I just wanted to repost a great little comment from my friend Adam because it so succinctly speaks to the underlying problem with Christians who refuse to acknowledge our own corporate/historical sins:
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Wow, I’m a little late to the party on this. I know your whole point is that it’s a stupid game to play (and I’m with you), but claiming that Muslims are more violent due to body count is just dumb. If he’s saying 10,000 deaths, then he’s counting bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan which really boil down to internal power struggles by people who identify as Muslim.
Apply that same criteria to Christians and it doesn’t look so good. You don’t have to go back to the crusades. Heck, some of the worst massacres in recent history have been perpetrated by people that identify as Christian; the Rwandan genocide easily taking the cake.
Oh well. I’m beating a dead horse, preaching to the choir, and mixing metaphors all at the same time. I think I’m just tired of sentiments that demonize others. That and too many mosques have been torched in my town.
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The horse isn’t dead as long as these conversations keep coming up, Adam. We need these reminders. Sadly, the very conversation I was having is indicative of the very problem inherent in extremist religion. Angry Christians, demonizing Islam for extremism, were refusing to acknowledge the sins and shortcomings of their own religion. If we can’t even get past THAT very initial step in interfaith dialogue (that’s like Step 2, after, “Hi, my name is Pete…”) then we’re pretty much doomed.
I grabbed some text from the links you provided. On the Rwandan Genocide: “Though religious factors were not prominent (the event was ethnically motivated), the Human Rights Watch reported that a number of religious authorities in Rwanda, particularly Roman Catholic, failed to condemn the genocide at the time. Some in its religious hierarchy have been brought to trial for their participation by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and convicted. Bishop Misago was accused of corruption and complicity in the genocide, but he was cleared of all charges in 2000. The majority of Rwandans, and Tutsis in particular, are Catholic, so shared religion did not prevent genocide.”
By seeking to eliminate a part of the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They targeted for extinction the forty thousand Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica, a group which was emblematic of the Bosnian Muslims in general. They stripped all the male Muslim prisoners, military and civilian, elderly and young, of their personal belongings and identification, and deliberately and methodically killed them solely on the basis of their identity.
The Serbian population is predominantly Orthodox Christian. Unless we’re still unwilling to accept that someone from “our own tribe” is capable of evil.
Adam, thanks for these tragic, poignant and illustrative reminders that Christians can and do commit atrocities, even in modern times, and that religion is never a deciding factor as to the potential for evil a human being or society carries. We need to keep these conversations moving forward, and the only way forward is for us to own our own sins. Modeling this, I pray we can invite our neighbors to feel safe enough to do the same.
Over the next couple of days I’ll recount all the joy, drama, ridiculousness (perhaps on my part as well?) and childlike fun of mature religious debate (did I just type that?) as enabled by the wonders of the FACEBOOK WALL!
I thought I’d begin with the end, however: my conclusion, extracted from that fun little exchange. That is:
It’s pretty phenomenal where West has come artistically in the last 5 years; perhaps, directly related to how fall he seems to fall, personally.
There’s a track at the end of the album, featuring spoken word by American poet and activist Gil Scott-Heron:
Us living as we do upside down. And the new word to have is revolution. People don’t even want to hear the preacher spill or spiel because God’s whole card has been thoroughly piqued. And America is now blood and tears instead of milk and honey. The youngsters who were programmed to continue fucking up woke up one night digging Paul Revere and Nat Turner as the good guys. America stripped for bed and we had not all yet closed our eyes. The signs of Truth were tattooed across our open ended vagina. We learned to our amazement untold tale of scandal. Two long centuries buried in the musty vault, hosed down daily with a gagging perfume. America was a bastard the illegitimate daughter of the mother country whose legs were then spread around the world and a rapist known as freedom, FREE DOOM. Democracy, liberty, and justice were revolutionary code names that preceded the bubbling bubbling bubbling bubbling bubbling in the mother country’s crotch What does Webster say about soul? All I want is a good home and a wife And a children and some food to feed them every night. After all is said and done build a new route to China if they’ll have you. Who will survive in America? Who will survive in America? Who will survive in America? Who will survive in America?
