Sunday, September 29, 2013
Adventures in Post Christendom,” His new posting about his changing focus, not unlike many of his old blog postings, is rather provocative, but it sent my thoughts a lot of directions and I wanted to explore. Vest opines among other thoughts that, “All versions of American Christendom—Protestant, Catholic, mainline, evangelical—are rapidly declining if not effectively finished already.” But he states that neither Christians nor the Church are going away. As proof Vest refers to those authors, such as Phyllis Tickle, Doug Pagitt and
Dianna Butler Bass, who have lately provided versions of a new Christianity.
My focus though, rather than looking at the new landscape that Vest is anchored in, is viewing the old landscape and although it is perhaps diminishing, by God's good grace and promises will not go away. And here I am not referring to Christianity as a dominant power in culture but Christianity true to its biblical roots. (Which may or may not influence culture.)
What I am referring to is that part of orthodox Christianity that abides in the United States but is tied to the body of Christ in all parts of the world. I am of the mind that one cannot really pick out a particular church in a particular part of the world and forecast its future, or plan its ways, without ensconcing it within the whole body of orthodox Christianity, including that part which makes up the church triumphant. An example of this connection would be those Episcopal churches that came under the leadership of Southern Cone and Asian Bishops in an attempt to secure their own orthodoxy as believers. Without that connection orthodox believers within the Episcopal Church would have floundered.
So what does orthodox Christianity, in the United States, look like when one considers global orthodox Christianity?
(1) At the moment the worldwide church is suffering greatly because of deadly persecution. In this connection the orthodox in the US can react with compassion and with a great outcry. The orthodox will either travel that road with their brothers and sisters or they will become weak like the unsalty salt that Jesus speaks of in the beatitudes. The same is true of the horrific poverty around the world. While the orthodox may not agree with the progressive denominations' views about how to solve the issue of poverty they are nonetheless committed to compassionate service on behalf of the poor.
(2)The global orthodox Church is an evangelistic Church, the orthodox in the US must also more fervently proclaim the saving work of Jesus Christ. Many of the martyrs in Muslim countries are either new coverts or those who are proclaiming that Jesus is the savior. And here is where a vast difference is occurring between the orthodox and the progressive. In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), as one example, one notices more of a bent toward accommodating pluralism rather then the proclamation of the gospel in the midst of diverse religions. Religion and spirituality have become the good rather than Jesus.
(3)The Global Church takes righteousness seriously, so must the orthodox in the United States. The biblical Christian understands that she is covered by the righteousness of Christ alone and yet because of such love shown to her, because she has died to self and lives in Christ she strives to walk in righteousness:
“Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over him. For the death that he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life that he lives, he lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.(Romans 6:8-11)
So the orthodox in the United States in relation to the world wide communion of orthodox Christians may be diminished to a smaller number, but in faithfulness they will undoubtedly be stronger because of a Christian orthodoxy growing stronger in the Southern Cone and Asia. In fellowship with the suffering of the saints within global Christianity our hearts will surely be softened and our compassion grow. And truly an example has been set before us of how to be in the world but not of it, and how to face a culture of intolerance. Better still is the example of the proclamation of Jesus in the face of dire circumstances.
There is a certain kind of death that is and will be occurring within those churches that are not embracing emergent or progressive thinking—but that is hopefully a death that puts away the cultural ugliness of our time and instead embraces Christ, word and the nourishment of life both spiritual and physical.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss placed a video on his site of himself asking a young Jewish man and his girlfriend, “If a young person you know will have to die to preserve Israel as a Jewish State, wouldn't you rather just lose the Jewish State?”
This is an interesting question coming from a man who does not believe there should be a Jewish State, and it is also interesting given that the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) links to Mondoweiss constantly and uses them as one of their main news source. Going beyond that it is interesting given the San Francisco overture I wrote about in my last posting (for the PCUSA to reconsider the two state solution), and the fact that the IPMN often pushes for a one state solution which in the end would be an Arab state not a Jewish one.
This is the answer that the young man gave:
When we don’t have a Jewish country, it’s not one man die, it’s 6 million…
All the history for the Jewish is: We don’t have a country, they kill us. Now we have a country… If one man die, I have to remember, that 6 million died, and my grandfather come here and dream about it, to be in Israel… This is my place. Not Germany, not the United States… I am willing to kill for this country… I do this for the world, not just for Israel.
