The following earnest prayer to God was spoken by Hans Koch and Leonhard Meister before their death, and left for the consolation of all their fellow believers:
O God! behold now from Thy high throne the misery of Thy servants, how the enemy persecutes them because it is their purpose to walk in the narrow way, and how abominably they are scorned. He who learns to know Thee, and holds fast to Thy words, is despised and scorned by them. O God of heaven! we have all sinned before Thee; therefore chastise us in mercy. We beseech Thee, let us enjoy Thy grace, that Thy honor may not be profaned by us before this world, which now seems determined to extinguish Thy Word. We might well have peace with them, if we would not confess Thy holy name, and not believe on Thy Son, that He atoned for us on the cross, bore our sins, and paid our debt. The enemy has no other reason for his daily raging against us, than because we do not fulfill his will, but love Thee, O God, in our hearts, which neither Satan nor his adherents can endure. Therefore they compel us with great distress, and afflict us with much tribulation. Thus, our misdeed, on account of which the enemy fights so hard against us, is, that we place our hope in Thee alone, and in Thy dear Son Christ Jesus, and in the Holy Ghost; therefore we must suffer reproach, because we do not set ourselves against Thee; if we would give ourselves up to idolatry, and practice all manner of wickedness, they would let us live unharmed, in peace and tranquillity. Therefore, O dear Lord, take up arms for us, and judge all those who disregard Thy power and might. If we would deny Thy Word, antichrist would not hate us; yea, if we would believe his false doctrine, follow his error, and walk with the world on the broad road, we would have favor with them; but because we seek to follow Thee, we are hated and forsaken by the world. But though the enemy brings us to torment, it does not happen to us alone, but was also done to Christ our Redeemer; for they afflicted Him first with much reproach and suffering; and thus it was with all that adhered to Him, and believed in His Word. Hence Christ says Himself: “Marvel not, if the world hate you; for it hated me first; they have not received my words; thus shall they also not receive your words. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; and when all these things happen to you, rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven.” Christ comforts us still more through the mouth of His beloved apostles, saying: “If we suffer with him, we shall also rejoice with him, and reign in everlasting joy.” What matters it, if we are ridiculed and scorned here for a little while? since God promises us eternal rest and bliss. O Lord, Thou seest and hearest the derision and contumely, and the suffering with which Thy children are afflicted. Thou also knowest their small and feeble ability; therefore we pray Thee, O God, that Thou wouldst protect Thine own honor, and sanctify Thy name, which is now so fearfully profaned by all those who, here on earth, are of high and low estate. Manifest Thy power, that the enemy may perceive and understand Thy divine strength, and may learn to be ashamed. O Lord God, have compassion upon Thy poor sheep, that are scattered, and have no longer a true shepherd who will henceforth teach them. Send them Thy Holy Spirit, that He may feed and satisfy them with Thy grace, and that they may not hearken to the voice of a stranger, unto the end. O God, in Thy high majesty, graciously hear our petition, and do not forsake us, since we are in great tribulation and conflict. Give us steadfast patience through Christ Thy Son, our Captain, who can vanquish Satan with all his host. To Him be honor, and praise to His holy name. Amen.
This prayer by Koch and Meister, both likely Waldensian, was made before their execution in Augsburg in 1524. There are several elements that grabbed my attention, and I wanted to flesh out some of my thoughts.
The enemy persecutes them because it is their purpose to walk in the narrow way
“The enemy” is both Satan and the state. Not that there are two attacking forces, nor that they are one and the same force. It’s a relationship that Satan has with the state. The state is a man made institution, and follows the pattern of original sin, of the initial fall of man, during which Satan played a role. The state always wants control, submission, and obedience. Always. And those who fail to do one or more of those are enemies of the state, and will be persecuted.
Those who follow “the narrow way” will necessarily be persecuted. The narrow way of Jesus is not bound by the control of man made institutions; by their nature they must never mingle, the former being seeded in God, the latter in sin. While submission implies a recognition on the part of those following the narrow way that the powers that be, i.e. the state, plays a role in the world and has a level of authority “within its sphere of validity”:
Subordination implies recognition of the authority of the state within its sphere of validity, whereas obedience is used to signify the Christian’s readiness to conform their will to that of God. In this sense, no state can require obedience without divinizing itself. The Christian owes obedience to God alone. If there is a conflict between the requirements of the public powers and what is perceived to be the will of God, the Christian obeys God and not human rulers (Acts 4:19; 5:29).”1
I say this carefully: if you are not being persecuted, especially by the powers that be, than you must examine your state of discipleship. If you are not marginalized by your walk on “the narrow way,” there may be some changes that need to be done.
But, persecution can be a tricky idea. Many evangelicals in the US feel persecuted because of their stance against gay/lesbian marriage, or their fight against abortion. Those on the more progressive or “liberal” side feel persecuted and oppressed by the “religious right.” One of the good things pointed out by Candida Moss in her book The Myth of Persecution–though by no means revolutionary or novel–is the idea that any group, especially minority groups, can develop this sense of being persecuted even when that’s not actually what’s happening historically or practically. The more you perpetuate the idea of persecution within your community, the larger the myth becomes. That still doesn’t mean the claim to persecution is valid.
