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

Friday, August 28, 2015

The God Who Is Unlike Us, Our Thoughts, or the Images We Make of Him

Though I would've worded today's Huff Post blog article (below) a little differently, still the point of it is the kind of God Calvinism gets itself into with its absolute power and control themes of its ruling God. 

Non-Calvinistic Christians reject this kind of God by asking WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) as a NT emphasis of God as seen through Jesus. It's not that we have two Gods in the Bible - one OT and the other NT or, a dipolar God (not a bi-polar God) - but that we have constructed the wrong view of God altogether through our hermeneutics and doctrines making of Him what He is not.

I have written about this a lot at www.Relevancy22.blogspot.com over the years to help show what the upsides are when this incorrect graven image of God is finally released from all its "power" images. and metaphors.

This kind of imagery is the idol in our speech, our society, our faith, that is too often used indiscriminately in our churches and society. And it is this kind of imagery which must be crucified on the altar of human suffering lest it continues human suffering in yet another form of itself. A militant, crusading form of religious conquest, terror, and oppression as evidence through the ages of the church.

In other words, "we have a Sovereign God who is powerful but not a powerful God who is Sovereign." Yes, a poor illustration, I know, but the kind of illustration that is trying to point out that our words describing God as powerful can lead to other words that fill dogmas with hate, discrimination, inhumility, and judgmentalism upon everything-and-everyone unlike ourselves.

And if this kind of doctrinal thinking is not distinguished it can then lead to more bad theology and unrighteous acts committed by a church which should rather be ear marked with love, grace, mercy, peace, and servitude.

More than that, we have a Sovereign God who is first and foremost loving and forgiving. Who exalts weakness over power. Whose death was His greatest example of power and sovereignty used aright.

His resurrection is His greatest testimony as to His choice of serving and not controlling creation; loving and not enforcing His holy will; dying and not abandoning His decrees of who He really is.

The Cross of Jesus' atonement is the ultimate display of God's choice to allow sin its results while putting it to his own death by submitting Himself to humanity's evil such that in this act of divine submission the world has a powerful illustration of atonement. An atonement ungained by sword or by a harsh divine will.

The Cross is the kind of curiosity we don't understand. Don't like. And refuse to follow. But it is the kind of cross-faith that will serve others over self-wants, lusts for power, and cravings for a neat-and-tidy theology asking for God to be in control of everything.

Its the kind of weak theology that displays God as unlike any God we would naturally describe, or even, ascribe too. To worship a submitting God looking to serve humanity with His last breath by yielding to its evil.

It is the kind of thing that is a paradox, a mystery, an enigma which we have trouble putting into words-and-actions in souls ruled by sin, and needs, and idols.

It is the kind of thing that makes God "God" and ever the more powerful for it; the more omnipotent for it. A God who rules in wisdom by leading out with His greatest attribute to which all other divine attributes must follow. That of love, gracy, and mercy.

R.E. Slater
August 28, 2015

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Josh Duggar speaking

Divorcing Josh Duggar's Monster God

by Zach J. Hoag
August 26, 2015

In the recent Ashley Madison hack, Josh Duggar was outed as having a paid account for seeking adulterous affairs.

After the leak, he admitted to cheating on his wife, and to porn addiction.

This, of course, came on the heels of the recent horrific revelations that he molested his sisters as a teen.

And, perhaps not surprisingly, reports are now surfacing that Anna Duggar, Josh's wife, will not consider divorcing him as an option. In fact, she may even be accepting some of the blame for his recent behavior. Both are said to be turning to their faith and praying together as the solution to these issues.

Josh's statement(s) similarly used spiritualized language to communicate his wrongdoing, putting it in categories of sin, reproach, Jesus, forgiveness, prayer, etc.

Michelle and Jim Bob are also praying and trusting in God.But I have to ask - what kind of God are the Duggars praying to and trusting in?


It is well known by now that the Duggar family, conservative quiverfull-type Christians slash reality TV stars, are followers of Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles. It's also well known that Gothard has recently been outed for alleged sexual misbehavior of his own -- in his case, years of allegedly grooming young women (some underage) in order to sexually harass and assault them. Gothard is unmarried and is yet viewed by his followers as the foremost guru on chaste courtship before marriage, male headship within marriage, and unhindered childbearing for the duration of marriage.

Hence those 19 Kids and Counting.

The Duggars are a household name by and large because of their adherence to Gothard's teachings; and they are caught up in a hurricane of scandal for the very same reason.

So again, I ask, what kind of God are Gothard and the Duggars praying to - and promoting?


In situations like these, it is common for religious leaders caught in some offense to make it clear that their actions occurred despite their faith and belief, not because of it. Duggar has done the same, calling himself "the biggest hypocrite ever" and worrying for the reproach he has brought to Christ. And that seems reasonable, on the surface. We have all betrayed our values and ideals to some degree.

That's why the best response to the Josh Duggar situation (and any of the others caught in this hack, which is already claiming lives) is certainly not to thumb our moralistic noses and join the indulgent Internet shame parade.

Yet, it is not as simple as saying Josh Duggar (and the man Josh likely worshiped his entire life as a religious hero) simply acted in contradiction to his belief, in fits of passion or pits of addiction. In fact, I believe the root cause of Josh's behavior isunequivocally linked to his faith and belief. It's true that different-looking fruit may come from that same root, and Jim Bob's patriarchal sins are not identical to his son's; but Jim Bob prays to the same God who necessarily and with regularity molds men that molest, harass, abuse, and cheat.

In short, a Monster God.

This Monster God promoted by both Gothard and the Duggars is a God for whom absolute power is the ultimate good - power that is uniquely delegated to men, to be especially wielded over women. In a manner similar to common Calvinistic teachings, Gothard's God is one that exercises power with no accountability (not even to his own character or nature) and may just as soon hate, torture, and murder as love and forgive. His unpredictable whim is divine law. In fact, this God's "forgiveness" is less about love and more about submission to his power. To submit without any concern for oneself is to be forgiven. Likewise, forgiving others (like cheaters or abusers or molesters) while blaming oneself is the logical requirement of this "forgiving" God.

Josh Duggar's God is one that has lifted a man, Duggar, above women to represent his power (goodness). The superficial moral restraint of courtship merely encodes this power from the start; Jim Bob controls the courtship just as Josh controls Anna. She will exist to submit to Josh, and that is her ultimate good. Real morality matters little.

The public apology with its language of repentance, then, is a charade, a bit of well-meaning theater, a play act, because the natural consequences for actions in the real world do not apply here. Sure, there is scandal and job loss (and the Duggars have often lamented "the media" for this). But with Josh Duggar, like Bill Gothard, everything is forgivable because these men embody the absolute power of God, the ultimate good.

And for Anna, divorce is unforgivable because she must embody absolute submission as the ultimate good.

Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard's Monster God makes men into monsters as they live out the natural implications of their prayerful belief in him.


In response to this unfolding scandal, I submit to you that joining the shame parade is an unhelpful response that misses an important opportunity.

The opportunity for the church, for followers of Jesus, for all of us, is to divorce this Monster God once and for all.

