Wednesday, April 30, 2008

commentary on the picture of the church and post

I took that picture when I was in Angola. It was in a city called Kuito. This city was the most hard hit in the Angolan civil war (1975 -2002). This church was one of the scenes of the more horrific massacres during the civil war.

Angola is a beautiful country with a difficult past. If you want to see more pics I can put some more up...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Restorative Justice and really long titles

i was once told that the longer your title the less important you really are... with that being said my title is Program Director for the Restorative Justice Initiative in Fresno County (hmmmmm).

Anyways, restorative justice really is a passion of mine. I believe that our view of justice has been warped and narrowed to a view that defines justice as taking "bad people" and punishing them. When God's justice is about right relationships (yes, accountability and consequences are a part of that but it is not the main focus). People much smarter than me have told me that in Hebrew the term justice comes from the same root word as righteousness. Unfortunatly in English we have to seperate those two words when in reality they should be interchangeable.

God wants to restore us to Him, brother to brother, sister to sister, nation to nation, and on and on...

Monday, April 28, 2008

my christian and national identity

There are lots of things that I am thinking about these days...

I am working on my thesis for my masters degree in conflict resolution. My topic is the role/characteristics of the local church in Nazi Germany and Apartheid era South Africa. I am interested in looking at the characteristics, specifically the rhetoric and theology of the churches that acquiesced to the cultural evils and those that stood against it... Needless to say it can be a rather depressing topic considering there were way more people that simply let the evil happen (or in some cases they led the charge in doing the evil). As I read stuff I will probably write more on it but for now I have one thing I want to talk about....

In regards to the churches that perpetrated the evil in Nazi Germany and Apartheid era South Africa, there are several similarities. I will emphasize one of them...

The local church lost its salt and light. How did that happen... they failed to seperate themselves from their own culture. The glory of Germany became wrapped up in the glory of the church... The glory of the Afrikaners (the historically Dutch people that ruled South Africa and implemented apartheid) became wrapped up in the the glory of the church. Their identity as Germans became the same as Christian.

When someones identity is attacked it grows in significance (think about it... when someone attacks you for something, you want to defend that attribute... like baseball fans... if someone says, "baseball is not a real sport." You feel even more attatched to your identity as a baseball fan and you feel the need to defend yourself). Their identity as Germans and Afrikaners became so important that they began to fit their theology to fit their national goals.

Both groups viewed their nation as having a divine purpose (interestingly, I have read studies that show that every culture, people group, etc. throughout history views their own group as having a divine purpose and being special and set apart). The logic goes... if my nation has a divine purpose, I will do whatever it takes to further that purpose because that is God's purpose. Notice... the national purposes became the "purpose" of God (instead of VICE VERSA!!!).

So what does this mean for us in our context... Now, you are probably thinking... Uh oh... he is going to talk about how evil America is and how we need to hate our country... blah blah blah blah...

No, that is not what I am going to say. To show you where I am coming from let me take a quote from this really cool missionary/lawyer guy named Paul:

"If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more:
5(I)circumcised the eighth day, of the (J)nation of Israel, of the (K)tribe of Benjamin, a (L)Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, (M)a Pharisee;
6as to zeal, (N)a persecutor of the church; as to the (O)righteousness which is in the Law, found (P)blameless.
7But (Q)whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. "
-Phillipians 4b-7
Many times I have read this passage and thought that Paul was simply relativizing his Jewish faith in comparison to Christ. But, those things that he is talking about is his ethnic and national identity also. As Miraslov Volf talks about in his excellent book, "Exclusion and Embrace", we should have one foot in our culture and the other firmly planted in the identity of Jesus Christ.
So, what am I trying to say with all of this... Let us be wary when we assume that my nation's interests are the interests of God... Instead let us build God's Kingdom... lets do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God... and He will bless us for that (he might even bless our nation too...). We need to love our nation enough to hold her to a standard of justice and righteousness.
Tell me what you guys think...