God's Politics

God's Politics


The Global Church and America’s War (by Jim Wallis)

posted by God's Politics

From my blogs this week, readers can rightly conclude that I believe Gen. Petraeus’ claims of modest security gains in certain sectors of Iraq do not justify extending the U.S occupation, especially when four years of occupation of Iraq have not produced the political reconciliation that would be necessary for real security and stability. The fragile security improvements are not sustainable without a political solution, which is simply not forthcoming. And without a clear path to political progress, the realization that what Petraeus proposes, and President Bush will likely endorse tonight, is simply more of the same failed strategy, and a scenario of American occupation in the midst of bloody sectarian warfare with absolutely no end in sight.


And contrary to some comments on this site, I have suggested several times an alternative strategy that would have to involve serious international intervention and regional engagement to secure Iraqi security and stability — the kind of bold, strong, and creative multilateral strategy that is completely obstructed by the ongoing unilateral American occupation. Permanent U.S. military bases and unique American claims to future oil revenues and contracts for Iraqi reconstruction are among the U.S. prerogatives that would have to be sacrificed for such international solutions to be possible — along with a massive American financial commitment to rebuild the shattered country that our war has broken. But exercising American responsibility without U.S. control is not likely to occur on the Bush watch. So we can only look and hope for a future change of direction.


But let’s turn from politics to theology and ecclesiology. The vitriol against Christian Iraq war dissenters from the handful of neocon war promoters who regularly clog the comments to this site forget both. Both the teachings of Jesus (remember, “blessed are the peacemakers” and “love your enemies”) and the rigorous criteria of the “just war” from Augustine and others in the Christian tradition clearly leave believers with at least a presumption against war. And the ignominious origins and now-disputed rationales for this war in particular, along with its enormous human cost, clearly put the burden of proof on the war’s supporters much more than its critics — that is, if we are to be Christians about all this, and not just American nationalists or neoconservative apologists for American hegemony in the world.


That brings me to a second point — about the body of Christ and our loyalty to the global Christian community. Outside the borders of the United States of America, a vast, vast majority of the world’s people are steadfastly against the American war in Iraq and the foreign policies of the U.S. in general. Take out all the non-Christians from that global population sample and among the people of God the opposition remains the same. Even reduce that number to only evangelical Christians worldwide and you are still left with an overwhelming majority of born-again, Bible-believing Christians who are against American policy in Iraq and, indeed, the entire Middle East region.


Because of my work and transatlantic family ties, I travel extensively around the world, frequently talk to others who do, regularly read the international press, frequently host international Christian leaders, and often attend international Christian gatherings. Last week, I wrote on this site about my recent journey to Singapore to join 500 leaders of World Vision from 100 countries. And I will tell you that, once again, the great majority of those evangelical believers, especially from the global South, but also including Europeans, Australians, and even many Americans who work globally, are now completely opposed to the Iraq war, to U.S. policy in the region, and to the way the United States conducts its “war on terrorism.” In other words, my experience convinces me that the body of Christ, internationally, is against the U.S. war in Iraq and the whole direction of current U.S. foreign policy. Many Christians I’ve spoken to go further and say that America’s aggressive role in the world today has hurt the cause of Christ globally, especially when an American president dangerously conflates America’s role with God’s purposes. And if you don’t know that perspective, you simply haven’t had much experience with Christians outside of the United States.


So if the international body of Christ generally doesn’t support America’s war in Iraq, or U.S. foreign policy generally, what do some American Christians know that the rest of the global Christian community doesn’t? Is the rest of the church just wrong? Do we have access to information that they don’t have? (Actually, they have much more access to information and different perspectives than most Americans have, which is a big part of the problem.) What don’t they understand that we do? Or, from the perspective of the Christian warriors who try to dominate the commentary section of this blog, what do they know that world Christianity has yet to learn?


Personally, to be frank, I think it is because far too many American Christians are simply Americans first and Christians second. The statement that got the most enthusiastic response in Singapore was not about politics but ecclesiology: “We are to be Christians first, and members of nations or tribes second.” That simple affirmation, if ever applied, would utterly transform the relationship of American Christians to the policies of their own government.


For all the vitriolic debate about politics this week in relationship to the war in Iraq, I think the real issue is our theology and ecclesiology. Many American Christians are simply more loyal to a version of American nationalism than they are to the body of Christ. I want to suggest that the two are now in conflict, and we must decide to whom to we ultimately belong. That’s the real issue.



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Don

posted September 13, 2007 at 12:58 pm


Amen, Rev. Wallis.
Peace,



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JCinSunnyLA

posted September 13, 2007 at 1:00 pm


Bravo Jim!
The last thing the Christian community needs is another series of misguided Crusades to spread the Gospel of Christ by the sword. After all, isn’t that what the Neocons have accused the Muslims of doing in regard to spreading their beliefs?
It is NOT a different world since 9-11, for “there is nothing new under the sun”–only IN the Only Begotten Son of God.



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Moderatlelad

posted September 13, 2007 at 2:03 pm


The vitriol against Christian Iraq war dissenters from the handful of neocon war promoters who regularly clog the comments to this site forget both.
Thanks Jim for the label. I have engaged many on this site and don’t believe that I have forgotten anything. I have been very respectful to others opinions even if I do not agree with them. But – thanks for broad brushing all of us with the same label – I am sure that those on the other side of the argument would be OK with someone doing the same with them. (NOT)
‘…rigorous criteria of the “just war” from Augustine and…’
I have pointed out several that have used Augustine to say that we had fulfilled the requirements, but that must not matter. Charles Colson had several articles affirming the war with Iraq and Augustine. (Oh – maybe his association with former Pres Nixon negates him – I understand the logic – NOT)
We have an Ambassidor from the US to Iraq and I believe that he is working on a diplomatic solution to bring this war to an end. When was the last time that the US had an Ambassidor in Iraq prior to this one.
Question Jim
If this current war with Iraq is successful in bring peace to that region and the Iraqi people have their own gov’t and have worked out their differences so that their is a peace there. Will you be happy with the outcome? Will you be pleased that the Iraqi people have a gov’t that is theirs and not something like Saddam exploiting them? I am not asking for you to admit that you might have been wrong. Just will you be happy and can you support it if it works out.
Blessings –
.



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jesse

posted September 13, 2007 at 2:07 pm


But let’s turn from politics to theology and, even, ecclesiology. The vitriol against Christian Iraq war dissenters from the handful of neocon war promoters who regularly clog the comments to this site forget both.
–The monologue of the Religious Right is over! Let the new monologue begin!
Who’s attacking whose faith? Who’s calling who names?
I don’t know whether I’m a “neo-con” or not. As far as the war in Iraq goes right now, I’m a pragmatist, and my goal is the best possible outcome for the Iraqi people. They want us over there to help them out. I think we have the moral obligation to help their government bring peace. This is, of course, completely consistent with Christian peacemaking principles.



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Pastor Astor

posted September 13, 2007 at 2:09 pm


Well said! And I totally agree. It is very disturbing to see the mixture of nationalism and religion that somehow often passes for Christianity in the States.
Stop acting as crusaders and follow Christs example! For many, right now you are not the promised land but the land of opressors – a modern version of Babylonia or Rome!



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jese

posted September 13, 2007 at 2:12 pm


But let’s turn from politics to theology and, even, ecclesiology. The vitriol against Christian Iraq war dissenters from the handful of neocon war promoters who regularly clog the comments to this site forget both.
–The monologue of the Religious Right is over! Let the new monologue begin!
Who’s attacking whose faith? Who’s calling who names?
I don’t know whether I’m a “neo-con” or not. As far as the war in Iraq goes right now, I’m a pragmatist, and my goal is the best possible outcome for the Iraqi people. They want us over there to help them out. I think we have the moral obligation to help their government bring peace. This is, of course, completely consistent with Christian peacemaking principles.



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N.M. Rod

posted September 13, 2007 at 2:13 pm


There is nothing new under the sun as per the conflation of religion with governments. Even Stalin decided during the darkest days of World War II to bring back the persecuted orthodox church temporarily to buttress his own military purposes.
It is particularly ironical, however, in a nation which claims to be founded upon separation of church from state control.
What is new, however, with enormous danger to life on the planet, is the Armageddon-style destructive capabilities of a nuclear-armed or now, thermobaric-armed planet.
The self-identification of American Christianity and even missionary zeal with an aggressive nationalistic hegemony is typified by my own denomination’s web page, which has a statement about missions to the world superimnposed over a large graphic of the flag.
This is the largest protestant denomination in America, the Southern Baptist Conference.
I think we’re coming full circle to our original founding provincialism, which was based on propping up the narrow antebellum culture of the old South, including most particularly slavery, by trumpeting it as God’s will. It’s not that otherwise reprehensible ideas can’t sound enormously spiritual and capture millions if couched in the right emotional terms – Baptist preacher Thomas Dixon Jr. was one of the most popular speakers and writers of his day, writing The Clansman, which D.W. Griffith transformed into his silent classic, Birth of a Nation. The loudest nationally triumphant rhetoric of American Christians has the distinct echo of that old narrow and self-serving sectarian appeal that is nothing more than flattery.
There is no doubt that conflating the Christian message with that of militarism, even so far as comparing soldiers’ tragic deaths in the performance of their own killing of others, as being identical to Christ’s own saving sacrifice for us, is one that will win no genuine converts to Christianity at all.
It will result in the unfair discrediting of the real Christian message which is the sole hope of any of us, and thereby multiply evil in the world.



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kevin s.

posted September 13, 2007 at 2:21 pm


“But let’s turn from politics to theology and, even, ecclesiology. The vitriol against Christian Iraq war dissenters from the handful of neocon war promoters who regularly clog the comments to this site forget both.”
I can’t speak for all the neocon war promoters, but I have forgotten neither. I simply disagree that a presumption against war mandates that we continue a failed tract of diplomacy and sanctions with a man who spent 13 year defying UN mandates.
That is a political issue, not a theological issue. Before the war, Wallis proposed a plan that would somehow take Saddam out of power without causing any unrest. Without discussing the relative merits of this idea, I would say that the charming thing about hypotheticals is that one has the opportunity to select their own outcome.
“Or, from the perspective of the Christian warriors who try to dominate the commentary section of this blog, what do they know that world Christianity has yet to learn?”
I don’t know what you mean by Christian warrior, and I am not sure why I have to teach the world something in order to hold my opinion. I hold a minority opinion among world Christians on a lot of issues, I suspect. I simply disagree with them.
“Many American Christians are simply more loyal to a version of American nationalism than they are to the body of Christ. ”
While this is true, to use our viewpoint on Iraq policy to determine whether we are loyal to the body of Christ would be like me using the issue of legal abortion to determine who is loyal.



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N.M. Rod

posted September 13, 2007 at 2:26 pm


I keep hearing assertions from some that a particular war satisfies Augustine’s Just War Theory.
However, I have not seen any actual evidence that it does so except to simply repeat as a mantra that it does. None of the ministries I know of personally (and which I receive materials from) that claim it have bothered to show their supporters that line-by-line criteria or evidence.
Just War Theory has a whole list of evaluations that must entirely be met to satisfy its criteria.
I would be very interested to have the entire list of Augustine’s Just War criteria outlined and show how it has been satisfied.



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Ben Wheaton

posted September 13, 2007 at 2:28 pm


So, what Wallis is saying is that Christians should march in political lock-step with the global church? I think not. Christians can disagree on political issues, including those of war, without excommunicating each other. I think Rev. Wallis is assuming that just because other Christians around the world agree with him they ought to be listened to. Many evangelicals in other countries are just as compromised by their own nations’ perspectives as Americans are. In Singapore, did you ever here a Singaporean Christian attack the authoritarian regime of Lee Kuan Yew? I never did, I can tell you that. Wallis assumes that if only we were better Christians we would have opposed the war. Ever heard of something called “different judgments,” Rev. Wallis? People can have the same information and the same theology and yet come to different conclusions.



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N.M. Rod

posted September 13, 2007 at 2:35 pm


I am entirely comfortable with the idea that it is hypocrisy to be for abortion and against war, or against abortion and for war!



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 13, 2007 at 3:20 pm


I don’t know what you mean by Christian warrior, and I am not sure why I have to teach the world something in order to hold my opinion. I hold a minority opinion among world Christians on a lot of issues, I suspect. I simply disagree with them.
In American Christian culture, often “might makes right.” That is, if you can simply intimidate or overwhelm the enemy you will make your case — which is how the “world” thinks. Well, that mentality began to disintegrate when Clinton was elected, then re-elected and has since been exposed as non-sensical in Iraq. God, in other words, is not impressed by numbers because, well, He ultimately runs the show anyway.
Christians can disagree on political issues, including those of war, without excommunicating each other. I think Rev. Wallis is assuming that just because other Christians around the world agree with him they ought to be listened to.
You miss Wallis’ point — it’s not always about his views. Rather, we American evangelicals need to ask our “siblings” who don’t live in this country about their perspective on Biblical issues, which may not jibe with ours. Too often we Americans think we’re always or ultimately right.
Ever heard of something called “different judgments,” Rev. Wallis? People can have the same information and the same theology and yet come to different conclusions.
True. But not all views are valid in themselves — they must be put to the test.



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Wolverine

posted September 13, 2007 at 3:29 pm


Well, now that we have your attention…
Jim Wallis wrote:
The fragile security improvements are not sustainable without a political solution, which is simply not forthcoming.
Well, at least now we are starting to acknowledge, however grudgingly, the changes in conditions inside Iraq that Petraeus actually testified about. But I wonder how you can be so certain that a political solution will not be forthcoming, given that at least some of the political goals set by the administration have been achieved, even if the overall pace of political unification has been dissappointing?
And without a clear path to political progress, the realization that what Petraeus proposes, and President Bush will likely endorse tonight, is simply more of the same failed strategy, and a scenario of American occupation, in the midst of bloody sectarian warfare with absolutely no end in sight.
No end in sight? Among the many metrics that has turned the right way after the surge was a reduction in sectarian attacks.
And contrary to some comments on this site, I have suggested several times an alternative strategy…Permanent U.S. military bases and unique American claims to future oil revenues and contracts for Iraqi reconstruction are among the U.S. prerogatives that would have to be sacrificed for such international solutions to be possible — along with a massive American financial commitment to rebuild the shattered country
Sorry Jim, that isn’t a strategy, that’s a set of conditions. That’s not to say that they aren’t meant in a constructive way, but ultimately we need to know not just what the US may not do, but what the US can do.
But let’s turn from politics to theology and, even, ecclesiology. The vitriol against Christian Iraq war dissenters from the handful of neocon war promoters who regularly clog the comments to this site forget both.
Now we move closer to the heart of things.
I have never been ashamed of the title of Neocon. Whether me and the rest of the cabal have managed to “clog the comments” is debatable, Jim’s defenders have certainly made their presence felt. But it should be remembered that “neoconservatism” is a school of political thought, not theology. Blaming “neocons” is a distraction — the debate between Christian pacifists and just war theorists, and the debate over just how to apply the criteria of Just War, both go back long before the days of Norman Podhoretz and Leo Strauss.
Because of my work and transatlantic family ties, I travel extensively around the world, frequently talk to others who also do, regularly read the international press, frequently host international Christian leaders, and often attend international Christian gatherings.
Good for you. Did it ever occur to you that some of us may have Christian friends from outside of the country, or read the international press as well?
So if the international body of Christ generally doesn’t support America’s war in Iraq, or U.S. foreign policy generally, what do some American Christians know that the rest of the global Christian community doesn’t? Is the rest of the church just wrong? Do we have access to information that they don’t have?
Well, that is a conundrum. I don’t have any easy answers but I can say that the majority is not always right — even if it’s a majority of the global church.
(Actually, they have much more access to information and different perspectives than most Americans have, which is a big part of the problem.)
A revealing parenthetical: especially with the world wide web, I would argue that there is very little that Americans do not have access to. Could you give some concrete examples of information that Americans cannot access that the rest of the world can?
Personally, to be frank, I think it is because far too many American Christians are simply Americans first and Christians second. The statement that got the most enthusiastic response in Singapore was not about politics but ecclesiology, “We are to be Christians first, and members of nations or tribes second.” That simple affirmation, if ever applied, would utterly transform the relationship of American Christians to the policies of their own government.
Do you think that nationalism is exclusively an American problem? How do you know that your brothers from other countries are not thinking of their own national interest at some point.
Americans have a history of being very “in your face” about patriotism, but nationalism does not have to be out front, it can be quieter and more reserved but still affect ones judgment. And there are also national resentments. Can you be sure that what lies behind much of the opposition to the war is not, at bottom, plain resentment of American prosperity, freedom, and military prowess?
You’re from Michigan, so you probably are aware that Michigan State fans can take as much pleasure from a Michigan loss as from an MSU win. This is something we call Schadenfreude, taking satisfaction from the downfall of a powerful rival. It’s often associated with envy and resentment. Now schadenfreude is an understandable human feeling — I won’t pretend to be above it myself — but while it’s very powerful it’s not exactly the basis of good public policy.
But I won’t assume that those who disagree with me are motivated by ill-will towards my country. It’s the Christian thing to presume good faith. I think it’s much better to assume that our disagreements are based on honest differences of opinion, rather than jingoism on one hand and resentment on the other.
Wouldn’t you agree?
Wolverine



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N.M. Rod

posted September 13, 2007 at 3:39 pm


…still no Just War criteria and how it’s met…



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Wolverine

posted September 13, 2007 at 3:58 pm


NM Rod,
It’s been a long time since you guys have gone through the breakdown of right authority, right ends, and right means yourselves. I’ll admit that if I knew then what I know now I’d be less enthused about the whole venture myself. But what’s been done has been done, what we now have to decide is what is to be done with Iraq today.
Leaving the Iraqis to the tender mercies of the Iranians strikes me as even worse than American occupation, and I have yet to see a plan from you guys where there isn’t a real risk that the Iranians wouldn’t wind up taking over the place outright.
Wolverine



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electriclady281

posted September 13, 2007 at 4:39 pm


It’s easy to note that nationally we are split between staying the course and withdrawing from iraq; what’s not so easy to understand is why american power players have reduced this enormous decision that will affect the entire world’s future to a simplistic “stay” or “go” level with virtually no discussion of the gray area, like discussions on what to do with this problem that we created other than to make it worse by either staying or going. Noticeably absent are power players rebuilding bridges to the “coalition of the willing” as well as the other nations of the world, including present enemies, who are former friends, or even across political divides. How can this lead to any kind of resolution, let alone peace?
I cannot side with either group. My plea is for communication across all chasms to find a way for us all to peacefully co-exist and share. It can be done.



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Steve

posted September 13, 2007 at 4:44 pm


Wolverine writes:
“I’ll admit that if I knew then what I know now I’d be less enthused about the whole venture myself. But what’s been done has been done, what we now have to decide is what is to be done with Iraq today.”
It is true that we must decide responsibly what to do with the current situation, without recriminations of the past.
It is also true that we should not dismiss the (embarrassing) past, but rather learn from it. A particularly good lesson to learn from our ill-causing entry into Iraq is that the Just War theory can be twisted to justify pretty bad behavior.
Violence begets violence.
Continuing to inject violence into Iraq (in the form of U.S. occupation) is not solving anything. Far from suppressing sectarian violence, the case can be made that U.S. occupation is encouraging it.
There are no easy solutions. Ever increasing force (starting with Shock and Awe and surging up from there) has too often been accepted as an easy solution. It hasn’t worked.



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N.M. Rod

posted September 13, 2007 at 4:45 pm


The presumption has to be against war for the Christian – as opposed to Julius’ Caesar’s “Veni, Vidi, Vici” – “I came, I saw, I conquered.”
It’s an abdication of Christian responsibility to say “you guys haven’t done one either” if there’s not even a detailed Just War evaluation ever seriously been made.
It’s really for those who decide to go to war to have make that justification in a serious way, rather than assuming presumtuously that war is the immediate and best option unless someone, somewhere can come up with an impossibly high barreir to it. This really pushes the novel ethical concept of pre-emptive war into an even more radical orbit – that of presumptive war.
First of all, I’m not “one of you guys” – the dread OTHER – but someone who believed my spiritual elders and political leaders – sometimes the same people I thought then – when they said it did satisfy the criteria.
Not thinking through the ethical implications of how we got here means we don’t even understand how mistakes were made. That sets us up to just continue to compound them.
I do grant that there could be a detailed consideration of Just War Theory from here on in – but that requires examining the situation now and the proposed solutions to see how the second portion of Just War Theory – the portion that regards the just conduct of a war once begun – would play out according to its precepts.
At this point, I haven’t seen either. I just see a glossing over quickly to avoid seriously looking at any real subjection to the standards of Just War Theory. This implies that there’s a realisation that looking closely would reveal an unsustainable position in regards to Just War Theory and that it would quickly be rendered quaint and obsolete.
I really am ready to be convinced by the facts that invoking Just War Theory for the Christian base of the GOP is for real and not just a convenient but ultimately empty motto. But that requires making a fair-minded and serious case for what’s to be done now according to its precepts.
I am really afraid that it’s been another case of failing to address the details and the consequences as well as a failure to get first principles right. This is called sacrificing reason and logic to ideology, a recurring human problem.



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splinterlog

posted September 13, 2007 at 4:46 pm


Good for you. Did it ever occur to you that some of us may have Christian friends from outside of the country, or read the international press as well?
(Feeling a bit combative after reading this so I’d ask the gentle spirits on this forum to forgive this outburst)
I can’t speak for Jim but I doubt very much that many of your lot do! Have you travelled much Wolverine? Ever lived outside the great US of A for more than a couple of years at a time? How many friends do you have who currently live in the Arab Gulf region? I can count several for each of these myself. I’m not a “better” person for all of that but at least I can testify to having an alternate and more credible perspective than Fox News.
So let me get this right. When it comes to giving gay brothers and sisters the opportunity to have their unions blessed in the Church, your lot screams bloody murder and accusing us of ignoring the worldwide Christian community’s concerns over the issue (c/o Nigeria). But when it comes to the war, the worldwide Christian community doesn’t matter to your lot. Have I got that right?
I’m not quite sure when the wheels of the Patriotic Christianity are going to fall off the wagon – having watched he film “Jesus Camp” I think there may be some remnants into the next generation. However, having talked to my friends and family in Texas, Oklahoma and Florida I get the feeling that they have slowly come to the horrific realization that they have been colossally duped into supporting this war by an administration that has shown by its actions that, apart from lip service, it doesn’t give a rat’s a$$ about the Gospel.



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elsa

posted September 13, 2007 at 4:46 pm


Jim Wallis wrote,”Many American Christians are simply more loyal to a version of American nationalism than they are to the body of Christ. I want to suggest that the two are now in conflict, and we must decide to whom to we ultimately belong. That’s the real issue.”
I challenge Jim Wallis, based on that statement, to write any article condeming abortion in the name of choice.



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Chris Promis

posted September 13, 2007 at 4:47 pm


Jim,
I heartily support your stance but notice at toward the end you twice speak of American Christians while you argue that we should be Christian Americans. Our faith should influence our politics and not our politics influence out faith.



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Leland Somers

posted September 13, 2007 at 4:51 pm


Part of the problem is that Christianity today has little or nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. If anyone bothers to read Mark, Matthew, Luke and even John, one is quickly struck by the fact that Jesus is a person form whom justice and peace are focal points of his ministry. It is trough the ministry of restoring individuals to community and wholeness that Jesus indicates that the Kingdom of God is already present among human beings.
By the end of the fourth century Christianity had pretty much left Jesus the healer and reconciler in the dust of the ages and invented a new Jesus in the image of the Emperor, Constantine. What the church has proclaimed ever since is the warrior deity in the guise of Jesus the man of peace. That is what we are stuck with today.
What we need is a profound and radical reformation that will actually strip away the imperial Christ and return us to the religion and teachings of that peasant from Nazareth, Jesus. This Jesus who taught and more importantly lived the Kingdom values is the one who condemned violence against others under any and all circumstances. Jesus would have either laughed or wept hysterically at the nonsensical idea of a “just war”.
The Emperor then 312 and the Emperor today 2007 need a compliant religion. They need and want and get from most Christians a religion so perverted and so alien from Jesus of Nazareth that I for one am convinced that if he were to walk through the door of 99.9% of churches on any given Sunday he would be appalled and disgusted. He would head for the nearest Synagogue and probably wouldn’t care for that much either.
Christianity today has refocused on “pie in the sky when I die by and by” leaving the real work of religion justice, mercy and peace here in the world we actually live in. Jesus had almost nothing to say about a place of eternal bliss, but he had a lot to say about the sick, the hungry and the marginalized in this world.
Christianity will contribute little or nothing to peace unless it stops being just another pagan warrior cult.



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Leland Somers

posted September 13, 2007 at 4:51 pm


Part of the problem is that Christianity today has little or nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. If anyone bothers to read Mark, Matthew, Luke and even John, one is quickly struck by the fact that Jesus is a person form whom justice and peace are focal points of his ministry. It is trough the ministry of restoring individuals to community and wholeness that Jesus indicates that the Kingdom of God is already present among human beings.
By the end of the fourth century Christianity had pretty much left Jesus the healer and reconciler in the dust of the ages and invented a new Jesus in the image of the Emperor, Constantine. What the church has proclaimed ever since is the warrior deity in the guise of Jesus the man of peace. That is what we are stuck with today.
What we need is a profound and radical reformation that will actually strip away the imperial Christ and return us to the religion and teachings of that peasant from Nazareth, Jesus. This Jesus who taught and more importantly lived the Kingdom values is the one who condemned violence against others under any and all circumstances. Jesus would have either laughed or wept hysterically at the nonsensical idea of a “just war”.
The Emperor then 312 and the Emperor today 2007 need a compliant religion. They need and want and get from most Christians a religion so perverted and so alien from Jesus of Nazareth that I for one am convinced that if he were to walk through the door of 99.9% of churches on any given Sunday he would be appalled and disgusted. He would head for the nearest Synagogue and probably wouldn’t care for that much either.
Christianity today has refocused on “pie in the sky when I die by and by” leaving the real work of religion justice, mercy and peace here in the world we actually live in. Jesus had almost nothing to say about a place of eternal bliss, but he had a lot to say about the sick, the hungry and the marginalized in this world.
Christianity will contribute little or nothing to peace unless it stops being just another pagan warrior cult.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 13, 2007 at 4:55 pm


But I wonder how you can be so certain that a political solution will not be forthcoming, given that at least some of the political goals set by the administration have been achieved, even if the overall pace of political unification has been dissappointing?
If you get a hold of Gwynne Dyer’s column published recently (today in my paper), it will explain that.
A revealing parenthetical: especially with the world wide web, I would argue that there is very little that Americans do not have access to. Could you give some concrete examples of information that Americans cannot access that the rest of the world can?
Considering that in the run-up to war the Bush Administration virtually intimidated the domestic MSM, I understand that statement. (I wish I’d been watching BBC America at that time.)
Do you think that nationalism is exclusively an American problem? How do you know that your brothers from other countries are not thinking of their own national interest at some point.
It is exclusively an American problem where Christians are involved — and that was the point.
Can you be sure that what lies behind much of the opposition to the war is not, at bottom, plain resentment of American prosperity, freedom, and military prowess?
The genesis of that kind of arrogant statement is behind much of it — because it assumes that we’re always right when we historically have pursued our own interests at the expense of everyone else’s. Just because we believe they do that doesn’t mean we should.
You’re from Michigan, so you probably are aware that Michigan State fans can take as much pleasure from a Michigan loss as from an MSU win. This is something we call Schadenfreude, taking satisfaction from the downfall of a powerful rival. It’s often associated with envy and resentment.
Does that explain your contempt for anyone who’s not a conservative? Such as Wallis? (Of course, a few folks in Ohio aren’t exactly unhappy that the U of M hasn’t won a football game yet.)



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rgv

posted September 13, 2007 at 4:59 pm


Amen, Mr. Wallis, Amen.
how sad to read the excuses and gross “Christian morality” of these bloggers.
war is hell.
and chosen occupation is evil. period. there exists no earthly or heavenly excuse. not one.



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Mark Miller

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:04 pm


I agree with you that far too many Christians are living a double life: trying to be faithful to the Gospel and trying to be faithful Americans. Sometimes that is impossible to do; after all, Jesus told us, “you cannot serve two Masters.” I believe we have confused being “patriotic” with being “nationalistic.” I do not believe being “nationalistic” is a virtue. We must always be concerned about how our policies impact the lives of other nations especially the poor and voiceless. We have a song that we sing on all of our national holidays which I believe expresses the truth of the Gospel as well as being “patriotic.”
This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.



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Greg

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:06 pm


Thanks Jim for encouraging Christians to rally under the Christian Flag, rather than a national emblem. This is the first step for us American Christians to become a part of the international body of Christ. Many of us have become so obsessed with politics and current events that we have lost any contact with a Christian worldview.
All that being affirmed, I can’t help but believe that a just war is better than an unrighteous peace. Unfortunately many on the Peace side of the street are peace at any cost proponents. This does nothing to promote the Christian agenda any more than the war lovers do.
And what about Geo. Bush? A Christian? Our brother? A sinner being saved by grace? An imperfect human serving at the pleasure of God? A human trying to discern God’s will and do it? I’m not sure, but it seems like our call is to prayer, because rhetoric creates enlightenment, but doesn’t impress God. If Geo. B. is listening to God – the same one we are interceding with – then just maybe he will hear some new direction, or some Divine wisdom leading him to better decisions.
PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!
G.Davis



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Marymcgillicuddy

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:07 pm


Having lived outside the US for the past twenty years, I can affirm what Rev. Wallis has observed about the European perspective on the Iraq war. It seems good to me that we American Christians might at least be made curious by the fact that so many of our fellow believers have another point of view. Isn’t it the proper path of humility to consider that others might have wisdom where we lack it? Aren’t we at least interested to know what the Spirit of God might be saying to someone else, that we cannot hear? And vice versa…hopefully they learn from us in turn.
We are one body. That means we need each other; and each other’s wisdom.
I think it is fairly clear that we as Christians are meant to have a proper distance from culture. Miroslav Wolf says “Through faith one must depart from one’s culture because the ultimate allegiance is given to God and God’s Messiah who transcends every culture.” This doesn’t mean becoming culture-less, or taking flight into a new Christian culture, but that by being freed by the gospel to step outside my own culture, I can have a “vantage point from which to perceive and judge the self and the other not simply on their own terms but in the light of God’s new world.”
On this sensitive and critical issue–how as believers to respond to the present situation in Iraq–aren’t we better to judge ourselves before the other? And who can help us look at ourselves better than a fellow believer? From who else can we expect such kindness and such truth? Can we not listen to our European brothers and sisters, in case we might be helped?



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Christine

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:08 pm


Thank you Mr. Wallis for being the voice of reason in the midst of chest pounding and arrogance. The Iraqi people, even now, want to do this on their own. They realize our presence brings more violence. They need the help of almmost “anyone but the US” at this point to restore peace and humanitarian conditions to their country.



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Rev. Ian Alterman

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:08 pm


I would like to parse something that Jesse said:
“As far as the war in Iraq goes right now, I’m a pragmatist, and my goal is the best possible outcome for the Iraqi people.”
Even if it is not in the best interests of the U.S., and particularly the lives of American men and women? I.e, are you suggesting that we should simply continue to sacrifice life after U.S. life (to say nothing of Iraqi civilians) – no matter how many or for how long – as long as the “outcome” is the “best possible” one for the Iraqis? You need to rethink this line of reasoning.
“They want us over there to help them out.”
No they don’t. Every poll taken in the past two years shows an INCREASE in the number of people – both “professional” politicians and the general populace – who want us out of there. Indeed, the last Iraqi-led quasi-referendum on this showed that well over 65% of Iraqis want us out of there.
“I think we have the moral obligation to help their government bring peace. This is, of course, completely consistent with Christian peacemaking principles.”
So “war = peace?” Ever heard of Orwell? Here again, your reasoning is faulty – and dangerous.
Few if any of the pro-war people here will accept that one cannot impose democracy from the top down, nor from the barrel of a gun. You all need to read ALOT more about what it takes to create a successful, working democracy. (And you can find this in many of the magazines that cater to people of “your” persuasion (i.e., neocons and other conservatives)). When you DO read it, you will realize that virtually NONE of the prerequisites for a successful, working democracy exists in Iraq right now – nor are likely to even if we stay.
Finally, although I utterly reject the entire notion of “just war” despite Augustine et al, even if I accepted the concept it would be an INCREDIBLE stretch to call the unprovoked, pre-emptive regime change in a sovereign nation “just” by ANY rubric – particularly when the entire war was “sold” to the U.S. and the world through a series of lies, spin, dissembling and obfuscation.
Peace. (Hopefully…)



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Eileen Fleming

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:09 pm


What about the Palestinian Christians?
Their numbers have declined from 20% of the total population of the ‘Holy’ Land to less than 1.3% since 1948.
I have been to Israel Palestine 5 times in 2 years and every indigenous Christian of the ‘Holy’ Land I have spoken with all tell me the same thing:
WHY don’t the American Christians do something to help us?
I ask WHAT can I do and they respond:
“TELL OUR STORIES”
I have!
Every priest and pastor I spoke with all tell me that unless things change VERY SOON, there will be no Christian witness left in the ‘Holy Land’ and the churches will all be just museums.
Four years of occupation in Iraq and 40 years of the Occupation of Palestine, when Jesus only endured 40 days in the desert should give every thinking compassionate Christian pause and provoke them to DO SOMETHING!
All roads lead to Jerusalem and I hope and pray Sojo will connect the dots and get on board that until the occupation of Palestine ends, the occupation of Iraq will NOT!
Eileen Fleming, Reporter and Editor http://www.wearewideawake.org/
Author “Keep Hope Alive” and “Memoirs of a Nice Irish American Girl’s’ Life in Occupied Territory”
Producer “30 Minutes With Vanunu.”



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Ray

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:09 pm


Another amen.
Ignorance — try bothering to check reputable sources beyond the few from one’s own country one already agrees with — and nation before faith are doing horrible damage to the lives of ordinary people and to the perception of Christianity. Even if a Christian believes war is an option, it should not be about taking resources, setting up a permanent occupation, etc… and should be done with weeping and wailing, as an absolute last resort, imploring God for a better option, not entered as if to prove a point, exact revenge, protect interests or win a game.



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Eileen M. Harrington

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:12 pm


As someone who comes from a family in which 2 brothers are in military service, and one is about to head back over to Iraq, I want to affirm Jim’s stance. I also want to refute the above commenter who says he’s a pragmatist. The amount of money we are spending on this war is far, far from practical for our economy and for our people who don’t even have healthcare. Secondly, if you study the history of the Middle East you will know for a FACT that peace will not be created the way the USA has acted as a colonizing power. We say we are promoting peace in the Middle East, but no peace is created in a country where most of the resources are sold to the highest bidder, where neoliberal economics as practiced by the USA and most of the world means that natural resources go to the highest bidder, wages drop and stay low because that’s how you compete to get business, tax incentives are provided for overseas business that place corporations in Iraq and hire people at 60 cents an hour creating a permanent lower class, and things like funding for education, health care, social security and safety nets such as unemployment benefits are considered a luxury not to be incorporated in this model, if at all possible. Iraq, post USA and without an international body looking out for the welfare of the people, will be a multinational corporation heaven that will quickly become a hell as people continue to revolt against this neoliberal, destructive economic model. Whether we get out now (which I totally support) or get out later, that Iraqi people have been screwed with the treasures divided amongst the rich and powerful. And, this is not the first time this has been done by the USA or other countries. Study colonialism — there were so many “good reasons” to invade countries all over the world to free them from “X” and what it was really for was the natural resources and cheap labor that enriched the Empire that invaded. All those countries still struggle with independence and working democracy and economic systems. That will be Iraq, if its lucky, in 50 years.



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Rev. Ian Alterman

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:13 pm


I just want to say that Leland Somers’ post should be required reading for everyone here – and every Christian in the U.S. It is the most on-target post I have read thus far. Bravo to you, Mr. Somers! Feel encouraged that you are not the only one who feels as you do!! Peace.



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Adrienne Lannom

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:16 pm


You’re framing the issue with a hard reality. That we may have to choose between God and country is difficult even when war may be “justified.” The disconnect between provocation (the 9-11-02 attacks) and the war against Iraq is so great that a lot of folks have simply chosen to ignore or forget it. The damage inflicted on our country by our leaders in both the executive and legislative branches has been huge. As a believing and practicing Christian in America, I embrace Alan Jones’ statement that being a person of faith means engaging in a conversation where no one has the last word. We need to ask the right questions, not force our answers on others.
Shalom



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jesse

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:17 pm


“Many American Christians are simply more loyal to a version of American nationalism than they are to the body of Christ.”–Jim Wallis
“how sad to read the excuses and gross “Christian morality” of these bloggers.”–rgv
It is noteworthy that the people attacking the faith of those with whom they disagree politically are mainly liberal on this site. Wallis, of course, does this more than anyone. For all the complaints left-leaning people have made about conservatives telling them that Christians can’t be liberals, a lot of people on the left seem happy to commit the same mistakes.



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Rev. David J. Smith

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:19 pm


Rev. Wallis is a gem – keeping the debate real for all those who follow Christ first. We have an amazing Christian Church throughout the world and we have so much to gain through our open dialog with it. Too bad we believe in the American Christian church so much so we have allowed people like Rev. Wallis to be treated as ‘traitors.’ We are blessed by your insightful scripture-based truth-telling.
It is clear that the Iraq War has reached its hubris. There are limits to everything and it is folly not to realize what they are. The words of Bertrand Russell are applicable here: “I think freedom is not a panacea. In the relationship between nations there ought to be less freedom than there is. I think that freedom must have very definite limitations, where you come to things that are definitely harmful to other people, or things that prevent you yourself from being useful, such as lack of knowledge.”
War, in the specific case of Iraq is not useful.
It is clear that President Bush has no real knowledge of the world, its Church and how blessed are the peacemakers. As President Bush and key war advocates continue on their ego trip -we should ask the question: “Is his particular ego trip helpful to other people or not?” I believe the world community has shouted clearly – no! We should listen and pray and act for peace.



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Gary Lee Parker

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:20 pm


Dear Jim,
I have shared below a letter of love I have sent President Bush and his wife, Laura. May God use His grace to draw His church in unity of purpose that is God’s.
5605 Floyd Street, Apt. A
Mission, KS 66202-1235
September 7, 2007
George and Laura Bush
President and First Lady
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President George and First Lady Laura,
I can see that it has been a wild ride for you over the past 7 years as the President of the United States. I have watched you and listened to you too much of the decisions that you have made fulfills personal objectives rather than for the good of all in the nation. I have heard that you had turned your life over to Jesus some years ago. This was a great thing to do, but too often we attempt to do things on our own rather than trusting fully God in our lives. I know about attempting to do things on my own rather than trusting God completely in His leadership of our lives.
I love this country, not only because I was born here, but the principles of this country as a Republic while being a Democracy brings this country above any other. Yet, I am saddened that you chose to place our men and women in uniform to fight in Iraq and continue to fight in Afghanistan. I have served in the military in the United States Air Force back in the 1970’s, but I am realizing with God’s help that there are alternatives to war. I look at where we are now in this country and see many women and men dying overseas or returning home with severe PTSD to deal with as well as their family and friends. I pray everyday for you, not that you will succeed, but that God’s will and way will come to His fullness.
I believe that God calls us to work with all of human creation whether we like them or they perform sinful acts. God may have placed you in the Presidency, but He desires for His peace and love to be seen above anything. He does call us to a radical discipleship to love our enemies as God loves them. He does call us to not to exploit the poor and the marginalized, but to give them a helping hand up whether a few may take advantage of this or not. The education plan called No Child Left Behind is a great one, but the finances need to be in place from the government to implement correctly. The use of giving tax breaks and refunds to the wealthiest people in this country, I believe, is against the principles of God’s Word whether in the Old or New Testament. We see in the Prophetic Books, whether in the Major or Minor Prophets, talks about God’s people to receive punishment for their idolatry, not only in worshipping other gods, but forgetting the poor, the disabled, the widow, and the other marginalized.
God calls us through the Words of Jesus that we are to think more highly of others than we do ourselves. He calls us to forsake everything and pick up the cross and follow Him. He does not call us to complain because we do not get our own way while we abuse and continue to oppress others. I pray for you daily even though I do not agree with what you have done, largely, as President; you are still my President. Let us pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Whenever I pray this prayer, I am reminded that God’s forgiveness is conditioned on whether or not I forgive others and myself as God has forgiven me. God loves you, He always has loved you, and He will always love you, but He calls for a radical lifestyle change to love and accept others whether they agree with us or not. I pray this letter is taken in the best intentions. I love you and Laura, not only because you are President and First Lady, but because God loves you. As a Pastor shared one time, there is not a person who has lived in the past, present, or future that is not loved by God including the ones who are in Hell by their choices on this earth. I believe that God calls us to live Holy lives in love to all whether we walk in light or darkness, as Mother Theresa did or not. The key is to be found faithful in the two greatest commandments to love God with my whole being and to love other people as I love myself. God calls and He places anointing on us in the vocation He chooses, but He will remove the anointing as He did to King Saul when we sin against Him and fail to repent of our sin authentically. May God’s grace and mercy be found in your life from this point on?
Sincerely in Jesus’ Holiness,
Gary Lee Parker



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Mike

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:21 pm


“Personally, to be frank, I think it is because far too many American Christians are simply Americans first and Christians second”
You’ve hit the nail on the head. Our loyalty is to be first, second and third to Christ. Not of this world … not even of this nation. I love my country, but love my Lord more. Christians should not sanction anything that hurts the cause of Christ and goes against his teaching, much less wrap such things in religious/Christian trappings.
We are also told not to fear. And to take up the sword of the truth. Fear-mongering and dissimilation are, unfortunately, far more common tools used by those who favor current policies.



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Mick Sheldon

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:23 pm


This is an amazing perspective Mr Wallis . I am against our policy in Iraq , just the fact we are relying on another nation “Iraq” political integrity and acceptance for their people is enough to question putting our men and women in harm’s way . I have been told by liberals here my son is not a Christian because he is in the armed services on this site .
Not to mention a General who served under other Presidents , even dealing In Bosnia , was picked with full support of the Senate to lead what I consider an impossible mission has been questioned by a leftist organization, and the liberal leftist attack machinne with his honesty and loyalty to his country . Now you question Christians beliefs if they don’t agree with both of us , that this war is wrong .
You remind of a Pharisee Mr . Wallis . Sometimes Christians disagree , sometimes they agree . I question you why you feel no concern over the kinds of organizations that so readily support your views and in this case mine. But instead of concern that it just so happebns the folks who support abortion rights to an extreme , also syupport your views here does not make you wonder that perhaps you look at things the same way or that you receive ALL your information from the same leftist places . Does not it bother you that you realize you attacj yoour fellow brothers and sisters , and defend those who put grenades into their shirt pockets and walk into areas with women and children , yet your major concern is America , unless it is to your benefit of speaking about Christian views outside of America . I suggest you anaylze Christian Views is Europe concerning Jews for instance , or is only Christian Evangelical views you hold accountable ?
When we stormed the beaches of Normandy , we did not question the loyalty of our military leaders , nor should we question this General’s loyalty without proof , just political expediency is what you offer . The difference is only that the mission of Normandy had a greater support among Americans , but the job of our military leaders is not to try harder because of polls , but to their job . So people such as yourself , can claim a higher morality . And people as myself only pray that one day we can have a civic discourse that is not lowerd to this level , and leave so many Christians , from the right or left out of the discourse . I for one , see this war as a mess, and see the vitrolic comments from a majority of the leftist here , as they clap your message on at the cost of Christian love and a united church . A church that neither may I remind you of , that because of our own merit , are not worthy to be in .



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martha ward

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:32 pm


I did not think we should go into Iraq. We went.
As a Christian and a member of the world community
I do think that we now have a responsibility to fix what we have destroyed. We can not fix the difference in ideology, but the infrastructure which is gone can be fixed when our arms become plowshares and tools for rebuilding.



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these guys kill me

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:40 pm


among other things, wolverine said:
“Well, at least now we are starting to acknowledge, however grudgingly, the changes in conditions inside Iraq that Petraeus actually testified about.”
and
“No end in sight? Among the many metrics that has turned the right way after the surge was a reduction in sectarian attacks.”
i assume you were careful not to make a causal connection between the surge and these improvements you mention. the surge did NOT result in a reduction in sectarian attacks, nor is the reduction in sectarian attacks any kind of measure of the political situation. the reduction in sectarian attacks is the result of a massive restructuring of iraqi society along strict sunni/shia/kurd boundaries – not exactly the desired result for a stable, unified iraq.
the key is the political situation. and in fact, just in the last few days, the political situation has worsened. there is no peace without political reconciliation. and by all measures, we are not headed in that direction.
the only security improvements we’ve seen have not been the result of us policy, they are the result of iraqis resenting al qaeda foreigners even more than they resent us.



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Daryl Allen

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:40 pm


Amen, also.
When Jesus said, “Do not say ‘Do not say we have Abraham as our father….” He was warning them first, but us and anyone else that we should not have our nationality as our first identity. Our salvation depends on God’s grace that is for all peoples not one more than another. But you say this better than I do. Thank you



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Jean Mellberg

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:42 pm


Dear Jim,
I just turned 75 and in all my years as a Christian I have never witnessed such hypocrisy as I have seen from the so called Christian neo-cons.
If they have ever read the New Testament & the teachings of Jesus Christ it is a no brainer to see the good Lord wants us to love one another & to forgive one another.
Just what are they trying to convince of anyway?
That profit first and everyone and everything else second. They don’t fool an old fool.
Wake up dear souls to the reality of what you are saying. And may God forgive you.
Blessings



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Richard Nauck

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:43 pm


For both sides of this argument….
Remember who is watching your arguments….
I am.
And as one who is intrigued and can I say, even drawn, to your idea of Christianity, I have to ask one question.
What is it you invite me to?
The chasm that exists between your ideals of Christian love, peace and community, and the evidence that exists on the pages of responses to this blog, is wider than the Grand Canyon.
It is often spoken that the way to peace in Iraq is for the Sunni’s and Shia to reconcile…after months of reading this blog and its many detractors, I would have to say that Sunni’s and Shia have a better chance at reconciliation than the American Church does.
Again I ask, what is it you invite me to? Because if it is this, its not much of an offering.