An unaccountable God whose unpredictable whim is the omnipotent law and the ultimate good that we worship, pray to, and promote should be promptly served divorce papers, because our freedom and true goodness is to be found beyond the bonds of that unholy marriage.

And in his place, let us join ourselves again to the One True God who is completely accountable to his own character, which is really and truly good, defined by the very character of Jesus and the fruit of Jesus's Spirit.

Let us put away the Monster God who harms, molests, and enslaves with his power (even the ones to whom his power is granted), and marry again the God who looks like Jesus, whose law is always love and whose gospel is always peace.

And let's pray to that God and trust that God for real deliverance and liberation for Anna Duggar and the whole Duggar family.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Roger Olson - Churches I Would Recommend

My List of “Approved Denominations”

by Roger Olson
November 6, 2012

Very frequently I receive e-mails from individuals (and some have asked here) for help finding a church. Often what they mean is–a denomination. I can hardly help them find a church in a geographical area I’m not familiar with (without spending a lot of time on the project). So I find it helpful to mention denominations to them–ones that I have reason to believe exist in their area.

So, here I am going to do what I have never done before and hope it is helpful to church seekers.

There are inherent risks in this, of course. First, I will inevitably omit some denominations because I don’t know enough about them. (Although I have been an unpaid consultant for the Handbook of Denominations in the United States and mentioned by the editor in the introduction. Denominations has long been a kind of hobby of mine.) Second, I may recommend a denomination that includes individual churches I would NOT recommend. Third, I may omit a denomination that includes very good individual churches that, if I knew about them, I would recommend. Fourth, in some cases I may be recommending a denomination based on their own information and it might not be completely reliable. I will do my best to work around those risks and avoid them, but I can’t guarantee anything.

What I suggest is that if a person reading my list is intrigued by a denomination, he or she look at its web site and ask the local church questions about doctrines, practices, etc. What I’m doing here is excluding many without naming them. Of course, that’s not to say that any denomination not named in my list is “bad.” It may just mean I don’t know enough about it to recommend it.

What are my criteria for inclusion?

First, the denomination has to be trinitarian. Second, it has to be broadly evangelical (and Protestant), not sectarian or rigidly fundamentalist, or primarily liberal (pluralistic, inclusive). Third, it has to be at least open to Arminians. That is, I will not recommend it if it is, as a denomination, confessionally Calvinist, such that an Arminian cannot teach or serve or hold office. Calvinists have other resources for finding a good church for them. There are numerous Calvinist bloggers who will be happy, I’m sure, to help them locate a good church. I know of few Arminian bloggers who are knowledgeable about denominations who will help those with an Arminian orientation find one. (I hear from such people often enough to know this to be the case!)

Please note: I am not including so-called “mainline Protestant” denominations here. These include some evangelical congregations, but they are not denominations I could say to an inquirer “Find a church of this denomination and it’s probably evangelical and friendly to Arminians.” Of course, if I know of an evangelical and Arminian-friendly congregation where the person lives I’ll recommend they check it out. Overall and in general, however, the so-called “mainline Protestant” denominations are not noted for being evangelical.

So here is my list, for what it’s worth:

Anabaptist and Quaker

Fellowship of Evangelical Churches, Mennonite Church, U.S.A., Missionary Church, Evangelical Friends International. (These I would recomend if the person inquiring was pacifist or seeking a “peace church” congregation to affiliate with. I would only recommend a Friends or Quaker church if the person could find some other way to participate in baptism and the Lord’s Supper.)

Brethren and Pietist

Brethren Church (Ashland), Brethren in Christ Church, Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Evangelical Congregational Church, Evangelical Covenant Church, Evangelical Free Church of America.


American Baptist Churches, U.S.A. (many are evangelical, and the denomination as a whole calls itself evangelical), Baptist General Convention of Texas, Conservative Baptist Association of America (CBAmerica), Baptist General Conference/Converge Worldwide, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (some are evangelical, some are more liberal), General Association of General Baptists, National Association of Free Will Baptists, National Baptist Convention (some are evangelical, some are more liberal), National Baptist Convention, U.S.A. (same as the NBC), North American Baptist Conference, Original Free Will Baptist Convention, United American Free Will Baptist Church.


African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Congregational Methodist Church, Evangelical Church of North America, Evangelical Methodist Church, The Salvation Army. (Note: I would only recommend The Salvation Army with the caveat that the person needs to find some way to participate in baptism and the Lord’s Supper.)

Holiness (these are mostly offshoots of the Methodist tradition)

The Christian and Missionary Alliance, Church of Christ, Holiness, Church of God (Anderson, Indiana), Church of God (Holiness), Church of the Nazarene, Churches of Christ in Christian Union, Churches of God, General Conference (Winebrenner), The Free Methodist Church of North America, The Wesleyan Church.

Christian and Restorationist Churches (Stone-Campbellite Tradition)

Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, Christian Congregation, Inc.


Advent Christian Church General Conference, Grace Communion International (formerly the Worldwide Church of God).


Assemblies of God, International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies, Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), Church of God in Christ, Congregational Holiness Church, Elim Fellowship, Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God, Independent Assemblies of God, Fellowship of Christian Assemblies, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, International Pentecostal Holiness Church, Open Bible Churches, Pentecostal Church of God, Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church, United Holy Church of God, Vineyard Churches International. (Note: I would only recommend one of these denominations if the person were seeking a Pentecostal-Charismatic type of church or were open to it.)

Now, a word about some other denominations and networks of churches


There may be some Lutheran churches that are open to Arminianism that are not liberal/inclusive. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of American includes some large, growing, very evangelical congregations such as Lutheran Church of Hope (West Des Moines, Iowa). Some are charismatic. Most of these are probably open to Arminians even though Arminianism is not historically part of the Lutheran theological tradition. Some conservative, evangelical Lutheran denominations that are not sectarian or fundamentalist that may be open to Arminians include The American Association of Lutheran Churches, The Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, Church of the Lutheran Brethren of America.

The United Methodist Church

This is a large, “mainline” denomination that includes many evangelical congregations such as The Woodlands United Methodist Church in suburban Houston, Texas. However, many UMC churches are liberal/inclusive. All Methodist churches and offshoots are open to Arminianism now that the Calvinist Methodist Church has merged into a Reformed denomination.

Congregational and Reformed Churches

Most are Calvinist in orientation and would not allow Arminians to teach or hold church offices. However, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, although not Arminian, is more open to Arminian sensibilities than other Presbyterian denominations. (The Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. is a large, “mainline” denomination that is largely liberal/inclusivist but includes many evangelical congregations. Some of them may be open to Arminians, but, generally speaking, they adhere to the Westminister Confession of Faith which is contrary to Arminian belief.) The Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (CCCC) is evangelical and not as rigidly Calvinist as most Reformed churches.

Calvary Chapels are conservative, evangelical and, for the most part Arminian.

There are several relatively new Anglican and Episcopal denominations that are evangelical and amenable to Arminian theology. I am not familiar enough with any of them to name them here.

I have met and interacted with and worshiped with Seventh Day Adventists who are evangelical and Arminian. However, the SDA denomination is not usually considered “evangelical” in the historic American “movement” sense of the word. Nevertheless, I see it moving in that direction.

