Thinking Clearly?  

Posted by Ben in ,

This is going to be a very long and hopefully somewhat insightful post. It may not be well put-together as it is midnight and I am rather tired. I just simply cannot go to sleep while this is on my mind. So sit down, grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy (Fair Trade Coffee if you can)!

The other night I entered into dialogue with a friend of mine from back home. He said he’d read my blog posts about Jesus, but not about my “liberal stuff.” To my friend, if you are reading this, I want you to know that I am not saying anything negative but rather I feel that when two people dialogue, it is about a topic. That topic has many important aspects and therefore implications and insights. I think sometimes these insights are beneficial to be shared with a larger population who were not a part of the exclusive dialogue.

For starters, the main topic of this blog comes from my friend’s characterization of me as liberal, which I am ok with as far as he and I go. However, I struggle with these types of base labels. Sometimes they are fitting, but many times they are not and here is why; they only speak of where that person is, not what they have come from and been through in their life.

It all started with his referring my support of Obama and he mentioned Obama’s pastor Rev. Wright and his comments. I mentioned that there are a little more to these comments than the terrible nature in which a listener at home hears them and they come from somewhere most of us are unfamiliar with. First to address the question of where these types of ideas of Wright’s come from. I think we need to look no further than Mike Huckabee’s answer when he says:

“It’s easy for us who are white to look back and say ‘that’s a terrible statement.’ But I grew up in a very segregated south and I think that you have to cut some slack…to people who grew up being called names, being told ‘you have to sit on the balcony when you go to the movie, you have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant, you have to sit in a different waiting room at the doctor’s office, here’s where you have to sit on the bus.’ And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and a little resentment and you have to just be able to say ‘I probably would to, in fact I might even have a bigger chip on my shoulder.”

We have to realize that people are not blank slates. They come at life being shaped by the environment they’ve seen and been around. Also, I am not condoning any of his base statements, but is there some truth to the fact that there are problems with a system when African Americans are still the poorest ethnic group in the country and a nation that sows so much violence has reaped violence? I am not saying that America deserved 9-11, NO ONE, under ANY circumstance would deserve such a thing. What I am saying is that when you sow violence throughout your history, eventually someone will strike you back with violence, and it is usually those who don’t deserve it who get punished (9/11, Our atomic bombs, also Pearl Harbor).

Now, in regards to his “God Damn America!” comments. Another friend of mine quickly called him a traitor and bigot and said Obama had been influenced by him. This friend also told me that I wasn’t thinking things through clearly by saying that there is more to the issue and asked if I wanted to be executed with him for treason. Obviously these kinds of feelings come from a place of passion, which in itself is admirable, but left to itself is dangerous. We cannot claim passion as reason, even passionate patriotism. I have no problem with patriotism, though anyone who knows me knows I am not the biggest patriot myself. It is not that I do not appreciate America and my freedom and religious freedom, I do, very much so. It is just that I believe the IDEA of America is much greater than the reality of America. In that, I don’t desert America, I am just patriotic in the sense that I want America to become what it should be, can be, and promises to be to the rest of the world. America is an amazing idea and I’d like to see that idea become more of a reality.

That being said, is calling Wright a traitor “thinking things through clearly?” Don’t get me wrong, no one should ever say “God Damn America.” That’s terrible and should never be said and is also a foolish way of articulating something which causes people to write you off immediately. However, what would be “thinking through things clearly?” Rev. Wright brings up an interesting point. As Christians we are meant to think through things Theologically, not Patriotically. That being said, “God Bless America” is a statement less about America and more about God.

So, what do we say about God when we say “God Bless America?” The problem with this statement first of all is that it is not inherently Christian. It was coined by religious people with great intentions. However, it was marketed by people without the same great intentions and those of us in the church ate it up, for good reason. Why should we not hope that God would bless us as people? However, I am not sure that God deals particularly with Nations anymore, the only one he ever really did was Israel. Instead his covenant is extended to all people who believe upon His Son. Also, Patriotism is great, it’s fine, I have no problem with it. However, our first allegiance is to God and that must take priority over our American Patriotism.

