Aug 222017
 

God seriously loves you!

A pastor hooked on porn…

Monumental woes…

Trumps evangelical advisory board…

Wrong gospel, wrong life…

Charlottesville, Exodus, and the politics of nostalgia…

Uncovering my churches KKK connections…

Saved by faith and hospitality…

The illusions of church infallibility…

The problem of excommunication…

The real reason churches have a millennial void….

Gently abused faith…

Pastor, that’s not your wife…

Taking Christ off the cross…

John Wesley on how to preach the Gospel…

Where Augustine goes off the rails…

Grace and racial division…

The evils of the sex trade…

Will Korean Christians survive fire and fury?

Why did Jesus demand perfection?

On Kierkegaard…

Religious belief in Central and Eastern Europe…

Aug 222017
 

1. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34–39 ESV)

There was a day when I thought the only application of this passage was that believers and non believers would be set against one another, even inside the family structure.

Today, I believe that further application can be made to believer against believer where competing versions of Jesus shaped by political ideology rip even the closest of relational structures apart.

I do not recognize the Jesus that many worship, nor would I worship a god like him.

They do not recognize the One I know, nor would they worship Him if they did…at least not now when their god seems to have grasped political power and given it to them.

Why does the church seem to be so diminished?

Because we no longer worship the same God together in spirit and truth.

We have taken His name in vain and then applied that name to a multiplicity of idols that suit us and we sing their praises on Sunday morning and on social media..

We will share in the historic fate of all other idolaters who have left the kingdom of God for the kingdoms of men.

2. Still, there will always be a remnant. May God find us worthy.

3. Our expectations of life in the kingdom will rarely match our experience of living in the kingdom. Suffering always surprises us. It should never surprise us…

4. The eclipse was a portent of nothing eschatologically. Will anyone who said it was repent? Of course not…being an end times wonk means never having to say you’re sorry…

5. If you don’t believe that the Beatitudes apply to the church, the church is bereft of the true foundation of discipleship. I will not hear you any more…

6. Real fellowship in Christ always begins with the mutual display of scars…

7. If you only love those who agree with you, you don’t love anything but the reflection of your self in them…

8. If you only love people to convert them and reject them when they refuse…see #7…

9. I do not scorn those who seek signs and wonders…I do scorn those who think there is a formula to produce them…

10. My only hope is that God’s grace is much broader, deeper, and freely available than I’m willing to give myself and others…

 

Aug 212017
 

We All Have History

“Why can’t they just get over it? It all happened such a long time ago.  Everyone has moved on, why can’t they?”

I heard this comment in the last week.  It was not, however, about African-Americans; nor was it about Southerners clinging to the “Lost Cause” of the Confederacy.  The comment had nothing to do with the removal of monuments, anti-Semitism, or people that are homophobic. 

The comment was made about people who have been hurt by churches or church leaders and who can’t seem to move on with their lives.  

You see, we all have a history of things that we have done and, indeed, things that have been done to us through the course of our lives. That personal history has a continuing impact upon people’s lives, albeit in different ways.  Some of us drag the hurt and injuries with us throughout our lives.  The scars are always on display for anyone who wishes to look.  Others of us bury the hurt deep within ourselves.  The distant pain is only manifested when an event, or a comment, triggers the reaction.  A few of the more fortunate survivors of such harm attempt to integrate what they have gone through into the broader scope of their lives, using it as a basis of understanding in helping others who have gone through the same or a similar experience, or, indeed, to show compassion for those who  are still in harm’s way.

If, perhaps, we can understand our reactions to our personal history, it may help us in areas that extend outside the church as well.  My mother, who turned 90 this year, was born in the South but brought up in the North.  One of her earliest memories is being in the back of her father’s car traveling through a small Southern town.  Her father had slowed the car and suddenly turned around to say, “Don’t look… shut your eyes.” But it was too late.  There had been a lynching in the town square, and my mother had seen the crowd inflicting yet further indignities upon the body of an African-American man hanging from a tree.  She remembers the incident clearly to this day.  Some years later, being newly married, she was visiting her in-laws in north Florida.  Her second day there, she made a big mistake.  She was talking to Hattie, my grandmother’s African-American cook, in the front yard.  When they turned to go into the house, Hattie turned to go round the house to the back door.  My mother immediately said, “Don’t be silly, come in here” and held open the front door for her.  She walked in to make her way to the kitchen, but my grandmother was in the hall way.  She slapped Hattie in the face and told her to go outside and use the back door.  Then my mother was lectured about “how we do things in the South”, after which she left the room crying.

