the quest for security is the way to war :: peace and wholeness

There is no path to peace by way of security; behind the quest for security there lies the same distrust and defensiveness which is the root cause of war.
Bonhoeffer – 1934

When it becomes controlling, the desire to rest in safety and avoid risks entails violence, even when it comes under the guise of peaceable language. At bottom, it is the desire to be free from others’ impingement upon me – free from their demands, free from their interference, free from their coercion. My longing to spend time in my own backyard and have a nice garden is honorable – right up until it becomes a way to escape my neighbor’s need. Privacy won by exclusion is violence, albeit a more subtle form.

Real peace does not exist apart from real freedom – and real freedom is hard won indeed. But real freedom is not won by weaponry, nor is real peace the absence of threats and interference. Biblical peace is synonymous with wholeness; the freedom that this peace brings is not mere independence. Freedom means the ability to serve and love others; it happens in the midst of relationships, in the midst of vulnerabilities, in the midst of one’s friends and enemies. The idea of freedom as the absence of obligations, demands, and interferences is a lonely path. The trajectory of perfecting that kind of freedom points in the direction of absolute solitude – and hell is the only place where creatures can get as far away from other beings as they might like.
Continue reading “the quest for security is the way to war :: peace and wholeness”

room for humans :: the words of God

Reading Telford Work’s book Living and Active, I’m recognizing the amount of breathing room available within the biblical tradition. We often speak as if there were only one way to be “biblical” people. We imagine that there is one cookie cutter mold for how to be faithful (and not surprisingly, that cookie cutter looks an awful lot like our own silhouette). But even within the Bible there are traditions at tremendous tension with one another, and in the world that Scripture describes, there is room for many different sorts:

Wisdom literature portrays a world where the righteous prosper and the wicked suffer. The wise are blessed and saved, the wicked judged and condemned. God’s mercy is then a kind of converse of God’s justice. The apocalyptic vision turns this conception of salvation on its head. In a world where the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer, one is not saved from God’s eschotological judgemnt. Rather, one is saved from injustice and wrath, through God’s eschatological judgment. God’s justice is itself a dimension of God’s mercy. (159)

There is a breadth to truth that acknowledges the validity of many perspectives. What a relief that God speaks through many voices. The “American Dream” wisdom of Proverbs (work your tail off and you’ll do alright) stands side by side with Daniel’s very different version of wisdom. Daniel reminds us that beastly and inhuman empires have their way on the earth only for a time, but that in the end, God’s power and God’s judgment are ultimate. As Ghandi says – every oppressor dies someday. Continue reading “room for humans :: the words of God”

zimbabwe :: worse and worse

I have a soft spot in my heart for the southern African nation being mismanaged into shambles by an octogenarian autocrat who has been in power for far too long. In the 1980’s Robert Mugabe helped to lead the people of “Rhodesia” to Western-style self-rule, distancing the country from the legacy of diamond-guru Cecil John Rhodes and the lingering imperial presence of the British. He has been in office ever since.

The soft spot in my heart has begun to tear in the last few weeks as almost daily I read some new bit of news on the BBC about the state of the country. Here are a few links:

— The country with the world’s highest rate of inflation (previously 2,200% per year), now has a rate of 3,791%. I’ll give you an idea of what that means. Average inflation in the States hangs around 4%. That means that the milk you buy this year for $2.50 will cost $2.60 next year. If you were to buy a half-gallon of milk in Zimbabwe today for $2.50 (keep in mind that inflation has been running at rates in the thousands for years now), a year from now, that milk would cost you just shy of $95 dollars. Your employer can’t afford to give you a 3,000% percent raise annually, so you are trying to buy this milk on the same salary you’ve had for as long as you’ve been lucky enough to have a job. Money isn’t even worth carrying as toilet paper in Zimbabwe. Thousand dollar bills are literally worth less than the shiny bit of aluminum wrapped around your chewing gum. Continue reading “zimbabwe :: worse and worse”

the pope and the populace :: liberation in South America

Of some relevance to the continuing conversation about theology and justice are the following: James K. Smith reacts to a NY Times article

I should probably offer my two cents…(hopefully it’s worth that)…

1. I’m by and large ignorant of the history of the relationship between Benedict (Ratzinger) and the liberation theologians of S. America – I know the basic outline, and not much more. So I’m hesitant to say much.

2. I’ll defend the prerogative of the church to discipline theologians whose teachings contradict the church’s gospel. Theologians are the servants of the church, not its masters.

