ISIS, The 21, and Letting The Bible Speak For Itself


Featured Image -- 12968

Yes and amen.

Josh Howerton

Yesterday, shortly after WG’s ended at The Bridge, news broke of ISIS releasing a video in which 21 Egyptian Christians – scornfully called “the people of the Cross” by the terrorists  – were marched to a secluded beach and savagely beheaded by men in black masks. After huddling our little family around the computer to talk about it, I was going to write a post. But sometimes a horror is so deep it’s best to place your hand over your mouth, unchain the Bible, and let it speak for itself…

Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.  – John 16:2

Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God… They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  – Revelation 20:4

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life…

View original post 196 more words

Advent, Angst, & Ferguson


Rothko-9-White-Black-Wine-1958
When my phone started blowing up with notifications about the Ferguson grand jury decision, I was in a daze. I grabbed my pipe, poured the biggest single glass of whiskey I’ve ever had, and sat in my backyard in tears, alternating between retweeting others’ comments on the case and just staring at the sky. I watched and heard the helicopters above as they watched the Philadelphia protests below, mere blocks from my house.

I think part of my response was because of where my mind had been in the days leading up to the decision.

I recently pored over Cornel West’s biography and watched 12 Years a Slave. As the weather has gotten colder, the city’s marginalized and homeless have become more noticeable. An organization whose heart is in the right place, and who I otherwise love, put out some promotional materials that unintentionally showcased the degree to which racism and power structures are so ingrained and so unconscious. Last Sunday, I watched as Rudy Giuliani went shockingly racist on Meet The Press (what he said is wrong, by the way). For school, I watched a presentation on the Civil Right’s movement, and also read King’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail. 

And then the grand jury came back. No indictment.
Continue reading

How serious are you about ministering to your people? | Ezra 8.15-18


I gathered them by the river that runs to Ahava, and there we camped three days. As I reviewed the people and the priests, I found there none of the descendants of Levi. Then I sent for Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam, who were leaders, and for Joiarib and Elnathan, who were wise, and sent them to Iddo, the leader at the place called Casiphia, telling them what to say to Iddo and his colleagues the temple servants at Casiphia, namely, to send us ministers for the house of our God. Since the gracious hand of our God was upon us, they brought us a man of discretion, of the descendants of Mahli son of Levi son of Israel, namely Sherebiah, with his sons and kin
Ezra 8.15-18

Here, you see Ezra refuse to settle for who he had before him. He was determined to see that the ministers to God’s people be the absolute most qualified people they could be. They had to be Levites. There were none there. Did he just throw up his hands and say that they had to “settle” for who was there and willing? No! He went out and sought qualified ministers.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Esther & Political Advocacy by God’s People| Es4.3,8 [DOUBLE-HEADER]


esther_mordechai-arent-de-gelderUpdate (3/8): This little seemingly inconsequential post caused quite the comment thread on Facebook and represented every reason I’ve started this series. I got challenged and my view of the book of Esther got broadened more than I ever could have imagine. I’ve reproduced those comments below.

In every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and most of them lay in sackcloth and ashes. —Esther 4.3

Notice here that when the Jews are faced with political persecution, and an actual existential threat from the political authority, their response is not activism,  nor violence, nor lobbying, it is instead to pray, weep, lament, fast, and cry out to God, their true king and political leader.

Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther, explain it to her, and charge her to go to the king to make supplication to him and entreat him for her people. —Esther 4.8

Well…Okay, okay. I see that only a few versus later, Mordecai does try to appeal to Esther, the political insider, to lobby on behalf of her people. So, that sort of goes against what I just said above.

But, notice that they still did not use violence or mass political demonstrations or mobilization. They peacefully engaged those from their community who were specifically equipped to engage politically. They didn’t see themselves as primarily political creatures,  nor their problems primarily as political problems,  nor the answers primarily as political solutions. The political piece was merely one facet in the kaleidoscope of human experience through which God works his will,  and not even the main one.

My not-so-subtle point: the Evangelical obsession with political activism and using politics to accomplish (what they view as) the goals of the Kingdom are anti-biblical and find no basis in Scripture.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

[image credit: “Esther and Mordechai write the Second Letter of Purim” by Arent de Gelder]

Politics & Tithe | Ezra 8.35-36


At that time those who had come from captivity, the returned exiles, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs, and as a sin offering twelve male goats; all this was a burnt offering to the Lord. They also delivered the king’s commissions to the king’s satraps and to the governors of the province Beyond the River; and they supported the people and the house of God.
Ezra 8.36

Interesting line… Is this saying that they had people “on staff” who managed their civil tithe to the secular authority (taxes), and the lay people supported the House of God? Is this like tax accountants “on staff” among the leadership of the temple?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Weekly Must-Reads {2.12.14} | Creation, Masturbation, & Communism


guy-newspaper-reading

Well, it’s been a good long while since I’ve posted a Reading List for you all to enjoy–too long, in fact. These were some of my favorite things I read this week. What were some of yours?

