Showing posts from August, 2014

Going all "Old Testament" vs. going all "New Testament"

A certain mega-church pastor once spoke from the pulpit his desire to go "all Old Testament" on some people who disagreed with him. The Old Testament (OT) is associated with an eye for eye, tooth for tooth justice as well as genocidal invasions. It's ostensibly blessed by God, but the teachings of Jesus, that contradict or overrule those approaches to enemies (them, the others, the outsiders) make so much of the Old Testament seem barbaric. And, in fact, it was barbaric. One defense of the barbaric OT is that the evidence of the ancient near east (ANE) shows a place even more barbaric than the Israelite culture. Regardless, there is the theology of love that also coexists with the barbaric. These verses are the ones the later prophets pick up on. Even some of the Apocrypha (the inter-testamental books) picks up on these as well. And it's these verses that Jesus focuses on.

Loving our neighbor is a diamond in the rough Old Testament, but it gets buried in the surround…

empathy and culpability

This week I realized that my capacity for empathy is greatest when those who are hurting are the farthest removed from me. My sense of empathy can be debilitating at times. The murder of Michael Brown in Fergusen, Missouri, among many recent black victims of police violence has bummed me out. But all I've done with my sadness is retweet, write a blog, and pray. The situation in Gaza, same thing, including writing a blog. The Islamist fanatics in northern Iraq, same thing, the blog. I haven't really considered myself an empathetic guy until recently. I think I go through phases, then I harden up. It's very difficult to stay soft hearted, hopeful, and open-handed after a few weeks of evil in the news.

As I processed some of these thoughts with my wife, she reminded me that my empathy can be sparse at times at home. As I rode my bike home today, I wondered how it is possible for me to be so empathetic to those at a distance and not so much to those near. I think it has to do …

murder in Ferguson Mo.

I can't look away from the Twitter updates on Ferguson. I retweet so many non-white voices, especially of those in Ferguson. Racism is a huge issue in this murder of a young man, Michael Brown, by a white police office, Darren Wilson. Racism in America is systemic, institutionalized, generational, justified, and denied by many of those who benefit from it. It's a matter of the heart and society can only react to it, not pre-act.

But the imbalance of power can be ameliorated. As many are pointing out, the militarization of local police forces has changed the relationship with the communities they are supposed to be serving and protecting. Deadly force is a short-sighted "method" of service and protection.

What if police officers were peace officers, and like many departments around the world, were not permitted to carry fire arms? Either they could have a separate team that can be called in for back up, much like England does, or they have to unlock weapons from their…

your enemies

Jesus says many difficult things in his famous Sermon on the Mount, recorded by Matthew in the 5th chapter of his gospel.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Perfection is hard. How do we love enemies who behead children and attempt genocide? How do we love a government that has little regard for "collateral damage"? How do we love neighbors who use their own women and children as shields, hoping for them to be collaterally damaged? C…