really die - we as individuals can't contemplate an end to our acquiring, and we as a culture can't imagine that this civilization like all others will collapse and that what we take for granted about our comforts and luxuries simply can't be sustained indefinitely. To all this, the Church says, somberly, don't be deceived: night must fall.
On the other hand, this alone would only be to echo the not very helpful remark of John Maynard Keynes – 'In the long run, we are all dead'; not much of an Easter message! So the Church says: 'We shall die, we shall have no choice but to let go of all we cling to, but God remains. God's unshakeable love is untouched by death, and all we do and all we care about matters to him. He and he alone is free to make us afresh, to re-establish the world on the far side of every catastrophe.'
It isn't so much that Christians say, 'Death is not the end'. In an important sense, it is the end, and we must prepare for it as people of faith by daily seeking to let go of selfish, controlling, greedy habits, so that our naked souls are left face to face with the creating God. If we are prepared to accept in trust what Jesus proclaims, we can ask God for courage to embark on this path. We don't hope for survival but for re-creation - because God is who he is, who he has shown himself to be in Jesus Christ.
The vital significance of the Church in this society, in any human society, is its twofold challenge - first, challenging human reluctance to accept death, and then challenging any human acceptance of death without hope, of death as the end of all meaning. Death is real; death is overcome. We are mortal, and that is basic to who and what we are as humans. But equally we are creatures made so as to hear the call of God, a call that no power in heaven or earth can silence. That conviction is the foundation of all we say about human dignities and rights, and it is the heart of our Easter hope. The gospel, by insisting on both our limits and our eternal hope in God, safeguards equally the humility and realism we need for mature human life and the sense of a glory embodied in our mortality because it has been touched by God. Death is real; death is overcome. On that basis we claim to have a word to speak to our world that can renew every corner, every aspect, of our humanity.
© Rowan Williams
Sunday, 23 March 2008
Easter sermon: no payback!A sermon by Kim Fabricius
Two numbers forever etched in our memories of infamy: 9/11. Reflecting back on the event a year later, one commentator (Stanley Hauerwas) wrote: It was “an apocalyptic moment Christians in America cannot ignore. Surely something like how we felt as we survived the days after September 11, 2001, is how the followers of Jesus felt after the crucifixion”: disbelief, confusion, grief, anger – and fear. We were all afraid of further acts of terror. The disciples too were afraid of further acts of terror – the state terror – of imperial Rome. What happened next?
For the followers of Jesus, there were two days of total eclipse, and then – resurrection! – an even more apocalyptic moment than the crucifixion: in Jewish thought resurrection belonged to the scenario of the end-times, when God would bring the old world of suffering and death to a dramatic conclusion and begin a new world of justice and joy. Surely a cause for celebration, you might think. But – observe – the immediate reaction of the disciples to the presence of the risen Christ is not joy – but, again, fear. A different kind of fear, the commentators tell us, than frightened fear, rather “awe” in the presence of the holy. But I wonder if there isn’t a bit of special pleading here. I wonder if there wasn’t that same fear-as-fright about their reaction, except now with a different object: not Caiaphas and Pilate but Jesus himself. For had not the cowardly disciples denied, betrayed, abandoned their leader to his fate? In other words, hadn’t they behaved in such a way as to invite and expect some sort of payback? Indeed, isn’t it that the most astonishing thing of all about the resurrection of Jesus: there was no payback!
Think of 9/11 again. On the third day, as it were, America rises from the dead, from the ashes of Ground Zero. What is the immediate reaction of the nation, embodied in the melodramatic speeches, soon to become military policy, of George Bush? What else but payback? First the easy pickings of Afghanistan, then the full-scale invasion of Iraq; and now here we are, five years later, with George Bush unbowed and unrepentant, in defiance of reason and evidence still speaking the empty rhetoric of freedom and democracy, still claiming that he did the right thing, and, notwithstanding the current anarchy and slaughter, eyes wide shut in denial, still declaring that he’d do it again: bring the superior firepower of the US, its swift and righteous sword, to bear on the evil and cowardly terrorists.
But after Easter, what does the crucified and risen Jesus do? Does he respond to his execution by marshalling that legion of angels he refused to deploy on Golgotha, smashing his way into the imperial palace with shock and awe, overwhelming the hopelessly outgunned royal guard, and exacting a righteous and terrible revenge on Pilate, who, of course, had form as a ruthless tyrant long before his showdown with the rebel from Galilee? Does he storm the Temple in a way that makes the disruptive demonstration the Sunday before look like the piece of street theatre that, in fact, it was, then advance beyond the court of Gentiles and invade the court of priests, seize the hapless Caiaphas and – how ironically apt – cast him from the spire he had once stood atop with the devil himself? Does he round up those reprehensible disciples, perhaps hood and humiliate them, or take them down to the pool of Bethesda for a bit of waterboarding, which, after all, isn’t really torture, or, at the very least, give them a tongue-lashing they’ll never forget and send them away in guilt and despair? None of the above. No violence, no vengeance – no payback!