Now, this was my mother’s history and it shaped her perceptions and her actions for years to come.  For instance, in my father’s company there were a number of African-American employees.  When company parties were held in our home, they were always invited – an unusual situation for a suburban white family in Ohio in the early 1960s. This was but one way in which my mother’s history shaped her values and perceptions.

Yet, there was another history at play and my mother understood this to be the case, not perfectly, but at least in a small way.  Hattie, the cook, had children and, I imagine, grandchildren who are likely alive today.  The story recounted above is also part of their history.  It most likely became a story that was passed down through the years affecting perception and subsequent action, not only of Hattie, but of others as well. Did the African-American man lynched in that small southern town have a family, or descendants, or brothers or sisters?  I do not know. I do not know how it may have happened or how it was recorded, but surely that horrific incident became a part of the history of a family, a community and, indeed, part of our own history as a nation. Yet, even though we may not know about what took place in that family in an objective manner, we can be certain that the history of that outrage belongs particularly to those who personally experienced the pain of what took place.  

In his ministry on earth, Christ seems to have been particularly concerned to include, to understand and to reach out to those with a different history – the Samaritan woman at the well with a moral and religious history that set her outside the “norm”; the Roman centurion, whose loyalties obviously lay elsewhere, with a servant who was ill; the woman dragged from a house and about to be stoned having been taken in the act of adultery… the examples are varied and many. Additionally, we might note that he does not take issue with their history (although he is aware of the history) or their perceptions, but he deals with the need of the moment. 

All this is to say, many of us may not fully comprehend the visceral reaction to Confederate monuments expressed by some, but our own histories should allow us to have some measure of compassion and understanding. I am not Jewish, nor was I a witness to the parades of storm troopers in Berlin in the 1930s. Yet, while we may not fully comprehend the fear engendered by marchers shouting anti-Semitic slogans in a torch lit march in Charlottesville, our personal histories might allow us to reach across the divide and seek to alleviate the anxiety of those who, through families and friends, have such a history.  Our own personal histories, if given the opportunity, at the very least, might engender in us some sense of active empathy. Our own experience might even lead us to reach out in love to those with a different history that we can only vaguely comprehend.

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

Aug 202017
 

Last week that I was opposed to taking down the Confederate memorials for a number of reasons…and I want to talk about one more.

I was having a conversation with one of my closest and dearest friends this morning…and she put words to what I’ve been feeling lately.

She’s been struggling with the public outcry over Robert E. Lee for this reason;

Robert E Lee embodies to us all that was noble and Godly and honorable. We were brought up to pattern our lives after his wisdom and compassion. Whether or not it is true of him is beside the point…it was the ideals and the example we followed.

For generations of Southerners, Lee was an archetype of what it meant to be a true to your Southern heritage.

He embodied nobility, courage, chivalry, resolute faith in God and country, and the family values that mark those who believe in such things.

Racism and white supremacy were not part of those shared values…because while Lee was a real person, he became a archetype of what a true child of the South was supposed to be.

Some would say that it is impossible to separate the real Lee from the archetypical one, that all that matters are his actions and his words that furthered the oppression of African Americans.

I’m not so sure.

We can and we must recognize the racial inequality that has been part of this country from the beginning.

We must stand against the evil of racism wherever and whenever it rears its demonic head.

However, I think it unwise to decree by fiat that all symbols and archetypes have the same meaning to all people in a very diverse and divided country.

My friend was born and reared in the South and Lee means something completely different to her than he does to this native Oregonian.

To her, Lee is an archetype of the same values that I hold dear, just with different archetypes to model.

This conversation about the Confederate memorials is not a conversation at all without the voices of those who have similar feelings as my friend.

They are denied their voice because to speak from the heart would only result in shouts of racism.

They are not racists, but traditionalists.

They will be silent, but angry, stripped of the outside symbols,but unchanged in the heart.

They are capable of recognizing the grim truths of the Civil War and still finding that which was noble in the men that fought it.

