Sunday, September 30, 2007

Poems of Home in the Northern Hills of Missouri

Something Familiar

There is a certain sound
from inside a car passing
close to the edge
of a timber
in the cooling evening
on a country road.
It is a sound filled with crickets
and cicadas
and the swish of leaves
as the car comes near on a curve.
It is the sound of all the hidden creatures,
the nesting birds, heads bending under their wings.
It is the beginning silent sounds
of signs in the sky,
the stars and the fireflies. It is the sound of a home, not far away, down
the road apiece.
There is a porch around the house
with lights in the window,
and ham frying on the stove
with a familiar sizzle.

This poem I wrote ten years ago after finding an old letter written by my Grandmother. I left her spelling intact.


An old letter found
written almost thirty years ago;
my grandparents to my parents
on the birth of my first child:
"So glad its over & a boy."

The news of the letter comes
clearing away three decades
of life, like so much underbrush-
"weve got our potatoes dug.
Had about- 13 bushell."

All the habits of Sacramento
recede into the rounded hills
of fertile memories and soils.
"The butter beans are gone till
they bloom again. We canned
19 pints & gave away a lot."

Once again I am shaped by
community- "Shure good Gertudes
came up Sadur & brought supper &
stayed all night." Surrounded by
the stays of those who care:
"Fays came over after supper."

Once again weather weaves reality
through windy storm. I
know again the mixture
of awe, the need for shelter, for others:
"A big cloud came up after we went
to bed- We got up & went to the cave.
Had quite a storm."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Biblical Women, Contemporary Christian Women: Finding Courage to Follow Christ: Part 3

Picture by Penny Juncker
I never finished my posts on Biblical Women, Contemporary Christian Women: Finding Courage to Follow Christ. I will add one women who I think is very important to the life of the Presbyterian Church USA at this point in time. She had the courage to stand against much of the idolatry that now plagues today's church.

If you can imagine riding a bike across part of Europe with your husband after World War II and studying under both Karl Barth and Gerhard von Rad, (at different universities) you can envision some of the life of Dr. Elizabeth Achtemeier.

Her last teaching position was as Visiting Professor of Bible and Homiletics at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia.What amazes me about the late Dr. Achtemeier is that in the face of so much opposition from radical feminists both within the Presbyterian Church USA and out side of it, she continued to uphold the Triune name of the Lord; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to defend the right's of unborn babies.

Her little book, Not Til I Have Done: A Personal Testimony is a wonderful witness of how the Lord uses Christian women in the contemporary church. It was her twenty-fifth book. Among other books she has also written, Nature God & Pulpit and Nahum-Malachi in the Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching Series.

This is a long quote by Dr. Achtemeier but worth the time:

"What sort of God do the radical feminists offer me to replace the Father who has guided me my whole life long? An amorphous something called a
PrimalMatrix, a Mother Goddess of earth, a Sophia myth, a He/She, a God/ess, an immanent spirit in nature and all persons. They tell me I too am divine with the spirit uniting all things, when I know that is nonsense. They say I have no sin except that of dependence on my Father, a teaching that I refuted with a hundred examples of my wrong. They declare that the cross of Christ was a bloody mistake, an example of the Father's child abuse, when I know very well that sacrifice was the supreme gift of the Father's love for me. They write that there is no eternal life but
only absorption back into the goddess, but I know that any deity who cannot defeat death is no deity at all. ... "(Not Til I Have Done)

I just noticed that Michael Kruse on his blog has featured the Exiled Preacher and his interview with The Kevin Vanhoozer Interview. So I will give Guy Davies a double workout today since while there I saw that he had on Monday posted a review of a favorite book of mine, God Crucified: Monotheism & Christology in the New Testament, by Richard Bauckham. Go to God Crucified by Richard Bauckham. Here is a sample.

In this gem of a book, Bauckham sketches out his proposal that New Testament Christology is best understood using the Hebrew concept of the divine identity rather than Greek notions of person, essence and nature. It is sometimes assumed that the sub-apostolic church developed a higher Christology than we find in the New Testament, because it is only from from Nicaea onwards that Christ was confessed as fully God - a divine person who was homoousion with the Father. Bauckham questions this assumption saying,

"I shall be arguing what will seem to anyone familiar with the study of New Testament Christology a surprising thesis: that the highest possible Christology, the inclusion of Jesus in the unique divine identity, was central to the faith of the early church even before any of the New testament writings were written, since it occurs in all of them." (p. 27).

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Listening and Waiting

My husband cupped his hand behind his ear and said: "Listen to what the Spirit says to the churches."

