Friday, April 30, 2010

The Bible and Economics

I found this video on Brian McLaren's website and was completely blown away by it. It is a presentation by two of today's leading theologians, Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat (who are also husband and wife), on how the Bible relates to today's economic systems. They expand upon the views of their eminent colleague N.T. (Tom) Wright and bring to life how the scriptures spoke to the economic systems of ancient times and speak just as clearly to economic systems in modern times.

CLICK HERE to view it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Challenge Of Being Politically Independent

Don’t teach me about politics and government,
Just tell me who to vote for,
Don’t teach me about truth and beauty,
Just label my music,
Don’t teach me how to live like a free man,
Just give me a new law,

Don’t teach me about moderation and liberty,
I prefer a shot of grape juice,
Don’t teach me about loving my enemies,
And don’t teach me how to listen to the Spirit,
Just give me a new law,

I don’t want to know if the answers aren’t easy,
So just bring it down from the mountain to me,

I want a new law,
Just give me that new law.

"A New Law" by Derek Webb

When I was a Republican there were plenty of voices on the radio and TV to tell me what to think about any given issue. I also knew what stance to take by default: If an idea was being proffered by a Democrat (synonymous with "Liberal") it was a bad idea until proven otherwise. An idea from a Republican (synonymous with "Conservative") was, by default, good. It was easy. I imagine the same is true for those on the opposite side of the ideological fence.

But I eventually became a political Independent (as well as a Quaker). I can't just borrow my views from Rush and Sean and Glenn and Bill O and Dr. Dobson and Pastor So-and-So. I've chosen instead to listen to the Spirit and to the Scriptures, without the interpretive "assistance" of demagogues. This means I can't just assume the value of an idea or viewpoint or political position based on the affiliation of the one putting it forth.

My default position has become this: "Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law." (Romans 13:8) This means, among other things, that I "owe" no one (and no political party) their influence over my opinions. The important question to me anymore when considering an issue or viewpoint is, "Where is God's love in it?" If I can't see that, then I'm probably not going to find it worth lending my allegiance to.

It is a discipline to remain unbeholden to the pundits--searching out instead like a Berean for evidence of truth and love in their words. Sometimes, frankly, I'm tired and busy and would rather just have someone tell me what to think.

But that's being lazy.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Interfaith dialog

I heard this on the radio earlier today and thought it was so good that I searched it out on the Internet. It is an interfaith dialog recorded a few days ago between spokepeople for Christian (including Rick Warren), Jewish and Muslim faiths and hosted by Tavis Smiley. (Note: You may get a commercial at the beginning, but there seems to be only one.)

Watch live streaming video from jewishjournal at

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote:

"Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christian should take a stronger stand in favour of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong."

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

MLK on war

Sunday was the anniversary of MLK's famous "Vietnam" speech. Much of it is as relevant today as it was 43 years ago. "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." You can read the entire speech here.

Monday, April 05, 2010


What is war but organized murder? There is nothing glorious or honorable about it. War is mankind at our worst.

I'm one. Are you?

Friday, April 02, 2010

The Buddhist

Many years ago Carla and I lived in an apartment in Boulder, Colorado. The complex consisted of a pair of two story brick buildings. The front doors of all the apartments faced a central courtyard. As a result, we got to know most of our neighbors. Strangely, all these years later, the neighbor I most vividly remember is the one I knew the least.

I can't recall his name but I had been told by the other neighbors that he was a Buddhist--a serious Buddhist. As a Christian, I found this mildly disturbing, since I looked at adherents to other religions as being spiritually lost and blind. Boulder was then, and still is, a place of religious diversity and the tendency of many Christians was to adopt a mentality of defensiveness and exclusivity. This was my mentality.

As I think back now, he must have been about ten, maybe fifteen years older than I was--tall, fit, close cropped hair but a long bushy beard. He lived alone. The curtains of the living room window to his ground floor apartment were usually kept open. The decor inside was austere: a sturdy wooden table in the center of the room with nothing on it; two similarly plain and sturdy wooden chairs; no pictures on the walls; no bric-a-brac except for three smooth stones on the window sill.

I only recall speaking to the man once. It was a windy day (Boulder is known for periodically violent winds which occur when westbound weather systems race headlong across the plains only to crash up against the north-south barrier of the Rocky Mountains. Diverted sideways, these winds cascade down the foothills; sometimes in excess of 100 miles per hour). He was standing outside, looking at the western sky as I passed on my way to my apartment. "Man, don't you hate this wind?" I said. He looked at me and smiled slightly. "No, I find it refreshing."

A few weeks later the police came to my door with questions about the man. Did I know him? Did I know of any relatives he might have? They were tight-lipped about the reason for their inquiry but I eventually learned that the man had fallen to his death while rock climbing in the Flatirons. I like to think that in his last moments he felt the wind and saw the sky and was at peace.

Carla and I now live in Seattle, a place that also experiences periodic windstorms. Today, 40 mile per hour gusts blew up from the south-southwest; causing the massive cedars to sway and hiss; shedding pinecones and snapping limbs. "This is terrible!", Carla exclaimed as we walked briskly across the parking lot from our car to the supermarket. "Oh, I don't know," I replied, turning my face into the rainy wind, "I find it kind of refreshing."