What about the Southern Baptist Convention?

It is the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. Among its churches one can find almost anything, but the overall drift of the denomination has been to the conservative side in recent decades. Most of its churches, however, are “mainstream” evangelical in terms of ethos. Some are fundamentalist; few are liberal. (Nearly all, if not all, of the liberal or progressive ones left the SBC to join one of the several offshoots such as the Alliance of Baptists.) Many are open to Arminians (so long as they do not oppose the “security of the believer”) although Arminianism is not a term widely embraced among Southern Baptists. The common Southern Baptist ethos is compatible with Arminianism, but there is a surge of Calvinism among its churches and in some of its seminaries. It is very difficult to generalize about “Southern Baptists,” so I don’t include the denomination in my list of “approved denominations.” My advice to inquirers about Southern Baptist churches is to check each one out individually and watch out for fundamentalism (e.g., elevation of secondary doctrines to dogmas) and Calvinism.


A note to potential commenters: I will not post comments that include negative comments about specific denominations by name. Feel free to argue that I have omitted one that fits my criteria.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Shane Claiborne - Tearing Down Walls of Oppression, Part 2/2

Shane Claiborne, Jesus Disciple

Bio - from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Shane Claiborne speaking in 2007
Shane Claiborne (born July 11, 1975) is an activist and author who is a leading figure in the New Monasticism movement and one of the founding members of The Simple Way inPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania.[1] The community was featured on the cover of Christianity Today as a pioneer in the New Monasticism movement.[2] Claiborne is also a prominent social activist, advocating for nonviolence and service to the poor. He is the author of the popular book, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical.[3]


Claiborne grew up in east Tennessee.[4] His father, who was a Vietnam War veteran, died when Shane was 9 years old. A graduate of Eastern University, where he studied sociologyand youth ministry, Claiborne did his final academic work for Eastern University at Wheaton College in Illinois. While at Wheaton, Claiborne did an internship at Willow Creek Community Church. He has done some graduate work at Princeton Theological Seminary, but took a leave of absence, and now is a part of The Alternative Seminary in Philadelphia.

Claiborne worked alongside Mother Teresa during a 10-week term in Calcutta.[5] He spent 3 weeks in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team (a project of Voices in the Wilderness andChristian Peacemaker Teams).[6] He was witness to the military bombardment of Baghdad as well as the militarized areas between Baghdad and Amman. As a member of IPT, Claiborne took daily trips to sites where there had been bombings, visited hospitals and families, and attended worship services during the war. He also continues to serve as a board member for the nationwide Christian Community Development Association which was founded by the authors and community developers, John Perkins and Wayne Gordon.[7]

On June 20, 2007, a seven-alarm fire at the abandoned warehouse across the street destroyed The Simple Way Community Center where Claiborne lived.[8] He lost all of his possessions in the fire.[8] The Simple Way immediately set up funds to accept donations to help those who lost their homes in the fire.[9]

Claiborne is featured in the documentary The Ordinary Radicals, and co-directed the three volume Another World is Possible DVD series. Claiborne wrote the foreword to Ben Lowe's 2009 book Green Revolution: Coming Together to Care for Creation.

In 2011 he has appeared as both a guest and co-host of the TV show "Red Letter Christians" with Tony Campolo.[10]

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youtube.com - Shane Claiborne -

RedLetterChristians.org -

The goal of Red Letter Christians is simple: To take Jesus seriously by endeavoring to live out His radical, counter-cultural teachings as set forth in Scripture, and especially embracing the lifestyle prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount.

Ironically, it was a secular Jewish country-and-western disc jockey in Nashville, Tennessee who first suggested that title. During a radio interview with my friend Jim Wallis, that deejay declared, “You’re one of those Red-Letter Christians – you know, the ones who are really into all those New Testament verses that are in red letters!” When Jim said, “That’s right!” he answered for all of us. By calling ourselves Red Letter Christians, we refer to the fact that in many Bibles the words of Jesus are printed in red. What we are asserting, therefore, is that we have committed ourselves first and foremost to doing what Jesus said.

The message of those red-lettered Bible verses is radical, to say the least. If you don’t believe me, just take a few minutes to read Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). In it, Jesus calls us away from the consumerist values that dominate contemporary America. Instead, he calls us to meet the needs of the poor. He also calls us to be merciful, which has strong implications in terms of war and capital punishment. After all, when Jesus tells us to love our enemies, he probably means we shouldn’t kill them.

Gandhi once said that everybody in the world knows what Jesus teaches in those red lettered verses — except Christians. Today, lots of people share that same kind of disappointment with the American church. We want to change that. Applying the teachings of Jesus to our lives in such complicated times is difficult, but that is what Red Letter Christians is all about.

On this blog, I am going to do my best to introduce you to people and ideas that will inspire, encourage, and equip you to better follow Jesus as a Red Letter Christian. The blog is organized around four major silos of interest: Current, Global, Lifestyle, and Theology. Under each silo is a myriad of more specific topics compiled based on my book Red Letter Christians. You can find the silos listed on the top navigation bar and on the homepage. The homepage will always display the most recent articles under each silo and at the very top show the most recent six posts overall. If you’re looking for posts specifically related to The Church, for example, then you’d simply scroll over “Theology” in the top navigation bar and click “The Church” from the drop down list. If you’re not sure which category a post may be under then you can simply search for the post in our search bar, located on the far right side of the navigation bar.

The site has been designed to organize the plethora of information and make it easily accessible. Please, let me know if it helps. And above all…keep the faith!

Tony Campolo

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Sojourners - Shane's Blog

Shane Claiborne is a Red Letter Christian and a founding partner of The Simple Way community, a radical faith community that lives among and serves the homeless in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. He is the co-author, with Chris Haw, of Jesus for President.

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Ask Shane Claiborne... (Response)

by Rachel Held Evans
February 27, 2013

Today I am thrilled to share Shane Claiborne’s responses to your questions for “Ask Shane Claiborne.”

Shane Claiborne graduated from Eastern University and did graduate work at Princeton Seminary. In 2010, he received an Honorary Doctorate from Eastern. His adventures have taken him from the streets of Calcutta where he worked with Mother Teresa to the wealthy suburbs of Chicago where he served at the influential mega-church Willow Creek. As a peacemaker, his journeys have taken him to some of the most troubled regions of the world – from Rwanda to the West Bank – and he’s been on peace delegations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Shane is the visionary leader of The Simple Way, a faith community in inner city Philadelphia that has helped birth and connect radical faith communities around the world. He is married to Katie Jo, a North Carolina girl who also fell in love with the city (and with Shane). They were wed in St. Edwards church, the formerly abandoned cathedral into which homeless families relocated in 1995, launching the beginning of the Simple Way community and a new phase of faith-based justice making. where everything started back in 1995.

Shane writes and travels extensively speaking about peacemaking, social justice, and Jesus. Shane’s books include Jesus for President, Red Letter Revolution, Common Prayer, Follow Me to Freedom, Jesus, Bombs and Ice Cream, Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers – and his classic The Irresistible Revolution. He has been featured in a number of films including “Another World Is Possible” and “Ordinary Radicals.” His books are translated into more than a dozen languages. Shane speaks over 100 times a year, nationally and internationally.