What do we say as American Christians when we say “God Bless America?” What does a Christian in Iraq here? Iraqi Christians are not particularly in favor of our war. What does a 60 – 70 year old African American Christian such as Wright hear when we say it? African Americans of that age and every generation before it could have lived in many better places in the world than America. Whether we like it or not, as Huckabee stated, it’s true. Does God bless a country that treats an entire race the way we treated Blacks for 200 years? I would have to say NO. Also, what does this statement say to a Japanese Christian who has family that was directly affected by the Atomic Bombings on Nagasaki or Hiroshima? Really? God Bless America?

This statement is not as pretty and friendly as we think it is. In fact, it actually says a lot of horrible things to other people around the world and even within our own borders. We must realize that in saying God Bless America we align our God with all the actions that others see our country take throughout history. So let us “think things through clearly” as Christians, but let us redefine what it means to think clearly. Let’s actually think clearly through GOD and what we say about HIM.

All that being said, I believe Rev. Wright’s comments were said poorly and often in immature fashion. The best way to describe his comments from the pulpit would be “foolish.” But let’s think things through clearly when we talk about God and not let other things get in the way of that, be it support of a candidate or patriotism or from the pulpit. That means understanding what we say when we say "God Bless America" as well as thinking clearly before saying foolish things from the pulpit. We are called to be Christians before we are called to be Americans.

What Is A Christian?  

Posted by Ben in , ,

Over the past year i have spent incredible amounts of time surfing the blogosphere and commenting on other peoples' blogs. It all started with my Theology professor's mention of the Emerging Church movement (conversation). I wanted to know what this was, meanwhile my roomate was reading "Everything Must Change" by Brian McLaren who seems to be the Guru of this conversation. I began doing a bunch of research as well as online checking around. I found a few sites which i really urge other Christians to avoid and there are many reasons why, but this is an email i wrote the director of one of the websites. He used a quote from someone which said that a Christian is defined by what one believes, not by who they love. I couldn't possibly disagree with any statement more. We are a Christian because we LOVE God and have a relationship with Him through his Son Jesus Christ, and we come to an understanding of how this is and what He has done either before or after our encounter and relationship with Him, but the relationship is what makes us Christian. So i wrote this email. Weigh in on this with your thoughts.


So, i have done some more reading on your articles. I came across this quote in your article on Mark Ostreicher.

As Mike Gendron of Proclaiming the Gospel Ministry has correctly said, “A Christian is defined by what he believes and not by who he loves.”

You use Scripture to support your claims throughout your articles, though as i study the Scriptures as a Ministry major, i find that a lot of your Scripture uses are done without any proper exegesis. So, here is my Scripture to show you how INCORRECT Mr. Gendron's statement (and your endorsement of it) really is.

John 13:35, ESV - "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (the words of Jesus)

Matthew 24:35, ESV - "For i was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me." (I am pretty sure that this was Jesus telling people how they will inherit the Kingdom and it sure sounds like he required us to LOVE people, it does not sound like he's going to ask us for our good ole biblical theology)

Matthew 22:37 - 39, ESV - And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commanment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself."

1Cor 13:2, ESV And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

1Cor 13:13, ESV So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Matthew 7:22-23, ESV On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' It seems to me, sir, that the only two pictures Jesus gives of "that day" (judgement), speak of whom we loved, not what we believed or knew.

You must understand that a statement like this one lays theological rocks for what one might say about other people, and greatly calls into question most of what you say. Again I ask you, even if these men are heretics, can we not learn how to love like He loved from them? Can we not be humble and learn a fuller picture of the Kingdom? Again, let me say this again... You are a Christian because of whom you love, that is ALL. Now if you love Jesus Christ, If you love YHWH, then you will accept His Holy SPirit, and you will believe what is true and right, at least the basics. So one more time, We are Christians because we love HIM and because we love OTHERS, this is in fact the greatest commandment from the mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Shalom,


Obama Compassion Forum  

Posted by Ben in

So i was up kinda late last night and instead of going to bed like i should have, i flipped on the tube. As i was surfing through channnels to find the final score of the Red Sox/Yankees game i came across Barack Obama's smiling face talking into the camera. I've followed Barack Obama ever since he anounced he was running for the presidency, after all they talk about him a lot here in Illinois (I'm originally from Virginia). As if him talking weren't enough for me to keep the channel, i read the word "Compassion" on the bottom of my screen. I just had to see what was up.

