Watch Aaron in the film Holy Wars

Friday, March 30, 2012

Hope and despair in the Middle East

A year ago I traveled to the Middle East with four friends. Below is an account of the trip from my good friend Andrew Schill----Aaron

By Andrew Schill

Several weeks ago, I embarked on an unusual journey with four of my friends to Lebanon to meet with the deputy head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council. Though certainly not a typical day at the office, I suspect it was a much more tame experience than our initial plan, which fell through a week before our planned departure. Originally, my friend Carl had arranged a meeting with Iran’s polarizing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Apparent discord between these two men had escalated to such a degree that our Hezbollah contacts decided that such a meeting would not be beneficial to anyone.

After a scenic drive from Beirut to the southern Lebanese town of Tyre, we met our liaison and followed him to our undisclosed meeting place. After a quick check and the dispensing of our cell phones we were ushered into a room to await our meeting with Sheikh Nabil Qaouk, a man who appears to be soft-spoken, but unlike his secular counterparts, he wields both military and religious authority over Shiite Muslims of southern Lebanon. We drank tea while the Sheikh offered a short sermon, which but for the religious Shiite dress could have been given in most American churches. We would later discuss the origins and the perceived necessity for Hezbollah’s existence and their on-going armed resistance with their southern neighbor. At the end of our meeting we – Shiite and Sunni, Christian and Muslim, American and Palestinian, male and female – joined hands in prayer. I would find myself being given the most unenviable task of leading us in prayer and beyond the salutary greetings to God, most of what I prayed remains a fog except for a heartfelt plea for peace and justice.

Any notions I may have held about justice however were challenged by the stateless Palestinian refugees of Lebanon. While Jordan and Syria both have large Palestinian populations and refugee camps of their own, the Palestinians in Lebanon are denied participation in Lebanese political and social life. Those that are able to work outside the camp must stay off the radar, while most remain within the cramped and overcrowded confines of the camp. For the delicate sectarian system of Lebanon the inclusion of the Palestinians would upset the precarious balance that allows for any semblance of a functioning government. Our visit to the refugee camp in Beirut was an entrance to another world – buildings were stacked one on top of another to make room for families inevitable expansion after 63 years of house arrest. Within the camps various factions proclaimed their territory and their loyalty by covering buildings with flags and propaganda. One side of the street would display large pictorial tributes to Bashar-Al-Assad while across the street the yellow banners of Hezbollah would proudly bear the image of their leader Hassan Nasrallah. The most prolific and prominent poster would be of the late Yasser Arafat bearing the slogan, “You inspire us.” While I’ve witnessed worse physical poverty in Latin America, I’ve never encountered such hopelessness – a people without identity – longing for a land most have never known while being held hostage as pawns in a high-stake political game over which they have no control.

Sheikh Nabil likened the Palestinians to a drowning child that Hezbollah must reach out with its own arms to save, yet the camps bear little evidence of such salvation. So, while I believe it is important to engage our enemies (both real and perceived) in true dialog, it is my conviction that political leaders are not going to be at the forefront of lasting peace and reconciliation. True social change and accompanying revolutions must originate with the people in grassroots movements. This can take years and even decades when the goal of these movements is peaceful political and social change. So while our meeting with the Hezbollah was significant for me personally, it didn’t engender much hope for a peaceful resolution with Israel. The greatest encouragement and source of hope would occur a few days later in Amman, Jordan when we meet with one of the young educated leaders of the nascent Jordanian non-violent movement who was still bearing a baton inspired gash to his forehead from the now infamous March 24th uprising. For many of the youth we meet the movement spreading throughout the Middle East seemed almost like an intoxicating drug, while for some the apparent gap in political ideologies they encountered created only despair.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Can rich people get to heaven?

I like stories like The Boy Who Cried Wolf or The Tortoise and the Hare, the ones where the smallest of children can grasp the moral of the tale. But a story that doesn’t resolve? Not so much. Especially if the story deals with a high-stakes issue, like –say—what do I need to do to make it to heaven when I die?

Which is why I really don’t like the following story:

A man came up to Jesus and asked him,

“Good teacher, what do I have to do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus said to the man,

“Why do you call me good? No one is good but one, and that’s God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

The man replied,

“Which ones?”

Jesus answered,

“Don’t murder, Don’t commit adultery, Don’t steal, Don’t bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

The young man said to Jesus,

“I’ve kept all of these commandments since the time I was young, what am I still missing?”