His work has appeared in Esquire, SPIN, Christianity Today, and The Wall Street Journal, and he has been on everything from Fox News and Al Jazeera to CNN and NPR. He’s given academic lectures at Harvard, Princeton, Brown, Liberty, Duke, and Notre Dame. Shane speaks regularly at denominational gatherings, festivals, and conferences around the globe.

Shane did a fantastic job responding to your questions, and I enjoyed talking with him about faith, community, marriage, and non-violence. (This interview was a little unusual in that we did it via phone and I transcribed it afterwards.) I hope you enjoy Shane's thoughts as much as I did. You asked some fantastic questions!

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From Nish: Shane, thanks so much for stopping in here at Rachel's place to answer questions. I love the phrase that you coined, the Ordinary Radical. However, after reading your book(s), it's pretty clear that you live anything but an ordinary life! You've done huge things for the Kingdom in both your own community and around the world. My question is in regards to becoming an ordinary radical in the midst of ordinary, everyday life. I'm a stay-at-home mom and I struggle with fulfilling my duties and calling to care for my children full-time, while being an active Kingdom-builder in my city & community. Do you have any advice or ideas for those of us at home with small children, or working the daily grind 9-5 jobs, or in school full-time to honor our commitments to family, work and school while simultaneously working to benefit our communities? What are some good first-steps toward engaging the needs of our cities, and how do we do that while juggling the everyday?

I love this question. What pops into my head is that Scripture that says, “let us not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” And to me, that’s invitation to live with imagination. Non-conformity doesn’t mean uniformity. Choosing non-conformity doesn’t mean we’re all going to end up doing the same thing, that we’ll all find ourselves working in a soup kitchen, or sleeping under a bridge. This is an invitation—a call— to re-imagine who we are and how we are to live in light of Jesus. And I get excited because I see folks who are doing that everywhere, in all kinds of different ways.

You also see in Scripture that when people encounter Jesus, they don’t all walk away to pursue the exact same lifestyle. For instance, Jesus dealt with two tax collectors—Matthew and Zaccheus. Matthew chose to sell everything, but Zaccheus, from what we know, sold half of everything, paid everyone four times what he owed them, and then went on. So they both reimagine their life and their economics, and they both challenge the system, but they did it in different ways. And you’ll notice that Matthew didn’t get all upset and come out and tell Zaccheus how to do it! (laughter) 

So what this means is that every one of us is called to love our neighbor—including our global neighbor—as ourselves. I know a suburban mom who, for every biological kid she and her husband send to college, they’ve create a trust fund—kind of like another scholarship—for a kid that’s not biologically theirs, but is financially hard-pressed. I know another mom from California who was in this collective with a group of other parents who said they wanted their kids to learn compassion, so once a week they would gather together in a local park to discuss issues related to social justice and also to serve lunch to whoever might need it. One day, the police came and said that they couldn’t serve food in the park, so then it became a lesson on civil disobedience!

Now, while there are a million different ways to respond to this invitation, we do see compelling patterns in the gospel. So even if we don’t all respond in the exact same way, we can all, for example, see the suffering of this world as something we are called to enter into instead of flee from. We can reject the patterns of, for example, suburban sprawl that are often built around moving away from pain, or away from neighborhoods of high crime, or away from people who don’t look like us, and respond instead to the gospel inertia that invites us to enter into that pain. So this means we also have to challenge some of those patterns of consumerism and insulation, and sprawl, and homogeneity.

There are families in my neighborhood who have relocated here with their kids, and one thing they tell me is that they want their kids to grow up knowing that not everything is okay in this world—that racism exists, that injustice exists, that just because someone smells doesn’t mean we have to be afraid of them, and so on. So a big question we have to tackle is this: What do we shelter our kids from, and what do we allow them to see? And how do we allow that firsthand experience with pain and suffering affect how we spend our money and how we open our homes in hospitality. We all answer those questions a little differently, but there are patterns to be on the lookout for.

From Karen: Having lived in intentional community for a few years, I understand the challenges of sustaining a community. I’ve heard that Simple Way doesn't exist in the same way it did when it started. How many people actually live there in community? What is the community set up like? Does everyone share a home, are there multiple homes in the same neighborhood? Is there a lot of turn over of re-locators or do you have quite a few still living together who have been there for several years? Do you live in the same house with others in this Simple Way community or do you and your wife have your own home?

The forms of our community have certainly changed over the years, but the spirit of community and sharing and doing life together hasn’t, and that’s what we’re committed to. The forms change, but the spirit, I hope, stays the same. 

Coming out of college, a half a dozen of my friends joined together and we pooled our money together, rented a house, and started sharing food and time with other people in the neighborhood. Over time, and as we grew, and we realized we weren’t just an intentional community house anymore; we were building a village!

So now we have a little more elbow room, because we’ve been moving into abandoned houses and growing the neighborhood together with indigenous neighbors. Some houses we’ve gotten for a dollar! We’ve been able to grow into abandoned drug houses like the kind my wife and I live in now, for example. All said, we have about a dozen properties in the same neighborhood. So now our goal is really growing the neighborhood. Today we celebrated a neighbor who was able, for the first time, to get his own a home.

[See Shane’s post at Red Letter Christians, “Building a Better World One Home at a Time”]

Obviously, it’s a little harder now to create a shared rhythm in life. (When you’re living on top of each other, it’s almost impossible not to!) Still, we have morning prayers together every morning, we share meals together, we tend shared gardens together, we’ve got kids coming over after school this afternoon to get help with homework, we’ve got food bags we distribute. But what’s cool is that now the food bag projects, for example, are run by neighbors, so there’s a lot less “us” and “them” now, and a lot more just “us.”

But this is not without its challenges. It raises questions about the distinctiveness that holds us together, for example. So there are always new challenges that come with new seasons—just like in our individual lives. It’s like, having a new baby is exciting and wonderful and new, but you’ve also got dirty diapers to deal with too. Teenagers go through that time when they feel like anything’s possible, but it’s also kind of awkward and uncomfortable. In the same way, community is an organic thing that continues to grow and evolve and become something new, and with that evolution comes new challenges.

I think it’s important to not grow too attached to one form of community. At Simple Way, we’re inspired by the monastic tradition—although most monastics would probably flip if they find out we do morning prayers at 8:00 when they’re nearly to midday prayers by then! (laughter) Some communities have more structure; others have less. At the Simple Way, we’re not trying to spread a franchise or start a brand. But we value that same community spirit. I think all of us are made in the image of community. Our God reflects community, so we hunger to love and to be loved, whether the starting point is a half dozen friends in an inner-city rental or a small group in a suburban congregation. It’s not like you either have community or you don’t have community. It’s more amorphous than that, and we’re all on a journey to find it.

Follow-up from Rachel: A lot of people were surprised--hopefully pleasantly--to hear you got married. Were you surprised by that too? How has marriage changed you?