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Anonymous

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:45 pm


Someone more cultured, more globalist, and more open-minded than nearly everyone wrote:
“Good for you. Did it ever occur to you that some of us may have Christian friends from outside of the country, or read the international press as well?
“(Feeling a bit combative after reading this so I’d ask the gentle spirits on this forum to forgive this outburst)”
I can’t speak for Jim but I doubt very much that many of your lot do! Have you travelled much Wolverine? Ever lived outside the great US of A for more than a couple of years at a time? How many friends do you have who currently live in the Arab Gulf region? I can count several for each of these myself. I’m not a “better” person for all of that but at least I can testify to having an alternate and more credible perspective than Fox News.”
This is a fine display of arrogance. Not nearly as arrogant as Wallis’ post, but a nice illustration of the snobbery that the left often harbors for those too “provincial” enough to not assent to their politics.
I won’t catalog how you are just plain wrong in your assumptions, but I will say that last time I checked – radical empiricism and experientialism is not what it takes to form informed opinions. This is a favorite sleight of hand preferred by those who are threatened by opposing viewpoints. Rather than interact with those viewpoints on their own merit and form a genuine refuation, it is so much easier to claim, you have no personal experience to validate your position.
I find Wallis’ defensiveness interesting. A neo-conservative cabal? Right here in the comments? It’s curious how the evangelical left is quite good and comfortable with criticizing their conservative brothers and sisters, but incapable of criticism of their political stances. Honestly, the lack of rigor and sophistication in Sojourner’s positions makes one sad for the current state of affairs. Wallis’ posts this week prove he is still re-living his New Left youth, only this time, there is more at stake. More books to sell and more cable news show appearances to book.
Why won’t Sojourners take the high road and condemn the violence but also speak out with hope for the success of the troops now that they are in Iraq? Surely this would be a good time to leave politics aside and work towards peace in Iraq, a genuine lasting peace that doesn’t rely on the soft words of diplomacy and a wish and a prayer that Iran’s theocratic regime doesn’t decide now is the time to take the Iraqi land they have warred for in the past.
Finally, an appeal that rests on the political judgment of our global churches is faulty on so many levels. First, why aren’t they motivated by a nationalism of their own. Are Americans the ONLY nation to express nationalism? Second, why would an African minister or an Argentinian housewife have our best interests in mind? Is their Christianity, because it is not Western, or not from a highly developed country somehow superior to our own?



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:46 pm


It is noteworthy that the people attacking the faith of those with whom they disagree politically are mainly liberal on this site. Wallis, of course, does this more than anyone. For all the complaints left-leaning people have made about conservatives telling them that Christians can’t be liberals, a lot of people on the left seem happy to commit the same mistakes.
No, we’re not attacking their faith, as such. It’s just that sometimes we wonder just where that faith is, and that has implications way beyond “salvation.”
But instead of concern that it just so happens the folks who support abortion rights to an extreme, also support your views here does not make you wonder that perhaps you look at things the same way or that you receive ALL your information from the same leftist places.
Mick, how do you know that most of the people here who agree with Wallis support abortion rights? I for one disagree with you 90 percent of the time yet am staunchly “pro-life.” But that leads just of what he was talking about.



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Father Anthony

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:48 pm


I am glad you explained the warrior mentality I see on this site, and the misguided attitudes behind their writings.
They are subversive.
Thank you Jim, for your thoughts.
I am with you all the way.
It is interesting to note that one of the local conservative radio commentators was decrying the fact that Muslims are called to be more faithful to Islam than to being Americans. Now you have said the same thing about Christians, and you are right if one is to believe St. Paul.
We are citizens of the earth, not of a particular country. We use boundaries to protect ourselves, and to provide for our needs. In spite of that we need to welcome the stranger, and the alien.
God says so.



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cincyjake

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:55 pm


Elsa said:
Jim Wallis wrote,”Many American Christians are simply more loyal to a version of American nationalism than they are to the body of Christ. I want to suggest that the two are now in conflict, and we must decide to whom to we ultimately belong. That’s the real issue.”
I challenge Jim Wallis, based on that statement, to write any article condeming abortion in the name of choice.
Elsa,
Could you please explain what relevance this has to a discussion of the war in Iraq and a Christian response to it? And what abortion has to do with being more loyal to Christian nationalism than to the body of Christ? All you’re doing is confusing the issue . . . your “challenge” has nothing to do with Wallis’ statement.



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Rich Pierce

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:55 pm


It is quite common for today’s American Christians to equate patriotism, which many see as “America right or wrong- love it or leave it” with their Christian faith. It is not unusual to hear views that suggest America is a chosen nation, like the Israel of Scripture, and to see America’s wars as holy wars. Yet there is little piety in our society as a whole that would suggest we desire anything more in a relationship with God than a “chosen nation” status.
From my understanding of Biblical principles of justice and compensation for wrong, once the war began, we assumed a moral responsibility to persist in Iraq for the purposes of establishing a safe and peaceful society as much as it is possible. The current strategy can hardly achieve such goals.
It confounds me that many Christians cannot fathom that Iraquis are people too, created by God in His image. Many justify invasion and occupation of Iraq for “security purposes”- even though Iraq was under essentially complete military control before the invasion, because of the “no-fly” zone and our presence in the Gulf. Others justify invasion and occupation because it is seen as “liberation” and the opportunity for democracy.
Imagine the shoe on the other foot- that a Muslim nation or any nation saw the US as a threat to their security, a country that might invade another or foster acts against military and civilian targets- and acted on that threat to their security. Might they not be able to argue successfully that this is would be a “just war”? And how would we react to an alien force bombing and destroying our cities and infrastructures, then occupying our country by force, and seeking to establish a new form of government here?
I cannot help but feel we have ground Iraq and its people under our heel without giving consideration to its people as human beings created by God, with the same rights that we would claim for ourselves.
Do I believe God can bring some good from it? Yes, He can do that with all things, but that is no excuse for callousness and self-serving policies and actions that kill innocents as well as combatants and destroy and degrade the everyday lives of millions.



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Dan Barber

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:56 pm


Brothers & Sisters,
It saddens me to see us spending most of our time fighting with each other. I understand feelings are high on both sides, and both sides feel picked on at times. Can we put that aside to try and work together to find solutions?
Are we comfortable with the fact that, according to reports that I’ve read, success in Iraq, which everyone admits is not a certainty, will take at least 10 more years of American troops on Iraqi soil? Is that something we really want, or should we be searching with everything we have for solutions that might bring that number in?
I recognize that any solution to the current Iraq situation is going to be difficult. Are there better solutions that can be proposed? So far, sadly, most of the proposals I’ve heard are of the “get the troops out now” or “the current plan is working” variety. Perhaps those are the only two choices available, but I personally would like to hope other options are still possible.
Jim claims he has proposed an alternative. What do you think about his alternative? Are there areas you think might need some work? Are there some places you think his suggestions might work?
We can debate all day about whether or not this was a just war, whether or not our Lord and Savior would be happy with us, and perhaps we should take some time to think about that in order to guide us in the future. However, the Jesus Christ I read about was a man of action in the here and now. Right now people are dying daily in Iraq, shouldn’t our biggest concern be finding the best way to alleviate the suffering that obviously exists today in Iraq?
In His Love,
Dan



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Carolyn Scarr

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:57 pm


Divide and Conquer
We in the Christian-based peace community need to remember the history of U.S. occupation in Central America which sheds considerable light on what is happening in Iraq today. An understanding of what is going on is essential to end our country’s occupation of Iraq.
The evidence is clear that the U.S. military policy has been to promote death squads in Iraq in a divide and conquer strategy. Gnl Petraeus has been in charge of “counter insurgency” and training Iraqi forces since his arrival. This fact must be kept in mind as we analyze his recent testimony before Congress and his argument for continued U.S. military presence in Iraq.
Below are excerpts from the 42 items I have in my file ‘Iraq.provoking civil war':
“W. Andrew Terrill and Conrad C. Crane, Middle East specialists at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., propose that the United States be willing to place “stability” [their term] above democracy, at least in the near term, and to swallow the “bitter pill” of supporting an authoritarian regime in Iraq backed by sectarian militias if that is the best means of suppressing the insurgency and bringing U.S. troops home.” San Francisco Chronicle, December 11, 2005.
The article offers the unsubstantiated presumption that the administration has been working to achieve democracy in Iraq. The fact that the electoral system it instituted was based on sectarian lines indicates that a sectarian split was actually the intent. The fact that sectarian militias are the driving force of instability in Iraq was entirely predictable.
Reporting on the torture practices of Iraq’s commando units, Sheila Provincher of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Baghdad wrote on November 23, 2005: “It is not only the Iraqi government that must bear culpability for this horror. The U.S. government, which supplies trainers and advisors for Iraqi security forces, is responsible as well. For example — James Steele, one of the U.S. military’s experts on counterinsurgency, is an advisor to Adnan Thavit, the leader of the Special Police Commandos, known as one of the most brutal of Iraq’s new forces. In his previous life, James Steele led U.S. Special Forces in El Salvador in the 1980s, aiding a repressive government’s military that killed thousands of peasants, students, and activists – anyone perceived as aiding or supporting the guerillas. In addition, Steve Casteel, a former top official in the Drug Enforcement Administration who spent years in Latin America, is the senior U.S. adviser in the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, which has operational control over the commandos. Funding and training for the commando groups come from the Iraqi government, as all of them fall at least nominally under the Ministry of the Interior or the Ministry of Defense. And from which country does a great deal of the funding for the Iraqi government come?”
In his testimony Petraeus celebrates the fact that the U.S. is forming “new” Sunni-based brigades. These Sunni-based brigades in fact date back at least to 2004 when “a Human Rights Watch study on torture in Iraq noted that Al-Nahdhah, a Iraqi newspaper, reported… that the interior ministry “appointed a new security adviser to assist in the establishment of a new general security directorate [GSD] modeled on the erstwhile General Security Directorate” one of the agencies of the Saddam Hussein government dissolved by the CPA in May 2003.” That security advisor was “Major General ‘Adnan Thabet al-Samarra’i.” (Like most Arabic words, Thavit’s name is translated into English with various spellings.)
“Jane’s Intelligence Digest commented at the time that the GSD, ‘will include former members of Saddam Hussein’s feared security services, collectively known as the Mukhabarat. These former Ba’athists and Saddam loyalists will be expected to hunt down their colleagues currently organizing the insurgency.'” A. K. Gupta, http://www.indypendent.org/
noted Middle East correspondent ROBERT FISK: Iraq is not a sectarian society, but a tribal society. People are intermarried. Shiites and Sunnis marry each other. It’s not a question of having a huge block of people here called Shiites and a huge block of people called Sunnis any more than you can do the same with the United States, saying Blacks are here and Protestants are here and so on. But certainly, somebody at the moment is trying to provoke a civil war in Iraq. Someone wants a civil war. Some form of militias and death squads want a civil war. There never has been a civil war in Iraq. The real question I ask myself is: who are these people who are trying to provoke the civil war? Now the Americans will say it’s Al Qaeda, it’s the Sunni insurgents. It is the death squads. Many of the death squads work for the Ministry of Interior. Who runs the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad? Who pays the Ministry of the Interior? Who pays the militia men who make up the death squads? We do, the occupation authorities.
submitted by
Carolyn Scarr
program coordinator, Ecumenical Peace Institute/CALC



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Carolyn Scarr

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:59 pm


Divide and Conquer
We in the Christian-based peace community need to remember the history of U.S. occupation in Central America which sheds considerable light on what is happening in Iraq today. An understanding of what is going on is essential to end our country’s occupation of Iraq.
The evidence is clear that the U.S. military policy has been to promote death squads in Iraq in a divide and conquer strategy. Gnl Petraeus has been in charge of “counter insurgency” and training Iraqi forces since his arrival. This fact must be kept in mind as we analyze his recent testimony before Congress and his argument for continued U.S. military presence in Iraq.
Below are excerpts from the 42 items I have in my file ‘Iraq.provoking civil war':
“W. Andrew Terrill and Conrad C. Crane, Middle East specialists at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., propose that the United States be willing to place “stability” [their term] above democracy, at least in the near term, and to swallow the “bitter pill” of supporting an authoritarian regime in Iraq backed by sectarian militias if that is the best means of suppressing the insurgency and bringing U.S. troops home.” San Francisco Chronicle, December 11, 2005.
The article offers the unsubstantiated presumption that the administration has been working to achieve democracy in Iraq. The fact that the electoral system it instituted was based on sectarian lines indicates that a sectarian split was actually the intent. The fact that sectarian militias are the driving force of instability in Iraq was entirely predictable.
Reporting on the torture practices of Iraq’s commando units, Sheila Provincher of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Baghdad wrote on November 23, 2005: “It is not only the Iraqi government that must bear culpability for this horror. The U.S. government, which supplies trainers and advisors for Iraqi security forces, is responsible as well. For example — James Steele, one of the U.S. military’s experts on counterinsurgency, is an advisor to Adnan Thavit, the leader of the Special Police Commandos, known as one of the most brutal of Iraq’s new forces. In his previous life, James Steele led U.S. Special Forces in El Salvador in the 1980s, aiding a repressive government’s military that killed thousands of peasants, students, and activists – anyone perceived as aiding or supporting the guerillas. In addition, Steve Casteel, a former top official in the Drug Enforcement Administration who spent years in Latin America, is the senior U.S. adviser in the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, which has operational control over the commandos. Funding and training for the commando groups come from the Iraqi government, as all of them fall at least nominally under the Ministry of the Interior or the Ministry of Defense. And from which country does a great deal of the funding for the Iraqi government come?”
In his testimony Petraeus celebrates the fact that the U.S. is forming “new” Sunni-based brigades. These Sunni-based brigades in fact date back at least to 2004 when “a Human Rights Watch study on torture in Iraq noted that Al-Nahdhah, a Iraqi newspaper, reported… that the interior ministry “appointed a new security adviser to assist in the establishment of a new general security directorate [GSD] modeled on the erstwhile General Security Directorate” one of the agencies of the Saddam Hussein government dissolved by the CPA in May 2003.” That security advisor was “Major General ‘Adnan Thabet al-Samarra’i.” (Like most Arabic words, Thavit’s name is translated into English with various spellings.)
“Jane’s Intelligence Digest commented at the time that the GSD, ‘will include former members of Saddam Hussein’s feared security services, collectively known as the Mukhabarat. These former Ba’athists and Saddam loyalists will be expected to hunt down their colleagues currently organizing the insurgency.'” A. K. Gupta, http://www.indypendent.org/
noted Middle East correspondent ROBERT FISK: Iraq is not a sectarian society, but a tribal society. People are intermarried. Shiites and Sunnis marry each other. It’s not a question of having a huge block of people here called Shiites and a huge block of people called Sunnis any more than you can do the same with the United States, saying Blacks are here and Protestants are here and so on. But certainly, somebody at the moment is trying to provoke a civil war in Iraq. Someone wants a civil war. Some form of militias and death squads want a civil war. There never has been a civil war in Iraq. The real question I ask myself is: who are these people who are trying to provoke the civil war? Now the Americans will say it’s Al Qaeda, it’s the Sunni insurgents. It is the death squads. Many of the death squads work for the Ministry of Interior. Who runs the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad? Who pays the Ministry of the Interior? Who pays the militia men who make up the death squads? We do, the occupation authorities.
submitted by
Carolyn Scarr
program coordinator, Ecumenical Peace Institute/CALC



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George

posted September 13, 2007 at 6:04 pm


Jim Wallis is right on target [parden the metaphor]. American Christians have long put nationalism above Christianity; and not just in this illegal war. More than 20 years ago, a non-believer gave as his major reason for non-belief this very behavior. He cited Christian spokesmen wrapped in the flag and holding a Bible. The hypocracy of American Christians justifying Foreign policies that only serve to perpetuate our bloated lifestyles is glaringly obvious. Other comments have already cast doubt on the “just war” theory. We are instructed by Jesus to love our enemies, not kill them. In Psalm 21:7, David speaks of trusting in God for our strength, not in military migbt. Matthew 10:28 assures of God’s love and protection of us. “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fearthe one who can destroy both soul and body in Hell.” Jesus goes on to say how much we are worth to Him. We need to be fully aware of Who or what we are trusting.



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Another nonymous

posted September 13, 2007 at 6:06 pm


“I am pro-life.”
“I don’t want to criminalize a woman’s most agonizing, personal decisions.”
I have heard Jim Wallis make both of these statements. For many here, the latter apparently invalidates the former. If only those who claim to be pro-life were interrogated as closely and relentlessly about their support for war, the complaints of the neo-cons might bear more weight. I, for one, don’t begrudge them their opinions, even though I opposed this war from the beginning, and have opposed every other war this country has been involved in during my lifetime. (NB: That doesn’t mean I believe inaction is better, as those who have read my previous posts on this subject know.)



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kevin s.

posted September 13, 2007 at 6:09 pm


“If anyone bothers to read Mark, Matthew, Luke and even John, one is quickly struck by the fact that Jesus is a person form whom justice and peace are focal points of his ministry.”
I don’t see this at all. Not that Christ was warlike, but the focal point of his ministry was the grace that would be offered by his death on the cross. He certainly doesn’t call on governments to provide peace or justice, though he certainly serves the poor, showing acceptance and demonstating his miraculous nature to demonstrate that he is God.
“By the end of the fourth century Christianity had pretty much left Jesus the healer and reconciler in the dust of the ages and invented a new Jesus in the image of the Emperor, Constantine.”
Not really, and Wallis wouldn’t even agree with you on this.
What the church has proclaimed ever since is the warrior deity in the guise of Jesus the man of peace. That is what we are stuck with today.
“This Jesus who taught and more importantly lived the Kingdom values is the one who condemned violence against others under any and all circumstances.”
Do you have a scriptural reference for this? Do you believe in the use of a police force?
“Jesus would have either laughed or wept hysterically at the nonsensical idea of a “just war”.”
What was his reaction to the Roman Centurion?
“He would head for the nearest Synagogue and probably wouldn’t care for that much either.”
Well, that’s a bit of conjecture, isn’t it? But it is revealing of an attitude that everyone is wrong but you. Wallis seems to suffer the same affliction.
“Jesus had almost nothing to say about a place of eternal bliss, but he had a lot to say about the sick, the hungry and the marginalized in this world.”
What did he say about the sick and the hungry, and why is it inherently more important than what he said about his eternal kingdom?
“Christianity will contribute little or nothing to peace unless it stops being just another pagan warrior cult.”
This clearly rules out a police force. What you need to do is sell your computer (or stop using the public library’s) and the rest of your belongings, protected by the pagan warriors in blue as they are.



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Anonymous

posted September 13, 2007 at 6:11 pm


“The monologue of the Religious Right is over and a new conversation has begun! Join the God’s Politics dialogue . . .”
But don’t join if you are a “neo-conservative” or a conservative Christian or someone who likes to ask uncomfortable questions of trite partisanship.
Methinks Wallis, et al, really don’t want dialogue. It’s nice to have the evangelical left’s intolerance and will to power out in the open.



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John Mustol

posted September 13, 2007 at 6:17 pm


We Americans do not understand Iraq, the Middle East, or the broader world of Islam. In 2003, blinded by our pain over 9/11, we invaded a nation whose languages we do not speak, whose religions we do not know, whose culture we do not understand, whose ethnicities and social structures we do not comprehend, and whose history we have not learned. We fight and debate, but in reality we don’t know whom we are fighting or what we are debating. Even our politicians and military leaders do not know. We just keep on seeing Iraq through our American eyes and interpreting their behavior in our own terms. When we invaded, we did not know what we were getting into; when we withdraw, we will not know what we are getting out of. And we do not understand Iran, Afganistan, or Pakistan either. We have blundered, are blundering, and we are in an awful fix. A big dose of humility would be helpful, but humility does not come easy to Americans. How it will all turn out, no one knows. The United States is arrogant, ignorant, and powerful. This makes it dangerous.
Jesus Christ is Lord of all the earth, not just America. God is God of the whole world, not just the United States. The Church is the Church of Jesus Christ in the world, not just in the United States. As committed followers of Jesus, our first allegiance is to Him and his church. Then to nation-states and ethnic groups.
Pray for the church in the U.S. It badly needs our prayers to see itself as part of the global community of Christ. It badly needs to humble itself and repent of its arrogance and syncretism with nationalism and militarism. May God have mercy on us.



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Gordon

posted September 13, 2007 at 6:46 pm


Wallis’ defensiveness is palpable here.



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Greg

posted September 13, 2007 at 6:54 pm


Amen, amen and amen, Jim.
You’ve elegantly reminded us of the Christian presumption against war and, sadly, of the idolatrous foregrounding of the god of patriotrism in the hearts of many. Apparently, including in the heart of the US president. As a believer and a US citizen who has lived outside the US for ten of the last seventeen years, it saddens me to be associated with the the foreign policy choices of Mr. Bush and his administration. These choices have strayed from the two strong historical stands of Christians regarding war, pacifism and just war.



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Sharon

posted September 13, 2007 at 6:55 pm


From the Far North (Canada):
What does Christianity have to do with war? Did Christ tell us to kill to protect ourselves, our families, or our wealth? The last time I read His words, it seemed that He was saying to be willing to die TO all of those things, not FOR them. Anything that takes pre-eminence over our relationship to Christ must be forsaken. Maybe you can be a “Christian” and kill or support a war, but surely you cannot be a Follower of Christ.
Canada has a lot of flaws as well, but we don’t identify ourselves as a “Christian” nation, so our sinfulness doesn’t drag the Lord’s name through the mud (or is that blood?). I cannot believe America is a nation following Christ. I think it is a nation following people who identify with the religion of Christianity, but missed the Sermon on the Mount…and almost everything else in the “red letters.” The foul taste this must leave in the mouths of those who don’t yet know Jesus grieves me immensely.
Sharon



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churchlady

posted September 13, 2007 at 6:58 pm


I’m new at this, so please be patient with me. (Back in the day, we didn’t have such things as blogs, but I don’t want to become a fossil before my time.) I sense a lot of pain in these postings. Some acknowledge the hurts; some try to bandage them with anger. I’m trying to sort things out.
I hate this war. But I don’t hate the people who are fighting it. I detest war and violence in general. But I can understand why, in extreme circumstances, people might feel that fighting is the best choice available. I disagree, but I understand. I used to think that way myself.
What I’m having trouble understanding is why some Christian groups, including churches, seem to be
glorifying war – or maybe it’s just this war, I’m not sure.
I went to church on the weekend of July 1. At the beginning, the American flag was carried in and everyone was asked to stand. I felt a little uncomfortable with this, it being the LORD’s house and all. But I do love my country and I don’t understand love of country to be contrary to loving God. So I stood.
Then we had music, lots of music, and pictures of soldiers holding guns, and singing all the military songs.
At the end of the service they carried in the Christian banner. I waited for someone to ask us to stand, but it didn’t happen. So I stood up anyway. I stood alone – realistically, it must have been 20 or 30 seconds, but it felt like 20 or 30 years. Finally, a few around me stood up, and then it slowly spread through the sanctuary.
I was and am deeply upset. The people around me genuinely believed they were doing right. Their words praised God for making us a mighty nation. They just weren’t thinking about that Christian banner or the cross that’s on it. I went home that day and cried.
I still don’t understand how we humans can get so mixed up so easily.



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Ben Schmidt

posted September 13, 2007 at 7:02 pm


Jim Wallis,
I am an Evangelical Christian and I served two tours in Iraq with the Marine Corps. I agree completely with what you wrote. If anything, I would have gone further to point a few more things out. It isn’t that the neocons and religious right place American Nationalism before Christianity, it’s that they are like the “cheap grace” Christians of Germany that Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about in the “Cost of Discipleship.” In Nazi Germany, the so-called Christians believed that their country was following God’s plan and purpose that led them into WWII. These people don’t take the Sermon on the Mount literally, but they follow Machiavelli’s “Prince” as if it were Scripture.
Some of the bloggers have discussed showing how the war is unjust according to “Just War Theory,” but I don’t know whether anyone has done this yet or not. Those that came up with this theory (according to scripture) believed that war was always sinful. Here are the basics required to wage even a sinful war:
1. A state must have Proper Authority to wage war.
Whether this criterion was met is up for interpretation. I think that the only appropriate authority is God Himself, but since that wasn’t met, I’ll move on. Since we live in a globalized world with an organization like the United Nations within our grasp, perhaps we should have consulted with them and received their support. In fact, that is exactly what the US government attempted to do in sending the highly credible (at the time) Secretary of State Colin Powell to convince them that the war was justified. Even after lying about having “irrefutable evidence” of Saddam’s WMD program and stockpile, the UN did not support the US action. The Bush administration could not provide any irrefutable evidence either, which is probably why they didn’t support the US and WMDs were never discovered. The “Proper Authority” that war supporters will point to is the US Congress and the US President. If this is the “Proper Authority,” then the criterion was met.
2. A state must have Proper Cause to wage war.
Again, as above, this depends on what exactly can be considered “Proper Cause.” Obviously the “irrefutable evidence” not only didn’t exist, but it was never provided either, therefore, this is not proper cause. Saddam breaking UN resolutions is probably the justification that most people will use since the accusations of chemical/biological/nuclear weapons, the purchasing of “yellowcake,” and ties to Al Qaeda were all made up. Some may also point to Saddam being a ruthless dictator as justification for war, but this justification runs into all kinds of problems. The US supported Saddam for many years in the 1980s and even Donald Rumsfeld can be found shaking hands with Saddam in a very popular photo. On top of this, the US government has supported some of the most ruthless dictators the world has ever seen and continues to do so at the present. If we are all for spreading democracy around the world, why do we pump so much money into the Egyptian dictatorship? The above justification of the breaking of UN resolutions is questionable as well since the US refuses to pay their dues to the UN anyway and should not be enforcing anything for an organization that didn’t support the war and that we refuse to fund. I think that the criterion for “Proper Cause” is lacking. Another reason for war with Iraq was their threat to the US. People forget, however, that the US was operating in Iraq for 12 years leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq maintaining the Northern/Southern No-Fly Zones in Iraq. If Saddam couldn’t keep us from operating within his own country, how much of a threat could he be to the US?
3. There must be a Reasonable Chance of Success.
What is “Success?” I think that war is an automatic failure, but I won’t count that against those that attempt to justify the war because I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt. Obviously, the US was able to defeat Saddam’s military (this brings up another interesting point, if the US military was able to destroy the Iraqi military so quickly, what kind of threat did Saddam really pose?) and therefore be successful. However, as the name of the war implies, Operation Iraqi Freedom, we planned for more than a military victory. So far, not so good. Iraq continues to be one of the worst places to live in the world. The country remains in far worse shape than it was under Saddam. I don’t really consider this a success. Additionally, estimates of the dead in Iraq in the last four and a half years are anywhere from 50,000 to over 750,000. Again, failure not success. There are also over 2,000,000 refugees that have left Iraq. If we are killing this many people and forcing that many people to leave Iraq, then who is going to be left for us to bring freedom to?
4. The Shielding of Non-Combatants from Harm.
Finally, I think that this one is obvious from what I wrote above about the number of dead in Iraq and the number of refugees that have left. Oh, and I almost forgot, how about the use of torture (which is wrong no matter who it is used on) on innocents/non-combatants?



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 13, 2007 at 7:10 pm


But don’t join if you are a “neo-conservative” or a conservative Christian or someone who likes to ask uncomfortable questions of trite partisanship.
Perhaps that’s not the kind of person who ought to be asking about “trite partisanship.”



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carl copas

posted September 13, 2007 at 7:17 pm


Jim,
a terrific post.
The feeble reactions of some people on here were very telling: change the subject by bringing up the Second World War or abortion; name calling (Pharisee, hypocrite, intolerant), absurdity (Wallis’s defensiveness is palpable; Christian peacefulness would rule out a police force).
I am more convinced than ever that this is a wicked war and we have a Christian responsibility to try to stop it. May Jesus guide us.



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Heather

posted September 13, 2007 at 7:21 pm


My sister, a Presbyterian minister, had this to say in reply to my brother’s query about patriotism and Christianity –
This is interesting. Christians cannot, really, be good Americans — if they’re truly Christians.
Theologically, the Christ is Lord — and Christians surrender all they have and hope for to the God who knows no bounds. One cannot have two masters, one must choose: God or country. Christians choose God. Christian allegiance is not to country but to God.
Religiously, American patriotism supplants any kind of worship of the One True God (God of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) in freedom — slavish idolatry of the flag, the government, and the war machine: these are blasphemy.
Scripturally, Christians are called to live in a way that much more resembles socialism or communism. Capitalism and the exploitation of those who live on the marginalized is not exactly what Jesus had in mind. You may want to check out the Sermon on the Mount, The Last Supper, The Crucifixion.
Geographically, we are called to sister- and brotherhood with all the world, so it’s not really possible to even call ourselves American. Because we are Christian. AND we trust in God’s purposes to save all of creation, all children of the world, so we would not make any distinction between Christian or Jew or Muslim.
Socially, were Americans who call themselves Christian to live in a truly Christian way, our social system would be utterly destroyed as the poor, the sick, the old, the oppressed are raised up and those with access to affluence and power find themselves bowed-down out of choice, humble to the last.
Domestically, Jesus encouraged the destruction of the family and the “tribe” in favor of living in peace and pilgrimage with those also seeking the Kingdom of God — not the kingdom of affluence, influence, or domination. Christ calls us to leave our family, to let the dead bury themselves, to give all that we have to be poor and to serve the Lord.
Intellectually, true Christians, called to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, would challenge this nation to live up to its ideals and principles, not swallow fear as facts and war as hope.
Philosophically, because of the values of the United States, its idolatry of money (which is diametrically counter to Christ’s command to “take all you have and be poor,”), its commitment domination (flying in the face of Jesus’ urging us to “turn the other cheek,”), and love of war (“blessed are the peace-makers, the penultimate blessing in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount) make it impossible to be a good American.
Spiritually, the concept of being a nation under God is utterly foreign to Christians — for we know that God is the God of the entire universe. And that God’s purposes are being fulfilled even now — the redemption of the world in love and grace. We also know that bigotry and the evil of prejudice and judgment is temporary and that God’s forgiveness, mercy, and justice for every person is unstoppable.
I suspect that Christians do not seek to be good Americans, but rather, good citizens of God’s creation and in God’s Kingdom which is coming. I suspect that it is the responsibility of Christians seek to herald the coming of the Kingdom by the way they live in this place and time — welcoming those whom the culture despises: Our Muslim brothers and sisters.
Our task is to love as Christ loved: arms outstretched, receiving every single living thing, and open to death itself if it reveals God’s love, and not the hate and bigotry of humanity.
That’s what I think. Your sister



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Wolverine

posted September 13, 2007 at 7:38 pm


Splinterlog wrote:
So let me get this right. When it comes to giving gay brothers and sisters the opportunity to have their unions blessed in the Church, your lot screams bloody murder and accusing us of ignoring the worldwide Christian community’s concerns over the issue (c/o Nigeria). But when it comes to the war, the worldwide Christian community doesn’t matter to your lot. Have I got that right?
Splinterlog is referring to the current conflict in the Episcopal church, of which I am still a member. The conflict was triggered by the consecration of an open homosexual as a bishop in the Episcopal Church, although the roots of the division lie in more fundamental theological questions.
Here’s the thing: the Episcopal Church has effectively sanctioned the blessing of gay unions (in other words, gay marriage) but has not approved the war in Iraq, so there is no conflict within the church over the war, only over gay marriage.
Now there is a schism in the church developing, and there is likely to be an official “break” within a few months. When that happens conservative congregations and dioceses will have more room to speak their mind on a host of issues, including, possibly, the Iraq War.
But my knowledge of the conservative priests and bishops leads me to expect that few if any will announce any official support for the Iraq War, out of respect for the opinions of the bishops of Africa and Asia. For their part, the bishops of Africa and Asia have not, to the best of my knowledge, made any demand that the American church condemn the Iraq war.
In short, we conservative Anglicans have managed to disagree agreeably on the war, while the liberal Anglicans have forced a confrontation on homosexuality. That’s the difference.
Wolverine



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kevin s.

posted September 13, 2007 at 7:40 pm


“change the subject by bringing up the Second World War or abortion; name calling”
If someone is questioning the authenticity of you faith based on your political stance on a particular issue, it is fair to put other issues to the same test. And there is plenty of name-calling in Wallis’ post.
“Christian peacefulness would rule out a police force)”
This wasn’t in response to Wallis, but to the poster that claimed that Jesus spoke against any violence at any time. His vision of Christ’s peacefulness would rule out a police force.
“I went to church on the weekend of July 1. At the beginning, the American flag was carried in and everyone was asked to stand. I felt a little uncomfortable with this, it being the LORD’s house and all. But I do love my country and I don’t understand love of country to be contrary to loving God. So I stood.”
Well put. I don’t get patriotic services and the like (I was actually unaware of their existence until recently), and I understand the objections to them.



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sandra s.

posted September 13, 2007 at 7:55 pm


I am not surprised that one of Rev. Wallis’ points was overlooked in the comments. Christians and others around the world are tired of hearing citizens of the USA speak as if their theological and political viewpoints are common to reasonable people around the world.
Yours in Christ from Vancouver, Canada
Sandra



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Trent

posted September 13, 2007 at 8:02 pm


An Aussie perspective,
Yesterday there were many comments about how Wallis doesn’t respond to comments on these blogs. Today he has responded (and he unfortunately engaged in name-calling), but has been criticised for responding. What’s up with that?
As an Australian, our regular press does provide a mixed coverage of the war (though mostly pro-US). We are exposed to the mixed coverage without having to search for foreign websites or media outlets.
In regard to where to go with Iraq, there is an obligation on the part of the US and her supporters (including Australia) to assist with the mess in Iraq. Part of that obligation will necessarily involve the US divesting itself of Iraqi interests (bases, oil, contracts) because the US presence is inflamatory to the situation. If the US were to maintain their current financial contribution to Iraq (and you are spending a lot there now), but use that to support international peacekeeping efforts it would diminish the anti-US sentiment, it would save the lives of US soldiers, it would still seek to protect Iraqis (by not abandoning them to Iran), it would stablise the entire region (as the US occupation is a rallying point for terrorists) and the divestment would raise the US stature in the world.
Finally, the the point was made earlier, every country has some sense of Nationalism. I don’t suppose that that is a bad thing. But to the best of my knowledge only the US has tied it’s Nationalism to Christianity (ok. maybe Samoa as well). One of the dangers of Iran is that their Nationalism is so often tied to Islam (Australia’s nationalism is tied to beer and football and legends of the bush). I’d like to suggest that the recognition of the danger of Iran comes in part from the resonance of their situation to that of the US. It’s like the speck and the log in the eye (I’m not arguing whose is bigger), just that you see it because in some way you own it for yourself.
Be Blessed,



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N.M. Rod

posted September 13, 2007 at 8:10 pm


Heather’s sister’s pastoral observations could veer into wishful thinking, even if for many of the right intentions, I believe. All religion is not the same – else, there’d be no disagreement even among those who self-identify as Christians, as there obviously is here. There does need to be content – everything is not equal, even if all are equally human and worthy of respect in their being.
While welcoming, we need to engage as well. We can accept others while remaining skeptical of their beliefs and motivations – as well as of our own. There is no growth without discernment and that is unwise.
As we have seen, religion – and I don’t spare mutations of our own – can be highly destructive.
I really think it’s a complete misunderstanding, though, to think that Jesus urged complete destruction of the family. I understand how some from destructive families and with an different ideological bent might favor this, just as Marx did.
However, there is a view of the family that is not exclusivist. It is that the family properly constituted is the crucible for developing love, trust and caring between man and woman and children that produces individuals who can then in turn extend this love they have learned in that protection as they grow up towards everyone else.
In other words, family is to be the place where we learn to practice in a protected place what the family of God should be like, so that we are not thrust too early into the harsh world environment without development of character that can resist its blandishments to cruel competition and the crushing of others.
How many of our families do nurture developing individials in this way? I know those that do, and those that don’t, and there is a striking difference in the behavior they tend to produce.



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Wolverine

posted September 13, 2007 at 8:11 pm


Please bear with me while I expand on one point in my comment on the Episcopal Church:
The conflict over homosexuality taps into larger issues of the divinity of Christ and his unique role as redeemer of mankind, and even to the essential truth of his resurrection.
If the issue really were only about homosexuality, I doubt that we would be threatened with a schism right now.
I hope this fully answers your question Splinterlog,
Wolverine



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N.M. Rod

posted September 13, 2007 at 8:24 pm


I think there’s been a truth unearthed when someone of the perspective from Down Under notices that a lot of us in America see the country as the indispensable “Christian Nation” and that there aren’t many others – and even that one might be an American territory.
If America, as is believed by many, is indeed founded by God’s command and a Christian Nation, then it seems to follow that it has a mandate from God – its policies, from the seizing of the continent from “pagan savages” in the manner supposedly of ancient Israel, all fall under this rubric of carrying out God’s plan for the world.
Anyone opposing it is by definition – since they are not the quintessential Christian Nation – opposed to God’s will.
This does explain the Southern Baptist website, with its commitment to world missions, emblazoned over a rippling US flag – and for that matter, the view of the flag as a holy object.
Under this view, real Christians around the globe will become supporters of the US within their own countries, and their allegiance will be to this global movement of American dominance, under Christ, rather than to their own nations.



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Rick

posted September 13, 2007 at 8:41 pm


I want to pick up on Sandra’s comments on the world’s perspective. A few years ago I traveled to South Africa. It was eye opening in terms of hearing Christians there talk about their perception of the US and Christianity in the US. We are seen as a global bully, and Christ’s name is being dragged through the mud (a modern translation of blasphemy?).
I think what the church in the US needs is a healthy dose of global Christianity – we need to really listen to our brothers and sisters around the world have to say, particularly around the experience of deep poverty and generations of war. We have been looking across the oceans from a seat of comfort and complacency, disconnected from real brokenness. Only when our hearts are broken by the same things that break the heart of Jesus will we be able to escape the grip of nationalist fervor.
One of my most profound learnings from South Africa was the word “ubuntu” – a word Desmond Tutu used regularly. A person with ubuntu knows that his/her humanity is inextricably bound up in the humanity of the other – their welfare is tied to one’s own welfare. It would world changing for all of humanity to embrace that idea – that would be ideal. But just imagine the difference we would see in the world if only Christians were to embrace it! If Christians refused to kill other people – if Christians believed and acted with “ubuntu.”
This is my prayer…



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Trent

posted September 13, 2007 at 8:45 pm


Wolverine,
The Australian experience over homosexuality (in the Uniting Church – a hybrid of Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregationalist), where afetr fifteen years of debate they’ve decided not to make a decision, didn’t cause a schizm, though individual congregations and members did leave.
The issue like you stated wasn’t homosexuality at all, it was more simply an issue of Biblical Authority. If you accepted homosexuality as a life-style option, then that necessitated a very liberal view of scripture, which many in the church weren’t (and aren’t) willing to accept.
{It’s not related to all to Jim’s blog, but is interesting nonetheless}.
Be Blessed.



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Anonymous

posted September 13, 2007 at 8:54 pm


Trent wrote: “Yesterday there were many comments about how Wallis doesn’t respond to comments on these blogs. Today he has responded (and he unfortunately engaged in name-calling), but has been criticised for responding. What’s up with that?”
I, while very disappointed with Wallis’ response, am in NO way criticizing him for responding. In fact, no here who disagreed with him said as much. I think the point is that to finally engage the comments and to do so with such nasty name-calling and arrogance is a great disappointment. Wallis’ posts set the tone for the entire site, and he is a self-proclaimed leader of the evangelical left. So when he is so dismissive and hostile to fellow evangelicals wanting to engage the evangelical left in discussion, you shouldn’t be surprised when disapproval is voiced.
Now, on to a real question – it would be interesting for Wallis to unpack his claims about Christians’ responsibilities as citizens of America who are really first members of the global church. I mean, if we should be citizens of the world before we are American Christians, then we should seriously reconsider social reform efforts. First, any poverty relief or work with the lower classes of America is a waste of time and money when we consider the vastly greater level of poverty and suffering that goes on among our brothers and sisters throughout the world. In true renunciation of nationalism and misguided patriotism, I call on Sojourners to lead the way and call on other Christians to redirect our efforts to the truly poor, since our poor are so rich in comparison to the rest of the world.



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Phyllis

posted September 13, 2007 at 9:04 pm


To whom do we belong? We belong to Christ; not the world. For those American Christians that are more loyal to a version of American nationalism than they are to the body of Christ, well maybe they should open up their Bibles to see what Christ has to say about that.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 13, 2007 at 9:06 pm


Wallis’ posts set the tone for the entire site, and he is a self-proclaimed leader of the evangelical left. So when he is so dismissive and hostile to fellow evangelicals wanting to engage the evangelical left in discussion, you shouldn’t be surprised when disapproval is voiced.
NO, HE IS NOT!!!!
For openers, I challenge anyone to say where he has said that about himself. Nowhere I can tell. Second, he has long been dismissed by the evangelical right for not being with it, never mind that he’s been doing what he’s been doing for over 30 years! He’s outlasted both Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy, the former of which insulted him, and I’m sure he’s never been invited on “The 700 Club.” So, really, who’s dismissing whom? And BTW, where did he call anyone names? He said only that he thinks his critics have often missed the boat, which is a fair statement.



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Anonymous

posted September 13, 2007 at 9:10 pm


“To whom do we belong? We belong to Christ; not the world. For those American Christians that are more loyal to a version of American nationalism than they are to the body of Christ, well maybe they should open up their Bibles to see what Christ has to say about that.”
Phyllis,
Contrary to popular misreadings of Christ’s ministry – he and his disciples did not advocate any form of anti-nationalism. Christ submitted to the injustices of the Roman government, even when it meant death. (Which God intended to use for his own good, but it worth noting Christ submitted to the civil authority of the Romans, even in their imperialist, colonialist mistreatment of Jews and their land.)
Peter famously calls on slaves to obey their masters, not to overthrow them. Paul calls on women to be silent in the congregation and to submit to their husbands. And the list could go on. The point is – Christ and his apostles had little to say about social revolution and a lot more to say about the revolution that comes from radically surrendering oneself to the will of God.
Oh, there was that part of render to Caesar what is Caesars, but still, no call for the Jewish people to throw off the often oppressive rule of their Roman colonial government.



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Trent

posted September 13, 2007 at 9:30 pm


Rick,
Wallis in the Blog does call names. In particular he calls them, “Neocon war promoters’ and ‘Christian Warriors.’ He further accuses them of ‘vitriol,’ ‘clogging’ and of ‘dominating’ these comments.
It was unfortunate, unnecessary and distracted from the validity of his argument.
It shouldn’t be defended.
Be Blessed,



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Koda

posted September 13, 2007 at 9:36 pm


Bravo, Jim. Too many americans seem to believe that God is an american (and a Repulican man, to boot). God doesn’t favor us over any nationality and if you look back at the details of our history (not the “God fearing Christian nation rhetoric) you will see that the U.S. since its founding has consitently operated on a “what’s best for us” platform, regardless of the consequences to the rest of the world’s population. We are not the only ones, of course. The current nation of Iraq is a result of post-WWI dictatorial imperialism that deicded to form a nation from an area inhabited by people who have hated each other since time began. We are not going to get them to suddenly love each other (or, evidently, even tolerate each other), especially at the point of a gun. The Islamic fundamentist movement in Iran is the direct result of the U.S. backed overthrow of their democratically elected leader because he decided that nationalizing their oil was the best policy for his people. We put the corrupt Shah in his place and supported his tyrannny so we could get cheap oil. The Islamic fundamentalist movement and its hatred for America grew out of this repression. Yet, our leaders (and most of our citizens) ignore the lesson of history, as well as the lessons of Christ, while we fool ourselves into believing the lies about how we are only trying to imrpove the lives of other peoples.



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Wolverine

posted September 13, 2007 at 9:39 pm


I can’t speak for all of us conservatives, this is how I see things:
Personally I’ve never been persuaded that Americans are any more of a “chosen people” than Germans, Brazilians, Indians, or Ethiopians, and I’ve always considered it dangerous to attach any larger theological significance to American military or economic strength.
I know there are people who think in those terms, and a lot of them are my allies on a lot of political issues. I’ve often tried, with varying degrees of success, to talk them off of that limb.
While I have sensed that God has wanted me to develop my interest in political issues, I’ve always tended to view public policy itself in mostly secular terms.
American influence is not a necessary consequence of there being a just and holy God, it’s a simple fact that we have to work with. Whether it works for good or for evil depends on what we do with it.
As a Christian I understand that I have brothers and sisters in nearly every nation. I do not expect them to share my political views, and I am not shocked by the fact that they are not all as pro-American as I am — although I have met a few Chritians from other countries who are.
I think we are allowed to have a certain affection for our home countries: the land, the people, the music, the language, the games, the history, the culture that we grew up with.
I have always sought to broaden my horizons, but I do not pretend to be particularly cosmopolitan. America is the country I know best, the country where I have the most realistic chance of exercising some positive influence. But sometimes I struggle to understand the country I grew up in — so how can I pretend to be a “citizen of the world”?
I’m an American. I’m doing the best I can with what I have to work with. May God have mercy.
Wolverine



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Nancy Stromer

posted September 13, 2007 at 9:47 pm


I couldn’t agree with you more, Jim. People seem to be Americans, or maybe just far right wing extremists, first, and professing Christians next. I live in Focus country, and I just can’t believe how out of focus Christ is all around me.
Signed, Nancy, Colorado Springs



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Rev. Dale Shotts

posted September 13, 2007 at 9:57 pm


I really enjoyed your column, Jim.
I received my alum newsletter yesterday from Augsburg College in Mpls. The commencement speaker’s comments were condensed and here is the core of his talk.
Eboo Patel, founder of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core. “There are many who are eager to divide humanity along a faith line: Sunnies vs. Shias, Catholics vs. Protestants, Hindus vs. Buddists.
I believe there is something else going on. I believe that the “faith line” is indeed the challenge of our century, but it does not divide people of different religious backgrounds. . . . The faith line separates religious totalitarians and religious pluralists.
A religious totalitarian is someone who seeks to suffocate those who are different. Their weapons range from suicide bombs to media empires,(and political empires)my addition. There are totalitarians in every faith group,(my paraphrase). They are on the same side of the faith line: arm in arm against a dream of a common life together.
A pluralist is someone who seeks to live with people who are different, be enriched by them, help them thrive.
Pluralists resonate with the Qurannic line: ‘God made us different nations and tribes that we may come to know one another’. Pluralists love the words of the poet Gwendolyn Brooks:
We are each other’s business
We are each other’s harvest
We are each other’s magnitude
and bond
We pluralists far outnumberr the totalitarians. We if we let ourselves imagine? What if we began building?
What if every city block were a cathedral of pluralism; every univesity campus; every summer camp and day care. There would not be enough bombs to destroy all our cathedrals”. Read the full address at
http://www.augsburg.edu/commencement/pagtel.
pdf
I think these comments are closely related to “We are to be Christians first, and members of nations or tribes second.” That simple affirmation, if ever applied, would utterly transform the relationship of American Christians to the policeis of their own government” and the conclusion: “Many American Christians are simply more loyal to a version of American nationalism than they are to the body of Christ. I want to suggest that the two are now in conflict, and we must decide to whom to we ultimately belong. That’s the real issue.” I choose to be a member of a global community who recognize our connection with one another as brothers and sisters and who seek to live peacefully with one another.
Rev. Dale Shotts United Methodist Church, retired, Kansas City MO.