So Jesus said to the man, “If you want to be perfect, go sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me.”

But when the young man heard what Jesus said, he went away sorrowful, because he had a lot of possessions.

Then Jesus said to his disciples,

“Listen up real good! It’s hard for a rich man to enter heaven’s kingdom. Let me say it again, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven’s kingdom.”

When Jesus’ disciples heard what he said, they were blown away!

“Who then can be saved?” they asked him.

But Jesus looked at them and said,

“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Leave it to Jesus to confuse the heck out of me!

Some immediate questions come to mind:

Did Jesus really mean for everyone to sell all of their possessions, or did he mean it just for this one man? I sincerely hope that he meant it just this once; otherwise St. Francis and Mother Theresa are going to have a really long time to get to know each other in heaven, since they and maybe a few saintly others would be the only ones there!

And that whole camel through the eye of the needle thing: What is that about?

And, yes, the eye of the needle means exactly what you’re thinking. Not some gate in Jerusalem. Jesus said it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle that you used to stitch that Noah’s Ark for your child’s bedroom—than for a rich guy to get to heaven.

Let. That. Sink. In.

Unless some freakishly unexplainable phenomenon occurs where camels all of the sudden start popping out of needles (imagine the Discovery Channel documentary on that one), I have to conclude that no rich person will be in heaven.

Except that’s not the end of the story…

Jesus’ disciples must have been as baffled as I am, because the story says they were “greatly astonished”, so much so that they asked Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” That’s when Jesus said, “With men, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.”

How’s that for a curveball?

On the one hand, Jesus says that it’s mind-bendingly difficult for rich people to get to heaven (and no, he’s not talking about some woo-woo experience of spiritual ecstasy on earth. He’s talking about actual heaven. Eternal life. Think of the rich man’s question). On the other hand, Jesus seems to be saying that as impossible as it is for rich people to get to heaven, even that’s not impossible with God.

Which brings me back to the beginning of the story.

Remember what the rich man called Jesus? The rich man called Jesus a “good teacher.” And Jesus replied by saying, “Why do you call me good? No one is good, but One: God!”

Some people use this verse to claim that Jesus denied his deity, but Jesus does no such thing here. Rather, Jesus is saying to the rich man, “Do you really understand the implications of what you’re saying by calling me good?” According to Jesus, no human being in the strictest sense can actually be called good. Only God is good. And no matter how much the rich man thought he had kept the commandments, he still fell short.

And so do I.

Like I said, this story doesn’t resolve for me.

If I’m going to take Jesus seriously, then I have to conclude that it’s very difficult for rich people to get to heaven. And as an American who lives a fairly comfortable lifestyle, I know he’s talking about me!

But then Jesus also says that with God all things are possible. That's where grace kicks in. So the one thing I can know for sure about this story is that when it comes to the question: Can a person be good without God? Jesus’ answer is unequivocal:

The answer is no.

(This story is found in Matthew 19:16-26)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Nonviolent Response to Joseph Kony

Today I thought I'd share with you a slightly different perspective on the Joseph Kony issue. In response to last Friday's post, A couple of people commented and/or wrote to me about why non-interventionism applies even in this situation. While I stand by the wording of my post, I absolutely see the strict non-interventionist side as well. My point was/is not that I wholeheartedly endorse Obama's actions. I'm simply saying that in light of the extremity of the situation, Obama's decision to send 100 military advisors isn't unreasonable. In my mind, saying that something isn't unreasonable isn't the same thing as saying it's 100% correct.

But enough about me and my insanely frustrating habit of holding to two opposing positions at once

Here's an article to elevate the discussion.

Wish I would have written it----Aaron

By Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

Armed with the power of social media, some young North American activists set out this week to take on one of the most violent rebels in the Great Lakes Region of Africa–Joseph Kony. They’ve called their campaign KONY 2012, and they’re determined to get rid of Kony and bring the children he’s abducted home by the end of this year.

I commend these folks for their insistence that the church stand against injustice. And, at the same time, I join those who ask: is nonviolence not an option?

Is it possible to respond to Kony with the power of Jesus’ nonviolent love?

For me, this is not a speculative question.

I know the answer is “yes” because I have met her.

Her name is Angelina Atyam.

To continue reading Jonathan's article, click here!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Should the President help capture Kony?