Shane & Katie Claiborne

Well, its funny because after I got married, people kept quoting my book [The Irresistible Revolution] to me, and I thought, well, maybe I need to go back and read what I wrote! (laughter) So I went back and read it and everything I wrote, I still feel so passionately about—for example, that our deepest longing is not for sex but for love and that what we really long for is community. You can live without sex, but you can’t live without love. That’s something I’ve learned from my celibate friends.

I’ve also learned that, in a sense, you’re not ready to married until you’re comfortable being alone. In other words, I don’t need another person to make me whole or to complete me. I think that’s a healthy attitude to have.

On the other hand, I still believe there is tons of work to do in the Church, and the world in general, to support celibate singles. So many champions of our faith have been able to live extraordinary lives, in part because of the freedom that singleness afforded them. No one says: Wow, wouldn’t Mother Teresa’s life have been more complete if she’d found a husband?! So I still believe passionately that we need to celebrate singleness, as well as marriage, and I suppose that, especially now, I don’t see those things as being at all mutually exclusive. In our community, we’re trying to do both—to support singles and married couples, to support gay and lesbian folks too, so that they find a community where they feel loved.

So, to be clear, I never took some kind of vow of celibacy. But I still believe there’s a lot of work to do, especially when the Church tends to place a disproportionate emphasis on marriage and families. I mean, you go to some of these Christian festivals and they have speed dating on the schedule! And I remember a pastor giving a sermon once in which he held up a picture of a mom and dad and two kids and prayed that everyone in his congregation would find that for themselves. That’s hogwash! It’s too much pressure, and it’s skewed theology.

Let’s teach people that whatever allows you to seek the Kingdom of God with your whole heart is what you should pursue. So if you do that better with another person, go for it. If you do that better within a certain structured community, go for it. At the end of the day, the point is to choose Jesus. So we have to do whatever allows us to pursue Jesus with our whole heats.

From Gerald: I struggle with balancing non-violence and self-defense. In theory I would like to think I would respond non-violentingly for myself. The idea however of someone endangering my family really challenges my willingness to turn the other check. Since being married have you noticed a change in your willingness to "protect" your family that perhaps have challenged you our attitudes toward non-violence?

Part of why I think Jesus talks so explicitly about loving our enemies and turning the other cheek is because it isn’t our knee-jerk reaction; it doesn’t necessarily come naturally to us. So I really believe that part of what it means to become more Christlike is to create disciplines and habits that cultivate the fruits of the spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—and to empty ourselves of other pollutions that keep us from being filled with the spirit.

My wife and I watched Les Mis the other night, and there’s that scene when Jean Valjean steals the candlesticks, and the Bishop covers for him and says they were a gift. Now, that sort of grace is not necessarily our first impulse. It certainly wasn’t my first impulse when someone stole our power drill! (laughter) I didn’t run after the person and say, “Hey, here are the drill bits!”

So, we have to practice non-violence. We have to train ourselves to produce the fruit of the Spirit. And a big part of that is surrounding ourselves with others who share those values. I like to say that it’s important to surround yourself with people who look like the kind of person you want to be. They rub off on you. Community can create a sort of compelling, positive peer pressure—an inertia toward non-violence—that you might not get on your own.

And my wife is a big part of that. Obviously, I would not have married someone who didn’t share my priorities as they relate to non-violence. And if anything, Katie has reinforced my convictions. In a lot of ways, she’s more non-violent than I am!

Now, non-violence doesn’t mean getting stepped-on. The call to non-violence is to disarm violence. A part of the way we do that is suffering with those who suffer. I’ve learned a ton of lessons about that by living in a neighborhood that has all kinds of reasons to hope, but also really struggles with an epidemic of violence, averaging about one homicide a day. That violence is something that we actively combat. We do it on our block, but we also believe in calling out the government. Violence anywhere is a threat to the love of Jesus that we see on the cross. So we try to teach our kids that, and we try to teach our presidents that.

From Kelsey: I hear often of non-violence & would consider myself a pacifist However, I have noticed that many of the voices of pacifism are men with unexamined privilege and and thereby do not address the street harassment and threat & fear of rape that women face frequently. I've heard about loving people through beatings and muggings - but there is something so dignity shredding about sexual violence, that the thought of it makes me want to forget I ever read the sermon on the mount. Do you have any women pacifists in your life who have touched on this issue at all?

We absolutely do have women in our community committed to the principles of non-violence. But I do want to be careful of using binary language here—like pacifist or non-pacifist. Polarities and labels can be really unhelpful in this conversation because the world is just so much…squirmier…than our categories. 

What I do see is Jesus as a living, breathing, existential incarnation of love that challenges so many of our categories and camps. And when it comes to the patterns I see in the Kingdom of God, which are perhaps best expressed in Mary’s Magnificat—the mighty are cast from their thrones, the lowly are lifted, the hungry are filled with good things, the rich are sent away empty—what seems really clear to me is that God is deeply and profoundly protective of the vulnerable and marginalized. Jesus is very critical of those who step-on and exploit. In fact, Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for the religious elite and self-righteous, who, in many ways, made their religion violent in that they used it to exclude and oppress and marginalize.

Joan Chittister—I love her!—likes to say is that Jesus consistently challenges the chosen and embraces the excluded. So what does that mean for us? It means that we should be near to those who are hurting. We should do everything in our power to lay down our life if we must to get in the way, non-violently, of that which might hurt another person.

Now, I absolutely do not think that Jesus is pointing to a sort of pitiful, masochistic toleration of abuse, or suggesting that a woman caught in abuse or violence should simply love her abuser or allow such violence to continue. Not at all.

What I try to point to in Jesus For President, and also in Jesus, Bombs, and Ice Cream is what Walter Wink and others call the “third way,” a way that exposes evil without mirroring it. So a big part of responding to injustice is exposing evil and making people uncomfortable by it. You don’t have to be violent to expose evil; sometimes you just have to get out and make some noise. And it’s important that we do this in community. When a community responds to injustice together, there are a lot more options for the marginalized and abused. So, if we’re doing it right, a person caught in abuse will know that they are not alone. That’s a big part of the good news: that you’re not alone in those situations.

Christians of all people should be the most suspicious of violence. We should be the whistleblowers against violence, not the drum-beaters for it! We should be the last people calling for the death penalty because we have a God who died on a cross to save us from death! So one thing we have to be careful of is finding the hardest cases for non-violence and then using them to justify violence across the board. We have an entire culture that is infected with violence—we’re talking 10,000 homicides a year in America, $20,000 a second spent on war. So maybe not all of us come out saying we’re pacifists; maybe some of us simply make more deliberate moves toward non-violence. (For example, we have a great partnership with Hunters Against Gun Violence. These are folks who say, “we want to hunt, but we don’t want guns that can shoot a hundred rounds a minute in the streets.”)

So let’s be the champions of non-violence even when we find it difficult to know exactly what we would do in specific situations.

From Registered Runaway: Shane what is your position on same sex relationships? I remember a clip I saw of you and Boyd and Colson discussing this and sounded like you supported celibacy for gay folks. Am I correct? Also, what are your thoughts on the state of the culture war raging over gay rights? How do we redeem it? Where do you see it headed?

