Friday, June 23, 2017

What is the 'Kingdom of God'? (Jurgen Moltmann)


In the summings-up of Jesus’ message we are also told again and again: “The kingdom of God is at hand – repent.”  But what does the word ‘repent’ really mean according to these parables?

A sheep has gone astray and is found and the finder is delighted that his search has not been in vain.  The lost coin could do nothing about either its loss or its finding: the joy is solely and entirely the woman’s.  The lost son, finally, was not merely ‘lost and found; he had actually been ‘dead and was alive again’.  So if we look at these parables, what is the kingdom of God?  It is nothing other than God’s joy at finding again the beings he created who have been lost.  And what is ‘repentance’ which the sinner has to ‘perform’?  It is nothing other than the being-found, and the return home from exile and estrangement, the coming-alive again, and the joining in God’s joy.  We are experiencing God’s kingdom when something like this happens to us, something where we flower and put out fresh growth like the flowers and trees in the spring, and come alive again, because we sense the great in exhaustible loves from which all life proceeds.  When we experience God’s exhilaration in his joy over us, and our own vitality reawakens, the kingdom of God cease to be some remote and alien rule; it is the very source and fountain of life.  Then the kingdom of God is the wide space in which we can unfold and develop, because it is a place without any restrictions.  Once we experience God’s kingdom like this, we discover afresh the wealth of our potentialities for living.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions


I recently read Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions by Valeria Luiselli.

The book is an intimate look at the child refugee crisis as framed through the 40 questions posed to these children upon their arrival in the United States.  It is not a whitepaper or book of detached logic.  It doesn’t present the problems and then propose clearly achievable solutions.  So my intent here is not to ‘review’ this heart-wrenching, desperate book.  This situation is a nightmare, and the author practically begs for the underlying issue to be seen and acknowledged.  That the author does not know how this story ends is simultaneously a call to action and a sobering fact.

A few quotes from the book:

"It is not even the American Dream that they pursue, but rather the more modest aspiration to wake up from the nightmare into which they were born."

"In varying degrees, some papers and webpages announce the arrival of undocumented children like a biblical plague. Beware the locusts."

"No, we do not find inspiration here, but we find a country that is as beautiful as it is broken, and we are somehow now part of it, so we are also broken with it, and feel ashamed, confused, and sometimes hopeless, and are trying to figure out how to do something about all that."

"The political response to the crisis, therefore, has always centered on one question, which is more or less: What do we do with all these children now? Or, in blunter terms: How do we get rid of them or dissuade them from coming?"

"How would anyone who is stigmatized as an “illegal immigrant” feel “safe” and “happy”?"
"No one suggests that the causes are deeply embedded in our shared hemispheric history and are therefore not some distant problem in a foreign country that no one can locate on a map, but in fact a trans national problem that includes the United States—not as a distant observer or passive victim that must now deal with thousands of unwanted children arriving at the southern border, but rather as an active historical participant in the circumstances that generated that problem."

"To refer to the situation as a hemispheric war would be a step forward because it would oblige us to rethink the very language surrounding the problem and, in doing so, imagine potential directions for combined policies."

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Tale of Two Tweets (On Violence and Forgiveness)


This past Sunday morning, I woke up to the following two tweets right next to one another in my feed:

The first relates directly to the prior day’s attack in London:

@rcallimachi
10. Chilling testimony from eyewitness who says he saw assailants stabbing a girl, while screaming, “This is for Allah.”


And this followed:

@brianzahnd
Violence breeds violence.
Only forgiveness offers an alternative.
I know must don’t believe this but…
It is what Jesus lived and taught.
And it is what God has vindicated in…
Resurrection

**********

The degree and nature of the dialogue between the content of these two tweets is, I think, is of the utmost importance.  In an age where our world’s imagination for destruction and ever more deadly weapons seems to shape our vision of the future, I don’t think it an exaggeration to say that it determines our future.

How do we hear this 2nd tweet?
  • As irrelevant religious blather?  Or as pointing towards the most relevant speech of all?
  • As fundamentally mistaken and flat-out theologically wrong?  Or as the truth at the heart of reality?
  • As cowardly, destructive, and leading inexorably to the deaths of the innocent?  Or as the courageous means to new life?
  • As weak?  Or as strong?
  • As luxury?  Or as necessity?
  • As perpetuating the cycle of violence?  Or as breaking the cycle of violence?
  • As hopelessly na├»ve, the result of privilege and distance from the death and suffering?  Or as sober and costly solidarity with the death and suffering in the world?
  • As indifference and “doing nothing”?  Or as the means whereby an active and potent moral imagination is ignited?
  • Which one "takes terrorism seriously"?

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Efficacy of Prayer as a House of Cards


Imagine you wanted a promotion at work.  So you prayed to a milk jug for two weeks and then applied for the promotion.  If the promotion came through, would you say it happened because the milk jug answered your prayer?  Most people would not.

Most Christians say that God answers prayer in three ways: yes, no, or wait.  If God says yes, you get whatever you were praying for.  If God says no, then you don't.  If God says "wait," then you keep praying for your desired outcome, knowing that God's timing is different from your own.

But the problem is, that covers every possible outcome.  Things either happen now, later, or not at all.  There's no other possibility.  How can you be confident that prayer works if there's, literally, no scenario that could prove it to be false?

Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue, p 50
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