The believer's cross is no longer any and every kind of suffering, sickness, or tension, the bearing of which is demanded. The believer's cross must be, like his Lord's, the price of his social nonconformity. It is not, like sickness or catastrophe, an inexplicable, unpredictable suffering; it is the end of the path freely chosen after counting the cost. It is not, like Luther's or Thomas Muntzer's or Zinzendorf's or Kierkegaard's cross, an inward wrestling of the sensitive soul with self and sin; it is the social reality of representing in an unwilling world the Order to come.
You can download Prof Barney Pityana's opening Keynote on Discipleship Active Citizenship which was delivered on 2 June 2015 at the Winter School of the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University from this link [mp3 file, 50MB]
The Winter School is hosted by Ekklesia and the Beyers Naude Center for Public Theology in the first week of June each year. This year's theme is 'Changing the world? An invitation to faithful discipleship and responsible citizineship'.
I apologize for the poor sound quality of the recording. I recorded it using my cellphone and so there is some ambient and room noise in the recording. However, it is well worth the inconvenience to hear Prof Pityana's lecture.
I was deeply struck by a few comments that Prof Pityana made. Among them was the observation that the three most prominent public persons in SA at present (President Jacob Zuma, Chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and the leader of the official opposition, DA leader Musi Miamani) are all ordained pastors of independent Christian Churches. Prof Pityana discusses this phenomenon and asks some questions of the type of Christianity that is represented by these persons, and also how this reflects on us a nation.
I'd love to hear your comments, thoughts and feedback!
I have been watching the rise in power of Rev Dr Vukile Mehana - the Chaplain General of the African National Congress (ANC) with some interest in recent years.
It would seem that he holds powerful positions in three of the most significant sectors of South Africa society - party politics, religion and big business (see the reference to his interests in a media company considered to threaten media freedom in this article, and some broader information on some of his business interests in this Business Week article.)
Consider this in the light of a recent World Council of Churches document on the the 'Politicization of religion'.
Dr Mathews George Chunakara, director of the CCIA comments on this phenomenon, “The politicization of religion and use of religion in politics has often added to polarization, social divides and conflicts in traditionally tolerant communities around the globe".
I'd love to hear your perspective! Please post a comment below.
The relationship between the Bible and politics has been somewhat controversial over the centuries. There are those who say that intention of scripture is to direct our spiritual lives, as a result, for example, many South Africans were told not to mess with politics during the apartheid era. Then there are those who understand that faith is a fundamentally political - since our faith addresses every aspect of our lives it has a significant impact on every choice and action that shapes life.
I am currently in Uganda to speak at the African Biblical Leadership Innitiative (ABLI) Forum. It is a wonderful group of people who gathered here! I am meeting many of them for the first time. Others I have known for some years. It is such a blessing to be with these sisters and brothers - we share many common objectives and ideals.
The vision of ABLI is to empower leaders (African and elsewhere) with Biblical truths that will foster integrity and justice in the world. ABLI is working to raise up leaders so that nations will be transformed by God’s truth, love and justice. The ABLI forum meets each year just before the meetings of the African Union and it focuses on sharing and discovering a Biblical approach to Good Governance, Conflict Resolution, and Economic Life.
I have the privilege of representing ‘EXPOSED – Shining a light on corruption’ and the Unashamedly Ethical campaigns at ABLI - this invitation came via our coalition partners Micah Challenge. I have opportunities to speak and conduct a workshop with the leaders of the Bible Societies from across the world. This is a significant opportunity to encourage our sisters and brothers to heed the challenge of Micah 6.8 ‘What does God require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God’.
Among the thoughts that have shaped my input for this wonderful group are these:
Both religion and politics are concerned with how we should organize societies. Yet the tendency for Christians has often been to begin with the politics and work back- wards to find religious rationale for our political beliefs. As a result, most people read the Bible not to challenge our deeply held beliefs, but to affirm the decisions we've already made with our lives.
- Tim Suttle God’s Politics.