Frist of all, I think we have to begin by acknowledging that part of the reason this is a difficult topic, and part of the reason we have disagreement on it, is because Jesus never really talks about it directly. There are other things that are made much clearer in Scripture and in the teachings of Jesus, so we all have to start with a posture of humility, and a posture of listening, and maybe even a commitment to disagree well. That’s what we’ve had to do within our community.

Now, having said that, there are certain things that we would say, the first being that God is love. So when people are holding signs that say, “God Hates Fags,” that doesn’t look like the God we see in Jesus. So we have a duty in that regard to move the world closer to love and closer to Jesus.

Second, there is this tendency we have to think that it is our job to point out what we believe other people are doing wrong….on whatever issue it may be. Billy Graham has a great line on this. He said, “It’s God’s job to judge, the Spirit’s job to convict, and our job to love. And we dare not mix those up.” I think that’s a good posture to have—to trust that God is working in people’s lives and to keep in mind that people are known by their fruit. So in any relationship, I think the question is, “Does this have good fruit? Do I see the Spirit in this friendship or in this community?”

But in the end, when the studies (like the recent Barana research) show that the #1 answer from young non-Christians about their impressions of Christianity is that they think Christians are anti-gay (followed by judgmental and hypocritical), we’ve gone terribly, terribly wrong. It must break God’s heart that this is what we have become known for. Jesus said they will know we are Christians by our love. So my admonition on this is that we become known for our love again. And that’s not limited to this issue, but applies in a lot of areas—whether it’s in the Occupy movement, or anti-war movement or picketers outside an abortion clinic. They’re not going to know we are Christians by our bumper stickers or our protest signs, but by our love.

And finally, I think it’s important that this is not something we discuss simply in ideologies or rhetoric, talking at people and around people, but rather that we begin talking with people. That’s when the conversation radically shifted for me. I had plenty of apologetics on what I thought Scripture said about homosexuality, but then I met a kid who became a close friend of mine and he’s gay, and he told me he wanted to kill himself because he thought he was a mistake, that God had made a mistake. If people like him can’t find a home in the church, and if they can’t find a friend to confide in without that friend rattling off a list of what they should or shouldn’t do, I think we need to reexamine what our faith is and ask if it’s really embodying good news for these folks too.

From DeeBrew: Dear Shane, I got to see you in person on your "Jesus for President" tour stop in Dallas. My son, then 16, begged me to take him to see you. Not really knowing who you were, I agreed to make the drive from Tulsa. We pulled into the parking lot of the church where it was held just in time to witness several guys dressed in what looked to be home-made clothing, jumping on top of an old bus, I glanced over at my son wondering what exactly he had gotten us into. (It turns out this was helping the used vegetable oil that the bus burned for fuel!) But that night changed my life. It changed my son's life. You spoke about things that our family had been discussing for several years but had never been able to verbalize within our church or to our families. You gave us the words.

My question is - what should I do now? We have come full circle in our search for what it means to follow Jesus. I teach in a Christian high school. The Bible teacher was concerned when I gave the Seniors "Irresistible Revolution" for graduation presents. My children graduated from this school. I have known these people for years but now am completely at odds with how they see the world. Do you think that being an "ordinary radical" is to stay in this situation and try making small strides in opening students' eyes about issues such as -why do they just accept that Christians should be for war, etc? Or am I contributing to the problem by helping support this institution - one that has some amazing people but are dedicated to teaching students more about how evolution is wrong than in following the call of Jesus to love your enemies. I desire to use my life to bring others to the understanding that following Christ is radical. I know others are in the same boat as I am, some in churches, jobs, etc who see the great need for change, and are unsure as to how to proceed. Do we change everything or do we work for little victories where we are already and hope for long term change. Or are we just contributing to the problem, maintaining the status quo. As someone in her 50s, I realize just how short life really is. With your broader view of where America is going - Christianity and the Church in particular - I would like to know where you think we as Christians should be dedicating our time and resources most.

Remember that movie, “What About Bob?” and the line about “baby steps to the bus…”? I think maybe there’s something to that! (laughter)

I do think it’s important to keep in mind that conversion is not just about a moment; it’s about a movement, about continually changing into the people that God has made us to be. So we need to have the same sort of patience with one another that God has with us as we move through that process. Sometimes, when I speak at a mega-church or something, someone will ask, “How do you come here, after being in Iraq or Calcutta? How do you speak into a culture like this with love?” And it’s because I see myself in the mirror! We’re all in process and that should give us great patience and peace with one another.

….That and the fact that the Bible is full of really messed-up people! Saul of Tarsus was a terrorist, for example. David was a womanizer who pretty much broke every command there was in two chapters of the Bible. But that’s part of the story—that God uses not only our gifts, but also our brokenness and our history. Desmond Tutu says that the love of God is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free. What a beautiful reminder that we should should never write anyone off.

A guy came up to me when I was speaking in Texas the other day and said, “I’m a redneck, and I mean a textbook redneck—NRA card-carrying, gun-toting, pickup truck-driving redneck. But I’ve been reading your stuff, and it’s really messed me up. It’s got me reading the Bible and rethinking some things.” So you never know how your life might impact people.

And when you look at Jesus’ ragamuffin group that included a tax collector and zealot, you can’t help but approach this whole thing with a little more humility.

But still, I think it’s important not to compromise on the cost of following Jesus. I don’t want to get so wishy-washy that I gloss over that and say you can just do anything with your life. One of my mentors says that a Christian can do any job as long as they’re willing to get fired at any point.” So if you’re a soldier, or if you’re working for a company that has a history of exploiting workers, well there may come a point when you might lose your job.

At the end of the day, we need the prophetic word both inside and outside. We need the voices in the wilderness, like John the Baptist, but we also need the Daniels. Daniel worked inside the king’s court, but he never compromised; even though he was in the king’s court, he wasn’t drinking the king’s Kool-Aid. This is why it’s really good to have a group that keeps us accountable, a community that helps us grow. And sometimes, if you’re the only one growing, it may be time to move on.

Forest Man

Forest Man

Published on Jun 13, 2014

Since the 1970's Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island. To date he has single handedly planted a forest larger than Central Park NYC. His forest has transformed what was once a barren wasteland, into a lush oasis.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Banksy - Tearing Down Walls of Oppression, Part 1/2

Across America's political landscape, and throughout the GOP/Republican Party's 2015 campaigning season, we are hearing messages of "Building Walls of Separation and Discrimination." Messages of societal molding and conformity to a public rhetorical platform that is being hotly debated from the diatribes of the infamous Donald Trump stigmatas to an entire stage of right-wing conservative candidates looking to lead America to its "glory lands of peace and lauder" through building better walls, greater military budgets, and an expanded prison system already too full.

Might we suggest to these candidates - as well as to any of the American public gullible enough to actually believe that walls do actually bring unity and security that this is but a fictional dream - or nightmare - of your own incredulous making. No wall, budget, or system, anywhere, will bring to a people or a country the security it longs for. Or, the peace-and-unity it seeks, simply by banishing its enemies to the outside of its own severe political and religious boundaries. It has been done - and failed - too many times down through the history of the world to believe that it can be incorporated successfully as a final strategy.