So what does the crucified and risen Jesus do? He ignores Pilate and Caiaphas, his judges and executioners, completely. And when he meets his followers – who would believe it! – he says things like, “Do not be afraid,” and “Peace be with you.” He shows them his wounds to reassure them, and to demonstrate that even in his regnant glory his decorations will always be scars. And he commissions them to carry on his ministry – how? As avenging furies, agents of retribution? (“I’ll be back, through you, my shock troops, and this time it’s personal.”) No, no payback! Indeed the mission impossible he gives them is a ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation.
But why should this surprise us? Hadn’t the crucified One already disarmed his disciples in the garden, and forgiven his killers on Calvary? Will the risen One now change his mind? In John’s gospel Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on the disciples as he gives them the gift of peace (John 20:21-22). This is John’s version of Luke’s Pentecost. But the peace of Christ is not for them alone. The man for others (Bonhoeffer) commissions a church for others. The peace they receive they must share, declare, and effect. And this peace takes the form of – forgiveness! Jesus says: “If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (John 20:23). And though the construction looks like a conditional, as if forgiveness were discretionary – as if the disciples might grant forgiveness to this one but withhold it from that one – the key to Jesus’ command is its gracious sweep and urgency. Forgiveness itself is God’s judgement on sin, and forgiveness itself is the condition that makes justice possible. Wrath – whatever that might mean – must be left to the Father. This is John’s version of Matthew’s Great Commission.
Am I suggesting that forgiveness become the central plank of the West’s ethical foreign policy against terrorism? A counter-question: why the absolute astonishment, indeed repugnance, with which Christian themselves react to such a suggestion? Does it not, in fact, demonstrate – in the sense of “what difference does it make to our discipleship?” – that we do not live the truth that Jesus is the risen Lord, that we ignore the events of Holy and Easter week, as well as his life and teaching, that we honour the seventh beatitude more in the breach than the observance; rather we live as if Caesar (in whatever guise) were Lord, as if the events recorded in our tabloids rather than the stories of Jesus in the Bible define the “real” world, as if violence rather than peace were the origin, goal, and very grain of the universe? If being Christian trumped being American, British, or whatever, and if the church itself practiced a politics of peace, then at least we would have something to say to government that wasn’t the mere echo of its own loud voice.
It is a commonplace to say that the autumn of 2001 changed everything. In fact, 9/11 and its six-year wake has changed nothing. No, it was a spring weekend in the year 33, when there was a most rude interruption to the way the world does its business – a gruesome gibbet, an empty tomb, an unarmed man passing through barricades, waging peace – that is what changed everything. Though you wouldn’t know it. And why on earth should anyone, governments included, believe it when even the church doesn’t?
The American theologian Stanley Hauerwas was once asked, in his dissent from the war on terrorism: “Well, what alternative foreign policy do you have to bombing Afghanistan [and invading Iraq]?” Hauerwas replied: “My only response is [that] I do not have a foreign policy. I have something better – a church constituted by people who would rather die than kill.” People who believe in a saviour who would rather die than kill, who did die rather than kill, and who lives and rules the world – no payback! – with truth and grace, because God is non-violent, and in him there is no violence at all.
Archbishop's Easter Message
Wednesday 19 March 2008
Radio 2's Pause for Thought
Good Friday's coming up of course and I guess a lot of people will be remembering it's ten years since the Good Friday Peace Agreement in Northern Ireland. And of course, for Christians Good Friday is supposed to be about peace agreements you might say, that's why it means what it does to Christians. The stories Christians tell is about how the death of Jesus brought about peace between God and us – because it shows we don't have to be frightened of a god who can forgive the very worst we can do to him and to each other. And so it makes possible a new level of peace between human beings too. And that's Something that took a good while for people in Northern Ireland who thought they were Christians to discover – but they did at last.
It's one way in which the original Good Friday story has actually come alive in our own time. When I think about what happened on the first Good Friday, I think about events that have brought it to life for me and others in my lifetime. Not only in Northern Ireland, but other places too.
