Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

America's New Evangelicals

What's New Is Old: 'America's New Evangelicals'

Today's politically liberal evangelicals may not be as different as some imagine.

Review by Matthew Lee Anderson | posted 10/14/2011 09:07AM
book link

The 2008 election of Barack Obama reinvigorated an ongoing discussion within evangelicalism about the nature of its relationship to the political order. It is a discussion that will almost certainly receive a new infusion of energy during the 2012 election cycle. But analyses of evangelical captivity to politics and purported generational shifts in ideology have come close to reaching a saturation point, bringing evangelical introspection to the edge of exhaustion. Of the writing about evangelicals and politics, there is apparently no end.

Marcia Pally's America's New Evangelicals: Expanding the Vision of the Common Good (Eerdmans) is one of the latest attempts to understand the direction of evangelicalism's political priorities. For Pally, the emergence of the "new evangelicals"—figures like Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, and David Gushee—reveals important shifts, in both substantive beliefs and habits of engagement. She sees this movement as "new" because its members embrace "beliefs and practices that have advanced religion, liberal democracy, and just economic distribution." She contrasts the new with the "old evangelicals" (though Pally does not call them that), whose political engagement she believes has been sullied by allegedly "prototheocratic yearnings" and an attachment to free-market capitalism. The new evangelicals, she argues, allow religious convictions to shape their political vision, but nevertheless "support pluralism, economic justice, and liberal democratic government." Whether the new evangelicals are championing ideals wholly different from their forebears, or simply imbuing them with different meanings, is not always clear. Pally's presumption, for instance, that "economic justice" is antithetical to free-market economics is astonishing, given the enormous debate over the question.

While Pally presents the "new evangelicals" as an antidote to perceived evangelical vices, her narrative is occasionally given to overstatement.

Take, for instance, those supposedly "prototheocratic yearnings." True, Pally's stance later softens into suggesting that evangelicals have "at times" attempted to "use the state to impose religious views on the nation." But even this skirts the boundaries of hyperbole. Unless Pally thinks that evangelical opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage are exclusively theological in nature—a highly debatable contention—she is left only with school prayer as an example of such attempts. Evangelical activism may have sectarian underpinnings, but evangelicals have shown a remarkable willingness to abide by the rules of liberal democracy in working—through legislatures, courts, and grassroots initiatives—to "impose" their views.

Not So New

Pally makes no attempt at any statistical survey, instead approaching her subject through blogs, newsletters, sermons, and other expressions of the "new evangelicalism." Transcripts of interviews with prominent figures like Richard Cizik and Joel Hunter punctuate her commentary, lending the reader a firsthand familiarity that is both interesting and illuminating.

Yet whether the new evangelicals are really new depends upon our understanding of what came before them. And unfortunately, Pally's understanding makes it difficult to discern what's actually new about the movement. For instance, she argues that the new evangelicals practice a "third way" of political engagement, avoiding the twin traps of theocratic ambition and privatized piety. They do this through "voluntarist associations" that "advocate for their positions through public education, lobbying, coalition building, and negotiation."

This "civil society activism" is a commendable approach, but couldn't Pally apply the same description to the Religious Right? Historically, this movement was propelled by a cluster of voluntary parachurch organizations—many of them avowedly non-sectarian in their approach—that worked to influence society by means of lobbying and public persuasion. Moreover, and somewhat ironically, traditional approaches to limited government have often been justified precisely because they leave room for the mediating institutions of civil society, rather than relying upon the coercive powers of the state. Because Pally conflates conservatism with what amounts to libertarian economics, she overlooks the possibility of a mutually reinforcing relationship between "civil society activism" and limited government principles.

What's more, Pally passes over any discussion of "compassionate conservatism," the more activist school of thought espoused by George W. Bush and cheered on by many fellow evangelicals. (Conservative commentator Fred Barnes famously re-labeled it "big government conservatism.") The advent of compassionate conservatism suggests that evangelicals, in their association with the Republican Party, have not, for good or ill, hewed inflexibly to a libertarian orthodoxy. Widespread evangelical support for the 2008 campaign of Mike Huckabee, who was (perhaps unfairly) spurned by mainstream Republicans for being too comfortable with government involvement, confirms this point.