And since this is a Christian website let us also observe that we see this same kind of energy being expressed time-and-again within conservative Christian theologies as well. Theologies that would raise dogmatic walls ever higher against the torrents of progressive rhetoric blowing against it as if "the higher the wall the more secure and at-peace its people will be within." People desiring to be protected against an outside world full of evil, forment, and unrest. Certainly this is a desirable goal but a goal without sufficient means of attainment when driven by isolating its own people from harm while excluding others longing from the very same needs of peace, rest, and harmony being sought.

Hence, the artist Banksy points out this sublime fact time-and-again that "walls do nothing if but divide people from one another." That they provide a false security, an enforced segregation to injustice, and do nothing to resolving the differences between the "haves" and the "have nots." In the long view of things, the only healing which may occur within a walled society is the fantasyland of belief that one is safe and secure from "those meanies and hate-mongers" on the outside of our concrete or theological boxes.

So excuse us once again if we plead for some semblance of sanity amongst the conservative circles of the Christian faith to remind each other that strong doctrines, strong positions, and strong belief systems do nothing but weaken that very thing you wish to protect. Weaken it by isolation and exclusion rather than strengthening it by allowing its faith assemblies to be intimately involved with a hard-bit world of turmoil and oppression. To be involved through the hard work of activism, advocacy, and petition. One cannot expect walls to inform a people held by fear within. Nor do walls encourage involvement. They are separators that create calloused societies focused on themselves and their own needs while using others to support those needs and wants. Walled societies are places of injustice, inhumanity, and oppression. Walled societies cannot be supported. They are built upon their own unworthy foundations of sand while giving the deceptive impression of solidarity, control, and imperviousness to all onslaughts against it.

More the rather, to strengthen what you wish to protect is to expose that society's foundations and structures to the very criticisms being levelled at it. That in the strangest of paradoxes the things we wish to protect must become exposed and weakened in order to show the strength within that very thing you seek to cling to in the desperate hours of darkness.

What this means is that God and His Holy Word, the Bible, will never crumble to the fears of His people attempting to "honor" Him by "prophesying in His Name" of His salvation to mankind by excluding those outside the faith from the faith within. But must dutifully crumble to those same fears which would "wall out God's people" from those same dark forces that must be exposed, contended with, and vigorously protested against.

If anything, the Christian faith, if it is true, must become an "unstructured wall exposed" if it is to confront the ungodly on both sides of the religious wall of faith. Both the ins and the outs. The haves and the have nots. For the Holy God of the Bible is not a Redeemer who is in the business of building walls but of tearing walls down so that both the world of faith and the world of unfaith may collide and learn from one another. Teach one another. Learn to listen to one another.

America cannot be a nation on a hill whose light shines brightly if it hides the light of its liberty from the very ones desiring this thing both in their hearts and in their societies. There can be no one economic system. No one political system. But from across the spectrum of capitalism to communism, from a society built upon republican virtues to socialistic virtures, God reaches out to one-and-all irrespective of our belief systems, our cultures, our economies.

If anything, the need for walls should tell us that we must go to the ones shouting the loudest to listen so that we might humble ourselves, repent, and repair the damages caused by our vigor and protest. Areas like Ferguson, MO, cry out for the servants of the Lord to restore civility to the crimes committed for too many years and too many decades of exclusionism. Crimes of negligence. Crimes of over-zealous protection. Crimes of unjust civic law creating discrimination, racism, fear, and pride. Not simply there but everywhere we look in our cities of industry, progress, and means.

Walls do nothing if but illuminate ourselves to the world. They do not bring justice but injustice to those walled out. And to the political and religious demagogues and their foolish public who think otherwise remember God's very own Holy Personage as example who did not wall out a sinful humanity but suffered Himself to come into its manic folds:

Who did not think it "unpolitic" to humble Himself and come into a creation full of sin and
ruin. But made of Himself a part of this holy creation that He might take the form of a
servant and serve. Even to the point of dying to that very thing He created and loved."

Walls destroy. Walls bring death. Let us learn to live without walls in our lives. Let us seek to be "agents of demolition" to all that would wall ourselves out from one another. To seek peace and unity without the necessity of building higher, greater, deeper, walls. Whether in our political beliefs. In our theological beliefs. In our personal lives. Let us learn to live as exposed people. As weak servants of the living God. As people whose faith is real enough to allow it to examine ourselves first even as it will our "enemies in the lands of the living" whom we hate and fear.

And finally, should this be a plea for pacifism or for some kind of militant pacifism (an oxymoron if ever there was one)? When fighting injustice it must be one that loves our enemies but seeks to fight for those who are oppressed with crimes intolerable. Love is both weak and strong, wise and fearless. Perhaps rather than building walls we learn to re-build relationships with our enemies who are themselves as much in the business of wall making as we are by their own crimes of terror and oppression.

The most recent public example is President Obama's removal of the political walls between America and Cuba; with Iran's nuclear program arsenaled off from the contemporary world; and his visit of peace and respect to the nations of Africa. To hear his message that Muslims everywhere must be valued and not hated. But to also stand against the oppressions of all criminal groups - whether it be ISIS or that of an injust American system disempowering the disenfranchised. To recreate justice for all and not for some. To recreate community relations to every person of race, creed, or color, and not just to those we feel most welcomed within its boundary lands of oppression, hate, and discrimination.

If one is to lead a nation as a GOP candidate than one must be above the protocols and restrictions of one's own ideals if to serve and to bear the wounds of many. Any who would be a candidate for presidential leadership must be a candidate for all people everywhere and not simply to their own party of beliefs and ideologies. This takes a great wisdom of which only some have been successful at throughout the history of the world. But it is a wisdom from above. A wisdom that we pray and seek daily to honor from the God of all love, authority, and forgiveness, who is both our example, our Spirit-power, and our Lord and God who desires mankind to be at peace with itself.

R.E. Slater
August 13, 2015
revised August 24, 2015

Phillippians 2.1-11

Christ's Example of Humility

1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, anyparticipation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men.8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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Brian Sewell Art Directory


We couldn't work out if Banksy's taging of the Segregation Wall Palestine was 'Cheap publicity from other peoples misery' or 'Publicity for Palestinian misery'? So here is a review from the Intifada.

Well-known UK graffiti artist Banksy hacks the Wall
Nigel Parry, The Electronic Intifada, 2 September 2005

The Wall around Qalqiliya. A twenty-five foot high concrete cage cuts residents off
from their agricultural land, necessary for their survival, and prevents you from traveling
even 5 minutes out of the City. A single gate, open at the whims of the occupying army,
controls 100,000 residents. | Photo: 

Whitewashing the Wall

In June 2003, I received an e-mail in EI’s inbox from a Nathan Edelson, who introduced himself as “a design critic whose features on architecture have been published in major U.S. newspapers,” which a Lexis-Nexis newspaper database supported. He was writing a story “about architecture in Israel, with emphasis on the new security ‘fence’ which you rightly call a wall.” His request was for larger images of the Israel’s West Bank barrier for study, and explained that “the premise of my article is that one can argue about the desirability of a wall, and certainly where it runs, but if it is going to be built it should not be an aesthetic monstrosity.”