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Rev. Dale Shotts

posted September 13, 2007 at 9:57 pm


I really enjoyed your column, Jim.
I received my alum newsletter yesterday from Augsburg College in Mpls. The commencement speaker’s comments were condensed and here is the core of his talk.
Eboo Patel, founder of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core. “There are many who are eager to divide humanity along a faith line: Sunnies vs. Shias, Catholics vs. Protestants, Hindus vs. Buddists.
I believe there is something else going on. I believe that the “faith line” is indeed the challenge of our century, but it does not divide people of different religious backgrounds. . . . The faith line separates religious totalitarians and religious pluralists.
A religious totalitarian is someone who seeks to suffocate those who are different. Their weapons range from suicide bombs to media empires,(and political empires)my addition. There are totalitarians in every faith group,(my paraphrase). They are on the same side of the faith line: arm in arm against a dream of a common life together.
A pluralist is someone who seeks to live with people who are different, be enriched by them, help them thrive.
Pluralists resonate with the Qurannic line: ‘God made us different nations and tribes that we may come to know one another’. Pluralists love the words of the poet Gwendolyn Brooks:
We are each other’s business
We are each other’s harvest
We are each other’s magnitude
and bond
We pluralists far outnumberr the totalitarians. We if we let ourselves imagine? What if we began building?
What if every city block were a cathedral of pluralism; every univesity campus; every summer camp and day care. There would not be enough bombs to destroy all our cathedrals”. Read the full address at
http://www.augsburg.edu/commencement/pagtel.
pdf
I think these comments are closely related to “We are to be Christians first, and members of nations or tribes second.” That simple affirmation, if ever applied, would utterly transform the relationship of American Christians to the policeis of their own government” and the conclusion: “Many American Christians are simply more loyal to a version of American nationalism than they are to the body of Christ. I want to suggest that the two are now in conflict, and we must decide to whom to we ultimately belong. That’s the real issue.” I choose to be a member of a global community who recognize our connection with one another as brothers and sisters and who seek to live peacefully with one another.
Rev. Dale Shotts United Methodist Church, retired, Kansas City MO.



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Eric Nord

posted September 13, 2007 at 10:03 pm


Kevin S wrote:
I can’t speak for all the neocon war promoters, but I have forgotten neither. I simply disagree that a presumption against war mandates that we continue a failed tract of diplomacy and sanctions with a man who spent 13 year defying UN mandates.
What I have heard very little reflection about in this country is the fact that, to a large extent, Saddam was a monster of our creation. The US sold many weapons to him because he was fighting Iran.
The fact that he turned into a tyrant points out that the US missed many opportunities to help build democracy in Iraq – if our foreign policy in the 70’s and 80’s had been less about what was good for America in the short term and more about what was good for all of us in the long term (ubuntu??), Saddam may never have been empowered to spend 13 years defying UN mandates, oppressing his own people, etc.
My whole point is that “If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword”, and America has spent a long time swinging that sword around the world.
My $ 0.02



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Ben Schmidt

posted September 13, 2007 at 10:04 pm


Trent,
Do you really think that those references are name-calling? “Neo-Conservative War Promoters” is what most of them call themselves. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, etc. All Neocons and they promote war. The president was just on TV tonight promoting war. “Christian Warriors” is just describing what they are as well, not calling them names. I’m sure a lot of Christians would call themselves that name. I’ve heard them call themselves and “Army of God,” what’s the difference? Accusing them of using vitriol language is quite accurate. I really don’t see how these thngs are name-calling. “Clogging” and “Dominating” these comments is not an insult, just stating the obvious.



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Michael Gorman

posted September 13, 2007 at 10:08 pm


A good friend of mine is the chair of the board of a major international Bible-translation and Bible-distribution ministry. When the 100+ representatives from around the world gathered together two summers ago for meetings–people from every imaginable denomination and theological perspective–they had two things in common, according to my friend: commitment to Bible translation/distribution and opposition to George Bush and his war. No dissenters.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 13, 2007 at 10:13 pm


Wallis in the Blog does call names. In particular he calls them, “Neocon war promoters’ and ‘Christian Warriors.’ He further accuses them of ‘vitriol,’ ‘clogging’ and of ‘dominating’ these comments.
Those descriptions are plenty accurate especially to those people who are not conservatives, to be truthful. The “neo-cons” have shown themselves to be de facto “war promoters,” and I think everything else he says about them is, frankly, totally accurate. On top of that, for some 30 years I personally have endured plenty of pure, unadulterated hate from those that I don’t agree with. Sometimes you have to call a spade a spade and if that ticks people off, well … Jesus Himself was not always nice when describing his critics in the religious world.
On the other hand, those same opponents have, among other things, impuged his motives and, in one case, accused him of envying conservatives with “bigger” ministries. They actually try to change the subject because they don’t have a leg to stand on. They consistently show disrespect to the “liberals” her and then complain that they’re “hating on” them when they react strongly and that they just want to “dialogue.” They are fooling only themselves.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 13, 2007 at 10:19 pm


Peter famously calls on slaves to obey their masters, not to overthrow them. Paul calls on women to be silent in the congregation and to submit to their husbands. And the list could go on. The point is – Christ and his apostles had little to say about social revolution and a lot more to say about the revolution that comes from radically surrendering oneself to the will of God.
Actually, that was Paul, and that phrase “slaves” is probably better translated “workers” today. But in fact, Jesus and the Apostles did call for revolution — but not in the way anyone expected. Since Rome was so powerful the early Christians had to subscribe to a policy of subversion, to expose Roman law as unjust. When, for example, Paul tells husbands to “love their wives as Christ loved the church,” that was a totally radical statement because, in those days, a woman was literally the property of her husband. The Christians stuck out like a sore thumb but eventually outlasted the Roman Empire.



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Judithod

posted September 13, 2007 at 10:24 pm


I’m appalled that you are misusing Christianity in defense of your opposition to the U. S. involvement in Iraq. You’ve made a sweeping, arrogant statement in claiming that “the body of Christ internationally is against the U. S. war in Iraq and the whole direction of current U. S. foreign policy.” When did you acquire omniscient, divine powers or become a spokesperson for all Christians?
Unlike you, I’ve never told my children to avoid defending their liberty or the right of others to live in freedom. In fact, I’m the mother of a Marine captain who has deployed twice during the conflict. According to your vitriolic labeling, both my son and I are “neocon war promoters.” So be it.
Why do you choose to condemn U. S. Christians and others who may choose to support the advance of freedom in Iraq (and beyond) and blatantly avoid condemning the terrorists? Who are the suicide bombers? The roadside bombers? They are not U. S. soldiers, sailors, marines, or airmen. They are not Christians, Jews, Buddhist, or Hindus. They are Muslim extremists who hate “infidels,” an appellation that includes you.
What is playing out in Iraq is a series of clashes: the mentality of the 21st century versus the mentality of the Middle Ages, human rights versus violations of human rights. What is at stake is not the honor of the U. S. but the privilege of people to live respectfully and safely regardless of gender, ethnicity, and religious beliefs.



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justintime

posted September 13, 2007 at 10:41 pm


‘Wallis in the Blog does call names. In particular he calls them, “Neocon war promoters’ and ‘Christian Warriors.’ He further accuses them of ‘vitriol,’ ‘clogging’ and of ‘dominating’ these comments.’
If the shoe fits, wear it.



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Wolverine

posted September 13, 2007 at 10:46 pm


Richard Nauck wrote:
For both sides of this argument….
Remember who is watching your arguments….
I am.
And as one who is intrigued and can I say, even drawn, to your idea of Christianity, I have to ask one question.
What is it you invite me to?
The chasm that exists between your ideals of Christian love, peace and community, and the evidence that exists on the pages of responses to this blog, is wider than the Grand Canyon.
It is often spoken that the way to peace in Iraq is for the Sunni’s and Shia to reconcile…after months of reading this blog and its many detractors, I would have to say that Sunni’s and Shia have a better chance at reconciliation than the American Church does.
Again I ask, what is it you invite me to? Because if it is this, its not much of an offering.

Richard,
I wish I could tell you that this sort of thing was unusual. The sad thing is, it’s not.
As the old bumper sticker says, we’re forgiven, not perfect. We come out of a fallen world and cannot help but drag some of that fallenness into the church with us.
All I can say in our defense is this is a political blog and politics is especially contentious. In a more spiritual setting, such as a eucharist or a mission trip or a retreat, or even a blog centered on theology or service, you would probably see people acting in a more generous manner, but even even in the best of groups you will occasionally encounter disputes and bitterness.
God calls on all of us to forgive one another. How that works out in the political realm is subject to a lot of heated debate, but even among fellow Christians in the best of settings it is mercy, rather than good manners, that makes a Christian a Christian.
God is perfect. We are not. I wish we were better, but “it is what it is”.
It is Christ that calls you. If you would follow him you will at times need to ignore the rest of us.
Wolverine



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Trent

posted September 13, 2007 at 10:53 pm


Name calling is name calling. The name may be apt, the name may be appropriately descriptive but it is still name calling.
A lot of my work is in the field of special education. In this field effort has gone into distinguishing between the person and the disabling condition. Calling someone ‘Intellectually Impaired,’ (I believe the US uses the term ‘retarded’) is very different to saying that ‘John Smith has an Intellectual Impairment.’
In the same way calling someone a ‘neocon war promotor,’ categorises them as a person and reduces their humanity (as all categorical labels do). Saying that they ‘hold to neocon war promoting views’ is bulkier but more accurate, more descriptive and less offensive.
Over a few months of reading these blogs and comments there has been plenty of name calling and Wallis has copped more than his share. It just isn’t good practice and the suggested revenge motif doesn’t sit well with Christian ethics.
And for the record, if Bush and Cheney did describe themselves as ‘neocon war promotors,’ that still doesn’t excuse applying that label to posters to this site.
Be Blessed,



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Richard Pierard

posted September 13, 2007 at 11:03 pm


Thanks, Jim, for so forefully speaking out. As one who has been ignored and forgotten for my own futile efforts to make evangelicals aware of how they sold out our biblical faith to the political order, it is profoundly encouraging that you are able to reach people with the message that the political gospel being preached today is a false gospel. You have given this old has-been a new sense of hope.



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jesse

posted September 13, 2007 at 11:14 pm


Rev. Alterman,
Polls matter little–it’s unsurprising that many of the public want us to leave but they would likely not like the consequences of us leaving. These polls reflect ambivalence. The Iraqi government wants us there now, and if they wanted us to leave we would. I obviously do not think that peace should be achieved at all costs. I also believe that war is sometimes the best way to achieve peace (and believe history and the Bible are on my side in this regard).
For those of you defending Wallis’ name-calling, you show little understanding of Christian charity or the concept of grace. Wallis’ vitriol in this post reflects an attitude that wishes to see his opponents in the poorest of possible lights (it’s equivalent to me calling him a “flaming liberal” or an “abortion-lover”). He impugns the motives of every he disagrees with. Whatever happened to just honest differences in opinion? I try not to judge a person’s faith on all their political positions.



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Nathan Rayner

posted September 13, 2007 at 11:14 pm


Jim,
I’m all for the United States pulling its military out of Iraq but I don’t know if you’ve addressed the issue fully. You Americans under your president invaded Iraq, threw the country into turmoil and chaos. Now a majority of your citizens have decided they want to pull out.
So what about the mess you created? Don’t you have some responsibility to the people? Your stating that this war is not moral or just and walking away from the disaster you created is not moral or just either. You made the mess. You clean it before you pull out. The Iraqis and the rest of the world deserve at least this. The wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth without consideration to the terror you will condemn millions to is just not acceptable. Solution? I haven’t a clue but Americans got into it, you figure it out.



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Sarasotakid

posted September 13, 2007 at 11:14 pm


Thank you, Reverend Wallis, for this great post. Thank you clearly stating what support of this war has become- sheer, unadulterated idolatry. And thank you for speaking out against the vitriol of the select few who add nothing to the conversation here but who are quick to detract from those of us who want peace.



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ACH

posted September 13, 2007 at 11:19 pm


It’s about time, actually long overdue & past time, that Jim Wallis himself voice his disgust over the Ultra-cons & Neo-Cons that clog this outlet. It’d not be half as bad if they had something new from time to time, but, no, it’s straight from the old gristmill of extreme fundamentalism & obstructionism. I am sure these ilks know they aid the rest of the world in misunderstanding the rest of us Xns as the kind they hear about almost exclusively & unfortunately. When will a filter dismiss these without taking up space or some editorial oversight eliminate them otherwise? I no longer try to read through these & am only marking my second appearance here in the last couple of years because who has the space clogged with trifle. Same old names/pennames: same old stuff, with obstruction their only purpose. There will be many confused christians in Hell & rightly so: may their dysfunction to there with them.



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Wolverine

posted September 13, 2007 at 11:39 pm


ACH wrote:
There will be many confused christians in Hell & rightly so: may their dysfunction to there with them.
Well…
I’ve been called many names on this board, but this is the first time I can recall being condemned to hell.
Wolverine



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Richard Nauck

posted September 13, 2007 at 11:43 pm


Wolverine,
Bear with me for a moment, but your response to my post I think somewhat hits at the heart of this whole debate.
You wrote:
“All I can say in our defense is this is a political blog and politics is especially contentious. In a more spiritual setting, such as a eucharist or a mission trip or a retreat, or even a blog centered on theology or service, you would probably see people acting in a more generous manner…”
If I can elaborate, does this then mean, the God-thing or the Christian-thing only really works in “more spiritual settings”? But when put into the crucible of a political blog it has no staying power.
I asked the question, what is it you are inviting me to? Am I to take from your response and that which I see on the page before me, that I’m being invited to something that really only works in confined safe spaces.
The problem is I don’t live in a confined safe space.
What I find most interesting about this debate is that you have these polar opposite groups, both apparently reading the same text (the Bible) and both completely convinced that they are right.
I wish I could label the issues in this blog as just simply ‘political’, but at the core of what is being discussed, if you can call it that, are fundamental philosophies on the shape of how groups of people (in this case a really big group of people called Americans) should operate in the global community. At the heart of this, what I see is how Christians think their faith should be outlived in society. Because its a political blog, this isn’t just how they think they their faith should be outlived, but how the country should outlive its? faith.
And probably most interesting, is I see how this particular set of Christians outlive their faith in dealing with those who have a different opinion.
Please don’t get me wrong, I am far more for this God-thing, than against. But as someone looking through the looking-glass, I have to question if given their own inability to live “at peace one with another”, if we really should be taking foreign policy advice from the Christian Community.



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Trent

posted September 13, 2007 at 11:52 pm


Wolverine,
I must admit admiring the way you do not respond in kind.
If all who agreed or disagreed with you were as respectful as you’ve shown yourself to be then fewer readers would be taking offence at the contents of these comments.
It’s a mirror of war, where the world’s pattern is to retaliate and escalate. Yet instead of retaliating to the name calling and accusations you’ve responded with courtesy and appear to have ‘turned the other cheek.’
It reminds me of the parable of the two brothers who were asked to work in the field. One says yes but doesn’t go, while the other says no but does.
You, who’ve been called a neocon war promoter, practice turning the other cheek, while some who claim to be seeking peace, engage in name calling and other accusatory and derogatory behaviour.
Isn’t it ironic?
Be Blessed,



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Wolverine

posted September 13, 2007 at 11:58 pm


A little while ago someone comented that Jim Wallis was a self-described leader of the Christian left, to which Rick Nowlin subtly replied:
NO, HE IS NOT!!!!
For openers, I challenge anyone to say where he has said that about himself. Nowhere I can tell.

(bold in original)
Rick, Rick, Rick,
If only you’d looked up at the original article you would have read this:
Because of my work and transatlantic family ties, I travel extensively around the world, frequently talk to others who do, regularly read the international press, frequently host international Christian leaders, and often attend international Christian gatherings. Last week, I wrote on this site about my recent journey to Singapore to join 500 leaders of World Vision from 100 countries…
At which point Mr. Wallis proceeded to bestow upon us a portion of the many insights he has gleaned from his many travels around the globe visiting with Christian leaders, the vast majority of whom happen to agree with him. And then he helpfully reminded us: “And if you don’t know that perspective, you simply haven’t had much experience with Christians outside of the United States.” Which certainly put me in my place.
Now, I’m not a big one on false modesty, and I don’t expect Jim Wallis to act like he’s just another shlub. But if that’s not tooting your own horn, I’ve never heard a horn tooted.
Wolverine



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canucklehead

posted September 14, 2007 at 12:10 am


>>>>Wallis in the Blog does call names. In particular he calls them, “Neocon war promoters’ and ‘Christian Warriors.’ He further accuses them of ‘vitriol,’ ‘clogging’ and of ‘dominating’ these comments.
It was unfortunate, unnecessary and distracted from the validity of his argument.
It shouldn’t be defended.
Be Blessed,
Posted by: Trent | September 13, 2007 9:30 PM
Come on, Trent. what world do you live in? Jim uses decent terminology (some of it self-descriptive of many of the regular conservative contributors to this blog) in addressing an issue he feels about passionately. The neo-cons on this sight can be legitimately seen as promoters of this war and at times they do spew vitriol and clog the site.
Calling people names means you call them “intractable poopyheads” and “ignorant morons” – the ad hominem type of stuff.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed about reading this thread is hearing from all kinds of people I’ve never heard/seen here before – I’ve learned tons, from the left and right.
One thot that keeps recurring to me is – don’t we all constantly struggle with getting ME out of the picture in observing and trying to interpret what God is doing in this world? Whether it’s the personal ME, the ethnic ME, the national ME, sometimes it does us good to try and see and hear this world w/o the American perspective or the Canadian perspective or the British perspective. We are, after all, a comparatively small portion of the people on this terrestrial ball.
As Anne Lamott says so pointedly “We’re right, it’s not about me, it’s only one six-billionth about me.”



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canucklehead

posted September 14, 2007 at 12:13 am


Richard Pierard, good to hear your perspective (TEDS, early ’80s!)



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justintime

posted September 14, 2007 at 12:19 am


Ten tactics observed on this forum, utilized by
deluded conservative authoritarian fundamentalists, trapped in the past;
whenever they encounter new facts at odds with their delusion:
1. If the facts are embarrassing, they may try to deny the facts.
2. They will complain how the liberal media is slanted and suppressing the truth.
3. If denying the facts fails to convince may try to change the subject.
4. If you continue pursuing the topic at hand they may try to ignore you.
5. If you refuse to be ignored they may play the Bill Clinton card.
6. If you refuse the Clinton card, they might try the Ted Kennedy card or the Jane Fonda card or the Saddam Hussein card, or the Osama bin Laden card, etc.
7. If they run out of cards they will complain about how unfair or mean you are or how you’ve insulted their righteousness.
8. They may even pout and leave the discussion.
9. But they will always be back, disrupting discussion of the next topic.
10. Only under rare circumstances will they dare to talk about the embarrassing facts of the topic at hand.

…..
Trent just put tactic no. 7 into play.



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Wolverine

posted September 14, 2007 at 12:21 am


Trent,
I appreciate the thought. The truth is I can be as snarky as anyone on the board. I like to think I’m cleverer about it, but don’t be fooled, I’m definitely a smart-aleck.
Richard Nauck,
Here’s the thing: if you’re expecting Christians to be all that much better than everyone else, you’re liable to be disappointed.
CS Lewis actually argued that Christians would tend to be a bit meaner than average because the really nice people with good upbringings would tend to believe they were okay as they were. The hotheads would be more aware of their failings and more likely to turn to Christ. That’s not to say that Christianity cannot help, but its a slow process and there’s liable to be bumps on the way. That was his theory at least.
Wolverine



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Rev. Ian Alterman

posted September 14, 2007 at 12:27 am


I’d like to offer responses to a few scattered comments, mostly theological.
“‘I am pro-life.’ ‘I don’t want to criminalize a woman’s most agonizing, personal decisions.’
I have heard Jim Wallis make both of these statements. For many here, the latter apparently invalidates the former.”
They are no more mutually exclusive than the statements “I am against abortion” and “I am pro-choice.” In fact, when fully correlated, most polls show that 75% of Americans hold these two seemingly contradictory views. It is simple: abortion is “wrong,” whether or not it qualifies as “murder.” But this does NOT equate to believing that morality should be legislated. If abortion IS wrong/murder, it is between the woman and whatever God she believes (or does not believe) in.
“‘This Jesus who taught and more importantly lived the Kingdom values is the one who condemned violence against others under any and all circumstances.’ Do you have a scriptural reference for this?”
The clearest Scriptural reference is Matthew 5:43-45: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
This is not just “pretty words” or metaphor. It is a direct “command” from Christ. It does NOT say “do this only under this or that particular circumstance, or only when this or that particular set of parameters is met.” The clear implication is that it is to be done ALL THE TIME, UNDER ALL CIRCUMSTANCES.
“‘Jesus had almost nothing to say about a place of eternal bliss, but he had a lot to say about the sick, the hungry and the marginalized in this world.’ What did he say about the sick and the hungry, and why is it inherently more important than what he said about his eternal kingdom?”
If you don’t know what Jesus said about the sick and hungry, you are not particularly well-versed in the New Testament. Suffice to say that much is said. And it is not that it is “inherently more important” than other things He said, but that it is JUST as important, if not moreso.
The word “slaves” rendered in the King James (and some other) versions of the Bible is actually closest to the Greek word for “servant.” Thus, Paul is NOT condoning “slavery,” but urging servants to obey – in the same way (i.e., in the same spirit) that Christ obeyed the Father, even unto death.
As for “destruction of the family,” I am guessing that someone is thinking of the phrase at Matthew 10:34-37: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
If so, this was not a suggestion for the destruction of the family. Jesus was simply noting that belief in HIM would cause internal rifts in families, setting family member against family member, and that salvation requires that one love Him even more than one loves one’s own family members.
Finally, as for name-calling, it is wrong. Period. However, not all of what people here are referring to as “name-calling” is such. Calling someone a “Christian warrior” is not name-calling; it is an appellation for a type of Christian, and has as much positive as negative connotation. (I have friends who happily and seriously refer to themselves as such.) Similarly, “neocon war promoter” is an appellation; it is an observation that a person is expressing neocon views and is pro-war. That observation may be wrong, but that does not make the phrase “name-calling.” “Name-calling” would be “neocon moron” or “neocon jerk,” etc.
Peace.



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jesse

posted September 14, 2007 at 12:47 am


They are no more mutually exclusive than the statements “I am against abortion” and “I am pro-choice.” In fact, when fully correlated, most polls show that 75% of Americans hold these two seemingly contradictory views.
–Not true at all. Most polls show Americans about evenly divided on the legality of abortion. The public and the news media at large also know what the term “pro-life” means, which is why politicians who are pro-choice do not refer to themselves as “pro-life”. Wallis uses this trick with words in order to broaden his appeal to pro-life individuals who don’t know his views.
I think Trent gave a good rebuttal of your uncharitable views on name-calling above. Wallis frequently throws around the word “neo-con” like another N-word…in a way that is meant to dehumanize and disregard the people he is referring to.



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justintime

posted September 14, 2007 at 12:51 am


Nathan Raynor says:
I’m all for the United States pulling its military out of Iraq but I don’t know if you’ve addressed the issue fully. You Americans under your president invaded Iraq, threw the country into turmoil and chaos. Now a majority of your citizens have decided they want to pull out.
So what about the mess you created? Don’t you have some responsibility to the people? Your stating that this war is not moral or just and walking away from the disaster you created is not moral or just either. You made the mess. You clean it before you pull out. The Iraqis and the rest of the world deserve at least this. The wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth without consideration to the terror you will condemn millions to is just not acceptable. Solution? I haven’t a clue but Americans got into it, you figure it out.

Right now the only valid argument I’ve seen for staying in Iraq is:
WE’RE STUCK IN IRAQ, as Nathan points out.
But nothing positive can happen in Iraq until the Bush crime syndicate is removed from power.
They have too much invested in the occupation of Iraq to end the occupation or to negotiate for peace in the Middle East.
Even if they wanted to they are incapable of negotiating peace.
No one will trust them anymore.
The longer they stay in power, the more destruction they will wreak on the planet.
This is why I’m working to impeach these criminals.



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Trent

posted September 14, 2007 at 12:53 am


Justintime,
I quite liked your list and the bold heading, except you appear to have mistaken my position. In my first post today I indicated that I supported the blog, but that I found the name calling unnecessary and distracting.
I wholly believe that we can disagree and be much more polite than an outside reader of these comments would currently perceive. I also believe that if someone of something is under attack, even if its over a little thing like suggesting they’ll go to hell, then they should be defended, even when their actual views run contrary to your own.
As has been pointed out so ably by Richard and Wolverine and Ian, at the heart of this debate are two opposing worldviews, both supposedly drawn from the same text. They’re both in fact agreeing with Wallis’ own comment that this is about theology.
So either this is a post-modern field day and two mutually exclusive positions are both simultaneously correct, or one or both sides of the argument are wrong (I personally think Jesus would make a great post-modernist). And if one or both sides are wrong, then it makes great sense, as Wallis suggested, to really spend time listening to those who are removed from the argument (which could be global Christians). Get together for some therapy or a mediation.
I’m off now (not running away Justintime).
Be Blessed,



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kevin s.

posted September 14, 2007 at 12:57 am


Wow. I leave for poker night and I have been condemned to hell… So much to which to respond (that’s the sort of sentence you get when you criticize Minnesotans for ending sentences with a preposition.)
” Today he has responded (and he unfortunately engaged in name-calling), but has been criticised for responding. What’s up with that?”
I don’t care whether Wallis responds. He did engage in name-calling, which is neither impressive nor unexpected.
“So, really, who’s dismissing whom?”
It’s Pat Robertson dismissing Jim Wallis and vice versa, with loyalists (including you) on both sides, and the rest of us left elsewhere.
“And BTW, where did he call anyone names?”
“neocon war promoters” doesn’t exactly have positive connotations. Calling those with whom he disagrees “Americans first and Christian’s second” is ugly, if not name-calling, though the implication is clear. He also states that we are “clog(ing)” his blog, as though our opinions were but hair in his drainpipe. But, since you agree with his stances, it isn’t name-caliing, but truth-telling. I know how you roll.
“What I have heard very little reflection about in this country is the fact that, to a large extent, Saddam was a monster of our creation.”
But a monster nonetheless.
“Do you really think that those references are name-calling? “Neo-Conservative War Promoters” is what most of them call themselves.”
Example?
‘A good friend of mine is the chair of the board of a major international Bible-translation and Bible-distribution ministry.”
Congratulations.
“Actually, that was Paul, and that phrase “slaves” is probably better translated “workers” today.”
Peter wrote it as well. Your condescension is unwarranted.
“When did you acquire omniscient, divine powers or become a spokesperson for all Christians?”
He wrote a best-selling book. And he has had drinks with both Hillary Clinton and Tony Blair! He is important.
“Name calling is name calling. The name may be apt, the name may be appropriately descriptive but it is still name calling.”
Yeah, but Wallis has his people charged up now. Now is not the time for reason.
“There will be many confused christians in Hell & rightly so: may their dysfunction to there with them.”
This is absolutely the implication of Wallis’ statements.
“I’ve been called many names on this board, but this is the first time I can recall being condemned to hell.”
When we get there, let’s do lunch. Fortunately for us, Jesus spoke out against portabella mushrooms (probably) so we’ll have that going for us.
“As Anne Lamott says so pointedly “We’re right, it’s not about me, it’s only one six-billionth about me.””
She also quipped that fetuses were, essentially, sea-horses. She lost my attention at that point, but you are the funnyman, so keep going.
No posts from Juris, Squeaky or Neuro yet? Hmmm… I would hope I’d at least get a pat on the back from them before I suffer eternal damnation.



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justintime

posted September 14, 2007 at 1:07 am


Kevin,
Salvation is possible for those who see the light.



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TURYAHEEBWA Satu Johnmary

posted September 14, 2007 at 2:24 am


How I wish all Americans knew where their country and culture stands in modern civilization! It is a pity the world is having to put up with an international scandle of unimaginable magnitude in Iraq just because some christian leaders are “wise”…..what irony!!
How on earth can we accept death by injection (in defence of devine ordinance) but turn around to say death by hunging is primitive? Come on: the guys that took war to Iraq are same ones who had previously signed numerous death sentences in Texas. We all sadly remember their happiness when the deposed Saddam Hussein was captured…..what a coincidence that he followed the Texan victims of the higly unpopular death penalty! How on earth, then, do such people turn around to condemn abortion and homosecuality under the guise of preserving Christian values? I do not only find them hypocritical but also see in them a cancer eating into the body of the church they claim to defend.
To hell with anything the Holy Scripture condemns. The war on terror for which Iraq continues to paid dearly has set a dangerous precedent around the world. The stories of people in detention for terrorism related charges abound here in Uganda are as disturbing as there are others about corruption in a country whose population is over 90 percent Christian and whose leadership is largely born again!!
And the excellent relationship that exists between the leaders? Don’t forget Ugandan leaders did not just support the ivasion of Iraq but have thousands of our reserves serving as auxilliaries there. Shame upon our defilement of God in the Iraqis (and others) whose lives we have turned up-side-down!



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Richard Tucker

posted September 14, 2007 at 6:30 am


Jim – Amen! Amen!
I’m sorry if some of your bloggers are upset by ‘name calling’.
But on the big issue you are right. American policy in Iraq is seen by the vast majority outside the USA as both a failure and a disgrace – and by most non-American Christians, myself included, as bringing shame on the name of Christ whenever God’s name is invoked in support of the war. The added whiff of greed in the allocation of reconstruction contracts and the grab of oil revenues makes things worse.
Rev Richard Tucker, Birmingham, UK



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James

posted September 14, 2007 at 7:25 am


This is an incredibly good post and it is long overdue. I see that the same voices who have been so offensive in the past are now playing the offended ones- I guess that it will have to be that way and so be it. Their absurdity is manifest.
Thank you, Jim Wallis
“Now, I’m not a big one on false modesty, and I don’t expect Jim Wallis to act like he’s just another shlub. But if that’s not tooting your own horn, I’ve never heard a horn tooted.”Wolverine
It could be that, or it simply could be true or it could be both. I choose the second option (it is true and Jim is not bragging) because I don’t hold misplaced and irrrational disdain for Jim Wallis and because there are any number of us on this blog who have traveled and can confirm what Jim has said. Your jealousy over Jim’s travels is palpable. There is a solution. Obtain a passport, travel and broaden your horizons.



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Caroline Blakers

posted September 14, 2007 at 7:49 am


Bravo Mr Wallis. I am an Australian Christian, living in Belgium, about to move to Ireland, and I have friends, Christian and non Christian all over the world.The sentiment I continually encounter from people about American politics and foriegn policy has been well summed up by your article.The United States is seen as a self serving agressor that continually casts aside human rights and international laws, and greedily marches across the rest of us, taking what it can and not caring a hoot about the debry it leaves behind.It’s so sad that this nation has the potential to do so much good, yet chooses to do so much harm instead.And most certainly, Bush muddying the waters over what is American politics and what is Christian is devastating to the Christian cause.



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A. Willis

posted September 14, 2007 at 8:08 am


Thanks Jim
You have bolstered the case for Christianity and demonstrated what an amazing thing it is to be in the body of the church – Worldwide. One of the strongest messages to “love thine enemy’ is of course one of the hardest to follow but it is inexcusable for some in the church to stubbornly add to the chorus of war mongering. We are being watched and judged by our actions. It cannot be otherwise.
As N. Rod points out, Biblical justification for slavery was sought and “found” when it was necessary and expedient for the slave holders and I believe the whole conservative movement flows from there.In the reconstruction era and civil rights era what really outraged the class of powerful in the south and then throughout the country was that they might have to pay for the education and advancement of a people they could not exploit in their “genteel” customary way. The dots are quite easily connected to the wolves in sheeps clothing today who thwart the gospel to the poor for the sake of corporate and govermental policies. Let those with eyes see and those with ears hear – the gospel still speaks to the earths people and to the church. Maybe thats why so many of us can no longer hear Mr. Bush and his apologists.



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Moderatelad

posted September 14, 2007 at 8:11 am


WOW – I worked with High School kids on designing the set for the fall play and spent the evening watching my son play soccer and it is going to take me days to get through all these posts. Wallis shure hit a nerve on this one.
It’s Friday – have a great weekend and I might post something later.
Blessings on all.
.



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jesse

posted September 14, 2007 at 8:15 am


I see that the same voices who have been so offensive in the past are now playing the offended ones- I guess that it will have to be that way and so be it. Their absurdity is manifest.
–I doubt any of us are offended (I’m not). We just wanted to point out the hypocrisy we’re seeing from a minister on a Christian website who decries our “vitriol” one second and then attacks our faith and calls us names the next.
I would also like to see the religious left not demonize, insult, and treat unlovingly the people with whom they disagree. I have a number of Christian friends who are into Sojo, and for the sake of the body of Christ, I hope they would not emulate the rhetoric seen here. The church is made of Republicans, Democrats, and everyone in between. If we truly care about the church, then attacking each other’s faith over political disagreements is the last thing we should be doing.



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Anonymous

posted September 14, 2007 at 8:32 am


Trent Said: Name calling is name calling. The name may be apt, the name may be appropriately descriptive but it is still name calling.
A lot of my work is in the field of special education. In this field effort has gone into distinguishing between the person and the disabling condition. Calling someone ‘Intellectually Impaired,’ (I believe the US uses the term ‘retarded’) is very different to saying that ‘John Smith has an Intellectual Impairment.’
In the same way calling someone a ‘neocon war promotor,’ categorises them as a person and reduces their humanity (as all categorical labels do). Saying that they ‘hold to neocon war promoting views’ is bulkier but more accurate, more descriptive and less offensive.
Over a few months of reading these blogs and comments there has been plenty of name calling and Wallis has copped more than his share. It just isn’t good practice and the suggested revenge motif doesn’t sit well with Christian ethics.
And for the record, if Bush and Cheney did describe themselves as ‘neocon war promotors,’ that still doesn’t excuse applying that label to posters to this site.
Be Blessed,
Trent,
Congratulations on changing the entire purpose of this blog. You have succeeded at building up a straw-man position and then tearing it down.
Your position on name calling, however, still does not work. If we followed your direction we would have to refer to Democrats and Republicans as those that hold the views of the Democrats or Republicans. To call someone a Christian would be name calling. I would have to refer to someone as holding the views of Christianity. I actually kind of like that one because there are so many that call themselves Christians that aren’t; I would get to look at their actual views and compare them to Christianity rather than refering to them as Christians automatically just because they call themselves Christians.
BTW, those in the US that call people retarded are in the wrong and it isn’t the standard, regardless whether it’s the norm or not.
Now, let’s get back to the actual topic at hand and see what you have to say about war in Iraq rather than some off the topic name calling blog.



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odoco

posted September 14, 2007 at 8:35 am


Um, let’s see:
4 million Iraqi refugees . . .
Most of the educated class has left the country . . .
No infrastructure after four years of war
Still no electricity for much of the country
Still little potable water for the people
Increasing segregation of Iraqi nationals
More instability in the Middle East because of our actions
An overwhelming majority of the world’s people condemn our actions
10% of ‘American’ dead are actually non-citizens
The “All volunteer Army’ is mostly comprised of lower social/economic youths who simply join to gain access to money for schooling – take away the $10,000 to $50,000 sign up bonuses and see how many ‘volunteer’ to fight and die for corporate greed.
US personnel in Iraq lost about $9 billion dollars!!!! Nobody knows where it went!!!! Where is the accountability???
US personnel cannot account for about 200,000 weapons!!!! Think that was an accident??? Where is the accountability????
Corruption at a level that defies belief
Perhaps more than half a million Iraqi dead
Nearly 3,800 US fatalities (does not include Afghanistan or ‘fatal mishaps’
1/2 Trillion dollars of tax money has already been spent – now we’re told we will be there for years to come
Iraqis object to the ‘oil law’ benchmark – they know we are stealing their wealth – no mainstream media reporting on this!!!!
No accountability at command level for Abu Ghraib – we knowingly implemented policies of torture – Christian ethics?????
We have illegally kidnapped nationals off the streets of their own countries – Christian ethics??
We have operated a series of secret prisons outside the purview of legal oversight – Christian ethics???
No bid contracts
Lies that led to war – prosecutable?
OIL OIL OIL OIL OIL OIL
IMPERIALISM – PURE AND SIMPLE
This war of choice is a crime. Its perpetrators should be held accountable in an international court of law, and if found guilty of international crimes should be imprisoned. The US should be required to pay reparations to the Iraqi government for the rebuilding of their country.
The vast majority of the people of this country continue to go about their way, ignorant at best, uncaring at worst, about what their government is doing to other human beings. If this administration is representative of Christianity – then I am no longer a Christian. If this administration is representative of American values – then I no longer want to be an American.



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Phyllis

posted September 14, 2007 at 8:46 am


Phyllis,
Contrary to popular misreadings of Christ’s ministry – he and his disciples did not advocate any form of anti-nationalism. Christ submitted to the injustices of the Roman government, even when it meant death. (Which God intended to use for his own good, but it worth noting Christ submitted to the civil authority of the Romans, even in their imperialist, colonialist mistreatment of Jews and their land.)
Peter famously calls on slaves to obey their masters, not to overthrow them. Paul calls on women to be silent in the congregation and to submit to their husbands. And the list could go on. The point is – Christ and his apostles had little to say about social revolution and a lot more to say about the revolution that comes from radically surrendering oneself to the will of God.
Oh, there was that part of render to Caesar what is Caesars, but still, no call for the Jewish people to throw off the often oppressive rule of their Roman colonial government.
Posted by: | September 13, 2007 9:10 PM
*************************************
TO MY NAMELESS RESPONDER,
I simply meant (perhaps I should have just posted this verse in the first place!)that Romans 12:2 says:
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
-Romans 12:2



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Ben Schmidt

posted September 14, 2007 at 8:53 am


Judithod wrote:
I’m appalled that you are misusing Christianity in defense of your opposition to the U. S. involvement in Iraq. You’ve made a sweeping, arrogant statement in claiming that “the body of Christ internationally is against the U. S. war in Iraq and the whole direction of current U. S. foreign policy.” When did you acquire omniscient, divine powers or become a spokesperson for all Christians?
Unlike you, I’ve never told my children to avoid defending their liberty or the right of others to live in freedom. In fact, I’m the mother of a Marine captain who has deployed twice during the conflict. According to your vitriolic labeling, both my son and I are “neocon war promoters.” So be it.
Why do you choose to condemn U. S. Christians and others who may choose to support the advance of freedom in Iraq (and beyond) and blatantly avoid condemning the terrorists? Who are the suicide bombers? The roadside bombers? They are not U. S. soldiers, sailors, marines, or airmen. They are not Christians, Jews, Buddhist, or Hindus. They are Muslim extremists who hate “infidels,” an appellation that includes you.
What is playing out in Iraq is a series of clashes: the mentality of the 21st century versus the mentality of the Middle Ages, human rights versus violations of human rights. What is at stake is not the honor of the U. S. but the privilege of people to live respectfully and safely regardless of gender, ethnicity, and religious beliefs.
———————————————-
Judithod,
If you have read other statements, speeches, or books by Jim Wallis, you would realize that he does condemn the actions of terrorists. He even called for the removal of Saddam from Iraq, but with an alternative to war. Perhaps you have forgotten, but there were no terrorists in Iraq before the US invaded; Saddam made sure of that. I, like your son, served two tours with the Marines in Iraq. What’s his name, I might know him? I think you have also forgotten the human rights violations that the US government and private companies have taken part in since the invasion (Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, destroying habeas corpus, etc.). Also, what is the difference between an IED or suicide bomber that kills innocents and a US bomb that kills innocents? I think that we are arogant to claim that others aren’t free and that we need to free them. If we believe in Christianity, then we should believe that Christ died once and for all so that we may be freed. No one can take that freedom away and no one can give it except one that claims to be God. Therefore, if we claim to have that power, then you do the math. Christ calls us to love our enemies, not kill them in the name of our freedom or anyone elses. Christ already died for that freedom.
Ben



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Donny

posted September 14, 2007 at 9:11 am


“For all the vitriolic debate about politics this week in relationship to the war in Iraq, I think the real issue is our theology and ecclesiology.”
Mr. Wallis,
You sound like a Democrat’s pet parrot. Your politics are as transparent as the name of your blog.
You speak like a Christian “sometimes” and you act like a socialist-progressive Democrat all the time. No Christian can support that.
The issue IS your theology and ecclesiology. You want peace to inflict your hedonistic and perverted socialist agenda on the entire earth. We non-progressive-liberal Christians know what you and your kind are up to. Just one look at MTV or Vanity Fair and your kind of life jumps off the page. .



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Eric Nord

posted September 14, 2007 at 9:16 am


Kevin S.
My point about Saddam being a monster of our own creation is not that he is not a monster, but that if the US continues in the “business as usual” mode in foreign policy, without really reflecting about the results of some of our past actions, we will only continue to create more monsters. Then in 10-30 years we will be saying,” XXX is a monster who oppresses his own people, so we have to start a pre-emptive war against YYY to bring democracy them.”
I really think Wallis is right here – we have too often been Americans first and Christians second. I confess this to be true about myself, even thought I refuse to pledge allegiance to the flag. I confess this because living in this country, in incredible wealth and luxury (and I say this as someone who qualifies for Government Assistance), I believe that I have been, in a sense, bribed. I have everything I need and more, and it is not hard to get. Yet I worry about if my home is appreciating fast enough, or if I should buy a new computer. I find it is almost impossibly hard to “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness (justice)” in the midst of such overwhelming, distracting privelege.
Only my $0.02
Peace in Christ



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Simply put

posted September 14, 2007 at 9:17 am


The New Testament Christians rejected Progressive politics 2000+years ago.



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Dan Delventhal

posted September 14, 2007 at 9:22 am


Jim,
Nice writing today.
I appreciate your reminder of a biblical basis for promoting peace. A very religious friend of mine had suggested that the bible supported war-like behavior, which was disturbing.
Keep up the good work and loving, peaceful, and practical ways.
Dan Delventhal



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Dan Delventhal

posted September 14, 2007 at 9:23 am


Jim,
Nice writing today.
I appreciate your reminder of a biblical basis for promoting peace. A very religious friend of mine had suggested that the bible supported war-like behavior, which was disturbing.
Keep up the good work and loving, peaceful, and practical ways.
Dan Delventhal



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Anonymous

posted September 14, 2007 at 9:35 am


Kevin S. wrote:
Wow. I leave for poker night and I have been condemned to hell…
That’s what you get for playing cards and gambling. I’ll bet you were drinking beer too. You’re gonna pay for all that wild living someday.
James,
Thanks for your concern about my spiritual condition. I do often wish I had travelled more. But if it’s any comfort, I do have a passport, and I know how to use it. I’ve even met some big shots overseas although sigh not as many as Jim Wallis has.
Wolverine



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A. Willis

posted September 14, 2007 at 9:36 am


Well, I can’t sleep so why not get into it!
As you know lots and lots of people are dying – real serious things are at stake and to paraphrase the quote about Mom -“When God ain’t happy – nobody’s happy!” I certainly ain’t. Jesse is bothered by name calling…particularly when it comes from the otherside. Perhaps he should consider Jesus who called members of his society hypocrites, vipers, thieves etc..- he was very creative and ariculate… but hey, he was God. The point is again is that there is a lot at stake. If your son if lobbing in artillery from 20 miles out in Fallujah and getting medals. While you’re on a corner screaming at my daughter “Baby Killer” as she enters a clinic… something is wrong with somebody’s perception. Thus far US policy in the world has been sanctioned by consent of the governed(I am using a very loose definition of consent) but those policies have always been debatable. The conservative wing of the church has more recently attempted to sanctify the actions of the conservative administration. And would seem to want to quash debate as effectively as the administration has been quashing human rights. Right now nothing is going according to plan as both have become hopelessly ensnared in the ruinous policies they have pursued. The rest of the world is hurriedly waking up and looking for alternatives – Enter Christ(never far from the scene – sort of an “outside agitator” one might say! It should be expected that the arguments would get louder because he came as he said to divide. We in the church who believe Christ’s gospel to the poor is a obligatory “good news” for the world, have to oppose the forces aligned against it. The church may split – as it did over the question of slavery. That is part of the process. Our world is being dragged by tremendous powers toward an unhappy end. I believe the church can get itself together and demonstate to the world a saving grace(I believe this will become possible when we stop baiting them and start loving them)
The desire to call me a commie must be fairly palpable by now… hey, I can take it. If you need to call me a name before the real message of Christ breaks into your mind that is OK too. It took me 50 some years to finally hear it. Along the way I was an arrogant, elitist, militarist, racist….hey why should i do the work for you. I ask everyone in the church to boldly reconsider their support for the war in light of the opinions of our brothers and sisters around the world and in the name of our Saviour.
Peace out A. Willis



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47891

posted September 14, 2007 at 9:58 am


You have arrogant Elitist’s on the Left and arrogant Elitists’s on the Right. It looks like a ten-tousand to one when comparing the numbers of Elitists on the Left to the miniscule amount of them on the Right.