We were drinking coffee and talking about a class on the book of Revelation; the one he and his friend Bruce were preparing to teach. My husband said, "Think of how, in the thirties and forties, a child might listen in the night for the sound of the train's horn, hoping for the soon return of their daddy.

And then we were still, caught in memories of the past. He was listening for the sound of the train as it passed on the tracks at the edge of his childhood home on C street in Sacramento. I was far away in Northern Missouri, a young teenager once again.

My father had been gone for several months. Every night I listened for our front door to open, for him to come quietly into the house. No one in our small town knew where he was. Someone started a rumor; they had seen him driving East with a wild look in his eyes. But we, his family, knew. He was in California.

He was working on a dairy, gaining back his health, saving money, so he could come home and take us back to California with him.

The preceding year was hard. It began with someone finding my father in his truck in Ely Nevada bleeding to death from an ulcer. He was in the hospital for a long time, and then came home for awhile before slipping out of town to California to find a job. A place he had worked before. We were burdened with debt and he lost his truck. Now we were going to lose our home.

My older sister quit school to work in the cap factory with my mom. It was Pattonsburg's only "big" business besides trucking grain in and out of the grain elevators. I quit school to take care of my little sister who was only two years old. And then I lost my saxophone.

More than half of our school from the fifth grade up through high school played in the band. It was a marching band and we practiced most fall afternoons through the few streets of Pattonsburg. But the sax was gone and my mom and dad told me someone stole it. I know today. I know they couldn't finish paying for it and so I lost it.

And so I sat in our backyard on many of those late fall days and listened to the band marching somewhere in town and I cried while my sister took her nap.

There was happiness. I was constantly coming home from the library my arms loaded with books. I remember reading the Robe and other books by the author, including a book of his sermons. In the summer I began working at the local theater selling tickets and seeing all of the movies I wanted for free! Movie star Grace Kelly got married that year, to her prince, and the owner of the theater still owes me five dollars for the bet we made about how long she would stay married. Besides, I still had time to promenade up and down main street on Saturday night with my sisters and friends and to drink a chocolate coke at the drug store

But I waited with my family for my Dad's return. And one night I heard him in the kitchen talking to my Mom. We left in a few days for California and for what we hoped would be a new life.

But real human life, minus the eternal promises of God, often doesn't turn out the way we hope. Moments of joy, humanly speaking, are only moments.

Yes, I did go back to school. But Mom and Dad never owned their own home again. In fact, we finally ended up in public housing, and eventually I started taking jobs in other people's homes, living there, and making my way by cleaning and baby sitting. Both my Mom and Dad died early, my Mom at fifty one, my Dad two years later at the same age.

But my Mom and Dad found a greater treasure, a Savior and a heavenly home. And Jesus grabbed me too while he was at it.

The scriptures speak of all those who love his appearing, who long for his return; who put their hands to their ears and listen for his coming. We long for the coming of those close to us, but we are never sure. We long for the coming of Christ--and we are sure!

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you have died and your life, is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory." (Col 3:1-4)

We are told, in the scriptures, that with the coming of Jesus Christ we will celebrate and worship. There will be music including harps. What I am hoping is that someone, as we kneel in praise, around the throne of God and the lamb, will hand me a saxophone. There in that place I am sure the reed will be wet enough, I will have enough breath and I will once again remember all of the notes.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Bit More on Presbyterians Dancing with Karl Marx

I just saw these news items about Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez, who, according to the articles, is planning on nationalizing all schools and creating new curriculum which will undoubtedly be full of Marxist ideology.

The BBC article is here, Venezuela head warns on schools. And the Guardian Unlimited is here: Chavez Threatens To Take Over Schools. Sandra Sierra of the Guardian writes:

"Just what the curriculum will include and how it will be applied to all Venezuelan schools and universities remains unclear.

But one college-level syllabus obtained by The Associated Press shows some premedical students already have a recommended reading list including Karl Marx's ``Das Kapital'' and Fidel Castro's speeches, alongside traditional subjects like biology and chemistry.

The syllabus also includes quotations from Chavez and urges students to learn about slain revolutionary Ernesto ``Che'' Guevara and Colombian rebel chief Manuel Marulanda, whose leftist guerrillas are considered a terrorist group by Colombia, the U.S. and European Union."

I am placing these articles here in light of the three articles I have just recently posted:

Presbyterians Dancing With Karl Marx! Part 1 .

Presbyterians Dancing With Karl Marx! Part 2 .

Presbyterians Dancing with Karl Marx Part 3 .