If they are denied a voice and only offered a knee jerk reaction , then rest assured that you will receive the same someday when your archetypes fall out of favor…

Aug 192017
 
God of our times, our years, our days.
     You are the God of our work,
      of our rest,
      of our weariness.
Our times are in your hands. We come to you now
     in our strength and in our weakness,
     in our hope and in our despair,
     in our buoyancy and in our disease.
We come to pray for ourselves and for all like us
     who seek and yearn for life anew with you and from you and for you
We pray to you this day, for ourselves and others like us in our greed.
     We are among those who want more,
          more money, more power, more piety, more sex,
          more influence, more doctrine, more notice, more members,
          more students, more morality, more learning, more shoes.
     Be for us enough and more than enough,
     for we know about your self-giving generosity.
We pray to you this day, for ourselves and others like us in our disconsolation.
     We are not far removed from those without,
          without love, without home, without hope,
          without job, without health care.
     We are close enough to vision those who must
          check discarded butts to see if there is one more puff,
          who must rummage and scavenge for food,
          for their hungers are close to ours.
     Be among us the God who fills the hungry with good things,
          and sends the rich away empty.
We pray to you this day, for ourselves and others like us who are genuinely good people,
     who meditate on your Torah day and night,
     who are propelled by and for your best causes,
     who are on the right side of every issue,
     who wear ourselves out in obedience to you,
          and sometimes wear others out with our good intentions.
     Be among us ultimate enough
          to make our passions penultimate,
          valid but less than crucial.
We are your people. We wait for you to be more visibly and palpably our God.
So we pray with our mothers and fathers, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
We wait for your coming with all the graciousness we can muster.
Amen
Walter Brueggemann 
Aug 192017
 

Matthew 25:14-30

The Parable of the Talents

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.

  • We need to take note that this was his property – not company or communal.
  • This is about stewardship – not about money – but what you do with what you have and why.

15 To one he gave five talents to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

  • God has expectations of us according to our ability. People have different capacities in their gifts.
  • Billy Graham can preach to more people than I ever will. He was given the world and I was given this class. The expectation for faithfulness is the same for both of us.

16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more.

  • This first guy was clear about the gift given him because he understood who the master was.
  • This would be like someone hearing a call to be a (fill in a vocation) and going out and doing it.

17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more.

  • Ditto for this guy.
  • Note that there is nothing that indicates that the number mattered at all – “why did he get five and I received only two?”
  • A good example for Nike – Just Do It.

18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.

  • Obviously, this guy is going to be the point of the parable.
  • This is not a class on investing – this is a teaching on being faithful to the end.

19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

  • What imagery do we see here? The master returns and does his accounting / bookkeeping.
  • What did we see in the parable above about the virgins? The master / bridegroom returns to take care of the business he had promised – and we will see the same with the parable below at the end of the chapter.

20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’

21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

  • They each appear for their accounting.
  • Note that God rewards by calling him faithful and based on that faithfulness he is given reward.
  • I would imagine “the joy of your master” would be heaven.

22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’

23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

  • Same thing, same compliment and reward – for being faithful.

24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed,

  • This guy has a preconceived view of God as one who gives you what “you deserve.” In that case you will get what you deserve.
  • The God you believe in will be the God you have.

25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

  • I think he was thinking “at least I didn’t lose his money; I am able to return his one talent.”
  • For practical purposes let us look at ourselves as being this 3rd servant – we are the believer who has been given and been equipped by the Lord to go out and invest himself in others.
  • “I am not going to tell my neighbor about Jesus because I may offend him.”
  • “I am not going to talk to someone about a deep and difficult theological / moral / ethical question because I may turn them off and they may leave the church (abortion – same sex marriage etc.)”
  • “I am afraid I will do more harm than good because I do not know enough.”

26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?

  • There is no ‘good and faithful servant’ for this guy.

27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.

  • We get hung up on the 5, the 2, and the 1. We wonder why he got 5 – what quality did he possess that made him qualified for 5 while the other guys has qualities that they were worthy of less.
  • The point here – the main point – the only point is faithfulness with what you have and you have put to use what has been given.
  • What has God given you? Everything! In his Son Jesus Christ, in his suffering, death and resurrection, he put his name on you in holy baptism, he gives you his word of forgiveness,
  • He speaks that word of forgiveness in his absolution, in the sermon and he gives you his body and his blood.
  • We must be faithful in those things – be faithful in them and trust them.
  • Jesus is the savior, he died for you, rose for you, he has given you the benefits of his Calvary dying – trust him – be faithful.

28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.