As you will see on this blog, I tend to agree with the perrennial view of the Bible, namely that it is critical in shaping our individual and collective lives for justice, peace, mercy and wellbeing (rather than just a source document from which we pluck a few verses to support our individual choices and actions).
Of course such a view is seldom popular, since it does challenge the establishment somewhat. It would seem that much of popular Christianity has a view of Jesus that is something between a personal therapist and a stock broker. I think the loving way of Jesus is far more revolutionary and transformative than that!
When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist.
- Dom Helder Camara
I found this quote from NT Wright quite helpful:
The chief political concern of the Scriptures is for God's wise and loving ordering of his world to be operative through humans who will share his priorities, especially his concern for the poor, the weak and the vulnerable. This concern was embodied by Jesus in his inauguration of 'God's kingdom' through his public career and especially his self-giving death, which together set the pattern for a radically redefined notion of power.
— N.T. Wright, New Testament Scholar at University of St. Andrews
I believe that the central political question is the management of public power in order that there should be an economically viable life for all members of the community. Thus justice is front and center and some texts, especially in Deuteronomy, are for the distribution of wealth in order that all may be viable. Obviously such justice is marked by mercy, compassion and generosity. The purpose is to create a genuine neighborhood for all the neighbors.
— Walter Brueggemann, Old Testament Scholar, Columbia Theological Seminary
And of course no post would be complete without quoting something from Stanley Hauerwas!
The chief political concern of the Bible is to worship God truly.
— Stanley Hauerwas, Theologian and ethicist at Duke Divinity School
I agree with this last quote wholeheartedly - the chief political concern of the Bible is to declare and celebrate the worth of God in every aspect of creation. We do so by establishing systems that express God's ways, God's eternal shalom in our economic, political and social policies, as well as in the Church's work of mission and evangelism.
Please could you pray for my family, Megan, Courtney and Liam? I have had a lot of travel in the last few weeks. Please ask the Lord to protect and bless them, to keep them healthy and to continue to provide for all our needs. Please could you also pray for our EXPOSED, Micah Challenge and Unashamedly Ethical teams in South Africa and elsewhere in the world? Please pray that the Lord would give them great love and boldness to stand for His standards of righteousness and justice in the Church, Business and Government. Frequently such a stance comes at great personal cost. Please also pray for me as I travel and have chances to speak and to meet with sisters and brothers. Please pray that God gives me wisdom, humility, conviction, passion and most of all His love for this world and the people and systems He loves and wants to transform. Please pray that I serve our sisters and brothers well at ABLI, and here in Uganda.
Thank you so much for your partnership in the work of God’s Kingdom!
Dr Frank Chikane speaking at the Ekklesia Stellenbosch University Winter school - a reminder to live justly
However, this freedom is in danger of succumbing to a new form of tyranny. Tyrants are smart. They prey upon the desperate and the idealistic. Without the 'free' even knowing it they find their 'freedom' replaced with new forms of oppression and abuse.
Southern Africa has gone through this cycle more than once. Perhaps the most vivid example is to be found in the once 'freedom fighter' Robert Mugabe and the abuses that he has inflicted upon the people of Zimbabwe. I was born in the beautiful country. However, I have been a citizen of South Africa for some time now. Sadly, the liberators of this new home, many of whom received my vote, and my energy before and after the end of apartheid are turning out to be self obsessed tyrants in the making.
Perhaps we, you and I, need reminding that freedom is not the end. Rather it is just the beginning of what we desire (and need). Freedom is the moment where we pass from one kind of labour into another, from working for liberation to working for reconstruction and restoration.
The following quote from Victor Frankl was particularly inspiring in this regard:
Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. Victor Frankl
I'd love to hear your thoughts on South Africa (and North Africa) and freedom and responsibility!
How would you feel if you discovered that you had voted for someone, or something, that you don't agree with? How is that possible?
Well, it is not as far fetched as you may imagine. This week I taught a class on the neurological processes of choice - how the brain makes decisions is quite predictable (and can even be 'gamed'). Please see this earlier post as an example.