I've had a couple of people ask me what I think about the president using American forces to help capture Joseph Kony, a fair question in light of my well-known (at least for people that actually read my articles) anti-war, non-interventionist views.

The short answer?

Joseph Kony is an evil monster. President Obama has charted a reasonable course of action in sending military advisers to help the Ugandan army capture him. Rush Limbaugh is an idiot for defending Kony and accusing Obama of sending American troops to kill Christians. (In Limbaugh Land, with Obama being a Muslim and all, of course he's out to kill Christians)

If you're unfamiliar with Kony's crimes, watch this video:


As for how do I reconcile my (semi) pacifist views with supporting the use of (limited) force to capture a war criminal....

That's a much bigger discussion, but if I could sum it up in a few words I would say that every ideology has its limits. Ideologies are useful only to the extent that they promote actual justice in the real world. When ideological purity gets in the way of justice, that's when ideological purity needs to be set aside.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Thank you for the tweets!

I thought I'd take a moment to acknowledge those of you who have RT'd my articles, either from this blog or from Sojourners. I downloaded the Twitter app about a month ago, and earlier this week I got a status update on my notifications bar (the best feature of the Android!) telling me that I've received lots of messages from Twitter. Some of them were RT's with really nice comments. Others were personal messages to me, which I haven't responded to.....which is why I'm writing this.

Two things you need to know about me.

1. I'm a technological ignoramus.

2. I'm a technological ignoramus.

3. I can't count.

That joke was a lot better in my head.

Anyways, if I don't respond to your tweets, or thank you for your RT's, know that I really do appreciate it. I JUST DON'T GET TWITTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Face Book is a lot easier for me, so feel free to friend me here!

P.S. I'm officially blogging for the Huffington Post now.

P.P.S. I've been asked to edit/run a website called The Middle East Experience, which will feature experts on the Middle East from around the world. I can't wait to let you know when that's up!


That last P.P.P.S. was supposed to be a joke, because it sounds like something funny.

Okay, I'll stop now.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Christian Pacifism, 30th anniversary Kindle edition--Free!

This came to me via e-mail this morning. I've been trying to post something every day, but I'm up to my ears this week working on a book proposal, so this was a win/win. I get an easy post, and my readers (and me) get something free!----Aaron

Free eBook--Wednesday, March 07, 2012 thru Sunday, March 11, 2012

Christian Pacifism: Fruit of the Narrow Way

30th Anniversary Kindle Edition

“Beautifully Written with Truth and Grace”

Amazon allows authors/publishers to give away their Kindle book in a one-time, 5 days only offer

For UK:

While the “Kindle price” shows $0.00, just click the “Buy now” button

If you do not have an Amazon account, you can register with an email address…that is all.

If you do not have a Kindle, Amazon will give you a free reading app for PC to download when you “Buy” or go to this link:

OR for “Read Anywhere” apps [Mac, iPhone, Blackberry, etc.] here:

30th Anniversary Edition of Christian Pacifism

Originally published by Friends United Press, copyright 1981, Christian Pacifism: Fruit of the Narrow Way, by Michael [C] Snow [Earlham School of Religion, ‘81], is now in an “ebook” edition.

In the new Preface, the author writes, “May we all continue to seek first His Kingdom... I pray that this new release…will be a help to pilgrims on that path.”

The original book finally came off the press in January of 1982. It was featured as the selection of the month for the Quaker Book Club in March. The cover art, by graphic artist Susanna Combs, was also featured in a poster and on the cover of Quaker Life for the July-August issue of that year.

In the review in The Friend (UK), Eva Pinthus wrote, “There are few Friends, and even fewer books, that can help evangelical Christians to become convinced of the truth of the Friends’ peace testimony…. Thus we welcome Michael Snow’s rather brief but challenging book.”

Though the original book is currently out-of-print, it has remained readily available through online used book vendors. And a WorldCat library search via the internet shows that it is still available at over 50, mostly university and seminary libraries.


[Any feedback as to whether there would be an interest in a new print edition would be appreciated. It would probably need to sell about 100 copies to pay for the cost of making it available through POD (print on demand).]

[Also, if there is any interest in this as a Nook Book, send me a vote for it. Kindle requires exclusive rights for this offer for a 90 day period, so I had to remove Christian Pacifism from Barnes and Noble, but there had been no sales there, anyway. Unless there is some interest expressed for the Nook edition, I will leave it exclusively on Amazon so that it remains available in the Kindle library.]

