Monday, October 31, 2016

Q & R: Christ in a Violent World - Brad Jersak

At CWR, we've received some excellent feedback re: our response to violence. We really do appreciate this kind of input and our readers' thoughtful questions, especially as we see our readers as partners in our ministry and its mission. 

The following are some direct responses to the concerns from one of our readers, as well as a formal response we're posting in the Winter CWRm to another reader.

The reader (in blue) began:

The fall issue of CWRm left me with some negative feelings about our response with violence based on Jesus' teaching, and your claim that Christendom is on the violent, wrong, side of the Cross.

Not very surprising, especially since it's very difficult for believers to come to a consensus about violence and our response to it. This is especially true because when we ask, "what shall we do," we are already dealing with the problem of "who is WE?" Is WE the UN, NATO, the US and its political allies? 

Or is we the Church (which church? the universal body of Christ? a particular denomination? or individual believers?). And if Christendom itself were a unified voice, how shall we relate to our politicians and their foreign policies? As chaplains affirming whatever the state decides? Or as a prophet challenging the powers that be? A corporate conscience with niggling questions? Or the voice of God (presuming a lot here)? 

You can see how agreement on this is extremely tough to find. What is the way forward? You continue: 

I agree that Christians should always seek non-violent solutions ...

Indeed, Christ commands it ... and Paul clarifies: "Our weapons are not of this world," "Our enemy is not flesh and blood," and "Overcome evil with good." Here, Paul is speaking to believers across regions, rather than to political powers ... so then it's a question of our first allegiance among competing claims: the call of the Prince of Peace vs. the agendas of the state. 

But it's not so simple as we live with a foot in each kingdom. To the degree that we are also citizens of our nations (and our authors come from quite a few nations on at least three continents), we do participate in the world and it's problems. 

Be Still - Greg Albrecht

When in danger, when in doubt,
Run in circles, scream and shout

The British Navy has a strange custom, I am told. If a sudden disaster happens, "the still" is blown. If you live in certain parts of the United States you may think of a still as a place where bootleg whiskey is produced. 

The "still" in the British Navy, as I understand it, is a whistle which calls the crew of a ship to a moment of silence in a time of crisis. It's a moment of calm that allows everyone to collect their thoughts before they respond to an emergency. 

My wife, Karen, and I recently witnessed the results of failure to be still in the face of a crisis. Thirty-five years ago, when we first moved into our neighborhood, we would occasionally see peacocks stroll through our front yard. Peafowl are incredibly beautiful, especially when the male peacock fans out his tail feathers. This breathtaking display is often a part of a courting ritual as the male attempts to impress and attract the female peahen.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Fact, Fiction or Truth ... or Why Aren't You Reading Novels? Bradley Jersak

I frequently encounter surprise and even occasional disdain when I recommend works of fiction as a critical element of one's spiritual or theological diet. 

"What's the point? Novels aren't true," I'm asked with incredulity. Or sometimes, "I only read spiritual books," with a judgmental edge. As if works of fiction are neither spiritual nor true.

This belies a fundamental lack of understanding about the nature of truth. Truth, especially God's truth, is true regardless of the genre by which it is delivered, whether fiction or nonfiction; prophecy, poetry or parable; apocalyptic or dystopia, and so on. 

Add to the literary genres other mediums, such as movies and television (and not just documentaries!), stage plays, art shows and music of every type. All of these forms suggest the possibility of a message and where there's a message, there may be truth (or a lie, just as in nonfiction).

Unique and Exaggerated Truth Claims - Greg Albrecht

"IHS" is an anagram for "JESUS"
We are only days away from the US Presidential Election.  Soon the equivocations, prevarications, character assassinations and mudslinging will all be over… or will it? 

In an attempt to help further educate (or is it “influence”) voters “fact checks” have attempted to serve us, the gullible public, by informing us about which of the two candidates tells more lies most often.  But now we hear claims that even “fact checks” have their own agenda. Say it ain’t so! Given the outrageous claims that both candidates and their teams have leveled at each other it might be comforting to think that the incriminating accusations will end on November 9 – but oh no, it will not be over – politics as usual will continue with its double speak, sleight of hand and outrageous truth claims.

Even though we don’t always know what to accept and what to reject, most of us are prepared for lies and chicanery in the world of politics. We live in a marketplace economy, so as we grow up we become aware of hyperbolic marketing claims that seek to persuade us and sell us on a particular product, thereby achieving the goal of lifting money out of our pockets and depositing it somewhere else. 
Few are ready for outrageous truth claims when it comes to their faith.
While many are on guard for the lies of politics and advertising and promotion at large, few are ready for outrageous truth claims when it comes to their faith. When someone does question the veracity of a belief or practice of a particular church or denomination, the religious institution in question often directs them to documents called “statements of belief” or “statements of faith.”  Sometimes, in longer forms (sometimes books and even several volumes of books) these statements are called “confessions.”