As you can imagine, we get a lot of crazy mail at EI, ranging from the fundamentalist who has for years been weekly mailing Zen-like one-liners such as “Biblical Christianity will one day return to the Holy Land,” to the ex-Israeli soldier who sent photos of him in service across the occupied territories with accompanying narratives of how much he enjoyed mistreating the Palestinians he came across. But somehow, this e-mail from internationally-respected design critic Nathan Edelson won my vote for the most clueless communication that info@electronicIntifada.net has ever received.

Usually, all correspondents to EI receive a polite response with links to more information. But when a clearly educated person tries to get you to swallow soup with a turd in it, there’s got to be a cut-off point for pleasantries.

“That's a little,” I replied, “like arguing for nice faux painting on gas chamber walls or calling for Martha Stewart torture chamber bed sets. Clearly ethics play no part in your school of design criticism.”

Edelson’s reply was truly surreal. “I could accuse you of having no ethics because you want the security wall to be as repulsive as possible so it will stir up the maximum possible resentment, which will translate into more violence.”

“I care very much about where the security wall runs,” he continued, “as well as how it looks. My upcoming article will hopefully elicit meaningful conversation between the sides based on a joint desire to make a bad thing better, and this can help create the trust which can change not only the look but the routing of the barrier.”

Of course, the second the beautification of the barrier is complete, the Israelis, who bulldozed and confiscated countless acres of Palestinian land to build the wall, cut off thousands of farmers from their sole livelihood and, in one example, surrounded a single Palestinian family home in a mini-wall, will sit down for a meaningful conversation with their new Palestinian friends about the route of the finished barrier! I was also chastised by Edelson for being less than “civil” in my response to him.

“There is nothing you can do aesthetically,” I wrote in my reply to Edelson, “which will make this wall benign. There is no making it ‘better’. Want a big picture of the wall? Here's one attached. Do you think a nice mottled green would help it blend in to the indigenous landscape nicely? Or perhaps some arches and battlements for a more traditional medieval flavor?”

This satellite image of Qalqilya and Israel's West Bank Barrier surrounding the city
was taken on 7 June 2003. The progress of construction of the barrier can clearly be
seen, ultimately cutting off residents from their surrounding agricultural land. See
here for 
before & after images. (Photo: Space Imaging/NTA Space Turk)

“If you actually intend to actually write an article arguing for this monstrous whitewashing of a visible human rights violation -- and it says so much about the state of ignorance in America that you are even thinking of it or if indeed there is any likelihood any serious newspaper would print it -- I would suggest you first get on a plane and go visit Qalqiliya and Rafah and see the reality for yourself. Speak to the people who live there. See how the thing plays out on the ground.”

“What you propose -- using art to serve the interests of what is a dictatorship for the 3.2 million Palestinians who didn't vote for the system that rules over them -- follows in the footsteps of Leni Riefenstahl and Richard Wagner. While I totally concur with your point about the need for civil responses to civil questions, there was nothing "civil" about your enquiry. It was a perfect example of 21st century barbarism.”

“Hats off to Nathan Edelson, the man who came up with the wonderful solution to a century of conflict: simply paint the cage a new color and watch the prisoners dance.”

Hitler with Leni Riefenstahl (R), an otherwise brilliant 
film maker who made propaganda films for the Nazis.

Edelson didn’t give up, and responded one last time, expressing hope for a resolution to the conflict, making a final statement about the aesthetics of the barrier. “I also believe, however, that given any particular routing decision, it is immoral to create any more ugliness than is absolutely necessary.”

Enter Banksy

When I first encountered some of the graffiti art and sculpture of “Banksy” in London several years ago, I was struck by the importance of where his pieces were located. In Banksy’s work, location itself is a large part of the message, a key component of the resulting metaphor. Whether he’s hanging a fake rock pictogram of early man pushing a shopping cart in the British Museum, or installing an amalgam of the Statue of Liberty and Statue of Justice clad as a prostitute at the site of his last arrest, the environment is usually part of the message.

The “Manifesto” on Banksy’s website contains only a diary extract from Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin DSO, who was among the first British soldiers to liberate Bergen-Belsen in 1945:

“It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This was not at all what we men wanted, we were screaming for hundreds and thousands of other things and I don't know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for these internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wandering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the post mortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tattooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.”


The Holocaust Lipstick motif in Banksy's art (see above right), which accompanies the text on his website, has also appeared on the streets of the UK and aptly captures the deliberate incongruity of his large body of public work, which highlights and satirizes the dehumanizing impact of modern society and government by disturbing our sense of place and appropriateness.

Familiar images -- the Queen, smiling children, policemen -- are given a dark twist designed to wake observers up from the 9 to 5 rat race -- also a common Banksy theme, typically delivered in person by talking rats -- a rat race that literally itself streams through Banksy’s borderless gallery of streets to make you reassess the structures and symbols that form the backdrops to our lives.

Banksy hacks the Wall

Whereas Nathan Edelson wants to create no “more ugliness than is absolutely necessary”, Banksy’s the kind of guy who prefers to draw a 20 foot high arrow pointing at the ugliness to encourage us to ask why the hell it’s there in the first place.

When I first learned of Banksy's summer trip to the route of Israel’s West Bank barrier, which the artist describes on his website as “the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti writers” -- I knew even before I saw the first image that this was going to be interesting.

“How illegal is it to vandalize a wall,” asks Banksy in his website introduction to his Wall project, “if the wall itself has been deemed unlawful by the International Court of Justice? The Israeli government is building a wall surrounding the occupied Palestinian territories. It stands three times the height of the Berlin wall and will eventually run for over 700km - the distance from London to Zurich. The International Court of Justice last year ruled the wall and its associated regime is illegal. It essentially turns Palestine into the world’s largest open-air prison.”

Much of the art he produced on the Wall visually subverts and draws attention to its nature as a barrier by incorporating images of escape -- a girl being carried away by a bunch of balloons, a little boy painting a rope ladder.

Other pieces invoke a virtual reality that underlines the negation of humanity that the barrier represents -- children in areas cut off from any access to the sea playing with sand buckets and spades on piles of rubble that look like sand, and corners of the wall peeled back to reveal imagined lush landscapes behind.

Banksy's site offers two snippets of conversations with an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian who happened upon him while he was in the process of creating the series of nine pieces on the Wall, in Bethlehem, Abu Dis, and Ramallah.

Soldier: What the fuck are you doing?

Me: You'll have to wait til it's finished

Soldier (to colleagues): Safety's off

Banksy is the anti-Leni Riefenstahl and anti-Richard Wagner, reclaiming public spaces as a space for public imagination and enlightenment where they have become propagandistic barriers to thought and awareness, as is the very terminology for Israel's West Bank barrier itself. Banksy's summer project on Israel's Wall stands out as one of the most pertinent artistic and political commentaries in recent memory.

Perhaps the last word, perhaps the clearest answer to the Nathan Edelsons of this world who wish to whitewash all that is ugly rather than change its basic nature, should come from another conversation Banksy reports having with an old Palestinian man:

Old man: You paint the wall, you make it look beautiful.

Me: Thanks

Old man: We don't want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall, go home.

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