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

An Open Letter to American Churches for Peace

I've been interacting with Norman Horn over the past several weeks. He's the owner of the site Libertarian Christians. While I don't consider myself a libertarian, I have great respect for the libertarian perspective (which I encourage you to learn more about at Norman's site). If there's one thing I appreciate the most about American libertarians, it's that they're by far the most consistently anti-war in their political philosophy. I would argue that American libertarians (a sub-group within the modern conservative movement) are more consistent in their critiques of U.S. foreign policy than their liberal counterparts. As I've been working (along with Rick Love at Peace Catalyst) to put together a network called Evangelicals for Peace, it's been a pleasure engaging with Norman. As you read Norman's open letter, whether you agree with him or not, think about the counter-cultural nature of the prophetic calling of the Church------Aaron

By Norman Horn

To Churches across America, grace and peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ:

Without fail, churches all throughout America pray publicly about America’s troops. On any given Sunday, one can hear people pray for men and women in the military, that they receive “special measures of protection” as they fight to “protect our freedoms” and “serve our country.” While we understand the concerns of church members who have friends and family in the armed forces, and while we sincerely hope for their safe return immediately, we find that these kinds of prayers are neglectful of another group – those victims who suffer wrongfully from this war, to whom we are indeed responsible in part for their suffering. Regardless of one’s opinion of these wars, we think that all can agree upon inspection that this practice can and should change to be more inclusive.

For instance, we never hear prayers for our fellow Christians who live in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since the US invasion in 2003, Christians who were tolerated in the past have been repeatedly persecuted and frequently even killed by indiscriminate warfare or surging extremist groups, and nearly half of the Christian population of 800,000 in Iraq has either fled the country or died. In March 2010 alone, over 4,000 Christians were displaced from their homes following unrest in the northern city of Mosul. Many more have confined themselves to their homes for their own safety.

Moreover, we rarely, if ever, hear prayers for the innocent people in Iraq that die on a daily basis, either from indiscriminate killing by our own military or civil unrest that results from a country torn apart by war. The lowest estimates of non-combatant deaths in Iraq number greater than 100,000. Unfortunately, over time our sensibilities and attitudes toward this war – which is now the longest prolonged conflict in American history – have become desensitized and lackadaisical, and thus we often forget these innocent people.

We appeal to churches everywhere, and especially to church leaders, to lead the way toward recognizing this issue with two simple proposals. First, we propose that if a church bulletin includes prayer request for “Family Members in the Military,” that it should also include mention of the innocent and oppressed in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially our Iraqi and Afghan brothers and sisters in Christ, and for an end to war. Second, we propose that the church leaders take the lead in consistently mentioning the same in prayer with the congregation on Sunday mornings. If the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective, then surely instituting this practice will do good both for these victims and for our own spirits.

We support this appeal with Scripture in two ways. First, if you consider these people as we do, that they are innocent victims and have been wronged by their own leaders, by extremists, and by our own military, then may we pray to God as Jesus taught his disciples: to be “delivered from evil.” If we can pray this for ourselves, surely we can do so for others. But second, if you still consider these people our enemies, then may we do as Jesus said in Matthew 5: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” May this be the beginning of understanding what Jesus said moments before, “Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Changing our practice to include praying for the oppressed is not a political statement. In fact, this is not a political issue in the least; on the contrary it is a moral and theological issue. If we are to pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” then we should take seriously that Jesus came and died to proclaim peace on earth and to liberate the oppressed. We may expect that “wars and rumors of wars” will always exist, but this does not require a condoning or defeatist attitude of such events. Rather, this understanding should make us more sensitive and more compassionate toward those who suffer.

To conclude, war is arguably the most destructive human activity ever devised, and it is an intensely serious moral and theological issue because of its finality for those involved either directly as soldiers or indirectly as innocents. It is right to earnestly pray for our family members participating in war, but let us not become callous to the suffering of others, especially those to whom we are indirectly responsible for their suffering. Therefore, we should let our congregational prayers reflect our concern for them. In Christ,

Norman Horn

Monday, March 05, 2012

These Are Your Grandbabies!

By Bob Kellemen

Sister Ellen Barney is the First Lady (Sr. Pastor’s wife) of a predominantly African American mega-church church near Baltimore, Maryland. For over a decade she has equipped over 1,000 women in her LEAD (Life Encouragers And Disciplers) Ministry.