Black people, slave and free, have been persecuted in this country for many centuries. Simply for being born with a darker shade to their skin than those who enslaved and killed them like cattle. In the South, Christian slaveholders emphatically and systematically–and, yes, even creatively–justified, rationalized, and proved their case for slavery as a God blessed or God ordained good. The slaveholders felt persecuted; incredibly persecuted. Were they right? Because they were being persecuted, they must be walking on the narrow path, right?
H-E-Double Hockey Sticks No! Feeling persecuted doesn’t mean one truly is.
In the case of Koch, Meister, the Waldenses, and the subsequent Anabaptist legacy: these people truly were persecuted. They walked “in the narrow way,” holding tightly to Jesus and were hunted, tortured, and killed because of it. If one is not willing to live such a life, is one truly willing to be a disciple of Jesus?
Therefore they compel us with great distress, and afflict us with much tribulation. Thus, our misdeed, on account of which the enemy fights so hard against us, is, that we place our hope in Thee alone, and in Thy dear Son Christ Jesus, and in the Holy Ghost; therefore we must suffer reproach, because we do not set ourselves against Thee; if we would give ourselves up to idolatry, and practice all manner of wickedness, they would let us live unharmed, in peace and tranquillity.
All men and women decide ultimately where they will receive their peace from. The disciple receives their peace from God alone. Doing so sets them at odds with the kingdoms of this world and the powers that be, who, in their passion for control, offer us peace and tranquility in return for our allegiance to them. So they create pledges, and write anthems, to uplift the bound spirit and tighten their grip. With their allegiance, i.e. idolatry, the powers would offer them a gift of peace and tranquility. A lie, but a gift nonetheless.
What matters it, if we are ridiculed and scorned here for a little while? since God promises us eternal rest and bliss.
This is proper eschatology. We must recognize that disciples of Jesus are promised eternal rest and bliss. We are promised the resurrection. Our death here is in and of itself insignificant. What may matter is the manner of our death. Do we die in obedience to Jesus, in allegiance to Jesus? Do we sacrifice ourselves in love for our neighbors and our enemies? Do we put the lives of our persecutors–who are outside the perfection of Jesus, who do not have the promise of the resurrection, so far as we know–ahead of our own?
Have compassion upon Thy poor sheep, that are scattered, and have no longer a true shepherd who will henceforth teach them. Send them Thy Holy Spirit, that He may feed and satisfy them with Thy grace, and that they may not hearken to the voice of a stranger, unto the end.
In their dying hours, they prayed for the Holy Spirit to come and care for the disciples left. So that, even without some solidified leaders, with the Holy Spirit they can be unified, strong, and avoid the evil ones, the deceivers, and persevere. The point of the tortures were to force the Anabaptists to recant, to turn away from their current path and return to the Roman church. In many cases, even a recantation would still result in an execution. These are very real, very strong dangers not only for the people of 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries; those pressures, in way or another, continue to this day all around the globe.
But with the Holy Spirit empowering his disciples and giving us comfort, we will persevere.
1Antonio Gonzalez, God’s Reign & the End of Empires (Convivium Press: Miami, FL, 2012), 241.
While Martin Luther King, Jr. has been celebrated recently amid the memory of the March on Washington and his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, there is still a Martin Luther King, Jr.–the real Martin Luther King, Jr.–that few wish to acknowledge. His speeches and sermons against the war in Vietnam would have him considered an anti-American traitor by today’s conservative standards, and garnered him charges of being a communist and so forth even then.
In his powerful “Beyond Vietnam,” Dr. King admitted the time had come to recognize that “silence is betrayal.” That is when he made one of the most damning, prophetic remarks you’ll likely ever hear or read, and get’s little notice from Christians:
I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.
In my time–right now, in our time–war and violence has been the omnipresent power in the United States. Our President has more blood on his hands than any other Nobel Peace Prize winner ever (or even if you combine all the other Laureates together).
And here we are again, considering war with yet another people. In the Middle East. Again.
I have struggled to figure out just how to encourage people. I know too many Christians who support the war efforts of our country, and I know that imploring them to repent of their support and to call for an end to the killing and, now with Syria, the future massacre that is bound to happen, is just about a lost cause. Still, even they are silent. They talk about Ben Affleck, Miley Cyrus, but say nothing at all about Obama’s wars.
And I can’t help but think that for some of these folks–who tend to be conservative, vote Republican, and enjoy patriotic and nationalistic ceremonies during their worship services Sunday mornings–are not speaking up because they don’t want to sound like they are supporting a President they hate. I honestly can’t help but think about that, yet I will give them the benefit of the doubt.