The brain follows certain processes in making decions, and once those processes can be understood and engaged it is quite plausible that one could bypass some of the more subtle rational faculties of human decision making in order to get persons to act or react in a certain manner. Fear is one common trigger to alter sensible behavior. If you can get a person to become suspicious, or even fearful, of a certain group of persons, or a possible situation, you can get them to act in absolutely irrational ways. Take for example the atrocities that are committed by entirely sensible people during wartime situations.
Of course not every aspect of engaging the neurological functions of the brain in decision making is unethical or bad. There are some instances in which one would want to help persons to understand how their brains work in order to help them to make different choices - for example cognitive therapies for addictions help to change destructive behavior in some persons.
Then there is the simple reality that important messages deserve to be shared with effectiveness and clarity so that persons can make informed and reasonable decisions - the gist of the course that I taught earlier this week was to help the students at Media Village to understand how to frame their messages for the best possible outcome.
Well, all of this leads to this incredible story that my friend Aaron Marhsall sent through to me today. It got me thinking whether it is ethical to employ subtle neuromarketting techniques in a democratic process?
What do you think? Is this a form of coercion, rigging the elections?
There are a multitude of reasons the Republicans regained control of Congress in Tuesday’s elections--unemployment, voter discontent, tea party-ism. But the one influential factor you aren't likely to hear about is the use of political neuromarketing during the campaign.
During the 2008 presidential election, neuromarketers went public with research showing how political ads can drive emotional triggers in our unconscious brains. By reading the responses taken from people linked to fMRI or EEG machines, neuromarketers and their clients aim to optimize stimuli (political messages) and reaction in consumers’ brains and drive their (voting) decisions.
But with public trust in elected officials at an all-time low, politicians today won't talk about anything that even vaguely associates them with Orwellian "mind manipulation." But are they doing it? While most everyone agrees that neuromarketing was used in the 2010 midterm elections, none of the politicians we spoke to admitted to using the techniques in their own campaigns.
Darryl Howard, a consultant to two Republican winners on November 2, says he crafted neuromarketing-based messages for TV, direct mail and speeches for Senate, Congressional and Gubernatorial clients in 2010. “We measure everything including the storyline, level of the language, images, music. Using critical point analysis, we identify specifics that may drive voters away or attract them," he says. The techniques are non-invasive, and include measuring muscle, skin, and pupil response. "We prefer our methods over some EEG/fMRI methods because our approach is quicker and more importantly can be done in the script phase, saving production time and money and tells us the level of honesty of the ad.”
Fred Davis is a big believer in neuromarketing as well. He is a luminary in the GOP advertising world whose client list includes George W. Bush and John McCain. Davis, who advised Carly Fiorina's senate bid, says, "We've had a pretty decent success rate in campaigns, and it's all based on that principle of neuromarketing."
Oregon Republican State Senator Brian Boquist also admits to having employed political neuromarketing in his campaigns. “I don’t know how it works, all I know is that it works,” says the former Army commander who received a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq. Boquist was also careful to say the technology is part of a broader mix of campaign tactics, and has a way to go before it becomes effective.
Republicans appear to be using neuromarketing more than Democrats, if this midterm is any indication. They are appealing to the emotion of voters' “Red Brain” triggers. "No Democratic candidate I know of has used them [neuromarketing tactics], nor has any major Democratic organization appeared to express any interest in them,” says Drew Westen, author of The Political Brain and consultant to major U.S. national Democratic Party candidates.
Then again, 17 of 19 neuromarketing and political consultants contacted for this story stated they did not engage in the practice--including Neurofocus, which bills itself as the world leader in the emerging field and whose Chief Innovation Officer, Steven Genco, did political neuromarketing work previously at Lucid Systems.
"The real risk is that politicians will not want us to know that they are using influencing tools," says Patrick Renvoise, a neuromarketing consultant. "The one with the most knowledge wins and this probably explains why a lot of people are reluctant to talk about neuromarketing, especially with the word politician in the same sentence.”