They do it up big! Their graduation ceremonies are better than many colleges. I remember the first time Sister Ellen invited me to be their commencement speaker. As she introduced me, she looked over the crowd of over 50 graduates, looked at me, and said, “These are your grandbabies Dr. Kellemen! You trained me and I trained them!” Now, years later, as Sister Ellen has trained trainers who train others, she tells me, “Dr. Kellemen, these are your great-great-grandbabies!”

The Ministry Mindset Shift That Changes Everything: Every Member a Disciple-Maker

Do you want to be a spiritual grandparent—discipling disciple-makers? It requires a ministry mindset shift implanted by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:11-16.

“It was he who gave some to be … pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service…” (Ephesians 4:11-12a).

Christ’s grand plan for His Church is for pastors/teachers to focus on equipping every member to do the work of the ministry. In the context of Ephesians 4:11-16, that work is nothing less than making disciple-makers through the personal ministry of the Word.

When leaders and members fulfill their purposes together the Body of Christ builds itself up in two specific, cohesive ways: doctrinal unity and spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:12-13). When a congregation knows the truth not just academically, but personally, their love abounds in knowledge and depth of insight (Philippians 1:9-11).

The Résumé of the People of God

We often miss the vital real-life, how-to application of every-member disciple-making that Paul embeds in Ephesians 4. How does the church come to unity and maturity? Exactly what are pastors equipping people to do? Specifically how do members do the work of the ministry?

Paul answers: By “speaking the truth in love” we grow up in Christ (Ephesians 4:15). Every word in this passage funnels toward this remarkable phrase “speaking the truth in love.”

Christ’s grand plan for His Church is for every member to be a disciple-maker by speaking and living Gospel truth to one another in love.

Paul selects an unusual Greek word which we often translate as “speaking the truth.” Actually, we should translate it both as speaking and living the truth. We might even coin the phrase “truthing.” Paul likely had in mind Psalm 15 where the Psalmist asks, “Who may dwell in your sanctuary?” He answers: “He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart” (Psalm 15:2). Who can serve in God’s sanctuary, the church—the one who embodies the truth in relationships.

The word for “truthing” that Paul uses means transparent, truthfulness, genuine, authentic, reliable, sincere. It describes the person who ministers from a heart of integrity and Christ-like, grace-oriented love. It pictures the person whose relational style is transparent and trustworthy.

The tense and context indicates that the Body of Christ should continually, actively, and collectively be embodying truth in love as it walks together in intimate, vulnerable connection. In one word, Paul combines content, character, and competence shared in community (compare Romans 15:14).

While the word means more than speaking, it does not mean less than speaking. While it means more than sheer factual content, it does not mean less than the Gospel fully applied. Paul uses the identical word in Galatians 4:16. There he is clearly speaking of preaching, teaching, and communicating the truth of the Gospel of Christ’s grace (salvation) applied to daily growth in Christ (progressive sanctification).

The Gospel-Centered Personal Ministry of the Word<p>

Combine Galatians 4:16 with Ephesians 4:16, both in context, and we find an amazing description of Gospel-centered biblical counseling—of the personal ministry of the Word. Speaking the truth in love involves:

Communicating Gospel truth about grace-focused sanctification in word, thought, and action through one-another relationships that have integrity, genuineness, authenticity, transparency, and reliability, done in love to promote the unity and maturity of the Body of Christ for the ultimate purpose of displaying the glory of Christ’s grace.

The normal agenda and priority of every Christian is to make disciple-makers. Christ’s training strategy for disciple-making involves pastors and teachers equipping every member to embody the truth in love through the personal ministry of the Word—biblical counseling.

What happens when leaders focus their calling on equipping God’s people to make disciple-makers through the personal ministry of the Word by speaking and living the truth in love? Paul shows us in Ephesians 4:16. The Body in robust health grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work. In other words, we birth spiritual grandbabies!

Join the Conversation

Who are your “spiritual grandbabies”?

Note: This post was developed from material in Dr. Kellemen’s book, Equipping Counselors for Your Church


Bob Kellemen, Th.M., Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, the Executive Director of the Center for Church Equipping, the Founder and CEO of RPM Ministries, and the Chairman of the MA in Christian Counseling and Discipleship department at Capital Bible Seminary. Bob has pastored three churches and is the author of six books, including Equipping Counselors for Your Church.

