A new anti-weapons lobby group called “Only Governments Should Have Weapons” issued a statement concerning the car attack on the Capitol on Thursday – “once again we are faced with the attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction against innocent people. We call on all leaders and law enforcement officials to work to enact licensing of these dangerous weapons before more people are killed. Furthermore, we want to see owners of these lethal weapons licensed as well including background checks along with the obligation of having liability insurance. These innocent looking vehicles are actually a steel & gasoline disaster waiting to happen and a threat to civil peace when hurtling along at 60 plus mph by deranged drivers. It is the height of irresponsibility that the manufacturers of these dangerous weapons continue to profit at the public’s expense. How long must these incidents happen and the toll in loss of life go on before action is taken?”
When the spokeswoman was informed that these measures had already been taken the organization had no comment except to repeat the statement with a louder volume and more shrill voice.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have leaders that practiced it instead of passing it!
In the event that the U.S. government is monitoring your conversations, here are some useful phrases to insert into your phone calls, texts, or e-mails:
-I think the N.S.A. is awesome.
-I just reread “Nineteen Eighty-Four”—it actually has a lot of good ideas in it!
-There’s no such thing as a “bad” drone.
-Sure am glad that I never talk to any foreigners.
-I wouldn’t know the first thing about making ricin.
-The Fourth Amendment is overrated.
-If you ask me, Guantánamo is full of nothing but complainers.
-Just changed my Facebook status from “Single” to “In a Relationship with America.”
-I’m pretty sure my neighbor is cheating on his taxes.
(The Borowitz Report )
The hue & cry about the “war on Christmas” is in the news. However, Christmas was not always as popular as some believe. Under the influence of Puritan preaching and clout it was banned by the English Parliament in 1647. It was “banned in Boston” due to the same influence in its Colonial Congregational version until 1856. So while currently the villains are supposedly a nefarious cabal of multiculturalists even Christians have had “bah humbug” moments! The grievances that are listed because the U.S. is no longer a country with a monolithic unofficial civic religion don’t really add up to a significant attack upon the Christian faith. Consider the following:
On a scale of 0 to 100 how important is the public display of a tree (whether called Holiday or Christmas) to the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ? Zero
On a scale of 0 to 100 how important is being greeted with “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays” at the local store to the discipling of every nation? Zippo
On a scale of 0 to 100 how important is the production of special programs (whether called Christmas or Holiday) to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the people of God? Nada
The so-called “war on Christmas” may be good for talk show ratings and for fund raising for reactionary political agendas but is “much ado about nothing” as far as God’s work in the nations. The Son of God never said his disciples would be known by their public nativity scenes or decorating a pine tree. He said they would be known by their love, demonstrated in concrete actions that will benefit others. Love is different from compiling a list of grievances because one’s own cherished traditions no longer exclusively dominate popular culture. The Gospel – the glad tidings of great joy – is more than equal share of religious advertising space. If as much energy & fervor was expended in defending the gospel by the simple preaching, teaching, worship and service of the gathered church as is wasted in enlisting evangelical market share for a war about nothing, the purpose of Christ’s incarnation might be clearer to a world in spiritual darkness.
There – my Scrooge moment is over.