I have already mentioned Chavez in connection with organizations and groups Presbyterian Officials are patronizing and using for ministry such as the World Social Forum, but additionally there is an article on him at Presbyterian Peace Fellowship What is Happening in Venezuela?. It is written by Anne Barstow, Tom Driver, and Paul Driver .

Their conclusions are:
"Venezuela is a model for the future. Devoting some of the money that used to be in private hands to the public good is a sign of progress and is beneficial to the overall betterment of the country, especially when it is linked to the people’s feeling of political empowerment. Questions can be raised, and in Venezuela are raised, about too much concentration of power in the President’s hands. At this point in history, however, none of Venezuela’s alternatives to Chavismo offer as much hope."

May we soon turn from pushing any form of ideology and instead proclaim Jesus Christ Lord.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Wandering among the Welsh

One of the blogs I enjoy reading is "Exiled Preacher." Guy Davies is a Reformed Welsh Pastor living in England. Of course for anyone living in the United States that doesn't seem like much of an exile. But for him, a Welshman among the English, it is. One of the first things on his web site that caught my attention was this statement:

"The Englishman looks upon the Welshman as a rebel, an awkward individualist, as a man who always wants his own way and is perpetually creating totally uncalled for difficulties" (D.M.Lloyd-Jones)."

The reason that statement caught my attention is because, although my last name through my husband is Larson, his actual nationality is Welsh and Dutch. His father changed the family name from Roberts to Larson many years ago. (And that's another very long story.) But the point is, I am partly English and that description seems to me to fit my husband, and his brother, to a tee. I laughed a long time when I read it. And don't worry my husband laughed a long time too!

Every so often, the exiled preacher creates lists of ten and I particularly liked his one on ten reasons to read John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion:

Both the picture above and the one on the side of my blog were taken in Wales where we were hiking. The scene is near Aberystwyth in Northern Wales where we were staying. Since it was a ten mile hike I stayed at our B&B in the evening but my husband, Brad, went on to meet up with a Welsh choir we had found.

Since my husband not only is a piano tuner but also has a beautiful tenor voice, he sings in our church choir, we found a music store and asked where we might hear a local Welsh choir. After getting the information and a contact, we were told that we could go and hear them practice in the evening.

My husband went, and was invited to have a drink with them at the local pub, after their practice. He had his first taste of whiskey and a great time. Today, about fourteen years later he still orders music from the same music store.
One of the great Christian revivals began in Wales in 1904. Here is a quote from an article, "The Welsh Revival of 1904-5" by Oliver W. Price, about the revival:
"During the spring of 1904 a young Welshman named Evan Roberts was repeatedly awakened at 1:00 a.m. He met with God until 5:00 a.m. The Welsh revival followed. Churches were packed for prayer meetings. In a prayer meeting for young people, Pastor Joseph Jenkins asked for testimonies. A young girl named Florrie Evans, who had only been a believer a few days, rose and with a trembling voice said simply, 'I love Jesus with all my heart.' The other young people's hearts were melted. A powerful spiritual awakening that brought 100,000 people to Christ was under way."
For several articles on the Welsh Revival including this one go to "The Welsh Revival of 1904-05.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Presbyterians Dancing with Karl Marx Part 3

I entitled this series “Presbyterians Dancing with Karl Marx,” but originally I named it, “Why are they singing the Internationale?” The original title occurred to me after reading a story by a member of Agricultural Missions Inc. She wrote of hearing the Landless Workers singing the Brazilian version of the Internationale as a ritual at the beginning of their day. So the research that finally pushed me into these posts was an attempt to answer the question that the story evoked: Why are they singing the Internationale?

The Internationale, first used in France and later in the Communist Soviet Union has some rather interesting words. The original French version’s first verse begins:

Arise, the damned of the earth,
Arise, prisoners of hunger,
Reason thunders in its crater,
It is the eruption of the end!
Let's make a blank slate of the past,

The second verse offers the solution for the damned:

There are no supreme saviours,
Neither God, nor Caesars, nor tribune
Producers, let's save ourselves!

The Soviet one is not much different neither are most other versions. Various revolutionary groups have used this song including those who stood their ground in the “Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.”
1 However, the song has its strongest history among revolutionary Marxists movements.

But there is a bigger question than why are they singing that song. Why are those who call themselves Christian aligning with groups who either adhere to a godless Marxist ideology, or adhere to the false gods of other cultures and ethnic groups?

Why not do the hard work of the gospel, which includes caring for the needy, feeding the poor and above all else proclaiming Jesus Christ as the unique Savior of lost sinners?

