Thursday, July 16, 2015

My best attempt at a response for a friend:

I posted this on facebook,

Maybe I'm out of whack. I just watched an internet famous pastor hold up a machine gun and say "my first amendment right is protected by my second amendment right". How does that line up with the bible? The whole argument was based on defending the scripture too. I can't imagine Jesus holding up an ar-47 and insinuating he'd shoot someone who tried to take away his rights. It was such a mentally dissonant moment.
Several people that I love responded with support for my opinion and questions.  I'm so thankful we live in a time where honest conversation can occur about topics that could be incredibly divisive.  I'm going to try and respond to one of my friends questions about two specific Bible verses.  

He wrote, "I submit these two verses for your interpretation and understanding Psalms 144: 1 And also Luke 22:36. Also it's not a machine gun. Its a semi automatic rifle. The laws of God trump the laws of man."  Another friend helped me appreciate I got the gun wrong as well.  My lack of knowledge about guns aside, I'll dive into the scripture and see if I can't share what I think is going on in these passages. There's a theme that runs between the two verses my friend mentioned, violence or aggression is ok with God.  I may have over-simplified it, but I'm trying to couch why he brought them up in context of the total conversation.

Let's start with Psalm 144:1, "Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle".  I think this verse pretty much means what it says. David was a man of war, but hadn't really been born for it.  The little shepherd boy is acknowledging that his victories and ability to defeat great foes comes from God. This idea continues throughout with him saying, "Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners", in verse 11.  David is keenly aware of his weakness and dependence upon God.  So, it certainly seems like a verse that is in support of David's warring ways, however I do want to add a little more to the picture.

I don't think David was sinning per se by being a man of War. His kingdom was a Theocracy and God had demanded, essentially, genocides.  David did as God had directly told him in a government that has not existed in quite a long time and certainly doesn't exist now.  Israel's unique situation and barbaric relationship with other people groups was how God "spoke".  The violence was akin to the judgement of God.  However, while David can't be faulted for doing what God asked, He did represent a phase of God's relationship with the world that ended with him.

David wasn't allowed to build the Temple because he was a man of war and the blood on his hands (1 Chronicles 22:8). Solomon was representative of a new phase, one that would move Israel closer to its original intent, to be a blessing (Genesis 12:2).  Solomon ushered in a time of peace and I believe that through progressive revelation we see that this is ultimately God's goal.  Furthermore, I believe that after Solomon the kings are basically dumpster fires who bring judgement upon the people barring a few standouts specifically because they move away from the word of God and his goals.  So, while I wouldn't punish David for his actions, I don't think that we should look to him as a perfect corollary for how we should view violence and force as New Testament Christians.

Which is ok because we have what seems like a New Testament passage where Jesus is telling his followers to take up swords for the coming days of violence.  I saved this for last because I think it is a case of proof texting and in context actually doesn't support the taking up of arms against foes as much as it proves the grand plan of God through Jesus Christ.  Here is the text and then I'll dig into it, "He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one." Here we have long haired, hippy Jesus telling his inner circle to get ready to fight because they are in the crosshairs, right? I think the first problem is that this verse is taken out of context and really needs to be read with the surrounding passage.  This is often the easiest way to understand context and avoid misinterpretation, but I'm not saying I'm above reading my own agenda into scripture, for which I repent as best I can.

A quick overview of the chapter reads like this, Judas betrays Jesus, Jesus proves he knows what's up and calls out Judas, Jesus describes the power dynamics of his kingdom, Jesus knows Peter will deny him three times, Jesus claims he will fulfill prophecy (this is where our verse lives), Jesus prays with an awareness of his coming torment, Jesus is arrested, Peter denies him, and Jesus is put on trial and abused.  So, I see occurrences of Jesus' divine foreknowledge with Peter, Judas and His own prophetic fulfillment, as well as in the Garden.  In fact, by the end of the chapter, each bit of foreknowledge is playing out. Jesus is participating in and orchestrating events for his ultimate goal as the perfect sacrifice.  

Let's focus in on our text now, 
And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”
Without a doubt Jesus says, buy a sword if you don't have one. Immediately he explains why they should buy a sword, for the sake of fulfilling prophecy. Which prophecy? That would by Isaiah 53:12, "Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors."  Specifically, Jesus points to being numbered among the transgressors.  I'll come back to this in a second.  But, at the end of the passage the ever dull disciples find two swords and Jesus says they have enough swords.  How is that possible unless the purpose of the swords is not for self defense in a hostile area, but a very specific part of fulfilling the previous prophecy?

