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Bush’s War

One of my favorite television shows has become PBS’s Frontline. It’s basically the PBS version of Dateline or 20/20. They report on human interest stories, global features, but, since the beginning of the Iraq War, they have spent much of their time reporting on stories from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the War on Terror. I have caught several, and am excited about their recent work reviewing their five years’ worth of data compiled in the new documentary feature, “Bush’s War.” It is a lengthy two-part feature that began here in Columbus last night for two and a half hours. I was only able to catch the last half, but thankfully you can catch all their past episodes online.

One of the most disturbing trends in the recent years of our country has been the alignment of churches to the partisan divide in the political landscape of this country. There are blue and red states, and now, unfortunately, there seem to be blue and red churches. This is a horrible trend that must turn back.

PBS’s documentary on the war is eye-opening and disturbing at the same time. Conservatives will wage the old “liberal media” accusations, but this documentary is probably the most extensively done and inclusive project done on the war. The website has hundreds of interviews, statistics, and information that lays out the facts of the war. Leading up to the war, in the first part’s coverage last night, it is not evident how much the American people were misled, how deceptive Bush’s administration was, and how much of a mess we have gotten ourselves into as a result.

As a self-proclaimed pacifist, the war is especially troubling. To argue against the war immediately makes one a Democrat. To question the President or his cabinet makes one unpatriotic (I am that), and “Liberal” I’m not sure that I am that. The death toll of American soldiers is at 4,000. The death toll of civilian Iraqis is many times that. There is no upside to war. “But Saddam’s dead!” comes the response. Is any man’s death worth thousands of innocent lives? Cain committed the first murder and he was a marked man – marked with grace, that anyone who met him would NOT kill him.

I believe the preemptive military strategy that the United States has taken since 9/11 is one of the most biblically-contrary ideologies to enter the national political scene in decades. It has allowed for military strikes to be ordered to “prevent” future attacks. It is America flexing its muscles as the only remaining Super Power and is rooted in her imperialistic nature. It cannot be consistent with the character of God.

One of my fears is that our children will grow up with war as the norm. There will always be wars, but it is unfortunate that the lone Super Power is responsible for so many of them. Christians are called to be people of peace, but this is the furthest from their vocabulary when it comes to many of their international diplomacy support. Christians are often the loudest defenders of these unChristian American policies.

The Frontline documentary spends much time discussing the interrogation tactics that D. Rumsfield had such a hand in rewriting. This marks another aspect of the Bush administration that must be acknowledged as ungodly.

Shane Claiborne, in his new book, claims that the Church has fallen in love with the state and, as a result, has lost her political imagination. What a glorious proclamation to the current state of matters. Christians have lost their concept of love and grace and suffering servitude and exchanged that for one dominated by power and hungry for control. This opportunity was ever-before Christ, and on every occasion he turned the other way, why must we choose a different way to fight Christ’s battle?

Beyond Cognition

I am realizing more and more every day just how cognitively driven my faith has been – the faith that was imparted to me has been. It was drilled into my head, usually subconsciously – the more you know about the Bible, the better off you’ll be. It’s almost as if I came to expect that there would be a test given at the gates of heaven and if I knew enough, I’d get in, but if I didn’t, there would be big trouble. Now, we would never admit this. We knew (again, cognitively) that we were saved by faith – but again, even this was just a matter of fact – cognitive knowledge.

And now I’m learning to see the Gospel as so much more than cognition. As a matter of fact, how much cognition is there? The Gospel, as Paul writes it, is simple: Christ, the God-man, came in the flesh, died on the cross, and was raised from the dead. If we could just focus on that! Why do we allow so much of the other stuff bog us down? That is the core of the Gospel. If a person is baptized as an infant, does that threaten the core of the Gospel? I don’t know that it does. In all cases they are acting in a desire to appease the God of the Gospel. Do some come closer than others? Sure. It is unsettling, it is confusing, but it seems to be more in line with the biblical story than where many Christian groups find themselves currently.