Why the silence? If you support the war, if you want the US to attack the Syrian government, then speak up? Take a stand. Make your case. Not doing so is betrayal. You’re betraying yourself. You’re betraying the country you pledge your allegiance to.
Just, please, inform yourself first. If the US does enter Syria to overthrow the government, they will be declaring a death sentence for Syrian Christians. Read this over. This also. For the sake of having a stake in the region, for the sake of oil, for the sake of keeping our position as the world’s mighty police force, The US will support the killing of Christians.
Police force? Perhaps maybe the US is like the global neighborhood watchman, who is suspicious of anyone a little darker skinned, chase them down and without cause enter a conflict with them, then claim self defense as they kill them. Nah! Never happens.
This is the reality that I can’t seem to say any other way: the US, backed by many Christians in this country, are supporting the killing of Christians.
Those of us who oppose war–who take seriously the words and example of Jesus, who love our fellow human beings created in the image of God, who vow to deal with conflicts in a manner in which Jesus has subscribed, and staying humble so the Holy Spirit can be in control–must take a stand. We can’t only cease to be silent. We need to be active, in whatever way God makes us able. Even if we can’t physically or practically do things like head to Washington, D.C. and protest, or even go to Syria and be human shields (yes, that is an option we must consider), there are things we can do. And being more vocal about it will let other people know around the country and around the world that they are not alone in their opposition to the violence and evils perpetrated by the US government.
What else can we do? Without relying on our elected representatives to do what we ask–the representative played by Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln cleared up any romantic, idealistic myths that may have existed about what elected officials are asked to do–we can push for influence in that direction. The more we speak out and call on more voices, certain people who are influential are bound to take note and do their part.
We must be vigilant in our congregations. Not all of us Anabaptists belong to an Anabaptist, Mennonite, Brethren related, or other sort of Peace church. Even some of our congregations with ties to peace church traditions don’t act like it. We have to be vocal and active there as well. There will certainly be some push back, but is conformity and stagnation why you join up with the body of believers? Are Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights supposed to be kumbaya sessions and to be comfortable? Is the chance of a negative turn in a relationship more important than obedience to Jesus and compassion for people?
For now, this is a jumbled mass of my thoughts. But, as time continues and as news comes out, I will likely present more of my thoughts. No matter what, though, speak up and make your case. If you support the war effort, make your case. We’re willing to listen. But we will be convinced by Scripture.
Will you do the same?
I am reminded of Joe Pug singing
See Thomas Jefferson
On the eve of Bunker Hill
Writing words to die for
Writing sentences to kill
They’ve come to paint his portrait
So he grabs a chair and sits
As the surgeon orders cotton
For a thousand tourniquets
For God and country
For us and them
Every good idea
Kills at least a thousand men
At least a thousand men
There are so many ways that a person can experience loss. Loss of job or income, loss of dreams, loss of health, loss of property, loss of life, just to name a few that our family has personally gone through. I’d like to discuss how we handled these losses as a family and how our church body helped us to carry the burden of our losses. I would hope that writing this would help add to the dialogue (that I believe SHOULD happen) about helping those around us to survive their losses and begin to thrive once again.
Different types of losses effect each one of us differently. The loss of a pregnancy/child will have similar, yet different effects on the mother, father, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, friends, etc. The same goes for other losses. I can only speak to how specific losses have effected me. I’m sure the same goes for any losses that readers of this post may have gone through themselves. We each have a multitude of life experiences that effect how we experience loss, but there are some common threads that run through how we are able to recover from loss and how we can help others to survive losses as well.
1. Sharing Our Experiences with Each Other
I can’t tell you how many times I have felt comforted, just by knowing that others had walked this road before me and survived. By this, I don’t mean that people said, “I know exactly how you feel,” or anything along those lines. I would never dare say that to anyone. What I am talking about is brothers and sisters in Christ who came along side me and said, “I have experienced something like this and I am here to listen to your experiences, to share your burden, and to talk if you need to talk.” Sometimes it is a comfort to simply know that you are not alone.
2. Others Offering to Help Carry Your Burden for Awhile
So many times, we have had fellow believers walk with us through our losses. Sometimes it is to offer monetary help. Sometimes it is to offer practical household help. Sometimes it is to buy us groceries or bring us a meal or run errands for us. Sometimes it is simply to sit with us as we prepare for the worst and to pray as hard as they can, with and for us. The recent illness I have been going through is a great example of how we can carry others through loss. In this instance we experienced a loss of health, a loss of income, and a loss of a dream/ideal (wanting to pursue natural medicine, but being forced into going through surgery because of the life threatening nature of the illness). We have had folks clean our house, bring us meals, pick up and dump our trash, pay our bills, run our errands, stock up our cupboards, pray with us, remind us to rest, and lend their ears and shoulders for us to share our burdens with them.