Evangelical activism may have sectarian underpinnings, but evangelicals have shown a remarkable willingness to abide by the rules of liberal democracy.

Closer to the heart of the book, though, is Pally's suggestion that the new evangelicals are distinguished by their endorsement of "church-state separation and constitutionally based law." Here again Pally's lack of substantive argument about the "old evangelicals" makes it hard to discern where the differences actually lie. With respect to "church-state separation," Jon A. Shields demonstrates in The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right (2009) the great pains to which evangelicals have gone to present their views on abortion in non-sectarian terms. And as for endorsing the principle of "constitutionally based law," this does not preclude working, through constitutionally legitimate channels, to reform or undo laws deemed unjust. In this regard, evangelicals' abortion and same-sex marriage, both in the courtroom and at the ballot box, seem to exemplify the highest respect for constitutionally based law.

Keeping Vigilant

Pally's chapter on the new evangelicals' underlying beliefs departs noticeably from her generally dispassionate, scholarly approach. She quotes virtually no new evangelical activists or theologians, and instead develops Anabaptist theologian John Howard Yoder's concept of "revolutionary subordination," analyzing how Scripture understands Jesus as a political actor. It is an odd moment of normative political theology in the middle of a book that presents itself as examining the beliefs of others.

Strangeness aside, the chapter is excellent and very well balanced. Pally suggests that Christian political engagement should obey "positive law in all but extreme circumstances, defend its country under the extreme condition of invasion, and [spend] most of its time serving those within the church, the stranger, and the enemy." This is wise counsel, so far as it goes, but ought we simply to infer that new evangelicals would endorse Pally's principles?

The answer isn't clear. On the one hand, in presenting their underlying beliefs, Pally comes close to describing a consistent, unified framework out of which policy decisions might be made. But in presenting this belief system in her own voice, she leaves it unclear whether the new evangelicals understand and abide by their own framework. After all, Pally repeatedly underscores the issue-by-issue approach that often characterizes young evangelical politics. It can be difficult to discern whether new evangelical activism arises from a unified moral philosophy, or whether its piecemeal approach reflects a more pragmatic spirit.

Pally makes clear, though, why evangelicals will and must continue reflecting on their relationship with state authority. In a liberal society, marked by a crowded and contentious public square, an impulse toward introspection helps preserve a proper ordering of religious faith and political power. The new evangelicals certainly understand that such vigilance is a price worth paying for liberty. But so too, I suspect, do their counterparts of "old."

Matthew Lee Anderson is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to Our Faith (Bethany House). He blogs at MereOrtho doxy.com.

Copyright © 2011 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.

No Dinosaurs in Heaven

Regrettably, though I would encourage exploring Evolutionary Creationism (also known as "Theistic Evolution"), this public approach is definitely the wrong way to broach the subject of Creationism. It puts fundamental Christians on the defensive, removes their democratic rights of free speech and beliefs, redirects their tax earnings lawfully given to public education, is heavy-handed and mule-footed. As an American citizen, I would decry this type of politicking and forced subjugation  of subject matter in favor of the fundamentalist Christian movement seeking freedom of expression, of rights and free speech. Freedom of expression is the most basic of American rights no matter how "un-scientific" it appears to educational elitists.

Despite all the scientific evidences found in cosmology, geology, biology, and anthropology in every facet of the natural and human sciences to support a material development (or evolution) within God's creation, it still does not warrant the forced removal of alternative religious beliefs. If this subject is to be approached at all, it must be done within a renewed observance of reading the Bible's creation texts aright (which examples have earlier been submitted here) and to allow earnest Christians to decide in the face of these examinations.

I am submitting the related article below as offensive in approach - though sympathetic to the frustrations of science with older Christian interpretations that are unscientific - wishing to illuminate, without further alarming or unnecessarily dividing, this blog's readership. And despite both my concerns and former appreciation for Creationisism's simplicity, I must sue for this position's political presence within our democratic public educational system.