The comments at the end of Weiss' posting are mostly horrific—the Jewish young man deserves praise, not Weiss. Here is the video:
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
An overture is coming, if it receives concurrences, from the Presbytery of San Francisco, which asks the 2014 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to recommend a reconsideration of their policy of a two state solution for the Palestinian Territories and the State of Israel.* The overture is “On Reviewing General Assembly Policy Regarding the Two-State Solution in Israel Palestine” and included in the text is this directive:
“Makes a recommendation about whether the General Assembly should continue to call for a two-state solution in Israel Palestine, or take a neutral stance that seeks not to determine for Israelis and Palestinians what the right “solution” should be.”
The idea of a one state solution has been pushed, in subtle ways, by several Presbyterian organizations including the Israel/Palestine Mission Network. Often the IPMN links to The Electronic Intifada whose editor and founder Ali Abunimah proposes a one state solution and has written a book, One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Also Noushin Framke who was the communication director for IPMN and is now an advisor, writing on Ecclesio.com, stated in her article, “Ye Shall Share the Land,”" it is time for all the people to share the land with equal rights and liberties.” This was after she opined that if Israel remained a Jewish State it could not be a democracy.
Recently there have been several articles published by various well known and/or extreme publications insisting that a one state solution for the Israel & Palestine problem is inevitable. The subject has become a hot topic on the internet. But rather than link to those articles as IPMN has done I am linking to an article with a great deal of substance concerning the fear that many Jews have that there will soon be no place for the Jewish community in Europe. The reason I am linking to the article is because the problem of anti-Semitism in Europe is the original reason why the Jewish people needed a state of their own. (We forget to easily.)
Alongside the main reason for exploring the subject of anti-Semitism in Europe is the history that the article provides of the state of the Jewish people in Europe after World War II. And, also, one learns of the seeds that were planted or were already there which have now grown into virulent weeds sending fear into the Jewish communities of Europe. The article, “You Only Live Twice: Vibrant Jewish communities were reborn in Europe after the Holocaust. Is there a future for them in the 21st Century?”
The author, Michel Gurfinkiel begins with the story of the head of a Jewish community, Samuel Sandler, who registered his synagogue as a national landmark because he believed that in twenty or thirty years the community would be gone. This is the same person who experienced the murder of his son, a Rabbi, in the French city of Toulouse. The murderer was a Muslim extremist. Gurfinkiel goes on to write of the anti-Semitism that many Jews in Europe are experiencing:
“A large-scale survey commissioned by the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) tells a tale of widespread and persistent anti-Semitism. Although the full study is not due to be released until October, the salient facts have been summarized by EU officials and by researchers like Dov Maimon, a French-born Israeli scholar at the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem. Among the findings: more than one in four Jews report experiencing anti-Semitic harassment at least once in the twelve months preceding the survey; one in three have experienced such harassment over the past five years; just under one in ten have experienced a physical attack or threat in the same period; and between two-fifths and one-half in France, Belgium, and Hungary have considered emigrating because they feel unsafe.”
He then writes of the 'Golden Age” in post war Europe. Israel was looked on with favor by most Europeans at the time, and there was a general desire to protect and rebuild the Jewish communities that were left. Many of the Jews exiled from Arab lands also found a home in Europe. But now, Israel is seen as a problem and society in Europe has changed.
Gurfinkiel works through the many contributing factors toward anti-Semitism in Europe, including: the financial woes of Europe; the increased Muslim population whose background often includes Middle Eastern anti-Semitism; a widening secular culture with new demands to be rid of circumcision and ritual slaughter of animals as well as the wearing of clothing that is symbolic of religion. (This troubling shift also affects other ethnic and religious groups.) The author reminds his readers of the parallels to the 1930s and 40s:
“Even worse scenarios may be contemplated. Real life is often circular: the farther you travel in one direction, the closer you come to those traveling in the opposite direction. What about a nightmare fusion, at some point in the future, of an anti-Semitic Left, an anti-Semitic Right, and an anti-Semitic Islam? In the case of France, there are ominous precedents: many Frenchmen who started out as fierce anti-German patriots in the late-19th century ended as pro-German activists or collaborationists in the 1930s and early 40s.”