Shane Claiborne is on to something. He’s too radical for many folks, and they can easily miss what he’s on to. I have a great deal of respect for him and what he’s doing with the Simple Way project, but I haven’t sold my house and taken my family to inner city Columbus. I see the destitution there nearly every day, and believe me my heart cries out for there and we’ve had discussions about going down there, but I remain in my suburban comfort shell. But I think I see what he’s on to. His message is . . . “let’s stop talking, and DO something.” Do something. It is the message of the cross. It is a story invoking action. Hearing the Gospel we should be compelled to action. Instead, we have been compelled only as far as belief . . . as statement of fact.

I really believe that Shane Claiborne is what he claims to be – an ordinary radical. That is what more of us need to strive to be. Instead of just doing something, I hear too many people worried about the “red flags.” “This sounds like the social gospel, didn’t the liberal project fail?” “What about their soul?” “They’re just users, we can do more productive things with our money.” I would be more interested in these conversations as I think they raise valid concerns, but I’m unwilling to have them with people who aren’t doing anything – anything more than “being a good nice person.” Shame on us if we think that Christ came and died brining the kingdom of heaven to earth so that we could be nice Christian people. I am looking for examples of nice, Christian people in Scripture and I don’t see many there. I see radicals. Men and women who would die for their faith. Who would risk the security of their family for the sake of justice and mercy and kingdom ethics. The kingdom of God is at hand! I love Shane Claiborne’s statement, it’s one I have adopted into my daily thoughts and prayers, “Another world is possible.”

We’re not stuck with this one! We’re given this one, and as Christians it is our duty to make it look “on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus calls down heaven on earth, not us to a glorious place on high . . . but heaven on earth . . . now! Wow! (By the way, I’m pretty sure I ripped that rant off of Rob Bell in Velvet Elvis, so don’t call me a pirate here . . . ha ha). Go and change the world . . . I really and truly believe we can do it . . . we are just going to have to get uncomfortable, unsafe, and unsure.

Good to be back

Well, it’s been a little while since I’ve had some time to post here. After looking over my blog posts for the past few months, I’m realizing it’s time for me to put some of my own things on here. Enough book reviews already! Hopefully, it is helpful to see these books reviewed. It’s impossible to read everything that’s out there – even on a given topic it’s hard to read all that’s there on that, so I find it helpful to share what we’re reading. However, let’s not get carried away. I’m going to work at actually shortening my reviews (imagine that!) and offering more frequent personal musings reflecting on what I’ve read collectively (as Gary Holloway quipped this past weekend at a conference I attended, “Everything I know I read in a book.”). So you can judge how “mine” this stuff actually is.

I’ll begin my aspirations towards shorter book reviews here with a quick note about Justice in the Burbs. Simply put, this book is great! It’s a realistic, down-to-earth, practical quick-hitter on the topic of awakening your social conscience. Mary Beth and I have been having lots of deep discussions looking at the status and direction of our life. Our social consciences have been awakened and the Samson’s hit us right between the eyes with this book.

The way that the book is put together is probably its best strength. Lisa Samson is a novelist by trade and she created a story following a typical suburban couple through the process of awakening their social conscience. This aspect of the book makes it especially easy to relate to. Following each section of fiction, Will follows with a short, but pointed, teaching section looking at the issues the fictional couple is faced with. Finally, at the end of each chapter, there is a devotional contribution from several different authors looking at the issues raised from yet another angle.

All throughout the book I found myself saying, “Yeah, that’s what I’ve been saying.” They manage to deal with a difficult and convicting issue in a gentle yet poignant manner. Anyone interested in simplifying your life and seeking practical easy-to-implement answers to questions like, “How do I serve the poor in my suburban context?” and “How can I live justly in an area that seems to have everything anyone could want?” would do well to read this book.

There is much I could say about this book . . . but, hey, I said I would shorten it up. This book definitely takes a real and critical look at the American culture and a Christian’s responsibility of living in a land of plenty . . . offers much good fodder for discussion.

Along those lines, Mary Beth and I are committed to living more justly in our setting. I think it began with a commitment to simply by getting rid of some of our stuff. However, upon doing that, we realize just how complex things really are. As a result, what began as a simple process of getting rid of some things has turned into a complicated venture to simplify in many manners. Seeking God’s vision and direction in all of this is complicated and challenging.

I’ve befriended a guy in jail that we have begun discussing allowing to move in with us in a few months. Now, it’s all on the table, and the real discussion has begun. Pray for us as we venture into the difficult, yet exciting and rewarding journey into justice.