For the Dead & Living: Prayers for the Martyrs of ISIS


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For the Dead

Eternal Lord God, we remember before you today your faithful servants,
the 20 Libyan martyrs; we pray that, having opened to them the gates of larger life,
you will receive them more and more into your joyful service, that, with all
who have faithfully served you in the past, they may share in your eternal victory.

Almighty God, who, in joy and felicity, lives with the spirits who die in the Lord,
and with the souls of the faithful: We give you heartfelt thanks
for the good examples of your servants, who, even in the fear of their final moments
finished their course in faith, and now find rest and refreshment.

Father of all, we pray for those we love, but see no longer:
Grant them your peace; let perpetual light shine upon them;
in your loving wisdom and almighty power, work through their deaths
the good purpose of your perfect will.
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On #Ferguson: Why Police & Military Should Be Different [QUOTE]


ferguson-military-policeEver since the police in Ferguson, Missouri brought out their military gear in response to peaceful protests after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager, there has been a new conversation about the increasingly blurred lines between the police and the military. I have very good friends that cannot seem to understand why there needs to be any distinction. Force is force, right? Well, in my reading recently, I came across this relevant quote I thought I’d share:

The distinction made here between police and war is not simply a matter of the degree to which the appeal to force, goes, the number of persons killed or killing. It is a structural and profound difference in the sociological meaning of the appeal to force.
In the police function, the violence or threat thereof is applied only to the offending party. The use of violence by the agent of the police is subject to review by higher authorities. The police officer applies power within the limits of a state whose legislation even the criminal knows to be applicable to him. In any orderly police system there are serious safeguards to keep the violence of the police from being applied in a wholesale way against the innocent. The police power generally is great enough to overwhelm that of the individual offender so that any resistance on the offender’s part is pointless.

In all of these respects, war is structurally different. The doctrine of the “just war” is an effort to extend into the realm of war the logic of the limited violence of police authority–but not a very successful one. There is some logic to the “just war” pattern of thought but very little realism.

–John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus

In short, you shouldn’t appeal to policing tactics to justify military force, and you shouldn’t use military tactics in policing.

[photo credit: Whitney Curtis for the New York Times]

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


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{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.)
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A Shout-Out to My Mennonite Pacifists Out There…


Being in Pennsylvania, I meet lots of people that either consider themselves Mennonite, or at least were raised that way. One of the most well-known aspects of Mennonite belief is their unwavering commitment to pacifism (or, as a commenter corrected me below, the Mennonite “doctrine of nonresistance”). Hanging out with one of my new raised-Mennonite friends the other evening, she showed me (with pride) the above picture that has hung in one of their family’s houses for a long time. It struck me as beautiful as well, especially the second quote. Here it is, nicely typed out for optimal readability and convenience:

“It is our fixed principle rather than take up Arms to defend our King, our Country, or our Selves, to suffer all that is dear to be rent from us, even Life itself, and this we think not out of Contempt to Authority, but that herein we act agreeable to what we think is the Mind and Will of our Lord Jesus.”

–Thirteen Mennonite Ministers of Pennsylvania, May 15, 1755

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Weekly Must-Reads {05.24.11} | theology & politics edition


As promised, this week’s weekly must-reads tend towards the theological. We do have some political “leftovers” from last week that you all should find interesting. So, as usual, read to your heart’s content and please comment and let me know what you think about these! 

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More Like Prayer 5 | Jesus Creed

Fascinating and oh-so-brief introduction to a whole new way of looking at the gospel, politics, and the church. Wow.

Mercifully Forsaken | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Wow. Simply wow. Such a beautiful and powerful piece of writing on the mercy of God in his forsaking of us. Did not expect this from Christianity Today (front page, no less!).

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Wikileaks, Lies, & Truth: Who to Trust?


I have been watching, reading, and pouring over the events surrounding Wikileaks, wanting to write some sort of thoughtful commentary. But, as The Atlantic points out, this event has brought about some of the best journalism, political analysis, and writing we’ve seen in years and I find it difficult to try and say something newer or more insightful than those that are more knowledgeable of the past and have more time and acquaintance with the primary sources in question. With more of these leaked diplomatic cables being released every day, this coverage is literally non-stop. My productivity at worked has suffered because of the tangled web of links one can get caught in going from one story to the next to the next; I have at least a couple dozen quotes and links saved in my Evernote notetaking app in order to use in some future writing (or present).

But nevertheless, even among my friends who care about this situation, there appears to be some common misconceptions about this whole situation, leading them to direct their frustrations, diatribes, and anger in the wrong direction. I wish to clarify some of those here today. First, I must say on the outset that I am absolutely, entirely in favor of most all that Wikileaks has done and is doing. I think they are serving America’s longterm interest and the well-being of its citizenry far more than even our own federal government is doing. Do I think they have done everything perfectly and responsibly? No, but no four-year old media organization can be said to have done so. Wikileaks has (and will) make mistakes–its founder has even admitted that–but so will/has our federal government in its own “attempts” at serving the greater good. The only question remains: who do you think does more damage when they make those inevitable mistakes (the government or Wikileaks?), and therefore, who requires more scrutiny, responsibility, accountability, and fear of being out of control? I (as well as Glenn Greenwald and The Economist) wholeheartedly fear the results of a government out of control more than a Wikileaks out of control. But, in fact (as we move on to the misconceptions) ….
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An Open Response to Some Atheist Friends Regarding Slavery & Biblical Ethics (pt. 1)


[First off, this is a long one, and only part 1 of 6, so beware before you start reading.]

On Facebook, there appeared a status by an old atheist friend of mine from undergrad named Larry (supported by another friend Christopher). Here was the thesis of the post:

Regarding moral relativism the christians are hypocritical. They say they believe in a moral objectivity given by god…but how is it then, that they believed slavery was a product of the old days, as it was applicable to the time it was practiced (and sanctioned by the bible) but now condemn it? The bible, last I checked did not change. I think this is a PRIMARY example of moral relativism exhibited by the church and christians. So how can they sit here and tell us that a proof for god is moral objectivity?

In other words, how could the ethics of Christians change over time if the book they supposedly base their ethics upon has not changed? Either the God that inspired the Bible was completely incompetent in his revelation or there was no God revealing anything at all. The note caused a discussion that resulted in almost 90 comments, and I quickly realized that if I were going to respond, it would need to be in a more lengthy manner than a Facebook comment (which is not the most helpful of mediums of debate). So here it is. I’d like to respond to the ideas that came out in the discussions. I want to disagree with them on the basis of five ideas:

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