Election Day is near at hand. We have endured the debates, the mud-slinging, the distortion and demonization of positions and opponents and the warnings of apocalyptic terror to come after. Soon it will be time to make one’s choice. To choose leaders by voting is a cherished constitutional right. To choose in matters even less significant than an election is an un-questioned assumption of consumer culture (including Christian) & woe to the one who would dare interfere! Consider a few of the multitude of choices presented to us every day: regular, unleaded or ethanol, smoking or non-smoking, rare-medium or well-done, latte “venti” or “grande”, Mac or Windows, traditional worship or contemporary music, KJV, NIV, ESV or Message Bible? Yet for all our choices and all the drama of a national election there is a greater & more significant election that lasts far longer than 2 or 4 years. The Bible is full of examples of God making choices – of people, places, nations, of priests, kings, disciples and apostles. Yet to discuss God’s choices (or election) is considered by many strange, antiquated, divisive or dangerous. However, consider the following:
“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” Deut. 7:6-8
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” John 15:16
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Cor. 1:26-31
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” Eph 1:3-6
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10
Whatever theological stripe or brand you consider yourself, God’s loving, gracious election or choosing of a people for himself may not be ignored without disregarding his word. So also our own choices in response to what God has done present each of us with a choice:
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” Deut. 30:19-20
“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15
“Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” 2 Peter 1:10
The Presidential election theatrics are almost over. God’s work of election is eternal. Consumer choice is based on the whims and egotism of the self that change with the passing of fads and time. God’s election is rooted in his eternal love and grace and results in our thanks, praise and glorifying of his faithfulness. Whether Tuesday’s election results make you mad, sad or glad, God’s election is the eternal foundation of the confidence, hope and joy of those who trust in Jesus Christ.
I found these treats here. While I won’t vouch for quality nor the politics of the site ,there’s enough to please or offend anyone’s ideological palate!
“Osama bin Laden is dead. The news broke while I was in the largest Muslim country in the world, and while I was in an area that is 98+ % Muslim. After receiving this news, we proceeded with our plans to go to a restaurant for dinner. We did not fear for our lives.
I was not surprised that opinion varied among those interviewed on the local news in that country. Some viewed bin Laden as a victim, some as a criminal, some as a hero and some as an embarrassment. Most Muslims feel that bin Laden has besmirched the name of Islam, and is in fact, not even a true Muslim. What has interested me more are the range of comments that are coming from other places. I know that when speaking on a politicized event, one risks losing friends. However, I am of the view that it should in fact be with our friends that we are able to share our reflections on difficult issues, and so I proceed in that spirit.
My first observation is that among those who are calling this event a “murder” every single one of them, regardless of location or religion, lives in a country where their police carry guns, and periodically use them with lethal results. When a madman begins shooting schoolchildren, as happened right next door to my church some years ago, the question is never, “Should we let him keep on shooting children?” but rather is, “Where were the police? Why couldn’t they have gotten there faster?” Nor when such a maniac is killed as he is firing on children does anyone raise the word “revenge” or even “murder.” We are always grateful when a very troubled person is arrested before they can execute their plans for destruction. Bin Laden confessed to his crimes, was a repeat offender and was actively inciting and planning more acts of violence.
My second observation is that people often say that we live in a hopelessly corrupt world. Christians confess that humans are sinful. We therefore are often confronted with only bad options. Violence is one of them. However, I personally would prefer that the American government (or the English, or Mexican, or German, or French or Australian—simply insert your favorite “culprit” government) be choosing who will live and who will die rather than Osama bin Laden. It is not the exercise of power that is wrong, rather it is the unjust exercise of power. I want to go on record as being full of gratitude to all of those who have given themselves to protect those who are unable to protect themselves: police, firefighters, the military and others who go unnamed.
But is the world “hopelessly” corrupt? I do not believe so. We have in the Christian world just celebrated the greatest victory over corruption, tyranny, unjustness and indeed DEATH that history has ever witnessed: the Resurrection of Jesus the Messiah! So while criminal activity cannot be tolerated, this is not the ultimate battle. Terrorism is a set of ideas. We are ultimately and over the long term in a struggle of ideas and God has revealed the Truth!!! For all of us who regret the death of anyone, and for all of us who want justice for all, recent events should be a searing reminder of the urgency of the task of calling all to be disciples of Jesus, the Risen One.
I am often asked, “Who will win this struggle?” I know who will over the long term, as I do read the Bible. But in the short term, I fear it will go to those who are most committed. Will that be us? What will be the response of those who follow Jesus?
I am recommitting myself to pray for my enemies. I am also strengthening my commitment to love my others in a way that will reach their hearts with the love of God in Jesus Christ. As you pray for me, I invite you to join me in these commitments.