Read the rest of this article here...
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the ethics of neuromarketting in general, and its use in political (and even religious) messaging in particular?
Luk 24:6 οὐκ ἔστιν ὧδε, ἀλλὰ ἠγέρθη. μνήσθητε ὡς ἐλάλησεν ὑμῖν ἔτι ὢν ἐν τῇ Γαλιλαίᾳ
May the risen Christ bless you with new life today! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
On Easter Sunday South Africa heard that a right wing white supremicist, Eugene Tereblanche, leader of the AWB was murdered on his farm. It would seem that he had a dispute with two of his workers who are accused of the murder. What makes this situation to sensational is the the infamous leader of the ANC youth league, Julius Maleme has been popularizing a song with the lyrics 'kill the boer' (shoot the farmer). Of course the media is connecting these two things. Many in the ANC have supported Mr Malema, defending his use of this song.
As a Zimbabwean who saw how white citizens where systematically abused in that nation I grow a little concerned when I hear such things.
But, I know there is hope for our nation! We need to learn the grace of forgiveness, the power of restraint, and the hope that comes from being one in Christ.
May this Easter bring peace to all across the world who live with conflict and fear.
The follow prayer, prepared by my friend Rev Etienne Piek, was released under various networks in South Africa today. You can find the source here.
Please distribute it as widely as you can.
In a time of trouble it is extremely important that the Church takes a stand for the Kingdom of God first and foremost. The Kingdom of God operates on the basis of the Word of God as the absolute truth. Therefore the principles of the Bible determine our behavior and attitude towards any issue we are facing. The Word of God is very clear concerning conflict situations:
1. Love your enemies, bless those who curse you and pray for those who abuse you (Luke 6:27,28). Speak the blessing of salvation in Christ to those who perpetrate evil.
2. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21; Rom 12:17). Think about what is proper, noble, aiming to be above reproach in the sight of everyone.
3. Beloved, never avenge yourselves but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Rom 12:19; Matt 5:39; Rom 2:1). Pray that the minds of people will not be filled with vengeance or hatred but to petition God for His righteousness and justice to be established.
4. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath, anger and clamour (loud quarrelling) and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph 4:30-32; Matt 6:12-15; Matt 18:21-35; Luk 23:34). As Jesus demonstrated forgiveness on the cross, so we as believers must also follow His example in forgiving those who wrong us. Let us forgive and so end the cycle of violence and retribution.
5. Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder … (Matt 15:19; Luk 6:45). Actively fill your heart with God’s word and meditate on His instructions for us at this time. Resist evil thoughts and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your heart and mind, the mind of Christ.
6. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12). Pray and resist the evil forces behind racism, bloodshed, violence, rebellion, revenge and the spirit of witchcraft.
This is a unique opportunity for us as believers to unite to change the history of South Africa. God has not lost control, nor is He unaware of what is happening in our nation at this time. It is a time for each believer to allow the Holy Spirit to search our hearts, to let go of selfish interests and to beseech the Lord Jesus Christ to come to our aid. This is not the time to judge or to accuse, but to plead for God’s plans and purposes to be established in our nation. Let each of us empty ourselves, repent and willfully turn from all hatred, bitterness, judgment, racism or fear, and allow the Holy Spirit to use us as instruments of reconciliation and healing in this torn nation. Pray for the peace of God that surpasses all understanding to guard the hearts and minds of all South Africans (Phil 4:7), and pray for the God of peace to crush the evil one under our feet (Rom 16:20).
Join us in prayer for revival in the church. The church is still God’s answer (Eph 3:10) – but a church that lives in the power of the Holy Spirit, stands on the authority of the Word, putting Jesus Christ in the centre, praying for a lost and broken world, taking care of the poor and needy.
If you want more information on how to participate in a 40 days prayer initiative for revival in the church visit firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Mobilise prayer groups in all possible places – your home, place of work, schools, factories, business, etc.