3. Being Silent and Knowing When to Speak
I believe this is truly a gift that God gives to those who have suffered losses. I also believe that this is accomplished by being sensitive to the nudging of the Holy Spirit. I also believe it is better to err on the side of being silent, but present than to speak words that can injure. I think this is a great subject for introspection and I am still working on this one myself.
4. Offering Support Beyond Ourselves
This could be in the form of books, blog posts we have read, support groups we have heard of, or connecting folks with friends who have gone through similar struggles. When using this tool, I try to remember how overwhelming it is to be experiencing loss. Most of the time there is not a lot a person can process because of their loss. It is all we can do to draw the next breath. I think it is a very hard place to be when you have a loved one that is experiencing a loss that you yourself have not experienced. The feeling of helplessness is overwhelming. I try to always remember in these instances, “first do no harm.”
I obviously don’t have all the answers, but I do know that these things have helped our family through miscarriage, health issues, deaths of family members, loss of income, and loss of property. We have been loved on by so many different folks, some from our church, some from our daily lives, and even some strangers. Experiencing loss myself has made me desire to be more intuitive towards noticing others who are experiencing loss and to be able to help them to survive their loss and thrive afterwards, as many people have helped us to do.
Be Peace, Kimbrah
This post is part of a MennoNerds Synchro-Blog on the topic of Death, Loss, Pain and Grief, July 14-30, 2013. Check out our page on MennoNerds.com to see all the other posts in this series.
“In the context of the new, sociologically neutral use of the term “sect” introduced in the twentieth century by Weber and Troeltsch, historians friendly to Anabaptism have adopted a view very much like Zwingli’s. Believer’s baptism was primarily significant, they contended, as a means to create a gathered church. It is very doubtful, however, that Reublin, Mantz and Grebel thought of their concern with baptism as the basis for a separate church. Far more plausible is that they aimed at a reform of the sacraments, to be carried through today in Zurich and tomorrow throughout Christendom. Nevertheless, the initiation of adult baptisms, probably performed on January 21, 1525 by Conrad Grebel at the request of George Blaurock, was a dramatic and desperate act of defiance against the established church and government.” (1)
Something to consider. Are we being separate for the sake of being separate? Are we looking to reform the traditions and sacraments of the greater church body? Are we living out in the fringes of Christendom, calling Christians out to join us?
I strongly feel that within our current world and, more locally, my American cultural surroundings, Anabaptists ought to be an intentionally distinct body, but one that seeks interaction with, engagement in, and the reform of the established, traditional, imperial church. If we’re serious about our convictions then we need to live them out as best we can. Otherwise, we simply do not believe them at all.
Do you ever get offended or hurt or angry when someone lumps together Anabaptists with all other evangelicals, or they assume because you’re a Christian you’re just like all the others that are more known for certain things you don’t believe at all? Why are you offended or upset?
Where do I intersect my need for separation from the more traditional, American Christianity–which I believe is deeply rooted in imperialism and only has the resemblance of, and holds onto certain aspects of Christianity that allow it to still market itself as, a religion of Jesus–with the need to call for reform and engage with the powers (of the American church)? How close is too close? How far is too far?
A lot of questions, of course, but the answers more in the living out discipleship, the Nachfolge Christi. If I look at my life, interactions, reading, study, etc., I will see where I am answering the questions well, and where I need to make changes. And if I’m not willing to make the changes, then I’m not willing to be a disciple of Jesus, a follower of the Way, a fellow Anabaptist.
There may come a time, or times, when I will need to make a dramatic and desperate act of defiance against the powers . . . Or, am I doing that now in my walking on The Way and discipleship? And thru these practices, including my examination of those practices, the discipline and humility to change what needs to be changed, and the courage to be a disciple, I will be prepared to be obedient to Jesus, and love others, no matter what goes on.
(1) James Stayer, “The Swiss Brethren: An Exercise in Historical Definition,” Church History, Vol. 47, No. 2 (Jun. 1978), pp.174-195.
I have pretty much always been a rule follower. It’s part of my nature to be a people pleaser, a rule follower, and a peace keeper. I just want every one to be happy. There are times when I have inadvertently trampled someone’s boundaries or hurt someone’s feelings or broken an unspoken rule and it literally crushes my spirit and brings me to tears when I realize what I have done. Embarrassment, sadness, awkwardness, frustration. I hate those feelings!
This is one of the major things that I struggle with in my daily walk with God. I’ve often pondered if this rule following/people pleasing/peacekeeping bent is a natural obedience that was meant to be directed towards God, but was somehow corrupted by the Fall. It would be so much easier if I could direct my natural bent towards God, His Word, and with those in mind, His creation. Alas, it is instead my daily struggle.
And in the midst of my struggle, God has convicted me to live my life in a way that is outside of the norm for the community I live in. He has led me to an Anabaptist understanding of His Word, He has called us to a pacifist way of life, and He has called us to allow Him to control the size of our family. These things are huge! I was raised in a family that served in the military for the last three generations and have attended Evangelical churches for at least that many generations as well. Several members of my family carry concealed weapons permits. A lot of my friends do as well. Most people in our family see us as idealistic dreamers and have no clue how God could possibly be convicting us to live the way we do. Some are not sure if we are really even “saved.”
