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Category: History (page 2 of 4)

I have to do something!

Luke 17:11-19 NET
Now on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten men with leprosy met him. They stood at a distance, raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them he said, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went along, they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He fell with his face to the ground at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. (Now he was a Samaritan.) Then Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to turn back and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to the man, “Get up and go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

I felt prompted to write this post because these thoughts have been weighing greatly on my heart and mind of late. I have found myself struggling to put my finger on what living my life daily as one who follows Jesus and his teachings should look like from an outward glance and also from inward inspection. There have been a few things that started this introspection. One huge one is Life. Daily living, people I interact with, things I read or overhear, products I use, things I see in passing. Life.

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Koch and Meister: An Anabaptist Martyrs Prayer


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.

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Silence is betrayal

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.

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Never Alone #MennoNerdsOnLoss

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 to see all the other posts in this series.

Being separate, but how much?

“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.

Book Review: God’s Reign and the End of Empires

My review of Antonio Gonzalez’s excellent work, God’s Reign and the End of Empires is available now at Englewood Review of Books.

Many, many thanks to Chris Smith at ERB for the opportunity to engage this great text. I hope you take a few moments to look over the review and maybe even read the book yourself.

Looking back at it, I think there are a couple minor points I would adjust, not really change. Essentially I’d want to emphasize a couple of points. And I missed some grammatical goofs. Oops. But, overall, I think my excitement over the text is evident. Here’s the opening to the review.

Not many Americans would list the US among the world’s empires. Why should they? We declared independence from England, went to war to keep that independence, and established a government to avoid a monarchy. We’re a Republic, not an empire.

But that’s a limited understanding of the term empire. An empire is not necessarily just what you read about in the history books on Babylon, Persia, Rome, or China. Empire is more general, having to do with power, control, authority, monopolization of violence, marking out distinct classes of people, and of course, economics. So the term can be applied broadly, especially to large, active, and globally influential governments around the world. We can talk about the American empire, the English empire, Israeli empire; Iraqi,  Brazilian, Australian, European, Asian empire; whatever it may be.

Whether or not those empires are good or do good, are just or act in the interest of justice, is constantly up for discussion. While all earthly empires are man-made and therefore tied to the nature of fallen humanity (sinful), there are times we see them doing good, acting justly.  In the last few decades there has been an upswing in the number of conversations on the relationship of Christianity to Empire or global empires. There are many who want complete separation from the empires of the world, while others see the need for integration and involvement. Antonio Gonzalez’s recent work, God’s Reign and the End of Empires, is a very timely addition to the discussion. The focus of the book is clear:

When trusting in God’s creative activity in history and building up alternative communities from the grassroots, there is no need to submit to the tyranny of empire. Another world is possible and it begins now, wherever people change the nature of their social relationships and liberate themselves from oppression and violence. (17)

Read the rest of the review at ERB. Let me know what you think, either in the comments there or over here.

Subtle Racism is dangerous

“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.

The 2nd Amendment and Gun Rights issue continues

There is a freshman state representative in Texas’s District 93 by the name of Matt Krause. This is a dear Christian brother that I happen to know from back in our undergrad days in Southern California. He finally breached political barriers and began his career in Texas state congress. On his campaign page (which is still where redirects to) he lists several Issues. One of those issues is, lo and behold, the Second Amendment. Here’s how it reads:

2nd AMENDMENT: I believe the right for each individual Texan to keep and bear arms is an inalienable and undeniable right. A well-armed citizenry is a good check and balance against an overzealous government. The 2nd Amendment is the catalyst for a society of freedom and liberty.

For Representative Krause, the Second Amendment is obviously extremely important. Among his first bill filings was H.B. 938, the so-called “Come and Take It” Firearm Protection Bill. But I think we need to look at his position a little more intentionally.

I believe the right for each individual Texan to keep and bear arms is an inalienable and undeniable right.

While that may be a determination of man, is that something you find in Scripture? Is that something Jesus talked about? Did Paul communicate that somewhere? Peter? To call something inalienable and undeniable is to assign it some sort of divine stature. The words of man will pass away, but not the words of God. The only commands or rights that can be universal must come from God the Creator. Is the right to keep and bear arms one of those? We Christians who happen to be American need to keep our focus on Jesus and his Kingdom. Our appeal should always be to the words, teaching, life, death, resurrection, and second coming of the Messiah, the King.

A well-armed citizenry is a good check and balance against an overzealous government.