This combination of left, right and anti-Semitic Islam is more than a nightmare, in some places it is a reality. But the point that I am making by directing the reader to this article is that the Jewish people at least need to know that if they need to, if they must, there is a Jewish State that will be a safe haven. If there is a one state solution it means that it will be an Arab majority state and a Jewish state will be no more. It is a long hard journey toward a two state solution but it is the only solution that will preserve the safety of the Jewish people.
*The overture can be seen by clinking on the link REPORT 10 Bills Overtures and Session Records at http://www.presbyteryofsf.org/presbytery-meetings/september-2013-packet/ You will need to scroll through several pages and also understand that the overture accusing Israel of apartheid did not pass but the divestment one did. The overture I am writing about is the last one.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
In view of the fact that there will undoubtedly be many divisive overtures regarding Israel and the Middle East in the upcoming 2014 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) it is important for Presbyterians to do a great deal of reading, listening and thinking about the issues. We are Christians and half of our holy text, the Bible, belongs to the Jewish people. We have a commitment that we cannot break or misuse. Lately a great deal of information, a lot of reading and many videos have come to my attention. I am going to begin sharing and talking about the issues. At least three important issues will surely rise to the surface. The movement to boycott companies as well as intellectual and artistic offerings coming from Israel; discussions about a one state or two state solution, and the fate of Christians in the Middle East. I begin with the latter issue:
Just the day after I watched a video of Dr. Qanta Ahmed, a Muslim, speak about persecution of Christians in the Middle East as well as Pakistan, (and she emphasized Pakistan), the horrible killing of Christians at the ancient Anglican church, All Saints, in Pakistan occurred. At least 75 Christians were martyred—many more were terribly hurt. Dr. Ahmed, who worked in Saudi Arabia as a physician to women, wrote the book In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom and she is interested in the persecution of minorities. She highly recommends the book, Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians as a means of understanding how dire the situation is becoming for Christians in many parts of the world.*
Ahmed was speaking in Jerusalem in 2012 at a forum provided by the Liaison Committee, a joint forum of the B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem and the Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel. The topic of the Forum was “Radicalization and the Purging of Minorities in the Middle East.” This is a long video but very interesting and extremely important for anyone interested in the on going persecution of Christians and other minorities by radical Islam.
I believe Ahmed touches on the very basic reasons for the loss of Christian populations in many parts of the world including the Middle East.
* I have read about 3/4 of the persecution book but put it away for awhile because it is unrelenting sorrow upon sorrow.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
There is a division of the Anti-Semitic web site Veterans Today* called Hireveterans.com. You can see the connection by scrolling to the bottom of the Hireveterans page and reading the fine-print. Both Veterans Today and Veterans News Now are called partner sites of Hireveterans. I have noticed lately quite a few companies joining this site, although I suspect they have no idea what they are really joining.
One of the companies joining is KeyPoint Government Solutions which at one time was known as Kroll Government Services. In their history they state:
“President and CEO Jeff Schlanger started a government services division for Kroll Inc. in early 2000. Jeff brought on William Bratton, the former police commissioner of New York City, with the intent of providing consulting and independent investigation services to police departments. The team soon won a major contract as Independent Monitor for the Los Angeles Police Department, a role that continued for nearly a decade. “
They continue with their history:
“Kroll grew the division to exclusively serve government clients at a historically critical time, during the development of the Department of Homeland Security. In 2003, Kroll was selected by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to provide preliminary background investigations for the large federal workforce being hired to handle security screening activities in our nation’s airports. A similar background investigation contract with U.S. Customs and Border Protection soon followed.”
This is amazing information seeing as how the Veterans Today site constantly has articles insisting that 9-11 was an inside job led by the government of Israel.
There are other companies: The latest is Phillips 66 which is a private link. Another listed is InfroPro Corporation. A description of this company is:
"The company provides comprehensive, award-winning, and worldwide solutions and services to Federal and State agencies including NASA, U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the State of Alabama Department of Transportation."
Another company is: Sage Management. They, specialize “in innovative and creative solutions to unique national security challenges. The companies consultants provide full system life-cycle support from concept exploration through system development, implementation and fielding, to system retirement.”
Remember the people reading Veterans Today are reading about the jobs these companies are offering. There are still other companies listed. If there was enough outcry about the Veterans Today site there would not be any connection between Veterans Today and such companies. Also these companies need to insist that Hireveterans.com remove their names immediately.