There are many organizations in the Presbyterian Church that do this without aligning themselves with far left organizations. For instance just recently
Presbyterian Global Fellowship had their 2007 conference. Their speakers were those concerned with both social issues and proclaiming the good news that Jesus came to redeem a people for his own. Also, there is Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship and Outreach Foundation who have joined together to form Antioch Partners.

When Christians disconnect from proclaiming Jesus Christ crucified, they disconnect from their foundations. In the temptation in the wilderness, Satan attempted to entice Jesus to exchange his allegiance to his Father, for the kingdoms of this world. Jesus’ answer was “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

Nothing but pottage is left if a Christian does otherwise.

Exchanging Jesus for the gods of this world

One particular organization that is used by Presbyterians for travel on what is seen as reality checks on social justice issues is Global Exchange. Presbyterian Women lists them on their web page dedicated to their Brazilian trip. They also list the Marxists leaning Landless Workers Movement of Brazil on this page.

One of the ladies who is confounder with Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange and a group called
Codepink took a group to Venezuela to the sixth World Social Forum. There a group from both Global Exchange and Codepink met with the leftist president Hugo Chavez. The cofounder, Jodie Evans wrote of Chavez:

He was a doll. Generous, open, passionate, excited, stimulated by the requests and happy to be planning with us. He was realistic but willing to stretch. I was fascinated to learn what a well educated environmentalist he is. The next project of his administration is one focused on the environment. When we asked him to take a stronger leadership position in the international anti-war movement, he was happy to do so, and said "this is not a lost cause, we can stop this war." (bold Evans’)
Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin may be excused for their adoring flattery of the despots and ideologies of the world; they do not claim a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. But those who call themselves Christians including Presbyterian Women and Presbyterian “Just Trade” need to remember they belong to the One through whom and for whom all things were created. (Col 1:1

Returning to congregations of prayer and the Word

Perhaps Barth had the very best advise for the Church in crisis times although he was writing in 1933. This will be a long quote but worth reading for our time:

The prime need of our time is for a spiritual centre of resistance: one that would, for the first time, give a meaning and a content to Church politics. The man who understands this will not 'gird himself for any fight,' but will put on his programme, 'Work and Pray.'

Now, let no one say too hastily: 'This is no good to-day, amid the summer of 1933.' [the end of the summer of 2007!] There are some theologians who ought to hang down their heads with shame for having preached such fine sermons on 'God is our only Helper' (Psalm xlvi.; Luther's rendering) and then snapping out 'It's no good now.' They should let the word come home to themselves that: 'The help of the Lord is really the only help; indeed, the only real-politik of help to the Church." ...

Again, let no one say to hastily that in the concrete situation in which the Churches are now placed, something has to be done, altogether different from what has been suggested, in order to stop the mischief. Of course something has to be done; very much so; but most decidedly nothing other than this, viz. that the Church congregations be gathered together again, but aright and anew in fear and joy, to the Word by means of the Word. All the crying about and over the Church will not deliver the Church. Where the Church is a Church she is already delivered. Let persecution be never so severe, it will not affect her! 'Still,' it is said, 'still,' shall the City of God abide, lusty beside her tiny stream' (Psalm xlvi 5; Luther's translation).

(Theological Existence Today)

In an attempt to do good works minus the glorifying of Christ, the Church becomes faithless. The call of the Church is to go to the entire world. The call is to reach out to all kinds of needs including the needs of the landless poor in every nation, but it is not a call for the Church to align herself with the godless ideologies and forces of the world.

I believe we have forgotten that the homeless, the poor, the dammed of the earth, as both the Bible and the Internationale describe us, not only need material help we also need to know Jesus Christ as the risen Savior, crucified for our salvation.

1 See

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Presbyterians Dancing With Karl Marx! Part 2

In the 1920’s the National Socialists, the Nazis, and the International Socialists, the Communists, fought in the streets of Berlin. Alike in some ways, both political groups considered their movements, movements of the people. Likewise they considered their movements to be in opposition to the exploiters, the monolithic outsiders, enemies of the people.

Yet, one group called for their ideology to be placed under the control of their national leaders. In the same vein they tied religion to blood and soil.
The other group opted for international controls and insisted that religion was the opiate of the people.

Today, in the twenty-first century, within the new socialist movements swirling through many countries, one finds the ghosts of the last century. But they are no longer two different entities they have merged.

Politically the peasant movements are tying themselves to their own ethnic or national groups through such ideas as growing and using only foods that are natural to their regions, using local herbs as alternative medicine, re-awakening forgotten spiritual and cultural practices.