- skinhead

'No Dinosaurs In Heaven' Explores Shifting Debate Over Evolution        

By Kimberly Winston
Religion News Service

(RNS) A new documentary examines the evolving battle over teaching evolution in American classrooms as tactics have shifted from a hard-nosed debate to a more subtle fight in the name of "academic freedom."

The film, "No Dinosaurs in Heaven," follows Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, down the Colorado River as she refutes creationist theories that the Grand Canyon is only a few thousand years old [or that it] shows evidence of the biblical flood.

It also charts the story of its director, Greta Schiller, as she studies to become a science teacher and is assigned a biology professor who refuses to teach evolution because of his religious beliefs.

"I made the film to convey three major ideas," Schiller said. The most important, she said, is "that science is a way to understand the natural world and is not inherently in conflict with a belief in God."

Americans have grappled with science standards since the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, which put a Tennessee teacher on trial for teaching evolution. The debate was revived in the 1990s with the rise of "intelligent design," or ID, the idea that the universe shows evidence of a master designer.

Many thought ID was discredited in a 2005 court case, Kitzmiller v. Dover, the first challenge to teaching ID in public schools, when a Pennsylvania judge ruled ID is a form of religious creationism and therefore cannot be taught in public schools.

But evolution proponents say creationists have returned to the trenches to refine their attack. Where they once asked teachers to "teach the controversy" -- one that most scientists insist does not exist -- they now promote their ideas in the interest of "academic freedom."

"Now they are not talking about balancing evolution with a religious idea, but about balancing evolution with evidence against evolution," Scott said. "Of course, scientists are unaware of any evidence against evolution. It seems only the creationists who can come up with a list."

Scott points to several "battleground states" where evolution is not the classroom standard:
  • Kentucky law now requires educators teach "the theory of creation as presented in the Bible" and "read such passages in the Bible as are deemed necessary for instruction on the theory of creation."
  • The Tennessee House passed a bill earlier this year that describes evolution and global warming as "controversial"; the Senate will consider the issue in 2012.
  • In 2008, Louisiana enacted the Louisiana Science Education Act, which described evolution and global warming as "controversial" and permitted the use of supplemental materials to teach alternative theories. It was the subject of an unsuccessful repeal effort earlier this year.
  • Texas, which has a long history of turmoil over its curriculum standards, is debating whether to include supplementary materials on theories other than evolution.
  • In New Hampshire, some legislators have said they will introduce bills requiring the teaching of evolution "as a theory" and the teaching of ID in 2012.

Such laws seem to reflect Americans' thinking on the subject. A recent poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service found that 38 percent of Americans believe "humans and other living things have existed in their present form since creation." In a recent CNN poll, more than 40 percent of respondents said evolution was probably or definitely false.

"Yup, we have a lot of work to do," Scott said.

In Britain, too, the battle over science education standards is heating up. A group of scientists, including the prominent biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins, has called for a law prohibiting the teaching of creationism in public schools.

"No Dinosaurs in Heaven" premieres in New York on Oct. 25 at the New York Academy of Sciences, where Scott will also speak. The film is part of a "Celebrate Science" campaign initiated by the film's producers, Jezebel Films, which plans to screen it on college campuses and community centers across the country.

NO DINOSAURS IN HEAVEN is a film essay that examines the hijacking of science education by religious fundamentalists, threatening the separation of church and state and dangerously undermining scientific literacy. The documentary weaves together two strands: (i) an examination of the problem posed by creationists who earn science education degrees only to advocate anti-scientific beliefs in the classroom; and, (ii) a raft trip down the Grand Canyon, led by Dr. Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education, that debunks creationist explanations for its formation.

These strands expose the fallacies in the "debate," manufactured by anti-science forces, that creationism is a valid scientific alternative to evolution. Emmy Award-winning director and science educator Greta Schiller uses her own experience -- with a graduate school biology professor who refused to teach evolution -- to expose the insidious effect that so-called "creationist science" has had on science education. NO DINOSAURS IN HEAVEN intelligently argues that public education must steadfastly resist the encroachment of religion in the form of anti-evolution creationism, and that science literacy is crucial to a healthy democracy.