*For instance see “Al-Sisi’s a Jew! Egypt is Now Israeli-Occupied Territory.” Also learn more about Veterans Today at: "Veterans Today: Against the Jewish people, against Christians, and against veterans"
Picture by Stephen Larson
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
The First Presbyterian Church of Wheaton, through the organization, Becoming the Children of Abraham, have planned a gathering for September 28, and advertised it with a leaflet (click on the "Christian Zionism - A Problem with a Solution” hyperlink) that begins:
“World peace is in danger because some philosophies are having terrible unintended consequences. Zionism was a Jewish movement to find a safe haven from anti-Semitism. Christian Zionism evolved from prophetic ideas and beliefs about the end time. While well intended concepts, the results have become very dangerous. Zionists in Israel have created a state that wants racial purity. Many Zionists want native-born Christians to leave Israel. Christian Zionists in America support Israel because they believe this will accelerate the second coming of Christ. The conflicts in the Middle East have become more agitated because of this.”
After this paragraph, which will be the subject of my posting, they state that New Testament professor Gary Burge will be the speaker. For information on Burge please read, “Gary Burge: Palestine and Israel” and “My thoughts on the IPMN Symposium: Bible, Land and our Theological Challenge: A Presbyterian Conversation.”* The paragraph above may have been written by Burge, but it may have been written by someone else at the church. While the author is unknown, the fact that it is anti-Semitic and untruthful can surely be seen by most readers.
World peace is in danger because of Zionism and Christian Zionism? Hardly. We have just experienced the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Egypt with the counter effect of nearly forty Christian churches and many other Christian institutions being destroyed by MB supporters. We are still in the midst of a quandary over the Arab state of Syria where a dictator gassed his own people while at the same time radical Islamic groups are butchering other Arab citizens including the Christians who have existed in that land for almost two thousand years. And this does not even begin to cover other places in the world, such as North Korea, where both peace and human rights are elusive.
And looking at two other statements in this leaflet one sees glaring error. “Zionists in Israel have created a state that wants racial purity. Many Zionists want native-born Christians to leave Israel,” writes the author of the leaflet. However, the formation of Israel as a state was with the understanding that it would be a Jewish state. That is because the Jewish people have always experienced some form of persecution or discrimination in any nation they have lived in, including the United States. But that does not mean that there are no citizens of Israel who are non-Jews. There are Arab citizens in Israel who have voting rights and are members of the government.
Yes there are some discrimination problems in Israel as there has been and still is in the United States, but those are problems that both nations work on through a democratic process. On the other hand, there are countries like Saudi Arabia where no Jew is allowed and no Christian is safe. And yes, there are extremist settlers and Jewish groups that would undoubtedly like to rid Israel of native-born Christians, (of any Christian), but they are not the main-stream Israeli. The leaflets' blanket statement about Zionists and their desires is untruthful.
And then there is this, “Christian Zionists in America support Israel because they believe this will accelerate the second coming of Christ. Well, maybe some think so—but, while I am Reformed and not a dispensationalist nor a Christian Zionist, I have a friend who is. In fact he is one of the regional directors for John Hagee one of the most well known Christian Zionist. This is what my friend Victor Styrsky writes in his book, Honest to God: Christian Zionists Confront 10 Questions Jews Need Answered, about the second coming of Christ:
“Evangelicals [includes Christian Zionists] have no eschatological teaching (end of days theology) that requires all Jews to be back in the land of Israel for a messianic visitation. Neither do evangelical Christians believe that there is anything we can do to hasten the return (or first visit, as my Jewish friends believe) of Messiah.
Evangelical Christian theology concerning the coming of Messiah is fairly united on the following points:
1) A date for the event has already been secured.
2) Only God the Father knows the time.
3) The coming of Messiah is imminent.”
After offering Mark 13:31-33, Styrsky writes:
“This appointed time cannot and will not be hastened nor detained by our activities or lack thereof. A day has already been set and most evangelical Christians believe that the appearance of Christ is imminent.”
And then Styrsky points out that the biblical church believed also that the coming of Jesus was imminent.
That is fairly clear.
So to return to the most troubling part of the leaflet, that is, the statement that world peace is threatened by Zionism, in this day that statement is considered no different then anti-Semitism. World peace is not threatened by Zionism. It is threatened by philosophies that believe a Jewish State should not exist. The desire to rid the world of its only Jewish State (there are many Islamic states and some Christian states) is surely anti-Semitism and evil in its intent.
