Spreadin’ the Word in Iraq

The Carpetbagger Report has an interesting report on a U.S. soldier who was passing out coins with a Gospel verse on them to residents in Fallujah. Money quote:

One can only hope the speed with which this was addressed will help alleviate local resentment. McClatchy reporters spoke with many residents of Fallujah, who repeated two words: “humiliation” and “weakness”. One shop owner said, “Passing Christianity this way is disrespectful.” Another local resident added, “The occupier is repeatedly trespassing on God and his religion. Now the occupier is planting seeds of strife between the Muslims and Christians.”

Given recent reports about a Quran being used for target practice, the timing could be better.

These kinds of incidents really exacerbate an already dire situation. How is it possible that any of our troops would be able to think that these kinds of activities are acceptable? This kind of activity is eerily similar to approach of the Roman Empire to conquer with military might and then evangelize the gospel of Caesar using coins. These kinds of indiscretions serve as reasons why an open-ended military presence in Iraq is a very bad idea.

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The “Liberal Media” Not Liberal Enough?

At Salon.com, Glenn Greenwald highlights a very interesting excerpt from Scott McClellan new book:

“If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq.

The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. . . . In this case, the “liberal media” didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”

I don’t think this has anything to do with a liberal bias and I don’t really care to rehash whether or not the media sources in this country are too liberal or conservative. This isn’t about a liberal/conservative distinction as much as it’s a distinction between courageous and cowardly journalism. By and large, the mainstream journalists covering the White House have not showed a willingness to unite and challenge the propaganda of this administration. Instead, they’ve backed down in order to preserve their access in order to better their individual careers. What we need is a united press corps that can put aside their individual interests.

This is also an issue of what we as a country expect from our leaders. Simply put, our journalists covering the White House have very little access to those who are shaping policy. George Bush has held the fewest unscripted press conferences than any other president in recent memory and somehow that’s not a big deal to the American people. We simply don’t expect that he be put to the test, that his policies be challenged by either journalists or his political opposition.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time traveling in the UK. Oddly enough, one of my favorite things I like about being there is to watch the epic debates in the House of Commons. Considering how little we expect of our President in the way of defending his policies, the contrast with how the UK challenges their Prime Minister is staggering. Imagine Bush having to go before the our elected leaders in Congress and have to debate his policies without a script or a prompter. He would simply be shredded. That would simply be expecting too much of our President. Imagine Bush having to contend with the opposition that British Prime Minister’s deal with on a regular basis. Imagine him doing this:

Maybe if we actually required this kind of debate between those leading our country, the standard of what is required to be a leader would be raised. So maybe the journalists are giving our leaders a pass, but so is our entire political system. Transparency is not protected and that gives way to bad policies and dishonest propaganda.

Slowly but surely……

……those who’ve worked closely with President Bush will come clean about the deception and reckless behavior this administration has thrived on. Here’s Scott McClellan, Bush’s former press secretary and his reflection on Bush’s war propaganda.

“I still like and admire President Bush,” McClellan writes. “But he and his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war. … In this regard, he was terribly ill-served by his top advisers, especially those involved directly in national security.”

Check out the whole story here.

Peter Rollins on 1 John 5:4

For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:4)

I’ve heard a lot great things about Pete Rollins but have never read any of his stuff. I stumbled upon his blog and quickly found proof that he is indeed a very brilliant voice to be heard. His post about 1 John is incredibly fascinating. Money quote:

The author seems to be suggesting, not that those who believe in Jesus as Messiah will naturally love but rather those who love believe in Jesus as Messiah. This reading requires a different understanding of belief. Here the author of 1 John seems to be suggesting, in the very midst of its high Christology, that belief is embodied, that it is incarnated. In short that it is affirmed in the transformed life of the believer.

The radical, heretical, claim here is that one is not called to believe in the death and resurrection of Christ but rather to be the site where that death and resurrection is made manifest, not to believe in the miracles of Jesus but to be the place where a miracle takes place. In short belief in the Messiah is one that is affirmed only in the life that emanates love, sacrifice, forgiveness, mercy and joy.

What we have in 1 John then is simultaneously a high Christology mixed with the idea that this high Christology is never said, but only lived.

Graduates, Let Your Life Speak

I read Parker Palmer’s “Let Your Life Speak” a few years ago and it is easily one of the most important books I’ve read in my lifetime. In it Palmer introduces us to an authentic realization of vocation. He shares his own life experiences as examples of how he moved through a false sense to a more authentic, true sense of vocation. He writes:

“Today I understand vocation quite differently–not as a goal to be achieved but as a gift to be received. Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of ture self I already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice “out there” calling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice “in here” calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God. It is a strange gift, this birthright gift of self. Accepting it turns out to be even more demanding than attempting to become someone else!”

“We arrive in this world with birthright gifts–then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting others disabuse us of them. As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are, expectation held by people who are not trying to discern our selfhood but to fit us into slots. In families, schools, workplaces, and religious communities, we are trained away from true self toward images of acceptability; under social pressures like racism and sexism our original shape is deformed beyond recognition; and we ourselves, driven by fear, too often betray true self to gain the approval of others.”

Ever since I’ve read this book, I always think about (and usually re-read) these words around graduation time. As I remember my own graduation from high school, it was both a celebration and mind melt all rolled into one. Woohoo! Party!……..What next? What am I going to be? The funny about this is is that if someone were to ask me what I would “want to be” in a perfect world, it would be to make a living playing drums in a rock band. And here I sit 15 years later, exactly what I “wanted to be” and still Palmer speaks to a truth that resonates so profoundly in my heart. I absolutely love what I do. The opportunity to play music with three of your best friends is more life giving than I probably realize. But in the end, even if you end up doing exactly what you wanted to do and you prove more successful than you could have imagined, you can still lose sense of who you truly are, you can still lose your true essence of being. You can get caught up in the game of acceptability and that is a devastating pursuit for anyone, regardless of what they do.