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John

posted September 14, 2007 at 9:58 am


Jim (or whoever),
This is a little off-topic for this particular entry, but perhaps you or some of the posters can point me to some material to help me. I email Sojourners the following question and they have not yet responded (unless it got blocked somehow):
——————
Hi. I have a question regarding your mission. Perhaps you can point me to an article or other resource that provides the answer from your perspective.
Why does Sojourners believe that the power of government is required to care for the poor and needy? Would not a foundation built on voluntary contributions preserve not only the care of the needy but also the morality of the giver? With the government solution, support for the needy is compelled and therefore is not a matter of stewards of the Lord’s resources distributing them. It seems to me that the morality of giving to the needy — and perhaps the spiritual benefit of freely giving to those in need — is lost when the compulsory government solution is adopted.
Do you have an article or other resource you can point me to that will help me see your point of view?
Thank you very much.
A fellow sojourner on this earth,
John



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jerry

posted September 14, 2007 at 10:10 am


since this country, the u s a, is not a theocracy, how does jim blame american christians for the war? this war was supported by nearly all the congressional politicians. how does jim pick, pick, pick on a small group of christians he does not like or agree with? and…..whom did not have a say in the decision to go to war. jim has no answer to the terrorists. only an opinion on the war. and…disdain for those who do not agree with is philosophy.



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Robert Alu

posted September 14, 2007 at 10:12 am


Hi all,
The religious ‘evangelical’ authorities conspired to have Jesus crucified, for political reasons. Their followers went along, possibly because the majority imagine might is always right. Possibly because it was the only show available in town at the time. Possibly because they depended on someone else to read Scripture for them. They were ‘evangelicals’, but a bit wishy-washy, you see.
These followers possibly had no clue that they were part of a political strategy that they knew little of …
A very tiny minority was left to defend the cause of Christ. For some reason I think of the evangelical church in America this way today.
I am an African, as is the Secretary General of the World Council of Churches.
(I WILL SAY THIS NOW: I am not writing about anyone in particular in the following, but if the cap fits …)
Many God’s Politics commentators who wait for the next Jim Wallis or Diana B Bass or Daoud Kuttab article to criticise here possibly do not have a clue of the existence of the WCC. They may also have no clue of the Church body represented by the Pope in Vatican City. They possibly know that there is an Anglican Church head. Quite likely they express, in the name of evangelical Christianity, the same contempt for all the above as they do for the United Nations.
But,
Even before the so called war in Iraq all of the foregoing organisations, plus all but a dozen or so countries worldwide, opposed the invasion. Over the years many have continually pointed out the injustice of that and other American backed positions that I regularly see applauded by writers to these pages.
Given the antagonistic ‘bent’ to many of the posts here I think they would simply dismiss Catholics, Anglicans and possibly all of us evangelical Christians who question their way of thinking as simply “not Christians.”
It is possible, of course, that if I were an American ‘evangelical’, with the Star Spangled Banner adorning my mega church, with my pastor justifying the war, I may be forgiven for imagining that ‘we’, in “the land of the free and the brave” are right, along with our mighty government and most of the rest of the world is wrong, wrong, wrong …
Depending on my desire (or lack of) to have my worldview challenged or my ability to challenge my opinion leaders etc, my ignorance may be forgiven.
But,
Given that the rest of the world has access to the same information that Americans have got, surely hubris has got to play a major part in such ignorance.
I guess we can always pray.
And my prayer would be for ‘evangelicals’ everywhere to go back to the meaning of the term, i.e. ‘followers of the Lord who emphasize the authority of the Bible.’
Thank you Jim Wallis.
It must be a very difficult task for you, going on like this month after month and year after year. As for the church in America … Surely not all is lost? As you have pointed out “a new conversation has begun …”
I read the comments here daily and, every once in a while, I come across something erudite, written with sensitivity, thoughtfulness, compassion, empathy and humility.
Sure, such happenings are a lot fewer than the ‘shoot from the hip’ fare but we needs must thank God for them.
Once again, if the cap fits …
GOD BLESS AMERICA – AND EVERYONE ELSE!
(Chris Rock – Head of State)
Robert Alu
Dar es Salaam



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Jerry

posted September 14, 2007 at 10:17 am


Bill,
You spend 90% of your article trying to convince the reader that most Christians outside of this country do not support our policies in Iraq. That approach fits about 90% of the far “left” and their ‘reasoning’ for an unjust conflict. “Just gather enough petitioners and you have a solid case.” Do you really consider your audience to exist that far down the ladder of understanding when compared to yourself? Where is your sound “reasonable”, “likely to succeed” counter approach to the conflict. Not just the “so heavenly minded it’s of no earthly good” concepts that you shroud your version of Christianity within.
You are, however, most correct when you claim that most of us are Americans first and Christians second. And that is supposed to convince me that the “rest of the Christian world” has it figured out? You simply leave it there? I suggest to you that THEY are “anti-American” fist and Christians secondarily. You seem to me to come closer to that view yourself as you develop your own worldview more completley, these last several years. Convince us otherwise, please.
And just for your uniformed “readers”/bloggers: The Christian Crusades were more about recapturing lands that had been torn (first) from Christian peoples in the past than about militarily advancing Christianity into those “stolen” areas. You pander to your readers when their reasoning seems to support your “bigger” position, when your duty as a defender of the faith, and more to the point, a child of God who has been given brains and reasoning abilities (Christlikeness too) to take every thought captive unto Christ. Paul reasoned his faith, rigorously, with those whom opposed him or who just plainly had absurd worldviews. I don’t recall reading about any polling going on by him so he could better convince his audience that lots of folks agreed with him, so as to be able to better claim that what he was saying must be true.
Be careful Mr Wallis, lest you become too populist minded. That would certainly not be exemplary of taking every thought captive……
Good day sir!



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Anonymous

posted September 14, 2007 at 10:26 am


At which point Mr. Wallis proceeded to bestow upon us a portion of the many insights he has gleaned from his many travels around the globe visiting with Christian leaders, the vast majority of whom happen to agree with him. And then he helpfully reminded us: “And if you don’t know that perspective, you simply haven’t had much experience with Christians outside of the United States.” Which certainly put me in my place.
Wolverine — That still doesn’t answer my original objection, that he “referred to himself as a leader of the “‘evangelical left.'” As I said, he hasn’t specifically said that about himself, ever — it’s what some conservatives have assumed he is based on some of his ideological positions. Now, it may be that non-American evangelicals hold positions that, here in the States, may be interpreted as leftist, and if what he said sounds arrogant, it’s in response to arrogant, culture-bound American conservatives who insist, “The Bible says … ” when it actually doesn’t say that.
And even if he did say that he was a leader of the “Christian left,” it’s not as though there’s some hard-wired “left-wing” movement in the same way there was and is a hard-wired right-wing movement. But that points out one issue I’ve tried to address: People who criticize the “right,” for any reason, aren’t necessarily by definition “left.” Canucklehead once referred to me as a “crafty leftie” even though my personal morality is extremely hard-right — For example, I’ve always been staunchly anti-abortion and wrote an op-ed in my newspaper over 10 years ago defending my then-denomination’s stance in specifically barring “sexually immoral people,” including practicing homosexuals, from official leadership. (And BTW, those same evangelicals that Wallis was meeting with probably hold those same positions for the same reasons.)



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Anonymous

posted September 14, 2007 at 10:26 am


Rick said: “Actually, that was Paul, and that phrase “slaves” is probably better translated “workers” today.”
Rick,
Get your facts straight!
Peter DID call on slaves to submit to their masters.
1 Peter 2:18, Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.
AS for the question of how to translate the word for today – the word “worker” would hardly work since these slaves were not free to choose another employer or break a contract at will. We all realize today that the Greco-Roman slavery wasn’t chattel slavery, but it was still slavery nonetheless.



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Anonymous

posted September 14, 2007 at 10:26 am


At which point Mr. Wallis proceeded to bestow upon us a portion of the many insights he has gleaned from his many travels around the globe visiting with Christian leaders, the vast majority of whom happen to agree with him. And then he helpfully reminded us: “And if you don’t know that perspective, you simply haven’t had much experience with Christians outside of the United States.” Which certainly put me in my place.
Wolverine — That still doesn’t answer my original objection, that he “referred to himself as a leader of the “‘evangelical left.'” As I said, he hasn’t specifically said that about himself, ever — it’s what some conservatives have assumed he is based on some of his ideological positions. Now, it may be that non-American evangelicals hold positions that, here in the States, may be interpreted as leftist, and if what he said sounds arrogant, it’s in response to arrogant, culture-bound American conservatives who insist, “The Bible says … ” when it actually doesn’t say that.
And even if he did say that he was a leader of the “Christian left,” it’s not as though there’s some hard-wired “left-wing” movement in the same way there was and is a hard-wired right-wing movement. But that points out one issue I’ve tried to address: People who criticize the “right,” for any reason, aren’t necessarily by definition “left.” Canucklehead once referred to me as a “crafty leftie” even though my personal morality is extremely hard-right — For example, I’ve always been staunchly anti-abortion and wrote an op-ed in my newspaper over 10 years ago defending my then-denomination’s stance in specifically barring “sexually immoral people,” including practicing homosexuals, from official leadership. (And BTW, those same evangelicals that Wallis was meeting with probably hold those same positions for the same reasons.)



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 14, 2007 at 10:30 am


We all realize today that the Greco-Roman slavery wasn’t chattel slavery, but it was still slavery nonetheless.
My comment stands, because in that day it was not uncommon for people to pay for their travel with “indentured service.” That was the “slavery” Paul talked about, and thus “workers” would be a good contemporary rendition.



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dlowen

posted September 14, 2007 at 10:35 am


Excellent post. For those offended by the criticism of the “Christian warriors” that clog the blog, “If the shoe fits…”
In Matt 5, there is an interesting break in the flow of blessings. The peacemakers aren’t blessed by receiving peace, they are called God’s children. To be a peacemaker, you must already have received the Peace of Christ. The world sees everything differently than God sees it. Pax Americana is a form of peace, but not God’s peace. May the peace from within an not the peace that flows from the barrel of a gun abide with all.



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squeaky

posted September 14, 2007 at 10:38 am


Richard Nauck,
I second Wolverine’s response to you. I don’t think this is the best place to learn what Christianity is about, although it perhaps is a good place to learn that not all Christians are conservative Republicans. As you can see, we do span a wide range of political views. But as Wolverine said, politics is contentious.
For the most part, there are very few people that I have seen posting here who denegrate each other’s faith based on their political views. At the end of the day, I think most of us would be in one accord concerning who our Lord is and that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. I know there are exceptions to that statement, but I think the exceptions are few. We may attack each other’s politics, but it is rare to see us attack each other’s faith (or at least I haven’t seen it much).
I understand where you are coming from because for several years, I had become very disillusioned with Christianity because of politics. I came close as I ever have to letting go of faith, but fortunately, I have a pastor who lets me ask any and all questions, and helped me work through some doubts. He also helped me see that it is really all about Jesus, not about all these political trappings.
And, it has been helpful for me being on this site because it is good to see there is more than one political perspective in the world of Christianity, and I know I have found some like-minded people here. I’ve enjoyed the discussion even with those who are not like-minded politically, as well.
So then, to your real question: What do we have to offer you? Well, we ourselves have nothing to offer you but our broken humanity, which as you know is all too evident on this site and elsewhere. The question is, then, not “what do we have to offer you,” but “what does Jesus have to offer you?” He is who you should be focusing on. All we can do is feebly point you to Him. To adapt a line from Kramer on Seinfeld “Look away! We’re hideous!” Instead, look at Christ.



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t20

posted September 14, 2007 at 10:41 am


Sojouners is absolutely the wolf in sheeps clothing. Trumpeting Progressive and Democrat politics incessantly proves it beyond the shadow of a doubt. I wish they would just declare their Wiccan identity and be done with it. But then that would be asking a Democrat to be honest and I know how impossible that is.



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Carolyn Bullard-

posted September 14, 2007 at 10:42 am


Take out all the non-Christians from that global population sample and among the people of God the opposition remains the same.
I agree with Jim on almost everything, but I take issue with the implication that only Christians are the “people of God.” The God that I know and worship is the God of all creation, all people. Is this not part of the problem? We polarize, us and them, me and you, until there is conflict and war. We, all of humanity, are God’s people.



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Anonymous

posted September 14, 2007 at 10:47 am


To the minister who claims the Greek word for “slave” is better translated as “servant” –
Well, I don’t have a REV. to put in front of my name, but I have studies Greek and Hebrew in post graduate degrees, and last time I checked it would be confusing for the modern reader to read “servant” when the term is used to describe someone who does not have an “at-will” contract.
The point stands that one would be hard-pressed to find a consistent vision of “social justice” in the Bible. Talk about imposing political motives onto a sacred text.



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Jeff Blanton

posted September 14, 2007 at 10:48 am


I echo others, Amen. Thanks Jim.