But Scott-Heron’s lyrics are edited in Kanye’s cut. These are the full verses:
The time is in the street you know. Us living as we do upside down. And the new word to have is revolution. People don’t even want to hear the preacher spill or spiel because God’s whole card has been thoroughly piqued. And America is now blood and tears instead of milk and honey. The youngsters who were programmed to continue fucking up woke up one night digging Paul Revere and Nat Turner as the good guys. America stripped for bed and we had not all yet closed our eyes. The signs of Truth were tattooed across our open ended vagina. We learned to our amazement untold tale of scandal. Two long centuries buried in the musty vault, hosed down daily with a gagging perfume. America was a bastard the illegitimate daughter of the mother country whose legs were then spread around the world and a rapist known as freedom, free doom. Democracy, liberty, and justice were revolutionary code names that preceded the bubbling bubbling bubbling bubbling bubbling in the mother country’s crotch and behold a baby girl was born, nurtured by slave holders and whitey racists it grew and grew and grew screwing indiscriminately like mother like daughter everything unplagued by her madame mother. The present mocks us, good Black people with keen memories set fire to the bastards who ask us in a whisper to melt and integrate. Young, very young, teeny bopping revolt on weekend young dig by proxy what a mental ass kicking they receive through institutionalized everything and vomit up slogans to stay out of Vietnam. They seek to hide their relationship with the world’s prostitute alienating themselves from everything except dirt and money with long hair, grime, and dope to camo-hide the things that cannot be hidden. They become runaway children to walk the streets downtown with everyday Black people sitting on the curb crying because we know that they will go back home with a clear conscience and a college degree. The irony of it all, of course, is when a pale face SDS motherfucker dares look hurt when I tell him to go find his own revolution. He wonders why I tell him that America’s revolution will not be the melting pot but the toilet bowl. He is fighting for legalized smoke, or lower voting age, less lip from his generation gap and fucking in the street. Where is my parallel to that? All I want is a good home and a wife and a children and some food to feed them every night. Back goes pale face to basics. Does Little Orphan Annie have a natural? Do Sluggos kings make him a refugee from Mandingo? What does Webster say about soul? I say you silly chipe motherfucker, your great grandfather tied a ball and chain to my balls and bounced me through a cotton field while I lived in an unflushable toilet bowl and now you want me to help you overthrow what? The only Truth that can be delivered to a four year revolutionary with a whole card i.e. skin is this: fuck up what you can in the name of Piggy Wallace, Dickless Nixon, and Spiro Agnew. Leave brother Cleaver and Brother Malcolm alone please. After all is said and done build a new route to China if they’ll have you.
Who will survive in America? Who will survive in America? Who will survive in America? Who will survive in America?
In Judges, Chapter 19, a Levite (a man of the priestly tribe of Israel) took a concubine. She left him for unknown reasons, and fled to her father’s house. The Levite followed after her, made nice with her father, and began to take her home. On the journey home, they stopped at an old man’s home to stay for the night.
As they were enjoying themselves, suddenly certain men of the city, perverted men, surrounded the house and beat on the door. They spoke to the master of the house, the old man, saying, “Bring out the man who came to your house, that we may know him carnally!” But the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brethren! I beg you, do not act so wickedly! Seeing this man has come into my house, do not commit this outrage. Look, here is my virgin daughter and the man’s concubine; let me bring them out now. Humble them, and do with them as you please; but to this man do not do such a vile thing!” But the men would not heed him. So the man took his concubine and brought her out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until morning; and when the day began to break, they let her go. Then the woman came as the day was dawning, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, till it was light. When her master arose in the morning, and opened the doors of the house and went out to go his way, there was his concubine, fallen at the door of the house with her hands on the threshold. And he said to her, “Get up and let us be going.” But there was no answer. So the man lifted her onto the donkey; and the man got up and went to his place.
When he entered his house he took a knife, laid hold of his concubine, and divided her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel.
How do you feel about stories like this?
>> More After the Break…
What do you think it means, that we’re never told stories of these unnamed women in Scripture, raped, abused, tortured, murdered and mutilated? We ignore them because they are horrifying, but in doing so, we marginalize these already-marginalized characters, anonymous though they may be. Is it all right for a Levite – a man of God – to protect himself by sending his concubine (a woman he already “uses” for his purposes, but refuses to marry) out to a band of rapists? Just like the story of Lot in Sodom, the rape of a man is unacceptable, but women are chattel – things – property – and can be expended for the sake of self preservation. And then their bodies can apparently be mutilated and dismembered, sent as a “message” to one’s enemies.