As a people pleaser, this is painful for me! I want everyone to be happy. I want everyone to understand. As a peacemaker, I want to dialogue about it. I want to hear and be heard. I want everyone to be okay with our choices. I want to be able to live and let live. Here’s where the rule following saves me. God opened my eyes and let me see the better way for me, personally, to live. How can I walk away from that? How can I disobey that? I just can’t. I have to live out His convictions for my life. I have to learn more so that I might serve Him better. I have to allow Him to direct my life and purge my imperfections through trials and troubles. I have to continually turn my face back to Him, bask in His love and warmth, and remember that it is His approval only that I need to seek. This is much easier said than done, for me. This is the journey though, as easy or difficult as it may be.
Be Peace, Kimbrah
I first discovered the awesomeness that is The Indigo Girls when I was in junior high. I can’t remember if it was my twin brother who introduced me to them (most of my favorites were first discovered by my very musically inclined and talented brother) or if it was our church youth group. Ironically, I remember lots of church youth group activities with Indigo Girls as the soundtrack. In a way, it was the music of my youth.
Fast forward about 20 years and The Indigo Girls are still my all time favorite band, hands down. My husband humors me and feeds my love for them with all the newest albums as a surprise for my birthday or Christmas. I think he may even be starting to like them himself. He really has no choice in the matter. Our children are also being steadily indoctrinated to be the next generation of Indigo Girls fans. They are coming along nicely. When I found out that Emily Saliers opened a restaurant called Watershed in Atlanta, I started saving up my mad money for our family trip to Georgia.
The other day I discovered a mix tape that I made back in college of my very favorite songs. As we drove the long drive into town, I serenaded our van full of little people with tunes like “Get Out The Map,” “Power of Two,” “Hammer and a Nail,” and our toddler’s all time favorite, “Ozalene.” He actually cried when the song was over. I had to rewind it and play it again to make him happy. That’s good stuff. Then the song “Virginia Woolf” started playing and it set my mind to thinking.
Some of my very favorite songs by the Indigo Girls were written by Emily Saliers. I admit, I am a complete sucker for a love ballad with a gorgeous, catchy melody. There are times that I feel like I’ve lived part of her life with her, as she pours herself into each song she writes. I admire the voice that she has given to her passions, her ideas, her life. In fact, there are times I envy it and even feel convicted for allowing my voice to have faded, only to be seen randomly in brief Facebook status updates. The song “Virgina Woolf” is sort of an homage to a lady who obviously inspired Emily, herself. I have not read much of Virginia’s works (a mistake I plan to rectify soon, I promise, Emily!), but I can sense the sway they hold over one who’s inner voice compels them to speak out through writing as mine often does.
I am not quite sure what made me give up writing. Sometimes I read the things I wrote in college or when I first got married and started having children and I think, Wow! That girl is brilliant! What happened to her? Sometimes I get great ideas that I want to write about, but by the time I get to a piece of paper they have disappeared into the ether. I have planned out several children’s books in my head, complete with illustrations that I am perfectly capable of drawing and not one of them have ever been put to paper.
I recently had a very close brush with death. My liver decided to get all crazy and I very easily could have died. I am still recovering slowly from that illness as I type. I guess it kind of gave me a wake up call. If I had died, what kind of a legacy would be left to my boys? Would they know what I was passionate about? Would they realize why We have chosen to raise them the way we are? Would they really even know who I am? I keep coming up with a resounding no! I’ve never been one to keep journals very well. I start them, write a few lame and uninteresting things and then forget about them.
And it’s not just my kids that I wonder about. I wonder if anyone I know could ever guess what makes me tick, what gets me out of bed everyday, the things I turn over and over in my mind when I have a minute to ponder something. Am I just the shallow person I portray on social media? That’s honestly not who I want to be remembered as.
So I have entitled this post to the ladies who have been with me since my youth. The two who have made me think outside the box. The two who caused me to look past my prejudices and see beautiful people who are worthy of my time and my love. The two who speak so fervently about social justice. And special thanks to Emily, who in sharing the melody of her soul, encouraged and reminded me to share mine, too. I’m not sure exactly what form it will take yet, but the adventure awaits and I look forward to it with great anticipation.
Be Peace, Kimbrah
We created this poster late last year, and finally got it up. Kind of. The frame isn’t the right size; eventually that’ll be fixed.
Here are some shots.
We put it in the hallway, where it’s the first thing you see when you walk in the front door.
Pretty nice against the wall color.
The duck has become our farm’s logo. Simple. A tribute to our first animals: a batch of four little ducklings back in 2009. One of those ducks, Sassy the white and fawn Indian Runner, is still with us, running the show.
Here’s some detail.
What do you think?
With a lot of trees in their fruiting mode right now, I thought I would show a few of them. This is exactly 6 weeks since the last pictorial update.