Monday, September 9, 2013
I published a slightly different posting under this title several hours ago. I was extremely angry. I still am. But in my anger I did not write a clear posting about the actions of the Presbyterian organization that is called to minister to Palestinians. I have rewritten my material.
The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) linked to this page “Why Didn't the U.S. Invade Israel When it Used Chemical Weapons on Palestinians?” The pictures, the lies, and the comments are so terrible I won't place them on my blog. They have chosen pictures of a charred baby, a very damaged, with burns, young man, explaining that the Israelis use of white phosphorous was the cause of all this horror. There are other pictures. But white phosphorous does not fall into the category of chemical warfare, and the Israelis used it as smoke screen.
The IPMN has also linked to another story, "Israel's Weapons A Crime on Humanity." In this article the authors are accusing Israel of using depleted uranium.
Quite a few years ago when I had just gotten my first computer I went looking for a paper I had written for Christian Research Journal. It was about racist groups called 'Christian Identity.' I discovered an Islamic group had taken my paper and so edited it as to make it slam all Christians. They had multiple articles and pictures they were linked to including some Islamic Chechen rebels groups which they seemed to be involved with. On their page they had the same kinds of pictures with blame that had nothing to do with the pictures. They insisted, like the article and pictures linked to by IPMN that the United States had used depleted uranium against other people groups.
Without proof of any kind the IPMN is willing to use the pictures against Israel. They have moved into the world of radical Islam. The article is found on many radical Islamic sites such as this one, Electronic Resistance, which is a Lebanese site . Is the IPMN's hate that great?
The IPMN has fallen far from their Christian calling. Do they know about the blood libels of the medieval age? Do they know any of the history of the persecution that the Jews have suffered. They were blamed for the plague in the Middle Ages and driven out of country after country including Arab lands after the 1948 War in which five Arab countries attacked Israel.
A Christian organization called to a ministry of reconciliation does not use such vile links and propaganda to achieve their goals. When they do they walk away from both their calling and their Lord. They are placing themselves in a position where they are only able to cause animosity and hatred among the people in the Middle East.
How low will we as Presbyterians go to defame Israel. May our Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
One might wonder if Robert Ross or the editor of Presbyterian News Service know how to clean up an article a little so it will be acceptable for general Presbyterian readership. While it is undoubtedly a coincidence, the article, “Palestinian Christians Under Attack: 'Price Tag' Movement Continues with Apparent Immunity,” on the PNS site is structured in the same manner as “Price tag attacks and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine” on Mondoweiss, a radical activist news site.
Dr Robert Ross, a Presbyterian and member of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the PC (U.S.A.), is the author of both articles and they both start out the same. But one is slanted to reach an audience that is concerned about Christian safety in the Middle East and the other is slanted to interest those who believe that Israel has always practiced ethnic cleansing. Probably the biggest difference is that on the PNS one after writing about all of the extremist 'price tag' attacks against Palestinian Christians and Muslims, Ross writes:
"Meanwhile, the government has stepped up its campaign of demolishing Palestinian homes, seizing Palestinian land, revoking Palestinian residency permits, and invading Palestinian institutions, including churches and monasteries. These efforts are part of an official plan to Judaicize East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank—Palestinian territories that have been under Israel occupation since 1967".
But in the Mondoweiss article, after writing about the attacks, Ross writes:
"But the hooligan Israelis who carry out these price tag attacks are striving for the same goals as Messrs. Peres, Bennett, and Netanyahu: namely, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Israel/Palestine. They merely use different means to accomplish that goal. In fact, price tag vandalism, while indeed reprehensible, pales in comparison to the far more insidious and far more powerful policies that the Israeli government has long enacted and enforced.
In other words, “price tag” crimes and criminals are merely one component of a historically and politically vast ethnic cleansing machine. The first phase of ethnic cleansing, in 1948, focused on systematically driving more than 750,000 Palestinians from the new state of Israel into exile (see Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, 2006). Central to this phase has been the ongoing refusal by Israel to ever let Palestinian refugees return to their homes and land. (Meanwhile, Israel will instantly grant citizenship to any Jew from anywhere in the world, simply because they are Jewish.) The second phase of ethnic cleansing has been taking place since 1967, when Israel began its occupation of the Palestinian West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza Strip (in addition to the Syrian Golan Heights and Egyptian Sinai Peninsula). The ethnic cleansing has accelerated since the mid-1990s. As Munir Nuseibah explained, today’s ethnic cleansing is carried out using several methods. In addition to the price tag attacks, the demolition and confiscation of property and the revocation of residency permits are the most common methods employed."