Clearly it would be outrageous for any contemporary pastor or theologian to somehow attempt to justify or legitimize this “text of terror,” (as scholar Phyllis Trible aptly calls it). All the more reason for us to be very, very careful with the texts we DO attempt to justify and legitimize.
Of this text, Phyllis Trible writes:
First of all, we can recognize the contemporaneity of the story. Misogyny belongs to every age, including our own. Violence and vengeance are not just characteristics of a distant, pre-Christian past; they infect the community of the elect to this day. Woman as object is still captured, betrayed, raped, tortured, murdered, dismembered and scattered. To take to heart this ancient story, then, is to confess its present reality. The story is alive, and all is not well. Beyond confession we must take counsel and say, “Never again.” Yet this counsel is itself ineffectual unless we direct our hearts to that most uncompromising of all biblical commands, speaking the words not to others but to ourselves: Repent. Repent.
An online friend of mine recently went on a spiritual pilgrimage, and journaled during his time away. He shared one of his written prayers with me, from during a church service he endured. I so deeply appreciate his openness to self-exploration and his desire for the church (the established, Western church in particular) to become more self-aware:
"Father, please help us not to stop at praying for the Christians who are persecuted! Please open our eyes and show us where we ourselves take part in oppressing structures. Please help us to see the world through your eyes and show us the people we should be in solidarity with in our own country. Help us to love Muslims, the marginalized, those who fell through our social structures and all the other people without a voice, with your perfect love that knows no boundaries. Please forgive us, that we traded your Kingdom for our own comfort. Please help us understand the reason that we are not persecuted."
I’m excited to be participating in another Synchroblog with a bunch of brilliant bloggers! This Synchroblog starts:
Marginalization results in an individual’s exclusion from meaningful participation in society and it’s source is many. Economic circumstances, illness, disability, geographical location, gender, sexuality, race, religion are all dominant sources of individuals being marginalized. Sometimes it’s easy to see holidays or certain systems from a position of power or privilege. As God’s people, what does it mean to see the world through the eyes of the marginalized? * What is it like to be one of the marginalized? * How can we be part of bridging some of these gaps?
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In my senior year of high school, I remember getting into anargument with my mother: “No Mom, racism doesn’t really exist today – not inany meaningful way. I don’t know ANYONE who’s racist. It’s just an excuse to complain. Oprah iswrong…”
It’s unbelievable to me, remembering the attitudes I held not-so-long-ago.
I recently took a little criticism for being overly negative on this blog. I accepted it. I even agreed with it and have tried to spend more time focusing on things I’m FOR, rather than things I’m AGAINST. I don’t want to be liberal the same way I was conservative. Back then, I was angry, self-defensive, complaining – I had a real chip on my shoulder… I didn’t like the way white males were being “demonized” and the way American Christians were being “oppressed.” Good thing there was no Glenn Beck when I was in high school.
While trying to be positive is a noble endeavor, I won’t apologize for advocating for people I love! I won’t apologize for decrying racism and sexism and homophobia and elitism and downright meanness – especially when it’s coming from white Evangelicals like me.
I was recently in a group discussing a wretched biblical story in Judges 11, where a man named Jephthah promises God:“If you give the Ammonites into my hands,whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” So who do you think tends to come out of the doors of a man’s house in Ancient Israel after a battle? The women: daughters and wives. So Jephthah’s only daughter comes out of the house after the battle, celebrating her father. Jephthah mourns and laments the promise he made to God, but he ultimately keeps that promise and burns her to death: “a burnt offering” to the Lord.
Someone in the group suggested that we needed to look past the murder of the daughter, and remember how deeply Jephthah agonized over the horrible choice. ”It was about his obedience.”
Someone else said we were overlooking the narrative that God took a nobody like Jephthah and made him into a great warrior. That was the point.