A few years back, I visited a country just as it was coming out of a bad period of civil war. And what had given a real impetus to the peace movement there was a recent and shocking event. A group of local missionary monks had gone out to negotiate for the release of prisoners, and they'd been killed in cold blood by one of the local warlords. And somehow this had shocked the whole community into realising the need for change, and peace suddenly looked possible. I met people there who'd been involved – I met one of the warlords - and the events were fresh in everyone's minds there.
They'd just brought home that real peace happens when people let go and take real risks – in personal relationships just as much as in relations between tribes or countries. On the first Good Friday, Jesus put his life on the line for us to be able to see that we could be at peace with God and so we could let go of our fear of other people as well. It's the ultimate Peace Agreement; it's worth remembering.
~Jonathan Edwards, 1703-1758
22 March 2008
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Let them now receive their due!
let them receive their reward.
let them with gratitude join in the feast!
let them not doubt; for they shall lose nothing.
let them not hesitate; but let them come too.
let them not be afraid by reason of their delay.
even as to those who toiled from the beginning.
The Lord accepts the offering of every work.
rejoice, this day, for the table is bountifully spread!
Let no one go away hungry.
Enjoy the riches of the Lord’s goodness!
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
for the death of our Savior has set us free.
“You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering him below.”
Hell is in turmoil because it is mocked.
Hell is in turmoil, for it is destroyed.
Hell is in turmoil, for it is annihilated.
Hell is in turmoil, for it is now made captive.
Hell grasped a corpse, and discovered God.
Hell seized earth, and encountered heaven.
Hell took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life is set free!
Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead.
of those who have fallen asleep.
O Lord God, our Father. You are the light that can never be put out;
and now you give us a light that will drive away all darkness.
You are love without coldness, and you have loved us
and made us such that we are now free to love you and one another.
You are the life that defies death,
and you have opened for us the way that leads to eternal life.
In Jesus Christ, your Son, our brother, you have done all this.
Do not permit us, do not permit any among us,
to remain callous and indifferent to your gift to us.…
Let at least a little of the richness of your goodness be realized in us,
enter into our hearts and consciences, illumine, elevate, comfort, and exhort us!…
Let the light of our risen Lord reach every corner of our dull hearts. Amen.
victim of death, and our death’s mighty conqueror.
What can we say to you, knowing our poverty,
you, who have freed us from sin and from slavery?
you, in your innocence, take on our punishment;
grant that our spirits may share in your suffering,
may our compassion respond to your pardoning.
as we endure now the night of our heaviness,
until the morning restores to us joyfulness;
Christ, newly risen, brings gladness for tearfulness.
that we may share in your heavenly victory;
through these sad days living humbly and patiently,
may we at Eastertide see you smile graciously.
Spirit of Truth, direct our attention to the life of Jesus so that we might see what you would have us be. Make us, like him, teachers of your good law. Make us, like him, performers of miraculous cures. Make us, like him, proclaimers of your kingdom. Make us, like him, loving of the poor, the outcast, children. Make us, like him, silent when the world tempts us to respond in the world’s terms. Make us, like him, ready to suffer. We know we cannot be like Jesus except as Jesus was unlike us, being your Son. Make us cherish that unlikeness, that we may grow into the likeness made possible by Jesus’ resurrection. Amen.
It is this great absence
that is like a presence, that compels
me to address it without hope
of a reply. It is a room I enter
from which someone has just
gone, the vestibule for the arrival
of one who has not yet come.
I modernise the anachronism
of my language, but he is no more here
than before. Genes and molecules
have no more power to call
him up than the incense of the Hebrews
at their altars. My equations fail
as my words do. What resources have I
other than the emptiness without him of my whole
being, a vacuum he may not abhor?
hat-tip to the "Connections" Blog
19 March 2008
Read Diana Butler Bass's entire article HERE.
The current media flap over the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's former pastor, strikes me as nothing short of strange. Anyone who attends church on a regular basis knows how frequently congregants disagree with their ministers. To sit in a pew is not necessarily assent to a message preached on a particular day. Being a church member is not some sort of mindless cult, where individuals believe every word preached. Rather, being a church member means being part of a community of faith—a gathered people, always diverse and sometimes at odds, who constitute Christ's body in the world.
But the attack on Rev. Wright reveals something beyond ignorance of basic dynamics of Christian community. It demonstrates the level of misunderstanding that still divides white and black Christians in the United States. Many white people find the traditions of African-American preaching offensive, especially when it comes to politics.
I know because I am one of those white people. My first sustained encounter with African-American preaching came in graduate school about twenty years ago. I had been assigned as a teaching assistant to a course in Black Church Studies. The placement surprised me, since I had no background in the subject. But the professor assured me that "anyone with experience teaching American religion" would be able to handle the load.