Now it is certain that the price tag crimes are horrific and there are problems with house demolitions, outrageous problems, as well as problems with some of the places where the wall has been or will be built. One could say, should say, that Israel needs the wall for security reasons; they however could be more discerning about its placement. However Ross' article in Mondoweiss is untruthful. Ethnic cleansing is not Israel's history.
There is not a history of Israel being a “politically vast ethnic cleansing machine.” What an unethical way to explain the history of Israel. This sentence, “The first phase of ethnic cleansing, in 1948, focused on systematically driving more than 750, 000 Palestinians from the state of Israel into exile,” is a fabrication. And while Ross references the historian Iian Pappe and his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, he fails to tell his readers that Pappe has been refuted by other historians. For instance see a detailed review of Pappe's book by Dr. Seth J Frantzman, taken from the Middle East Quarterly. Another is “1948, Israel, and the Palestinians: Annotated Text” by Efraim Karsh head of Mediterranean Studies at King's College.
Some Palestinians were wrongly sent into exile. Some were encouraged to flee by leaders of the five Arab nations who attacked the new nation of Israel. They fled with the understanding that the Arab nations would win and they could then return. There were terrible atrocities on both sides but it was not Israel who attacked the other nations but they who attacked Israel.
While Ross' awful words are not in the PNS article there is a connection, not only is he the author of both articles, he, as I have stated, is a member of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network, and in their Palestinian advocacy they often link on their twitter page to Mondoweiss' articles. Also in the PNS article there is no balance. The article, supposedly about 'price tagging,' and Christian persecution, is about Israel's wrong doing with nothing stated about Hamas or other extremest Islamic groups. And beyond that is an inference about Israel that is stated as fact in the Mondoweiss article.
At the last General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) a speaker in committee referred to a PNS news article rather than the actual minutes of two previous GAs, which he should have used. The article was misleading, therefore the speaker was misleading. This new article on PNS, sets up another article, written by a member of an organization involved in the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement, who advocates using those who believe that Israel should no longer exist as a Jewish nation, which could be used by another speaker in another committee at the next General Assembly.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Several of my morning devotional readings came together with an article I found on the Layman. The article is also linked at CHURCHandWORLD.com. The readings are Philippians 1:19-30; Hosea 2 and Psalm 38. The article was from the Christian News, “Bakery Under Investigation for Declining to make Lesbian 'Wedding' Cake moves Due to Harassment.” However, the thoughts I have about the texts cover much more than the harassment the Kleins who operate the 'Sweet Cakes by Melissa' are enduring for the sake of their faith.* It is about the Church, in particular the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as well as other mainline denominations and God's compassion, love and judgment.
The faithful in the United States are experiencing anxious times. We are uncertain about how the laws regarding discrimination versus religious freedom will play out. Certainly the future and freedom are threatened. And to make matters worse denominational faithlessness places denominational church members in a precarious position. They stand with their backs against two walls: a secular state and a compromising religious institution. So from the biblical texts God's love, compassion and his judgment.
Paul is writing about being in prison and the possibility of his death. But he insists that he will continue on for the sake of the believers that they may progress in their faith and have joy. And then Paul gives several admonitions and promises. The Christians must live their lives in a manner that is “worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” They are here called to live a righteous life while bearing the righteousness of Jesus.
The Christians are promised that they will suffer, “For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake not only to believe in him, but to suffer for his sake.” (29a) But they are not to be alarmed. Their peace will be a sign for their enemies as well as themselves. The Christians will experience salvation, the opponents destruction. This is hard language but it is an eschatological promise. The reality of the ultimate future is not uncertainty but certainty. There is compassion but finally, in the end, there is judgment as well as salvation.
The Christians at Philippi were facing non-Christian opponents, those who had no desire to be called Christian. But in Hosea we see the people of God as the problem. They are the opponents, and this because they are completely compromised by false religion which included immorality. Israel is likened to a wife who believes her blessings, bread, water, wool, flax, oil and drink are gifts from lovers different from her husband. She is totally ignorant of the true source of her life. Israel becomes intimately involved with the Baals of the surrounding culture.