__________

In defense of creationists | The Week
Michael Brendan Dougherty

I referenced this at the end of my post yesterday, but this is a stunningly beautiful piece that wrestles with humanizing those that frustrate us the most in the Christian family. A must-read for sure.

Escaping the Prison of the Self: C.S. Lewis on Masturbation | First Things
Wesley Hill

Don’t overlook this piece too quickly. It is an incredibly powerful piece that speaks to how all of us–married, single, gay, straight–engage our sexuality in this world. It showed me how having celibate unmarried people in the world is necessary for healthy marriages, as well as how masturbation ruins even good friendships.

Continue reading

Christians, Contraceptives, & Civil Disobedience (iii): conclusions


sit-inOver the past couple of posts, we’ve been looking at Acts 4, to see if it has any lessons to teach us about how Christian engage with the political realm when they disagree with what the government is doing.

So far, we’ve talked about three things: (in Part 1) how Christians should engage with a political realm that comes in conflict with their faith; what is worth Christians disobeying the civil authorities over; and (in Part 2) the cultural and societal work we are called to that facilitates our Christian living and possible disobedience.

Today, we’ll finish this up with some principles and applications for moving forward.

Some Personal Contraceptive Conclusions
Continue reading

Christians, Contraceptives, & Civil Disobedience (ii)


Nicolas-Poussin-peter-john-healing-lame-manOkay, I lied. This will be three posts, not just two.

Last week, in light of Catholic institutions moving more towards Civil Disobedience in light of certain provisions in the Affordable Care Act, we looked at Acts 4 to see if there was any guidance we could get in this. We talked about how (1) Civil Disobedience is not warfare against the laws of your geographic home, but simply living in light of your spiritual home–the Kingdom of God. We also pointed out (2) that the State is not around to comply with our every theological preference and whim, and therefore some discretion needs to be used to evaluate what’s “worth” Civil Disobedience.

Today we keep going. I want to offer some summary conclusions, but first let’s point out the last thing the Acts 4 passage helps us see: the work we do in society prior to our Civil Disobedience.
Continue reading

Christians, Contraceptives, & Civil Disobedience (i)


laureti-triumph-christianity-pagan-statueWith the Affordable Care Act kicking in, it has certainly stirred up its fair share of controversies. It’s regulations are pretty far-reaching and have started to encroach on some territory held pretty sacred by some major parts of our Christian family. The biggest friction has been with the ACA’s requirement that non-church and ecclesial organizations still have to cover contraception coverage for their employees. Catholics who run non-ecclesial organizations have not taken too kindly to this. NPR recently had an interesting profile about this intersection of faith and politics.

Catholic leaders have vowed Civil Disobedience in response to these regulations, insisting on a religious exemption, even for private companies. In the past, religious organizations have done similar things in response to abortion regulations as well as gay marriage statutes.

Reading through Acts 4 the other day, I read again the account of Peter and John being arrested in Jerusalem and thought it had some powerful things to say about this and how Christians in America have been acting towards their government recently. So, I thought we’d walk through that passage over a post today and on Monday, and discuss some principles behind when and how Christians should fight their government tooth-and-nail for their convictions.
Continue reading

My concern with Obama’s NSA surveillance reforms


obama-flagIn case you haven’t heard, President Obama laid out new reforms on surveillance at the NSA today (more helpful coverage HERE and HERE). These were a direct response to the concerns raised by the leaks of Edward Snowden (can we please we start acknowledging that he has helped us more than hurt us now?).

The reforms are already getting mixed responses among privacy advocates, some praising it as a “major milestone” while other still think it to simply be “reconfigured unconstitutional program”. I am inclined to be mostly happy about these reforms (and this issue has been a big issue for me), but I just have a couple of concerns apart from the reforms themselves I wanted to throw out there. If I’m wrong on any of this, please let me know.
Continue reading

An idiot defends the Patriot Act


paul-american-flag-coffee-mug-12-03Perusing around, I ran across this response to an article by Dana Milbank from 2003 on the anniversary of 9/11. The article originally appeared in The Washongton Post, but I could only find it at this odd site. Here, the commenter offers a summary of the article and an opinion:

This article is about recent comments President Bush made recently on expanding the Patriot Act of 2001.  These are surprising comments due to the fact that the Patriot Act is already one of the most controversial Acts ever passed by Congress.  The act extremely expanded federal police powers by severely restricting the civil liberties of terrorism suspects.  Under the act, federal officers need less than ever before to find “just cause” in apprehending, detaining, and punishing those accused of terrorist acts.  The “Patriot 2” as it has been dubbed, would contain clauses allowing for the issuance of subpoenas without grand juries, holding of suspects without bail, and the pursuance of the death penalty in a broader spectrum of cases, still involving murder.  Many politicians are telling the media that the Bush administration is trying to fight sudden “Anti-Patriot Act” feelings by going on the offensive: Talking of expanding the original Patriot Act.