The problem is, while both of these excuses understandably attempt to downplay the awful violence of the story, they simultaneously take an already marginalized female character and marginalize her even more! Not only is she burned to death, but she’s also not a very important part of the story…
This is the effect in Scripture and in real life, any time we say, “God has a bigger plan…” and “let’s try to see beyond the immediate pain of the situation” in the face of the suffering and the wounded. We marginalize the marginalized when we cautiously, delicately, judiciously, politely look the other way and move on…
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I don’t know what it’s like to be one of the marginalized. I’ve been picked on and threatened for looking like a “fag,” but it wasn’t actually painful, just frustrating. Six years ago I accidentally went on a gay date (I swear I didn’t know!) but my response wasn’t to see through his eyes – my response was fear, paranoia and… you guessed it: marginalization of him. I’ve come a long way since then, but I’ve got a long way to go.
Here are some other participants in this Synchroblog, trying to work through these tough questions…
I found a great article on CNN’s religion section that offers some serious insight on the issue of poverty in relation to Christian cultural attitudes. It’s amazing to me that the church so often manages to articulate a worldview that excuses it from doing the work commanded by Scripture. As Kierkegaard said, “The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly… My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.”
Kierkegaard is right. And so is Biblical testimony to the centrality of compassion, charity and alms. Enjoy:
We hear about it, but do we really understand it? Myths about poverty abound, particularly among those of us bent on following Jesus’ teaching about the poor and oppressed.
Myth 1: People are poor because they are lazy or stupid.
Poor people work incredibly hard, under harsh conditions, frequently seven days a week. With no welfare programs and no social networks, if they don’t work, they don’t eat. That’s reality.
My work in microfinance has taken me to some 50 countries. I’ve watched men making bricks in equatorial sun from morning till night in exchange for $10; women hauling five-gallon containers on their heads and in each hand every morning to water their garden-size farm; children rifling through trash for recyclables to exchange for a meal.
Despite their efforts, these hard-working people cannot get off their economic treadmills; they pass their generational poverty onto their children and grandchildren. Getting to know them as sisters and brothers, I can vouch that they are anything but lazy or stupid. The only reason for their life of misery and mine of relative luxury is where we were born.
Myth 2: Poor people want handouts.
We assume that a hungry person wants us to give them something to eat. Sure, if a mother’s children are hungry she’ll gladly accept a free meal. But what that person would much rather have is the opportunity to work and feed her family. Each time she accepts a handout she exchanges a portion of her dignity.
In the Bible, God instructs farmers not to harvest the corner of their crops, but to leave it for the poor. God didn’t tell them to reap it and give the money to the poor, but to leave it for the poor to pick and eat. They need food, but they also need and want an opportunity to work.
Every day some 25,000 people die from starvation. Disturbing as that may be, the real tragedy is that for 90 percent of them, there is no food shortage. They just can’t afford to buy available food. The appropriate response is not relief but development, including opportunities to work.
Myth 3: Our foremost responsibility is America’s poor.
The number one objection I hear to our work in the developing world is that we must first solve the problems in our own country. Yet half of humanity barely survives on $2 per day. And they don’t live here.
We live in a generous country where last year more than $300 billion was given to charity from voluntary donations. As grand as that is, less than five percent goes to international work, leaving 95 percent in our own country for our churches, university endowments and symphonies.
These are worthy causes, but charities that serve the wealthiest nation. I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant when in Matthew 25 he told his followers to serve “the least of these.”
Myth 4: Jesus said we will always have extreme poverty.
What Jesus said in Mark 14:7 was: “The poor you will always have with you.”
Jesus recognized that some will always have less than others. But the kind of abject poverty that over one billion people endure—those living on $1 per day—wouldn’t be tolerated by Jesus and should not exist today.
I honestly believe we can eradicate extreme poverty. And if we can, then we must.
Myth 5: Jesus was concerned primarily about spiritual poverty.
I grew up in South Africa, surrounded by missionaries. There was a subtle message that eternity is a lot longer than life. If someone is saved and bound for heaven, it doesn’t much matter how hungry their children are.
But when Jesus began his public ministry, he read his mission statement: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor… To set free the oppressed.” (Luke 4:18).
Though we must read on to understand the full gospel, if we seek to follow his example and teaching, we must bring good news to the poor and set free the oppressed. More than 2,000 verses in the Bible deal with the poor. Jesus had special solidarity with the poor and told us that if we love him, we will show it by caring for them.