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Anonymous

posted September 14, 2007 at 10:56 am


I have never commented on one of these blogs, but felt compelled to do so now.
My father was a Lutheran Minister. I grew up in a Christian household and went to Christian elementary and high schools. My family is divided between supporting the war and not. I do not support it and have asked my siblings that do support it a few questions. I have never gotten any answers as they have said “we agree to disagree”. To me that statement is a blanket response that allows this most important issue to be glossed over and never really be discussed. Could someone clarify something for me?
How is it that Christianity and the military are so closely tied?
How is it that before going to battle with gun in hand to potentially take the lives of other humans, a prayer is offered up to garner support from Christ our Father?
What has happened to obeying #6 of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt not kill” ?
~~If I have a gun and you have a gun and the option is to kill or be killed, what choice do you make?~~
~~~If Christ had a gun and another had a gun and the choice He has is to kill or be killed, what choice would He make?~~~
We know the answer…He chose death. We know that it was well within His power to kill all those that persecuted Him, and yet he chose death. He chose death on the cross so that we don’t have to fear death. He died so that we may live with Him forever in eternity. It seems very clear to me. If in fact we were true Christians that followed and lived by the teachings of Christ our Savior, wouldn’t we also choose to obey those teachings and in this case commandment #6 and not take the life of another?
In my opinion every time that we as a nation go to war…and we do it more and more often…we are not representing ourselves as a true “Christian Nation”. And therefore the reputation that we ultimately spread is not one of Christian Love, but one of hatred and killing. In turn, this promotes more hatred and more killing in those that we pursue. At some point someone has to make a concerted effort to stop the killing. I wish it could be the US.
Love begets love…war begets war.
David



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Wolverine

posted September 14, 2007 at 11:00 am


Squeaky,
That last post was very well put. Thanks.
Wolverine



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Anonymous

posted September 14, 2007 at 11:04 am


I am still not clear on why the evangelical right is to blame for the Iraq War. Wallis and others seem to assume a level of power and influence that the evangelical church does not possess. In the interest of seeking peace, it would be edifying if Wallis acknowledged the possibility that Christians can have legitimate disagreements over political issues. Wallis’ failure to state this clearly leaves the impression (and it is up to Wallis to clarify if he intends this or not) that Christians on the right are not obeying God with their politics.
If this is the case, and based on my reading of Wallis and his supporters one is led to believe it could be, it means Wallis is advancing a political agenda that oddly parallel to the Religious Right of the 1980s – and by suggesting to be Christian you must also assent to a particular political position.
As a conservative (for philosophical and policy reasons) and an evangelical (by the grace of God I have seen the “light” thank you very much and please don’t keep questioning my faith justintime)
I propose a truce – less talk about “God’s” politics and more talk about what it means to be a faithful Christian in our world.



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Anonymous

posted September 14, 2007 at 11:12 am


I am still not clear on why the evangelical right is to blame for the Iraq War. Wallis and others seem to assume a level of power and influence that the evangelical church does not possess. In the interest of seeking peace, it would be edifying if Wallis acknowledged the possibility that Christians can have legitimate disagreements over political issues. Wallis’ failure to state this clearly leaves the impression (and it is up to Wallis to clarify if he intends this or not) that Christians on the right are not obeying God with their politics.
If this is the case, and based on my reading of Wallis and his supporters one is led to believe it could be, it means Wallis is advancing a political agenda that oddly parallel to the Religious Right of the 1980s – and by suggesting to be Christian you must also assent to a particular political position.
As a conservative (for philosophical and policy reasons) and an evangelical (by the grace of God I have seen the “light” thank you very much and please don’t keep questioning my faith justintime)
I propose a truce – less talk about “God’s” politics and more talk about what it means to be a faithful Christian in our world.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 14, 2007 at 11:27 am


I agree with Jim on almost everything, but I take issue with the implication that only Christians are the “people of God.” The God that I know and worship is the God of all creation, all people. Is this not part of the problem? We polarize, us and them, me and you, until there is conflict and war. We, all of humanity, are God’s people.
A nice sentiment, but theologically incorrect. Everything (including all persons) is His creation and ought to be treated with respect, to be sure, but it takes some kind of personal relationship to be “one of His.” Anyway, His intention in setting people “apart,” ancient Israel then and the Church of Jesus Christ now, always was to bless the whole world. It is not for nothing that Jesus said, “No man comes to the Father except through Me” — even though the world may appropriate some of His principles. God’s attitude is “Obey me, and just watch how I will bless you.”
The point stands that one would be hard-pressed to find a consistent vision of “social justice” in the Bible. Talk about imposing political motives onto a sacred text.
Study Isaiah, Micah and Amos sometime, then say that. My white, Republican pastor preached through the entire book of Isaiah about five years ago and found all kinds of stuff on social justice.



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squeaky

posted September 14, 2007 at 11:34 am


Wolverine–thanks. Yours also!



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Anonymous

posted September 14, 2007 at 11:37 am


The point stands that one would be hard-pressed to find a consistent vision of “social justice” in the Bible. Talk about imposing political motives onto a sacred text.
Study Isaiah, Micah and Amos sometime, then say that. My white, Republican pastor preached through the entire book of Isaiah about five years ago and found all kinds of stuff on social justice.
Posted by: Rick Nowlin | September 14, 2007 11:27 AM
Rick – believe it or not, I am not biblically illiterate, and I have studied the OT prophets. I dispute the claim that somehow they provide a blueprint for modern political action in the 21st century. If one were to read the OT prophets literally, I can see how one would reach that conclusion. But if we read with an eye to authorial intent, intended audience and the particularities of the prophets’ context, then a direct application of their message that had a very specific meaning in its time and space becomes pretty difficult to do.
Also, it strikes me as odd how the evangelical left is eager to quote the prophets on issues like poverty, but seem far less likely to go along with their occasional war-mongering. My point is that we all should be humble and careful in our claim that we can discern from our sacred, ancient text the roadmap for todays social programs. It is a biblical literalism that I cannot go along with personally.



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squeaky

posted September 14, 2007 at 11:40 am


t20–
“Sojouners is absolutely the wolf in sheeps clothing. Trumpeting Progressive and Democrat politics incessantly proves it beyond the shadow of a doubt. I wish they would just declare their Wiccan identity and be done with it. But then that would be asking a Democrat to be honest and I know how impossible that is.”
So ironic that you would post those comments right after mine. Sigh…



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N .M. Rod

posted September 14, 2007 at 11:50 am


…and still no Just War Theory application details…
Since I myself originally supported the war (or what I thought it was going to be) because I was told it did without actually examining the basis myself, and then upon doing so when discrepancies of truth began to emerge, I have to think that an honest appraisal would produce either re-evaluation or a hardening of the spirit, which I am sure most people really want to avoid.
Does avoiding the hard questions give one “plausible deniability” before God?



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Carol Bergmann

posted September 14, 2007 at 11:51 am


As always, I would like to thank Rev. Wallis for his thoughtful, insiteful and faith-filled comments. I couldn’t agree with him more on all of the points made in this column.
I, too, have been overseas to visit relatives in Europe this past summer and one does, indeed, get a much broader picture of the views on the war, American foreign policy, etc. when one leaves America. We have once again become “America First,” and in this case “Only,” to the detriment of our long-term standing in the world.
It is going to take the next president, regardless of party, probably his/her entire first tenure to make a dent in improving our relations with the rest of the world. If we don’t though, the consequences of terrorism will only increase.
Thank you, Rev. Wallis, for being a voice to which we should ALL listen.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 14, 2007 at 12:01 pm


But if we read with an eye to authorial intent, intended audience and the particularities of the prophets’ context, then a direct application of their message that had a very specific meaning in its time and space becomes pretty difficult to do.
That avoids the issue, frankly, because many of those same conditions — corrupt judges that were bought off and economic exploitation, among others — exist today even among God’s people.
Also, it strikes me as odd how the evangelical left is eager to quote the prophets on issues like poverty, but seem far less likely to go along with their occasional war-mongering.
It’s not quite like that. The Scripture doesn’t teach pacifism per se, but name me a prophet that directly participated in any war, let alone a “pre-emptive” one.



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John Rallison

posted September 14, 2007 at 12:50 pm


If I can add this without anyone trying to stick me in a box, there are times when a prophet either killed or called for killing. I just want to add some more scripture into the discussion.
One instance is after the Elijah and the prophets of Baal episode:
1 Kings 18:40 (NRSV)
Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.” Then they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon, and killed them there.
Then there was the Levite whose concubine was murdered in Gibeah, which ended with the whole cityof Gibeah being “put to the sword.”
And, the conquering of the land of Israel must have seemed quite unprovoked to the people of Jericho and beyond.
Jesus also had a chance to tell soldiers to find another job and he did not take it:
Luke 3:14 (NRSV)
Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”
This whole things ia a great deal less cut-and-dried than people often make it out to be.



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squeaky

posted September 14, 2007 at 1:39 pm


I don’t know John–Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. I think His words on how we should treat our “enemies” somehow trumps those OT examples. Jesus died for the sins of even those opposed to God’s Kingdom. As for the soldiers, He may not have told them to not be soldiers, but in the whole context of Luke 3, you see the kind of conduct He expected from all people. I am sure these soldiers would realize they would have to abandon the cruelty that many Roman soldiers engaged in if they really wished to live like Christ. May even cause a soldier, or a tax collector, for that matter, such cognitive dissonance that they would change professions.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 14, 2007 at 1:39 pm


If I can add this without anyone trying to stick me in a box, there are times when a prophet either killed or called for killing. I just want to add some more scripture into the discussion.
However, in these cases we’re talking about an internal matter for disciplinary reasons, not two sovereign states going at it. For example, God had already decreed (Deuteronomy 17:6 and 7) that false prophets should be killed; Elijah was simply carrying out the law. And there’s nothing wrong inherently with Christians joining the military because national defense is a legitimate concern. The problem with war is at heart a political one.



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Anonymous

posted September 14, 2007 at 1:49 pm


I guess one of my biggest concerns with the anti-war evangelical left is not their position on the war – that is a viable (though often poorly argued) position, but the insinuation that to disagree with their anti-war position is to somehow not be fully Christian or to be actively embracing immorality. This strikes me as a very unfortunate feature of the evangelical left’s political worldview – if you are not for me and my policies, then your politics, morality, and Christianity are not honoring to God.
This reduces a really complicated and important issue to stark, Manichean terms that shuts down true debate. It also is a very uncharitable way of dealing with Christian brothers and sisters who don’t agree with your politics.
Why has it gotten to this point? I am not sure – but the references to “Bush’s crime syndicate” are not very encouraging and reveal the paranoia that many anti-war critics have sunk to. Again, I am NOT saying it is unviable to be anti-war, I am just highly dissatisfied with the quality of their debate.
Also, to argue for multilateral diplomatic solutions (a paraphrase/quote from Wallis) is not a genuine alternative. Why? Because it does not deal with the infelicities of details, reality, and the question of how to implement such a grand, abstract plan.
I had once thought my friends who read Sojourners and put the God is not a Republican bumper sticker on their cars were just less-informed, more crude versions of what Wallis actually advocated. I am now seriously reconsidering that conclusion and fear their extreme disgust and anti-evangelical right language is not to far from the fountainhead.



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Anonymous

posted September 14, 2007 at 2:07 pm


Rick wrote:
However, in these cases we’re talking about an internal matter for disciplinary reasons, not two sovereign states going at it. For example, God had already decreed (Deuteronomy 17:6 and 7) that false prophets should be killed; Elijah was simply carrying out the law. And there’s nothing wrong inherently with Christians joining the military because national defense is a legitimate concern. The problem with war is at heart a political one.
Posted by: Rick Nowlin | September 14, 2007 1:39 PM
But what about the times God did call on the Israelites to commit genocide and to wipe out their political enemies?
The point is, we should be VERY careful about proof-texting the OT. Otherwise, we could give really nasty arguments in favor of:
polygamy, genocide, death penalty, etc.



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Anonymous

posted September 14, 2007 at 2:15 pm


Squeaky,
Good point, but I wonder what we should make of Jesus’ concern for the powerful to look after the weak. The NT church’s concern for the widows and the orphans is a great example of how people with the means and ability have a responsibility to help others. Doesn’t that same principle have any bearing on the weak who are not just hungry but also threatened by horrific evil and tyranny?
Much like Niebuhr saw in fascism and Nazism an evil power that required forceful opposition, it seems that there exists in the world today evil that is often great enough to demand those of us who have much (Americans, with the money, means, and respect for human liberty and well-being) have a responsibility to respond to such evil.
Why should Christians only be called to social action and acts of justice when it involves economics, but not when it involves matters of life and death?



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Anonymous

posted September 14, 2007 at 2:22 pm


What if truly radical Christianity involved compassion for the poor and compassion for the victims of Saddam’s secular regime?
Should our compassion ever take the form of active resistance to an evil state? If not, how do we answer for our unwillingness to act in the face of tremendous evil – whether it be Saddam’s secular Baathism that ravaged the Kurds and the Shiites or the fanatical Shiites of Iran who wish to persecute the religious minorities of Iraq?
When diplomacy fails and our attempts at peace through dialogue are fruitless, do we owe the oppressed anything beyond calls for multilateral diplomatic action?



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Steve

posted September 14, 2007 at 2:35 pm


It seems Christians have barely scratched the surface discussing Christ with other Christians, much less the “unsaved”. In a new poll/survey today by MSNBC about the GOP primary it quoted a 40 year Republican woman and part time homemaker who identifys herself as conservative Christian. She is very much against abortion, doesn’t like immigrants, and really wants a government policy allowing torture of prisoners because “they don’t play nice.” WOW! I see contradictions galore and certainly don’t understand how she reconciles all this with her faith? Help me understand this…



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 14, 2007 at 2:49 pm


My bad.
In my last post I gave a misleading reference — although it was a correct passage, it was about general idolatry and had nothing do with false prophets per se.



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Ben Schmidt

posted September 14, 2007 at 2:51 pm


To Moderatlelad, Wolverine, & N.M. Rod on Just War Theory:
Here is an outline of Just War Theory for you and an example of how the Iraq War can/cannot be justified.
Those that came up with Just War Theory (according to scripture) believed that war was always sinful. Here are the basics required to wage even a sinful war:
1. A state must have Proper Authority to wage war.
Whether this criterion was met is up for interpretation. I think that the only appropriate authority is God Himself, but since that wasn’t met, I’ll move on. Since we live in a globalized world with an organization like the United Nations within our grasp, perhaps we should have consulted with them and received their support. In fact, that is exactly what the US government attempted to do in sending the highly credible (at the time) Secretary of State Colin Powell to convince them that the war was justified. Even after lying about having “irrefutable evidence” of Saddam’s WMD program and stockpile, the UN did not support the US action. The Bush administration could not provide any irrefutable evidence either, which is probably why they didn’t support the US and WMDs were never discovered. The “Proper Authority” that war supporters will point to is the US Congress and the US President. If this is the “Proper Authority,” then the criterion was met.
2. A state must have Proper Cause to wage war.
Again, as above, this depends on what exactly can be considered “Proper Cause.” Obviously the “irrefutable evidence” not only didn’t exist, but it was never provided either, therefore, this is not proper cause. Saddam breaking UN resolutions is probably the justification that most people will use since the accusations of chemical/biological/nuclear weapons, the purchasing of “yellowcake,” and ties to Al Qaeda were all made up. Some may also point to Saddam being a ruthless dictator as justification for war, but this justification runs into all kinds of problems. The US supported Saddam for many years in the 1980s and even Donald Rumsfeld can be found shaking hands with Saddam in a very popular photo. On top of this, the US government has supported some of the most ruthless dictators the world has ever seen and continues to do so at the present. If we are all for spreading democracy around the world, why do we pump so much money into the Egyptian dictatorship? The above justification of the breaking of UN resolutions is questionable as well since the US refuses to pay their dues to the UN anyway and should not be enforcing anything for an organization that didn’t support the war and that we refuse to fund. I think that the criterion for “Proper Cause” is lacking. Another reason for war with Iraq was their threat to the US. People forget, however, that the US was operating in Iraq for 12 years leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq maintaining the Northern/Southern No-Fly Zones in Iraq. If Saddam couldn’t keep us from operating within his own country, how much of a threat could he be to the US?
3. There must be a Reasonable Chance of Success.
What is “Success?” I think that war is an automatic failure, but I won’t count that against those that attempt to justify the war because I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt. Obviously, the US was able to defeat Saddam’s military (this brings up another interesting point, if the US military was able to destroy the Iraqi military so quickly, what kind of threat did Saddam really pose?) and therefore be successful. However, as the name of the war implies, Operation Iraqi Freedom, we planned for more than a military victory. So far, not so good. Iraq continues to be one of the worst places to live in the world. The country remains in far worse shape than it was under Saddam. I don’t really consider this a success. Additionally, estimates of the dead in Iraq in the last four and a half years are anywhere from 50,000 to over 750,000. Again, failure not success. There are also over 2,000,000 refugees that have left Iraq. If we are killing this many people and forcing that many people to leave Iraq, then who is going to be left for us to bring freedom to?
4. The Shielding of Non-Combatants from Harm.
Finally, I think that this one is obvious from what I wrote above about the number of dead in Iraq and the number of refugees that have left. Oh, and I almost forgot, how about the use of torture (which is wrong no matter who it is used on) on innocents/non-combatants?



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 14, 2007 at 3:00 pm


But what about the times God did call on the Israelites to commit genocide and to wipe out their political enemies?
That, too, could be interpreted as discipline, because at that point He had determined that the peoples of those lands were beyond redemption. That’s the same reason He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah — and other cities in that same area were about the meet the very same fate! Remember, God wanted to create a nation that was holy, with no corrupting influences. Of course, that didn’t happen. (God, however, always made provisions for “non-believers” to join Israel — Rahab and Ruth were examples.)



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squeaky

posted September 14, 2007 at 3:02 pm


“Why should Christians only be called to social action and acts of justice when it involves economics, but not when it involves matters of life and death?”
I don’t think we aren’t, Mysterious-Poster-With-No-Name. But what does it mean to be called to action over matters of life and death? Is war the only way to respond? I don’t think it is. And then, too, when a government is involved, one also must weigh the motives of that government in terms of the armed conflict. Is it always a Christ-centered motive? We have more interests in the Middle East than the freedom of the people who live there, for example…



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N.M. Rod

posted September 14, 2007 at 3:08 pm


The majority of religion (and as Dwight Eisenhower observed, “I don’t care which one it is”) is always going to play cheerleader to the state, no matter what those state aims are.
Even in oppressed Israel in Jesus’ time, the Jewish leaders averred, “We have no King but Caesar!” And the religious majority went along with them in their rejection of Jesus.
If you remember, the disciples weren’t exactly out in front, either – Peter denied knowing Jesus.
As for who’s a Christian and who’s not, any person has the right to be self-identifying. Although, along with Arthur Schlesinger, we should not forget that “everyone’s entitled to his own opinions, but no one’s entitled to his own facts.”
No one can deny that not everyone in the visible church of organised structures and membership is going to be recognised by Jesus.
The way is narrow, He said, and He will say to many, “Depart from me – I never knew you,” despite the prophecying in His name and all the trappings of religiosity, because although they recognised Who He Is, they did not act on His commands.
So it ought to give us pause as it’s a given that the majority of the majority religion on the planet will be found unacceptable when their hearts are examined.
As for here, it’s supposed to be a dialog, which means engagement and consideration – and learning – which means promoting a particular viewpoint in a propagandistic sophomoric debate fashion to “conquer” ought not to be the reason to come here. As someone observed, it makes Christianity look like a nasty private brawl in a kind of hate-driven cult of antagonism.
For those who want to know who Christ is, I suggest engaging Him directly, because He won’t disappoint.



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neocon ron

posted September 14, 2007 at 3:09 pm


So then we should spit on the troops as they return to our churches for not standing up to the oppressive government that sent them there to do the devil’s work of bringing freedom to Iraq. Right?



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 14, 2007 at 3:10 pm


The point is, we should be VERY careful about proof-texting the OT. Otherwise, we could give really nasty arguments in favor of: polygamy, genocide, death penalty, etc.
This is true, and it’s never good to take Biblical passages in isolation. Polygamy was indeed practiced in the OT but, as Jesus and Paul made clear, always morally wrong. The passage in Deuteronomy I mentioned which referred to the death penalty specifically gave the manner in which it was to be carried out — which, by definition, meant that few people would have actually died. (This is part of the reason that the woman “caught in adultery” could not have been stoned, ever under Jewish law!)
Why should Christians only be called to social action and acts of justice when it involves economics, but not when it involves matters of life and death?
I agree. The same Bible that condemns economic injustice compels me to oppose legal abortion.



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squeaky

posted September 14, 2007 at 3:19 pm


Rick Nowlin,
The violence of the OT has always troubled me, although I have heard the argument you present before. It’s hard to imagine the sin in the land was that much worse back then–beyond even God’s grace. It’s humbling, to say the least. Do you think God changed how He dealt with sin–the OT being raising a people who wiped out sinful nations, and the NT being sending His Son to vanquish sin’s hold on our lives through His death on the cross? Or was sin in the OT just far more wicked than we can imagine and therefore beyond even the grace of the cross?



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kevin s.

posted September 14, 2007 at 3:22 pm


“What has happened to obeying #6 of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt not kill” ?”
Was David in violation of this commandment?
” I think His words on how we should treat our “enemies” somehow trumps those OT examples.”
His words on how we treat out enemies do not trump the examples, though his fulfillment of the law does indicate that we ought not destroy those who worship false Gods. If Christ’s whole life centered around promoting peace (as some here have suggested), wouldn’t he have taken the time to at least find one soldier and tell that soldier to lay down his arms?
It is not putting America before Christ, then, to support a certain war effort. It might be empirically wrong to do so, but Wallis’ premise is flawed.
By his logic, those who support the war effort are putting America before Christ. Why? Because Wallis believes that he has argued against the war so compellingly that it is impossible to disagree. Therefore, those who persist in supporting the war effort are disregarding the “facts” in favor of a faith in America’s execution of this war.
Essentially, then, the standard for idolatry is supporting policies against which Wallis feels he has successfully counter-argued. Once he comes to a conclusion, it becomes God’s politics. That is problematic on many levels.



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Brad

posted September 14, 2007 at 3:24 pm


Jim:
I just got your email asking for more $$ to “end the war.” After supporting (with huge $$) the last election of those who promised to end this war … and have not done it …
… why don’t you contact the new Congress for any additional $$ required for them to pass the legislation to stop the war. President Bush, obviously will not change his mind … however, we control House and Senate and could pass non-funding at any moment. Why aren’t they????
Very Frustrated,
Brad



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N.M. Rod

posted September 14, 2007 at 3:35 pm


The majority do want their religion, and they want it to tell them they are right in what they already want to do.



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Mysterious-Poster-With-No-Name

posted September 14, 2007 at 3:47 pm


Ok Squeaky,
You wrote:
“I don’t think we aren’t, Mysterious-Poster-With-No-Name. But what does it mean to be called to action over matters of life and death? Is war the only way to respond? I don’t think it is. And then, too, when a government is involved, one also must weigh the motives of that government in terms of the armed conflict. Is it always a Christ-centered motive? We have more interests in the Middle East than the freedom of the people who live there, for example…”
Posted by: squeaky | September 14, 2007 3:02 PM
Of course war isn’t the only way to respond. But why should a government’s standards for waging war be is it Christ-centered? America, as we are reminded often on this site, is not a CHRISTIAN Nation. It is instead a nation full of many religious groups, although Christianity remains the predominant private expression of religion.
Our gov’t is secular though – so if your argument is that Christians can only support wars that have Christ-centered motive, then point taken and there isn’t much that Christians will have to say in influencing American foreign policy since that will never be the terms of military action by the U.S.
I think my original question still stands, unanswered – “Why should Christians only be called to social action and acts of justice when it involves economics, but not when it involves matters of life and death?”
Because in reality, no one’s motives are ever 100% pure, and if that keeps us from ever acting, then shame on us. The same standard could be applied to relief for the poor. What if the only reason evangelicals want to get on board with curbing AIDS in Africa is because it is psychologically unpleasing to think of poor children dying so we act in part to appease our conscience and help us sleep at night? Does that mean we should not work to end AIDS when our motives are sometimes selfish there?
Why is action with mixed motives justified for economic or health reforms, but not in matters of life and death? Why must motives be so closely scrutinized they never meet our standards in one, but not in the other? Why is “social justice” not applicable to the sufferings of Iraqis and Kurds?



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sara

posted September 14, 2007 at 4:33 pm


Holy smokes! People really went to town on this one!
I do think that it is a mistake to quickly dismiss anyone with a different view than our own.
I used to think that the war in Iraq was a good idea, that the Iraqi people wanted it, and that it would mean their freedom. Hearing from Christians from other parts of the world who told me that violence will never bring peace was one of the things that helped to change that view. I do believe that this war is a tragic mistake.
I also believe that there are plenty of soldiers who are good, strong men and women with pure motives who are braver than I can ever hope to be and I mean no disrespect to them whatsoever by denouncing this war. I pray that they come home safely and soon to nation that honors their sacrifices.
And at the same time I pray for an end to this war.
I think that it is understandable that people on both sides of this debate have been responding with some heat as this is not simply some academic problem, but rather, a matter of life and death for many. A verse comes to mind that comes from somewhere in the epistles (I’ve never been very good with Bible verse addresses): “In your anger, do not sin.”
One thing that I appreciate a great deal about Jim Wallis’ post (and book) is that he does point to a solution. It feels a bit sometimes like an un-ending circle of despair, listening to arguments that go something like this:
“The war is wrong and we must stop”
“But if we just up and leave it will be horrible for the Iraqis”
“But it’s wrong to stay”
“But it’s wrong to go”
I guess that’s what “quagmire” means. Anyway, I appreciate Jim Wallis’ plan and think that it makes the most sense of any of the ideas that I’ve heard tossed around.
I’m going to keep praying that God gives us love for each other, our soldiers, and the Iraqi people, and the people who are our enemies (cause Jesus said to and who am I to argue with him?) and that he give us imagination as well, so we can have a vision for a way of doing life, both as individuals and as a nation that doesn’t involve violence. I really don’t have any answers and I know that on my own I’m pretty lacking in both the love and imagination departments, so it’s a really good thing that Jesus came to save “intractable poopy-head” (kudos to whoever used that phrase earlier; it was too good not to use again) sinners like me.
God, teach us the ways that lead to peace!



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 14, 2007 at 4:50 pm


Squeaky — I don’t think God changed, but WE change over time. Perhaps after Israel wiped out those other nations such “genocide” was no longer necessary. And as for God’s grace, he has every right and reason to wipe out any of us at any moment but doesn’t.
Essentially, then, the standard for idolatry is supporting policies against which Wallis feels he has successfully counter-argued. Once he comes to a conclusion, it becomes God’s politics. That is problematic on many levels.
A tad simplistic. I would agree, however, that this war was not a last resort but a first one — we now know that Bush, from the time he took office, was looking for an excuse to send troops there, and that’s where the idolatry came in. Thing is, virtually no one disagreed with sending troops to Afghanistan to get bin Laden after 9/11 because doing so was justified.



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Anonymous

posted September 14, 2007 at 4:57 pm


23 He makes nations great, and destroys them;
he enlarges nations, and disperses them.
24 He deprives the leaders of the earth of their reason;
he sends them wandering through a trackless waste.
25 They grope in darkness with no light;
he makes them stagger like drunkards.
Job 12



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N.M. Rod

posted September 14, 2007 at 5:12 pm


25 They grope in darkness with no light;
he makes them stagger like drunkards.
Job 12
Hey, I resemble, er, resent that!
We’re staggering like EX-drunkards I’ll have you know!



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Anonymous

posted September 14, 2007 at 5:16 pm


“a 40 year Republican woman and part time homemaker who identifys herself as conservative Christian. She is very much against abortion, doesn’t like immigrants, and really wants a government policy allowing torture of prisoners because “they don’t play nice.” WOW! I see contradictions galore and certainly don’t understand how she reconciles all this with her faith? Help me understand this…”
Posted by: Steve | September 14, 2007 2:35 PM
I’m not sure I can because you are operating on the assumption that to be consistently Christian you can’t be a Republican. (Why do most people only really buy into half of Wallis’s slogan that God isn’t a Republican. I think there was something in there about God not being a Democrat either!) So there they go again – if you don’t buy into my left politics, then something must be wrong with your faith because your non-left politics “contradict” Christianity. The parallels to Falwell are really delicious here.
As I said before:
I am still not clear on why the evangelical right is to blame for the Iraq War. Wallis and others seem to assume a level of power and influence that the evangelical church does not possess. In the interest of seeking peace, it would be edifying if Wallis acknowledged the possibility that Christians can have legitimate disagreements over political issues. Wallis’ failure to state this clearly leaves the impression (and it is up to Wallis to clarify if he intends this or not) that Christians on the right are not obeying God with their politics.
If this is the case, and based on my reading of Wallis and his supporters one is led to believe it could be, it means Wallis is advancing a political agenda that oddly parallel to the Religious Right of the 1980s – and by suggesting to be Christian you must also assent to a particular political position.



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Jay Abels

posted September 14, 2007 at 7:25 pm


There are many things about this war that sadden me, but the loss of respect for the church in the USA and for Christianity in general is probably the worst. I have spent most of my adult life as a missionary in South America. I can only admire those who go out today. In addition to overcoming the typical obstacles to spreading the gospel, they have to overcome so many new negative attitudes.
I have a friend who is still on the field. Even though he was a strong Republican, four years ago, he began instructing new arrivals that they were never to say the word “bush” in any context. It takes conscientious dedicated work to avoid getting caught in political debate.
In this country church parking lots still have cars in them with “W” bumper stickers. In other countries either your car windows would broken, and/or church attendance would seriously decline.
One of the hardest transitions for me has been the feeling of going from Kingdom to a more localized nationally bounded church group that is estranged from the rest of the Kingdom.
There is no denying the vitality that Islam is experiencing, sadly Christianity is not being helped by the current situation, and even more sadly, so much of the church in the USA proudly marches on, self convinced that it is right and can never be wrong.



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N.M. Rod

posted September 14, 2007 at 7:33 pm


Once again, everything reduced to a matter of “left” or “right,” “liberal” or “conservative.”
Why is serving Christ assumed to be confined to, or even necessarily part of, either one of these cultural constructs?
Aren’t they not even really definable in any immutable way?
Are they eternal truths? Well, obviously not, for they seem to be mutually incompatible, and on a continuum in some people’s minds as far as evil is from good and vice versa.
Why must everything first be evaluated as to whether it is “left” or “right”?
What the hell does that have to do with Jesus?
More and more, as soon as someone starts in as their first “principle” being “left” or “right,” I stop paying attention and my mind wanders away.



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Anonymous

posted September 14, 2007 at 10:05 pm


“Why must everything first be evaluated as to whether it is “left” or “right”?
What the hell does that have to do with Jesus?
More and more, as soon as someone starts in as their first “principle” being “left” or “right,” I stop paying attention and my mind wanders away.”
Posted by: N.M. Rod
That, N.M. Rod, is a very “other-worldly” perspective. Are you arguing for a separatism from politics since it is so base and devoid of the “spiritual”? (Don’t worry, I won’t accuse you of being a close-minded fundamentalist with guilt by association tactics.) Or, are you saying you have somehow found a way to transcend these earthly iron cages of right and left and your truths about civic life (don’t worry, I won’t sully those truths with the adjective “political”) have escaped the confines of cultural constructionism? If if it is the latter, then please inform on how that is achieved, and I promise I won’t attach the modifier “moderate” to it!



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Rev. Ian Alterman

posted September 14, 2007 at 10:42 pm


Once again, a few responses to scattered comments, mostly theological.
“For example, God had already decreed (Deuteronomy 17:6 and 7) that false prophets should be killed.”
Actually, that is not correct. Deut. 17:6-7 does NOT apply to “false prophets,” but to anyone who engages in pagan or other non-Jewish practices or rituals.
“The passage in Deuteronomy I mentioned which referred to the death penalty specifically gave the manner in which it was to be carried out — which, by definition, meant that few people would have actually died. (This is part of the reason that the woman “caught in adultery” could not have been stoned, ever under Jewish law!)”
Again, not so. In fact, the only passage that mentions specific punishment in Deut. 17 says “Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.” However, as above, the “wicked thing” specifically referred to is engaging in pagan or other non-Jewish practices or rituals.
In fact, under Jewish law at the time, adultery (among other sins) WAS punishable specifically by stoning. This is clear in Jesus’ words and actions. He could easily have said; “No, you cannot stone this woman because that is not the correct punishment under Jewish law.” But in fact, He knew it WAS the correct punishment. Instead, He equated her adultery with the possible (even probable) similarly punishable sins of her accusers, forcing them to “self-convict,” thus making it harder for them to stone her.
“No one can deny that not everyone in the visible church of organised structures and membership is going to be recognised by Jesus. The way is narrow, He said, and He will say to many, ‘Depart from me – I never knew you,’ despite the prophecying in His name and all the trappings of religiosity, because although they recognised Who He Is, they did not act on His commands. So it ought to give us pause as it’s a given that the majority of the majority religion on the planet will be found unacceptable when their hearts are examined.”
Bravo for reminding us of this! And I will add (for the person who assumed all faiths are equal since we are all created by God): “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction [i.e., other faiths, beliefs, practices, etc.], and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life [salvation through Christ], and few there be that find it.”
“Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. I think His words on how we should treat our “enemies” somehow trumps those OT examples.”
Brava! And here is the crux of the biscuit. One would think that someone who self-proclaims as a “Christ-ian” would have Jesus (and the NT) as their first, primary and paramount source. Yet what we have in most of the so-called “Christian Right” and much of the evangelical community are “Old Testament Christians,” many of whom wouldn’t recognize Jesus if He bit them on the ear, because they are too busy ignoring what He said and did, preferring to cite the OT (often out of context).
Yes, the OT and the wisdom contained therein have their place. No question. But I find it odd (I’m being nice here…LOL) that so many self-proclaimed Christians rely more heavily on the OT than on Jesus.
Peace.



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James

posted September 14, 2007 at 11:21 pm


James,Thanks for your concern about my spiritual condition. I do often wish I had travelled more. But if it’s any comfort, I do have a passport, and I know how to use it. I’ve even met some big shots overseas although sigh not as many as Jim Wallis has. Wolverine
I wasn’t voicing a concern over your spiritual condition. I was just saying that your disdain for Jim Wallis and your jealousy of his travels are palpable. I guess that could be construed as a concern over your spiritual condition but it wasn’t.
I am well aware you have a passport. In another post, you so aptly quoted from it nearly word for word when you said that US citizen kids of deported parents could avail themselves of the aid of the State Department- a profoundly ignorant and insensitive remark.



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Sarasotakid

posted September 14, 2007 at 11:26 pm


“His words on how we treat out enemies do not trump the examples, though his fulfillment of the law does indicate that we ought not destroy those who worship false Gods. If Christ’s whole life centered around promoting peace (as some here have suggested), wouldn’t he have taken the time to at least find one soldier and tell that soldier to lay down his arms?” Kevin S.
Never mind that the early church document, the Didache, strictly prohibitied soldiers to be active members of churhes- but would those early Christians who lived within 50 to 100 years of the life of Jesus know that Kevin S. doesn’t know. I vote for the Kevin S interpretation because Kevin S. knows everything



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N.M. Rod

posted September 14, 2007 at 11:27 pm


I think it’s monumentally myopic to think that politics must of needs be confined to either of, or any of, narrow definitions limited to “left” and “right.”
Refusing to be caged into these constructs, as if no other sensibility is even possible, frees one to evaluate not from the “other-worldly” but through attention to reality and pragmatism instead of allegiance to narrow ideology.
Supposing I’m not a Democrat, nor a Republican, and I don’t want to declare fealty to either. Does that mean I’m not allowed to participate in the process?
What kind of political freedom is that? I guess it’s twice as good as a single-party system, but not much better if we’re dealing with a “choice” between agreeing 100% with either Tweedledum or Tweedledee.
I recall that George Washington in his Farewell Speech decried partisanship and the formation of political parties. Why do you think that first President, who set such a high standard for those to follow (and no one has really measured up since) felt so strongly about that?
It often seems like a mindless political goose-step of “left-right-left-right” marching like wooden soldiers right over a cliff.
Now that’s blind faith. I prefer being reality-based rather than that kind of phony faith. After all, real faith is based on what God has done.
I want to practically evaluate ideas of self-governance from an eternal ethical perspective, not reflections from party funhouse mirrors that imprison one in distortions of the temporary, the fallible and the petty.
I don’t want to have to consider the source before I’m allowed to think about the practicality and truth of what someone proposes.
I want to be able to choose from the best of all possibilities, to exercise the freedom of mind that God has given me.
I want to be able to make up my own mind, not be told what’s politically correct according to man-made theories and ideologies.
If that’s not practical I don’t know what is, unless being independent is no longer legal and we have an effective totalitarianism of the two.
I note that Jesus didn’t join up with any of the parties of his time – Pharisee, Sadducee, Zealot or Herod-style Roman collaborator. Yet somehow they all recognised what He had to say as having consequences affecting their own political balance.
So should it be with us – or at least, so say I. :-)



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 15, 2007 at 12:06 am


I am still not clear on why the evangelical right is to blame for the Iraq War. Wallis and others seem to assume a level of power and influence that the evangelical church does not possess.
Well, how many of these churches and leaders — not just the “usual suspects” but some others known as “patriot pastors” have acted as anything than “court prophets,” telling Bush & Co. what he wanted to hear?
In the interest of seeking peace, it would be edifying if Wallis acknowledged the possibility that Christians can have legitimate disagreements over political issues. Wallis’ failure to state this clearly leaves the impression (and it is up to Wallis to clarify if he intends this or not) that Christians on the right are not obeying God with their politics.
Unfortunately, the right has been doing just that for nearly 30 years now — he certainly would have an “in” with that crew. I think his concerns may be two-fold: 1) Results and 2) Christian witness, which I would think are somewhat beyond the categories of right and left. Another is the unwillingness of the right to admit that its policies simply don’t work.
Actually, that is not correct. Deut. 17:6-7 does NOT apply to “false prophets,” but to anyone who engages in pagan or other non-Jewish practices or rituals.
I did make that correction above. That said, the prophets of Baal that Elijah slaughtered did fit into that category.
In fact, under Jewish law at the time, adultery (among other sins) WAS punishable specifically by stoning. This is clear in Jesus’ words and actions. He could easily have said; “No, you cannot stone this woman because that is not the correct punishment under Jewish law.” But in fact, He knew it WAS the correct punishment. Instead, He equated her adultery with the possible (even probable) similarly punishable sins of her accusers, forcing them to “self-convict,” thus making it harder for them to stone her.
A couple of other things about that, however: 1) The Pharisees didn’t bring the man in as well; 2) to prove any crime you needed to have at least two witnesses; however, watching people “doing the nasty” also was illegal, insinuating that it may have been a set-up from the get-go; and 3) they may have brought an unclean woman into the temple area, if her partner had had an ejaculation. Therefore, they broke more laws than she and thus had to withdraw the accusation.
Yes, the OT and the wisdom contained therein have their place. No question. But I find it odd (I’m being nice here…LOL) that so many self-proclaimed Christians rely more heavily on the OT than on Jesus.
Well, Jesus Himself quoted the Old Testament (remember, the New hadn’t been written yet).
I don’t want to have to consider the source before I’m allowed to think about the practicality and truth of what someone proposes.
Unfortunately, that’s what it’s come down to — I see this because I’m in the media.



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karen fulk

posted September 15, 2007 at 12:41 am


I am entirely comfortable with the idea that it is hypocrisy to be for abortion and against war, or against abortion and for war! (Posted by: N.M. Rod | September 13, 2007 2:35 PM)
Can I post a sculpture I did in response to this?
Check out
“Hypocracy Now!” (or, “War & Peace Protestors”) on my website:
http://www.karenfulk.com/sculpture.htm
8th row down, far left sculpture. What the little badges say are: “Pro Choice” for the war protestor (ie: free love)
and “Pro-Life” for the peace protestor (or pro war lady)



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kevin s.

posted September 15, 2007 at 1:30 am


“but (what) would those early Christians who lived within 50 to 100 years of the life of Jesus know that Kevin S. doesn’t know.”
I think what you meant to say was “what does Kevin S. know that the early Christians didn’t know. I know quite a bit that they did not know. Knowledge of the dates surrounding the collapse of the Roman Empire would be a relevant example here.



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john christian

posted September 15, 2007 at 1:31 am


Though we claim a separation of state and religion it is our beliefs that define us as our political leanings define our religion. It is no better to say the devil made me do than to say God leads us to war unless we serve a God of war. As for war itself, it is never the right choice but at best the lessor of two evils. We will never be just in war or to go to war, yet we can be justified if the sacrifice of not going to war yields a worse out come. However, we are beyound that choice in Iraq. Therfore, what we must consider is how justified are we in staying: What will the Iraqis lose if we leave and what will they gain if we stay. I believe we should transition out of there being prepared to run. They will come to loath us more if they dont already if we continue to act in our own self interest by which we are never justified.



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Sarasotakid

posted September 15, 2007 at 6:53 am


Knowledge of the dates surrounding the collapse of the Roman Empire would be a relevant example here. Posted by: kevin s
And that’s what it’s all about for you, Kevin, right? Maintaining the empire and using any means necessary to do so- arms and religion. That is what I see in your posts. How commendable. How Christ-like.



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John Rallison

posted September 15, 2007 at 8:13 am


After reading through a bunch of stuff, I have a few comments to add.
First, regarding Just War theory.
Augustine (who, though he certainly has earned respectful consideration, does not rise to the level of scripture) formulated his Just War doctrine in a very different time.
While I would not pretend that everyone in Augustine’s day and before fought war ‘honorably’, war was a local affair. Power could only be projected a few hundred feet. And even a catapult hurling burning matter could only inflict casualties a few feet from where the projectile landed (except if a building collapsed or caught fire, but still a very small radius comparatively). The idea of a decapitating first strike was not even considered.
WMDs and the ability to move them have created a new environment for those responsible for protecting our country. That being said, the idea of pre-emptive war (which clearly does not fit into Just War theory) scares the begeebies out of me. But what do we do? Just War basically says that war must only be a response. But in a world where a first strike is decapitating, how do we think through that?
I can feel some people’s heads beginning to explode. Please don’t jump on me like a rabid dog. I am not a Bush apologist. I am only sharing the thinking I have done to try to understand the situation from a leader’s point of view.
9/11 and Iraq may not have a connection with each other directly, but they are part of a larger national defense puzzle. 9/11 showed us that we are vulnerable to attack on our own soil. Whether Sadaam had WMDs, he was clearly acting as though he had them. Further, he had used them previously on his own people and he had demonstrated his willingness to invade another country. While you may question Bush’s motives and you may say he always wanted to go into Iraq, it’s possible that rather than joyfully looking for a reason to topple Sadaam, he could simply see the handwriting on the wall. (BTW – regarding the US having plans in place for attacking a country, my understanding of our defense policy is that we have plans in place for attacking every country that is hostile toward us. And this, in the military’s view, is just part of being prepared, not having any operational ideas about using the plans. — like the ‘plans to invade Venezuela’ thing.)
Moving on…
War is always the result of sin, but does that make war always sinful? To take the extreme, what about Hitler? Was it sinful to resist Hitler’s evil with force? Some would argue that non-violence would have ended WWII more quickly and with less bloodshed. What if, instead of troops, we had sent 30,000 people to walk across Europe through the battle line with no weapons at all? Certainly the first few hundred or thousand would have been killed, but after that? There may be a few psychopaths in the world would could kill an army of non-violence, but at what point would the psychopath’s forces say, “No. We’re not killing those people.” And then turn on their leader if he began to kill them all himself?
Of course, WMDs mess with that thinking, too. Because a psychopathic leader only needs a few people on his side to wipe out a non-violent army.
Dang, it sucks even having to have these conversations! This world (including myself) is broken. “Don’t look at us! We’re hideous!”
Regarding Christian political groups:
I’m slowly coming to the opinion that there should not be Christian political groups. Politics is about power. Whether you’re the Christian right or the Christian left, the idea of a political group is to gain control of the government and it’s laws. What if all the money and manpower used to rally to political causes was spent on public education? What if, instead of organizing the vote, Christians spent more time trying to be Christ to other people and make disciples? Then all those disciples of Jesus would make decisions, including political ones, that would lead to justice and peace, but would not have to do that from a standpoint of gaining power as a group.
I know, this discussion board clearly shows that followers of Jesus are not always in agreement, but does that mean the power solution is better? If Jesus was anything, he was non-compulsory. It seems to me antithetical to Jesus to take his way of faith and life and try to encode it in law and policy so that it becomes compulsory. (I think the founding fathers of our country would agree with me, but I never met them so I don’t know for sure.)
OK, ’nuff for now.



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N.M. Rod

posted September 15, 2007 at 9:12 am


Historical examples to “prove” a poinr about whether a particular war was justified, and then to invoke that as a justification for resolving present or future conflicts in a similar way are deeply flawed.
This is because history itself is poorly understood in most cases. Really, people search history and grab examples, like scripture proof-texts, out of context in order to “prove” what they want to. This is as bad history as it is bad theology.
History has to be understood wholistically, just as scripture does. Just as no scripture stands alone, neither do historical events.
Unfortunately, the “fast-food” form of history most people get is really superficial and most often self-justifying, strongly colored by cultural needs and to prove national mythologies. Because history is controversial – after all, studying it can reopen the same questions that caused all those actual conflicts – a sanitised version that’s inoffensive to the culture it’s taught in is most often the default.
This is going to be true for any nation – not just America.
One of the beautiful things about being a Christian is that we are freed from the narrow constraints of time and space and no longer have to be prisoners of any particular era’s foibles. If we find ourselves living in a time in which everyone in society is moving or thinking along certain lines, we don’t have to be rushed along in the current. We can stand with the eternal and measure what we live by God’s unchanging essential values. We don’t need to be hopelessly caught in the microcosm and unable to see beyond it.
I don’t yet understand everything about history; I can’t pretend to have everything figured out in a kind of “Left Behind” scenario, for instance.
Yet it’s clear that the violent conflicts of humanity have a long and continuing history in which the causes of each one are intimately related to previous ones in a most direct way.
I urge people to look outside the immediate for justification and examine historical causes. It’s clear that while violence does have consequences, the application of it has unforeseen ones that go far beyond the immediate aftermath of immediate results. Those unexamined consequences are the roots for later complications that produce even more violence to break out.
The escalation of violence and the cycling of it with intensification can only be ended in two ways – the complete elimination of the enemy, which means a genocide of the entire human race, since we are our own enemies or by maturing to understand that violence between states is no longer an acceptable means of conflict resolution.
There is another false way to peace that could be considered, and which we are on a dangerous path towards – a world supposedly at peace because it will be dominated through military threat by a unitary executive force known as the United States. I hope Christians at least will not be deluded into approving such a totalitarian ideology as realistic, for what I hope are obvious rational reasons as well as prophetic ones.



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Anonymous

posted September 15, 2007 at 9:53 am


Yet what we have in most of the so-called “Christian Right” and much of the evangelical community are “Old Testament Christians,” many of whom wouldn’t recognize Jesus if He bit them on the ear, because they are too busy ignoring what He said and did, preferring to cite the OT (often out of context).
Yes, the OT and the wisdom contained therein have their place. No question. But I find it odd (I’m being nice here…LOL) that so many self-proclaimed Christians rely more heavily on the OT than on Jesus.
Peace.
Posted by: Rev. Ian Alterman | September 14, 2007 10:42 PM
“I am afraid, Rev. Alterman, that you do not harbor peace towards your fellow Christians who are not in step with you politically. This claim that conservative Christians are more reliant on the OT than the NT. This is a really odd claim, and one that demands some sort of example.
Rev., is it possible for Christians to be simultaneously – loyal and obedient to Christ but in a state of disagreement on how to interpret his words? If you are implying that this is not possible, then I fear we are treading down a well-worn and dogmatic path of someone being saved by their correct dogma and theology and not being saved DESPITE of themselves and because of God’s grace.
It would be interesting to compare the sermons and scripture readings of your type of Christian (the ones who interpret Jesus the way you do) with those who don’t. I suggest we start with the scripture of the day for this website. What is the ratio of OT to NT verses being cited with “poor” or “justice” in the verse?



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Anonymous

posted September 15, 2007 at 10:06 am


“I’m slowly coming to the opinion that there should not be Christian political groups. Politics is about power. Whether you’re the Christian right or the Christian left, the idea of a political group is to gain control of the government and it’s laws.
I know, this discussion board clearly shows that followers of Jesus are not always in agreement, but does that mean the power solution is better?”
Posted by: John Rallison | September 15, 2007 8:13 AM
Well put John. Unfortunately, the unspoken pretext of all of this debate is that this is often a desire by one wing of evangelicalism to gain prominence and voice at the expense of another.
Politics is, at its base, about power; and any discussion about how Christians should engage politics must also be forthright about the desire for power and how that cultural influence will be used.



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Anonymous

posted September 15, 2007 at 10:09 am


Sarotakid, Rev. Alterman, N.M. Rod, et al:
I would be interested in your response to this passage, based on your positions vis a vis peace, social action, and politics:
“Why should Christians only be called to social action and acts of justice when it involves economics, but not when it involves matters of life and death?”
Because in reality, no one’s motives are ever 100% pure, and if that keeps us from ever acting, then shame on us. The same standard could be applied to relief for the poor. What if the only reason evangelicals want to get on board with curbing AIDS in Africa is because it is psychologically unpleasing to think of poor children dying so we act in part to appease our conscience and help us sleep at night? Does that mean we should not work to end AIDS when our motives are sometimes selfish there?
Why is action with mixed motives justified for economic or health reforms, but not in matters of life and death? Why must motives be so closely scrutinized they never meet our standards in one, but not in the other? Why is “social justice” not applicable to the sufferings of Iraqis and Kurds?
**And Rev. Alterman, why would Jesus call us to only feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted, but not call on us to rescue those in extreme distress and danger? Is there anyone else who is uncomfortable with a call to social justice that requires very little sacrifice or difficulty on our part?



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Anonymous

posted September 15, 2007 at 10:14 am


Rick Nowlin wrote:
“In the interest of seeking peace, it would be edifying if Wallis acknowledged the possibility that Christians can have legitimate disagreements over political issues. Wallis’ failure to state this clearly leaves the impression (and it is up to Wallis to clarify if he intends this or not) that Christians on the right are not obeying God with their politics.”
Unfortunately, the right has been doing just that for nearly 30 years now — he certainly would have an “in” with that crew. I think his concerns may be two-fold: 1) Results and 2) Christian witness, which I would think are somewhat beyond the categories of right and left. Another is the unwillingness of the right to admit that its policies simply don’t work.
Rick – I appreciate you taking up this question – I notice most people are ducking the tough ones in these comments and falling back on – if you don’t support Wallis or me then you don’t really follow Christ.
But I guess you still didn’t deal with the heart of the question which is not satisfied with people on the right did it so it is ok if people on the left do. Doesn’t anyone see the incredible authority and power behind Wallis’ claims that if you don’t do as I say with Iraq, “social Justice”, etc. then you are not being faithful to God’s “politics”? This is a very bold claim and one that I hope Wallis will clearly state he is not making because unfortunately the tenor and content of his posts this week reveal this tendency.



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Scott Starr

posted September 15, 2007 at 10:34 am


Well put John and Anonymous. You should check out the book “The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church. It falls right in line with what you have said.
You know… its pretty scary when our “religious” folk are just as confused as the Hollywood set but in a different way. I was listening to James Dobson two days ago on the radio while I was out on my job. His guest was a fellow named Joel Rosenberg who has written a book called “Epicenter: Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future”
The two listed the long littany of ills, wrongs and crimes of radical Islam and explained it great detail why we should all fear them greatly.
They also mentioned several times the tremendous valor and honor of the U.S. and its military machine. I agree about the crimes of Islam and I agree about the bravery of our military servicemen. Their presentation had one quite serious… I dare say fatal flaw, however. They went on to elaborate what a fine “Christian” nation the U.S. is and how ” God wants to use the U.S. to bring about the downfall of radical Islam and the spread of democracy”.
Upon hearing this my immediate questions were, “Where are they getting the idea that God wants to use the U.S. for these purposes? On what basis is America a Christian nation?”
Who told them this? Has their been a prophet dispensing this information that I am not aware of?
It sounds more like self adulating pride and nationalism to me. Ironically, it is this sort of ideology that has spawned many of these conflicts on both sides.
I am sure a critic of my thoughts here will quote from Old Testament scripture instances of God using one nation against another or aiding the ancient theocracy of Israel to defeat its enemies.
There are at least two major problems with drawing comparisons from these ancient battles to the efforts of the U.S. and Israel today. The first is the absence of a prophet giving admonition or instruction concerning these things. Prophets from God are always 100% correct and make direct predictions by the way. One may argue that the book of Revelation prophesies these things… but let me just state for brevity’s sake that this is quite a stretch in a lot of ways- I’ll be glad to elaborate if someone wishes to challenge this.
Next… in the Old Testament when God was on the side of an army the enemies were dispensed with rather quickly. Sure, there were long term conflicts in the Old Testament and all… but when Israel was in God’s good graces and not being punished… these battles were fast paced slaughters against the enemies.
I’ll say this. Until someone can explain how I am wrong and give me clear, Biblical evidence that “God needs the help of the U.S. and it’s military to put down radical Islam and spread democracy- to enable His plan of manifest Destiny for the sacred U.S. and the esatablishment of His Kingdom” I will continue to call these sorts of assertions flat out heresy.
I do not mean to offend anyone, but as I see it the ball is not in my court. The burden of proof is not mine. I am prepared however, to be wrong. Somebody prove it to me. Here I stand.
Anyways, I see in the sciptures below the essence of the problem:
2 Timothy 3
“1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”
The one aspect of these verses that I was paying close attention to here was this:
“5 having a form of godliness but denying its power.”
I was linking this to the concept of most people not having a clear distinction in their minds between attitude management and positive thinking and SUPERNATURAL thinking with the tangible presence of God in their hearts, minds and consciences- providing insight and discernment.