Al Mohler and the “Apparent Age” of the Cosmos

Al Mohler believes that God created the cosmos, including humanity, about 6000 years ago, but with “apparent age.” That means that the cosmos only looks billions of years old because God created it to look old. This is Mohler’s solution to why the earth looks so old when the Bible says it is so young. “Apparent age” allows Mohler to accept the observations of science while rejecting the interpretation of those observations by scientists. The interpretation of those observations remains securely with Scripture itself, not with scientists or others who refuse to accept the Scripture’s “clear” teaching.

The strategic benefit is clear: Mohler can–in a sense–”accept” the scientific data while also remaining a biblical literalist. Science only studies what God appeared to have done, and scientists are free to have at it. Scripture, however, tells us, without fear of contradiction, what God actually did.

This kind of thinking may appear to be a tidy solution the problem, but in fact it creates many more.

The most pressing problem–not only here but at any point where Mohler discusses the science/faith issue–is that Mohler simply asserts that Genesis is prepared to tell us how old the earth is. That assertion is what puts him in the bind of having to “reconcile” Genesis and science in the first place.

But Mohler’s opinions about a literal reading of Genesis need to be articulated and defended, not simply asserted–which would require Mohler to interact patiently with those many Christians who have very good reasons for not reading the opening chapters of Genesis as a literal account of history.

That is a topic for another day. Here, even accepting Mohler’s literalism for the sake of discussion, “apparent age” loses its traction fairly quickly. We will look at one reason why today and two more in my next post.

“Apparent age” is an arbitrary claim that makes the “facts fit the theory.”

It is surely obvious that the theory of “apparent age” is generated to make the observations of science fit Mohler’s literal reading of Genesis. Unless one were precommitted to a literal reading of Genesis, one would never think of making this sort of claim.

Making facts fit theory is an unfortunately common, yet still unacceptable, method of establishing one’s point. It is particularly common in theological debates, where one assumes that one’s own theological pre-commitments are the sure and unassailable point of departure. One’s theology is to be defended, never examined. Counterarguments are either molded to fit the theory or ignored altogether.

This is why true discussion–an exchange of ideas–is often unproductive in these instances. The issues at stake are bound up with ideological self-preservation.

If Mohler were to admit that the Bible can be read in a less than literal manner regarding Genesis—well—the dominoes would start unraveling down the slippery slope. This is not an option for Mohler.

When fear of losing one’s “all-encompassing narrative” is at stake, reasonable assessment of contrary evidence is an early casualty, which leaves us with “explanations” like “apparent age.”

Such explanations demonstrate that the theology driving them is a barrier to truth more than its guardian.

If an opponent of Mohler’s were to employ the same type of ad hoc explanation to establish a contrary point, I imagine Mohler would not find it convincing.

Many—might I say, most—Christian thinkers trained in these matters (science, biblical studies, theology, philosophy) are deeply invested in working through how Genesis is to be read not only in view of evolution, but of our growing understanding of how “origins stories” worked in the ancient Near Eastern world (a whole other topic).

I do not think it is wise for Mohler to cut oneself off from these potential conversation partners and retreat to an ad hoc explanation like “apparent age.”

It is even less wise for Mohler to counsel others that they must follow his lead.


Al Mohler’s Theory of “Apparent Age”: Two More Problems

In my last post we looked at one problem with Mohler’s theory that the cosmos was created to look billions of years old but is really only about 6000 years old (“apparent age”). It is an arbitrary solution that makes the facts fit the theory. Today we will look at two more problems.

The world shows evidence of age and evolutionary development

The world does not just show evidence of age. It also shows evidence of millions upon millions upon millions of years of evolution, judging by the wealth of evidence at hand (e.g., fossils, geological records, human genome).

Mohler needs to account not only for why the cosmos looks old, but why the cosmos–including the earth and life on it–looks like it evolved.

Mohler does not need to accept evolution to do this–just as he doesn’t need to accept an actually old earth. He could simply advance another ad hoc theory, that God created the universe, the earth, and all life as if they evolved: God created with “apparent evolutionary process.”

I am not sure how else Mohler could address this problem, other than simply rejecting the sciences, as does Ken Ham.