3. I’ll adamantly insist that by and large, the global church has made invisible its one-ness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity insofar as it has been unconcerned (at least in practice) with the plight of the poorest and most marginalized of our brothers and sisters. As Bonhoeffer says, “this invisibility is killing us!” Continue reading “the pope and the populace :: liberation in South America”

manifold-option quiz :: political theology

Here’s a question that I’m working through right now. I’m looking for some help from outside my own head. What is your gut reaction to the question below? If you don’t feel qualified to answer the question then you are exactly the person I’m looking for – give it your best shot. I don’t feel qualified to ask it – so if you don’t like the options provided, feel free to invent your own, combine mine, or do something else altogether. Continue reading “manifold-option quiz :: political theology”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer :: violence and responsibility

I wanted to make the paper [Bonhoeffer and Violence] I’ve written most recently for a seminar on Bonhoeffer available. (If Bonhoeffer is a new name to you, let my friends introduce him). The paper tackles a major question that cuts across both Bonhoeffer’s biography and his theology:

What is a fellow who can say the following sentence doing involved in an assassination conspiracy? “There is no thinkable deed in which evil is so large and strong that it would require a different [i.e. a violent] response from a Christian.” This question looms large in many ways, especially as both Bonhoeffer and questions of violence have appeared in the conversation with Casey lately.

I’m sure that you’ll see more Bonhoeffer here soon, he and I are spending a lot of time together these days as I write my thesis on his moral epistemology (i.e. the answer to the question, “How do we know what to do?”).

theology and power :: what’s the use?

Here’s an excerpt of a conversation that I thought others might want in on – feel free to add your two bits, eh?:

I’m going to throw a few words back; you said:

    “I’m really trying to figure things out – especially the power of nations against nations…especially “doing” theology while comfortably existing in a nation – I mean really – how does this work. Maybe they are right – in order for our ‘lil theology centers to keep tick’n out happy theology that “cares for the poor” we better keep piling money into our military piggy bank…because ALL nations will do this, so we better be the best at it.”

If theology is a detached “merely academic” enterprise, then you are right; theologians are the worst of the bourgeoisie – lazy, overfed men (and women) peddling metaphysical delicacies to those with the capital to buy a few years of listening leisure. Continue reading “theology and power :: what’s the use?”

God’s work in Zimbabwe

Many of you will already have seen this, but what follows is a letter I’ve written to friends and family on behalf of a friend of mine who works as a pastor in Zimbabwe. Feel free to get in touch if you are interested.

Dear friends and family,

Greetings, I hope that Spring is progressing nicely wherever you find yourself this year. Here in Vancouver the cherry blossoms have just come out on the trees. I think that it’s my favorite time of year. At the moment, my only time to appreciate the cherry blossoms comes as I make my way back and forth from school. Carolyn and I are finishing up our last full semester at Regent College in Vancouver. We’ll still have a few credits lingering after this spring, but for the most part we’ll be finished; these two years have gone too fast.

My primary reason for writing is to let you know that I’m sending asupport check to Noah in Zimbabwe within the month. I’ve distilled and summarized the latest news that I’ve gotten from Noah below. He always passes on many thanks for the support that we send him. He remains tremendously busy these days and the state of his country
makes it increasingly difficult for anyone to maintain a stable existence. Noah’s commitment to serve the people around him is commendable, read a bit further to hear more about what he’s up to these days. In addition to his, I want to pass along my own gratitude; the consistent support we’ve sent over the last three years has made Noah’s family and his church an island of coherence and sanity in a whole sea of unrest. Continue reading “God’s work in Zimbabwe”

our (?) bodies :: corporate and personal

Who has responsibility for your body? Whose bodies do you have responsibility for? I came across a news story with fascinating theological and political implications , happening right here in Vancouver.

The basic outline of the story: A Jehovah’s Witness couple has sextuplets. No surprise, the little fellows are a bit underweight, and in need of some medical attention. The Witnesses’ beliefs forbid them from taking blood transfusions. Doctors believe that this is just what the young ones need. Witnesses refuse. Social services takes custody of three of the babies in order to give transfusions against the parents’ will.

Now, we can all agree that it is a good thing for babies to live – no one in the situation wants the babies to die. The Witnesses believe that their faithfulness (in refusing the transfusions) outweighs the risk of (disobediently) intervening to save the lives of the children. If the god in whom they believe desires these children to live, he will grant them life apart from transfusions. But beyond that initial agreement, the situation quickly becomes very sticky.

Do we (as the collective gathered to govern the society in which we live) really want to presume the authority to intervene in issues of religious doctrine? Is that intervention possible to avoid? The government of British Colombia wouldn’t come within shouting distance of most “religious” issues. But where is the dividing line? Continue reading “our (?) bodies :: corporate and personal”