Rejecting such entities as the World Bank or NAFTA they have in some ways become nationalists or at least isolationist. Yet in other ways they are tied to an international body of peasant movements that all adhere to the same ideology of land re-distribution generally for collectives rather than individuals.

Within the various groups is a strong religious under-current that is frightening in its lack of grace. It is human centered not God centered. Because some of the socialism that is prevalent in South America was and still is birthed out of liberation theology that sees God as partial to the poor or to the people, religion is tied to a particular group. It has moved on from there.

Now the sacred or religion is tied to different ethnic groups, to the ethnicity of a people. Or in the case of indigenous peoples to both the people and the land. Through liberation theology, and the many fragmenting theologies of feminism, religion, a kind of pseudo-Christianity, is once again tied to blood. Through Indigenous people to soil and blood.

And in this strange mix of politics and theology, some mainline denominational advocacy groups have entered the fray with out a clue about the distinctions between authentic biblical Christianity and the idea of the sacred centered in humanity.

In the last post I looked at two groups promoting various socialist and Marxist causes. I also explained how those groups are promoted by some in the mainline denominations and their organizations. I, in particular looked at my own denomination the Presbyterian Church USA.

In this second posting I will look at two more groups. In my final and third posting I will make some suggestions as to how orthodox Christians within the Presbyterian Church should respond to those Presbyterians who are dancing with Marx.

World Social Forum & United States Social Forum

The Presbyterian Church USA’s “
Just Trade” is announcing the work of the 2007 World Social Forum’s meeting in Africa. They write, “January 2007, the World Social Forum was held in Africa for the first time serving as a platform for Jubilee Campaigners across the Continent.”1 Agricultural Missions, Inc., an affiliate of Presbyterian Women, has information about both the World Social Forum and the United States Social Forum all over their web site.

The Presbyterian Women’s magazine,
Horizons, March/April 2006, contains an article on women in Brazilian prisons with a title which is the theme of the World Social Forum, “Another World is Possible.”

Although the article had nothing to do with WSF, still it ended with these words, “The theme of the annual World Social Forum—people from all over the world who come together to work for change—is “Another World Is Possible.”

The World Social Forum is a vast grassroots group of organizations that hold annual meetings in various places in the world to offer alternative programs, ideas and concepts in opposition to some forms of globalization. They are a movement growing out of the 1999 Seattle protests and their emphasis is anti-capitalism.

The WSF began meeting in January 2001. Its first meeting was in Porte Alegre, Brazil and it did have some connections to the Landless Workers Movement of Brazil as well as many other socialist movements.2

The World Council of Churches gives this description of the WSF:

"The World Social Forum saw itself as a space for the democratic debate of ideas and proposals, for exchanging experiences and for social movements, networks and organizations in civil society to meet together. Its aim was to discover and build alternatives to neo-liberal globalization. It made no claim, however, to be representative of world civil society. It was non-governmental, non-party and non-confessional in nature. It did not include representatives of governments, political parties or military or armed organizations."

Yet, the truth is, the WSF, except for some mainline church groups, new age spirituality representatives, radical feminists advocates and LGBT organizations, is mostly made up of labor organizations, far left Socialists and Marxists groups.

The forums always offer hundreds of workshops and seminars, running the gamut from Palestinian liberation issues to alternative health promotion to conspiracy theories connecting 9/11 to President George Bush.

Sherry Flyr, Board member of Agricultural Missions as well as Vice Moderator for Mission Relationships for Presbyterian Women participanted in the recent United States Social Forum. She was a member of the team AMI sent. Another member of that team wrote that those workshops included, “Katrina, the War, Gender and the struggle against Homophobic Patriarchical Violent Capitalism, Immigration Rights, Worker Justice and Indigenous Peoples and their Prophetic Struggles and Cosmovision.”4

As the forum has evolved many papers and analysis of the WSF have been offered by other Socialist and progressive groups. One particular organization,
Foreign Policy in Focus, has several representatives, participants in the WSF and Marxists in their ideology, who have focused their papers on the WSF.

Erinc Yeldan, Professor in the Department of Economics at Bilkent University in Ankara, critiques the WSF in his article, “More Scholarly Debate Please.”
Yeldan looks at the two choices he sees possible for the forum’s activists.

The two choices, working within a capitalist system or simply pushing for revolution as a means of going around the system, are solved by a kind of merger of the two. His solution: “… the strategy here is to create class awareness within the capitalist system. Then at a further level of strategy, we can make our case for life after capitalism, that is, socialism.”5

Another author Bret Benjamin writes of the need for the movement to envision “both the ideal of horizontal, non-representational collectivity and the tactical efficacy of mass action.”