The subject matter was not, as the professor indicated, difficult. The emotional content, however, was. To prepare, I had to read literally thousands of pages of black preaching and theology covering the entire scope of American history. While the particulars of preaching changed through time, one thing did not. Throughout the entire corpus, black Christian leaders leveled a devastating critique against their white brothers and sisters—accusing white Christians of maintaining "ease in Zion" while allowing black people to suffer injustice and oppression.
Typical of the form used by black preachers is Frederick Douglass' address, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" first delivered on July 5, 1852. The address, a political sermon, forcefully attacks white culture. "Fellow-citizens," Douglass proclaims, "above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wails of millions! Whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them." He goes on to calls American conduct "hideous and revolting" and accuses white Christians of trampling upon and disregarding both the constitution and the Bible. He concluded his sermon with the words, "For revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival."
This was very hard to take. I confess: nearly everything I read that semester pained and angered me. But four months of listening to voices that I wanted to reject made me different. I began to hear the power of the critique. I came to appreciate the prophetic nature of black preaching. I recognized that these voices emerged from a very distinct historical experience. And I admired the narrative interplay between the Bible and social justice. Over time, they taught me to hear the Gospel from an angular perspective—the angle of slaves, freed blacks, of those who feared lynching, of those who longed for Africa, those who could not attend good schools. From them, I learned that liberation through Jesus was a powerful thing. And that white Americans really did need to repent when it came to race.Read Diana Butler Bass's entire article HERE.
17 March 2008
Since when did becoming an Episcopal Priest mean that we all need to have several advanced degrees in Episcopal Church Canon Law!?
Holy Crap Batman!
Just stick some vinegar in my mouth, cuz it tastes better than the present dialogue in my beloved church!
First, I am reading the Passion Gospel readings from all four canonical gospels, good to start there, (even if some people think we Episcopalians don't care about Holy Scripture ... come on, we love the Bible!!).
I am re-reading parts of Rowan Williams' Christ on Trial: How the Gospel Unsettles our Judgement which I have read several times (and wrote about in my master's thesis) and plan to re-read parts of his Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel, but only as early as Saturday.
In addition, I plan to watch three movies this week, first, I am going to watch Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," which I have never actually seen in totality but am going to hunker down and watch it. Many of my students here at St. Catherine's have mentioned it, as well as students at Episcopal Academy where I used to teach. I guess I need to see the actual thing, and someone gave me a copy of the movie, so I don't even need to use up a Netflix rental for it. Secondly, I will watch "The Last Temptation of Christ," which I have seen several times and was reminded of David Bowie playing Pilate by a friend on Facebook ... that is a thought-provoking film, and well-worth some time.
Thirdly, I am going to watch "Monty Python's Life of Brian," which is a nearly-annual ritual for me, alongside the wonderful liturgies of Holy Week. Monty Python does it all very well.
I am reflecting upon those who do take up the cross in their lives in small and large ways to serve others, to speak the truth, and some of whom "lay down their lives for their friends." Figures such as Romero, Bonhoeffer, Gandhi, MLK Jr, and others come to mind. Also, I am particularly aware of those in Tibet right now who are speaking out and protesting, and who may face imprisonment, torture and death for these actions.
I pray for the people of Tibet, and for all those who are caught up in the repression of Tibet!
What about you, how are you experiencing Holy Week? Any plans?
(hat tip to Scott at "Seven Whole Days"...)
It being Holy Week and all, I am reflecting a bit on what it might mean to "take up your cross and follow me," - this is often said, and perhaps easily explained superficially, but for many of us in the United States, and many of us in The Episcopal Church, we are not so ready to take up the challenges of discipleship. We yearn for wealth, for comfort, for privilege but may not often recognize the importance of discipleship.... of getting in touch with poverty, with discomfort, and the underprivileged -- and also getting close to our own inner poverty, discomfort and lack of privilege.
~The Rev. Peter M. Carey
From Will Willimon:
On Monday, March 31, come hear Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, speak at Highlands United Methodist Church, Birmingham at 7 p.m.
There may be sound arguments in favor of the Death Penalty. Unfortunately for us Christians, none of these arguments can be made on biblical or Christian theological grounds. The Social Principles of the United Methodist Church oppose capital punishment. That provision states as follows:
The Death Penalty
We believe the death penalty denies the power of Christ to
redeem, restore and transform all human beings. The United Methodist Church
is deeply concerned about crime throughout the world and the value of any
life taken by a murder or homicide. We believe all human life is sacred and
created by God and therefore, we must see all human life as significant and
valuable. When governments implement the death penalty (capital
punishment), then the life of the convicted person is devalued and all
possibility of change in that person’s life ends. We believe in the
resurrection of Jesus Christ and that the possibility of
reconciliation with Christ comes through repentance. This gift of
reconciliation is offered to all individuals without exception and gives
all life new dignity and sacredness. For this reason, we oppose the death
penalty (capital punishment) and urge its elimination from all criminal
- From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church--2004.