This raises the question, “How many ad hoc theories would one need to advance in order to preserve biblical literalism?” At what point do the ad hoc explanations begin to seem more like a stubborn defense rather than a true explanation of things?

It also raises some serious questions about God. Why would God do such a thing? Why would he load the cosmos with all this evidence and then expect his intelligent creatures, made in his image, to stop short of drawing some conclusions from that evidence?

I think this is a very serious issue. Mohler’s theory of “apparent age” gives us a God who makes the world look one way, but then expects us to hold all that at bay in favor of a literalistic reading of Genesis that, according to Mohler, God requires of us.

Is God—like a touchy tyrant—testing our allegiance to see if we will hold fast to his word? I think the Christian God is better than that.

Mohler is arbitrary in what portions of Scripture he reads “plainly”

As we’ve seen, Mohler rejects evolution and the age of the earth because his literal reading of the Bible demands it. But Mohler cannot simply stop there. He must follow his own logic with respect to other biblical statements about the physical world that don’t line up with modern science. After all, if the Bible must be given the last word, then it must be given the last word consistently.
The biblical writers thought the earth was a flat disk. To follow Mohler’s logic, we must conclude that the world only looks round, since Scripture has the final word on the matter. Hence, God created the earth with “apparent roundness.”

Likewise, the Bible speaks of the sky overhead as a dome. Therefore, it can only appear that we have broken free of our atmosphere and orbited the earth, landed on the moon, and are moving further to the outer limits of our solar system daily. God created the cosmos with “apparent outer space.”

The Bible speaks of the earth as the stable, motionless, center of the cosmos. Therefore, it can only appear that the earth rotates on it axis, thus giving us day and night, or that the earth revolves around the sun, along with the other planets, on its yearly course. God created the solar system with “apparently heliocentricity.”

I know this may look like I am being unfair to Mohler. I do not mean to be. I am confident that Mohler does not believe that the earth is flat and stationary, or that there is no outer space. I am fairly certain he would read these examples as ancient ways of looking at the world–and he would be correct.
The question, though, is why [would] Mohler places Genesis 1 on the “must read literally” side of the line and not on the “this is ancient idiom” side (as he does a flat, stationary, domed earth).

Mohler seems to feel free to decide what should and should not be read literally–the very accusation he levels at others. Of course, every reader of the Bible sooner or later makes these kinds of decisions. No one actually thinks God is a literal rock or a fortress, for example.

If Mohler were consistent, a literal reading of Genesis 1 would be as intolerable to him as a literal reading of those places where the Bible speaks of a flat, stationary earth with a dome overhead.

Mohler speaks of “apparent age” with calm assurance. But it is a explanation that creates many more problems than it tries to solve. Those problems are rooted in Mohler’s unexamined precommitment that Christians have no choice but to read Genesis literally.

They do have a choice, and Christians have been making it for a very, very long time.

In Noble Pursuit of Peace

The Noble Pursuit of Peace

Pursuing peace is a noble cause. And pursuing peace actively as a nation should always be its first and last effort. I have grown up in a culture committed to the principles of life, liberty and justice and understand the hypocrisies of my country's birth to the native American Indians who have suffered the loss of each of these pure-bred ideals. To the black Americans whose legacy of agony were still-borne historically until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. (All of which could've sadly been averted some 200 years ago in America's pre-Revolutionary days when certain segments of Christians actively strove for the black man, woman and child's release from slavery's horror and wretchedness, but failed in their efforts). Oppressive eras when we as Christians should have been speaking up for the culturally abandoned like today's modern day angst over our vilified gay societies seeking to be recognized as human beings.

Conversely, I live in a community of Bosnians, Hispanics, Vietnamese, Jews, Somalians and Haitians who have suffered the equal horrors of loss of life, liberty and justice at the hands of overseas governments committed to their own nationalistic purges. And to some degree America has taken up their struggles of oppression and attempted to restore those lost civil rights through cultural and commercial engagements, efforts at world justice, and even in acts of war. In hopes of protecting and delivering the persecuted, the neglected, the overlooked and disdained from any further acts of horror, tyranny, and callousness. Too often belatedly, too often ineffectively, and in the face of withdrawing popular will, once bravely begun, but to later stagger at the impossibility of Justice's many costs, demands, guilts, and ironies.

