Watch Aaron in the film Holy Wars

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Matthew's Mad Men

Dorothy is an excellent Bible teacher that I trust and respect. She taught me how to "dig for treasures" in the simple stories of the Bible. Here is an example of us digging together in our latest e-mail exchange:


I've been thinking about a story found in Matthew 8:28-34.

In the story, Jesus heals two demon possessed men. The demons ask Jesus to permit them to go into the herd of swine. Jesus says "go" and the herd ran violently down the steep place and perished in the sea. Those who kept the swine fled, told everyone in the city what happened, including what happened to the two men, and the WHOLE CITY begged Jesus to depart from their region.

Here's what I've been thinking about. I want to know if you think that I'm reading too much into the story or if my observations are ACTUALLY IN the story?

Doesn't it seem odd to you that Jesus would allow an entire herd of swine to perish to heal just two men? I mean, didn't people's livelihood depend on those swine? It seems that Jesus was willing to sacrifice another person's livelihood, or at the very least, short term profit to heal two men that would have been at the very bottom of the rung in society.

Is there a message here that people are more important than profit?

If I'm on the right track with this story, then what does this story tell us about how SOCIETY treats the least of these? At the end of the story, the WHOLE CITY comes out to beg Jesus to depart from their region. The people in the city had a choice, but it seems that they put their economic well-being ahead of the two men at the bottom of the rung.

So what might this story say to business owners, or political leaders? Could this story actually be teaching us that Jesus puts a priority on the poor and the outcast over the economic well-being of the business class?

I'd love to hear your insights.


Dorothy's Response:


I see and agree with your observations and your applications. There is a ton of treasure in this story

Ok. let's kick it up a notch and view just a few!

I think I just saw some things. To get there, it helps me to understand that aspect of the story to know that the city of Gadera was maybe 8 miles inland from the Sea of Galilee, on the East side Jordan and the inhabitants were not Jews, they were Greeks. (Put in the introduction as it is in the Bible, well the "Greek" info maybe not.)


Yes Jesus took away their livelihood, so your obs-apps work, but also....

What were swine to Jews and where did that belief come from? (put in intro)

Wow! What had these keepers of the swine, these Gaderans, non-Jews just seen that day?
Do you see any part of what they had seen being deniable? What do you see there, as to what kinds of activity Jesus had been involved there?

Who all saw what Jesus did?
When they saw, what did they choose to do?
I am thinking, what other choices could they have made?

Also who did these amazing feats?
Do we know if anyone else been able to cure the two "crazy" men?
What had those crazy man been consigned to and were the locals affected in any way?
How do you see Jesus treat the crazy men?
Is it possible that Jesus' treat of the men can that show us anything about Jesus?

What other ways might Jesus have responded to the demons' request?
Is it possible that what Jesus did with the demons can show us anything?, maybe multiple anythings!

Could what Jesus did have sent any messages to the Gaderens?
I wonder? Could Jesus' actions indicate any positive interest in the Gadarenes?

Who all saw these activities and decisions that day. Impact on each?

Just thoughts


Has anything in this exchange pricked your thinking regarding this story?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Obama the most anti-Israel president in history?

Okay, this is just looney. Here's the latest e-mail I received from my good friends at the ACLJ.

Dear Aaron,

President Obama has talked about ''unwavering'' support for Israel, but we're seeing something quite different. As Congressman Mike Pence correctly put it, ''This Administration has become the most anti-Israel Administration in American history.''

It is imperative that we - as a country and as individuals - never falter in our support of the State of Israel.

As you know, we are at the International Criminal Court this week to defend Israel's right to sovereignty and the right of every free nation to defend itself from terrorists. The impact of this case is global. And now, more than ever, it's clear that we have a distinct and special role in standing with the nation of Israel and its people.

I urge you to read Jordan's latest online Washington Post article, ''Why Christian Conservatives are Israel's Ambassadors.'' It explores this critical issue and explains why the American Center for Law and Justice is so focused on protecting Israel and its future.

Once you read the article, please post a comment about why you support Israel at the Washington Post website.

I am truly grateful for you and other committed ACLJ members who have stood, and continue to stand, alongside us in support of Israel and its people.

As one of America's greatest and most trusted allies, Israel represents what we in this nation cherish most - democracy, freedom, and sovereignty.