The first ideal means the people make decisions as a collective or group and probably by a consensus method rather than voting, which can be very authoritarian. The “tactical efficacy of mass action” means that the collective operates as a group, a mass movement to change society.

He goes on to state that such double vision has no historical precedent. Yet he mentions several historical movements the forum might draw inspiration from. Benjamin writes that the Critical Action: Centre in Movement “offers one useful genealogy, from Marx’s Manifesto to Bandung to the Zapatistas”

Walden Bello, Executive Director of Focus on the Global South, and Professor of Sociology at the University of the Philippines, has written “Forum at the Crossroads.” His description of the 2004 Forum is that it “was organized jointly by an unlikely coalition of social movements and Marxist Leninist parties, a set of actors that are not known for harmonious relations on the domestic front.”

Pointing out the weaknesses of the gatherings, Bello offers a solution by offering the words of Hugo Chavez, left-wing President of Venezuela. Quoting from a speech given by Chavez at the 2006 Forum, he writes, “We must have a strategy of ‘counter-power.’ We, the social movements and political movements, must be able to move into spaces of power at the local, national, and regional level.”
7 Thus, apparently, the intellectual participants in WSF are pushing hard toward extreme leftist socialism and Marxism.

World Forum on Theology and Liberation

Running along side of the World Social Forum is another forum entitled the
World Forum on Theology and Liberation.8 This is a newer forum but still a part of the World Social Forum, therefore the participants are attempting to redesign Christianity using mostly pluralistic versions of liberation theology. Most of the papers of the 2005 forum are clearly drawing on a past traditional Christianity and then leading toward a newer version of that same Christianity.

One paper totally redefines Christianity into political categories. Dwight N. Hopkins, Professor of Theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School, writes about “Theologies in the USA.”.

He names, what he sees as the most pervasive theology in the US, “neo-conservative theology,” which purportedly understands God as “the open face of aggressive US empire.” (Italics the author) Next is “liberal theology,” which according to Hopkins sees God as “bourgeois rights.” (Italics author)

The final category is prophetic theology which the writer states sees God as “Liberation toward the practice of freedom.” Clearly Hopkins’ ideology is not theology (the study of God) nor is it based on scriptures but on Marxism.

One particular author, Rosino Gibellini rather chagrined, mentions, in her paper, that liberation theology took on a different hue among some in Eastern Europe. She writes:

"… One must take into account the situation of Eastern Europe and that of the Russian Orthodox. In the period between 1989 and 1991 these areas experienced a kind of 'liberation', different from that envisioned by Liberation theology. A Russian Orthodox theologian recently affirmed during a theological Forum in which I myself participated: 'We Orthodox had a rather complex relation with Liberation theology. Its concession to a so-called 'well intentioned Marxism (a definition which circulated in Orthodox circles in the Soviet Union) is absolutely foreign to the spirit of our faith which was subjected to that 'liberation' [i.e., the 'liberation' offered by Soviet communism]. Similar sentiments are expressed by philosophers and theologians of Eastern Europe, particularly by those from Poland."
10 (Bold mine.) (Brackets authors.)

Despite her remarks on Eastern Europe, Gibellini, proceeds to make a case for liberation theology in Europe. Consequently, it seems, progressive members of the PCUSA with, one supposes, good intentions, continue to align themselves with far left organizations including Marxists who are themselves fighting over their own causes.

1 See
2 See
3 See
4 See and, and Netline, June 2007.
5 See-
6 See
7 See
8 See
9 Paper on file.
10 Paper on file.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Presbyterians Dancing With Karl Marx! Part 1

Recently my husband and I watched an enjoyable movie entitled “Sweet Land.” The movie features a mail order bride, a German woman, who comes to the United States during World War I to live and marry within a Scandinavian community.
The movie has everything a person interested in social justice would find invigorating and challenging: immigration problems, farm foreclosures, a hard nosed banker and ethnic prejudices.

The plot comes to its conclusion with the community reconciled and the couple happily married. And despite the hard nosed banker, the farmers continue to own their own farms, a highlight of the movie.

In contradiction to the above American idealism about private property, several organizations, strongly oriented toward extreme socialism including Marxist Leninist groups, are making inroads into mainstream institutional religion in the United States.
More troubling than the groups’ advocacy against private property, is their anarchistic tendencies and deep roots in materialistic Marxism. While some of these groups carry the blessings of some liberationist theologians the organizations are not themselves concerned with Christianity or biblical faith.