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It’s amazing that the religion of the people trying to follow the way of Jesus could so successfully and systematically avoid doing the things fiercely mandated throughout Scripture. As James 1:27 says so clearly, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
A great site on how to get involved, through the author’sUnPoverty website…
It’s 9-11 and there’s lots to be said, I know. The death toll of the attacks was 2,996, including the 19 hijackers. It was terrible, and I can’t comprehend the sorrow and pain felt by Americans there, who had loved one’s there, or who lived and worked nearby.
But in April, 2009 the Associated Press reported casualties of 110,600 Iraqis, due to the Iraq War.
In Darfur, there are various estimates on the number of human casualties, ranging from under twenty thousand to several hundred thousand dead, from either direct combat or starvation and disease engendered by the conflict.
Haitian President Rene Preval reported in January, 2010 that nearly 170,000 bodies had been counted after the Haitian earthquake. In February, 2010 Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive estimated that 300,000 had been injured.
On Tuesday September 11, 2001, at least 35,615 of our brother and sisters died from the worst possible death, starvation. Somewhere around 85% of these starvation deaths occur in children 5 years of age or younger. Why are we letting at least 30,273 of the most beautiful children die the worst possible death everyday? Every 2.43 seconds another one of our fellow brothers and sisters dies of starvation.
The world is filled with death and pain and suffering – so much that we tend to lose track of whatever is “out there” because it’s too overwhelming. We fixate on what’s “right here” (and even then, that’s not entirely true because we’re “so done” with post-Katrina aid).
I grieve for the 2,996 lives lost in the September 11 Terrorist Attacks in New York (I use the number including the 19 hijackers, because Jesus actually called us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us) but I also grieve for the thousands who die each day, the millions who are starving, sick, raped, tortured, enslaved, abused and murdered all over the world. Here in the United States and elsewhere. Christian, Muslim and atheist victims.
The world needs peace, not war rhetoric from Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the fool in Florida. Religious folks have to do better. We can do better. We can be better. WE CAN LOVE BETTER.
After his CNN interview on Wednesday, I think I’m a real fan of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. I know it’s hard to judge based on a quick television interview, but I kept thinking: “What a lovely human being.” The man speaks a language of peace. We can meet that language in-kind and still grieve for the Americans who lost their lives in the World Trade Center. It doesn’t have to be either-or. Revenge and outrage don’t honor those lost.
Great quotation from Rauf: “If you politicize a religion, it is dangerous!”
And he said he wanted to “establish a center that would be the space for a vision that I’ve had for over a decade… which is to establish a space which embodies the fundamental beliefs we have as Jews, Christians and Muslims, which is to love our God and to love our neighbor. To build a space where we have a culture of worship. And at the same time, to get to know each other. And to forge personal bonds. ’Cause that’s how our society, how a community is built. And how we can create something that will snowball, to push back against the radical discourse that has just hijacked the discourse in our country and in much of our world.”
Friends, we really can get past the divisive discourse that demonizes anyone who doesn’t share our worldview; who doesn’t speak our language; who doesn’t share our skin tone or carry a familiar surname. We don’t have to forget the past. But the past does not dictate the future. We can do better.
I have a friend who continues to maintain that the Iraq War was one of George W. Bush’s few “genius” maneuvers. And he’s not being tongue-in-cheek. He sees the endeavor as a success, and with Wednesday’s news of “Final US Combat Troops Withdrawing” he’d proudly affirm: “mission accomplished.”
My retort now is the same as it was 5 years ago when we first started arguing: how many lives make that “success” worthwhile? Is it a fair trade?
Here are some statistics from a source (http://antiwar.com/casualties) you may find dubious, but they document their sources, which appear credible:
I’m an M.Div student at George Fox Seminary, and a contributing writer in Spencer Burke’s Out of theOOZE (NavPress), Leonard Sweet’s Church of the Perfect Storm (Abingdon Press) and Christian Piatt’s Banned Questions About Jesus (Chalice Press).
I’m a liberal, an egalitarian, a deconstructionist, an Outlaw Preacher, and a loudmouth. I want to be your friend...