Here’s the Asian Pear.
Next up: Pomegranate. I thought this one was dead, but it has really come out strong.
How about the 3 in 1 Pluots? Looking good.
And then we have the Peach tree. Very, very nice.
To see the original post on First Baptist Dallas, click here.
Earlier I went into their pressroom (on the web, not actually to some sort of pressroom they might have there in Dallas; though, with $130 Million spent on it, they probably have a press team) and dug into a PDF they have available regarding the new campus.
Toward the end of the document were these words that finally did me in:
The pedestal, which stands 68-feet high to the top of the cross, will flow water down to the pool and then to the edge, flowing over the text, “…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” The Scripture verse taken from John 4:14 is inscribed on the edge of the reflecting pool with stainless-steel lettering. The water flow, as well as undulating titan jets, can be coordinated and programmed to a custom orchestral score of hymns and spiritual songs.
The point of all of this, to spend the money on all of that stuff, is to appear a certain way so that people will look in their direction. It is a show, a production. Regardless of however much good is going on inside–could be great ministry of the Scriptures, excellent counseling of hurting people, etc.–the money was shelled out for the external appearance, to make people look at them.
Why exactly? Why put on the show? Why make the production? Why take $130 Million and do all of this physical, material stuff? Because they want people to see the church and come inside.
That might sound good to some, except Jesus told his disciples to go to the people. He told them to wash feet. He told them to get to the prisons. He told them to go feed the masses. He told them to go preach the Good News. He did not tell them to fortify themselves, to build for themselves a glorious altar, and then tell the people to come inside. He did not tell the disciples to dance on the streets so that hurting people would be entranced and want to enjoy further entertainment like they would with a prostitute.
The $130 Million spent on this project gets even more daunting when you stop to consider what the church as it was could have done with just percentages of that.
What if they took $1 Million, less than 1% of that funding, and handed that over to whatever homeless outreach program already in their body?
What if they took $1 Million, less than 1% of that funding, and created a mortgage support program to help folks avoid or who are going through foreclosure? Or even to help people renovate their home so they could house some people?
What if they took $1 Million, less than 1% of that funding, and supported single mothers, single mothers-to-be, battered women, poor young couples, to help eliminate abortions in Dallas?
What if they took $1 Million, less than 1% of that funding, and created a meals for poor kids program so kids can get good meals every day of the week even if they don’t go to school that day?
That’s $4,000,000. That left $126,000,000 of the original number.
I have no idea if this church already has programs like that in place. If they did, couldn’t $1,000,000 for each of them help for quite a long time? Maybe bump the foreclosure one up to $10,000,000.
How much more could be done? How many could be served? The church is supposed to know the people of Dallas. They are supposed to know what the people of Dallas need. What they really need.
I can tell you they do not need another well dressed preacher telling them they need to come into this pristine glass building to get fed and fixed otherwise their troubles will continue.
Again, sorry for the continued rant. Instead of focusing simply on what this church chose to do, I turn to myself. Am I siding with Jesus? Am I utilizing my resources and talents to support the Kingdom of God and the mission of Jesus? Am I going into my community and loving them, take care of them, and engaging with them in such a way that Jesus is magnified?
I recently checked my stats for this blog and found there has been a lot of interested lately in a couple posts in particular, not just from the hits on the posts but from the searches also.
The first post is Casting away the woman in adultery, discussing my take that the story of the woman caught in adultery found in John vii.53–viii.11 ought to be removed from the main reading of John’s Gospel, and at most referenced or considered in the footnotes for a historical purpose.
The second post is The NLT is not a scholarly translation? There I discuss a quote from a reformed apologist wherein he questioned the status of the NLT as a scholarly translation of the Scriptures.
While the Casting away post I don’t really need to update, I definitely need to do some updated discussion on Bible Translations in general, but the NLT in particular. There’s still a lot of interest in Bible translation and it’s a good topic to keep working through.
I did clean those posts up real quick. They had some formatting issues. Wrote them while using a different WordPress layout; this layout doesn’t handle certain elements the same way.
There has also been interest in the Carl Bogus discussion, 2nd Amendment stuff, and general Bible Translation issues. I have to update some things and start writing about others. I can’t cover it all or anything like that. But I can point folks to others who have wonderful discussions going on about them.
My review of God’s Reign and the End of Empires by Antonio Gonzalez is ready. Enjoy. Engage. Let me know what you think.
The following rant is brought to you by the following articles:
First: Christianity Today
Second: Church Executive
Just being honest.
I don’t care one tiny bit about where Tim Tebow does and does not speak.
But when I hear about a church spending $130 Million on a building campaign, I get pissed off. That is money stolen from poor and homeless people, from hungry children unable to eat day-to-day, from programs that would have helped people survive. That is money stolen opportunities to stop God knows how many abortions, not by political campaigns but by caring for the impoverished mothers-to-be so desperate that abortion was the only way.