For those of you who do not know, the Compassion forum was a faith based question and answer session for the candidates at Messiah College. I missed Hillary Clinton.

Rodriguez: The terms pro-choice and pro-life, do they encapsulate that reality in our 21st Century setting and can we find common ground?

OBAMA: I absolutely think we can find common ground. And it requires a couple of things. Number one, it requires us to acknowledge that there is a moral dimension to abortion, which I think that all too often those of us who are pro-choice have not talked about or tried to tamp down. I think that's a mistake because I think all of us understand that it is a wrenching choice for anybody to think about.

The second thing, once we acknowledge that, is to recognize that people of good will can exist on both sides. That nobody wishes to be placed in a circumstance where they are even confronted with the choice of abortion. How we determine what's right at that moment, I think, people of good will can differ.

And if we can acknowledge that much, then we can certainly agree on the fact that we should be doing everything we can to avoid unwanted pregnancies that might even lead somebody to consider having an abortion.

And we've actually made progress over the last several years in reducing teen pregnancies, for example. And what I have consistently talked about is to take a comprehensive approach where we focus on abstinence, where we are teaching the sacredness of sexuality to our children.

But we also recognize the importance of good medical care for women, that we're also recognizing the importance of age-appropriate education to reduce risks. I do believe that contraception has to be part of that education process."

Let me start off by saying I am a HUGE supporter of Barack Obama and plan on voting for him in the coming elections November 4th should his name appear on that ballot. I also disagree with him very much so on his stance on abortion, simply because he is pro-choice. I simply cannot put on the glasses of pro-choice and view anything through that lens and things still make sense. I am staunchly pro-life. What i do like however is Barack Obama's position on being serious about getting to the root of the problem that leads to so many abortions: poverty and lack of education. I feel like he did a good job of really bringing the best out of this issue and saying that the worst part is not the decision, but the fact that a girl has to make that decision.

Barack Obama was very vocal about his faith as a professing Christian (United Church of Christ). This was a huge step for our political system, a far left-wing Democrat professing Christian Faith and admitting over and over that his belief system greatly affects the way he approaches politics. I was impressed through and through by Obama's comments during this forum. He has some positions I disagree with, but this is to be expected.

Obama showed me more and more that he is the right guy for the job. He is genuinely interested in solving the problems of poverty (humbly committed to a goal of ending poverty in the next 10 years when asked by Jim Wallis if he would), education, and all the underlying issues that lead to a lot of our problems like abortion. I really appreciate his humility when talking about foreign policy and the need to be a nation that listens and leads by example, not by military might. He even congratulated Bush on his PEPFAR program in fighting AIDS and said it was "one of the success stories of this administration" leading the hearer to believe he might give Bush more credit than he has in the past. This was also encouraging.

This is a guy Christians can get behind, I know he's pro-choice and that SUCKS, but honestly, a pro-life candidate won't make any progress on this issue with the current Congress as Democratic dominated as it is.

Change: Yes We Can

First Blog  

Posted by Ben

So i've never done this before, Kind of interested in it and have been posting on other people's blogs for a while now. Anyways, I'm going to post a lot about theology, a lot about the Emerging Church conversation and people within it such as Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, and Doug Pagitt. I will also talk a lot about reactions to these people and also talk about other church leaders of today such as Mark Driscoll, Dan Kimball, Tony Campolo, Rob Bell, Scot McKnight, and N.T. Wright. I will talk a lot about my own theology and the problems in the world as they relate to poverty, HIV/AIDS, global climate change, and many other huge issues. As my description states, I am very interested in a whole life faith and also very politically minded. I also tend to enjoy things like coffee, music, and art.