Jesus needs to be numbered among transgressors.  So, we'll jump ahead to his arrest where a certain disciple takes a swing and cuts off a guys ear (no doubt he missed while trying to sever his head).  Not for nothing, Jesus rebukes this use of force and in Matthew reminds his followers that He could call down armies of angels if self preservation was his goal (Matt. 26:52-54).  All that to say, Jesus is now officially counted among the transgressors.  Hanging out with guys who tried to kill the High Priests assistant firmly plants you among the transgressors in the eyes of the Sanhedrin.

Jesus, with his unique foreknowledge sets in motion the path that will lead to his own death.  He assures his own death by telling his boys to gather up some swords.  Interestingly enough though, Jesus repairs the ear.  I think that says something about what He was about.  Also, it removes the little bit of evidence they might have to convict him of a crime in the kangaroo court that follows.  Jesus remained perfect and without crime while managing to be counted among the transgressors.

I think that's the heart of that passage.  It's not about gathering up weapons, it's about Jesus doing what he has to to make sure that He ends up on the cross.  He rebukes the use of swords as soon as they are no longer necessary for his end game.  If you look at the post-pentecost examples of these same disciples, they don't make much of their use of swords.  I'm not even arguing that they might not have owned a sword, but they were not men of war.  They did not meet out violence when confronted with hardship. Take for example Stephen also, who did not attempt his own rescue through force.

One other note is that Jesus is giving a command to the disciples that doesn't really carry over to our era.  It was fulfilled and we don't need to look to that verse as prescriptive of how we should live or act.  In other words, it's not a call for Christians to sell their clothing to purchase weapons.  That's a misrepresentation of the text.

Let me attempt to apply this all to the modern day conversation and sum up.  I still feel like the internet pastor was being irresponsible with his podium in creating a license for believers to take up arms against individuals who would try to deny them free speech in some way.  I also believe that it is fairly unbiblical to hold up a weapon and insinuate that he himself will use it to defend his 1st amendment right.  I don't believe we can take the example of David as a man of war and superimpose it over our current situation and I don't believe that Jesus' command in Luke 22 is at all relevant to the conversation.  This is also not a debate on gun or sword ownership, but really a question of is force appropriate when a Christian is under duress.

I hope I was able to communicate with a sense of brotherhood and love.  I could talk more about defending oneself and protecting the lives of others, but that is for another time because this post has swollen well past the point of being interesting.  Thank you for asking the questions.  I hope this helps.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I am going apolotical

I didn't watch the 2015 State of the Union address.  I didn't have to.  I have a mixed bag of friends on social media and they did more than enough to tell me how to feel about it.  My friends on the right felt that every word out of President Obama's mouth was venomous lies or at best inane drool from the mouth of an incompetent.  My friends on the left would ballyhoo and cheer on every minor inflection because President Obama was not George W. Bush.

I don't know how people do it.  I don't know how they align themselves with a political party.  I don't understand how they have such indomitable assurance that they are on the right side.  Surely the other half can't be all wrong, can they?

So, I'm bowing out.  I'm sure that you, Republican, that your presumptions about how American should look and work are correct.  I'm also sure that you, Democrat, your presumptions are also completely correct.  I mean you both have statistics to back it up!  Statistics never lie.

You take the country and lead it in whatever direction you think is best, because no matter who is in power, avarice, gluttony, and selfishness are the real ones calling the shots.  I know them.  They are straight shooters.  I may not be able to trust them, but I can trust that they'll never change.

I don't expect anyone to join me.  Heck, I'll probably still vote for a president.  I'll still take moral stances.  But, I don't care much anymore about politics.  I'm actively going to avoid anything that has to do with politics until it seems like people are less interested in partisanship and profit.  My name is Chris, and I support this message.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Where the mating habits of birds dictate the racial views of southerners:

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red, brown, yellow
Black and white
They are precious in His sight.
Until they start to date
outside their ethnicity

Years ago a young lady came up to me with tears in her eyes because she thought it was a horrible sin to date her boyfriend who happened to have dark brown skin.  Where did she get this idea from?  Her family.  This was in Georgia.

Wednesday, I had a young lady come up to me and ask if it was wrong for black people and white people to marry and have babies.  Surprise!  People are racist in Alabama.  Where was she getting this kind of information?  From her family.

Her grandfather, a pastor, felt like he needed to share this tidbit of anti-biblical knuckle-headery, "Red birds and blue birds fly together but you never see them having babies together."  That's a paraphrase.  But, the basic idea is that black people and white people are different colors and should have the good sense that birds have to stick to their own.