And for what? Leather seats for the large dollar contributors while many families within the community have no furniture at all to sit or sleep on? Even get some designating seating, like box seats for folks who pay a little more? Numerous wide-screen TVs to read the songs lauding how much you love the Jesus who told you to give it all up and take care of the poor, the widows, the sick, and the imprisoned? A large fountain that pumps a massive number of gallons of water when people have no clean water to drink?
No. I don’t know this church or the people there. But I do know the attitude and mentality behind these massive building projects, and they disgust me. First Baptist Dallas is not the only one to have done such a thing. And it won’t be the last. Maybe in 10 or 20 years a church will engage in a project that will make us wonder how any church was able to build anything good with only $130 Million.
And it makes me angry.
“Oh, Eddie. You’re being judgmental.”
Well, yes. But not in the sense of me judging them self righteously or hypocritically (weren’t you just judging me, by the way). When fellow disciples of Jesus are committing acts that defame the very name and teachings of Jesus, Christians absolutely must speak up and call for repentance. If they want to defend their actions, then by all means.
You have to understand that this very mentality behind the audacious building projects is one that says material accumulation and success is a sign of God’s blessing. That was also the sentiment in the south among Christian slaveholders: the more successful they were, the more blessed they had been by God, which then justified continuing the practice of slavery. A vicious, evil circle.
Hopefully, one day I can articulate this better. But right now I’m angry. I’m angry that this is yet another big church spending a ton of money on material possessions and status, taking away incredibly valuable resources from organizations and people desperately needing them, all in the name of Jesus when in reality it spits in his face and drags his name through the dirt. I want to voice my position here more clearly, more calmly, but I just needed to digitally vent for now.
I hate that I don’t have the money to help people who could be helped by money. Money isn’t the answer to everything, and it doesn’t make the world rotate. But, for some, help is needed in a monetary, financial way. I don’t have that at my disposal. So, yes, I get ticked off when Christians who do have coffers of cash use it for building projects like this when there are friends who are being foreclosed on and will be homeless soon. Or when they write over a large check so First Baptist Dallas can have a 150 foot screen when a friend is in desperate need of special medical help that no insurance will take care of. Sure, I can help my friends eat because we have chickens and eggs we can help them with. But, what good is the chicken if they have no stove to cook it one because they couldn’t afford their gas or electric bill?
Again, sorry, I’m upset. If it was $100,000 for a new auditorium or building to take care of kids, whatever. That’s the individual church’s choice based on their needs within their communities. They decide. But this, $130 Million for what First Baptist Dallas is doing? Where exactly is Jesus in all of it?
I see money. I see a show. I see a sham.
I see myself needing to step up, step out, and sacrifice and invest more in my own community, among the people here. I see myself being humbled by the grace and teachings of Jesus to where I can and must shrug this off and live out the truth so that maybe others will see the truth as well, and we can get closer to this never happening again.
Just some semi-random thoughts on the travails of buying local. I love to support our local small businesses. Buying from…
Thought I would present some snapshots of some of the growth going on around here.
Here are some pluot branches, looking very promising. This was an attempt at growing 3 trees in 1 hole. Went very well last year in their first year of growth. I’m expecting a fairly good output in this second year.
Here’s our peach tree in it’s infancy stage. Had four peaches last year. Good outlook in 2013.
This is our apricot tree. We actually got this one a little later than the others, but it had several nice apricots on it.
The nectarines should come out nicely.
The asian pear is a wild one we’ll have to keep an eye on. Last year (same as the others, it’s first year), it had tons of fruit growing. Tons! But they all fell. Good thing. Those branches would never have handled the weight. I think I tasted one of the bigger ones. Definitely a good tree to have.
Now for the nuts. No. Not me. The trees.
First up is the hazelnuts. As long as we can keep the geese away from the upper branches, we’ll be alright.
Hall’s Hardy almonds. These are beauties. We’re in the heart of almond country. I think they’ll be fine.
And here’s another almond variety, called Price.
This is a pecan tree we’ve actually had for a few years, but it’s starting to have some life.
We have some other trees growing, like the apples, pistachios, walnuts and an olive tree, but they aren’t showing as well as these are right now. They need a little more time. But, I’ll be sure to snap some photos of them as they grow.
Just so you don’t get any romantic ideas about farms, let’s be real. Here’s what happens to grapes when the aforementioned geese get to them:
Oh yeah. I’m sure they were tasty.
And, here’s a random shot of a bee trying to enjoy the strawberries.
Oh. I did get a better shot of the goose egg. Here’s a comparison. The egg on the left is an average sized blue Easter Egger contribution.
There you have it.
Just wanted to pass along an update on the farm.
As winter is coming to an end, the weather starts to warm up here in California’s central valley. We haven’t had our last freeze yet, but the temps in general are going to go up. And that means so much.
