26 February 2007

An Open Letter and Confession to My Fellow Ecclesia

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We are the called out. Christ commands that we show our faith in love. Love for God and love for others. Paul told us not to be of this world. Time after time, the Word dictates that we who are in God, and that only through the grace of his blood, be different. It is time that we live this out.

I must first confess my own short comings. All of the sins listed below our my own and for committing them, I sincerely apologize. It is out of my love for you, my brothers and sisters in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, that I warn you of these.

First, and the root of all, is apathy. It is in our own sinful nature to care only for ourselves. The thinking goes, "If it does not impact my life, it does not concern me in the least." But in the words of the martyr Martin Luther King, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Christ did not and will not stand for injustice. He comes to "preach good news to the poor" and "to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the opressed." Christ protected the adultress, cleared the temple, and forgave those who killed him. To be like Christ, we must fight our own self interest and our own apathy and cange the world.

Second, and very closely related, is greed. I do not need that new shirt or that new CD. It is worth food for fifteen days in Africa or another trinket for me. So instead of providing the basics for others, I cushion my own existence. This extends, though, beyond our affluent lifestyles. It goes on to the everyday spending of everyone. Businesses export jobs to take advantage of lower wages. They overcharge and overpay to maximize on profit. We have a responsibility to support humans worldwide. It is time for us to support Fair Trade and fight against poverty. It is time for us to go out and in the name of God help the poor, in the US and the world. Likewise, the planet belongs to the human race. Respect the creation of God, for he called it good. Support environmentally friendly companies. Pick up trash. Recycle.

We shold set ourselves apart by loving others. We are all sinners, we have all fallen short of the glory of God. Show our equality. Fight prejudice. We can start with our own. The term "gay" has become synonymous with "stupid". While I believe homosexuality is wrong, there is no reason to discriminate agaisnt or degrade those who are, in fact, homosexual, or those who are affeminate. Fred Phelps misrepresents the Lord and accuses God of hatred. We should not follow in his footsteps but instead actively work against him and love all. The crime of genocide is a travesty and it is our job to stand against it. We must follow through on the promise of "Never Again". Nationalism is a plague among the world. We are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of God. I may be from Georgia and I may be an American, but this is nothing more than where I live. As such, we should fight for freedom everywhere, not just at homre or for our "national interests".

Brothers and sisters, we are the children of God through the grace of God. It is time to act like it. It will not be easy. Quite the contrary, it will be very difficult and is only possibly through love, given freely through the death and resurrection of Christ. This is our challenge, our calling, our job.

May the grace and peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you now and forever.

Rock on.

23 February 2007

ICC to Hear Evidence

As reported by the AFP:

The International Criminal Court will hear evidence on whether or not to open an inquiry into the Sudanese genocide. If the judge rules to open the investigation, this will be a very historic case, the first time an investigation is launched into an ongoing conflict. I have not seen anything to indicate that Genocide will be listed among the formal charges, but this is a step in the right direction.

For those who don't know, the ICC is the new embodiement of the International Court of Justice, the legal branch of the UN. In the event that a local government lacks the jurisdiction or ability to hear a case, or refuses to do so, the ICC can step in.

Again, for those who don't know, the US decided to stop referring to the on-going (albeit improving) war in Sudan as genocide.

May the world finally see the tragedy of the Sudanese genocide.

Rock on.

Update as of March 4, 2007: The ICC has ruled that several key Sudanese officials will stand trial. The Sudanese government, however, has refused to turn the suspects over to the court, claiming it will conduct its own investigation into the matter. This, in effect, leaves the court powerless.

20 February 2007

Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, and Lent

Today is Mardi Gras (or in thirty minutes, WAS). It is the end of the season called Carnival (spelling changes from place to place; the meaning is literally "farewell to meat") it is a period of celebration in which all meat and other items given up for Lent are gotten rid of. Normally, this means that you eat a lot of meat before Ash Wednesday to go without for the next fourty days. Todahy, it's celebrated in the US with the familiar scenes of New Orleans, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Fasching, Mardi Gras, or Shrove Tuesday, whatever you want to call it, is meaningless without the season to follow, though.

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent. The tradition of the mark of ashes come from the tradition observed many times in the Old Testament, in which ashes are thrown over one's head. To those who observe Lent, it is a time of penance. Many give up certain things, good and bad. What is not always done, however, is using what was given up and giving it to God. This is God's challenge to us: if you give up the internet or television, give the time from that to God in helping others, meditation, or time in the Word. If you give up spending on things, give the money over to God.

Christ fasted in the wilderness for fourty days and was tempted. Even for God himself, this isn't easy. But if it was easy, it wouldn't be a sacrifice, would it?

Now is a time to give back to God and look forward to the love of the cross on Good Friday and the glory of the empty tomb on Easter.

Rock on.

18 February 2007

A Criticism of Rob Bell, Part Two

Ben Witherington continues his criticisms (though he uses a better term, "wish list") of Rob Bell here.

As previously stated, I am a fan of both authors and the posts have really been stretching my brain.


16 February 2007

A Criticism of Rob Bell

Rob Bell is among my favorite modern (meaning in my lifetime, so the past eighteen years) authors. Ben Witherington is among my favorite bloggers (and since blogging is a modern invention, this means ever). Which is why, when I checked his blog today, I was very pleased to see a post devoted to Rob Bell. Even if it was a criticism.

While I normally ignore criticisms of my favorite authors, college has forced me to think slightly more critically (I blame my philosophy professor). While I still support Bell, having an idea of where his flaws are is always a good thing.


Post Script: I'll be in Gatlinburg, TN for a CCF conference this weekend. If you're lucky, I may post a few pictures of mullets.