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Bricks or Stones - Dr. P. Michael Peterson

Bricks or stones?

As you look around any college campus you see many bricks, and they are a wonderful building material in construction and architecture.

However, bricks are also a metaphor for sameness, lack of individuality, and commonness.

Bricks are made in a mold, and heated to create an identical building material that lacks individuality.  Bricks are symbolic of pressure, systems, and structures that conform individuals to specific behaviors, ideologies and perspectives.   Common Core programs in schools, government over-regulation, media bias, religious dogmas, and political correct standards are forces that can mold and conform us into bricks.  Faced with these forces and pressures that seem to be the accepted social norms, we can stop thinking, stop questioning, stop reasoning, and stop trying.  We risk becoming what others want us to be, think and believe, rather than what we are designed to be, and know to be right and true.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

3 Things to Teach Children about the Cross - Brad Jersak

What is God like? 
Jesus showed us! 
In every Gospel story, 
Jesus showed us what God is like, 
Because Jesus is "God with us." 
What did Jesus show us about God? 
That God is perfect love! 
That God loves us! 

This is the intro to our new children’s book, Jesus Showed UsThe book is a series of sixteen gospel pictures (inspired by the child-friendly Coptic iconography of the persecuted church in Egypt). In each case, the artwork portrays Christ demonstrating the truth that God is love.
We created this book for children because so many children grow up afraid of God and alienated from God, some because of abuse, others because of the brand of gospel well-meaning Christian parents and teachers shared with them. Otherwise healthy and well-loved children often suffer spiritual and emotional damage due to the distorted images of God presented in their early religious education.
This is especially true in what we tell children about the meaning of the Cross.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Let the Party Begin - Greg Albrecht


Key Text: The Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11)

The very idea of any kind of party, any kind of laughter, feasting, light-heartedness and yes, even enjoyment of life itself, is suspect in some religious environments. Our keynote passage does more than just record history, it is inviting you and me to a party, a party that is already in progress! There's important teaching in this passage. 

You may have heard one of the take-offs on our passage, which goes something like this:
Jesus turned water into wine almost 2,000 years ago, and ever since that time, legalistic religion has been trying to turn wine into grape juice. 

I don't want to spend a lot of time on the specific chemical properties of what Jesus created, but we cannot ignore the obvious. Alcohol was not only served at the wedding celebration that Jesus attended, but he contributed to the fact that alcohol was present by creating it when the original supply had run out. There's no getting around that fact, though there are some religious authorities who twist themselves into theological pretzels attempting to do so. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Firm Foundation or Christian Bubble? Cindy Brandt

Cindy Brandt is a blogger at CindyWords.com and at Unfundamentalist ParentingShe is also a regular columnist for CWR magazine.  

In this talk, Cindy describes how carefully raising children in a Christian subculture or 'bubble' establishes and reinforces in-out, us-them binaries. Is this really a solid foundation for their faith? Or might there be a better and more beautiful approach to raising children of authentic faith? 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Likely Cause of Addiction: Disconnection - reflections on Johann Hari by Michael Peterson & Brad Jersak

"The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection." 
- Johann Hari

In his Jan. 1015 article, entitled, "The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think," Johann Hari (author of Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs) presents a strong case for believing that addictions are rooted, not in chemical hooks, but in disconnection or alienation. The best treatment, he proposes, is human connection. I.e. love. Dr. C. Michael Peterson and Brad Jersak reflect on these findings. 

Michael Peterson

Two thoughts:

1) The author contrasts the traditional treatment approach of bio-behavioral therapies and cognitive interventions vs. a love-based approach. Her final sentence stated:
"For a century now, we have been singing war songs about addicts. It occurred to me as I wiped his brow, we should have been singing love songs to them all along."

What are the Politics of Jesus? - Richard Rohr

07 Richard Rohr - What are “the politics of Jesus”? from Plain Truth Ministries on Vimeo.

Monday, October 10, 2016

God Really LIKES You! by Greg Albrecht

"We desire to connect with God; we desire to know God and be known by God. God has created us with a desire for connectivity." - Greg Albrecht
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."—Revelation 21:1-4 
Does God love you? Most people would say, "Of course he does. The Bible says so, and I believe the Bible."

But, does God like you? That question causes many people to pause for a second or two, or longer. Think about that. Sure, he might love you, but does he like you? I believe he does. I believe God Really Likes You. 