Based on statistics from the Bureau of Justice, Alabama leads the nation in the rate of new death sentences for the past five years. With a population of 4.5 million people, Alabama imposed 13 new death sentences, greater than the 11 imposed in Texas with a population of 23.5 million.
Senator Hank Sanders from Selma has regularly introduced a bill in the Alabama Legislature for a number of years seeking to declare a moratorium on the death penalty. It has had no success thus far. It has been introduced again this year.
United Methodist, Bill Clark (member of Highlands UMC) has recently presented a resolution to the Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyers Association which calls for a joint resolution of the Governor and the Legislature to direct a study of the death penalty process with a moratorium being declared during that study.
I invite you to join us on March 31 in thinking about and praying for the issue of the Death Penalty in Alabama.
16 March 2008
Pete Seeger sang this song back in 1968 - do we need to sing it again?
15 March 2008
This Irish prayer is attributed to Saint Patrick and often referred to as the "breastplate" of St. Patrick--words that shield.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.
I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's hand to guard me.
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.
Christ shield me today
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in me.
I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of Creation.
14 March 2008
A good friday (though next week is "Good Friday") to hear some George Harrison, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." I love Youtube!
13 March 2008
Give to your Church, O God,
a bold vision and a daring charity,
a refreshed wisdom and a courteous understanding,
that the eternal message of your Son
may be acclaimed as the good news of the age;
through him who makes all things new,
even Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen
12 March 2008
Once again, the folks over at the "Inward/Outward" Blog (the Church of the Saviour of Washington, DC) have offered up a quote that has struck me in a profound way. As we move toward Holy Week, the "downward pull" of Jesus' compassion is clearly an important way to reflect upon the journey of next week. Check out Henri Nouwen's quote below, and do check out "Inward/Outward" Blog, they have wonderful postings, quotes, and reflections -- and they have an amazing church as well!
By Henri Nouwen, et al
Jesus’ compassion is characterized by a downward pull. That is what disturbs us. We cannot even think about ourselves in terms other than those of an upward pull, an upward mobility in which we strive for better lives, higher salaries, and more prestigious positions. Thus, we are deeply disturbed by a God who embodies a downward movement. Instead of striving for a higher position, more power, and more influence, Jesus moves, as Karl Barth says, from “the heights to the depth, from victory to defeat, from riches to poverty, from triumph to suffering, from life to death.”
Jesus’ whole life and mission involve accepting powerlessness and revealing in this powerlessness the limitlessness of God’s love. Here we see what compassion means. It is not a bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not a reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull. On the contrary, compassion means going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there. God’s compassion is total, absolute, unconditional, without reservation. It is the compassion of the one who keeps going to the most forgotten corners of the world, and who cannot rest as long as he knows that there are still human beings with tears in their eyes. It is the compassion of a God who does not merely act as a servant, but whose servanthood is a direct expression of his divinity.
Who would Jesus Invite?
From Dave Walker's Cartoon at the Church Times Blog
What is next, Scarlet Letters and Stocks?
My students shared some great music with me while I was teaching a class on Music and Social Justice over the last two weeks. I plan to share some of these songs as we approach Holy Week and then Easter. One of the great songs was this one by U2, "Sometimes you can't make it on your own." It's really pretty good. There is a lot of atonement theology alluded to in the song (which I will reflect upon, soon). And a deep sense that we are NOT alone, and that we don't have to feel like we have to do IT all on our own. This sentiment reminds me a bit of Desmond Tutu's Ubuntu theology of "I am because you are" which means that individuals are constituted relationally, and that individuals need other people to be fulfilled. I have been reminded of this truth at many times in my life, with family, with friends, on sports teams, in workplaces, and in seminary at Virginia Theological Seminary. I am because you are, and when I begin to think that "I can make it on my own," is when I cut myself off from others, and can even feel like I've cut myself off from God's grace. Is there any lesson here for us in the church? Is there an implied ecclesiology within this theory of ubuntu? Who is claiming that they can "make it on their own"? Hmmmm...perhaps Bono has something to teach us that does not solely relate to the MDGs (Millenium Development Goals)?
Some gems from the lyrics:
"let me take some of the punches for you, tonight"
"you don't have to go it alone"
"sometimes you can't make it on your own"
Check it out below in the Youtube posting of it,