Respond to God’s call to the nations and join in a day of repentance and prayer on Pentecost Sunday, 23 May 2010. For details please contact firstname.lastname@example.org - or visit the website www.globaldayofprayer.com http://www.globaldayofprayer.com
Endorsed by: Jericho Walls International Prayer Network, Global Day of Prayer, NIRSA, Shalom Trust/MMC2010, Turn2God, Unashamedly Ethical, HeartCry and New Heart.
This evening I received a text message from my friend and former Bishop, Mvume Dandala, as I'm sure many others did. In the text message he indicated that he would be proposing a vote of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma in parliament tomorrow.
I would request your prayers for Mvume and for our nation. What is certain is that South Africa is at a particularly low moral ebb at the moment. I couldn't believe it when I read in News 24 this week that Mr Zuma had spoken out in defence of the ANC Youth League President, Julius Malema.
Mr Zuma has been under the spotlight numerous times for various moral and ethical issues relating to sex scandals (which include rape, as well as fathering children outside of marriage, not to mention the fact that he has multiple wives), corruption, and helping known criminals. I worry that where there is smoke there may be fire. How is it possible that such a person could be elected as the President of South Africa?
Mr Zuma, the ANC and our nation are a cause of frequent prayer.
So, I would ask you, regardless of your political affiliation, please pray that South Africa will have the moral courage to seek a higher calibre of leadership, not only for the sake of our current dispensation, but also for the sake of future dispensations.
Here are some words that may guide you as you pray:
God, we praise You for Your goodness to our nation, South Africa, giving us blessings far beyond what we deserve.
We know that amidst the blessings there are challenges.
We ask that a profound moral and spiritual renewal will come upon our nation so that our children may grow up in safety, so that our mothers may live without fear, so that our fathers may be men of integrity and that our leaders may be true servants of those whom they are leading.
In times like these, help us to turn to You in repentance and faith.
Set our feet on the path of Your righteousness and peace.
We pray today that our nation's leaders may rise up in greatness of spirit to set the example to our children, that our nation's leaders, and all who gather in the dignified Houses of Parliament and our courts of Justice may become the moral bastion of all that we wish to see happen on our streets, in our homes, in our neighbourhoods, and in our nation.
Give Parliament and our courts the wisdom to know what is right, and the courage to do it.
Lord, may our great House of Parliament conduct its affairs with malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are doing; to bind up this nation's wounds and to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among all who live in this land.
Clothe our leaders with righteousness; Let Your people sing with joy.
Give peace, O Lord, as a precious gift to the far corners of our land; May safety and security spread across our country like a warm blanket May poverty be forever banished from our shores May our children live till a ripe old age
O God we implore you to show us Your mercy, and to grant us your salvation.
Richard, who has the blog memoirs of an ex-Christian (which is a sensitive, well reasoned, and challenging read!) posed this question:
Here's my response to his question... A little scattered, I confess, but it should give some idea of where I stand:
I have often considered this same point myself... I am of the mind that whilst all religion does have some moral effect [on society] it does not, in and of itself, bring about positive change.
Hitler, after all, used the church in Germany, as did the South African apartheid government here in SA (as you point out). Then of course there are more strongly moral orientations in faiths such as Islam with Islamic law. I would certainly not consider some of the human rights abuses perpetrated in the name of Sharia law, or Christian fundamentalism, as [being] for the good of society, of even within the will of God.
To my mind, though, whilst I don't think that religion should get mixed up with 'party politics', any religious ideal is fundamentally political in that it seeks to address the manner in which people relate to one another, structure their lives, and interact to form community.
I had the good fortune of being a white Christian minister who lived and ministered in a black South African township before 1994. So much of what I did could be considered 'political' in nature - in fact many of the people in the small (wealthy) white Church that I also served in the area left because they thought I was confusing politics with religion. However, if you read my blog you will find that I still attempt to be as critical and prophetic of the new regime as I was of the old... It is not the party that I am wishing to address, but rather, that I have fundamental religious conviction that the world should be structured in such a manner that no one has too much, while no one has too little. That all persons, regardless of race, gender, age, economic, or health status, sexual orientation, or faith conviction, should have the joy of living life in peace, harmony and blessing.
