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Libya, A Young Woman, and Hope for a Healing Future…

So here we are, the US embassy in Libya attacked and an ambassador killed on yet another 9/11…and already, many on Facebook are decrying Obama’s “apology” to the Islamic world…get real, people!!!

Obama is not apologizing for anything, he is simply recognizing the simple fact that this is not an issue of Islam vs. Christianity (which is what so many so-called Christians wish it to be)…it is an issue of the myth of redemptive violence being practiced by two warrior elements, those on “their side” vs. those on “our side”.

The myth of redemptive violence gets humanity onto a swift train…destination NOWHERE.

This morning at school, I had a brief yet meaningful conversation with a young Muslim woman. Without discussing the events in Libya, we talked about many other things…the fact that I am an ordained minister (even though I am a teacher now) who wishes to understand more of her faith, the beauty of her faith, the opportunity for Malak Fakhoury, a former student at the school to come home and tell so many of her wonderful and at times challenging experiences she is currently having in Palestine and how her time there could be used to promote healing and understanding between the three great Abrahamic faiths…Islam, Christianity, and Judaism…all valuable, all human, all worthy, regardless of the order I list them in.

I couldn’t stop the bloodshed in Libya, I most likely can not stop the bloody response that may come from the United States government, but today…I could just sit, smile, converse with a young woman…a young woman who is part of the future of this world.

May it be a healing future indeed…insha’Allah.


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Book Review: “Subversive Kingdom”

 

Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation, by Ed Stetzer is an excellent book if you want to challenge yourself to a more spiritually authentic life within the subdivision you are probably living in. It takes as it’s message the challenge of living out the call of Jesus in meaningful ways and through memorably “subversive” deeds in order to demonstrate the radical love of Christ in our world today. He does this by centering on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, a text that has been written on by many people in numerous ways.

I’m certain this book is worth reading, but possibly (at least in my mind, spirit, and journey) not for the reasons Stetzer might like. While he is challenging the reader to take the words of Christ seriously in applying them to life circumstances, I find many of his examples to be essentially bourgeois, lacking in the true radicality of what Christ taught that day on the mountain. The entire book speaks to me like much of the church teaching I hear in my hometown of Ocala, Florida…trite, polite, and quintessentially non-radical instruction in discipleship.

OK, now that I have somewhat demolished your desire to read Stetzer’s book, let me say this:

1. Overall, I admire Ed Stetzer and have considered much of his thought for years.

2. Speaking for myself, I know that I (and perhaps we) have much to develop when it comes to simple day-to-day discipleship in my life.

3. We ought not to forgot the “lesser” practices of discipleship in our effort to develop the “greater” ones…as the Buddhists say, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

&

4. NONE OF US, not I, not you, and not Ed Stetzer “have arrived” yet.

 

I guess what I’m trying to get at is this: The type of discipleship Stetzer is trying to describe comes across to me as not worthy of the title of the book. It is hardly “subversive”. It is hardly radical, or revolutionary, or conspiratorial, or anything else along those lines.

It simply seems to me that Ed Stetzer (and some other folks like him) are simply riding the coat tails of more radical Christian authors who truly are revolutionizing the concept and practice of discipleship.

That is, unless you consider a comfortable life in the ‘burbs to be the most radical display of discipleship possible.

Don’t worry, Ed, you’ll find a receptive audience for your book…because a comfortable life in the ‘burbs is about the most radical form of discipleship most Christians in America today can handle…or desire.

This book is as middle-class and bourgeois as the all-white cover it comes in.

I believe Jesus challenges us to much more than this.

And I very well may be the biggest hypocrite of all.

 

 


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Book Review: “A Twist of Faith”

A Twist of Faith, by John Donnelly, is part adventure tale, part spiritual biography, and part journalism all rolled into one book set in the mission fields of Malawi. It tells the story of David Nixon and the ministry he founded, The NOAH Project. Donnelly traces the history of this ministry with all its pitfalls and successes from its founding in 2002 through the present time. It is a book worth reading and a book that ought to provoke some thought within today’s North American churches, most especially those churches that consider themselves to be “missional”.

I do not want to ruin the story for you by telling you details from the book, but suffice it say, it is a book that should capture your interest while still keeping a somewhat “objective” sheen to the subject covered within its pages. This book will not only inspire you through its drama, but will also sustain you with important facts and figures concerning Western ministry in Africa, most especially with regard to orphans and other “at risk’ children throughout the continent.

I would, however, like to identify several points of consideration that occurred to me during my reading of this book. While these three issues are directly related to missions work in Africa and other places in the world, I believe they can also be applied to missions within the United States of America, even to missional work right within our own communities…

1.   Solving problems by simply “dumping” money into them may seem like a logical solution in the minds of many people, but it does not generally solve the problems at hand and very well may create more problems beyond those that inspired the effort to begin with. Donnelly points this out in his coverage of both Madonna’s efforts at improving the lives of orphans in Malawi, as well as those of Oprah Winfrey in South Africa. While he recognizes their efforts, he duly points out how the same money used for limited lavish education for a few could more effectively be used for the many. He also points out how relief and mission agencies who normally operate on limited budgets can be virtually destroyed by an unexpected enormous influx of funds.

2.   Donnelly also brings to light and seriously questions the general attitude of privileged Westerners who seem to take on the attitude of “OK, we are Americans and we have arrived and we know what’s best so now we’re gonna fix the situation.” How many times have we seen this attitude harm and destroy otherwise worthwhile pursuits that may have improved the lives of so many people? Whether internationally or locally, whether currently or in the past (the Mississippi Voting Rights Summer of 1964 comes to mind), well-meaning folks from privileged backgrounds need to humble themselves and learn the ways of those they seek to help. This takes time and it is time well spent. Unfortunately, the American propensity to think “we have things all figured out” seems to take control more often than not, leading to complications rather than solutions in our efforts at ministry, peace, and justice in this world.

3.   The final consideration relates to how item #2 can cause us to disempower, rather than empower, the very people we wish to help. For example, how often do well-meaning people of means and security try to help poor people, yet never allow poor people into the actual decision-making process? This is a really important thing to consider. I have a friend in ministry who does much work with the homeless citizens in his community. Because he has been homeless, he understands the needs of the homeless, yet he still does not like to work on task forces related to homelessness unless actual homeless people are part of the decision-making process. He understands that unless the people being helped are not central to the actual process, they are essentially dehumanized by the very people who think they are honoring those people’s basic humanity.

Anyways, these are just a few things that I considered from my reading of this book. I’m sure that as you read this book, you will also glean some important insights and considerations from it.

So I guess what I am trying to say is that I recommend this book for your perusal and wish you thoughtfulness as you read it. You will be blessed by its presence in your life and on your bookshelf.

Be blessed.

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