My reference to Dobson and Rosenberg’s thinking (paralelled by a great number of Americans) also ties in with this concept by embracing a “form” of godliness that is devoid of real power because it is as yet wedded to the carnal by way of sinful pride and speaking out of turn for God. They are making essentially the same mistake that radical Islam is making… self idolatry, false prophesying and failure to recognize that the power to give life is greater than the power to kill and destroy. They will acknowledge which is the greater power philosophically, theologically and/or in the abstract but not in real world, real time practical terms. Loving your enemies has become appeasement ( I would call arming and supporting Saddam and sending all manner of weapons including poison gas into the country during the Reagan- Bush 1 years appeasement. The same was done of course with the Mujahideen which evolved into Al Quaeda) … Eschewing killing and warfare has become weakness and cowardice… The raw power and spiritual genius of Jesus’ way, of the beatitudes, of defying and denying the domination system and it’s self sustaining cycle of violence and revenge has been set aside to make way for the glorious, heroic destiny of the United States. God have mercy on us all when our “Christian leaders” are no longer even Christian. Radical Islam and the American, Statist pseudo-christian heretics are fighting the same losing battle.
Something else…
Above I started to pose the question why God would need the U.S. and its firepower to enforce his will upon the Earth. I mean he’s God… he could simply wish it to be so and radical Islam would dissolve into dust or vanish like a vapor. He could cause an earthquake, plagues like giant, fire breathing locusts and toads… hail and fire… whatever.
Then I held back because I thought of how in the Old Testament God often used one nation to chastise and punish another. Then it dawned on me… that’s probably what is happening right now. God is allowing/using the various players in the Mideast conflicts to punish one another for losing sight of Him- and is hoping we somehow learn our lesson about pimping his name and attaching it to the consequences of our own misguided, misused freewill.
Right now the citizens of Iraq are paying with the most flesh and blood while the average fat and happy American has the luxury of watching the whole debacle on television and offering running commentary- myself included. I have no doubt that it will not remain so forever. When the next day of reckoning comes… many of my countrymen will still be wondering why.
Sleep tight.
Visit my blog at Geotheology.



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Anonymous

posted September 15, 2007 at 10:49 am


“Never mind that the early church document, the Didache, strictly prohibitied soldiers to be active members of churhes- but would those early Christians who lived within 50 to 100 years of the life of Jesus know that Kevin S. doesn’t know. I vote for the Kevin S interpretation because Kevin S. knows everything
Posted by: Sarasotakid | September 14, 2007 11:26 PM”
So Sarasotakid, where exactly in the Didache were soliders prohibited from active membership in the early church?
You might want to tone down your sarcasm when you all you can offer alongside it is a mistaken claim.



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Anonymous

posted September 15, 2007 at 10:56 am


Politics is, at its base, about power; and any discussion about how Christians should engage politics must also be forthright about the desire for power and how that cultural influence will be used.
Posted by: | September 15, 2007 10:06 AM
I don’t just mean the right wing trying to assert power – I also mean the left wing too. My point is, both the evangelical right and left “prophets” or spokespeople seem to hide their will to power behind moralisms and appeals to Scripture to support their political positions.
That’s why I post anonymously since in my profession any straying from the orthodoxy of the left (evangelical or secular)is not just frowned upon but not tolerated at all.



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Ian

posted September 15, 2007 at 10:57 am


One thing I’m intrigued about in the extensive comments on this topic (actually there are several threads running) is that amidst the name-calling and just war stuff is little about alternative ways forward. It seems that the majority of posts are saying the USA and its remaining allies in the coalition of the willing should either stay for ever (well, for ‘as long as it takes’ which could well be ten years) or they should get out now. Alternative ways forward such as Trent suggested in his original post seem to have been ignored completely.
Christianity is a global religion (not just American) and war affects more than America – but the USA influence is no longer perceived positively amongst my peers in my bit of Australia.
Dogmatism and arrogance are words now being associated with the present USA administration’s Iraq policy.
I long for the time when God’s wisdom is able to be applied to God’s politics – (which is not meant to be arrogant on my part, but a prayerful desire to see political leaders on both sides of the Pacific Ocean [eg US and Australia] demonstrating a willingness to change tack.) The resolute insistence on their present policy being the only one to follow is now being seen as folly, rather than strength.
So I guess I’m agreeing with Jim Wallis – as a Christian who happens to also be an Australian.
And now this Ian should get some sleep. It will be more peaceful than for many soldiers and civilians in Iraq.



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Vincent R. Katter

posted September 15, 2007 at 11:03 am


For those who believe our military presence is contributing to a better Iraq – ‘ The War as We Saw It’ ( originally in NYT on 8/19, google search for copies) can be instructive.
It is incredibly sad that the misguided and incompetent actions of this Administration has squandered Iraqi and American lives, hundreds of billions of dollars and the good will of the world. We have taken a bad situation ( the status quo of Saddam’s Iraq under sanctions ) and made it worse by almost any objective measure. The fact that it was conflated with Christianity is something that will take decades to reverse.
Addressing this issue will require atonement and sacrifice, and a commitment to live and act differently.
– The war needs to be paid for by us, not our grandchilden. That means taxes.
– Iraqi reconstruction will need to wait until they have had their internal reckoning, but then we will need to be generous and work with any who will be able to build in that place, and that is likely to exclude most American contractors, given their track record so far.
– American diplomacy and power needs to be far more about promoting civil society and human dignity than ensuring American dominance. One good example would be a moratorium on aid that specifies American contractors/companies as the sole supplier or implementor. Another would be ensuring that if American forces are sent into battle somewhere, we have the planning and presence to be effective in the aftermath of the battle. In the case of Iraq, this would have required far more people, material, planning, diplomacy, and money, along with constant reality checks on our hubris – and an admission that we failed miserably in avoiding the conflict in the first place. Another good example might be setting foreign non-military aid to a sizeable portion of our defense budget as policy.
After reading the column and the postings – I agree with Rev. Wallis. Too much emphasis on a very narrow reading of American self-interest, not enough on the sacrificial nature of Christ’s love for all of us on this planet.



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Cathie Lowmiller

posted September 15, 2007 at 11:33 am


Why is the term “Christian warrior” name calling? If you are a supporter of war, why are you not proud of that? Why would you not want to be a “Christian warrior?”
And I though “neocon” and “neoconservative” were simply descriptive terms…like “liberal”?
Just wondering.



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John Rallison

posted September 15, 2007 at 12:01 pm


I want to clarify something I wrote earlier:
———
What if all the money and manpower used to rally to political causes was spent on public education? What if, instead of organizing the vote, Christians spent more time trying to be Christ to other people and make disciples?
———
When I said, “public education,” I did not mean public schools. I meant working toward deep education in being a follower of Christ in a free society.
Sojourners may see themselves as doing that, but that is not the impression I get lately. Same thing with the right. When the discussion centers on issues and how they relate to our faith… that is fantastic. As soon as voting guides are issued or any other means of organizing politically for power is undertaken, I begin to feel uneasy.
Here’s where I stand at the moment:
Christians belong in constant and deep discussion of what it means to be a citizen of a country where the leaders are elected by the people. Christians should seek to live out Christ to win other disciples. Christians should not organize for societal power.
Which really ends prostitution? A law against it or a heart won by Christ and a person empowered to make a living?
Which really end abortion? A law against abortion or a person who has come to see even unborn babies as God’s beautiful and beloved creatures and can’t believe they ever used to think of abortion as simply a tissue-ectomy?
I am not saying that the government does not have a legitimate use of force to restrain evil. And since we elect our own government, we all have some responsibility for what the government does.
But making laws and using the compulsory power of government is the low road and does not win hearts and minds. I would say it often builds walls.
The Jesus road is, in my opinion, to openly live out Jesus in your life, to continue to struggle and grow in what that means, to always be open to being wrong, to serve others, and to engage them in dialog praying that the Holy Spirit will convict them of their need and bring them to the foot of hte cross.
I’m still working this all out. I think I’d rather see a dialog drive than a voter drive. My prayer would be that the dialog drive lets more and more people vote with the heart of Jesus. But I would have to trust that to Jesus.



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Scott Starr

posted September 15, 2007 at 12:22 pm


Jon Rallison said this:
“The Jesus road is, in my opinion, to openly live out Jesus in your life, to continue to struggle and grow in what that means, to always be open to being wrong, to serve others, and to engage them in dialog praying that the Holy Spirit will convict them of their need and bring them to the foot of the cross.”
and this:
“I think I’d rather see a dialog drive than a voter drive. My prayer would be that the dialog drive lets more and more people vote with the heart of Jesus. But I would have to trust that to Jesus.”
John Rallison is of course on the money.



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Bruce

posted September 15, 2007 at 12:24 pm


“Take out all the non-Christians from that global population sample and among the people of God the opposition remains the same.”
I just opened this email on Sept. 15th and have not read the numerous comments so I may be repeating what someone has already said but I was most disturbed by the above quote.
I have been blessed by meeting or reading about many “people of God” who would not identify as “Christian”.
How will we ever achieve peace on earth if we insult our non-Christian brothers and sisters in this way?



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N.M. Rod

posted September 15, 2007 at 1:40 pm


We are not engaged militarily in the Middle East to establish democracy, but to secure the oilfields for reasons of national security, which includes having sufficient fuel to maintain the worldwide military presence as well as maintain the domestic conomic reliance on fuel most of which must be imported.
It was Jimmy Carter who first made US policy of military intervention in the MidEast a priority, by declaring the MidEast oilfields to be of strategic military importance.
In retrospect, at least he was more engaged in an active peace process, although we all got bit by the blowback from the earlier 1950s Iranian intervention where we overthrew the democratic government in favor of the Shah to protect our oil interests there, with the Iranian revolution and hostage situation just before the 1980 elections and for which Carter was blamed.
Just as Japan felt deprived when the US cut oil exports before World War II, upon which it depended, war is a strategic decision to protect economic and political hegemony in one’s areas of dominance as well as at home.
So when we discuss “Just War Theory,” the mindlessness of terrorism for which we seem to have no reason but that we are absolute good and those who oppose us absolute evil, let’s not forget that we continue to consume huge amounts of resources compared to all the other peoples we share the globe with.
There is not enough available to support those others in the same style as to which we have grown accustomed. Therefore, we will have to, and we are, using military might and economic pressure in order to continue to take from these other areas what we no longer have ourselves.
That this will be an “endless war” just as the administration has posited should be obvious.
However, for those supplying the materiel for the endless war, of which the current one is only the prelude according to current thinking, the profits are and will be great indeed.
I do agree that the troops are fighting for our way of life.



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Frank

posted September 15, 2007 at 1:43 pm


How does one, in the limitations of one’s individuality, come to know what is sublime, just? I think, Mr. Wallis, the reason people are inclined to see our existence through the lens of civil service and government, in place of religion or spirituality, is because we are taught that Democracy IS the place to live and worship. We are a secular society and that will always be. Perhaps the Global Church should accept more people like shamans in the day to day affairs of society.
Frank



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corazoncito75

posted September 15, 2007 at 2:29 pm


One thing that has become particularly disturbing lately is the growing nationalistic fervor that seems to be taking over many parts of the country. While I would be careful to liken such phenomenon to the same nationalism of Germany, Italy, or Spain prior to WW II (or elsewhere for that matter), one does find it a bit difficult these days to ask where are we headed in this country, and this goes far beyond the Iraq issue. I am no historical expert but I’ve observed over time that the development of nationalistic extremism starts with patrotism, which develops into pride, then turns into nationalism. I don’t think this is always the case but I am starting to worry that perhaps the same momentum is manifesting itself here in the US. I find that the actions of various groups in the U.S. continue to alienate the country from the rest of the world, which will take years to repair once some kind of ideological equilibrium, devoid of any extremism, is reached.
Coming to an appropriate point that Wallis mentioned about traveling, I think that many in this country would be best served by traveling abroad. The experience can be quite humbling, and it can provide a perspective from which to learn. Perhaps in this way the ego-driven and often ethnocentric rhetoric that seems to be increasing, might move in the opposite direction. This, I already know, is wishful thinking, but sometimes it is good to be hopeful.
cheers.



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corazoncito75

posted September 15, 2007 at 2:39 pm


N.M. Rod’s post 9/15/07 sums it up nicely. I like the inclusion of the notion of blowback and how it is figuring heavily into much of what is going on right now. Possible suggested reading on the topic: 1. Blowback : the costs and consequences of American empire 2. Nemesis : the last days of the American Republic – both by Chalmers Johnson
Salient commentary.
cheers.



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Scott starr

posted September 15, 2007 at 2:52 pm


As noted by corazoncito75:
Chalmers Johnson’s commentary is valuable. In my view his book the sorrows of Empire is the best of the trilogy and very applicable to the subject at hand.
See clips of Mr. Johnson on Youtube. He also is a contributor in the movie “Why We Fight” by Robert Greenwald.
Clips of this movie are also widely available.



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Frank

posted September 15, 2007 at 3:01 pm


Or, one might take a look at the same concept dealing with extravegance and war by viewing a film called, “What the Bleep Do We Know.” The perfect science manual/motif for the history/religion nut.
cheers



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Rev. Ian Alterman

posted September 15, 2007 at 3:06 pm


In response to my post, Anonymous said: “I am afraid, Rev. Alterman, that you do not harbor peace towards your fellow Christians who are not in step with you politically.”
You may misunderstand: I may be in strong disagreement with most conservative Christians, but that does not mean I am not at peace with them or that I do not wish them peace. I have many conservative Christian friends, and engage in ongoing discussion and debate both with them and others. But at the end of the day, we agree to disagree, and wish each other “peace” in a spiritually honest way.
You add, “This claim that conservative Christians are more reliant on the OT than the NT…is a really odd claim, and one that demands some sort of example.”
My examples are taken from what I see, hear and read, particularly in the U.S. Virtually every time I see or read about the Christian Right or the conservative evangelical community and their positions on a certain issues, they invariably invoke and/or quote the OT and NOT the NT to support those positions, whether it is abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage, stem cell research, etc. This has been true for quite some time, and continues to be true. For examples, simply surf the Web for articles in which the Christian Right or conservative evangelical community opine on their core issues.
You add, “Rev., is it possible for Christians to be simultaneously loyal and obedient to Christ, but in a state of disagreement on how to interpret his words? If you are implying that this is not possible, then I fear we are treading down a well-worn and dogmatic path of someone being saved by their correct dogma and theology and not being saved DESPITE of themselves and because of God’s grace.”
Re Christ’s words, that depends entirely on the context in which His words were spoken (or actions taken). Scripture comes primarily (though not exclusively) in three forms: literal (i.e., black and white; means exactly what it says), interpretive (could mean more than one thing, but usually mot more than two, or possibly three) and allegorical (could mean many things, but is almost certainly not literal).
Scripture must always be read in context (i.e., what comes before the cite or passage, and what follows it); doing otherwise leads to the type of error engaged in by much of the Christian Right, who more often than not take Scripture OUT of context in order to support their positions. As well, Scripture must be compared WITH Scripture in order to make sure that legitimate “modifications” have not been made over time (e.g., Jesus “re-interpreting” some of the Ten Commandments in Matthew 5:21-37, and other laws in Matthew 5:38-48).
In these regards, I would agree that it is possible – in certain cases – to be “loyal and obedient” to Christ, but disagree about the exact meaning of His words (or actions). But this is not true in every case (or perhaps even most cases). Many of His words and actions – taken in context, and checked against other Scripture – are “black and white,” and do not leave room for interpretation. Yes, that may sound “dogmatic,” but SOME Scripture IS – and must be – dogmatic in order for Judeo-Christianity to function as a living, breathing faith.
That said, I was not addressing the issue of salvation, which you and others have made many solid and correct comments about. Salvation is through a combination of “faith” (first) and “works” of faith and charity (i.e., selflessness). Faith allows for “grace,” which is a gift we do not deserve and cannot merit or earn. Simply put, you are correct that one can get too caught up in dogma and “miss the boat” re salvation. If I have suggested otherwise, I consider myself properly chastised.
“It would be interesting to compare the sermons and scripture readings of your type of Christian (the ones who interpret Jesus the way you do) with those who don’t. I suggest we start with the scripture of the day for this website. What is the ratio of OT to NT verses being cited with “poor” or “justice” in the verse?”
Rather than do this, let me concede that there may well be (indeed, MUST be, given its length) more verses about poverty, justice etc. in the OT than the NT, and thus more to cite in those regards. However, as noted earlier, as “Christ-ians,” it behooves us to consider Christ’s words and actions on ANY issue FIRST AND FOREMOST, and rely on the apostles, the remainder of the NT, and the OT as “secondary” support. Don’t forget: Jesus knew the OT as well or better than the temple priests, scribes and others. Thus, His “interpretations” of OT law, etc. MUST be considered “superior” to – i.e., proper and appropriate modifications of – the original.
Ultimately, when I end each of my posts (and, indeed, everything I have written for over 20 years) with the word “peace,” it is meant honestly and humbly in every one of its many contexts: peace as opposed to war, peace as an active lifestyle, and spiritual peace to all.
Peace.



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JCinSunnyLA

posted September 15, 2007 at 3:23 pm


The Apostle Paul wrote: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12
Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.”
The meaning of “jihad” is struggle. Moderate Muslims understand that struggle to be within themselves. Some of our judgmental, holier-than-thou “Born Again Christians” who often quote the Old Testament to reinterpret the Gospel of Christ could learn a thing or two if they will heed the words of the One they claim as their “personal” Savior and turn their attention to their own faults instead of the faults of others.
The following is an essay that I posted elsewhere on this site. It bears repeating here.
It’s a Shadow World
Someone (a philosopher whose name escapes me) once said, “I think, therefore I am.”
How profound it must sound to the tune of “Que Sera, Sera”. But let’s get real, shall we?
We are rapidly approaching the virtual reality of electronic materiality—the day when a computer can tell the rest of the world whether we are here, there or anywhere at all; and whether we ever were, for that matter. How surreal it must feel to wonder not just whether your life mattered in the grand scheme of things both real and imagined, but whether it ever could have happened at all. Of course, this is pretty much on the level of string theory, alternate universes and time paradoxes.
Logically, if you never existed as far as this world is concerned, you cannot exist at all without God’s Holy Will. And it is God’s Will that we not ignore the signs of the times. Unfortunately, many people see the signs and do not understand what they may portend. Even with the anointing of God’s Holy Spirit, no one can ever “know it all”—for God did not always reveal His purpose in sending His prophets hither and thither. Then again, prophets were never anointed to know it all, but to tell what they knew to be true—what they knew to be right and just and pure in the sight of God Almighty. Any specifics pertaining to a particular person, place, thing or event were strictly on a “need to know” basis. And true prophets of God have had a tendency to be right in the end—whatever the short-term trend.
You cannot find what you most definitely are not looking for, and too many people are looking for the wrong things in the wrong places—in this life now and for the life in the hereafter. The truth of the matter is that too many people are no longer interested in inconvenient truths of the matter. They forget what really matters most to the Lord of Hosts. Consequently, they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear. Much to their surprise, they will never find the reward they believe they have already attained.
Oh, but you may say that things are changing, and everything will be better now. There is an old saying (actually two) that “the more things change, the more they stay the same” and “the rich get richer while the poor get poorer”. Jesus Christ Himself said that the poor would always be with us. This was a statement of fact, not judgement. He did not come before to judge us, but to save us.
The next time He will come in the Full Power and Glory secured in His Victory over Death and His Resurrection to Life Everlasting—and then He will be our Judge and Advocate. He could not have done it on His own; He had to follow the Will of His Father. He had to ask for the strength to carry on, and He resisted any temptation to “carry on” in the usual way of this “worldly” world. Oh, but you say, “He was the Son of God. It was easy for Him because He was perfect.” Easy or not (and I doubt that God would make something so important “easy”), the fact remains that Jesus is the only One who could have done what He did for all of us.
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Certainly, one must know Christ to be saved in this life. But many that profess to know Him merely know His name and His claim to fame. They are far apart from His Holy Heart and the Way, the Truth and the Life. Let it all go, and then you will know why the sky is blue when the light shines through while clouds are gray on a rainy day.
Someone once said (and I really should know who it was): “I think, therefore I am.”
(Actually, I know it was Rene Descartes. I just couldn’t recall it at the time I wrote this in September of 2005.)



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elsa

posted September 15, 2007 at 5:36 pm


Wallis wrote the question:
“So if the international body of Christ generally doesn’t support America’s war in Iraq, or U.S. foreign policy generally, what do some American Christians know that the rest of the global Christian community doesn’t?
Answer: How to rely on their brains and rational thought to manage critical issues and defend their nation, which in doing so, defends human rights at home and abroad.
The left still can’t seem to come to terms with that truth.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 15, 2007 at 6:11 pm


But I guess you still didn’t deal with the heart of the question which is not satisfied with people on the right did it so it is ok if people on the left do. Doesn’t anyone see the incredible authority and power behind Wallis’ claims that if you don’t do as I say with Iraq, “social Justice”, etc. then you are not being faithful to God’s “politics”?
The right will never be satisfied for the simple reason that anyone who issues a strong opinion against a position it holds is in its view by definition heterodox, so you have to take Wallis’ words in that context. See, it’s not really about him per se — much of the right has for years ignored true Christian witness for social, political and cultural authority, and that to me is heterodox. In other words, the right just doesn’t want to admit that it’s ever just plain wrong, which is why it goes after him so hard. This time, however, he’s been hitting back, and I think he’s justified in doing so because at this point it’s not Wallis that needs to lower the temperature; it’s the right.
I’ve lately been reading a lot of literature about prophecy, and the prophetic is rarely appreciated its day and time — in fact, it is usually hated because it throws light on dark places that folks prefer to keep hidden.



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Scott Starr

posted September 15, 2007 at 6:37 pm


I was recently cruising around on Youtube and did a search for Chris Hedges. I had just read his book “War is a Force Theat Gives Us Meaning”, which I found to be at once so powerful, moving and disillusioning that it actually sent me into a bit of a funk when I realized how deep and wide the crisis is that has been created in the body of Christ by the right wing political movement.
I want to state right up fron that I do not consider myself as a leftist or liberal whatsoever. The leftist movement has its own problems. However, I am horrified by the damage that has been wrought by the right wing “pseudo- Christians”.
On Youtube, I found a clip of Chris hedges delivering a speech based on his latest book “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America”. In his speech hedges made the following statement:
“The Christian right has no religious legitimacy. It is a mass political movement. It ignores the core values of the Christian religion, summed up by Jesus in the sermon on the mount, and the core values of American democracy. They are not biblical literalists as they claim- but selective literalists choosing bits and pieces of the Bible that conform to their ideology and bigotry and ignoring, distorting or making up the rest.”
I found this statement to be as on the money as it was searing. Hedges, a graduate of the Harvard School of Theology and the son of a Presbyterian minister, went on with his searing indictments of the Christian right and explained how their theology and preaching relies heavily upon interpretations of the book of Revelation and all but ignores the Beatitudes. I understand this to be a generalization… however, I see and converse with people from this political movement EVERYDAY at my workplace and find his assertions to be alarmingly true.
Hank Haanegraaf (“The Bible Answer Man”) has a book out right now, The Apocalypse Code: Find Out What the Bible REALLY Says About the End Times and Why It Matters Today, where he deals with this reliance on echatology and Revelation by the Christian right, aka dispensationalists and/or Christian Zionists. He delivers a full on thorough scriptural analysis and dismantling of the precepts of this political movement. I reccomend the Hedges books and the Haanegraaf book highly. The “Church” is due for a new reformation as Mr. Wallis and company have stated. However, we must not become like those whom we disagree and/or oppose in the process.
visit me at Geotheology.



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Sarasotakid

posted September 15, 2007 at 6:55 pm


So Sarasotakid, where exactly in the Didache were soliders prohibited from active membership in the early church? You might want to tone down your sarcasm when you all you can offer alongside it is a mistaken claim. Kevin S.
You know, Kevin, I can’t find it. I read an article about two years ago that had stated this about the Didache. I cannot confirm that it is there or not. But where you and I differ is that I am big enough to admit that I was possibly wrong. You have never once admitted you were wrong- not because you were not wrong- merely because you are snotty and conceited.
For your reading pleasure I have found some nice quotes from early church authorities about military service. I know that they won’t really matter to you since you are more committed to empire than to Christ but here they are nevertheless (courtesy of http://www.harmlessasdoves.com/earlychurch.html):
Ignatius (approx. A.D. 110)
“Do not avenge yourself on those who injure you… let us imitate the Lord, who when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he was crucified, he answered not; when he suffered, he threatened not; but prayed for his enemies.”
“Nothing is better than peace, by which all war of those in heaven and those on earth is abolished.”
Hippolytus (approx. A.D. 200)
“The soldier of the government must be taught not to kill men. If ordered to, he shall not carry out the order, nor shall he take the military oath. If he does not accept this, he must be rejected for baptism. A military commander or civic magistrate must resign or be rejected. The believers who wish to become soldiers shall be cast out, because they have despised God.”
Tertullian (wrote between A.D. 195-212)
“I owe no duty to forum, campaign, or senate. I stay awake for no public function. I make no effort to occupy a platform. I am no office seeker. I have no desire to smell out political corruption. I shun the voter’s booth, the juryman’s bench. I break no laws and push no lawsuits; I will not serve as a magistrate or judge. I refuse to do military service. I desire to rule over no one – I have withdrawn from worldly politics! Now my only politics is spiritual – how that I might be anxious for nothing except to root out all worldly anxieties and care.”
“Inquiry is made whether a believer is able to turn himself into military service… But how will a Christian wage war, indeed how will he serve even in peace without a sword, which the Lord has taken away? …The Lord in disarming Peter, unbelted every soldier.”
“What will be God’s if all things are Caesar’s?”
“All zeal in the pursuit of glory and honor is dead in us. So we have no pressing inducement to take part in your public meetings. Nor is there anything more entirely foreign to us than the affairs of state. We acknowledge one all-embracing commonwealth – the world. We renounce all your spectacles.”
“For what difference is there between provoker and provoked? The only difference is that the former was the first to do evil, but the latter did evil afterwards. Each one stands condemned in the eyes of the Lord for hurting a man. For God both prohibits and condemns every wickedness. In evil doing, there is no account taken of the order… the commandment is absolute: evil is not to be repaid with evil.”
“As for you, you are a foreigner in this world, a citizen of Jerusalem, the city above. Our citizenship, the apostle says, is in heaven.”
“Shall it be held lawful to make an occupation of the sword when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword? And shall the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law? Shall he who is not to avenge his own wrongs be instrumental in bringing others into chains, imprisonment, torment, death?”
“The Lord will save them in that day – even His people – like sheep… No one gives the name of ‘sheep’ to those who fall in battle with arms in hand, or those who are killed when repelling force with force. Rather, it is given only to those who are slain, yielding themselves up in their own place of duty and with patience – rather than fighting in self-defense.”
Julian
“I am a Christian, and therefore I cannot fight.”
Origen (approx. A.D. 250)
“What if the law of nature – that is, the law of God – commands what is opposed to the written law? Does not reason tell us to bid a long farewell to the written code… and to give ourselves up to the Legislator, God. This is so even if in doing so it may be necessary to encounter dangers, countless labors, and even death and dishonor.”
“It is not for the purpose of escaping public duties that Christians decline public offices, but that they may reserve themselves for a divine and more necessary service in the church of God for the salvation of men.”
“How was it possible for the Gospel doctrine of peace, which doesn’t permit men to take vengeance even on their enemies, to prevail throughout the earth, unless at the coming of Jesus a milder spirit had been introduced into the order of things?”
“Our prayers defeat all demons who stir up war. Those demons also lead persons to violate their oaths and to disturb the peace. Accordingly, in this way, we are much more helpful to the kings than those who go into the field to fight for them. And we do take our part in public affairs when we join self-denying exercises to our righteous prayers and meditations, which teach us to despise pleasures and not to be led away from them. So none fight better for the king than we do. Indeed, we do not fight under him even if he demands it. Yet, we fight on his behalf, forming a special army – an army of godliness – by offering our prayers to God.”
“We have come in accordance with the counsels of Jesus to cut down our warlike and arrogant swords of argument into ploughshares, and we convert into sickles the spears we formerly used in fighting. For we no longer take sword against nation, nor do we learn any more to make war, having become sons of peace for the sake of Jesus, who is our leader.”
“If all the Romans were to be converted they will by praying overcome their enemies – or rather they will not make war at all, being guarded by the Divine power, which promised to save five whole cities for the sake of fifty righteous men.”
Athenagoras (approx. A.D. 180)
“We have learned not only not to return blow for blow, nor to go to law with those who plunder and rob us, but to those who smite us on the one side of the face to offer the other side also, and to those who take away our coat to give likewise our cloak.”
“We cannot endure even to see a man put to death, though justly.”
Testament of Our Lord (approx. A.D. 220)
“If a soldier or one in authority wishes to be baptized in the Lord, let them cease from military service or from the post of authority. And if not, let them not be received.”
Lactantius (early 4th century)
“It can never be lawful for a righteous man to go to war, whose warfare is in righteousness itself.”
“When God prohibits killing, he not only forbids us to commit brigandage, which is not allowed even by the public laws, but he warns us not to do even those things which are legal among men. And so it will not be lawful for a just man to serve as a soldier – for justice itself is his military service – nor to accuse anyone of a capital offense, because it makes no difference whether thou kill with a sword or with a word, since killing itself is forbidden. And so, in this commandment of God, no exception at all ought to be made to the rule that it is always wrong to kill a man, whom God has wished to be regarded as a sacrosanct creature.”
“When we suffer such ungodly things, we do not resist even in word. Rather, we leave vengeance to God.”
“The Christian does injury to no one. He does not desire the property of others. In fact, he does not even defend his own property if it is taken from him by violence. For he knows how to patiently bear an injury inflicted upon him.”
“When God forbids us to kill, he not only prohibits us from open violence… but he warns us against the commission of those things which are esteemed lawful among men. Thus it will be neither lawful for a just man to engage in warfare… Therefore, with regard to this precept of God, there ought to be no exception at all; but that it is always unlawful to put to death a man, whom God willed to be a sacred animal.”
“We do not resist those who injure us, for we must yield to them.”
“When men command us to act in opposition to the law of God, and in opposition to justice, we should not be deterred by any threats or punishments that come upon us. For we prefer the commandments of God to the commandments of man.”
“Someone will say here: ‘What therefore, or where, or of what sort is piety?’ Assuredly it is among those who are ignorant of war, who keep concord with all, who are friends even to their enemies, who love all men as their brothers, who know how to restrain their anger, and to soothe all madness of mind by quiet control.”
“God might have bestowed upon his people both riches and kingdoms, as he had given previously to the Jews, whose successors and posterity we are. However, he would have Christians live under the power and government of others, lest they should become corrupted by the happiness and prosperity, slide into luxury, and eventually despise the commandments of God. For this is what our ancestors did.”
“Why should the just man wage war, and mix himself up in other people’s passions – he in whose mind dwells perpetual peace with men?”
Clement of Alexandria (approx. A.D. 195)
“Christians are not allowed to use violence to correct the delinquencies of sins.”
“Man is in reality a pacific instrument.”
“The followers of peace use none of the implements of war.”
“We have made use of only one instrument, the peaceful word, with which we do honor to God.”
“We are being educated, not in war, but in peace.”
“We are the race given over to peace.”
“[Christians] are an army without weapons, without war, without bloodshed, without anger, without defilement.”
Tarachus (3rd century)
“I have led a military life, and am a Roman; and because I am a Christian I have abandoned my profession of a soldier.”
Marcellus (approx. A.D. 298)
“I threw down my arms for it was not seemly that a Christian man, who renders military service to the Lord Christ, should render it by earthly injuries.”
“It is not lawful for a Christian to bear arms for any earthly consideration.”
Irenaeus (approx. A.D. 180)
“Christians have changed their swords and their lances into instruments of peace, and they know not now how to fight.”
Justin Martyr (approx. A.D. 138)
“The devil is the author of all war.”
“We, who used to kill one another, do not make war on our enemies. We refuse to tell lies or deceive our inquisitors; we prefer to die acknowledging Christ.”
“We who had been filled with war and mutual slaughter and every wickedness, have each one – all the world over – changed the instruments of war, the swords into ploughs and the spears into farming instruments, and we cultivate piety, righteousness, love for men, faith, and the hope which is from the Father Himself through the Crucified One.”
“We who hated and slew one another, and because of differences in customs would not share a common hearth with those who were not of our tribe, now, after the appearance of Christ, have become sociable, and pray for our enemies, and try to persuade those who hate us unjustly, in order that they, living according to the good suggestions of Christ, may share our hope of obtaining the same reward from the God who is Master of all.”
“As to loving all men, he has taught as follows: ‘If ye love only those who love you, what new thing do ye do? For even fornicators do this. But I say to you: Pray for your enemies and love those who hate you and bless those who curse you and pray for those who act spitefully towards you.’ … And as to putting up with evil and being serviceable to all and without anger, this is what he says: ‘to him that smiteth thy cheek, offer the other cheek as well, and do not stop the man that takes away thy tunic or thy cloak. But whoever is angry is liable to the fire. Every one who impresses thee to go a mile, follow for two. Let your good works shine before men, that seeing them they may worship your Father in heaven.’”
The Martyrdom of Maximilian (A.D. 295)
Maximilian, a young Numidian, was brought before an African proconsul named Dion in A.D. 295 for induction into the army. Maximilian refused to join, stating: “I cannot serve as a soldier; I cannot do evil; I am a Christian.” Dion threatened Maximilian, stating: “Get into the service, or it will cost you your life.” With courage, Maximilian did not yield to the threat of death: “I shall not perish, but when I have forsaken this world, my soul shall live with Christ my Lord.” Later he refused the royal badge that had the sign of the emperor on it, saying, “I do not accept your mark, for I already have the sign of Christ, my God… I do not accept the mark of this age, and if you impose it on me, I shall break it, for it is worth nothing.” The outcome was that on March 12, 295, Maximilian was executed. Maximilian’s father returned home, “giving thanks to God that he had been able to bring such a present to the Lord.” Later, as a special honor, his body was brought to Carthage and buried near the tomb of Cyprian, a great leader in the church, who had also died as a martyr.
Commodianus
“Make thyself a peace-maker to all men.”
Cyprian (approx. A.D. 250)
“[Christians] are not allowed to kill, but they must be ready to be put to death themselves… it is not permitted the guiltless to put even the guilty to death.”
“God wished iron to be used for the cultivation of the earth, and therefore it should not be used to take human life.”
“The whole earth is drenched in adversaries’ blood, and if a murder is committed privately it is a crime, but if it happens with state authority, courage is the name for it. Impunity is claimed for the wicked deeds, not on the plea that they are guiltless, but because cruelty is perpetrated on a grand scale.”
“We should ever and a day reflect that we have renounced the world and are in the meantime living here as guests and strangers.”
Hermas (approx. A.D. 150)
“You know that you who are the servants of God dwell in a strange land. For your city is far away from this one. If, then, you know your city in which you are to dwell, why do you here provide lands, and make expensive preparations, and accumulate dwellings and useless buildings? He who makes such preparations for this city cannot return again to his own… Do you not understand that all these things belong to another, and are under the power of another? …Take note, therefore. As one living in a foreign land, make no further preparations for yourself except what is merely sufficient. And be ready to leave this city, when the master of this city comes to cast you out for disobeying his law.”
Arnobius (approx. A.D. 310)
“If all without exception . . . would lend an ear for a little to Christ’s salutary and peaceful rules… the whole world, having turned the use of steel into more peaceful occupations, would now be living in the most placid tranquility, and would unite in blessed harmony, maintaining inviolate the sanctity of treaties.”
“Since we – so large a force of men – have received from Christ’s teachings and laws, that evil ought not to be repaid with evil, that it is better to endure a wrong than to inflict one, to shed one’s own blood rather than stain one’s hands and conscience with the blood of another, the ungrateful world has long been receiving a benefit from Christ, through whom the madness of savagery has been softened, and has begun to withhold its hostile hands from the blood of a kindred creature. But if absolutely all who understand that they are men by virtue, not of the form of their bodies, but of the power of their reason, were willing to lend an ear for a little while to his healthful and peaceful decrees, and would not, swollen with pride and arrogance, trust to their own senses rather than to his warnings, the whole world would long ago have turned the uses of iron to milder works and be living in the softest tranquility, and would have come together in healthy concord without breaking the sanctions of treaties.”
“Did Christ, claiming royal power for himself, occupy the whole world with fierce legions, and, of nations at peace from the beginning, destroy and remove some, and compel others to put their necks beneath his yoke and obey him?”
Ambrose
“The soldiers of Christ require neither arms nor spears of iron.”
“The servants of God do not rely for their protection on material defenses but on the divine Providence.”
Tatian (approx. A.D. 160)
“I do not wish to be a king. I am not anxious to be rich. I decline military command. I detest fornication. I am not impelled by an insatiable love of financial gain to go to sea. I do not contend for chaplets. I am free from a mad thirst for fame. I despise death… Die to the world, repudiating the madness that is in it! Live to God!”



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John Rallison

posted September 15, 2007 at 7:51 pm


Sarasotakid,
Those are great quotes. My soul is refreshed by actual research.
That being said, I am still left wondering why Jesus didn’t tell the soldier to find another occupation:
Luke 3:14 (NRSV)
Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”
You could argue that soldiers in Jesus’ day functioned as policemen as well, and that Jesus was really addressing that function rather than the war-making function. But you’d have to make that argument.
I also recognize that “Jesus didn’t say” is an argument from silence. But, in this case, the silence seems pretty strong. It seems that Jesus was implicitly not condemning the soldiering profession when he counseled the soldier to be content with their pay.
– Hideous John



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Scott Starr

posted September 15, 2007 at 8:37 pm


See this link:
http://www.zoegroup.org/filter.asp?SID=2&fi_key=138&co_key=995
I would enjoy a full on, put-it-all-on-the-table discussion of the subject of just warfare. Tact will be everything when debating this among Christian brothers. In the articles in the link there are some great points. I was particularly taken by the last article of the four where Camp says:
“…Thus any argument for Christian non-violence must always embody the utmost love for those who articulate a divergent viewpoint; if so-called “pacifists” speak in such a way that they only foster enmity, then they have failed from the start.”
and also:
“So any dialog between “Pacifists” and the “Just War Tradition” (JWT) ought to begin with what these two viewpoints held in common. At the theoretical level, there are fundamental differences between the two, but a great deal of pragmatic agreement also exists between them. For example, the JWT proclaims that vengeance is an illegitimate intention for warfare, and that the means of warfare must be sharply limited. (For example, nuclear warfare, or economic sanctions that result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, are immoral according to the JWT, because these practices do not respect the “immunity of the innocent.”) If taken seriously, the JWT will often lead Christians to refuse to fight in particular wars.
All such objections flow not from “Pacifism” but from the JWT. For all of these things, the Pacifist ought to deeply respect the Christian Just Warrior. However, the fact that, historically, few JWT adherents make the kind of moral judgments required by their tradition indicates that a great number of Christians are not, actually, adherents to the JWT; instead, many Christians turn out to be nationalists, who arrogantly profess, “it’s my country, right or wrong.” To say “if you don’t love it, leave it”—this is acceptable rhetoric for neither the Just Warrior nor the Pacifist. And so the Pacifist encourages the Just Warrior to have the courage of his convictions, and speak boldly to such concerns.”
Anyhow, you can read the articles for yourself.



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Scott Starr

posted September 15, 2007 at 8:42 pm


Concerning the separation of church and state and the “clash of civilizations” and the Just War Tradition.
Matthew 4:8-10
8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Begone Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD, YOUR GOD, AND HIM ONLY YOU SHALL SERVE’”
Do Not Love the World
__________________________
1st John 2:15-17
15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
The Church and the State (or nation-states) are in many ways incompatible. States are part of the world and its value systems and the Church’s business is none other than to be the CHURCH…not to run the world….not to assist God in directing human history. The Church and “civilization” (the World) are (or are supposed to be) two separate entities. Human(istic) civilization and the Kingdom of God are not synonymous.
On Romans 13 which is popularly taken out of context with Romans 12 and the rest of the Bible is understood by Christians in different ways. As noted in the study helps of my life application study Bible:
“All Christians agree that we are to live at peace with the state as long as the state allows us to live by our religious convictions. For hundreds of years, however, there have been at least three interpretations of how we are to do this:
(1) Some Christians believe that the state is so corrupt that Christians should have as little to do with it as possible. Although they should be good citizens as long as they can do so without compromising their beliefs, they should not work for the government, vote in elections, or serve in the military.
(2) Others believe that God has given the state authority in certain areas and the church authority in others. Christians can be loyal to both and can work for either. They should not, however, confuse the two. In this view, church and state are concerned with two totally different spheres–the spiritual and the physical–and thus complement each other but do not work together.
(3) Still others believe that Christians have a responsibility to make the state better. They can do this politically, by electing Christian or other high-principled leaders. They can also do this morally, by serving as an influence for good in society. In this view, church and state ideally work together for the good of all.
None of these views advocate rebelling against or refusing to obey the government’s laws or regulations unless those laws clearly require you to violate the moral standards revealed by God. Wherever we find ourselves, we must be responsible citizens, as well as responsible Christians.”
For a clearer understanding of what Romans 13 actually means- read the book of Habbakuk and notice how God “orders” nation-states. It will give you a a clearer than ever view of how God “orders” nations and punishes them…yet the wickedness in the world is not authored by God or from his will…it is from our own freewill, pride and selfishness that brings about the consequences …God just permits and sometimes punishes.
Habbakuk will help you understand how on the one hand we are to not love the world or anything in it…and at the same time be at peace with the way God is handling human history…and trust him that even if the wicked prosper now…they will not escape justice….all we have to do is TRUST and leave vengeance to him…and stand for Truth and right….fully prepared to pay the cost even unto death… A nation that rises to power does not necessarily have God’s approval
It is popular right now to refer to the conflicts in the Middle East as clashes between “Christian Civilization” and “Islamic Civilization” which is simply in error. “Christian Civilization” is rightly labeled as a myth- especially since the death and ressurrection and redemptive work of Christ.
To paraphrase at length Dr. Lee Camp, author of “Mere Discipleship” which I simply insist you must read:
The Constantinian cataract, the viewing of the world through the lens of the unscriptural and ill advised blending of church and empire, distorts our vision so that we believe the power brokers, the emperors, and the mighty that use force to control human history. Believing that WE must make “things turn out right”, we seek to get hold of such power for the purposes of the “good” and the “right” and even God. In “Christendom”, the unscriptural and ill advised blending of church and empire, we try to employ the methods of the rebellious principalities and powers to defeat them at their own game.
However, one thing that all Scriptures make very clear is that: the principalities and powers of this world, the kings and princes and queens and presidents- they do not run the world, though they assume so. It is not nation-states that run the world or determine the real meaning and purpose of history, but God. It is not the power structures of the World or the nation-states that after all do not follow the edicts of Christ- but the faithful people of God who are most important on the stage of history. It is not those with wordly might, but the obedient, despised minority whom God chooses to be a light to the nations. We will not “make a difference in the real world” by trying to beat the powers at their own game; we will not “make a positive contribution to culture” or “exercise responsibility” by playing games on the principalities’ terms. Instead we, as Christians, are called to be a people walking in faithful discipleship to the Way of Christ, and thereby to be the salt and light the rebellious world so desperately needs. It is not through the might of nations that you are to be a light- but through being the faithful people of God and living by example.
I believe that this speaks directly to this quote from an article I recently read elsewhere concerning the “clash of civilizations” thesis concerning the conflicts in the Middle East:
“For a religion to serve as the basis of a culture, it must seek to preserve peace but also be willing to use force. All major religions tend toward this mean.”
When the Church insists upon adjusting itself to the ways of the World, the “church” itself may end up being the greatest threat to Christian faith- because it ends up offering a substitute for the Gospel. When the “church” presents to the world a second rate counterfeit, rather than the real thing, the original gets discredited. By playing at “religion”, rather than walking in adherence to the Way of Christ, the Church becomes its own worst enemy.
In other words, a “cultural Christianity”, in which many people ascribe to the “Christian Faith”, but few walk in true discipleship, SHOWING the world what God created the world to be- this is APOSTASY. Apostasy then will not come about by everyone openly renouncing Christianity- but by many people assuming the name “Christian” without being doers, and followers of Christ’s teachings- by being admirers of Christ, but not true disciples.
The Church is often referred to as the BODY of Christ- which points us to what the identity of the Church is intended to be. The Church is called to be no less than a community that continues to incarnate (to embody) the will of God. The Church is then, much more than just doing religion or government right. Being the Church means embodying God’s intentions for the world as revealed in Christ. Church is not about showing the world how to be “religious”- but SHOWING the World how it is supposed to be a world that reflects the intentions of its Creator. In juxtaposition to the Creator’s design, the World schools us in self- preservation, self- maximization and self- realization; the World trains us to live and die, kill and wage war for the “free market economy”, “our way of life”, “freedom”, “democracy” and/or lifestyle. But, imagine the radical implications of a community, a Church, that refuses to bow to such systematic indoctrination in self-preservation and instead internalizes the knowledge that these are things that are of the old order, the stoichea, the powers, works of the flesh that have been defeated with Christs crucifixion and are even now passing away.
The problem then of human conflict is not rooted in religious legalism or law but in the reality of slavery to sin, a lingering submission to the power of evil that is simultaneously personal and social, individual and communal….lust, greed, selfishness and fear of death…all things that true Disciples of Christ are LIBERATED from the bondage of.
The relationship between democracy and Christianity does provide a helpful case study for the moral implications of worship. Christians can on one hand, be grateful for democratic orders. In fact, many of the practices of a democracy are analogous to practices of the Church….for example the right to free speech. Free speech, in a way, respects the practice in which all are allowed to share their insight and perspective. Similarly, the right of the free exercise of religion relates to the freedom entailed in the practice of adult believer baptism. Christians can rightly celebrate the respect shown to individuals in liberal democratic orders, especially over and against the tyranny of despotic regimes.
On the other hand, the Church cannot assume that democracy in the United States or elsewhere is an ultimate value to be preserved at all costs- because there are certain commitments in democratic political orders that stand at great odds with the directives of the Christian faith. For example, in 1990 political commentator George Will gave his approval to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that “freedom of religion” did not permit Native Americans to violate state law against the use of peyote in their religious services. Whether one believes that Native Americans or anyone else ought to use peyote in worship is unimportant here. Will’s central thesis- a forthrightly idolatrous claim- is of great concern…i.e. “A central purpose of Americas political arrangements is the subordination of religion to the political order, meaning the primacy of democracy.”
Will supports this thesis, which speaks directly to the precepts of the “founding fathers'” like Jefferson, by reciting standard mantras of classical, political liberalism: The Founding Fathers wanted to “Tame and domesticate the religious passions of the sort that convulsed Europe. How might such a goal be accomplished? By refusing to establish religion, of course, an instead establishing a commercial republic- a capitalism. They aimed to submerge people’s turbulent energies in self interested pursuit of material comforts.” Religion then, according to this interpretation of John Locke, is to be perfectly free as long as it is perfectly private- mere belief- but it must bend to the political will (law) as it regards conduct.” Thus the realm in which freedom of religion exists is restricted to thought, to belief, to the mind: “Jefferson held that “operations of the mind’ are not subject to legal coercion, but that acts of the body are. Mere belief, Jefferson says, in one god or twenty neither picks one’s pockets or breaks one’s legs.
Whether Will’s interpretation of the “founding fathers,” intentions is accurate or not, such an understanding of democracy is idolatrous. Discipleship is not rooted in mere belief- but in the ultimate authority of God and Christ. To claim that Christ is Lord indeed flies in the face of a constitutional theory that makes “religion” both private and subordinate. What this interpretation does afford us is an opportunity to question whether the Church in America has more often interpreted Christianity through the lens of Western political traditions, rather than interpreting those political traditions through the lens of a biblical worldview. Are we indeed to allow our political traditions to privatize and domesticate our “religious passions”?
Has our own pursuit of economic self interest led us to keep our “religion” in its own socially irrelevant sphere?
The gospel is not merely a “belief system”, giving mental assent to “sound doctrine” so that one might “go to Heaven”. The Gospel calls us to participate in the Kingdom of Heaven, to embody the will of God on Earth, empowered by the Holy spirit to do so. We have been called to participate in the new reign and social order proclaimed and made real by Jesus. This is no “religious passion” that we can domesticate through consumerism.
Simply put, faithfulness to the teaching of the Master is of first importance, everything else is supposed to find its place within the sphere of obedience to the Lord. However, such faithfulness is thought to be naive within the empire. In the empire we are encouraged to give consent to “whatever is necessary” for ‘the good guys” to win….whether it be clusterbombs, nuclear weapons, torture, or pre-emptive wars…to “uphold the good”…
Another fallacy in this “clash of civilizations” thesis we see now regarding the conflicts in the Middle East, is that those who have “professed” Christianity have been essentially innocent since the days of the crusades…and that most of the blame for the current “clash of civilizations” lies with Islam- see these quotes:
————————————————————————————————————————————–
“We have seen the roots of Islamic violence in the life and teachings of Mohammed. We have seen that world events have conspired to place Islam and Christianity in a conflict of civilizations that has stretched from the sixth to the twenty-first century.
What the future holds is unknown. What is known is that Islamic civilization has a strong tendency to violence that stretches back to the days of Mohammed and that has begun to flare up in resurgent terrorist and revolutionary movements.
The conflict with militant Islam may last a long time—centuries, potentially—since even if curing Muslim society of its violent tendencies is possible, it would involve ripping out or otherwise neutralizing a tendency that has dominated Muslim culture since the days of its founder.
This is not an easy task, for Muslims willing to make the change would be portrayed as traitors to their religion, amid renewed calls to practice Islam in its original, pure, and more violent form in order to regain the favor of God. The signs of the times suggest that we are, indeed, in for a “clash of civilizations” that will be neither brief nor bloodless.
But what also is known is that God has a plan for history and that his grace can work miracles. It is yet possible that—through one means or another—God will bring about a more peaceful world in which militant Islam either is not a threat or nowhere near the threat that it is today.
If this is to happen, our cooperation with God’s grace will require prayer, courage, resourcefulness, and a realistic understanding of the threat we are facing. Until then there can be no illusions about Islam and its endless jihad.”
_____________________________________________________________________________
Do not be deceived. The Pope’s recent words of truth concerning how violence is not pleasing to God apply also to so called “Christian civilization” as well as Islam. Both our scriptures and our history books depict the widespread prevalence of sin, injustice, abuse, and domination which are deeply woven into the social fabric of not only the world at large, but America throughout its entire narrative. Though the twentieth century began with waves of unbounded hope- the trust in “progress” soon gave way to disbelief and despair. Technology has allowed us to build bigger and better weapon systems to kill more people, industrialization allowed us to mass produce those weapons as well as the material trappings of the “market driven economy”; mass media allowed the propaganda- driven mobilization and indoctrination of entire populations to both use and defend that technology and industrialization in service of killing their enemies…in contravention of the biblical edict to love enemies and never return evil for evil because vengeance belongs to God.
Hitler’s anti-Semitic Holocaust remains an indescribable horror of our age. But, Paul reminded his Roman readers that they ought not judge others when they thereby condemn themselves: in response to the injustice of others, and in the name of utilitarianism, United States forces likewise decimated Japanese men, women and children in our firebombing of Tokyo and our nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki…We did likewise in Dresden and Hamburg Germany. In our Cold War wake and mindless rush toward mastery and domination we created a world where total destruction by nuclear conflagration is a constant and impending threat right up until this very moment. We napalmed children and innocent adults in Viet Nam to “make the world safe for democracy”. We have created a world in which MAD- mutually assured destruction- is no sci-fi acronym but stated government policy in response to any threatened attack or affront to our idol, democracy. We have held policies toward the Middle East for decades that oscillate between neglect and reactionary bombing… we have exploited the poor and pumped wealth and weaponry into the hands of tyrants and the men we now call enemies throughout the Mediterranean basin…including poison gas, bombs of every sort and all other sorts implements of death and destruction…We have backed Israel unfailingly even when they have also been outside of God’s plan for mankind. In the last decade, according to U.N. estimates, we have contributed to the deaths of at least half a million children in Iraq through sanctions and shock and awe tactics…before “Operation Iraqi Freedom” commenced….and then wax innocent and pious when we recieve blowback in the form of “terrorism”. “Terrorism” being noted as what one does with carbombs as opposed to laser guided bombs and televised “shock and awe” glory.
Someone will undoubtedly tag these assertions as “liberal-America- hating -blasphemy and pie- in -the-sky- touchy-feely- lovey-dovey- denial of realities…. an assertion that I will openly challenge. In the light of the sobering reality of ongoing rebellion to God’s purposes, Christians cannot naively assume that “niceness” will necessarily entail “niceness” in others. The political “realists” are quite right on that score: pacifism is naive if it assumes that it will bring about easy victory over one’s enemies. Christians must realize that walking in the Way of the Cross, may indeed lead to a cross. If you are “nice to people”, the possibility exists that one may be killed. The Way of the Cross is indeed a costly way of dealing with injustice, conflict, and rebellion against the ways of God. It is certainly NOT for the weak of heart. To be a disciple that follows in the non- violent- way- of- Christ that harbors no fear of death in the midst of a culture that thrives on fear and worships domination is no easy work… in the Middle East or the West.
BUT, it is not the true Disciples who naively believe they can cure the world of war. Very often, it is the purveyors of warfare and “peace through superior firepower” who exhibit a utopian trust in the power of violence! Thus, World War 1 was called “the war to end all wars”, wars are always characterized as good versus evil, and America’s most recent campaign has been too often suffused with the rhetoric of “ridding the world of evil,” of “getting rid of terror,” and other such utopian dreams. This is of course nonsense. War IS terror after all.
SOOO, Disciples of Christ, actual followers, refuse to fight wars not because they naively believe they will thus rid the world of war, instead we do not fight because the Kingdom of God HAS come, in which war is banished, in which it is possible to order our lives according to the justice, peace and assurance of the primacy of God.



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I resign

posted September 15, 2007 at 8:52 pm


I have learned from this blog and comments that George Bush and a few Christian crazies are aligned against the world. For war. Against peace. Mostly evil. Against good.
I am not sure where to go as an American citizen with my civic responsibilities. I guess we send George Bush back to Texas, disband the US military, resign from the exertion of US power, disband global structures of energy, communications, manufacturing, distribution, transportation, etc. Since the George Bush band is so small I guess we could all fit into the back pews of a few more Godly congregations.
All will be fixed.



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Sarasotakid

posted September 15, 2007 at 8:58 pm


Hey John.
You have concisely stated the issue. Do we surmise from Jesus’s silence that he condoned the soldier continuing in his vocation? There is one individual on this blog, whose name isn’t worth mentioning, who uses the silence on the part of Christ as a “silver bullet” (in his mind at least)to undermine the pacifist position. That same person accuses people who would dare take the words of Christ about turning the other cheek, etc. literally, as being “intellectually lazy.” His attitude, I believe, is pompous beyond measure. That person is also fully comfortable with the U.S. attack on Iraq.
I believe that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pacifist until he realized just how bad things had gotten and he then joind the underground armed resistance against Hitler and abandoned his previous pacifist position. That type of agonizing over the right thing to do is a process we all have to go through as Christians. Unfortunately there are less than honorable elements who regularly post here who have no qualms at the use of legal force and care precious little about the horrors it has caused. They place nationalism above Christianity. That, I believe, is dead wrong.



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Scott Starr