Personally, I believe that these are the values of the Gospel of Christ's Kingdom - these are radical values that scare many who only live for individual gain, and hedonistic fulfillment. Heck, the even scare me!
So, would I vote for a Christian political party - no, I would not. Then again, I also wouldn't vote for a Muslim, Hindu, or any other overtly religious party.
Sadly though, I have double standards. I have voted, many times now, for the ANC who consider themselves to be engaged in 'secular spirituality' (i.e., finding and creating transcendent meaning by secular means...) Do a search for Cedric Mason, himself a Methodist Minister, who heads up the ANC's religious desk.
Thanks for another incredibly thought provoking post!
As a minister of a denomination that was very prophetic (both in word and deed) during South Africa's apartheid era I have found it alarming to gauge the general lack of prophetic witness in Southern African Methodist Churches at the moment. (For a more detailed, although admittedly somewhat hagiographic, account of some of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa's prophetic stances please read the following paper that I presented at the Oxford Institute).
My friend, Wessel Bentley attempted to have a resolution passed at our recent Methodist Annual Conference that noted concern and alarm about a couple of things:
1. Concerns about the minister of health's (Manto Tshabalala Msimang) general conduct and the questions surrounding her management of public resources.
2. Grave concerns about how the South African health services are dealing with the pandemic of HIV / AIDS - it needs to be remembered that we have the highest HIV infection rate in the world!
Instead, we ended up with a vague, indirect, empty resolution that will not change or impact significantly on health care for people who are dying of a disease that we can stem! Sadly, it was members of our own Church, some who used to be pastors in Churhces, some who were leaders of the apartheid struggle, who now drive Mercedes, BMW's and occupy high positions in the new ANC government, some who win lucrative tenders for Government contracts, who were the main proponents of protecting the government, and seeking to cover over and silence the Church's call for radical action.
I remember some years ago (1992) as a young minister being 'hauled over the coals' by my Bishop at the time, Rev Peter Storey, for participating in a student march against the Apartheid government. The protest action was quite controversial, our in service training convener (Rev Paul Verryn) took us to the march in Potchefstroom on the University campus. Peter was concerned that many of us were being co-opted, uncritically, into movements that did not necessarily have the good of the people at heart. Paul of course was trying to help uncritical young white fundamentalists like me to realise that preaching the Gospel had radical consequences for the way in which society is structured! You cannot preach love, equity, justice and acceptance, without doing something to try and bring it about! However, there were some real issues among the organizers of the protest, and so Bishop Peter admonished us with these words (or something close to them) - "When the struggle is won, and the majority take power, and the injustice continues, then we shall see who the true prophets are - those who fall silent, or are co-opted, will be shown for who they truly are. True prophets will speak, not because of where they are, but because of who God is - a true prophet always speaks, and lives, the truth of God regardless of who is in power".
Let us never forget, this struggle is about someone who is lying in a bed, in a shack, in a rural area of our country, not receiving primary health care because of inadequate high level, and local, management! As the media, leading up to the Conference, reported - the health department has huge unspent budgets for equipment, staff and medicines, yet our clinics and hospitals are empty, our doctors and nurses are fleeing South Africa in search of better pay and better working conditions, and antiretrovirals are not reaching the poorest of the poor! Thankfully, the minister of health can get herself bumped to the top of the donor list, and disregard the fact that he liver damage was caused by Alcohol abuse (or so it is alleged, I cannot be certain).
Wessel, and Comrade Manto Matsepe, also sent a resolution to Conference through DEWCOM noting with concern how many ordained Methodist ministers are now serving in senior positions, and in the official structures, of the ruling party in South Africa... It was toned down... In the past we did not allow Methodist clergy to hold political office, now we "request them to consider their motives for doing so, and consider whether they are compromising the Church's prophetic witness". Again, this is my paraphrasing of the resolution. Of course we need Christians to be active in politics, in fact we need Christians to hold political office, but I am not convinced that we need Christian ministers to do so - who must remain objective, free to speak and challenge, yet also open to affirm and assist. The office of a pastor, the power of the pulpit, and the station of a servant in society, need to remain very carefully located in a 'God space' - political, but not aligned to party politics.
