The last post on this theme circuitously raised a thorny question about Scripture and God’s speech. Achan and his kin are put to death, seemingly at God’s command, and the execution seems to placate God’s anger. The blood of the offending man and his family satisfies God’s demand for retribution after his command was broken. This post and the next set out most of the escape routes that I can think of—and offer reasons why they create more problems than they avoid.
Anyone who wants to take the text seriously is faced with the problem: God speaks to Joshua to command the execution of Achan and his family. The last post questioned whether Achan was the sole culprit in all Israel (and thus the justice of his execution); but even if he was, the execution of his family seems barbaric. Does God command murder?
Modus operandi for most of us is to simply ignore these jarring and violent texts and focus on more straightforwardly edifying passages. On the whole, I am not sure that this is a bad thing; it is less than wise to quote Joshua 7 in an attempt to build up the church’s faith. But the existence of these texts subverts my desire to speak of the whole bible as the word of God—it makes me uncomfortable. Whether we ignore these texts or not, the picture of God that they present lurks in the dark cellar of faith—and we worry that he may come up into the light. For many, the problem remains whether or not it is faced explicitly.
Continue reading “achan’s stones :: [part two]”
The New York Times had an op-ed piece by philosopher Slavoj Zizek on religion in China.
Perhaps we find China’s reincarnation laws so outrageous not because they are alien to our sensibility, but because they spill the secret of what we have done for so long: respectfully tolerating what we don’t take quite seriously, and trying to contain its political consequences through the law.
Dan is carrying out a terrifying thought experiment about Christian terrorism on behalf of the marginalized. He suggests that if violence is even permissable (much less obligatory)–a typical “just war” claim–then Christians would be obligated to take up arms against governments and multi-national corporations on a wide-spread basis. I, for one, am thankful that Dan is still committed to nonviolence.
One hundred thirty eight Muslim leaders have sent a letter to the foremost Christian leaders of the world urging peace and reconciliation between the two faiths. Below is a summary of the letter, the longer version can be found here, or at the organization’s website.
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
A Common Word between Us and You
(Summary and Abridgement)
Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.
The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity. The following are only a few examples:
Continue reading “a common word :: muslims, christians, and two commands of love”
The serpent’s first question to Eve is an attempt to get under her skin, fomenting second thoughts about God’s gift and command. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The serpent calls the content of God’s speech into question by twisting the command and putting a harsher edict in its place. Eve is sharp enough to set that twisted serpent straight–for the most part. “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say…”
The story is centered on controversy among God’s creatures as to what God actually said, and what was meant when he said it. The snake and the human bring different versions of God’s command–and different gods. The god of the serpent is a restrictive fellow who hoards all the garden’s fruit to himself (even though there is plenty to go around) and threatens transgressors with death (even though he doesn’t really mean it). Adam and Eve have another God’s breath in their veins; they know his generosity and his character, but in their naivete they act on the serpent’s sermon and fall into the serpent’s world. Adam and Eve claim the fruit for themselves, and awake to find themselves shamefully bent. This story is our story.
This post, however, is not about Adam and Eve per se. I want to look at a few other Old Testament representations of God’s speech, and eventually raise a few questions about the nature of revelation, inspiration, and our relationship to scripture.
Continue reading “did god really say? :: from adam’s apple to achan’s stones [part one]”
I came across an abolutely stunning interview today with an official in the Zimbabwean government. The interview was conducted at the end of July, I’m posting it here not because it’s new, but because any embarrasment for the tyrannical government in Zimbabwe is one step closer to its removal. By God’s mercy, may the next leaders of Zimbabwe be wiser than these.
In the course of this interview, the official actually compares the starvation rampant in Zimbabwe (and attributable to government violence and mismanagement), to Ghandi’s political fasts. He actually says that the government officials are eating well (because of all the important things they have to do) and imposing a fast on the nation for the people’s health. Continue reading ““we have no objection in principle to people eating” :: starving is good for you… [but not us]”
Here is a list of ten places you will not see on the cover of any travel magazine for the next few…hundred years. For the second year running, the Blacksmith Institute has released a list of the most polluted places on the planet. Needless to say, there was an unfortunate amount of competition for the honor.
What is remarkable (but not necessarily surprising) is the concentration of sites on the map. North America (North of Mexico), Western Europe (West of Belarus), and Australia are scot free. None of the top ten, not even the top thirty most polluted sites are to be found in our backyards. What does this mean? Should we “developed folk” congratulate ourselves on the success of our environmental regulations and efforts at conservation? We’ve realized our errors and are cleaning up our messes. We are taking good care of the planet. Being stewards of what we’re given. Those backwards folks in the third world have yet to get on the ecological bandwagon.
I would not be too hasty with the laud. It rests on an answer (“Not In My Back Yard!”) too facile to function for long. Continue reading “ecology and consumption :: the “nimby” effect”
Pius Ncube, archbishop of Zimbabwe and one of few outspoken advocates on behalf of the Zimbabwean people against their tyrannical mismanagement, has resigned. The reality underlying his reasons is unclear. The minimum information inferrable would seem to imply both that Ncube was involved in some form of sexual misconduct, and that the government was more than passively involved in the matter. At the end of the day, the unfortunate result is that one of the voices most able to counter the lies and trickery coming out of Harare will now have to do so from a much smaller platform.
I wanted to post the contents of a conversation in progress at a friend’s site. Dan is a fellow Regent student whose thinking is perpetually helpful and provocative. This conversation touches on a few posts that have appeared here previously. Continue reading “words elsewhere :: conversation on church and societal structures”
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”
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”
I hate to give it attention (even disdain is a form of advertisement), but I came across a product so mindless today that I’m having trouble imagining the person who would actually spend $15.50 on something so inane. After we tried an odor-less, color-less free sample, the friend I was with captured it in a single phrase: “For people with more money than brains.” In fact, I’m pretty sure that the only possible use for this product is to show other people just how much money you have to waste on something that you can get elsewhere for free.
So what is the offending product?
In a double lined, pressure treated, painted, labeled, aluminum aerosol can sitting in a prominent cardboard and plastic display (featuring a beautiful young woman who is obviously deriving meaning and purpose in life from her use of the product), is well… um… water. Continue reading “a new low for the species :: Evian Atomizer :: (re)made in whose image?”
The first things that get “forgetten” are the hardest things to do. To serve the poor, to look out for those in need, to give a voice to the voiceless. We do many good things. But when we abandon the poor, overlook those in need, and leave the marginalized in the silence of the periphery of our lives, we crack the foundation on which everything else stands.
“Extra pauperes nulla salvus,” says theologian Jon Sobrino, tweaking Augustine’s dictum, “extra ecclesium nulla salvus.”
“Without the poor [church], no one is saved.” Doing theology means hard thinking, it also means meeting widows and orphans, addicts and those abandoned as our brothers and sisters (not primarily as widows, orphans, addicts, and abandoned sorts). Theology that isn’t done in the overlap of Augustine’s “ecclesium” and Sobrino’s “pauperes” undermines its own content. “With human beings this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”