If you know anyone who is graduating and stands at the crossroads of “doing” and “being”, this book would be a profound gift.

Digital Journaling

I’ve never been one to journal but I’ve decided to give it a shot. I dusted off a leather-bound journal that Holly had given me a long time ago but before I started writing, I remembered how terrible my penmanship is and how I hate just writing a check. So I figured I would see if there exists a journaling software for mac. I found the aptly titled “MacJournal”. It seems very well put together and I really dig it but I started to wonder if something gets lost when journaling on a computer as opposed to an actual journal that requires you write down your thoughts.

Pros for computer journaling would be:
-easier/faster to write
-password protected
– more options for organizing entries
-spell check!
-doesn’t waste paper, al gore would be proud.

Cons:
-not as physically tangible
-a bit more of a soulless experience
-maybe easier isn’t necessarily better?

In the end, if I had to actually write out my entries by hand, I’d likely not journal as often. Anyone else ever think about this kind of journaling quandary?

Shane on Making Space

My friend and podcast accomplice (which will hopefully start up again very soon) Shane Hipps wrote on his blog about making the leap from creating ad campaigns for Porsche cars to becoming a Mennonite pastor. It’s a great insight. Money quote:

In my experience, the best thing I can do to lead people spiritually is to show them love. At the heart of love is making space, honoring the free will of the other. This requires that I intentionally divest myself of their outcomes, decisions, and conclusions. Sounds counter-intuitive, but then again, most things in the life of faith are. When someone senses that I need them to grow to validate myself, it usually hinders their growth. When they sense that I love them and have no need for them to take my advice, they’re more free to do so if they choose. This I’ve found to be the most fertile soil for spiritual evolution. And it is diametrically opposed to the tasks of advertising and marketing, which are driven entirely by outcomes.

A great insight that not only applies to leadership but relationships in general. I took the Enneagram personality test the other day it indicated that I am an “8”:

Enneagram

The “shadow” of an 8 or a “Challenger” is a fear of not being in control. When I saw the results of the enneagram, I was a bit surprised at first but after a bit of introspection, it totally made sense. What’s at the end of our noses can often times be the most difficult for us to see. What’s daunting about this shadow element that I’ve realized I have to contend with is that control is ultimately the opposite of love. Have you ever met a truly loving and gracious person who was a control freak?

Life lately has been peppered with moments of both fear and peace. Practicing contemplative prayer has led me to a valley of shadows but the light still breaks through. Facing my shadow, giving it shape, not turning away from it can be scary but also incredibly freeing. While walking through that dark valley I come face to face with my own evil. The Lord’s prayer doesn’t say for us to avoid evil but to not fear it, for we don’t face it alone. I have to learn that giving up control to make space for others takes a selfless love that comes without condition. Unfortunately, that’s the most difficult love to give (is there any other kind?) and only through God’s grace can I give it.

Wisdom for Conservatives from Father Rohr

“If liberals refuse to be a part of the dirt of history, conservatives refuse to even see the dirt — at least in their own group! They hunker down and call their evil “good.” The conservative response is usually the common person’s first response to reality: “What is in place already should probably be trusted. It must be true, because that is the way it is.” Its basic sin is lack of courage, but also lack of exposure or education. It usually does not “know” about the dark side, the other side, the view from the bottom, or even the view from the top. Sometimes it is innocence, often a false innocence engendered by fear, but always a costly innocence for somebody — maybe even for themselves. It confuses loyalty to systems with loyalty to God.

Conservatives, in general, are so enamored with presidents and popes and precedents that there is never any room for prophecy or honest self-criticism. Their truth is often too small and too self-serving. Almost always “separatists” in some sense, they are usualy on the run from some painful or unworthy place in themselves.

It seems to me that conservatives are enamored with past evils which they too easily call “good,” whereas liberals are enamored with clever new evils which they think will destroy evil once and for all. Neither of them is willing to carry the burden of living tentatively in a passing and imperfect world. So the contemporary choice offered most Americans is between unstable correctness (liberals) and stable illusion (conservatives)! What a choice! We see this in the present war against terrorism, although those who want stable illusion seem to be in the great majority. It has little to do with real transformation in either case. How different from the radical traditionalism of a T.S. Elliot: “You are not here to verify, instruct yourself, or inform curiosity or carry report. You are here to kneel……””

Richard Rohr — Contemplation in Action

The Moral Theology of the Devil

dore_satan_falls.jpg

“The theology of the devil is for those who, for one reason or another, whether because they are perfect, or because they have come to an agreement with the Law, no longer need any mercy. With them (O grim joy!) God is “satisfied.” So too is the devil. It is quite an achievement, to please everybody!

The people who listen to this sort of thing, and absorb it, and enjoy it, develop a notion of the spiritual life which is a kind of hypnosis of evil. The concepts of sin, suffering, damnation, punishment, the justice of God, retribution, the end of the world and so on, are things over which they smack their lips with unspeakable pleasure. Perhaps this is because they derive a deep, subconscious comfort from the thought that many other people will fall into the hell which they themselves are going to escape. And how do they know they are going to escape it? They cannot give any definite reason except for the fact that they feel a certain sense of relief at the thought that all this punishment is prepared for practically everyone but themselves.

This feeling of complacency is what they refer to as “faith,” and it constitutes a kind of conviction that they are “saved.””

Thomas Merton — New Seeds of Contemplation