I am not a pacifist but nor do I push actively for war. My position like many, are to seek to defend the rights of the weak, pursue peace where it is possible, utilize strength when necessary, and overall to discern between pride and my own fallenness, sin and hate. To expect this of the nation I live in and love is infinitely harder and so I pray, I get involved in ministries and community services, vote my will and heart, legislate, debate, and do all that I can in business and in life to make my nation as democratic as it can be, as just as it can be, as worthy of its ideals as it can be.

And most importantly I try to teach and live that selfsame life by daily example, as meagerly and humbly as I can in my willful pride and sin with God's help and grace, patience and mercy. I can be obtuse, shortsighted, selfish, stubborn and less-than-giving to the daily demands of Justice and Grace. My human flesh can become irrational, emotional, moody, and graceless. My conscience marred by too many slights and cynicisms, too many perceived demands on time and energy, exhaustion, health, or ignorance. The reality is, is that we fight within us the same fight we would seek within mankind. A fight against the sinfulness, evil and harm we would do to ourselves as we would do to each another. It takes a Savior to remove our sinfulness, to redeem us from ourselves, to bring justice to our fallen worlds. Jesus is our hope and through him can we bring hope to the world as His promise-bearers.

And so, to that end, I must also recognize the rights of those men and women who feel strongly about my nation's lack of efforts in the area of pacifism. Who wish to remind America - and all nations committed to Justice - to redouble their efforts to live in peace with one another locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. And especially to their own populations over whom they govern. To not misuse or abuse the rights of rulership, taxation, armed forces, and goodwill. We are a global citizenship and share the same pains of both good and evil.

It is a sad fact of life that there are many nations and fiefdoms, rulers and warlords, which are not committed to the democratic ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of justice. Who are not committed to living peaceably with their neighbors. They would harm their citizenry; abuse humble families, husbands, wives and children; destroy lands and properties taking what is not theirs; aggressively visiting sin, wickedness, and evil upon their own peoples. Yes, America has its own problems of nation-building and statesmanship, but to be honest all nations do as well. There are no nations on earth that please the Lord. We have all fallen short of God's glory, grace and justice.

And though my feelings do not run towards pacifism but more probably towards a form of civil engagement that would encourage a country's citizenry towards legal and pragmatic activism in government, enterprise, school and church, I must not neglect that portion of our society who are as equally frustrated with society's sense of nationalism and justice. Who seek to re-engage us on a political level of pacifism. I applaud their efforts, their courage, their thoughts and words. A will that doesn't weaken in a war's progression but strengthens to show to us our nation's purest democratic ideals. Peace is an admirable ambition. A practical necessity. A impossible task. An ever constant reminder that Love and Justice are never satisfied. Thank you Sarah for your thoughts, your insights, your commitment to life, liberty and justice.

R.E. Slater
October 18, 2011

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In which I'm an uneasy pacifist

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I call myself an "uneasy pacifist" and here's why:

Like many evangelicals, like most North Americans, I grew up in healthy respect and reverence for our veterans and our military. My own grandfather fought and was wounded in World War 2. I devoured novels set in war times and the spine is battered on my much-beloved copy of Rilla of Ingleside

I am a Canadian that does not like fighting in hockey. (Heretic!) I love hockey but, when the gloves dropped and everyone rose to their seat to pound the glass and holler their approval for the dance, I felt sick. Once that step toward abhorring violence was taken, it was hard not to find it everywhere. The glorification of violence as a means to solve conflict is everywhere in our culture and I was that lame person that couldn't stand mixed-martial-arts battles and railed against video games and movies that depicted war or crime as an adventure, even arguing we are "a generation of virtual sociopaths."