  • It is so important to use Jesus properly that for those who do not, it is taken away.
  • What does it mean to have good use of Jesus, or put the talents to use?
  • ) Jesus died for the forgiveness of sin and I am a sinner. Let me think this through – well let me use Jesus for my forgiveness, for my life and for my salvation.
  • ) This is the point of being a disciple – being faithful with what you have been given as a disciple.
  • ) Our job is to teach people how to use Jesus properly –
  • ) No, you put Jesus to work in your life “yes I am a sinner, thank you Jesus that you died for me – help me to believe that.”
  • ) What is the opposite of that? You do not bury Jesus in the ground and say, “no, Jesus’ death does not count for me.” – People do say this when they say “God cannot forgive me for what I have done.”
  • ) and the proper answer from us is? – he can, he does and in fact he has already done it.

29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

  • What can this mean?
  • Again we see Jesus making the separation.
  • This guy is an unbeliever.

30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

  • Ouch! Cast into outer darkness just for breaking even? The master goes off and left his servants with no instructions and expected them to do the best thing.
  • I can see why the 3rd guy was terrified …but that is because we get lost in the details of the parable.
  • OK, well this is where Jesus my buddy, Jesus my co pilot gets a bit awkward.
  • But, once again, there is a hell – and people end up there.

 

Aug 172017
 

Making Friends

“He also said to the disciples, ‘There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, “What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.” ’ ” (Luke 16:1-2)

There are two characters in the Parable of the Dishonest Manager. The first is a rich man (or master) who employed a manager to oversee his vast holdings and enter into business transactions on his behalf. He received a report that his manager was violating his trust.

The second is a manager who had a high position in his master’s household, which included the authority to enter into financial transactions for the account of his master. The manager was accused of “wasting his [master’s] possessions.”

At the end of the parable, Jesus refers to the manager (or perhaps both characters) as “sons of this world” (Luke 16:8). By that designation, Jesus designates them as non-Christians living under the rule of this world. Worldly life is conducted according to the Law, such as, if you do the crime, you do the time (or in this case “you’re fired”). Employment law generally classifies a manager as an “at will” employee. Therefore, the master was within his legal rights to dismiss the manager without proof of any wrong doing.

Ultimately, however, the master and the manager share a common destiny. Both of them will forfeit their positions and all of their wealth at their deaths. “As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand.” (Eccl 5:15) Moreover, when the mirror of God’s Law is held before them at judgment, they both will be revealed as sinners, condemned to a sinner’s fate.

“The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.” (John 8:35)

Christians (or “sons of light” as Jesus describes us in Luke 16: 8) do not have a master like the rich man. It is not, however, on account of our good management of our Father’s wealth. It is entirely on account of our Father’s mercy and grace that Jesus gave His life on the cross to blot out all the sins of our mismanagement and ransom us from the kingdom of the world, into His spiritual kingdom, in which we have the forgiveness of sins.

In Christ, our Father grants us: sonship, not employment; inheritance, not wages; heaven, not hell. These He gives us out of pure grace for the sake of Christ who gave His life for us.

“And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.’ ” (Luke 16:3-8)

The manager, who knows nothing of God’s grace, much less His judgment, thinks only about worldly comfort and his immediate future. And he is not above wasting (more?) of his master’s wealth to secure his future. The cleverness demonstrated by the manager was so impressive that, despite the dishonesty, the master actually commended the manager for his shrewdness in providing for his worldly comfort.

Jesus uses this parable to observe how the children of His kingdom are lazy and ungrateful in comparison to the children of the world. We have adoption into God’s family and are made heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ as a free gift. Yet, when it comes to managing the wealth that our Father entrusts to our care, whether it be the Gospel, our churches, or, individually, our bodies, relationships, talents or wealth, we are not shrewd or wise compared with the sons of the world.

An employee asks: “What must I do?” “What is my wage?” “Is my job secure?” A child of God, by contrast, might ask: “What is my Father doing?” “How can I participate in His household, which is my inheritance?” A child believes: “Nothing can separate me from His love.”

“And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” (Luke 16:9)

Jesus urges His Christians to plan ahead and make some friends! He urges us to use our lives, talents and wealth shrewdly, not dishonestly, but as children of light, to participate in Christ’s friend-making ministry to the world. Unlike the children of this world, who cannot take their wealth with them when they die, God will work through our lives, talents, and wealth to create treasure in His eternal kingdom, which treasure Jesus here calls friends.