God's solution is to hedge her in; he places her in a position where she can only return to him. He takes away his gifts and even allows her lovers to see her lewdness so that they will also reject her. (This has too often happened to the church.) One could say that God takes away what his people believe to be their rights so that they might find real satisfaction in the Lord who is their true redeemer. God speaks to his people:
“I will betroth you to me forever; yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord. (19,21)
God judges his church in order to bring repentance and bind her to himself. God will judge his Church; the Scripture is very clear, but God will have compassion in the midst of repentance.
This is the prayer of the sinner; the confession of repentance and acknowledgment that we, I, suffer from my own sin. “for your sorrows have sunk deep into me, and your hand has pressed down on me. There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.” Over and over the affects and pains of sin are stated.
But this is a paradox. In the midst of being a sinner the confessor acknowledges that there are enemies who hate them for following good. “For I said, 'May they not rejoice over me, who, when my foot slips, would magnify themselves against me. For I am ready to fall, and my sorrow is continually before me. For I confess my iniquity; I am full of anxiety because of my sin. But my enemies are vigorous and strong … They oppose me because I follow what is good.”
The faithful Christian like the psalmist, acknowledging that they are sinners and confessing will find their sinfulness thrown in their face by those who are also sinners but without repentance. And the answer is simply this. Continue in confession and faith in the God who does not forsake. “Do not forsake me, O Lord; O my God, do not be far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation.”
The Kleins have moved from their bakery, painted in pink with crosses, to their home for safety's sake. Maybe they will be charged with discrimination by the state of Oregon. Maybe not. But the promises, life eternal, forgiveness and suffering still stand.
*Melissa and Aaron Klein would not participate in a same sex wedding by baking a cake and have discrimination charges filed against them.
Picture by Penny Juncker
Monday, September 2, 2013
I have found a couple of excellent articles on the tragedy in Syria. One article is by a Messianic Jew in Israel and one about and by some Catholic sisters in Syria.
The first article, “What in the World is Going on in Syria,” the “July-August 2013 Yeshua Israel Report,” gives, with several sections, some detailed history of the evolution of the crisis. For instance:
“By the time Syria regained her independence in the 1940's, the Alawites, once a detested fringe group, now had large numbers in positions of influence and the military. In 1970, one of these Alawites military members, Hafez al-Assad, took over Syria in a bloodless coup. This solidified the Alawite Muslim minority as the ruling class. Sunni Muslims who make up the majority of the country would now take a back seat in society.”
On the rebellion the authors point out that although the rebellion started with good intentions by those that the west might have backed it has now been joined by those rebels who belong to both Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. Some have estimated that up to two-hundred different groups are involved. It is truly a Muslim civil war.
The authors at the end of their article turn the problematic questions toward God and the needs of the many refugees. And their prayers are for all. Historically, practically and faith-wise this is a very helpful article.
The other article, “A Letter from Trappist Nuns in Syria: “Blood fills our Streets, our eyes, our hearts,” is about a group of sisters in Syria who are attempting follow the legacy of the monks who befriended the Muslim population in Algeria. (A French movie “Of Gods and Men” was make about the monks several years ago.) The sisters have written a letter explaining why the west should not enter Syria's civil war. The letter is a part of the article.
The nuns write,
“We look at the people around us, our day workers who are all here as if suspended, stunned: “They've decided to attack us.” Today we went to Tartous...we felt the anger, the helplessness, the inability to formulate a sense to all this: the people trying their best to work and to live normally. You see the farmers watering the land, parents buying notebooks for the schools that are to begin, unknowing children asking for a toy or an ice cream... you see the poor, so many of them, trying to scrape together a few coins. The streets are full of the “inner” refugees of Syria who have come from all over to the only area left that is still livable...You see the beauty of the hills, the smile on people's face, the good-natured gaze of a boy who is about to join the army and gives us the two or three peanuts he has in his pocket as a token of “togetherness”...And then you remember that they have decided to bomb us tomorrow...Just like that. Because “it's time to do something,” as it is worded in the statements of the important men, who will be sipping their tea tomorrow as they watch TV to see how effective their humanitarian intervention will be …”
I pray that our President and our Congress take the right actions which should be helping the over a million refugees coming from Syria.