One of our geese laid an egg. They don’t have a long egg laying period, and ours will only lay up to 40 per goose. We did confirm we do have a gander. So we will only have three laying geese. The egg was massive, and as expected, she found a spot to somewhat bury it, trying to cover it up. Still found it, though.
Our chickens are starting to get in the laying mood. As we move out of the cold weather, more and more eggs are showing up. We are not going to treat our chickens poorly and force them to lay constantly like the big factory farms do. There, after a year of production, the hens are deemed useless. They lived a short, horrible life. We believe in treating God’s creatures with respect and dignity. We treat them well, they’ll treat us well. Even the ones we will process for meat will have lived a quality life, eating quality food.
We will be ordering some more ducks, and we will be receiving turkeys in April. The adventures, baby.
We have an opportunity to possibly pick up a goat who is pregnant. We’ll keep you posted on that front. I will have to figure out a good pen and housing situation, though.
And our trees. The hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, and walnuts all have those beautiful new buds creeping out all over the trees. The fruit trees are starting to show their new year’s life as well. Especially the pluots. This will be such a fun year watching these tees continue to grow. Plus, the chickens will appreciate the extra shade they’ll get.
There is also a lot going on behind the scenes. Not to sound like an Obama campaign poster but there is a lot of hope and change going on. I hope to have a new Schleitheim Farm website up and running which will cover the plans and opportunities. For now I don’t want to say too much and start making promises before I can assure you they will happen.
Stay tuned. More to come.
“Christianity,” he said, “made everything the best of its kind.”
Most folks probably read that and said, “Amen,” right? Sounds like preacher talking. Which is true.
Some who tend to be a little more skeptical may be wondering about that statement. And exactly what does it have to do with the title of this post?
That statement comes to life a bit more when we find out who said it. And when he said it. And why he said it.
A preacher did say that; a preacher by the name of Joseph Wilson, father of late President Woodrow Wilson. (You’re probably tracking with me now.)
Joseph Wilson was a southern, Presbyterian preacher who was also proslavery. And when he said Christianity “made everything the best of its kind,” he very well included the institution of slavery.
For my potential Masters Thesis later next year (I like to get a head start on research papers), I’m studying up on pacifist or nonresistant Christian abolitionist groups not directly related to William Garrison. I am really interested in groups in the south before the Civil War. As a part of these studies I’ve been encountering proslavery Christians and engaging their mentality, message, and practice. I am not calling it a justification of slavery because I am not wholly convinced the Christian slaveholders in the south (at least the majority) would have thought of the connection of Christianity and slavery as something that needed to be justified. Slavery was a part of the American way, and the American way was imbued with Christianity.
“Antebellum evangelicals did not believe in biblical literalism as twenty-first century Americans understand it. The frequency of positive biblical references to slavery definitely bolstered southern confidence, and southern evangelicals had no doubts that the Bible supported their position and that abolitionism had been defeated. But the southern evangelicals expected the Bible to be in perfect harmony with beliefs about contemporary science, history, political freedom, economics, and even current events. Southerners did not simply stamp slavery ‘Bible approved.’ They articulated how slavery fit into the ‘genius of the American system,’ and how slavery was only right as part of that system.” (John Patrick Daly, When Slavery Was Called Freedom)
This sort of attitude reveals a more subtle racism. It’s definitely not as overt as some of our historic friends who said that whites were superior and blacks inferior, if they were people at all. No, I’m not talking about Hitler, but of people like Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln.
Subtle racism is very dangerous. When it hides, when it parades as something more comfortable, it takes control of a society. It tricks people, much like the statement from Joseph Wilson above can trick a reader or listener if they don’t have their eyes and ears open.
As of 2009, blacks (including hispanic blacks) made up less than 14% of the US population. But non-Hispanic blacks alone made up just under 40% of the prison population. (Here’s an excellent PDF for the numbers.)
How is that possible? Are blacks more prone to being criminals? Is there some black gene that causes a predisposition to crime and incarceration?
Be very careful how you answer those questions. That is exactly how powerful and dangerous subtle racism is. Racism is a grave evil from the dawn of humanity, and it does it’s best work when it seeps in as a philosophy, a mentality. Then when it has grabbed hold of enough minds and hearts it steps out of its shell and ravages a society.
Don’t be offended but fools believe slavery in the US ended with the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment. That is incredibly wrong. Slavery lived on for many decades afterwards, just taking on different shapes and forms. You’ll read or hear about de facto slavery. And this was especially the case with incarcerations and the prison system in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But, there are plenty who will argue (myself included) that this subtle, hidden form of slavery and racism lives on today and point right at the prison system as proof positive.
Subtle racism, which I’m certain goes by many names, is a pervasive problem that we Christians have to face and deal with. I know it’s going to keep popping up in my studies, but am hoping to find where these Quaker, Mennonite, and other groups were active, and providing an example of love and hope, and a voice of light in the darkness. I want to see what we can learn and implement within our own communities to help our society, the people in our society, have ears to hear and eyes to see, and to repent of this evil.