We probably will meet a lot of friends in heaven who today we are not even aware of, who became Christians following some small contribution on our part of time, kindness, money, teaching, prayer, etc. As our Father’s children, there is no score card, no quota, or wage. We already have everything in Christ. This frees us to be wise managers in God’s kingdom, by abiding in Christ and His Word, by wisely managing the worldly blessings entrusted to us, by being faithful in the various vocations into which God has placed each of us, and by being attentive to openings to share the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord with those around us.

Perhaps Jesus used the term “sons of light” to urge us to shine the light of the Gospel into a dark world. What this means as managers is that we can share the grace that God has given us in Christ and through temporal blessings with our neighbors so that Jesus may raise friends for us in His eternal kingdom.

There are many opportunities to participate in Christ’s friend-making ministry, including, for example:

  • Supporting local churches;
  • Supporting missionaries;
  • Supporting seminaries and seminary students and Christian education;
  • Supporting Christian charitable organizations which combine works of mercy with sharing the Gospel;
  • Being active in a local church;
  • Catechizing our children; and
  • Inviting neighbors to church.

We probably could add several more opportunities which are worthy of mention. In any case, may Jesus grant us all a willing spirit of friendship, so that through us, the light of God’s love, grace and mercy might penetrate the lives of those around us who presently can see no further than their worldly circumstances. Father, in your good pleasure, make us your instruments through which we might gain many friends in Christ Jesus – the true and faithful friend of sinners. Amen.

Aug 162017
 

I am not a pacifist by any means. 

While I am far from the first one who is looking for a fight or eager to go to battle, I do believe that war and violence is necessary at times.  Although I am sure there are varying iterations of such, I would subscribe to the basic ideals of the Just War theory.  I would apply similar principles when it comes to the state’s subduing of criminal activity and also of personal application when needing to protect oneself or those around them from a violent threat.

Someone with a more pacifist bent could raise some arguments against my beliefs and could potentially be grounded in some substantial Scriptural or ethical or reasonable basis.  For those inclined to debate, this could be quite the sizable and worthwhile topic.  But my intent in writing here is not to deliberate Just War versus pacifism versus other positions on war and violence.

Rather my concern in writing is when I see people, most especially my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, who are seemingly eager to go to war or get excited thinking about the possibilities of such.  I have observed this type of behavior at varying times over the years and it was brought to mind again last week.  As President Trump upped the aggressive rhetoric with North Korea, he had a cheering section who gleefully applauded his hubris and seemed quite enthusiastic about the prospects of attacking North Korea and/or taking out its deranged leader, Kim Jong-un.

Now I do think that North Korea and Jong-un are significant problems and a threat to international security, let alone what they do to their own people.  The world would be a better and safer place if the existing government and leadership of this hardline communist country could be significantly constrained or even changed.  Therefore, in no way am I advocating support for the current regime of North Korea.

However, at the same time, I am perplexed and frightened by those who are fervently ready to attack.  War is a terrible thing.  Yes, I believe it is sometimes necessary, but it is still terrible regardless of the circumstances.  Thousands and tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands and sometimes even millions of lives are lost.  These lives are those of men and women who go off to serve, never to return to their spouses and children and family and friends.  How terribly agonizing and heartbreaking it is when a wife learns her husband has been killed in combat and then she must also tell her children that daddy is never coming home.  And beyond lives lost, how many more suffer physical and mental and emotional and psychological afflictions and trauma?  I have never been in the military and so I can’t even begin to describe what it is like to serve in battle.  A veteran with combat experience could describe the enormity so much greater than I ever could.  And even beyond those who serve in war, how many more innocent civilians are collateral damage and end up losing their lives or having their living circumstances torn asunder?

Is this what we are yearning for?  Really?  Is our desire to display our strength or to police the world or to substantiate our president really driving us to be excited about going to war?  I would think we would instead desire any avenue that would not lead to war, with war only being a last grim resort.  I would think we would get more excited by the possibilities of finding a diplomatic or non-violent solution to ease tensions and reduce security threats than we would be to show off our “fire and fury”.

I remember the Persian Gulf War as a teenager.  It was the first war that I really knew and it was also the first war that was really broadcast on tv.  I remember thinking it was pretty cool seeing how we were lighting up the skies and displaying how great and strong and technologically advanced we were.  But now I look back on that and think that was a pretty rotten thing to get excited about.  Yes, it was an impressive display of military might, but it should have been accompanied by sobering thoughts that with each of those flashes in the sky, some soul or souls could be losing their lives or suffering gruesome injuries.