posted September 15, 2007 at 9:01 pm


Lee C. Camp has said elsewhere in articles:
“…Thus any argument for Christian non-violence must always embody the utmost love for those who articulate a divergent viewpoint; if so-called “pacifists” speak in such a way that they only foster enmity, then they have failed from the start.”
and also:
“So any dialog between “Pacifists” and the “Just War Tradition” (JWT) ought to begin with what these two viewpoints held in common. At the theoretical level, there are fundamental differences between the two, but a great deal of pragmatic agreement also exists between them. For example, the JWT proclaims that vengeance is an illegitimate intention for warfare, and that the means of warfare must be sharply limited. (For example, nuclear warfare, or economic sanctions that result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, are immoral according to the JWT, because these practices do not respect the “immunity of the innocent.”) If taken seriously, the JWT will often lead Christians to refuse to fight in particular wars.
All such objections flow not from “Pacifism” but from the JWT. For all of these things, the Pacifist ought to deeply respect the Christian Just Warrior. However, the fact that, historically, few JWT adherents make the kind of moral judgments required by their tradition indicates that a great number of Christians are not, actually, adherents to the JWT; instead, many Christians turn out to be nationalists, who arrogantly profess, “it’s my country, right or wrong.” To say “if you don’t love it, leave it”—this is acceptable rhetoric for neither the Just Warrior nor the Pacifist. And so the Pacifist encourages the Just Warrior to have the courage of his convictions, and speak boldly to such concerns.”



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Scott starr

posted September 15, 2007 at 9:07 pm


Dear “I Resign”,
A Church pew would be a good place to start for you.



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Not Kevin S.

posted September 15, 2007 at 9:08 pm


“So Sarasotakid, where exactly in the Didache were soliders prohibited from active membership in the early church? You might want to tone down your sarcasm when you all you can offer alongside it is a mistaken claim.”
Sarasotakid wrote:
You know, Kevin, I can’t find it. I read an article about two years ago that had stated this about the Didache. I cannot confirm that it is there or not. But where you and I differ is that I am big enough to admit that I was possibly wrong. You have never once admitted you were wrong- not because you were not wrong- merely because you are snotty and conceited.
**
Kevin S. didn’t post that S.K. I did. And I am sure you would like us to be impressed that you were able to find lots of Christians who have historically opposed warfare and the military – except I’m not. Here’s why – your claim that the Didache supposedly banned soldiers from joining the church was blatantly false, and that isn’t the first time you have stretched the truth or simply made things up to bolster your arguments.
Secondly, just because someone, like myself, doesn’t assent to pacifism doesn’t mean
1. that I don’t understand its rich history
2. that a few quotes strung together from church fathers are enough to convince me. Conflicting interpretations on theology and ethics have plagued the church from the 1st century AD.
Oh, and Sarasotakid, your posts are a real disgrace to your position. Your love for peace seems to encourage you to engage in a lot of hostile words. I am not clear on why you are so eager to protest the validity of pacifism and yet so unwilling to live a life of peace yourself. Your slur against Kevin S., calling him a snotty and conceited, both demands an apology from you and reveals your animosity towards those not like you.
You should be ashamed. But, I also understand that some tend to lash out when they have been exposed with error or deceit.



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Scott Starr

posted September 15, 2007 at 9:12 pm


“I Resign”,
…depending of course upon the doctrines of the Church whose pew you sit in.
PEACE



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kevin s.

posted September 15, 2007 at 9:18 pm


“And that’s what it’s all about for you, Kevin, right? Maintaining the empire and using any means necessary to do so- arms and religion. That is what I see in your posts. How commendable. How Christ-like.”
That was an utterly illiterate reading of my comment. My point was that there is a difference between prohibiting military service in all circumstances, and prohibiting participation in the Roman army.
“So Sarasotakid, where exactly in the Didache were soliders prohibited from active membership in the early church? You might want to tone down your sarcasm when you all you can offer alongside it is a mistaken claim. Kevin S.”
What is with you and quoting people as having said things they did not say? This was an anonymous comment that I did not write.
“You have never once admitted you were wrong- not because you were not wrong- merely because you are snotty and conceited.”
Now you’re starting to sound like Jim Wallis. At any rate, w/r/t the firing of a professor at Colorado Christian, I wrote:
“Ugh. I didn’t know that. To the extent that I defended the College’s actions here, I retract my defense.”
This was in response to the introduction of new evidence that shed light on the argument, and I was wrong. Jim Wallis simply regurgitates talking points that I have heard before, and here peppers them with implied insults. That I am not capitulating in the face of his underwhelming arguments is not evidence of my conceit.
“I also recognize that “Jesus didn’t say” is an argument from silence”
Well, not only did he not condemn the centurion, but he praised his faith.



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letjusticerolldown

posted September 15, 2007 at 9:23 pm


In the Screwtape Letters (CS Lewis) Uncle Screwtape (essentially a senior devil) advises his protege regarding keeping his patient’s (a young Christian) attention on the other Christians in his pew:
“At bottom, he still believes he has run up a very favourable credit-balance in the Enemy’s ledger by allowing himself to be converted, and thinks that he is showing great humility and condescension in going to church with these “smug”, commonplace neighbours at all. Keep him in that state of mind as long as you can.”



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Anonymous

posted September 15, 2007 at 9:43 pm


Rev. Alterman,
Thanks for your response. I think we are much closer than you would think. But, I am troubled by a few things.
1. Obedient Christians with different theology:
You wrote: “In these regards, I would agree that it is possible – in certain cases – to be “loyal and obedient” to Christ, but disagree about the exact meaning of His words (or actions). But this is not true in every case (or perhaps even most cases). Many of His words and actions – taken in context, and checked against other Scripture – are “black and white,” and do not leave room for interpretation. Yes, that may sound “dogmatic,” but SOME Scripture IS – and must be – dogmatic in order for Judeo-Christianity to function as a living, breathing faith.”
This is problematic to me because whiles much of what Christ says is straightforward, but then he also spoke in parables and used metaphors and forms of story telling and teaching that sometimes introduce a literary element that makes “black and white” readings more difficult. This isn’t to say we can’t know what Christ said and did but that there is margin for differing interpretations on his teaching, within the bounds of the historic, Christian faith as outlined in the creeds. To not allow for those possible distinctions is a remarkably uncharitable way of dealing with the myriads of Christian congregations and fellowships that do not agree in such a fashion.
2. Conservative evangelicals use of the Bible:
You wrote: “My examples are taken from what I see, hear and read, particularly in the U.S. Virtually every time I see or read about the Christian Right or the conservative evangelical community and their positions on a certain issues, they invariably invoke and/or quote the OT and NOT the NT to support those positions, whether it is abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage, stem cell research, etc. This has been true for quite some time, and continues to be true. For examples, simply surf the Web for articles in which the Christian Right or conservative evangelical community opine on their core issues.”
This is really disappointing. I fear you don’t read widely enough. Your “examples” remain conveniently vague and abstract – your anecdotal evidence just isn’t sufficient, especially since now I will offer anecdotal evidence of my own. Conservative evangelicals don’t need the OT to argue against homosexuality, they usually go to Romans 1 for that.
3. A double standard:
“Rather than do this, let me concede that there may well be (indeed, MUST be, given its length) more verses about poverty, justice etc. in the OT than the NT, and thus more to cite in those regards.”
But as you admitted, Sojourner’s rightfully uses the OT for justifying their concern for the poor. I am not clear on why conservative Christians should not be able to refer to the OT when expressing concern for the unborn. (And while we are on the topic, why, does the evangelical left insist on sneering at their brothers and sisters for doing this? I don’t understand how any “Christ-ian” would be eager to take up pro-choice as a moral position.) The admission that you see more verses about economics and social justice in the OT than other topics is revealing. There is good reason to argue the OT has plenty on that topic, but has even more on the theme of God revealing who he is to his chosen people.
Either way you look at it, I find myself in an unexpected position. Here I am, the conservative evangelical who supposedly survives with a narrow, mean-spirited view of the world and my fellow Christians. Instead, I find myself the one urging:
1. a reconsideration of simplistic, literalist readings of the scripture
2. I may not be a pacifist but I am supporting peaceful coexistence of the evangelical right and left because our common faith is so much bigger than the petty disputes of this world
3. a radical Christianity that includes a vision of social justice that includes but also transcends economics and also addresses the difficult issues of Christian responsibility in the face of tremendous evil that mocks the soft words of diplomacy and will stop only when confronted.



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Judithod

posted September 15, 2007 at 10:23 pm


Ben,
Thank you for your service as a Marine in Iraq. Choose not to disclose my son’s name because it would compromise his mission.
Glad to know that Jim Wallis does condemn the actions of terrorists. However, I disagree with your statement that there were no terrorists in Iraq before the U. S. invaded. Saddam was a supreme terrorist, murdering untold numbers. His sons were “chips off the block.” And Saddam was paying compensation to the families of suicide bombers. Saddam was given the opportunity to abdicate, to surrender, to avoid a conflict, but chose to try to save himself and to put his people in peril.
Since you’ve served in Iraq, you are aware that the majority of those in the military are honorable men and women who are ashamed of and condemn the minority who have committed human rights violations during this conflict. I assume that you’re also aware that the U. S. does not deliberately and randomly bomb innocents as the terrorists do.
I can’t disagree with your statement that Christ died once and for all so that we would be free. But Christ was not one to stand aside and watch injustices occur. After all, he relentlessly threw the Pharisees’ hypocrisy in their faces. And putting your argument about loving our enemies into the context of history, what would have happened if we chose to continue loving Hitler, Mussolini? I don’t think Christ expects us to sit back, love injustice, and admire unjust people and condone their actions.



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Scott Starr

posted September 15, 2007 at 10:31 pm


I do not wish to offend or enter the scuffle above. However I will, say that I find it a bit mindbending to contemplate that someone would hang their eternal soul on something Jesus did not sya as in:
“Well, not only did he not condemn the centurion, but he praised his faith.”
From a purely logical standpoint I would have to conclude that in the face of percieved anbiguity it would be better to err in the favor of non- violence rather than violence especially when verses like these are not so ambiguous:
Matthew 4:8-10
8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Begone Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD, YOUR GOD, AND HIM ONLY YOU SHALL SERVE’”
Matthew 5
The Beatitudes
1Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2and he began to teach them saying:
3″Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:11
11″Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:38-48
38″You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Love for Enemies
43″You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Do Not Love the World
__________________________
1st John 2:15-17
15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
1 Thessalonians 5 (Amplified Bible)
14And we earnestly beseech you, brethren, admonish (warn and seriously advise) those who are out of line [the loafers, the disorderly, and the unruly]; encourage the timid and fainthearted, help and give your support to the weak souls, [and] be very patient with everybody [always keeping your temper].
15See that none of you repays another with evil for evil, but always aim to show kindness and seek to do good to one another and to everybody.
16Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always);
17Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly];
18Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will].
19Do not quench (suppress or subdue) the [Holy] Spirit;
20Do not spurn the gifts and utterances of the prophets [do not depreciate prophetic revelations nor despise inspired instruction or exhortation or warning].
21But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast.
22Abstain from evil [shrink from it and keep aloof from it] in whatever form or whatever kind it may be.
23And may the God of peace Himself sanctify you through and through [separate you from profane things, make you pure and wholly consecrated to God]; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved sound and complete [and found] blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah).
24Faithful is He Who is calling you [to Himself] and utterly trustworthy, and He will also do it [fulfill His call by hallowing and keeping you].
I also found this concerning Jesus and the Centurion:
If slavery is so bad, why didn’t Jesus tell the Centurion not to have slaves?
One of the popular challenges to Christian nonviolence ethics is Jesus’ interaction with the centurion who’s slave He healed. The account is repeated here from the Gospel of Luke:
Luke 7:1-10
When He had completed all His discourse in the hearing of the people, He went to Capernaum. And a centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, “He is worthy for You to grant this to him; for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue.”
Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”
Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.
The arguement against pacifism from this passage works as follows: if being a soldier was so bad, why didn’t Jesus tell the centurion to quit being a soldier?
Yet there is a different issue which this passage could be appealled to by using the same arguement: if slavery was so bad, why didn’t Jesus tell the centurion to quit owning slaves?
Such a point may seem silly beyond the need to consider to modern sensibilities, but such arguements were exactly the kinds used to deffend slavery as little as a century ago. The New Testament is filled with references to Christian slaves and slavery which doesn’t paint it in a particularily negative light (Philippians 4:22, Ephesians 6:5-9, Colossians 3:22-4:1). There is even a whole book of the New Testament, Paul’s Epistle to Philemon, which is giving advice to a Christian slaveowner and the slave. Paul has advice only fulfilling the duty of slaves, permitting even Christians to have slaves and going on to say that to even debate the slavery issue is pointless quarrelling, as in this quote from the First Epistle to Timothy:
I Timothy 6:1-5
All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against. Those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these principles.
If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.
Another passage from the New Testament commonly used to defend violence is the famous “who’s-who” of faithfulness in Hebrews 11:1-40. In it, the writer often mentions kings and soldiers as paragons of virtue, at it is assumed that there is an implicit approval by God for violence. After all how could these be great men of faith if they did things that were so terrible? It’s not like Abraham (Hebrews 11:8-19) did anything so terrible as getting one of his own slaves pregnant and then casting her and their son out of his tribe. Or that Rahab (Hebrews 11:31) was a prostitute, or Samson a fraternizer with the enemy or mighty King David an adulterer and conspirator (Hebrews 11:32). And certainly David wouldn’t have owned slaves. Right?
Of course one may argue that these people are held up as testimonies to faith in spite of these rather negative attributes. One may also point out that some of them are upheld exactly because of their militarism. As Hebrews 11:32-34 says: And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
Yet what exactly do we think happens when people conquer kingdoms, become mighty in war, and put foreign armies to flight? We know the costs of war in the oppression of other human beings. Enslaving one’s enemies was standard practice in Biblical times, and a conquered kingdom is inherently enslaved. So yes, the writer of Hebrews is here applauding the act of conquest equally as much as he is applauding men of war.
This essay is not mean to be an abominable defense of slavery. I believe that there is an unfolding revelation amongst the people of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, which allows us to open our eyes ever wider to the radicalness of Jesus’ teachings. Though blinded by our social circumstances, we come to realize the full depth and ramifications of Jesus teachings of love, equality, and liberation. It is this that inspired Paul to write, even after laying down divisions between Jews and Greeks and slaves and masters and men and women, in Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
What this is essay is meant to show is the shaky ground upon which the pro-violence arguement of the centurion’s slave is based. Those who use it no doubt, I hope, reject slavery in all its abominable horror. Yet the message of non-violence from the New Testament is FAR STRONGER than the message of abolition. There ISN’T a message of abolition to speak of in the New Testament, yet we have specific instructions not to return violence for violence over and over and over again.
So what do we do? Naturally, we abolish slavery and take that as the given evil that it is, yet we excuse violence when specifically instructed not to engage in it. And one of the arguements we use is that of Jesus healing the centurion’s slave, even though one could easily draw a pro-slavery arguement from it.
What I take from this passage in the Gospel of Luke is a message of God’s incredible graciousness. The centurion being a centurion doesn’t really factor into this whole situation. In fact, if the witness of the Jewish elders can be taken at face value, then as military leaders from a pagan government oppressing the Chosen People go, this one isn’t all that bad. He sounds like he is far more sympathetic towards the Hebrew plight than one would expect. One might even go so far as to call him a sympathizer.
What is a factor here is the centurion’s faith in Jesus as the Messenger from God. Drawing the only comparisons which his military-bred mind can draw, the centurion expresses his simple faith that whatever Jesus may be, He can heal His slave. Amazed by this simple, almost child-like faith, Jesus heals the slave, mentioning neither militarism nor slavery.
Ultimately, the whole situation is less about the centurion than it is a lesson for us. This is the extravagance of God’s grace: that even a slave-owning soldier from an oppressive and occupying military superpower can know God’s grace. This passage still holds an important meaning for advocates of nonviolence, though it is not the great proof for violence that some use it for. Instead it is a message that God’s love and grace is extravagant and big enough for all people, even those we oppose. How easy would it have been for Jesus and the Hebrews to tell the centurion to shove off because he’s their oppressor. Yet they did not… God’s grace is for all people, even our enemies.
But how can we finally confirm that this was His intent and not actually a standard ambivilance towards solidery? Prior to this event, John the Baptist actually does interact with soldiers who come to him asking specifically what they should do. John’s response is related in Luke 3:14: And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.” If we can presume enough to suggest that John’s and Jesus’ teachings were in coherence, then it stands that yes, Jesus did not intend soldiers to continue on in soldiery.
PEACE



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Scott Starr

posted September 16, 2007 at 12:38 am


addressing this:
“I don’t think Christ expects us to sit back, love injustice, and admire unjust people and condone their actions.”
A common misconception is that we ONLY have two options. One option in this false dichotomy is “sitting back”… as in doing nothing. The other is participating in the kill or be killed, eye for an eye, worldly domination system. These misconceptions leave no room for God to act upon the situation or of God given human creativity to find alternative ways to resolve conflicts besides the sword. Its worth noting here that no pacifist or Christian I have ever heard of has EVER suggested loving injustice or admiring unjust people or condoning their actions. Let us just assumed that these thoughts were mis-phrased.
A big picture example of ways that the invasion of Iraq may have been avoided and/or the violence minimalized is that we (the U.S.) could have essentially bought out Saddam’s rule by appealing to internal elements and feeding the population instead of starving them with sanctions. No regime could ever survive without the population’s assent to it. If we had given them a real alternative, one that did not require all the bloodshed and carnage, what would have been lost? Of course none of this was even considered because of the manufactured threat of WMD’s. We could also have garnered support from surrounding nations instead of resolutely refusing to negotiate with them at all if we had chosen the tact I suggest. I do not offer this as a detailed strategy or just a hindsight- but as an example of creative ideas that could have been explored other than the track we chose. None of this was done of course because the real goal of the U.S. was SELF preservation and protection of OUR interests and control of the balance of power. “Iraqi Freedom” was never the real goal notwithstanding the moniker of the invasion at its start. The real goal did not change from the days when we armed and supported Saddam during the Reagan and Bush I years. The U.S. militarists have essentially viewed Iraq as a pice on the grand chessboard since the days of Eisenhower and the rise of the military-media-industrial complex.
Anyhow, I digress… cipher this:
from Chapter 5 of Augsburger’s “Dissident Discipleship”- “The Practice of Resolute Non-Violence”:
sub heading: Love Walks
(There is a)…deeper understanding, a radical wisdom that violence begets violence, which begets violence again.
The common wisdom on the streets of L.A., like the wisdom on the streets of most cities, holds that violence is the ultimate reality. This is the conviction of people in democracies and dictatorships, in “developed’ as well as ‘undeveloped” countries. Here are its basic assumptions.
1. The world is a dangerous place.
2. Human beings are innately, intrinsically, violent.
3. The enemy is evil, more violent than we are, and beyond change.
4. We have only three alternatives: accomodate violence, avoid violence, or use violence ourselves- go along with it, run from it or do it before they do it.
5. The answer to violence is more violence. Evil is the bottom line, and violence its language, logic and ultimate reality.
6. Violence can solve our problems decisively. Power, domination, and extermination of evildoers will stop the spiral, prevent the violence from feeding on itself, extinguish resentment, intimidate those who would seek revenge, render retaliation against us impossible, allow us to dominate benevolently.
Those are the storm waves of violence , beating on counter-currents of equal violence. each side is willing for the other to die to insure its own safety.
Active non- violence steps out of the pitching boat and onto the pounding waves and does the supra-rational. It walks on the water and finds it firm. It summons its courage and reaches outto the enemy as a person. It thinks of the enemy’s needs and fears (motivations); it acts in commitment alloyed with compassion. it chooses the surprising.
sub heading: Love Not The Domination System
The way of the cross is not an inner spiritual surrender as Luther taught, or a profound sentiment of spirituality as pretension holds, or any of the other conceptual, emotional, volitional , spiritual definitions of experience that identify the cross with physical, familial or vocational hardships. The way of the cross is the willingness to die.
The World, in the way Jesus used the word, refers not to geography or place, but to “the domination system” by which human societies control, compute, and conflict. This is biblical scholar Walter Wink’s best translation of cosmos The domination system is a set of cultural values, basic survival assumptions, and political structures that actively control, impose upon, and exploit human kind through violence and domination(Wink 1992, 139-55)
Of his disciples Jesus said, “They are strangers in the world, as I am'; in other words “they are strangers to the domination system as I am a stranger to the domination system’ (John 17;14,16 NEB)We too live in a domination system of organized fear, institutionalized greed, rationalized violence, and socially accepted hatred, but we are strangers to its creed of greed, fear, coercion, and we-they thinking. There is no true spirituality at the end of the pursuit of greed, none that carries out the practices of hate. These are acts of obedience to the domination system and not the reign of God.
Every violent action is an act of faith in the domination system.
Every commitment that answers violence with violence is an act of obedience to the domination system.
(it is understood that there is a difference between un-necessary violence and the unavoidable administration of justice)
Every allegiance to the values embodied in the domination system is an affirmation that men are superior to women, whites to people of color, and the wealthy to the poor, that the northern hemisphere is better than the southern hemisphere, the West than the Third world etc.
Every surrender to the domination system legitimates the un -questioning validation and justification of the use of force and violence. Then even when violence fails to resolve conflicts, it is merely discredited.
Clarence Jordan, farmer, Bible scholar and translator, and founder of Koinonia farm in Georgia thought deeply about the kinds of retaliation he observed in the tit for tat interactions in Southern society:
Jesus pointed out the stages through which the law of retaliation had passed, and how it finally came to rest in the universal love of the Father’s own heart. There were four of these steps, each clearly defined and each progressing towards God’s final purpose. First, there was the way of unlimited retaliation; second, that of limited retaliation; third that of limited love; and fourth, that of unlimited love (Jordan 1952)
Obviously, the first is both eyes for an eye, all teeth for a tooth. The second is eye for an eye, a penny for a penny and no more. The third is “love your neighbor and hate your enemy’ (matt 5:43 NKJV; see also Lev.19:18). The fourth is to love as God loves, drawing no lines between friend and enemy, between those who reciprocate and those who do not. One loves in this fourth way- not because it works or is guaranteed to change enemies, but so that they will be “children of their heavenly Father” (Matt 5:45)
END
This is what the modern Church has misunderstood- even among its most prolific “leaders”. This is what has been so thouroughly subverted in our culture…this is where it has all gone wrong…where the breakdown of the family and culture began…and how the destruction of our world will commence having exhausted ourselves and made the prophesies of the end times self fulfilling while God yet wishes we would follow his will and buy ourselves more time… unless things change drastically and soon among those who call themselves God’s people.



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Sarasotakid

posted September 16, 2007 at 6:57 am


“Now you’re starting to sound like Jim Wallis. ”
Thank you for the compliment. You have always sounded like Phillis Schlafly.
“That I am not capitulating in the face of his underwhelming arguments is not evidence of my conceit. ”
Hail Ceasar! That’s what it’s all about.



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knowmansouldotcom

posted September 16, 2007 at 9:38 am


Which is the greater power; to give life or to give death?
When I come to terms with this question, then the answer to war/violence debate might become the same as my Lord’s answer to the war/violence debate, i.e. John 18:36 Then Jesus answered, “I am not an earthly king. If I were, my followers would have fought when I was arrested by the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
Holy Bible : New Living Translation. 1997 . Tyndale House: Wheaton, Ill.

God bless,
DSM



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Scott Starr

posted September 16, 2007 at 10:11 am


Outstanding DSM,
That simple verse captures the essence of it all. That verse also interconnects with many others to draw the same conclusion. In the verses below Satan offers Jesus the kngdoms of the world. Contemplate that the kingdoms of the world are assumed to be Satan’s to give? Note Jesus’ response to this including what he DID NOT say as in the analogy above with Jesus and the centurion:
Matthew 4:8-10
8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Begone Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD, YOUR GOD, AND HIM ONLY YOU SHALL SERVE’”
Note that Jesus did not say, “Silly devil, these kingdoms are already mine.”
Ultimately we ARE told that the earth is the Lord’s along with everything in it. This means that all he has to do is claim it- yet he does not. He does not claim these kingdoms.
What does it mean?
Think and respond.



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Anonymous

posted September 16, 2007 at 10:40 am


DSM and Scott Starr,
The only problem is, of course Jesus’ kingdom was an other-worldly kingdom. Jesus’ point was that his followers were not to establish an earthly kingdom with him as the king. Once again, literalism rears its ugly head – Jesus did not mean his followers are except from living as citizens. The holistic testimony of the NT points to this reality.
It is fascinating to see how the evangelical left’s disdain for those not in step with them often leads to such reductionistic, fundamentalist, and literalist treatment of Scripture. After all, fundamentalist tendencies are not solely the domain of the right and this site is a perfect example of that.



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N.M. Rod

posted September 16, 2007 at 12:49 pm


Once you commit that for the Christian (unlike the non-Christian) war is not wrong, nothing is forbidden.
Dostoyevsky had one of his protagonists posit, “If God is dead, nothing is forbidden.”
In the service of war are the breaking of every one of the Ten Commandments.
Since these are all commanded by human beings acting in the name of a collective, ourselves, then we can, in the name of democracy, outvote God 7 billion to one, and make our platform His, and He must follow.
Adultery, theft, lying – all are permitted if we vote that privilege to ourselves and Him.
If this is Christianity, then it’s absolutely nothing and I want no part of it. I have better things to do with my life than spend an hour a week bum-warming a pew to practice to perfection hypocrisy.
Golf on Sunday morning really would bring you closer to God.



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Scott Starr

posted September 16, 2007 at 2:16 pm


Addressing this:
“It is fascinating to see how the evangelical left’s disdain for those not in step with them often leads to such reductionistic, fundamentalist, and literalist treatment of Scripture.
It is fascinating to see how the evangelical left’s disdain for those not in step with them often leads to such reductionistic, fundamentalist, and literalist treatment of Scripture. After all, fundamentalist tendencies are not solely the domain of the right and this site is a perfect example of that.”
I do not consider my words as disdain. However what you have said shows some contempt. What I have done is offer scriptural basis and ask for a response on the same basis which you answer has not provided.
Earlier in the thread I ventured far beyond reductionism and literalism. I qualified the unavoidable administration of justice from base violence and also siad these things:
“…Thus any argument for Christian non-violence must always embody the utmost love for those who articulate a divergent viewpoint; if so-called “pacifists” speak in such a way that they only foster enmity, then they have failed from the start.”
and also:
“So any dialog between “Pacifists” and the “Just War Tradition” (JWT) ought to begin with what these two viewpoints held in common. At the theoretical level, there are fundamental differences between the two, but a great deal of pragmatic agreement also exists between them. For example, the JWT proclaims that vengeance is an illegitimate intention for warfare, and that the means of warfare must be sharply limited. (For example, nuclear warfare, or economic sanctions that result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, are immoral according to the JWT, because these practices do not respect the “immunity of the innocent.”) If taken seriously, the JWT will often lead Christians to refuse to fight in particular wars.
All such objections flow not from “Pacifism” but from the JWT. For all of these things, the Pacifist ought to deeply respect the Christian Just Warrior. However, the fact that, historically, few JWT adherents make the kind of moral judgments required by their tradition indicates that a great number of Christians are not, actually, adherents to the JWT; instead, many Christians turn out to be nationalists, who arrogantly profess, “it’s my country, right or wrong.” To say “if you don’t love it, leave it”—this is acceptable rhetoric for neither the Just Warrior nor the Pacifist. And so the Pacifist encourages the Just Warrior to have the courage of his convictions, and speak boldly to such concerns.”
I also addressed earlier in the thread that essentially recognizing the world as the world does not mean we cannot be patriotic or civicly engaged. What it does mean is that we should recignize that any nation our included is still part of the world… with worldly values and a wordly system.
Here is something else I said:
The Church and the State (or nation-states) are in many ways incompatible. States are part of the world and its value systems and the Church’s business is none other than to be the CHURCH…not to run the world….not to assist God in directing human history. The Church and “civilization” (the World) are (or are supposed to be) two separate entities. Human(istic) civilization and the Kingdom of God are not synonymous.
On Romans 13 which is popularly taken out of context with Romans 12 and the rest of the Bible is understood by Christians in different ways. As noted in the study helps of my life application study Bible:
“All Christians agree that we are to live at peace with the state as long as the state allows us to live by our religious convictions. For hundreds of years, however, there have been at least three interpretations of how we are to do this:
(1) Some Christians believe that the state is so corrupt that Christians should have as little to do with it as possible. Although they should be good citizens as long as they can do so without compromising their beliefs, they should not work for the government, vote in elections, or serve in the military.
(2) Others believe that God has given the state authority in certain areas and the church authority in others. Christians can be loyal to both and can work for either. They should not, however, confuse the two. In this view, church and state are concerned with two totally different spheres–the spiritual and the physical–and thus complement each other but do not work together.
(3) Still others believe that Christians have a responsibility to make the state better. They can do this politically, by electing Christian or other high-principled leaders. They can also do this morally, by serving as an influence for good in society. In this view, church and state ideally work together for the good of all.
None of these views advocate rebelling against or refusing to obey the government’s laws or regulations unless those laws clearly require you to violate the moral standards revealed by God. Wherever we find ourselves, we must be responsible citizens, as well as responsible Christians.”
Anonymous Responder, Do you care to support your viewpoint with scripture or are you done? I fail to see how quoting the very words of Christ makes one a “fundamentalist” in the negative connotation of the term. Be careful not to reduce Jesus to an admirable philosopher whose way of thinking however, cannot be seriously considerd as a practical way for a true disciple to conduct his or her life… especially when commenting on reductionistic, fundamentalist, and literalist tendencies in others.
p.s. I am not a member of the “left”. I personally consider myself as outside of the whole false dichotomy of right and left. I will not wear your label and will not be interested in conversing with you if you insist on using such.



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Scott Starr

posted September 16, 2007 at 2:20 pm


Furthermore,
I have realized lately that part of what drives me to write about some of these things is a certain guilt that I feel in my own heart. Not only am I priveleged to be an American, but a Christian and God fearing person as well. As both American and Christian I am a member of a group that not only has proclaimed that it is right about the meaning of life on this planet…but that we, the chosen, are the ONLY ones correct on matters of religion and geopolitics. That proclomation bears a heavy weight and responsibility. It begs the question that if such is true..why all the chaos and confusion and injustice and disharmony in our own society and in our own churches and in the world at large to which we assume to be the arbiters of freedom and reason? How can we look upon the horrors we have both enabled and in some cases caused in this world with such equanimity? I know that America often regarded as the best hope for a safe and humane world that has ever been seen…this is the scary part…that this is as good as it gets.
I remember when my public school teachers first began to indoctrinate me and my peers in the early 1970’s (I started kindergarten in 1969). Our country was engaged in an unpopular military conflict then as now. The Viet Nam war and the war in Iraq are not the same exactly…but there are a good many paralells. One paralell for sure is that we have a huge miltary machine engaged in a theater of guerilla warfare. So, far it does not appear that the outcome is going to be much different this time around. My schoolteachers saw fit to try to explain to us concepts like “Utopian ideals” and why we should not ever expect to see them work because the world was so full of evil and selfish people. They explained that anarchy would surely ensue…if certain utopian ideals were played out in the real world of “civilization”. They were of course talking to a bunch of 3rd and 4th graders that would have believed that the earth was pyramid shaped and the moon was an enormous glowing spitball coughed up by the Supreme Being if they had insisted so and provided some slick graphics to drive the point home. I am pretty sure in fact that most of my peers and I all still believed in Jolly Old Saint Nick back then too.
The teachers further explained to us how carpet bombing Viet Nam so that people would stop being communists or dropping atomic bombs on non- military targets in WW2 actually saved more lives than it snuffed. The same would be true of the fire bombings of dozens of Japanese cities full of men women and children- hundreds of thousands in fact- that were burnt to smithereens although the only thing they may have had to do with the miltary machine-states waging war across the globe was perhaps their desire to maintain a lifestyle…i.e. continue being Japanese. As I have gone on through life I have noticed that not too many people ponder or question the conventional wisdom of all of this geopolitical generalization and indoctrination and actually determine if these ideas and/or methods are philosophically sound and morally correct or even historically accurate or not. To do so invites instant derision.
I have actually dared to read up on the dropping of the atomic bomb, for instance, instead of just figuring that whatever my fourth grade teacher contended was golden gospel- and guess what….there actually are some folks that contend that Japan was on the verge of surrendering before the bombs…they were in fact strategically defeated already and within months the conflict in the Pacific theater would have concluded…without opening pandora’s box of atomic/nuclear weapons. I cannot say whether or not this is true…who knows? Precisely…nobody can say for sure one way or the other…but the debate is not over and done with because some teacher or some author or some commentator said so.
Practically no-one endeavors to answer the question of, “even if a world free of strife (Utopia) is not possible- shouldn’t we be trying to get as close as possible?” It has been done- this getting very close. Tribal Native America was as peaceful, God -fearing and stable of a place as ever existed (still not sin or violence free I acknowledge)…and it existed for tens of thousands of years…as opposed to any other known empire you can name. So it got wiped out by a group that eventually became the United States. Fair enough… a liberally idealistic society gets wiped out by a more heartless and greedy group, the only thing that this proves is that a “Quasi-Utopian” system of direct democracy cannot co-exist with the existing paradigms of western thought..yea, though it pains me to say so…Western Judeo Christian thought- or more specifically still- what this brand of thought has become.
It often puzzles me how the masses in this country can fail to understand that when the rest of the world sees America engaging in acts of “sanitized” warfare, bombings (shock and awe), WMD’s, mass violence, manipulation, fear, intimidation, coercion and so on they see TERROR tactics. They see us as living by a double standard. Listing the litany of good, humanitarian things the U.S. has done does nothing to erase this point in the minds of much of the rest of the world whether you and I “get it” or not. The bloodshed leaves more of an impression than the noble things we are trying to do. This concept is now being bitterly debated in the media. It is duly noted that the ongoing violence and the knowing, willfull slaughter of innocents in Iraq is being perpetrated mainly by insurgents (or terrorists if that makes you more comfortable) and not our people (even though our bombing campaigns and sanctions have killed untold numbers of innocents). The fact is that they are reacting to our presence there and our foreign policy…we are part of the equation.
So…is warfare the ONLY way to deal with this situation? To even suggest such a thing..to even enter into this discourse is all but squelched in the mainstream.
People who ask these types of questions and seriously grapple with the answers are often labled as liberal (read as socialist=communist) seditious (read as aiding and abetting the enemy=terrorist), politically motivated (read as democrats seeking power) or lost in fantasy. Now that the media is beginning to wake up (after being totally on the “Operation Iraqi Freedom and Shock and Awe bandwagon at the start) and ask hard questions and put all the carnage in perspective…they too are being attacked as anti-American and accused of sensationalizing the bad news. Does it make sense for the media to attempt to undermine the system that enpowers and enriches them …undermine the world by default…just to make some political hay and/or sell newspapers? If you believe that the media is actually doing just that…tell me again who the pessimist and unrealistic idealist is…I am getting confused. The definitions of conservative and liberal are all a blur.
Now, this brings us back around to a point I have been working up to concerning how CHRISTIANS should feel and react to the situation at hand. I think this is relevant because this whole Iraq-war enterprise has been sold to us as a primarily “conservative”, hence, Western- Judeo- Christian- ideological- exercise in military humanitarianism. Let me paraphrase some thoughts of other Christian writers (credits to Lee Camp and his book Mere Discipleship) in this arena of warfare and utopian dreams:
“…Underneath the end justifies the means” logic lies the assumption that the way of Christ is simply not a relevant social ethic, lest injustice reign and the violent vanquish the righteous. Christians cannot take the way of Christ Seriously, or society will fall apart, will sink into a spiral of unmitigated violence. Civilization itself is at stake. Jesus cannot have meant that we take him seriously in the realm of social and political realities- after all, WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF EVERYONE DID THAT?! Consequently, “Jesus”, “Christianity”, and even “discipleship” are reduced to mere “spirituality”, a realm that has little if anything to do with the concrete realities of culture, civilization, and politics. To use different language- Christendom (the blending of religion and empire) has seperated doctrine and ethics into two seperable categories, rather than seeing them as two sides of the same coin. Numerous times the book of Acts describes the Christian faith as “The Way”, a designation that strikes one as remarkably different than our word “religion”. “Religion” often connotates a set of beliefs and practices seperable from everyday life; as such, “religion” is in a sphere distinct and seperate from things like politics and society and culture. But if the claim that Jesus is Lord is “a Way or The Way”- then we cannot so easily seperate his “Way” from every facet of life. Note that the Jews expected a MILITARISTIC style Messiah…that is not what they got.
One of the most ardent pagan critics of the early church posed the “what would happen if” question to the early Christians’ refusal to either employ violence or venerate the empire as the primary means through which they might contribute to society. Castigating second century disciples, the pagan Celsus angrily maintained that “if all were to do the same as you, there would be nothing to prevent [the emperor] being left in utter solitude and desertion, and the affairs of the Earth would fall into the hands of the wildest and most lawless barbarians; and then there would no longer remain among men any of the glory of your religion or of the true wisdom’. I.E. Celsus asked, What if everybody did that? Answering himself he stated that the empire would fall apart, we would be overcome by our enemies and on top of that you would not get to practice your religion! But the response of the early Christian theologian, Origen, demonstrates that the “commonsensical” nature of Celsus’ attack was not always seen as a trump card.
First off, Origen realized that the one who asks the “what would happen if everybody did that” question does not, of course, mean for us to take the question literally. If everyone loved their enemies then Jesus’ teachings would not be problematic. If everyone shared their wealth, then Jesus’ commands would not be seen as a stumbling block. If everyone forgave offenses “seventy times seven”, then Jesus’ insistence would fail to disturb us. So, Origen responded to Celsus, if in folowing Christ “they do as I do” then it is evident that even the barbarians, when they yield obedience to the Word of God, will become most obedient to the law, and most humane. But the reality, of course, is that not everyone “does that”. And thus when face with the “reality” of a world in which people appear to always “look out for number one”, when our world proclaims “take care of yourself or no-one else will”, when our culture surrounds us with a message that we should “go for the gusto”, “acquire as much material welath as possible”, and to make sure that WE are happy and secure- then the call to discipleship sounds quite threatening. The “reality” of sin, the “reality” of injustice and oppression, the “reality of “market and economic drives, the “reality” of “how things work” are thought to trump the serious calling to follow Jesus: “Many people will not love you in return”, “and some people’d just as soon kill you as look at you” and “you just can’t reason with some people”, and some people are just taking advantage of you and/or the system”. “Jesus’ Way works in an “ideal world” but not in the “real world” where you must “get your hands dirty” if you’re going to “make a relevant contibution to society”. But we must question as Origen did whether the logic of Celsus was very realistic after all. To the unbliever, Origen maintained that it is not the warring and self seeking peoples of the Earth who preserve society- instead, it is the people of God who are “assuredly” the salt of the earth: THEY preserve the order of the world; and society is held together as long as the salt is uncorrupted.
So, the question ought not be “what if everybody did that”, but, “what will happen if Jesus’ “disciples” refuse to act like Jesus?”. For Origen, if “disciples” refuse to act like disciples, there will be no salt, there will be no light, and then indeed there will be no “order”, “justice” or “civilization”. and if the salt has lost its saltiness, so Jesus said, it is foolish, insipid, good for nothing, but to be thrown out in the mud and be walked upon. Nonetheless, the pagan logic of Celsus ultimately won over a large number of adherents among christian tradition ( a legacy which continues to this day in the “conservative” movement in geoploitics). The percieved need to run the world, or the empire, or the market economy, or the nation-state gives rise to the apparent “commonsensical” basis of the pagan’s logic: if you take Jesus seriously, things will simply fall apart. And so in varied, nuanced and subtle ways, the “Way of Christ” has been set aside in favor of other authorities, which would show us what we should do and how we should do it…when we’re out here kicking around in the “real world”. ”
So to close out these thoughts let me say that insofar as I can tell by the contemporary definitions (which I have often stated are restrictive and insufficient) Jesus more of a liberal than a conservative. Therefore if you wish to call me a liberal…I will accept it as a compliment…not that it really means anything relevant in any holistic sense. Also, if you wish to call yourself a Christian you cannot do so realisticly and also be someone who primarily espouses the values of the WORLD. You cannot serve TWO masters. You can respect civil authority and abide by the laws of the land so long as they do not contradict God’s laws.



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N.M. ROD

posted September 16, 2007 at 3:10 pm


Just to make a correction, as one whose family and heritage are American Indian – one couldn’t honestly say that the tribes before the arrival of the Europeans lived in a Rousseauian state of peace and Noble Savagery. People then suffered from the same faults of character and first resort to violence as ourselves.
As far as Japan, it’s not a matter of “who knows” whether Japan was de facto defeated prior to the Atomic Bombs’ genocidal destruction. The facts are that by that time America was in no danger whatsoever of the domestic homeland being under attack or at threat of invasion (and it never had been at ANY time during the war) and that allied overflights and bombing of the Japanese home islands were at will and completely unopposed.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 16, 2007 at 3:36 pm


It is fascinating to see how the evangelical left’s disdain for those not in step with them often leads to such reductionistic, fundamentalist, and literalist treatment of Scripture. After all, fundamentalist tendencies are not solely the domain of the right and this site is a perfect example of that.
If the “evangelical left” does what you say it does, and I don’t believe that’s the case, that’s because the right has pushed it out and tried its best to marginalize it — and for that reason the right feels threatened by the left. The right has always used religion to promote cultural hegemony, which the “left” refuses to do, simply stating its case.



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kevin s.

posted September 16, 2007 at 4:04 pm


“I do not wish to offend or enter the scuffle above. However I will, say that I find it a bit mindbending to contemplate that someone would hang their eternal soul on something Jesus did not sya as in:
“Well, not only did he not condemn the centurion, but he praised his faith.”
How does my eternal soul rest on this question? May I not support our soldiers in any situation? If pacifism is determinent of how we spend eternity, how much more absurd that Jesus praised the centurion!
“From a purely logical standpoint I would have to conclude that in the face of percieved anbiguity it would be better to err in the favor of non- violence”
I don’t perceive any ambiguity. This, combined with the fact that Christ does not call on governments to lay down their arms, combined with Romans 13, combined with the fact that nothing in the Old Testament speaks to the need to end all war, leads me to the conclusion that Jesus did not intend for us to be pacifist as it relates to policy.
Your first set of passages indicates that we should not love the world. On this we agree, but this does not speak to the role of government.
“I also found this concerning Jesus and the Centurion:
If slavery is so bad, why didn’t Jesus tell the Centurion not to have slaves?”
Because he treated his slaves well. The Bible is generally silent on the morality of slave ownership, admonishing slave-holders to treat their slaves with respect. That seems foreign to our understanding, and I think that slavery has no place in the modern world, but you are correct that Christ did not forbid it.
Let me ask you this, can you cite any examples of Christ observing sin, and then simply choosing to ignore it?
“Such a point may seem silly beyond the need to consider to modern sensibilities, but such arguements were exactly the kinds used to deffend slavery as little as a century ago. ”
They were used incorrectly. Slavery in America was a violent, brutal, oppressive regime that found no resonance in the Bible.
“Luke 3:14: And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.” If we can presume enough to suggest that John’s and Jesus’ teachings were in coherence, then it stands that yes, Jesus did not intend soldiers to continue on in soldiery.”
This digs your hole deeper, in that John is asking the soldiers not to take money by way of violence. In other words, do not use your position to extort money from people, but rather be content with your wages (and how do you suppose they earned those wages?). To read it as you have described it, John is arbitrarily giving the soldiers three pieces of unrelated wisdom. Other translations read in a manner that make this more clear.
I am aware of what you are doing. The Bible is silent on slavery, and we know slavery is evil, and therefore we cannot interpret the relative scripture’s relative silence on the issue of pacifism to suggest that pacifism is not the correct stance .
However, this syllogism requires you to impute the fact that slavery is inherently wrong. Therefore, it also requires you to impute the fact that war is inherently wrong. We can easily agree on the former, and you are trying to transfer that agreement to the latter. That doesn’t work if we are not in agreement about the latter.
You are entitled to your opinion, but your exegesis does not advance your point of view.



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huh

posted September 16, 2007 at 4:17 pm


Jesus did not intend soldiers to continue on in soldiery.
Posted by: Scott Starr
Did he want people to live lives that were made safe and prosperous because of those who did ?
Move to Darfur, and you will see Jesus and the scriptures will have more meaning in your life .
One is to at least protect the lives of those being slaugtered is indeed Christ Like .



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Scott Starr

posted September 16, 2007 at 5:09 pm


I did post those words about Jesus and the centurion. However, I said I found them. I have posted them because it offers one alternative view to the meaning of the story of the centurion.
As for me myself. I have made the disntinction between the unavoidable administration of justice and base violence. I will allow that making all violence at all times a wrong is another form of legalism. I will also point out that in my own words I have not insisted that all violence at all times is inherantly wrong. I have said that the power to give life is greater than the power to destroy- which is a lesson that America needs to hear. I will also say that by the satndards of the JWT, the invasion of Iraq does not measure up.
I consider myself a pacifist or peacemaker with regards to warfare. What that means to me is not a belief that all violence is always wrong no matter what. It does mean that I judge any given situation with a spiritual discernement and/or, to borrow a term from my friend DSM, a THEOLOGY OF NUANCE. It means that I choose violence as a solution last… not first. It means that I do not hate my enemies, but rather love them and consider my ultimate enemy not my fellow man… but the spiritual forces of darkness in the celestial realm as the Bible teaches. It means that I know that the power to give life is far greater than the power to kill and destroy. It means that I think eternally and act spiritually inasmuch as I am able as a weak and pitiful sinner and carnal man. It means that I leave room for God’s plan and God’s sovereign right to vengeance before my own. It means that I do not fear death… and am thus not controlled by fear in my actions or reactions… inasmuch as I am able. The Bible says that the spiritual man is able to discern of all things. If a man is in right relationship with all things – he will know what to do in any given situation as led by God. Take care with these words… do not mistake your own desires or instincts for the true prompting of God. Attaining RIGHT relationship cannot be achieved without the surrender of the deadly sin of pride. One cannot defeat the deadly sin of pride without the ability of self analysis, the willingness to re-evalute one’s own motives and/or positions and the willingness and/or ability to view the self through the eyes of the enemy.
p.s. I notice that you are still not using scripture to support the position you have. I’d be interested in hearing your own exegesis instead of only a critique of mine and others. Then again I may have missed something. If so please bring me up to snuff.
PEACE



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knowmansouldotcom

posted September 16, 2007 at 5:13 pm

N.M. Rod

posted September 16, 2007 at 5:26 pm


“The Bible is silent on slavery.”
Must be a Southern Baptist, America’s largest Protestant denomination, which was founded upon defending the slavery, and unstigated a Baptist schism over it!
In fact, didn’t find anything wrong with it until 1996 or so – about 150 years later.
This is also the official War Jesus church.
Mea Culpa!



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Scott Starr

posted September 16, 2007 at 5:26 pm


N.M. Rod,
I am also of Native American descent. This is a fact that I am not only proud of but also a fact that has helped shape my worldview and understanding of theology. What you say is correct. Here is what I said which is not in disagreement:
“Tribal Native America was as peaceful, God -fearing and stable of a place as ever existed (still not sin or violence free I acknowledge”
Visit my blog under the name Geotheology… you may find some interesting things there. One of my missions in life is to help bring American Indians to Christ and in so doing having a ministry of reconciliation and healing for them. I have been intrigued by many of your comments and feel that we are pretty much on the same page.
I particularly liked this and very much concur:
“If this is Christianity, then it’s absolutely nothing and I want no part of it. I have better things to do with my life than spend an hour a week bum-warming a pew to practice to perfection hypocrisy.
Golf on Sunday morning really would bring you closer to God. ”
PEACE



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wowziwowwow

posted September 16, 2007 at 5:37 pm


Don’t any of you people have jobs, families or social lives?… you spend hours drafting replies to these riduculous boards! People, get with the real world!



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knowmansouldotcom

posted September 16, 2007 at 5:45 pm

Amazon Creek

posted September 16, 2007 at 5:59 pm


Amen!
It really freaks me out when I observe the unquestioning acceptance of Americanism mixed together with Christianity. Gives me goose-flesh. Creepy, crawlies.
You try and point out where this stuff might not be so Biblical…and in many circles, you can just watch people’s eyes glaze over. Or else get a look like you’ve just slapped someone in the face.
I’m not sure what ever happened to the New Testament advise to “test all things, hold to what is good, reject the false.”
What Mr. Wallis is saying is true – you talk to Christians who have visited and fellowshipped in other countries – and they’re not quite certain what is going on over here in the States.
Time for a lot of reality check.
Seriously, I’m seriously wondering if the United States is going to turn out to be the Mystery Babylon of Revelation. The harlot church.
And only we can prevent that from happening – but making sure we do engage in frequent reality checks and housecleaning of our beliefs. What matches with God’s Word, and what doesn’t? What should we keep, and what needs to be tossed and taken out with the trash?
American Christianity is overdue for a good housecleaning. Just let’s make sure it gets filtered through the Scriptures.



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tennessee ernie

posted September 16, 2007 at 6:29 pm


Scott Starr,
You are obviously very bright and thoughtful. Additionally, your faith clearly is genuine and your brotherly love is palpable.
BUT, if we want to read your full-length essays we will visit your website. Please try to condense and get to the point more quickly. This site is, after all, just a blog, not an academic seminar.
Yours in Our Lord Jesus.



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Scott Starr

posted September 16, 2007 at 7:47 pm


I hear you Tennesee Ernie. Not to worry.. I am not sure what else I can say until someone gives a scriptural basis for why these thoughts are incorrect.
As for now… here I stand.



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Wolverine

posted September 16, 2007 at 9:01 pm


Scott Starr wrote:
I have realized lately that part of what drives me to write about some of these things is a certain guilt that I feel in my own heart. Not only am I priveleged to be an American, but a Christian and God fearing person as well. As both American and Christian I am a member of a group that not only has proclaimed that it is right about the meaning of life on this planet…but that we, the chosen, are the ONLY ones correct on matters of religion and geopolitics.
Scott, there’s no need to feel guilty, nobody here blames you for Jim Wallis.
All kidding aside, all political movements are prone to take on an attitude of superiority. This isn’t something that the Christian Right invented, and it isn’t something that the Christian left has completely avoided.
It begs the question that if such is true..why all the chaos and confusion and injustice and disharmony in our own society and in our own churches and in the world at large to which we assume to be the arbiters of freedom and reason?
I hate to break this to you, but there was chaos and injustice long before the US was founded, let along before it achieved anything even loosely resembling hegemony.
I remember when my public school teachers first began to indoctrinate me and my peers in the early 1970’s (I started kindergarten in 1969)…The teachers further explained to us how carpet bombing Viet Nam so that people would stop being communists or dropping atomic bombs on non- military targets in WW2 actually saved more lives than it snuffed.
That’s interesting. I started school not a whole lot later, and I recall assemblies where our school administrators attempted to indoctrinate us into a vaguely socialist and pacifist worldview. (Obviously that indoctrination didn’t take very well with me either.)
I have actually dared to read up on the dropping of the atomic bomb, for instance, instead of just figuring that whatever my fourth grade teacher contended was golden gospel- and guess what….there actually are some folks that contend that Japan was on the verge of surrendering before the bombs…they were in fact strategically defeated already and within months the conflict in the Pacific theater would have concluded…without opening pandora’s box of atomic/nuclear weapons. I cannot say whether or not this is true…who knows? Precisely…nobody can say for sure one way or the other…but the debate is not over and done with because some teacher or some author or some commentator said so.
Here’s the thing about judging the decision to use atomic weapons at the end of World War Two: we have the luxury of years of research and access to Japanese government archives — and even now its still a lot of guesswork. Harry Truman had to make the decision in 1945. based on the information that he had then.
Fair enough… a liberally idealistic society gets wiped out by a more heartless and greedy group, the only thing that this proves is that a “Quasi-Utopian” system of direct democracy cannot co-exist with the existing paradigms of western thought..yea, though it pains me to say so…Western Judeo Christian thought- or more specifically still- what this brand of thought has become.
I’m not sure that native American societies were
all that much more peaceful than European ones, but I’m no expert on native American history so I’ll let that go. But in terms of America’s colonization and expansion, you at least need to account for the fact that the English colonists had a huge technological advantage over the native Americans and for good or ill that made a huge difference. It wasn’t simply a matter of liberal idealism versus heartless greed.
So…is warfare the ONLY way to deal with this situation? To even suggest such a thing..to even enter into this discourse is all but squelched in the mainstream.
What mainstream are you talking about? Most of the media have been calling for diplomatic solutions to Iraq for at least the last several years. Has Keith Olbermann been squelched? How about Rosie O’Donnell? Or Michael Moore?
Now, this brings us back around to a point I have been working up to concerning how CHRISTIANS should feel and react to the situation at hand. I think this is relevant because this whole Iraq-war enterprise has been sold to us as a primarily “conservative”…
Neo-con to be precise. Don’t forget the “neo”.
…hence, Western- Judeo- Christian- ideological- exercise in military humanitarianism.
That’s because the main threat to the free world comes from radical Islamic, vaguely fascist terrorists with imperial designs of their own.
Nonetheless, the pagan logic of Celsus ultimately won over a large number of adherents among christian tradition ( a legacy which continues to this day in the “conservative” movement in geoploitics).
Actually, I’m not aware that Just War theory has anything to do with Celsus.
So to close out these thoughts let me say that insofar as I can tell by the contemporary definitions (which I have often stated are restrictive and insufficient) Jesus more of a liberal than a conservative.
That’s funny, I always thought of Jesus as more a religious figure than a political one. Shows you what I know.
Wolverine



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Payshun

posted September 16, 2007 at 9:49 pm


Wolvie said:
That’s because the main threat to the free world comes from radical Islamic, vaguely fascist terrorists with imperial designs of their own.
Me:
Actually that’s your fear speaking. I am not saying that radical Islam is not a threat. It is. But the greatest threat facing the west, hardly. The greatest threat facing ourselves is us. When we give up our freedoms and become a state controlled by fear Islam is not the enemy it’s us. If there was a standing army and a navy I would agree w/ you. But for now many of them are a broke group of angry, confused, brainwashed individuals that are looking for scapegoats for their own country’s issues.
p



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 16, 2007 at 9:53 pm


American Christianity is overdue for a good housecleaning. Just let’s make sure it gets filtered through the Scriptures.
We have a winner!!!



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Scott Starr

posted September 16, 2007 at 10:09 pm


I will resist the urge to write a long treatise… especially since we are still on points that are coming from human rather than scriptural logic.
First this:
“That’s funny, I always thought of Jesus as more a religious figure than a political one. Shows you what I know.”
I agree in a sense that Jesus did not appear to give a rip about the politics of his day. However, his message, because of the context of the politics of the day, was highly charged politically. That is one of the big reasons that he was executed in fact… at least in the minds of those that called for his execution who were unaware that they were actually fulfilling God’s plan in so doing.
Let it be said that politics includes in its broadest sense, all ‘public life & affairs’, although we typically limit it in our thinking, to government activities and issues, it actually will include anything that is seen to occur within ‘Public Life’.