15 February 2007

An Open Plea for Darfur

The US Special Envoy to Sudan, Andrew Natsios, has backed off of his claim that the current situation in the Darfur region of Sudan no longer constitutes as genocide. The US has never acted on allegations of genocide.

In 1994, officials were careful to avoid the term to describe the Rwandan crisis, as use of the term requires action. Both President Bush and the State Department have condemned the genocide, but failed to act. Now, while encouraging African nations to contribute peace keepers to the joint United Nation-African Union peacekeeping operation, the US has stepped down.

Please, right your Representatives and Senators and ask for action.

Never Again

13 February 2007

Are God and Darwin Really Arguing?

In response to: God, Darwin clash again in Kansas

Both the Nicene and the Apostles' Creeds affirm God the Father as the Creator. I accept this claim.

But I believe in evolution.

I know quite a few people (and know of quite a few more) who are more than willing to write me off as a Christian for such a statement. But how can this be?

Let's look at Kansas, where once again intelligent desing (ID) and evolution are being discussed as curiculum in public schools.

A little self-history: I took my high school biology class in Georgia, where law prevented the class from discussing evolution as more than series of mutations. As such, the class was unable to discuss Darwin's The Origin of Species and any possibility for analytical thinking was kept out. Since then, Georgia schools are required to use a disclaimer stating that evolution is nothing more than a theory and may contain some flaws. After my sophmore year, I moved to Kansas, where a similar debate has been ongoing for nearly eight years. In 2005, the Board of Education decided that ID had a place in the biology classroom (I know a few parents who were key in arguing for this move). Now, the BoE is shifting back to only teaching evolution.

For those who are unaware, there are a few things that evolution cannot explain. For example, we have yet to find the so-called "missing link" between apes and men. ID claims that these wholes can be filled in by an intelligent creator (most of the time, he's called God). But what scientific (or even philosophical) evidence is there for this? The kalam cosmological argument posists an intelligent designer but merely a statement and not proof. God cannot be proven or disproven (to do so would be to put God under the laws of logic and physics, the very things that He created). The existence of such a designer must be taken purely on faith.

I accept that God is the designer. I also accept that evolution was his method of choice for creation. Do these contradict? Are God and Darwin against eachother? Absolutely not.

Rock on.

08 February 2007

Power Behind the Crucifixion

I can't help but wonder if the powerful images of the Crucifixion of Christ are lost on my generation. Even to modern believers, I think that the Passion isn't as well understood as it was in times past, even up to the 1800s (though I would suspect that the power started to trail off after the fall of the Roman Empire).

Keep this in mind: I am not saying that the Crucifixion is not important. I hold to the belief that Christ suffered, died, was buried, and resurrected as payment for the sins of Man. All I claim is that the power behind the images don't have as much of an effect on my generation (for the sake of argument, let's group anyone below the age of thirty in here).

Christ was humiliated, tortured, and hung on a cross to essentially drown in his own bodily fluids. One of the reasons that this doesn't have much impact on us today is that in what we consider the civilized world, that type of thing doesn't happen. In the US and other western nations, punishment, especially capital punishment, are no longer public events. It used to be that the entire town turned out for hangings, but this is seen as barbaric now (and for good reason). People cannot grasp the idea that Christ was mocked on his way to die. The most recent example of this was Saddam Hussein, and most people claim that he deserved it. In the times of public executions, and in places where this travesty still occurs, the humiliation and suffering of Jesus might have a more tramatic impact. But not anymore.

The second reason that people fail to grasp the power behind crucifixions is that it was torture. Western, civilized societies aren't supposed to do this. We get up in arms about water boarding and the abuses at Abu Grahib and Gitmo (again, for good reason). We as a civilization cannot bring ourselves to imagine the pain of being whipped, beaten, nailed to a tree, and left to die. Modern executions, as horrible as they are, are nothing compared to the ways of old. Lethal injection, electrocution. All seem horrible ways to go, but there are worse ways, and chief among them is crucifixion.

Last, but certainly not least, is our tolerance of violence. Even when executions were public, the idea behind it was not entertainment but enforcement. The message sent was, "Be a good citizen and this won't happen to you." Now violence is fun. First-person shooters, slasher movies, and internet videos have made violence something to be enjoyed and laughed at rather than feared. My neighbors spend most of their free time playing games like Counter Strike and Soldier of Fortune and watching videos of police shootings and plane crashes. Few things are outside of the realm of public pleasure.

While a few things still pop up to scar the minds of westerners (the beheadings of Americans in Iraq, murder of missionaries), most things are considered to be too unrelated to us for us to care. Cases of genocide (Cambodia, Iraq, Rwanda, and the Sudan) are ignored because the populace cannot relate to the victims. If that is the case, how are we expected to relate to the torture and murder of a Middle Eastern rabbi nearly two thousand years ago?

Rock on.

05 February 2007

Life of a Freshman

What can be said about being a feshman at the University of Georgia? I imagine that all 5,000 of us have our own versions of how this year went. What can be said about being a freshman at CCF? Probably a lot. I know that my fellow freshman never cease to amaze me with how talented, inciteful, creative, excited, and caring they can be. During a recent brainstorming session, I was astounded by some of the ideas put forth. We were even trusted with the planning and execution of the CCF Superbowl party.

One of the things that we (the freshman) hear quite often is how great this year's group is. While I cannot objectively compare us to freshman of years past, I can testify that any success that the class of 2010 has had or will ever have is due to our interns (random shout out to Becca to keep her attention), staff (even that funny, short South Affrican that we call Fledge), and those older than us. To any who stumble upon this, thank you for your love and time.