Seriously Mr. Sekulow? Obama is the most anti-Israel president in history? Would you like to back that up please? Because last time I checked, Obama has increased military aid to Israel, increased intelligence cooperation with Israel on Iran, and strengthened trade relations between our two countries.

Gullible people are going to believe you.


Because the president's name is Barack Hussein Obama.

For an excellent article on Obama's support for Israel, click here!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Thinking about the Kingdom

Not getting much sleep these days. Wondering if I'll ever get to sleep through the night again. I've heard that having small children changes your life. Consider that confirmed. So what's been going on in my sleepless head? Been thinking about the Kingdom. You know, the one that Jesus talked about? The one that's not supposed to be of this world? What exactly is the Kingdom of God?

For many, the Kingdom of God is an inward spiritual condition, the joy and peace that transcends circumstances. There's some Biblical justification for this, as Paul says, "The Kingdom of God isn't eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17) But is an inward spiritual condition all that the kingdom represents? After all, I've met some pretty joyful and peaceful Buddhists over the years. While I'm certainly happy for people that find joy and peace through whatever faith tradition or philosophy that helps them get through life, Jesus seemed to think that He was the only one qualified to reveal the nature of the Kingdom to the world. While it may be fashionable to put Jesus on par with other philosophers and religious leaders, Jesus didn't leave a whole lot of wiggle-room for competitors when He said things like, "All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him" (Matthew 11:27).

For others, the Kingdom of God is a set of moral and ethical principles designed to help people get along and to restore what is broken in our world. In this view, the Kingdom of God is good news for everyone because it transcends religious distinctions. This also carries a grain of truth. If I as a follower of Jesus decide to make the Sermon on the Mount the moral foundation of my life, that's good news for my Muslim neighbor, Buddhist neighbor, Hindu neighbor, and non-religious neighbor as well. So when the Kingdom of God is in operation, it's good news not just for people that call themselves Christians, but for people of all faiths. And, of course, it's also true that when people of other faiths follow the teachings of Jesus, whether consciously or unconsciously, everyone benefits.

Still, Jesus walked around like He owned the Kingdom. He said My Kingdom is not of this world. So while I respect people that decide to live virtuous lives based on their philosophy or faith tradition, it makes sense that only that which is done in Jesus' name can rightly be called the Kingdom, at least in the Biblical sense of the word. So the real question is, when Jesus announced the Kingdom of God, what might that have meant to His Jewish listeners?

Now I think we're getting somewhere. I was reading the Book of Daniel the other day. Daniel prophesied to the King of Nebuchadnezzar that his empire would be the first of four great empires, and that at some point during the fourth empire, a new Kingdom made not with hands would arise that would crush all remaining Kingdoms (Daniel 2:44). The Jews would have certainly known that the Roman Empire was the fourth great empire that Daniel prophesied about, so they must have been looking for someone that fit the following description:

"I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:13-14).

So when Jesus walked around calling Himself the Son of Man and talking about His Kingdom not being of this world, He was essentially telling His Jewish audience, "Remember the prophecies of old? They're talking about me! I'm the one you've read about that's going to take over the planet and crush the world's Kingdoms. Follow me."

Sometimes I think we forget that the Kingdom of God is about a real King with a real domain with real citizens. So my question is, how does understanding the Jewish context of the Kingdom of God help us understand the nature of Jesus and His mission? I'm sure it must have been a shock that the long-awaited King acted more like a slave than a King, which is probably why a lot of people rejected Jesus and His claims, so what do we make of the earth shattering Kingdom prophesied in Daniel? Perhaps more importantly, how should believers in Jesus relate to existing earthly Kingdoms in light of the fact that we serve a King that seems more interested in "crushing" and "consuming" earthly kingdoms (Daniel 2:44)--than fixing them?


Friday, October 08, 2010

Moderate Muslims speak out for freedom of speech

So why don't moderate Muslims speak out? I get this question all the time. The answer is they are, but the problem is they don't get the same media attention that the suicide bombers, acid throwers, and church burners get.

Here's a statement from prominent Muslims that clearly renounces any and all violence against people exercising their rights to freedom of speech:

Posted Sep 21, 2010

We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible.
We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation.

We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims. We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur’an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed.