Let's look at some other bird mating habits we can copy!  

  • Ducks are notoriously the most horrible gang rapists in existence.  At least they don't go outside their kind!
  • Sometimes lady sparrows will trick sugar daddies into getting it on with them only to have their actual mate show up and poke at her nethers until that sperm pops out and then he mates with her.  This is all so two dude birds will help take care of the babies.  No big as long as it's the same color of bird.
  • Lots and lots of birds exhibit homosexual tendencies and engage in same sex coupling.  How does that work to the pastor?  Cool if they are similarly complected?
Obviously, you can't draw any kind of parallel for how we should act in comparison to how birds, fish, or beasts of the land do act.  But, hey, at least be consistent racist pastor.  If we should trust the intuition of these birds we should probably follow it to the logical conclusion.  Stick to your own color and everything else is fair game.  Sarcasm.  Sarcasm born from a serious frustration.

How are people still thinking and speaking these asinine ideas into the minds of children.  Why do I still have to explain that if God made us equal then he made us equal . . . like for reals?  Why do I have to walk on egg shells when someone is filling a kids head with objective fallacy?  Why can't I be ok with telling that young girl that her grandfather is a racist fool?  

I can't help but think about the recent situation in Ferguson.  Maybe this is the mindset that exists out there.  Sure, they'd probably tell you everyone is equal.  But, if someone can't date your daughter because of the the complexion of his skin rather than the composition of his character then you do not believe that person is equal to you.  I think the systemic racism is real and it's being ignored.  I think people are making decision based on these views that they don't believe are really racist.  

Ferguson and all the other ridiculous situations that shouldn't exist will continue to persist until the people who are supposed to represent the moral fiber begin to stand up for the person they believe defined those morals.  When the fools begin to speak we have to share with them God's truth.  It has to happen on Sunday's with the person in the pew next to you.  It has to happen when you sit around and watch the big game.  It has to happen when you go to work and come back home.

If we don't go to war for the hearts and minds of the people then we will have a war of any entirely different kind.  And, let's stop taking our cues from birds.  It's ignorant.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

You'll understand when you have kids:

I had that nugget dropped on me recently.  Essentially, what it means to me; a grown man in his 30's who has made his living caring for young people, who has wept over the hurts and pains of teenagers, who would love to have biological children of his own, is that I can't understand what it means to love someone.  I mean, sure, I can love someone, but I can't LOVE someone.

There is a distinction.  Biological and adoptee parents like to believe that there is a special level of care that can only occur once a child exists as some kind of deduction on the yearly taxes.  Look, you're not going to catch me saying that I love every student in my ministry like a single, devoted, loving parent cares for their kid.  I get it, your heart is walking around outside of your body.  I know.

Don't tell me I can't stir up an appropriate emotional response because I have not yet been blessed with a child of my own.  I do get, "it".  I can understand any and every motivation you have or will ever have.  If we're just being honest, having a kid doesn't unlock a special parental love.  Just ask the kids in my youth group.  You know, the ones without their birth parents.

I want to retort back, "You'll understand some day when you can't have a kid."  Unfortunately, that is impossible because they have a kid . . . so logic wins again.  But, I would want to tell them that they'll get it when they look at a world that abuses, takes advantage of, and forgets about children when all you want is one of your own.  I would gently remind him or her that you can't love something like I do because you don't long like I do.  Maybe it's a different type, but it's real and it sucks sometimes.

Don't tell me I can't understand the decisions you are making because you love your kid in some special way that isn't available to me.  Don't tell me that whatever biological or mental or spiritual thing that has kept me from having a kid excludes me from reaching into the deepest reaches of my soul to find the same kind of love you have.  Just don't do it.  I know good from bad and I want the best for every single student that comes into my ministry.  My heart walks around with hundreds of kids.  Trust me, most of them don't even see it before they crush it underfoot.

You might not ever understand how I feel.  You are limited based on the fact that you have children.  You probably can't experience what I experience.  If you did struggle, I wonder if you've forgotten what it was like?  I hope someday, if you're lucky, you'll get a glimpse of the depths of how I care.  I'm just not sure you will, and that's unfortunate, but maybe someday.

There's nothing redemptive here.  If it sounds ill-natured, it probably is.  It's just frustrating to have something like that used against me.  End Rant.  It's not intended for anyone in particular because plenty of people say it to me.  The most recent was just the tipping point.  I won't be letting anyone tell me I can't understand something because I don't have kids anymore.  It's a cop out.  I'm over it.