29 June 2013

Glamorizing Violence

Last night I was walking through a local town festival when I spotted a large Air Force van passing out propaganda and recruiting prospects. Such recruitment posts make me cringe. When army commercials air before movies, the pit of my stomach crawls, but this particular instance was way beyond those usual feelings of dismay.

The van was a simulation game. 

"Experience what it's like to be a member of the U.S. Air Force," the signs said. "Climb into the cockpit and defend your country!"

I watched as many 8, 9, and 10-year old boys stepped up to the line and eagerly waited their turn to "shoot down enemy planes," as I overhead one little boy exclaim.

I. was. furious.

Now, I understand that many of my fellow brothers and sisters are advocates of just war, who see war as an unfortunate "necessary evil" that plagues our world due to the Fall. I sincerely respect their stance. Although I may not agree with it, I am comfortable with different viewpoints on war being represented in Christianity.

This, however, was nothing short of glamorizing violence, making the killing of others "cool." Propaganda like this casts war in a thrilling, video-game-like light, completely ignoring the cost that war always has. "Necessary evil," as my just war friends would call it, is never without consequences. Instead, this propaganda screams, "Forget the countless number of lives who are lost in battle. Forget the 'enemy' whom Christ has called us to love. War is exciting. War makes heroes. War is the most desirable employer."

Saying otherwise, being honest about how much violence and death is involved, probably would not be a good marketing tool.

Yet, it seems that war within Christianity is all or nothing. Either we are resistant to it, cultivating a life of disciplined nonviolence, or we are all for it, idolizing our troops and our celebrating our military prowess. There is a severe lack of middle ground. Those of us who view war as a viable option need to stop glamorizing the violence that comes with it, regardless of whether it is "necessary." Those of use who are for just war need to be for just war reluctantly, knowing that it is the result of a broken, hurting world and was never a part of God's plan for this world.

War breaks God's heart. And that needs to be taken seriously without sparkles, gimmicks, or heightened CGI.

Not Quite Settled

This t-shirt is very helpful in debunking this widely accepted cliche. However, I think there needs to be an explanation after "God said it" as well, as it gives the impression that we have the exact words from God. Maybe "God spoke through fallible human beings for his purpose?" Suggestions from my theologically-inclined friends?

17 June 2013

Richard Rohr on Cultural Fundamentalism

The following is from Richard Rohr's blog:
In recent years and elections one would have thought that homosexuality and abortion were the new litmus tests of authentic Christianity. Where did this come from? They never were the criteria of proper membership for the first 2000 years, but reflect very recent culture wars instead. And largely from people who think of themselves as “traditionalists”! (The fundamentals were already resolved in the early Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed. Note that none of the core beliefs are about morality at all. The Creeds are more mystical, cosmological, and about aligning our lives inside of a huge sacred story.) When you lose the great mystical level of religion, you always become moralistic about this or that as a cheap substitute. It gives you a false sense of being on higher spiritual ground than others. 
Jesus is clearly much more concerned about issues of pride, injustice, hypocrisy, blindness, and what I have often called “The Three Ps” of power, prestige, and possessions, which are probably 95 percent of Jesus’ written teaching. We conveniently ignore this 95 percent to concentrate on a morality that usually has to do with human embodiment. That’s where people get righteous, judgmental, and upset, for some reason. The body seems to be where we carry our sense of shame and inferiority, and early-stage religion has never gotten much beyond these “pelvic” issues. As Jesus put it, “You ignore the weightier matters of the law—justice, mercy, and good faith . . . and instead you strain out gnats and swallow camels” (Matthew 23:23-24). We worry about what people are doing in bed much more than making sure everybody has a bed to begin with. There certainly is a need for a life-giving sexual morality, and true pro-life morality, but one could sincerely question whether Christian nations and people have found it yet. 
Christianity will regain its moral authority when it starts emphasizing social sin in equal measure with individual (read “body-based”) sin and weave them both into a seamless garment of love and truth.

13 June 2013


"For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago."

- Ephesians 2:10 (The Voice Translation)

31 May 2013

10 Things Religion Professors Wish Their Students Knew

10. We are people, too. 

9. We love questions. Each of us is a "geek" in our field, and we don't get to talk very often about the things that really interest us. Questions don't scare us; it's scarier when people don't have questions.

8. We see everything that happens in the classroom. You may think you're being subversively sneaky by texting underneath the desk, but it doesn't fool us.

7. We put our very souls into our lessons (well, some of us do). We put a lot of thought into not only what to say but how to say it. We spend a large portion of our time researching and then translating this research into language that students can understand. We try to make the content creative, engaging and interesting. You could even say that the final product is a piece of art that bears a part of our souls.

6. We take risks every single time we get in front of a class and start teaching. We risk messing up. We put our humor on the line. We worry whether our creative ideas will be effective.

5. We believe the risk is worth it.

4. We genuinely care. We want our students to succeed. We pray for you and ask that God will speak to you in ways that we cannot.

3. We find no greater joy than when a student "gets it." It could be evident from a submitted paper, a comment in class, or a personal email, but we love it when a student critically engages in a way that they maybe hadn't before.

2. We sometimes doubt ourselves at the end of the day. We wonder whether our efforts were truly worth it, whether it even mattered that we showed up to class that day. We worry whether we communicated clearly. We often secretly are dismayed with the thought that maybe weren't as inspiring as we had hoped to be.

1. Each and every day we stand back up in the classroom, we die to ourselves once again. We teach for our students, hoping that we can awaken them to the beauty and the awe of the Biblical narrative. We teach for ourselves, processing thoughts and ideas so that they become even deeper convictions within our own selves. And finally, we teach for God, hoping that somehow, someway, our Creator will find pleasure in our efforts and at the end of the day he will say to us, "You gave everything I gave you, and that is enough."