A Message from a Palestinian Christian …

I have great admiration for Naim Ateek and the good people of Sabeel. Here is their statement on this 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Quotable:

Justice and peace is the work of the church. Jesus was very political when he said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.’ Peacemaking is part of the essence of the church’s work. If the clergy are not engaged, then a very important dimension of their ministry is missing. The prophetic voice of church leaders must be heard. It must be undergirded by a clear, nonviolent strategy, and courage....

There can never be peace without justice, and justice will never die so long as there are people who yearn for it, work for it, and sacrifice for it. It could, and may take a long time... Our people must continue to live in the hope of liberation and peace, remembering the words of the Apostle Paul, ‘[we know] that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us’ (Romans 5:3-5).

 

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Have you heard about “New Capitalism?”

Check this out. Well worth your 20 minutes ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_1533760065&feature=iv&src_vid=bBx2Y5HhplI&v=q2gO4DKVpa8

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To Liberty University Students (and their peers at similar institutions): It’s Not Your Fault

It's not your fault that you were born into an Evangelical or fundamentalist family

It's not your fault that 81% of Evangelicals (including your Liberty University president) chose this time to align themselves with Donald Trump and all he represents.

It's not your fault that for the rest of your life, your Liberty degree will have reduced value in all settings except those where Trump and his racism, misogyny, climate denialism, and rude arrogance are celebrated.

These things aren't your fault.

 

You had the energy and intelligence to seek a college education, and you should get the best education you can. But you're caught in this strange predicament, and you have some important choices to make.

You could let yourself be massaged into complicity with Trumpism, either by active collaboration or silent complicity. Just by going with the flow, you will get used to things being considered normal that shouldn't be, especially:

A. A US President who routinely lies, who displays shocking ignorance and arrogance (along with the opposite of most other biblical virtues), who is careless about violence, who has an unflattering sexual and business history, and who loves money like no other president in history.

B. A University President who is willing to risk your University's reputation, and thus yours, on this man.

You could have a long talk with your parents this summer and tell them that you don't want to be part of a school that is associated with Trump. There are several other Christian colleges and universities that take faith seriously but that haven't put their train on Trump's track. To name just one not too far from you, consider Eastern Mennonite.

If that's impossible, you could plan to come back to Liberty next year as an organizer for a different kind of Christian faith, one that ...

Promotes character over "wealth and winning," recalling that Jesus spoke "The Beatitudes" and not "The Art of the Deal."

Promotes equality for all people, no exceptions, keeping in mind Jesus' words about doing for others as you'd have them do for you, and loving neighbors as yourself.

Promotes nonviolence and reconciliation, keeping in mind Jesus' words, "Blessed are the peacemakers."

Protects the earth, believing that "the earth is the Lord's, and all its fulness."

If that interests you, I hope you'll contact me through my website. I would like to be of help.

 

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A Dangerous Moment for Christianity

During the Reagan years, when I was about 30, I remember reading an article about William F. Buckley, Jr.'s profound influence on Ronald Reagan and the conservative movement. I remember being shocked by a quote from Buckley included in the article. I cut it out and put it in a file folder for later use, but eventually lost the folder, even though I remembered its basic content.

Recently, through a google search, I found the quote again, and it seems especially fitting this week.

In 1960, Russian leader Nikita Kruschev visited the United States, and in response to his visit, Buckley gave an address called, "In the End, We Will Bury Him" (September 17, 1960). He said,

Khrushchev cannot take permanent advantage of our temporary disadvantage, for it is the West he is fighting…. Khrushchev is not aware that the gates of hell shall not prevail against us…. In the end, we will bury him.

Politically, it's disturbing enough in light of Buckley's words to watch Trump's GOP show such deep affection for Putin and other autocrats.

But theologically, I'm even more unsettled. For Buckley, a Catholic, "the West" was made equivalent to "the church" in Jesus' promise (Mt. 16:18), "I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

I suppose such an equivalence makes sense if one sees Constantine's conversion of Christianity in 312 CE as a good, even God-ordained thing.

But it's tragic, ridiculous, even blasphemous, if one considers the actual content of Matthew 16, where Jesus makes clear that his triumph will occur, not through Jesus "burying" his foes, but rather through his willingness to be arrested, be humiliated, be tortured, be killed, and himself be buried. Jesus victory will transcend the whole meta-narrative of redemptive violence - transcend it and in so doing, discredit it.

Peter objects to Jesus' words, and Jesus responds, "Get behind me, Satan!" - as if to say that to side with violence is to be possessed with evil, even if you or your words have just been called the rock on which the church will be built. It would have been interesting to discuss this matter of biblical interpretation with Buckley himself.

All that came to mind last week when I read two news stories you probably read or heard too.

First, Greg Gianforte won a special election to Congress as a Montana Republican, even after assaulting a reporter and lying about what happened. His victory has been praised by Trump, while his violence and lying have been, predictably, ignored and thus minimized. Gianforte and his family attend an Evangelical Bible Church in Bozeman. He is a young-earth creationist and biblical literalist.

Second, Dave Daubenmire, an Evangelical Christian with a popular web-cast, said, “The only thing that is going to save Western civilization is a more aggressive, a more violent Christianity." Obviously, the equating or yoking of Christianity with Western civilization has haunting resonance with Buckley's 1960 speech. He intensified his call to violence by praising Donald Trump for rudely muscling his way to the front of a photo opportunity with European leaders, saying,

“They’re all little puppies, ain’t nobody barking at him … He’s walking in authority. He walked to the front and center and they all know it, too, man. He just spanked them all.... The Lord is showing us a picture of the authority we should be walking in.”

Daubenmire not only echoed Buckley, but praised Gianforte:

“People are sick and tired of it.... They’re saying, ‘Yes, a fighter! Go, dude, go!’ … Who won? The dude that took the other dude to the ground.”

Like Buckley, he even twisted some Scripture (Mt. 11:12) to bolster his point:

“That should be the heart cry of Christian men.... From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of God has suffered violence and violent men take it by force.”

Daubenmire's glorification of the word "violence," as any responsible commentary will make clear, reverses the meaning of Matthew 11:12, and it marks one of the most flagrant, blatant calls to violent Christian extremism by a public figure.

Christians are constantly asking Muslims to reject "violent Islamic extremism." It now remains to be seen how many Christians will speak out against this call to violent Christian extremism.

I am happy to put my name first on the list. As a committed Christian, I flatly reject, denounce, and abhor the pathetic violent behavior of Gianforte, the ignorant violent rhetoric of Daubenmire, and the misguided equating of Christian faith with Western Civilization by Buckley. I hope others will join me.

Note: If you're interested in being part of a vital alternative to this violent white "Christian" nationalism, check out the Convergence Leadership Project.

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