My pacifism began to grow legs when I lived in the United States for 8 years. When the war in Iraq began, the political climate in our area was strongly in flavour of military-based, unilateral action. The war was promoted as a "just war

The war in Iraq did not meet just war criteria for me - in retrospect, many would agree. As the political propaganda grew and war was equated with patriotism and, even more oddly, with spiritual practice or faithful following of Jesus, I struggled. I worked in a military-based bank, I loved and respected the Canadian and American military, I was proud of my own family's military history, developed an small understanding of their lives - and a deep respect for their honour and choices. But I grieved for what I suspected was ahead for the enlisted, the officers, the national guard, the country, the people of Iraq, the world as a whole. I grappled with the sentiment since 9-11 of robust, nationalistic, flag-waving patriotism and how many evangelicals believed Americanism (or American interests for those of us that are not American) and Christianity were somehow one and the same.

If you weren't for us, you were against us.

I began to read more about pacifism as the pamphlets filled my mailbox and news editorials became more and more passionate in favour of war. It deeply appealed to me.

At first, I grappled with war from a purely pragmatic standpoint. It was expensive. The military-industrial-complex that Eisenhower spoke of so warningly was in fearsome operation and I couldn't fathom how this was going to cost in human life, in political capital, in sheer dollars for the world. And then I was surprised - which is shocking itself - to discover a long history and tradition of Christian, faith-based pacifism. Apparently, there were whole groups of Christians throughout all of history that took a stand for peace and for active peacemaking precisely because of their faith. Despite the sometimes-bloodthirsty pages of Christian history, there has always been a remnant of believers that were convinced that Christ has modelled a path of non-violence for us to follow, not resisting even unto death.

And they were not lame or weak-willed. Think Martin Luther King Jr., St. Francis, Dorothy Day, the martyrs of our faith. I began to understand that peacemaking is not a hippie-thing, a sit-on-the-sidelines-of-history cop-out, letting someone else or someone else's kid do my dirty work. There wasn't any patchouli to my decision making process and despite my love of long dresses and flowers in my hair, I wasn't singing yet. The more I read, the more I prayed, the more that this seemed the path for me. Peace-making began to seem brave and active, it began to feel courageous to stand counter to our culture of war and violence and destruction.

I'm an pacifist for many reasons now - some pragmatic, some moral, almost all faith-based.

I believe life is sacred. The soldier is sacred, made in the image of God, and I cannot think what it does to a person to commit acts of war, to lift up arms against another, to kill another human being. My heart is ever with our soldiers and their beautiful families, even though I could not take that path myself in good conscience. Even the enemy is sacred, made in the image of God, loved. (I am one of those crazy people that think that God is love, that since my Father loves my enemy, that I, too, am called to an active love for them.) The "collateral damage" - that awful, cold term for those that are caught in the crossfire, the women, the children - is sacred, each life precious in the eyes of God. My pro-life ethic has become a lot more consistent as the years have gone by. War is never redemptive.

And I believe that love is stronger. Love will win in the end. Love will triumph, love is wider, deeper, more wild and generous and redemptive than we can fathom and I will choose the tough love.

My allegiance is first and always to God, to the ways of Jesus. And so, even though I am thankful for my country, even though I do appreciate it and work for the good of the city and the country in many ways, when the two are at odds - as in the choices of war or violence - my faith and the hope for peace wins every time.

But my pacifism is uneasy because I don't know how it looks all the time, how best to live an ethic of life, peace and love in a culture of violence and war. I know that pacifism is not total and absolute abhorrence of all violence - instead, to me, it's a policy of non-aggression and active peace-making.

And the everyday peacemaking can be hard. It was easy for me to look at the Iraq war and call it wrong. It's not so easy to pursue peace in my every day life, to choose a life of non-aggression, to release anger, rage, trespasses, to forgive, to actively advocate for peace and wholeness in the world around me, making space for God's ways. I don't know how it always looks to choose love in a way that exemplifies my commitment to the cultivation of the fruit of the spirit in my own life, such as peace, joy, goodness, love, faithfulness, gentleness and so on.

I am uneasy because sometimes I cry out for justice instead of mercy, failing to see that in Christ those two things are not separated. I can't always find the way of peace or love.

But I choose peace. I have set my feet on the path to find out how to live active peace-making, to identify boldly as a pacifist.

As Shane Claiborne wrote, "As a Christian, I am convinced in the power of non-violence by the greatest nonviolent act in human history: Jesus dying on the cross, even for his enemies."

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