words for the week :: my distractions

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.

a common word :: muslims, christians, and two commands of love

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”

did god really say? :: from adam’s apple to achan’s stones [part one]

Forbidden Fruit 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]”

“we have no objection in principle to people eating” :: starving is good for you… [but not us]

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]”

zimbabwe’s archbishop speaks out

The following is the text of a BBC article on Zimababwe’s outspoken Roman Catholic archbishop. Ncube (pronounced “N-ts-oo-bay”) is standing against a unjust government in the name of the church and the people of the nation. I’ve mentioned him before.

Zimbabwe crisis ‘threatens lives’

Archbishop Ncube says Zimbabweans are desperate

Archbishop comments
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo Pius Ncube says the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe has reached “life-threatening proportions”.
He accused President Robert Mugabe’s government of not taking responsibility for the deepening crisis.

He says there is almost no fuel in the country, and every day, people are reduced to hunting for a loaf of bread.

The archbishop said it had reached a point where regional political intervention was now needed.

Talks between Zimbabwe’s ruling party and the opposition resumed in South Africa this week, with President Thabo Mbeki responsible for mediating.

‘Megalomaniac’

But Archbishop Ncube said he doubted that President Mugabe would step down as Zimbabwe’s leader, in return for an amnesty deal.

“Mugabe is a man who is a megalomaniac. He loves power, he lives for power. Even his own party are pleading with him – ‘Please stand down, you’ve done enough good’.

“According to Zanu-PF he’s done a lot of good, according to me, he’s done a lot of evil.”

Archbishop Ncube was speaking in Johannesburg as the Solidarity Peace Trust, a church-based non-governmental organisation, launched a new report on the crisis in Zimbabwe.

In its report, the Solidarity Peace Trust, says there has been increasing state repression against dissenting voices since March when many members of the opposition were arrested and beaten.

It also says the governing party in Zimbabwe, Zanu-PF, has lost much of its political legitimacy.

Mr Mugabe blames the worsening economic crisis on a Western plot to remove him from power.

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”

a new low for the species :: Evian Atomizer :: (re)made in whose image?

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?”

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”

creeds and criticism :: hellfire and history (part I)

“I reject any creed that would send the Dalai Lama to hell.” I watched an author of fiction (one I’m quite fond of) offer this phrase at a book release last year. As he spoke, the vast majority of receptive ears were attached to heads nodding in agreement and righteous indignation.

Inner monologue: “Who could possibly be so stupid as to send the Dalai Lama to hell? What group of people could possibly hold a set of beliefs that would send such a man to such a place? They must be ridiculous! The Apostles creed is bunk! We’d be better off if it were never repeated again!”

So… wouldn’t we as a species make it a few steps further along our evolutionary journey if we dropped the self-righteous possession of truth in pretty little formulas? Weren’t the creeds the attempt of the powerful majority in the early church to subjugate all dissenting opinions? Who in their right mind would want to follow such a legacy? Continue reading “creeds and criticism :: hellfire and history (part I)”

the new sex :: nature

Notice to all advertising executives previously unaware:

If you are looking for something to irrationally associate with your product in order to compel suckers to unload their wallets in your direction, try nature. You all have had tremendous success with the sex thing, and I think it will continue to work, but if (in a flash of conscience) you realise that provocatively posed perfect people pressed into terrifically tight attire actually has nothing to do with peanut butter, cellphones, internet car insurance (or whatever you are peddling) then try nature! Continue reading “the new sex :: nature”