Revelation 21:1-4 is the introduction to the spectacular vision given to the Apostle John by Jesus, recorded for us in the rest of the 21st chapter of Revelation. John saw a magnificent city whose streets were paved with gold, gold so pure that it looked like transparent glass. This New Jerusalem featured twelve gates, each of which was a single, giant pearl.

The gates of the New Jerusalem are always open, never closed. There is no darkness of any kind in New Jerusalem, not even night. There is only light, light eternally produced by the glory of God's presence. 

Does God Love You and Have a Wonderful Plan for Your Life? Cindy Brandt

Cindy Brandt is a blogger at CindyWords.com and at Unfundamentalist Parenting. She is also a regular columnist for CWR magazine.  

In this talk, Cindy critically examines the inherent problems and consequences of raising children under the "first law" of the classic tract, The Four Spiritual Laws. 

Law #1 states "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." Cindy offers an alternative, especially in the context of unfundamentalist parenting: "God loves us. Full stop." What might that look like?

Saturday, October 8, 2016

God cannot become something evil - and God became human! Kenneth Tanner

"If she could carry You, it was because You, the great mountain, had lightened Your weight; If she feeds You, it is because You had taken on hunger, if she gives You to drink, it is because You, of Your own will, had thirsted." —Saint Ephrem the Syrian.
God became human in Jesus Christ. God cannot become something evil. God does not become something God hates. May your outlook on humanity be informed by God's profound solidarity with humanity—with every single human person—in the Incarnation of the Son.
The central Christian conviction is that the Creator of all things, the God who spoke the worlds into existence from nothing, the One who holds all things in life, became a mere human.
God did not become a human with immunities to ordinary physics, with a body impervious to pain or disease. Jesus was *not* Superman.
And Christians confess at the same time that this ordinary man from Nazareth was not someone with godlike qualities but God—the God.
And I just want to say two things about this startling confession that God became flesh: God cannot become something evil and God does not become something God hates.
Humanity was made by God and God only makes good things.
God cannot make evil.
Humanity is inherently *good* and declared good by God on the sixth day of their creative work. And if this were not so, if humanity was inherently evil, God could never have become one of us.
Too many humans hate humanity, and in our hatred for ourselves we too often focus on the worst things that humans do. And it's true that we are all of us not well; that we are all of us in need of the healing work of God.
And yet, in spite of dark angelic and human contempt for humanity—even as many of us seek to escape our humanity, and leave this incarnate, embodied state—God chose to so identify Godself with the human family as to take on human flesh forever in the person of the Son. 
Because of Jesus an embodied human is one Person of the Godhead, and God has therefore manifested in Christ an intimate solidarity with every human person. Everyone.
And though every human is in need of God's grace and forgiveness and redemption, and though we have all fallen short of God's created intentions for us as humans, and though we have failed to love as God loves, and though we have walked away from Love, God chooses—of all things in his creation—to unite himself to the human race, to be one of us, to put to everlasting shame everyone and everything that would oppose the human.
Think of the person you despise the most, the human that inspires hatred in you, who makes your skin crawl, whom you loath, and then come to understand something and come to understand this at your core: God has in Jesus Christ drawn nearer to that person in love than it is possible for you to understand or articulate, that God desires that person so much that God died to have never-ending friendship with that person from age to age.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Prayer – The Steering Wheel or a Spare Tire? Greg Albrecht

Corrie Ten Boom once asked, "Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?" When she compared prayer to a steering wheel, I'm relatively certain that Corrie Ten Boom didn't know anything about a modern GPS system—the navigational system many people have in their cars today.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Religious Trauma Syndrome - Valerie Tarico / Dr. Marlene Winell

Religious Trauma Syndrome: How Some Organized Religion Leads to Mental Health Problems

Groups that demand obedience and conformity produce fear, not love and growth.
At age sixteen I began what would be a four year struggle with bulimia.  When the symptoms started, I turned in desperation to adults who knew more than I did about how to stop shameful behavior—my Bible study leader and a visiting youth minister.  “If you ask anything in faith, believing,” they said.  “It will be done.” I knew they were quoting the Word of God. We prayed together, and I went home confident that God had heard my prayers.  But my horrible compulsions didn’t go away. By the fall of my sophomore year in college, I was desperate and depressed enough that I made a suicide attempt. The problem wasn’t just the bulimia.  I was convinced by then that I was a complete spiritual failure. My college counseling department had offered to get me real help (which they later did). But to my mind, at that point, such help couldn’t fix the core problem: I was a failure in the eyes of God. It would be years before I understood that my inability to heal bulimia through the mechanisms offered by biblical Christianity was not a function of my own spiritual deficiency but deficiencies in Evangelical religion itself.  

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