Yet, sadly, the Church is silent. And, let me say, it is not our leaders who are silent, it is the Church! I am amused by how we tend to sit on both sides of the fence when we speak of 'the church'. When it suits us we emphasize the role, importance, and power of the term that Rick Warren and Bill Hybels (Willowcreek) have made so popular - the local Church! Yet, when it comes to actually doing something about it we turn our eyes to the leaders of the Church, expecting them to be the one's who set the pace for mission, witness, and community transformation. I remember doing a SYNOD Bible study a few years back in which I challenged the SYNOD to realize that 'structures' don't do mission! People, filled with the Spirit of God, convicted by the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, living in areas of need and concern do mission!
Something I have had to repent of is my tendency to want to blame others - I find it easy, as many others do, to lament how others don't do the things that I should be doing.
On this blog, more than once, I have made critical comments about the silence of the United Methodist Church about one of its members gross misconduct and un-Christian behavior, George W Bush (yes, he is a Methodist)! However, I need to repent that I have been slow to criticise my own silence of our State President (who has indicated that he is a Christian) when he removes people who ask tough questions, sidesteps issues of national concern (like the accusations of criminal misconduct against the National Police commissioner Mr Selebi).
I am silent. Forgive me Lord! I am sure you are much more vocal, much more prophetic. I am sure that even now you are setting the captives free, healing the sick, proclaiming good news and jubilee for the impoverished, and not allowing injustice to go unnoticed. Give me the courage to be part of your work in the world, your mission, your uncompromising love.
A fantastic new book is out - I have read some reviews, and already ordered my copy. As with all Mclaren's works I am sure that it will ruffle some feathers: Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope.
For a little taste of Mclaren's prophetic perspective (a separate commentary from that in the book) you can read the article below from the soujourners website 'God and politics'.
I remember about eight years ago when then presidential candidate George W. Bush repeatedly claimed that he would restore honor to the presidency, soiled as it had been by our previous president's infamous affair. I remember hoping he would succeed. But a new kind of shame has come to the office and to our nation as reports surface about our government's secret authorization of torture. We all share in this shame.
Conservative columnist and blogger Andrew Sullivan expresses what many of us feel. He reminds his readers:
... my first response to reports of abuse and torture at Gitmo was to accuse the accusers of exaggeration or deliberate deception ... It struck me as a no-brainer that this stuff was being invented by the far left or was part of al Qaeda propaganda. After all, they train captives to lie about this stuff. Bottom line: I trusted this president in a time of war to obey the rule of law that we were and are defending.
Sadly, he laments, that trust was betrayed:
And then I was forced to confront the evidence. He betrayed all of us. He lied. He authorized torture in secret, and then, when busted after Abu Ghraib, blamed it on low-level grunts. This was not a mistake. It was a betrayal.
The word "betrayal," of course, recalls Moveon.org's Sept. 26 ad. Many considered the pun childish at best, politically unsavvy at least, or worse. There was a rush to condemn anyone who failed to condemn the ad. But Sullivan's use of the word strikes me as anything but childish.
Our nation's reputation, not to mention that of the presidency, has been dishonored by this betrayal of trust. Honorable people - conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat - need to follow Andrew Sullivan's example, coming together to express our grief and outrage about the political hypocrisy and betrayal to which we have been subjected by people we elected.
This is challenging stuff! I am also currently reading the book of my friend Joerg Rieger "Christ and empire". This is a much more scholarly, carefully researched, and hard hitting prophetic theology! Joerg, who is from Southern Methodist University, will be visiting us early next year. He is coming to do some sabbatical work at the University of Kwazulu Natal (that has the exceptional Theology and Development program), and he will take some time to visit John Wesley College whilst here.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.