The different organizations have connections with each other and are used and promoted by various persons and organizations in several mainline denominations. Additionally in recent years they have all began to align under a larger umbrella movement called the World Social Forum (WSF).

I intend to look at some of these organizations pointing out their innate problems and connections to each other. As a member of the Presbyterian Church USA, I will also explain how these extreme left leaning groups are promoted by various persons and organizations in my denomination. I will look at each organization or movement explaining its purpose, ideology and connection to other groups.

The Landless Workers Movement of Brazil (MST)

The Landless Workers Movement of Brazil or MST, the Portuguese abbreviation of their name, was featured in the Presbyterian Women’s magazine Horizons, March/April 2006, with three articles. The articles were, “Promised Land: The Landless Rural Worker’s Movement (MST) and Democracy in Brazil,” by Miguel Carter; “The MST: A struggle for land, agrarian reform and social justice,” by Celia Alldridge; “Teaching Transformation,” by Roberta Mansfield.

The articles in Horizons pictured the MST as a group of landless people who acquired land by occupying huge unproductive and unused lands owned by other people. As they forced the government to give them the land they built homes, and schools for the people. In fact, the sub-title of Carter’s article, “The Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST) and Democracy in Brazil,” implies that this is a democratic movement.

In reality, looking deeper, there is a vastly different picture of MST than the one presented in the Horizons’ articles. The truth is, the idea that this is a democratic movement is debatable and is being debated even in Brazil.

What the Editors of Horizons did not state is that Carter’s article is taken from a much larger article with his original title being the same as the sub-title in the magazine.

Carter’s original article is his attempt to answer critics who believe the MST is an anti-state, Marxists organization. 1 He mentions three academic critics of the movement. Although Carter does not say so, one of the critics is a former “landless activist.”2

Zander Navarro, the former landless activist, was professor of sociology at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul at the time of Carter’s paper and is now a sociologist at the University of Sussex in Britain. Carter quotes him as writing that “the MST is an ‘anti-systemic’ and ‘anti-state’ organization, driven by a hardened Marxist disposition toward non-institutional venues of action.”3

Navarro, undoubtedly, means that MST tends to work outside of the normal institutions of both government and society. And also, because of their "Marxist disposition" they fail to find value in any kind of action or concept except that of a Marxist type of socialism.

The author of an Economist article writes that Navarro says “its [MST's] internal structure is ‘very anti-democratic.’”

In his arguments for the MST, Carter seemingly tries to soften some of the actions of the organization. He equates their actions with the “1955-56 Montgomery, Alabama bus boycotts.” But in that earlier case the civil rights activists refused to ride buses to any destination. That is far different than occupying someone else’s property with the intent of obtaining the property for one’s own.

Going beyond the occupying of unused and unproductive land, the MST has, according to Carter, had “sit-ins at government buildings;” they have blocked highways and occasionally out of hunger and “dire need,” “stopped and pillaged trucks transporting food.”
5 The Economist's article adds to that,” taking over highway toll booths” and destroying “a paper company’s research laboratory.”6

In a paper found on the MST web site, taken from the, “International, Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development,” one finds the solutions to the problems of poverty offered by several peasant movements, including MST. While naming many of the real problems facing much of the world’s poor and offering several good suggestions such as diversified farming the political underpinning of this document and others is problematic. The only political answers allowed are extreme socialism.

The solutions have to do with the term, “Food Sovereignty.” This political concept sounds good but at least in these documents it tends to function above all individual human rights. One of the main points is, “The realization of human rights should go beyond the notion of human rights and also ensure the collective rights of communities and peoples.”

The paper focuses on the rights of people as collectives, it never really addresses the rights of people as individuals, nor does it even once uphold the individual’s right to property. The physical needs of peoples and the cultural needs of ethnic groups are addressed, but the individual’s right to abstract freedoms such as free speech, free press, and freedom of religion are missing.

In another paper on MST’s site, "Agrarian Reform in the context of food sovereignty, the right to food and cultural diversity: land, territory and dignity," religious rights are partially upheld under the rights of indigenous peoples. Their religious rights are upheld because they often see their land as sacred and their religious rituals as necessary for the betterment of their lands.
Nonetheless this is not the same as stressing individual religious rights such as the right to conversion or evangelism. And, in fact, when the religious rights of peoples are tied to their rights as a tribe within a territory or as collective owners of land, rather than an inalienable right of humanity, individual rights of conversion and/or evangelism are endangered.