Yours in the name of the Living One,
It is rare to find a book that grabs my heart, mind and soul. I usually read non-fiction with occasional brief forays into fiction. Most I find mediocre – predictable plots, paper thin characters with sit-com dialogue. Many I do not find worth purchasing – a reason to be thankful for the local library! Michael D. O’Brien’s “Island of the World” is a wonderful exception. Over 800 pages chronicle the life of Josip Lasta a Croatian mathematician, poet, political prisoner and refugee in the years before, during and after WWII and the Yugoslav Communist era. It is unusual to read a novel where the character actually wrestles with serious moral struggles and choices or describes with vividness the experience of grace or the forgiveness of one’s enemies but the author does it without being simplistic or preachy. O’Brien is a writer and painter who has also written novels such as “Father Elijah” and the “Children of the Last Days” series. His faith as a Roman Catholic is clearly evident in all his work and while his Christian faith is foundational it is not obnoxious nor propagandist as so often religious writing can be with simple black / white moral dilemmas or 2 dimensional characters popular at CBD.
In the late 70’s writer and teacher John Gardner caused quite a stir in academia when he published “On Moral Fiction”, 2 essays which attacked head on the cynicism and nihilism of modern art as promoted in the studio and academy: “True art is by its nature moral. We recognize true art by its careful, thoroughly honest search for and analysis of values… True art, by specific technical means now commonly forgotten, clarifies life, establishes models of human action, cast nets toward the future, carefully judges our right and wrong directions, celebrates and mourns. It does not rant. It does not sneer or giggle in the face of death, it invents prayers and weapons. It designs visions worth trying to make fact.”
With the likes of Lady Gaga today, such ideas may seem quaint but O’Brien’s writing is an example of what moral fiction might look like. While that idea alone may be enough to turn off many a reader the term does not mean comic book quality or bumper sticker sloganeering. Joseph endures much hardship, loss and grief but God’s providential care and surprises are on display throughout his journey from a small Croatian mountain town, to university, to a death camp, to the U.S. and then full-circle to his homeland. Along the way he comes to term with his faith, his loss, his sinful nature, and his enemies.
It is not a perfect book – some of the chapters and scenes are too drawn out, others too brief. The biggest shortcoming and one sour note of the novel is the exclusive focus by the end of the book on Catholic Croat suffering in the period and the neglect of other victims of atrocities at the same time – since Josip is portrayed as a reconciler it would have carried more weight for the writer to have mentioned or to have described if only briefly the role of the Catholic hierarchy and Franciscan monks such as Miroslav Filipovic that were also involved in genocide during WWII. Reconciliation also involves repentance and it would have been far more effective and realistic to see Josip come to terms with this history as well and treat “the other” of Serbian orthodoxy with a human face and an olive branch.
Despite this, “The Island of the World” is still outstanding. It is unusual fiction that describes how one man reconciles his personal history without succumbing to despair or revenge and how God’s reconciling grace in Christ causes us to come full circle and regain what has been lost.
“Many analysts described the November 2010 midterm elections as a sea change, with Republicans taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives and narrowing the Democratic majority in the Senate. But this political overhaul appears to have had little effect on the religious composition of Congress, which is similar to the religious makeup of the previous Congress and of the nation, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.
The 112th Congress, like the U.S. public, is majority Protestant and about a quarter Catholic. Baptists and Methodists are the largest Protestant denominations in the new Congress, just as they are in the country as a whole.
A few of the country’s smaller religious groups, including Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Jews, have greater numerical representation in Congress than in the general population. Some others, including Buddhists and Muslims, are represented in Congress in roughly equal proportion to their numbers in the adult U.S. population. And some small religious groups, such as Hindus and Jehovah’s Witnesses, are not represented at all in Congress.
Perhaps the greatest disparity between the religious makeup of Congress and the people it represents, however, is in the percentage of the unaffiliated – those who describe their religion as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular.”
Baptists remain the largest segment of Protestants. You can read the whole report here