In my opinion, the comments made by Bush were so logical and fair.  As a strong supporter of the original Patriot Act, I see nothing wrong with Bush asking Congress to give federal officers the exact same powers to apprehend terror suspects as they do to apprehend embezzlers or drug traffickers.  Many of the politicians are also putting these negative feelings on John Ashcroft, when he has apparently been doing an incredible job.  Ever since September 11th, there has not been a single other terrorist attack on American soil.  In my opinion, he needs to be given the ability to continue whatever he is doing.

The person that wrote this was me. I wrote it over 10 years ago as an assignment for my High School AP Government class, where we had to read and respond to current event articles.

If you have ever stumbled on any political post on this blog (after 2007 or so), you know that I am not of this same mind at all. In fact, this was my “one-issue” that determined my Presidential vote this year. (Hopefully, you can also see that my writing has somewhat improved–yikes!). Shortly after this was written, I sat deciding on whether to go to a large urban university or Liberty University. My decision was made when my dad told me that he thought I “grew better in thorny soil”. That’s where I went, and that’s what molded me.

So let this be an encouragement that neither the environment you’re raised in nor the zeal with which you hold an opinion can close you off from change and growth. Always keep your mind open, pursue knowledge, and doubt your doubts. And spend some time in thorny soil. Happy New Year!

If I’m right about cities, then Republicans are in deep trouble.


philly-city-hall-flagIt’s been too long since we’ve had a political post hasn’t it? Last week, as part of my “Urban Lessons” mini-series, I wrote on how cities are perhaps the fountainheads of everything that ends up in suburban and rural areas. The things that take place in cities, it seems, always ends up flowing outward into the rest of the country, even if it takes decades or generations to do so.

I had that on my mind when watching this segment of The Rachel Maddow Show from Monday night’s episode. The segment is based off an excellent piece by Alexander Burns in Politico called “GOP big-city mayors vanish”. In it, Burns writes:

Largely unnoticed in Washington, urban Republican politicians have emerged over the last year as perhaps the nation’s most severely endangered political species, as the party has either failed to compete for high-profile mayor’s offices or has been soundly rebuffed by voters. It’s a significant setback that some Republicans view as an ominous sign for the GOP in a country growing steadily more urban and diverse.

Continue reading

How’d We Get Here?: An open letter to my Republican friends (gov’t shutdown, day 2)


kilroyart-Im-just-a-BillHey, Republican friend.

Yeah, I’m writing to you. Not to the pundits or the politicians (not that they’d read this anyway), but you: the everyday Joe (or Jane) that considers themselves a Republican, who reads these headlines about the government shutting down and wonders how it got here and whether or not the people you most agree with are actually at fault here. This post is a long one, but hopefully it’s a helpful one.

But first let me say that, on a grand scale, I’m with you politically. I consider myself a center-right pragmatist. I think the government should be dedicated to very few things, the private sector should be utilized whenever possible, and that States–rather than the federal government–are the greatest laboratories for democracy and the greatest vehicles of government to their people.

But there’s a bigger context to this showdown that I fear is getting lost in all the noise. Everyone seems to be focusing on a series of events in the past month or so that led to this, but it actually goes back a little further than that.

Continue reading

A Christian Pacifist’s Lament for Syria, with help from Quakers


Godwin-untitled-sketch-bw-cropped

{summary: Though I consider myself a pacifist and consider force as something that goes against the Kingdom of God, I feel that governments, because they are not the Kingdom of God will always fall short of that and have a necessary level of sin in them. And so, for the sake of a greater good, I would not speak against my government using military action in Syria (though I wouldn’t say I’d explicitly “endorse” it).}

As many people have been doing, I have been snarkily criticizing President Obama’s pursuit of making an attack on Syria. It seems too pointless, too risky, too naivetoo counter-productive, and too lonely. I had felt sadness over the plight of Syrians, but while the rebel forces are over-run by Islamic radicals and terrorist groups, I haven’t thought that empowering, arming, or making their victory certain was better in the long-run. (If you need a refresher on the details of the Syria situation, this is a great one.)
Continue reading