In the same paper two models for agrarian reform are commended although one is questioned by the author. The author sees both Cuba and Venezuela as models of land reform.

Cuba is a model because in the 1960’s land was taken from the original landholders by the government and later, in the 1990’s again redistributed to “smaller, cooperative and individual production units.” The author still questions Venezuela’s reform partly because of the landowners and bureaucrats resistance. These are the two Marxists governments existing in Latin America.

Recently Marina da Silva of MST gave the opening speech at their 5th National Congress. In her speech she states that one of the important objectives of MST is to not leave “one single opening for the virus of capitalism.” da Silva in the end quoted from Mau Tse Tung, and praised Karl Marx as well as a German Communist martyr of the last century, Rosa Luxemburgo.8

The dishonesty with which the Landless Workers Movement was presented to the readers of Horizons is appalling. Christians are called to be compassionate—but to direct other's compassion, in the name of Christ, toward movements whose ideology and issues are debatable, perhaps damaging to the very faith held by Christians, is inexcusable.
Money is fed into this organization by several church groups including Presbyterian Women via another organization I will now examine.
Agricultural Missions, Inc. (AMI)

Agricultural Missions, Inc., an affiliate with Presbyterian Women supports MST including their 5th National Congress.
9 In fact, Sherry Flyr, both a board member of AMI and Vice Moderator of Missions Relationships for Presbyterian Women, wrote the introduction to the 2006 March/April Horizons. She included in her introduction the meeting of the representatives of the Presbyterian Women's Global Exchange with Celia Alldridge. Alldridge is one of the authors who wrote about MST and an activist with MST.

AMI was formed in the thirties as an organization meant to help the rural poor gain land and educate their children. It was part of a missionary enterprise among mainline churches and assisting missionaries in religious education was included in its responsibilities. But in 1979 at a Consultation its mission changed.

J. Benton Rhoades, in a document on AMI’s web site, writes of the conference:

"Held in Jayuya, Puerto Rico, the Consultation brought together leaders of church mission societies and representatives of peoples movements from around the world in an attempt to redefine the role of Agricultural Missions and the relationship between the churches and the movements. There were intense conflicts between these two constituencies, but eventually, the yelling evolved into dialogue. After a week, Agricultural Missions had as its new mandate “to deepen its commitment to peoples movements at home and abroad and to help churches educate themselves by bringing critical information from Third World Peoples—for the purposes of consciousness raising and action.” Rural Mission was coming to be seen as a matter of accompaniment than of religious instruction." (Italics author)

Already noted above and quoted in one of my notes, but important to notice in the Annual Report for 2007 is mention of some of the projects of AMI. They write:

"Through the Rural Network Program, AMI supports and facilitates the network building activities among partners and other grassroots organizations at the local, national, regional and global levels in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the United States. Two examples in 2006 were support for the National Farm Worker Ministry in farm worker advocacy, and for the 5th National Congress organized by the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terras-MST (Landless Movement) in Brazil." (Bold mine)

Under the AMI’s Annual Report for 2007 are listed the names of the officers of AMI. They include members from several mainline denominations including Lionel Derenoncourt who is President of the Board of Directors of AMI and also a member the Presbyterian Hunger Program of the Presbyterian Church USA. Also included is Cynthia White, both a member of AMI’s Board and a part of the National Committee on the Self Development of Peoples in the Presbyterian Church USA.

Under the list of officers is the list of donors to the AMI. The Presbyterian Church USA is listed with Presbyterian Women and Hunger Program as sub headings.

The AMI is deeply involved in a movement I have mentioned above, the World Social Forum, including the United States Social Forum which was held this year in Atlanta Georgia. This is a movement partly organized by Marxist Leninist groups. I will look at this movement and its several sub groups in my next postings.

1 Miguel Carter, “The Landless rural workers’ movement (MST) and democracy in Brazil,” Working paper number CBS-60-05, Centre for Brazilian Studies, University of Oxford. See,
2 “This land is anti-capitalist land,”, Apr 26th 2007, See,
3 Ibid., Carter, “Landless,” 6.
4 Ibid., Economist.
5 Ibid., Carter, “Landless.”
6 Ibid., Economist.
7 See,
8 See
9 See,, and “Through the Rural Network Program, AMI supports and facilitates the network building activities among partners and other grassroots organizations at the local, national, regional and global levels in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the United States. Two examples in 2006 were support for the National Farm Worker Ministry in farm worker advocacy, and for the 5th National Congress organized by the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terras-MST (Landless Movement) in Brazil.” At:
10 J. Benton Rhoades, “Accompaniment History: from where we came." See