With this understanding of ‘politics’, everything in our interpersonal relationships, including our Christian ones… perhaps especially our Christian ones, has political implications. I still contend that the mission of the Church is to be the Church affecting culture from the roots up… not to run or fix the world because we can’t.
Ok, I’ll take a shot at one more of these:
“Most of the media have been calling for diplomatic solutions to Iraq for at least the last several years. Has Keith Olbermann been squelched? How about Rosie O’Donnell? Or Michael Moore?”
I don’t consider any of these as representative of the mainstream. Do you? On the media, I would say that they sure didn’t say much in oppostion when the invasion of Iraq was in the works. They were on the bandwagon like most of everybody else. At any rate the media is not the only collective asking for diplomacy. Some talk show hosts would like for people to believe that- but its an oversimplification and its propaganda.
PEACE



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Scott Starr

posted September 16, 2007 at 10:24 pm


Payshun said this:
“Actually that’s your fear speaking. I am not saying that radical Islam is not a threat. It is. But the greatest threat facing the west, hardly. The greatest threat facing ourselves is us. When we give up our freedoms and become a state controlled by fear Islam is not the enemy it’s us. If there was a standing army and a navy I would agree w/ you. But for now many of them are a broke group of angry, confused, brainwashed individuals that are looking for scapegoats for their own country’s issues.”
I could not have said it better. I would just add that much of what is happening in the Mideast right now is BLOWBACK for some of the mistakes and misdeeds the West has made in the last 60 years.
We should listen to our enemies. There’s an old proverb that says your enemies are honest about what motivates them most of the time… not so with those whom are considered allies.
Bin Laden and those that follow his ideology are often accused of simply hating freedom and democracy and wishing to take over the world.
In response to this Bin Laden chuckles and says “Go and ask Mr. Bush why we aren’t attacking Sweden then.”
The Islamists have been very forthcoming about what motivates them. They want us out of their business and our military out of their territory where we are “protecting our interests” and calling the shots in their backyards. Of course we aren’t listening… we are building a permanent presence there with 14 military bases… all with the finest amenities while the Iraqi people still don’t have basic water and electric with any kind of regularity.
I digress. Lets talk scripture. There are many that apply to all of this.
In Christ



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Payshun

posted September 16, 2007 at 10:30 pm


Keith Olberman was against w/ the war from the beginning. Rosie, I don’t know. Michael Moore was against the war. I am really glad we have Olberman. he is so freakingly intelligent and he talks. it’s great to hear a media person w/ a leftist opinion on the air. It’s great. I have had enough of the right dominating that.
p



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knowmansouldotcom

posted September 16, 2007 at 10:54 pm

Rick Nowlin

posted September 16, 2007 at 11:05 pm


They were on the bandwagon like most of everybody else. At any rate the media is not the only collective asking for diplomacy. Some talk show hosts would like for people to believe that- but its an oversimplification and its propaganda.
Actually, the Bush Administration did a good job of intimidating, then subverting, the media by calling them “disloyal” if they didn’t play along and allowing access only to “friendly” reporters, and to this day the New York Times has regretted not asking the tough questions it should have.
Just trust the One and don’t fear Islam.
Common sense — for once!



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kevin s.

posted September 16, 2007 at 11:26 pm


“It really freaks me out when I observe the unquestioning acceptance of Americanism mixed together with Christianity.”
Me too.
“You try and point out where this stuff might not be so Biblical…and in many circles, you can just watch people’s eyes glaze over. Or else get a look like you’ve just slapped someone in the face.”
I have had the same experience with liberal Christians on certain issues as well.
“I’m not sure what ever happened to the New Testament advise to “test all things, hold to what is good, reject the false.””
That’s fine, but let’s be pragmatic and intelligent in our testing, rather than sloganeering on both sides.
“What Mr. Wallis is saying is true – you talk to Christians who have visited and fellowshipped in other countries – and they’re not quite certain what is going on over here in the States.”
They probably get a jaundiced view of America, seen through a certain lens. That was my experience abroad.
“Seriously, I’m seriously wondering if the United States is going to turn out to be the Mystery Babylon of Revelation. The harlot church.”
That seems unlikely on numerous levels.
“And only we can prevent that from happening – but making sure we do engage in frequent reality checks and housecleaning of our beliefs.”
What housecleaning would that be. How do you know what our beliefs are and what housecleaning should be done about it?
If we are going to do a have our house cleaned, we ought to do it in light of interpreting scripture. Jim Wallis asserts an awful lot of things about scripture, but usually in the service of this or that policy initiative, and usually without really delving into serious exegesis. In my mind, this pre-empts the sort of housecleaning for which you yearn.



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Kevin Wayne

posted September 17, 2007 at 1:29 am


Why should anyone CARE if this war meets the “Just War” criterion or not? It miserably fails Biblical criteria by a long shot. That being that there is no evidence that the people of Yahweh should support a war Yahweh didn’t start. And Yahweh is never recorded as having started any wars since the Old Testament.



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Scott Starr

posted September 17, 2007 at 9:17 am


I’d have to pretty much agree with you Kevin Wayne.
Now add this to the mix:
Greenspan clarifies Iraq war, oil link
Says he told White House ousting Saddam was ‘essential’ to world supplies
WASHINGTON – Clarifying a controversial comment in his new memoir, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said he told the White House before the Iraq war that removing Saddam Hussein was “essential” to secure world oil supplies, according to an interview published on Monday.
Greenspan, who wrote in his memoir that “the Iraq War is largely about oil,” said in a Washington Post interview that while securing global oil supplies was “not the administration’s motive,” he had presented the White House before the 2003 invasion with the case for why removing the then-Iraqi leader was important for the global economy.
“I was not saying that that’s the administration’s motive,” Greenspan said in the interview conducted on Saturday. “I’m just saying that if somebody asked me, ’Are we fortunate in taking out Saddam?’ I would say it was essential.”
Economic motivation for war
In The Washington Post interview, Greenspan said at the time of the invasion he believed like President George W. Bush that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction “because Saddam was acting so guiltily trying to protect something.”
But Greenspan’s main support for Saddam’s ouster was economically motivated, the Post reported.
“My view is that Saddam, looking over his 30-year history, very clearly was giving evidence of moving towards controlling the Straits of Hormuz, where there are 17, 18, 19 million barrels a day” passing through,” Greenspan said.
Even a small disruption could drive oil prices as high as $120 a barrel and would mean “chaos” to the global economy, Greenspan told the newspaper.
Given that, “I’m saying taking Saddam out was essential,” he said. But he added he was not implying the war was an oil grab, the Post said.
Dismay with Democrats
Greenspan, who in his memoir criticized Bush and congressional Republicans for abandoning fiscal discipline and putting politics ahead of sound economics, also expressed dismay with the Democratic Party in an interview with The Wall Street Journal published on Monday.
Greenspan told the Journal he was “fairly close” to former President Bill Clinton’s economic advisers, but added, “The next administration may have the Clinton administration name, but the Democratic Party … has moved … very significantly in the wrong direction.” He cited its populist bent, especially its skepticism of free trade. Clinton’s wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton, is the Democratic presidential front-runner.
Greenspan, a self-described libertarian Republican, told the Journal he was not sure how he would vote in the 2008 election.
“I just may not vote,” he was quoted as saying, adding, ”I’m saddened by the whole political process.”
(saddenned… this sounds like a few more people I know. )
James 5 (Amplified Bible)
Amplified Bible (AMP)
James 5
1COME NOW, you rich [people], weep aloud and lament over the miseries (the woes) that are surely coming upon you.
2Your abundant wealth has rotted and is ruined, and your [many] garments have become moth-eaten.
3Your gold and silver are completely rusted through, and their rust will be testimony against you and it will devour your flesh as if it were fire. You have heaped together treasure for the last days.
4[But] look! [Here are] the wages that you have withheld by fraud from the laborers who have reaped your fields, crying out [for vengeance]; and the cries of the harvesters have come to the ears of the Lord of hosts.
5[Here] on earth you have abandoned yourselves to soft (prodigal) living and to [the pleasures of] self-indulgence and self-gratification. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.
See Related Youtube video:
“Blowback- Chalmers Johnson On Why We Really Fight”



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Anonymous

posted September 17, 2007 at 10:48 am


They probably get a jaundiced view of America, seen through a certain lens. That was my experience abroad.
Well, sometimes it takes people who don’t share your view about yourself to get you back on balance. No one is totally objective about everything, you know.
Seriously, I’m seriously wondering if the United States is going to turn out to be the Mystery Babylon of Revelation. The harlot church.
It isn’t. Been there, done that.
Jim Wallis asserts an awful lot of things about scripture, but usually in the service of this or that policy initiative, and usually without really delving into serious exegesis. In my mind, this pre-empts the sort of housecleaning for which you yearn.
You don’t need that much exegesis to figure out what the Scripture says about how to deal with the poor and powerless. In fact, in the conservative circles in which I used to run as a child you had to reinterpret the Scripture — in practice, do serious violence to it — to say that, essentially, “the poor deserve what they get.” (Interestingly enough, they never read the OT prophets.)



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kevin s.

posted September 17, 2007 at 11:08 am


“You don’t need that much exegesis to figure out what the Scripture says about how to deal with the poor and powerless.”
No, but you do need to do some work to divine that God intended to deal with the poor and powerless by way of governmental authority. A serious case can be made that he did not, and that advocating as much does serious violence to the scriptures (as Juris will inform you).
Further, there are those (like myself) who do not see governmental solutions achieving their intended purpose. Unfortunately, I can’t have an intern go grab a verse on governmental inefficiency.
In terms of the poor deserving what they get, it sounds as though your friends were performing a similarly shallow exegesis. However, there is some tension in the Bible between helping the poor and Biblical directives to earn a living. Ignoring EITHER gives us an incomplete picture, particularly as it relates to government intervention.



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knowmansouldotcom

posted September 17, 2007 at 11:36 am


The debate in the fellowship of Christ must be, necessarily; what does God the Father want the disciples of His Son, Jesus the messiah, to be about?
While we debate
our opinions and sub-divide Jesus’ fellowship of disciples into sects of liberal/leftist Christians and radicial right Christians, etc., our (read, not the Holy Father’s) opinions take center stage.
There are many things in the long list of posts above, which I could enjoy debating.
My close friend Mr. Starr enjoys debating a dozen or more issues within a single post.
Nevertheless, I have to ask, if while we are doing this; Is Jesus glorified by my debate, or is He hidden by my proud opinions?
If He (Jesus) has been obscured from glory by my noble or ignoble words, then the Holy Father’s will is not being served in faith, by my wisdom.
In light of our debate, we should consider Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthian Church.
1 Cor. 2:6-16 Yet when I am among mature Christians, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world, and not the kind that appeals to the rulers of this world, who are being brought to nothing. 7 No, the wisdom we speak of is the secret wisdom of God,* which was hidden in former times, though he made it for our benefit before the world began. 8 But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would never have crucified our glorious Lord. 9 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say,
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him.”*
10 But we know these things because God has revealed them to us by his Spirit, and his Spirit searches out everything and shows us even God’s deep secrets. 11 No one can know what anyone else is really thinking except that person alone, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. 12 And God has actually given us his Spirit (not the world’s spirit) so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. 13 When we tell you this, we do not use words of human wisdom. We speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.* 14 But people who aren’t Christians can’t understand these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them because only those who have the Spirit can understand what the Spirit means. 15 We who have the Spirit understand these things, but others can’t understand us at all. 16 How could they? For,
“Who can know what the Lord is thinking?
Who can give him counsel?”*
But we can understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.
Holy Bible : New Living Translation. 1997 . Tyndale House: Wheaton, Ill.



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pf

posted September 17, 2007 at 11:43 am


The ignorance about who Jesus was and what his message was about is astounding. Someone said “the focal point of his ministry was the grace that would be offered by his death on the cross.”
I’m sorry, but Jesus most certainly did not preach that salvation would come through his death. He said that God would forgive those who forgave others. He said God would welcome those who fed the hungry, visited the sick, etc. If in fact there was an additional need to believe in his death and resurrection, he must have been lying or unaware.
Jesus also did not preach that his kingdom was “in” heaven. Jesus told his disciples that they would rule over the earth. “The meek will inherit the earth.” After Jesus taught the disciples for 40 days about the Kingdom of God, they asked “when is it coming?” Jesus told the high priest at his trial and many others they would would personally see God coming to earth to end history and establish the earthly kingdom taught by the Hebrew prophets. Jesus never said the Hebrews were wrong in their beliefs about the nature of God or his plan for the world.
The problem here is that everyone creates a God/Jesus according to their own image. All types of divine being can be found in the scripture, because God is alternately warlike and pacifist, merciful and judgemental.



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kevin s.

posted September 17, 2007 at 12:07 pm


“I’m sorry, but Jesus most certainly did not preach that salvation would come through his death.”
His death on the cross was grace itself. The Bible (God’s word) alludes to this repeatedly. The prophets predicted is. Christ himself predicted it, along with his resurrection. He said that he must be killed, and that we will have the opportunity to gain real life by losing our physical life (Matthew 24). So he preached that salvation would come through his resurrection, not his death.



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N.M Rod

posted September 17, 2007 at 12:33 pm


So the usually forthright Greenspan is now backtracking from his assertion that the invasion and occupation was about money, not love – and waffling that for the administration, it was about love, not money.
Who you gonna believe – him or your lying eyes?



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pf

posted September 17, 2007 at 12:38 pm


Sorry, Kevin, the prophets predicted no such thing. No Jew had ever heard of the idea that God was triune or had a “son” part of himself that was going to get birthed through a woman and get sacrificed for the sins of mankind. To believe that, you have to believe that the people who wrote the books didn’t know what they were writing and that the people who worshipped God based on those writings were simlarly duped.
Jesus didn’t publicly preach this message of his death. The gospels say that near the end of hs ministry, he said it privately to his close followers. Why privately? Why wasn’t it the first, last and main thing he said, which it clearly wasn’t? Why teach any ethics at all if you are not saved by “works?” He could have just showed up, died and resurrected without saying a word.
Probably, Jesus and his disciples discussed how being a Messiah in Rome was something that had a good chance of causing loss of life, and that was later embellished in the books written deacdes later by people he did not know as his predicting his death.



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Scott Starr

posted September 17, 2007 at 12:47 pm


How about that? I agree with Kevin S. I also agree with this lone statement albeit phrased somewhat abrasively:
“The ignorance about who Jesus was and what his message was about is astounding.”
I agree also with this fragment (but not in the context used):
“He said that God would forgive those who forgave others. He said God would welcome those who fed the hungry, visited the sick,”
and this:
“The problem here is that everyone creates a God/Jesus according to their own image. All types of divine being can be found in the scripture, because God is alternately warlike and pacifist, merciful and judgemental.”
The rest I am unsure if is interpreted properly… I think not.
Also I think that Mr. DSM has nailed it pretty hard with the passage he supplied.
I generally think that when I write I am addressing spiritual matters cloaked in the carnal. Ultimately I think I am correct about that… but what I myself often forget is that mere logic will not convince anyone of anything… especially them that do not wish to be convinced of anything. I see this flaw in myself and others including Mr. Wallis as well as the people I/he/we are opposed to.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 17, 2007 at 1:07 pm


No, but you do need to do some work to divine that God intended to deal with the poor and powerless by way of governmental authority. A serious case can be made that he did not, and that advocating as much does serious violence to the scriptures (as Juris will inform you).
Juris is dangerously wrong about that, primarily because in his posts he continually ignores the doctrine of sin, which screws everything up. If if weren’t for that there wouldn’t be any need for government, which exists to restrain evil and administer justice (to which the prophets repeatedly refer). And yes, the prophets are clear about that — little if any exegesis work needed. But we individualistic Americans don’t see that because the Scripture was written in a more collective culture.
In terms of the poor deserving what they get, it sounds as though your friends were performing a similarly shallow exegesis. However, there is some tension in the Bible between helping the poor and Biblical directives to earn a living. Ignoring EITHER gives us an incomplete picture, particularly as it relates to government intervention.
What the Bible also calls for — and many conservatives still don’t want to get, but Jim Wallis certainly does — is removal of government/political obstacles so that the poor can make their own way. I see no conflict in the Scriptures with, say, educational and job-training grants, which is different from cash payments. But I for one get a bit suspicious with folks who want to cut those programs “because they hurt the poor.”



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kevin s.

posted September 17, 2007 at 1:41 pm


“Sorry, Kevin, the prophets predicted no such thing. ”
Then how did Christ fulfill prophecy?
“To believe that, you have to believe that the people who wrote the books didn’t know what they were writing and that the people who worshipped God based on those writings were simlarly duped.”
How were they duped? If you worship God now solely on the basis of the Old Testament, than you are certainly being duped. But before the death of Christ, God’s law had to be fulfilled by Israel.
“Jesus didn’t publicly preach this message of his death.”
So you believe he was speaking literally when he said that he would tear this temple down and rebuild it in three days?
“Why wasn’t it the first, last and main thing he said, which it clearly wasn’t?”
The first thing he preached was to repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. But why repent, and why did Jesus have the power to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is near? Incidentally, do you deny that Christ died for our sins?
“Why teach any ethics at all if you are not saved by “works?” He could have just showed up, died and resurrected without saying a word.”
An interesting question to which volumes of writings have been dedicated. He came to this Earth and did not sin. As such, he obeyed God’s directives in every circumstance. As such, we have a model for how to obey God. The book of James says that those who do no seek to emulate Jesus (i.e. performing “works”) had no faith.
As I see it, if your faith is alive, you are emulating Christ, and repentant when you (invariably) fail. But we are incapable of performing works that please God if we do not offer our lives up as a sacrifice to Christ, living as though our flesh were dead, and accepting our brokenness by accepting the gift of grace on the cross.
“Probably, Jesus and his disciples discussed how being a Messiah in Rome was something that had a good chance of causing loss of life”
On what basis do you draw this conclusion?
“and that was later embellished in the books written deacdes later by people he did not know as his predicting his death.”
Or this one? If we must disgregard writings by those Jesus “did not know”, then we can simply scrap the gospels entirely.



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Scott Starr

posted September 17, 2007 at 1:56 pm


Addressing this:
“The book of James says that those who do no seek to emulate Jesus (i.e. performing “works”) had no faith.”
James 2 (Amplified Bible)
14What is the use (profit), my brethren, for anyone to profess to have faith if he has no [good] works [to show for it]? Can [such] faith save [his soul]?
15If a brother or sister is poorly clad and lacks food for each day,
16And one of you says to him, Good-bye! Keep [yourself] warm and well fed, without giving him the necessities for the body, what good does that do?
17So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead).
18But someone will say [to you then], You [say you] have faith, and I have [good] works. Now you show me your [alleged] faith apart from any [good] works [if you can], and I by [good] works [of obedience] will show you my faith.
19You believe that God is one; you do well. So do the demons believe and shudder [in terror and horror such as make a man’s hair stand on end and contract the surface of his skin]!
20Are you willing to be shown [proof], you foolish (unproductive, spiritually deficient) fellow, that faith apart from [good] works is inactive and ineffective and worthless?
21Was not our forefather Abraham [shown to be] justified (made acceptable to God) by [his] works when he brought to the altar as an offering his [own] son Isaac?
22You see that [his] faith was cooperating with his works, and [his] faith was completed and reached its supreme expression [when he implemented it] by [good] works.
23And [so] the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed in (adhered to, trusted in, and relied on) God, and this was accounted to him as righteousness (as conformity to God’s will in thought and deed), and he was called God’s friend.
24You see that a man is justified (pronounced righteous before God) through what he does and not alone through faith [through works of obedience as well as by what he believes].
25So also with Rahab the harlot–was she not shown to be justified (pronounced righteous before God) by [good] deeds when she took in the scouts (spies) and sent them away by a different route?
26For as the human body apart from the spirit is lifeless, so faith apart from [its] works of obedience is also dead.
SS says,
A lot of people seem to skip over this entire chapter when discussing faith and works. That has always been very perplexing to me.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 17, 2007 at 1:56 pm


So he preached that salvation would come through his resurrection, not his death.
Uh — no. For openers, He became the final sacrifice, rendering obsolete the Jewish sacrifical system; when that veil to the Holy of Holies tore upon His death that sealed the deal theologically. The resurrection sealed the deal as far as His authority was concerned.
No Jew had ever heard of the idea that God was triune or had a “son” part of himself that was going to get birthed through a woman and get sacrificed for the sins of mankind.
Also categorically untrue — there were 300 specific prophecies about various aspects of that.



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Kay Coder

posted September 17, 2007 at 2:14 pm


The Christian community needs a wakeup call. Thank you for caring!



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Payshun

posted September 17, 2007 at 2:14 pm


Rick,
I usually find myself agreeing w/ you but like most Christians these days they know very little about Judaism.(I include myself in this) but the triune God description has never been embraced or even considered an accurate idea for God. You have the Holy Sephiroth (the different emanations of God ie his wisdom) and a whole host of other ideas about God. Most of the prophecies we Christians consider to be evidence of Christ are really not. Ask any rabbi about that one.
There are still a plenty that are but Jews have very different belief system from our own. That’s sad because Christianity started out as a Hebrew religion. Lately I have been adopting Kabalistic principles into my faith to learn and experience union w/ God. Since I have been learning more about this ancient faith I can tell you that the triune God is not thought of at all in their theology. Muslims and Jews think we are confused to call God that.
p



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carl copas

posted September 17, 2007 at 2:49 pm


kevin s:
“As I see it, if your faith is alive, you are emulating Christ, and repentant when you (invariably) fail. But we are incapable of performing works that please God if we do not offer our lives up as a sacrifice to Christ, living as though our flesh were dead, and accepting our brokenness by accepting the gift of grace on the cross.”
Amen!! A beautiful summary of the gospel, kevin.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 17, 2007 at 3:00 pm


I usually find myself agreeing w/ you but like most Christians these days they know very little about Judaism. (I include myself in this) but the triune God description has never been embraced or even considered an accurate idea for God.
In fact, the concept of a “Trinity” is not directly mentioned. But God as a plural being is established right in Genesis, and Jesus explicitly refers to the other Members of the Godhead in the Gospels.
Most of the prophecies we Christians consider to be evidence of Christ are really not. Ask any rabbi about that one.
Most rabbis don’t believe that Christ actually existed or else try to explain Him away. So that says nothing.



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Tim

posted September 17, 2007 at 3:30 pm


“If this current war with Iraq is successful in bring peace to that region and the Iraqi people have their own gov’t and have worked out their differences so that their is a peace there. Will you be happy with the outcome?”
I am grateful to see peace anywhere, but I am convinced that true peace never will, and never has been achieved through violence and war. I know there are some who will argue vociferously on this point. I believe that those who REALLY believe in peace, who live it in inwardly and outwardly, and who work to show others this way, will usually be killed. They will be killed because they are so different from the world, and they confront head-on the sin that infects people; that causes them to go to war for whatever ‘righteous’ reasons they concoct. Both sides are guilty. Ultimately, we know who wins, (hint – it is not those who choose war) but how many can take the truly, and radically dangerous steps that faith demands?



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Scott Starr

posted September 17, 2007 at 3:51 pm


AMEN Tim.
Ephesians 6
The Armor of God
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
19Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.



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pf

posted September 17, 2007 at 4:16 pm


Kevin, I’m pressed for time and not really able to do justice to this discussion, but let me briefly respond to some of your points.
1) “Then how did Christ fulfill prophecy?”
Either his followers embellished true events to meet Messianic prophecies or they shoehorned events that happened into writings from the Hebrew scriptures. For example, Jews didn’t think the suffering servant in Isaiah was about a Messiah, but after Jesus died, that language was employed to say he fulfilled a prophecy.
2) “The first thing he preached was to repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. But why repent, and why did Jesus have the power to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is near? Incidentally, do you deny that Christ died for our sins?”
Jesus, like John the Baptist and various other Jews, thought the world was ending in his day and age. He preached that God was going to establish a “kingdom ON earth, as it is in heaven,” a kingdom OF heaven, not a kingdom IN heaven. The wealthy and powerful would be laid low and the poor and powerless raised to power. He thought God was going to turn the world system on its head, as was taught in the prophets, and establish a kingdom headed by Jews led by a (human, not divine) Messiah and a priest. He said to repent because those who did would be part of the ruling class after God’s intervention.
Jesus thought this event was going to happen in his lifetime or the lifetimes of the people to whom he was speaking. Much of his prophetic charges have that sense — “you will see the son of man coming in the clouds,” etc. He was wrong.
I don’t think Jesus predicted his resurrection. Bottom line is I don’t think the Bible is a magical inerrent book. Try and read the gospels without preconceived notions of what is being said. For example, when Jesus talks about the Son of Man coming in the clouds, it sure as heck doesn’t sound like he is talking about himself, but people read it that way because they are taught Son of Man = Jesus = God. Which almost certainly isn’t the way it was meant when it was written. For one thing, Son of Man in the OT is a term used of the Jewish people, and various others, including non-Jewish leaders.
Try this: instead of reading the books one at a time, read the varying accounts of events in each Gospel. They can’t be reconciled, and it’s not just a matter of differing perspectives, but totally different facts. Think for yourself and don’t just parrot what you’re told in Sunday School.



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Payshun

posted September 17, 2007 at 5:38 pm


Rick said:
In fact, the concept of a “Trinity” is not directly mentioned. But God as a plural being is established right in Genesis, and Jesus explicitly refers to the other Members of the Godhead in the Gospels.
me:
True the idea that God exists plurally is present in Genesis. The tower of Babel is a perfect example of that. But that’s not what the Jews believe. They believe the we used in the Tower story is more about a royal we, not a plural we. It was like the kingdom itself could see the horror and destruction Babel represented and collectively decided to take it down.
You:
Most rabbis don’t believe that Christ actually existed or else try to explain Him away. So that says nothing.
Me:
It says a great deal actually. it says they are scared, it says that they can’t accpet a Messiah that ignores there plight. It also gives us a very clear idea of how much they have not seen the broader implications of their religion and how land locked it has become. It also gives them a much better understanding on old testament prophecy than we have currently.
There are plenty of prophecies that predict the Christ but many attributed to him have a different meaning than what is taught in most Christian circles. I tend to trust the Jews in that. Many rabbis believe Christ existed but was not their Messiah.
p



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 17, 2007 at 5:56 pm


For example, Jews didn’t think the suffering servant in Isaiah was about a Messiah, but after Jesus died, that language was employed to say he fulfilled a prophecy.
Did it ever occur to you that the Jews just missed it?
He preached that God was going to establish a “kingdom ON earth, as it is in heaven,” a kingdom OF heaven, not a kingdom IN heaven. The wealthy and powerful would be laid low and the poor and powerless raised to power. He thought God was going to turn the world system on its head, as was taught in the prophets, and establish a kingdom headed by Jews led by a (human, not divine) Messiah and a priest.
No — that’s just what the Jews of his day believed because of their contempt for the Roman Empire. But in many, many places the Scriptures indicated that “Gentile dogs” were to be brought in eventually. Jesus threw the moneychangers out of the temple because they kept Gentiles from worshipping God.
Try this: instead of reading the books one at a time, read the varying accounts of events in each Gospel. They can’t be reconciled, and it’s not just a matter of differing perspectives, but totally different facts. Think for yourself and don’t just parrot what you’re told in Sunday School.
Not true, either — in fact, the reason they seem irreconcilable was due to what my pastor called “Jewish literary devices,” especially in Matthew (wish I could remember what they are). You cannot separate the Bible from the culture from which it came.



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pf

posted September 17, 2007 at 6:10 pm


And for those who say that the triune God and divine Messiah were part of the Old Testament — it just ain’t so, even if you wish it were.
For example, in Genesis, there is plural language when describing God creating the earth, etc. But nothing in that language would imply the number three. By that logic, one could just as easily argue God has two or two thousand persons, or that the writer of Genesis believed in many Gods.
The first tenent of Judiasm was the Shema: “The Lord, the Lord thy God is ONE.” When asked the most important commandment, Jesus repeated this verbatim (in one gospel, anyway, I know another account is different).
The patriarchs supposedly talked with God, why didn’t he mention triunity to them? All the Hebrew scriptures, if they refer to a trinity, it certainly wasn’t the intent of the authors. So one has to believe they just wrote words they didn’t understand. Makes no sense if you think about it for even a minute.
Sorry for changing the topic.



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Scott Starr

posted September 17, 2007 at 6:13 pm


Last word:
The discussion
BE NOT AFRAID
Psalm 46: God Makes Wars Cease
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Come, behold the works of the LORD;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Selah



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Felipe

posted September 17, 2007 at 7:02 pm


This comment may come a little late into the debate, but in regards to Wolverine’s assertion that suspicion of American motives by people of other countries may lie in their resentment/jealousy of American economic, cultural or military prowess, I must say that Wolverine has never bothered to learn about the history of US involvement in Latin America, parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
His/Her view is basically a slightly different take on the “they hate us because of our values” meme that neocons have been trying so hard to push through the conventional political discourse in the MSM. Aside from the fanatics( the bin ladens and so forth) much of the resentment/suspicion/hatred of the United States that exists in many people throughout the developing world is due to US policies, NOT ITS VALUES, which have time and again put US economic and geopolitical interests above other peoples’ aspirations for true democracy and self-determination. Democracy in other countries, it seems, is only worth pursuing and defending when it serves US political and economic interests.
That is which is at the root of the problem, not US values, the best of which are worth emulating by all peoples.



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Don

posted September 17, 2007 at 7:48 pm


Felipe:
So true, so true. And the fact that we have betrayed those very values that are most worthy of emulation is something else that the neocons just don’t get.
Peace,



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Rev. Ian Alterman

posted September 17, 2007 at 11:32 pm


Again, responses to a few scattered comments.
Re the debate b/w Kevin and pf, Jesus’ ministry had both temporal (i.e., this life) and spiritual (i.e., afterlife) aspects. Clearly, the precepts of his general public ministry – love, peace, humility, forgiveness, compassion, patience, charity, selflessness, service, justice, truth – were virtues being taught as applicable HERE, in THIS life. However, he also spoke of the afterlife (i.e., “kingdom,” “heaven,” etc.), and made statements both direct (“No one comes to the Father but through Me”) and cryptic (“I am able to destroy the temple of God and build it in three days”) about his death and resurrection. Thus, He spoke of and taught both, to varying degrees, both publicly to the people and privately to His disciples.
pf said, “Jesus thought this event was going to happen in his lifetime or the lifetimes of the people to whom he was speaking. Much of his prophetic charges have that sense — “you will see the son of man coming in the clouds,” etc. He was wrong.”
I disagree. Again, it is critical to look at statements in context. When Jesus says, “This generation shall not pass until all these things be fulfilled,” He is NOT talking about His OWN generation: He is talking about the generation that will witness all the signs that He has been speaking of, which were to come in some unspecified future. Indeed, at least one (if not more) of those signs was not, and could not have been, fulfilled during His own generation: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Even after Paul’s extensive travels, the gospel had not been preached “in all the world,” but only a small part of it. Indeed, it is only within the past 50 years or so that this sign can be said to have been fulfilled.
Re knowmansouldotcom’s cites re people’s “opinions” and “knowledge,” and whether or not they serve Christ or only serve those making them, I would add three cites:
“Because the carnal [temporal] mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Romans 8:7
“Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” 1 Cor 1:20
“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem the other better than themselves…Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” Phil 2:3,5-7
Finally, Kevin’s passage cannot be reprinted enough, as it is perhaps the best single paragraph in this entire blog:
“As I see it, if your faith is alive, you are emulating Christ, and repentant when you (invariably) fail. But we are incapable of performing works that please God if we do not offer our lives up as a sacrifice to Christ, living as though our flesh were dead, and accepting our brokenness by accepting the gift of grace on the cross.”
Peace.



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jonabark

posted September 18, 2007 at 12:01 am


“You don’t need that much exegesis to figure out what the Scripture says about how to deal with the poor and powerless.” ?
“No, but you do need to do some work to divine that God intended to deal with the poor and powerless by way of governmental authority. A serious case can be made that he did not, and that advocating as much does serious violence to the scriptures (as Juris will inform you).” Kevin S
Why did God introduce the Jubileee redistribution of wealth in the Law if he did not expect it to be carried out by the elected elders and the priests? Why did so many prophets address kings and rulers in regard to their abuses including their failures to care for the poor.
The truth is that the more those who are rich and well armed control government the more their wealth and power is guaranteed by violence and doctrines of divine rule. And the more evenly political power is distributed in a society, and the more evenly wealth is distributed, then the more the physical health and happiness of the members of the society improves. This truth fits much more consistently with the teachings of Jesus than the violent authoritarianism that you so cherish in Bush.
Complex interdependent systems require more “governance”. You cannot have a highly technological society without many checks and balances and systems of oversight. Slavery, child labor, institutional racism, unsafe food and medicine, land theft, and ecological catastrophes have not been eliminated or improved by the magic of the marketplace. They have been changed by the political will of people united in their own best interest. Jesus urged that the least should have as much say as the greatest. A great argument for democracy. He also said the love of money was the root of evil. Not a great argument for laissez faire, Friedman-style capitalism.
This is Jim’s blog. If you neo con types don’t like anything he says , and you don’t like being criticized for clogging his blog, ( In my opinion because no one else will give you the attention you crave but liberal Christians, ever hopeful of the power of the words of Jesus and a bit of common sense to persuade) you are free to leave. Instead you accuse him of intolerance , but do not aspire to tolerance yourself. Jesus was tolerant of children and Samaritans and even Roman occupiers; and he was merciful to harlots and sinners, but he called the religious legalists and authoritarians of his day hypocrites and vipers.
Jesus said when you enter a house and your peace finds a place in the house you should stay there until the message was fully delivered. He told his followers to move on if they weren’t received. I do not believe the sojourners supporters have felt your peace or received you as prophets. Mod lad, Wolvie, Kevin, Jesse Maybe it is time to move on. Maybe you should check out how persusive your rhetoric and insight have been by leaving and inviting all interested to follow you to the land of milk and honey where the neo-con grapes are as big and as plentiful as the tens of thousands of skulls of Iraqi children who have died in the crusade you so avidly support. God’s mercy on your journey.



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kevin s.

posted September 18, 2007 at 1:58 am


“Why did God introduce the Jubileee redistribution of wealth in the Law if he did not expect it to be carried out by the elected elders and the priests?”
Does America’s leadership constitute elected leaders and priests?
“Why did so many prophets address kings and rulers in regard to their abuses including their failures to care for the poor?”
They addressed their oppression of the poor, which was a part of their sin, and altogether different form using other people’s money to care for the poor.
“And the more evenly political power is distributed in a society, and the more evenly wealth is distributed, then the more the physical health and happiness of the members of the society improves.”
You introduce two ideas that are at odds here. The first is the distribution of political power throughout society, which I agree contributes to the health of a society. The second is the distribution of wealth, which inherently consolidates political power.
“This truth fits much more consistently with the teachings of Jesus”
What does Jesus teach about the role of government in distributing power, economic or political?
“than the violent authoritarianism that you so cherish in Bush.”
Thank you for the added drama.
“Complex interdependent systems require more “governance”.”
More governance than what?
“You cannot have a highly technological society without many checks and balances and systems of oversight.”
Sure.
“Slavery, child labor, institutional racism, unsafe food and medicine, land theft, and ecological catastrophes have not been eliminated or improved by the magic of the marketplace.”
I disagree, which isn’t to say I reject oversight of food or drugs.
“They have been changed by the political will of people united in their own best interest.”
If people can develop a political will, why not a financial will? If people are capable of voting for those who would ban certain drugs from being sold, why are they not capable of making purchasing decisions that protect their own safety?
In the case of drugs, the FDA is tasked with testing drugs before they ever reach humans (and after, for that matter). This is not because people are incapable of deciding not to buy dangeroud drugs, but because any human death resulting from such a drug is unacceptable. This does not play into your argument as well as you think.
“Jesus urged that the least should have as much say as the greatest. A great argument for democracy.”
It is an absurd argument for democracy. I am a fan of democracy, but not because of this passage, which tells me to abandon this life entirely in order to fully commune with Christ.
“He also said the love of money was the root of evil. Not a great argument for laissez faire, Friedman-style capitalism.”
First of all, thank you for recognizing that the new testament is equal to the teachings of Christ. Many here advocate an absurd hierarchy that forms the backbone of moral relativism.
But I digreess in order to ask whether Friedman argued that we must love money. I don’t see that in his writings.
“This is Jim’s blog.”
Also named the “God’s Politics” blog. When you claim to speak for God, and you are wrong, I will debate you.
“If you neo con types don’t like anything he says , and you don’t like being criticized for clogging his blog,”
I don’t care if I am criticized. To me, it demonstrates his immaturity, but he is welcome to criticize, and I am welcome to disagree with his viewpoint (thus far). You are working up a head of steam here, I see.
“In my opinion because no one else will give you the attention you crave but liberal Christians, ever hopeful of the power of the words of Jesus and a bit of common sense to persuade”
Depends on what you mean by “time of day”. Democratic Underground would not give my ideas time of day, but then Democratic Underground is comprised of seemingly unstable people. You parlayed this to insult nicely. Sojo is always looking for interns, you know.
“you are free to leave. Instead you accuse him of intolerance”
I have accused him of no such thing, and despise the charge. If you are passionate about an idea, you are intolerant of other ideas, to some degree.
“but do not aspire to tolerance yourself.”
And so the reverse applies, depending (of course) on your definition of tolerance.
“Jesus was tolerant of children and Samaritans and even Roman occupiers; and he was merciful to harlots and sinners, but he called the religious legalists and authoritarians of his day hypocrites and vipers.”
Correct.
” I do not believe the sojourners supporters have felt your peace or received you as prophets.”
I do not claim to be a prophet. That’s Wallis’ thing, making prophets out of the merely opinionated.
“Mod lad, Wolvie, Kevin, Jesse Maybe it is time to move on.”
I don’t think it is. Many people here have the ability to stomach our dissent. And if they don’t, well, they might want to develop a tolerance for it, to use your word.
“Maybe you should check out how persusive your rhetoric and insight have been by leaving and inviting all interested to follow you to the land of milk and honey where the neo-con grapes are as big and as plentiful as the tens of thousands of skulls of Iraqi children who have died in the crusade you so avidly support.”
Yikes. Well, I’m glad you got that out of your system.
“God’s mercy on your journey.”
I’m not sure it is healthy or respectful (of God, not myself) to use this phrase as you have here.



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Anonymous

posted September 18, 2007 at 6:02 am


Here’s a book to think about getting – One Nation Over God: The Americanization of Christianity. American Christians seem many times to love America first and Jesus second, and sacrifice both on the twin altars of fear and revenge. http://www.lulu.com/content/917530. Conflict of interest statement: I am the author.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 18, 2007 at 10:44 am


They addressed their oppression of the poor, which was a part of their sin, and altogether different form using other people’s money to care for the poor.
Not necessarily — if you use your power/authority to screw the poor in ways I’ve already mentioned, some “redistribution” may be appropriate.
Democratic Underground would not give my ideas time of day, but then Democratic Underground is comprised of seemingly unstable people. You parlayed this to insult nicely.
Which is what you just did — anyone who is passionate, committed and disagrees with the conservative agenda is unstable? Think about that.
And so the reverse applies, depending (of course) on your definition of tolerance.
Kevin — As long as you’ve been here you’ve been trying to say that the conservatives are right and everyone else is wrong. That’s not tolerance even by minimal standards. (That said, such tolerance isn’t one of my strengths, either.) But did it ever occur to you that the conservativesMany people here have the ability to stomach our dissent.
Not when you lie to promote your agenda, because Scripture says something about that. I personally will jump down your throat when you do.
That’s Wallis’ thing, making prophets out of the merely opinionated.
Time will tell if Wallis and his friends are true prophets — because they tend to be ahead of their time and will be vilified in their time. (I myself have prophetic giftings, so I understand the process. My guess is that they will be proven right because they see things most people don’t.)



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Payshun

posted September 18, 2007 at 12:43 pm


Kevin:
If people can develop a political will, why not a financial will? If people are capable of voting for those who would ban certain drugs from being sold, why are they not capable of making purchasing decisions that protect their own safety?
Me:
It’s much broader than that. Their financial will is tied to their own self interest which means not caring about how other people get along. We have seen this in our own history repeatedly. Just look at the turn of the century and all the monopolies that were broken up because of their greed, graft and lack of care for the poor. In other threads you mentioned the market place being a place for the people. I would contend that’s a myth. It’s about individual self interest and shareholder priorities and that’s the problem Kevin.
You mentioned how realistic your view is but you seem to ignore how idealistic your idea is. There are several assumptions in your question about trusting people w/ that level of power. One is assuming that bias won’t creep in to hurt others. Two that they can police themselves to cut out graft. Three that the people will be taken care of. I could keep this up for a while.
To sum this up you are making the assumption that the market place will look out for the common worker and their family. I would contend that this country’s history doesn’t demonstrate that. When the market’s are allowed free reign greed distorts everything. For some reason you seem to ignore that.
p



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kevin s.

posted September 18, 2007 at 2:21 pm


“Not necessarily — if you use your power/authority to screw the poor in ways I’ve already mentioned, some “redistribution” may be appropriate.”
Well, if you are hording the money for yourself as a leader, then the prophets might have been asking for redistribution, but the were not calling on leaders to take money from person A and give it to B. That is simply reading your own political viewpoints into scripture.
Anyone can say “God is good, and my politics are good, so therefore God supports my politics”, but that is essentially an example of using scripture at the service of circular reasoning.
“Which is what you just did — anyone who is passionate, committed and disagrees with the conservative agenda is unstable? Think about that.”
That isn’t what I said. I said the people at Democratic Underground are unstable. Many passionate, committed Democrats are ashamed of the left-wing blogosphere.
“Kevin — As long as you’ve been here you’ve been trying to say that the conservatives are right and everyone else is wrong.”
I have said that nowhere. However, I do believe that the conservatives are right, and I concede that, by virtue of believing my own ideology to be right, I am intolerant to some degree. So I have no idea what point you are trying to communicate here.
“But did it ever occur to you that the conservatives”
A lot of things have occurred to me about conservatives. I am principally interested in the validity of the ideology, not the motives of those applying the ideology (though I do not concede that they are as nefarious as you claim).
“Time will tell if Wallis and his friends are true prophets — because they tend to be ahead of their time and will be vilified in their time. (I myself have prophetic giftings, so I understand the process. My guess is that they will be proven right because they see things most people don’t.)”
Well, of course you guess that he will be proven right. You agree with his ideology. Having a political opinion does not make you a prophet simply because you happen to be right.
Further, how could Wallis & Co. possibly be construed as vilified? The strongest crticisms of Wallis that I have heard are that he asserts a rather self-serving exegesis, and that he does not make his case on theological ground, thus conflatiing religion and politics in a dangerous way.
That may be a strong criticism, but it is hardly representative of vilification. Wallis is welcome just about anywhere he wishes to go, in the world’s most powerful corridors. He was practically worshipped at Davos. Democratic candidates fight for time in the forums he provides.
There simply is no comparison.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 18, 2007 at 2:21 pm


Another system glitch — here’s how my last post should read:
They addressed their oppression of the poor, which was a part of their sin, and altogether different form using other people’s money to care for the poor.
Not necessarily — if you use your power/authority to screw the poor in ways I’ve already mentioned, some “redistribution” may be appropriate.
Democratic Underground would not give my ideas time of day, but then Democratic Underground is comprised of seemingly unstable people. You parlayed this to insult nicely.
Which is what you just did — anyone who is passionate, committed and disagrees with the conservative agenda is unstable? Think about that.
And so the reverse applies, depending (of course) on your definition of tolerance.
Kevin — As long as you’ve been here you’ve been trying to say that the conservatives are right and everyone else is wrong. That’s not tolerance even by minimal standards. (That said, such tolerance isn’t one of my strengths, either.) But did it ever occur to you that the conservatives are just plain wrong, factually and in their analysis?
Many people here have the ability to stomach our dissent.
Not when you lie to promote your agenda, because Scripture says something about that. I personally will jump down your throat when you do.
That’s Wallis’ thing, making prophets out of the merely opinionated.
Time will tell if Wallis and his friends are true prophets — because they tend to be ahead of their time and will be vilified in their time. (I myself have prophetic giftings, so I understand the process. My guess is that they will be proven right because they see things most people don’t.)



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 18, 2007 at 2:41 pm


Well, if you are hording the money for yourself as a leader, then the prophets might have been asking for redistribution, but the were not calling on leaders to take money from person A and give it to B. That is simply reading your own political viewpoints into scripture.
Sorry, but there was, in practice, no difference. The upper class was doing the exact same thing, “buying” the political class to get its way.
A lot of things have occurred to me about conservatives. I am principally interested in the validity of the ideology, not the motives of those applying the ideology (though I do not concede that they are as nefarious as you claim).
Having dealt with them in my professional life, I can personally attest to that. Motive determines validity, which determines the outcome, and their motive from the outset was political domination — which they have lost. I say that because wrong motives are by definition idolatrous. (I’ve gotten in trouble here for saying that before, but I believe it.)
However, I do believe that the conservatives are right, and I concede that, by virtue of believing my own ideology to be right, I am intolerant to some degree. So I have no idea what point you are trying to communicate here.
You contradicted yourself. Because when evidence comes up that the conservatives are wrong you dismiss it as left-wing, socialist or some other derogatory label. The fact that you’re even here speaks volumes.
Further, how could Wallis & Co. possibly be construed as vilified? The strongest crticisms of Wallis that I have heard are that he asserts a rather self-serving exegesis, and that he does not make his case on theological ground, thus conflating religion and politics in a dangerous way.
You just answered your own question. It’s the soundest and most sensical theology I’ve ever heard — and remember, I come from a background that places considerable emphasis on theology.
Wallis is welcome just about anywhere he wishes to go, in the world’s most powerful corridors.
I’ll believe that when he’s invited on Focus on the Family.



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pf

posted September 18, 2007 at 5:18 pm


knowmansoul, if the OT implies God is plural, it does not imply anything about three parts. As I said, why not two or 10 or 200?
Rev. Alterman, do you know of anyone who talks that way? Do you say things to people like, “you will see the Jets win the Super Bowl,” but what you really mean is that the Jets will win 2000 years from now? Please use a little common sense.
The problem with Jesus’ predictions of the end time is that some clearly indicate a present tense and clearly they were not all fulfilled. Christians have argued for centuries about whether he was referring to events that happened or if they are predictions of things to come. But neither makes sense, which is why neither side ever wins the argument.
The only logical and simple explanation is that he was talking about events that would happen in his lifetime, and they did not occur.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 18, 2007 at 5:39 pm


Rev. Alterman, do you know of anyone who talks that way? Do you say things to people like, “you will see the Jets win the Super Bowl,” but what you really mean is that the Jets will win 2000 years from now? Please use a little common sense.
The singles pastor of my church is teaching a series on Revelation right now, and what Alterman said about that was, in its cultural context, quite correct. Revelation is not so much about the end times because, historically, they indeed have already occurred in history. We wait only for Jesus to return.



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Scott Starr

posted September 18, 2007 at 8:07 pm


Hey Rich Nowlin, I agree with what you have just said. If I must label my own take on eschatology it would be amillenialism. Ultimately it really doesn’t matter. Our job as Christians in simple terms is to be ready for whatever it is that will come about at the end and to be faithful disciples until that time. I am curious what brand of theology is that that PF is using there? Is it dispensationalism?
Hank Haanegraaf has an excellent book out right now called “The Apocalypse Code” that deals with all the faulty eschatology and its consequences quite forcefully. He does in the Hal Lindsey take on things quite thoroughly. Ironically, Lindsey has a book by the same title.



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Scott Starr

posted September 18, 2007 at 9:49 pm


“Very often people object that nonviolence seems to imply passive acceptance of injustice and evil and therefore that it is a kind of cooperation with evil. Not at all. The genuine concept of nonviolence implies not only active and effective resistance to evil but in fact a more effective resistance… But the resistance which is taught in the Gospel is aimed not at the evil-doer but at evil in its source.”
– Thomas Merton
from Passion For Peace



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david

posted September 19, 2007 at 10:19 am


Thank you Jim for your thoughtful reflections. It seems that many who challenge this particular reflection miss the question of ecclesiology. I am sure our sisters and brothers in other parts of the world are aware of the issues raised, and still they beleive that as a nation we are headed in the wrong direction. And so, do we stand with our nation, or do we stand with the majority of the Christian community?
I’m not a regular commentor here, but I applaud the work you and other are doing to bring a critical Christian voice to the crucial conversations of our day. God bless you.



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canucklehead

posted September 19, 2007 at 9:29 pm


>>>”Many American Christians are simply more loyal to a version of American nationalism than they are to the body of Christ. I want to suggest that the two are now in conflict, and we must decide to whom to we ultimately belong. That’s the real issue.” Jim Wallis
307 comments later, your original observation rings truer than ever, Jim. Bravo!



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Tom Booker

posted September 22, 2007 at 10:52 am


Nationalism and Christian faith are ALWAYS in conflict, not just currently among American Christians over Iraq policy. And Jim Wallis’ basic approach–put Christ ahead of national loyalties–is ALWAYS good advice.
Yet in reading Jim’s comments I often don’t believe he questions enough the context of the war that comes from media or political discussions. If love is put as first principle in advocating any particular policy, then rapid withdrawal of American troops cannot be the right policy.
Starting with the obvious–that current policymakers have made an unholy mess of the situation–American and other world Christians should ask what is best for the Iraqi people. I cannot believe that handing everything over to the Iraqi government, as sovereign as it is and as inept as it seems, is not very loving toward those whose lives “coalition” forces have so disrupted.
While the measure of good that US and other military and social forces can offer after 4 and 1/2 years of bungling necessitates setting a strong and sure direction of troop withdrawal, the issues are more complex than the current debate I read on any pages, secular or religious. I don’t dare suggest I have anything more than a proper theological starting point, but to me, that’s so much more useful and more righteous for future policy setting than anything else I hear or read.



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Rev. Ian Alterman

posted September 23, 2007 at 10:34 am


Three responses.
Re the wealth redistribution debate, even setting aside the Jubilee concept, I am surprised that no one has brought up the following: “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common…Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” (Acts 4:32-35).
This, of course, is the basis of true communism, or at very least “communalism.” (Ironic that Marx stole his idea from the Christians only to turn around and call religion the “opium of the masses!”) But setting that aside, it is as legitimate an example of how Christians should approach this issue as anything thus far offered.
Second, Scott Starr offered the following quote from Thomas Merton: “Very often people object that nonviolence seems to imply passive acceptance of injustice and evil and therefore that it is a kind of cooperation with evil. Not at all. The genuine concept of nonviolence implies not only active and effective resistance to evil but in fact a more effective resistance… But the resistance which is taught in the Gospel is aimed not at the evil-doer but at evil in its source.”
Merton was heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, who quite literally “wrote the book” on this issue, the brilliant “For Pacifists” (1949). And Gandhi, of course, was heavily influenced by Jesus (among others) in this regard.
Third, I would like to parse pf’s response to my mini-exegesis of Jesus’ words in Matt 24.
“Rev. Alterman, do you know of anyone who talks that way?”
Not personally (LOL). But actually ALL the prophets did. That is the nature of prophetic Scripture.
“Please use a little common sense.”
Common sense has nothing to do with it, since “common sense” is a function of “human” nature, and prophetic Scripture is divinely inspired and thus is not subject to “human” modes of understanding or explanation.
“The problem with Jesus’ predictions of the end time is that some clearly indicate a present tense and clearly they were not all fulfilled.”
I disagree. There is no indication that any of the signs Jesus notes in this passage are or were expected to happen in the lifestimes of the people He was speaking to. Indeed, the prophetic context prima facie belies this: Jesus’ use of the term “ye” (“when ye shall see…”) does not mean “you” as in “those who are listening,” but “people in general” at the time that the signs are actually fulfilled.
“Christians have argued for centuries about whether he was referring to events that happened or if they are predictions of things to come. But neither makes sense, which is why neither side ever wins the argument.”
I grant you that the exegesis of this passage has been debated for centuries. However, once again you talk about “making sense.” Yet our understanding of what makes “sense” is necessarily limited by our temporal minds; what does not make “sense” to us may make perfect sense to God.
“The only logical and simple explanation is that he was talking about events that would happen in his lifetime, and they did not occur.”
This time you cite “logic,” which is an even more questionable term than “sense” when we are discussing Scripture, and particularly prophetic Scripture. “Logic” is an entirely human concept, since little or nothing regarding God, Jesus, mircales, the resurrection, etc. is “logical.” Again, what is illogical to us may be perfect logical to God. As for “simple,” prophetic Scripture is inherently never “simple.”
Finally, the word “prophet” is being thrown around a bit loosely here. A true “prophet” is NEVER wrong, since the punishment for being wrong even once is being stoned to death.
In this regard, Wallis is not, nor has he claimed to be or even suggested that he is, a “prophet.” A person who makes “predictions” is not a prophet: only a person who “prophesies” is a prophet.
Peace.



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dlowen

posted October 9, 2007 at 1:40 am


Excellent post. Likewise Rev. Alterman. Also, NMRod, I am a Baptist in the historical sense, but since the Baptist churches in the South have ceased to be Baptist, I have left that sad establishment. (For those who would disagree, I would point to the abandonment of the original BF&M authored by Herschel Hobbs, et. al. that leaned heavily on the priesthood of the believer and the fact that we are Sojourners on this earth toward a denomination of socio-political ideogogues.)
As one who has lived overseas as an SBC missionary, I agree that we should have a more deep connection with our brothers and sisters in Christ no matter where in the world they may be found than with our countrymen who do not share the love of Christ. (Sorry, I just don’t understand how killing Iraqi citizens equates with the love of Christ.) Do you realize how much of the church in America is based on being American as opposed to being of Christ? I didn’t either. Go live with devout brothers and sisters in Africa, Latin America, or Asia.
It never ceases to amaze me that writers on this blog rail against JW for tarring them with his brush. I have stated here before, “If the shoe fits…” If his criticisms aren’t on target, why do you wear them? I would say that your subconscience is more attuned to your attitude than is your conscience mind. God knows both.



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Stuart G. Satterfield

posted March 31, 2008 at 8:55 pm


Your article is 100% “Spot On”.
You are completely correct in your viewpoint on this article/commentary.
I commend you.
Our news in America is way too shallow and I am angry about it. America’s foreign policy is WAY off course and completely Anti-To-Christ.
COMPLETELY!
I feel blessed to have found you on the web.
American Christians need to be Christians FIRST and American second.
I learned about the perils of nationalism in 1994 when I was a young man…… and I believe in
Being an Internationalist
I will take a moment right now to publicly pray to God that America will become less aggressive in the future.
AMEN



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