Friday, March 02, 2012

God is pro-peace

By Aaron D. Taylor

On January 31st 2004, the late Jerry Falwell wrote an article for the World Net Daily called God is pro-war. While the article was intended to rally support for President Bush and the invasion of Iraq, for many it left the indelible impression that evangelicals are uber-nationalistic war- mongers, willing to plunge the world into endless conflict in order to fulfill their apocalyptic fantasies. As a person who (loosely) identifies with the evangelical tradition, allow me to make a clear, unambiguous, declaration:

God is pro-peace!

You may be thinking, “Just how exactly does a guy who claims to believe in the inspiration of Scripture arrive at the conclusion that God is pro-peace? Has this guy even read the Bible? Or maybe he’s one of those amnesia-type Christians, the ones that read through the Bible every year as part of their daily devotions, and every time they get to the slavery and genocide passages, their mind goes______________.

Maybe it wasn’t those exact words, but believe me, I get it!

What about the Canaanites? The Jebusites? The Amalekites? That verse in the Psalms about babies that nobody wants to talk about? And the one about women being forced to marry their—oh my! Did Moses really command the Israelites to march into towns and kill everything that breathes? What about hell? The infinite inferno that evangelicals believe awaits everybody (except for them) after they die? The god that evangelicals worship, the one that allegedly hates gays, Muslims ,socialists, and feminists—is pro-peace?

I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t agonized over some of the awful things that are in the Bible, as well as the picture of God that many associate with the evangelical tradition, but at the end of the day my faith isn’t about who gets into heaven and who doesn’t, it’s not about whether hell is literal, metaphorical, or temporal; it’s not about which political system God likes more than others, and most importantly, it’s not even about which system of Biblical interpretation is the right one, whether the Bible is factually inerrant in every detail or whether vast sections of the Bible can be understood as allegorical, these are all important questions, but they all miss the point. At the heart of the evangelical tradition (and indeed, the Christian faith), is the conviction that God’s character is fully and finally revealed in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

This is why I can say that God is pro-peace….Because Jesus is pro-peace.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies” and “Blessed are the peacemakers.” He refused to participate in violent insurrection against the Romans even though, by all standards, throwing off the Roman occupiers would have been a “just war.” As the Roman soldiers were piercing his flesh and crowning him with thorns, his response was “Father forgive them.”

The New Testament boldly declares that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God”, “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” (Colossians 1:15 and Hebrews 1:3) Notice the word exact. Exact is a strong word that leaves no wiggle room for deviation. God is exactly like Jesus. This means that whatever image of God I might have, whether it comes from my circumstances or life experiences, whether it comes from my imagination or even my own religious tradition, if the image of God in my head can’t be reconciled with the man who loved, blessed, and prayed for his enemies even while they were crucifying him—then that image is wrong!

Today the drumbeats of war are sounding again, and this time the anti-Christ du jour is Iran, the country (ironically) strengthened by our last invasion. If you’re wondering if evangelicals can summon the resources within their faith to encourage proactive peace making, the answer is a clear and unambiguous yes. If God is like Jesus, then God is pro-peace.

I pray the message is clearer this time around.

A version of this article is on God's Politics

Thursday, March 01, 2012

What Ireland can teach the U.S. about the separation of church and state

I read this the other day on my Android via The Week app. Thought my readers might enjoy it too. It's a sobering reminder that even if the U.S. were to suddenly outlaw abortion and teach Christianity in the schools, like many religious conservatives want (or at least something close to that), that's not going to magically solve our nation's problems. History shows that when religion is mandated by the State, people become less religious, not more religious. -----Aaron

By Tish Durkin

I never thought I'd find myself living Rick Santorum's dream, but here I am. After all, I live in Ireland, where there has never been any of the "absolute separation of church and state" that Santorum and a politically significant, passionately committed bloc of like-minded religious conservatives abhor. Far from limiting state involvement in religion, the Irish constitution enshrines it. There isn't just prayer in most public schools; there is full-on Christian — almost always Catholic — education. (Just last week, on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, my 6-year-old skipped in from her government-funded school with a cross of soot on her forehead.) Government agencies sometimes give cash to poor families to help cover the costs of First Holy Communion and Confirmation finery; recently, when the continuation of this practice in fiscally strangled times caused a public outcry, the objection was that such grants were unaffordable, not that they were religious.

To continue reading this entry, click here!