I also think about some of the end times enthusiasm I have been exposed to throughout my life.  Much too often there seems to be a troubling passion when war or rumors of war or other atrocities happen in particular locations.  Most especially when it comes to anything Israel related.  One should not get excited about the prospects of Russia or Iraq or Syria attacking Israel, or any country attacking any other for that matter.  Yes, the excitement is attached to the belief that these things are ushering in the soon return of our Lord, but my goodness, let’s delineate what we’re getting excited about.  If we believe these things are indicating that Christ’s return is right around the corner, we should be sobered and saddened that such terrible things must first take place.  Sadly, I have witnessed very little somberness over such things but readily much more near jubilation.

One other thing I have noticed is that one’s enthusiasm for war often parallels their affection for the Commander-in-Chief.  Being that I have had much more contact throughout my life with those who are politically conservative, I have seen much more enthusiasm for any military operation, real or potential, conducted by Trump or one of the Bushes than I have for Clinton or Obama.  Anything conducted by Clinton or Obama has been met with skeptical or condemning, or at best, lukewarm reception.  However, when one of the Bushes took us to war or as Trump has gone about his current boasting, some can’t seem to be able to contain their excitement and endorsement.  Although my experiences have been much more conservative related, I have witnessed some similar experiences with political liberals, just with roles reversed.

And so I find this frightening that we can get excited about going to war, whatever the reasoning or cause may be.  But I also think about these things in parallel terms to other issues.  Issues that aren’t necessarily nearly as grave or catastrophically consequential as war, but issues with some resemblance, nonetheless.  How often do we get excited about going to battle over some cause?  Over some social or theological or ethical or political issue?  How often do we get excited about winning some argument, whether it be online or in real life?  How often are we eager to seek out these battles or arguments?

These battles and arguments may sometimes be necessary and it may be right to participate in them at times.  But are our thoughts and attitudes in the right place when we are craving to do battle?  When we can’t wait to win or to defeat the enemy or to display our superiority.

Fighting a war or battling for a cause or contending with our own personal conflicts may sometimes be imperative and proper.  But what is our heart’s approach?  Are we battling out of necessity to hopefully bring about a greater good?  Or is there a part of us that takes pleasure in experiencing victory and displaying how strong we are or in seeing the suffering and stifling of the enemy?  Maybe some of the battles we see as necessary aren’t even so and we have only succumbed to our own faulty and depraved reasoning.  Maybe some of them shouldn’t even be battles at all and rather should be exercises to work together with others with whom we have some differences.

May God help us to navigate our potential battles and to keep our hearts in the right place.  

Aug 152017
 

I say no, but let’s look at an overview of the issue before I say more.

First, let’s be really clear that the main cause of the Civil War was slavery.

Despite claims that it was about states rights, cotton exports, or anything else, one need only read the Confederate states articles of secession to determine why we engaged in the slaughter of 600,000 of our own.

For example, the statement from Mississippi: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.”

The secession of the South was about the right to own another human being and force him to labor for the benefit of the owner.

To be clear, not only was the Confederate split about slavery, it was treason against the Union.

I say all that to make clear that I understand why any symbols of the Confederacy are odious to many.

(I would be remiss if I were not to note that many Americans from the South interpret these symbols differently than the rest of the country does.)

So… why should we note this event with monuments to those who participated in the war for slavery?

Because it’s part of our history and without a true knowledge of where and what we have been, we have no compass to the future.

The Bible doesn’t sanitize the history of the people of God and sometimes we wish it would.

We are presented with sins, flaws and foibles, of everyone from Adam to Peter including the murderous lust of that man after Gods own heart, David.

We have constant reminders in the Scripture of how we can act and what we are capable of.

God understands the power of history.

Further, if we take down the monuments to the South on the basis of bigotry and racism, why stop there?

Many of the founding fathers were slave owners, including Washington and Jefferson.

Lincoln freed the slaves with the possibility to then send them back to Africa…

We’ll have lots of open park space if we take them all down.

The Civil War is a critical point in our history for reasons too numerous to enumerate here.

It is imperative to our survival as one nation to learn from it all the lessons we possibly can.

We can debate what those lessons are and what that history means, but we dare not remove this war from our vision and consciousness.

Pretending it didn’t happen or that those people were radically different from us would be a huge mistake, perhaps even a fatal one.

The monuments remind us of where we’ve been.

They also remind us that the Confederacy lost and we have made strides to be better.

They remind us in other ways that we have a long way to go.

We need all these reminders.

They are, after all, part of our history.

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