We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.
As Muslims, we must set an example of justice, patience, tolerance, respect, and forgiveness.
The Qur’an enjoins Muslims to:
* bear witness to Islam through our good example (2:143); 
* restrain anger and pardon people (3:133-134 and 24:22); 
* remain patient in adversity (3186); 
* stand firmly for justice (4:135); 
* not let the hatred of others swerve us from justice (5:8); 
* respect the sanctity of life (5:32); 
* turn away from those who mock Islam (6:68 and 28:55); 
* hold to forgiveness, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant (7:199); 
* restrain ourselves from rash responses (16:125-128); 
* pass by worthless talk with dignity (25:72); and
* repel evil with what is better (41:34).
Islam calls for vigorous condemnation of both hateful speech and hateful acts, but always within the boundaries of the law. It is of the utmost importance that we react, not out of reflexive emotion, but with dignity and intelligence, in accordance with both our religious precepts and the laws of our country.

We uphold the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both protect freedom of religion and speech, because both protections are fundamental to defending minorities from the whims of the majority.

We therefore call on all Muslims in the United States, Canada and abroad to refrain from violence. We should see the challenges we face today as an opportunity to sideline the voices of hate—not reward them with further attention—by engaging our communities in constructive dialogue about the true principles of Islam, and the true principles of democracy, both of which stress the importance of freedom of religion and tolerance.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, PhD, Director, Minaret of Freedom Foundation
Prof. Akbar S. Ahmed, PhD, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University
Prof. Parvez Ahmed, PhD, Fulbright Scholar & Assoc. Prof. University of North Florida 
Wajahat Ali, playwright, journalist, and producer of “Domestic Crusaders”
Sumbul Ali-Karamali, JD, LLM (Islamic Law), author of “The Muslim Next Door”
Salam al-Marayati, Pres., Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)
Shahed Amanullah, Editor-in-Chief, Altmuslim
Hazami Barmada, Pres, American Muslim Interactive Network (AMIN)
Farah Brelvi, Board of Directors, ACLU-NC
M. Ali Chaudry, PhD, President, Center for Understanding Islam (CUII) 
Robert D. Crane, JD
Lamia El-Sadek, political and human rights activitist
Mohamed Elsanousi, Director of Communications and Community Outreach for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
Mona Eltahawy, journalist
Prof. Mohammad Fadel, PhD
Fatemeh Fakhraie, Editor-in-Chief, Muslimah Media Watch
Hesham Hassaballa, M.D., author, journalist, blogger - “God, faith, and a pen”
Arsalan Iftikhar, author, human rights lawyer, blogger - “The Muslim Guy”
Jeffrey Imm, Director, Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.)
Nakia Jackson, writer 
Prof. Muqtedar Khan, PhD, author of several books, Blogger - “Globalog”
M. Junaid Levesque-Alam, writer, blogger - “Crossing the Crescent” 
David Liepert, M.D., blogger and author of “Muslim, Christian AND Jew” 
Radwan A. Masmoudi, PhD, President, Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID) 
Melody Moezzi, JD, MPH, writer and attorney
Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore, author of many books of poetry
Ebrahim Moosa, Assoc. Professor of Islamic Studies, Dept. of Religion, Duke University
Sheila Musaji, Editor, The American Muslim (TAM)
Aziz H. Poonawalla, PhD, scientist and blogger - “City of Brass” on
Hasan Zillur Rahim, PhD, journalist
Prof. Hussein Rashid, PhD, blogger - “Religion Dispatches”
Sarah Sayeed, President of One Blue 
Robert Salaam, blogger - “The American Muslim”
Raquel Evita Saraswati, activist, writer, blogger
Prof. Laury Silvers, PhD
Pamela Taylor, Co-founder Muslims for Progressive Values, Panelist for On Faith 
Tayyibah Taylor, Editor, Azizah Magazine
Tarik Trad, writer, humorist, photographer, artist and activist 
Amina Wadud, PhD, consultant on Islam and gender, visiting scholar Starr King School for the Ministry
G. Willow Wilson, author of “Butterfly Mosque” and “Air” graphic novel series

NOTE: If you would like to add your signature, please send an email with your name, title, and organizational affiliation (if any) to — The list of signatories will be updated daily and the most recent list can be found HERE.