This is one particular interpretation of the Second Amendment (known in some writings as the Insurrectionist Theory). It wasn’t the case in the late 18th Century, and it’s still not the case today. The point of the Second Amendment was to ensure southern slaveholding states could protect themselves, with an armed militia, against slave insurrections and rebellions. To hold such a view today, particularly for the many Christians in America who do, is to live in a fear opposed to the teachings of Jesus. Is our safety and security in our own hands? Are we the ones who determine when we live, when we die, who God puts in our lives at certain times? But, for the sake of argument, let’s for a minute take the angle that someone was able to present a case from the teachings of Jesus that justified, or even commanded, Christians bearings arms. Aside from the un-Christian paranoia, the idea of the citizenry versus an overzealous government is unrealistic. Perhaps back in the late 1700s it would have been easier for a state militia to defend themselves against an overzealous federal government (though you’d have to consider what the government’s military/militia would have looked like). It would have been muskets and maybe canons (government) against muskets (state citizenry/militia). Today, even if you grant the citizenry a cache of assault weapons, the government will come with armored tanks, fighter planes, attack helicopters, and drones. Exactly what good will the hunting rifles be then? There’s no check and balance there. Further, it assumes the point of owning the weapons is to use them against other humans. What happened to having the guns for hunting? Hunting humans now? In fact they would be other Americans. And these other Americans would be well trained. Not only that, they would be well meaning by some standards. They would love their country and be willing to defend it against those seeking to do it harm.

The 2nd Amendment is the catalyst for a society of freedom and liberty.

That is a tremendous amount of importance placed on the Second Amendment. Guns and weapons are the catalyst for freedom and liberty? Guns? The threat of fatality? Fear? Violence? That’s foundational to freedom and liberty? Not justice, or dissent, or responsibility, or opportunity, or health, or equality. No. Bloodshed. Jesus was clear: “All who take hold of the sword will die by the sword” (Mt. xxvi.52). A society that is built on violence will die by violence. While I disagree with Rep. Krause, his words are not an anomaly among Christians in America. Sadly enough. But who will respond? Who will enter the discussion? Who will present a positive case for Christians bearing arms using an exegetical examination of the Scriptures? Or is bearing arms against other fellow humans merely the idea of man?

Revolution and Rebellion: Winners even get to define words

You know the old saying: winners write the history books.

As a (wannabe) historian, I’ve often taken exception to that axiom. Not that I don’t believe it’s true. The evidence is substantial, especially when we expand “winners” to “powers that be.”

In Texas, that saying is quite literal. The Texas Board of Education–a.k.a. the powers that be–has a lot of power and control over what goes into the textbooks they choose to use. Authors and editors are quick to play along because there is big money involved. When Texas decides on a textbook, much of the rest of the country follows suit. Back in 2009/2010, the Board was perilously close to eliminating one Thurgood Marshall from the historical record. You know, the same Thurgood Marshall who argued for the plaintiffs in Brown vs. Board of Education to overturn Plessy vs. Ferguson and tore apart the government’s foundation for racist segregation practices, and who a decade later would become the first black Supreme Court justice.

Oh. Why are we even talking about him? No real history there. No need to have kids waste their time with that sort of stuff; especially black kids.

Last I heard, Thurgood Marshall survived the textbook cuts. He still exists. Brown v. Board of Education still happened.

But, winners and the powers that be don’t limit themselves to just writing textbooks. They know they can push their authority and control a little further by defining the words we use. When George W. Bush was President, there was a major controversy over the US torturing prisoners. The administration redefined torture to justify the acts they committed on their prisoners during the war on terror. (You can read over the approved “interrogation techniques” as laid out by the administration itself and judge for yourself what was and was not torture.) Even today, with President Obama using drones to bomb targets in Pakistan, Yemen, and various other nations, his administration avoids his attacks being labeled as war crimes because they are not official wars. By controlling definitions, the powers that be ensure they will continue to be the winners.

And it’s a funny thing how the words revolution and rebellion are no exception.

. . . even as late as 1775 John Adams denied that the Continental Congress was engaging in rebellion. “[T]he people of this continent have the utmost abhorrence of treason and rebellion,” he said.. . . [The Founding Fathers] associated the word revolution, derived from astronomy, with ordered and prescribed movement and considered themselves engaged in an orderly and legally justified endeavor. (Bogus, The Hidden History of the Second Amendment, 395; article here)

Fascinating. Granted, the two terms are different, though at times wrongly interchanged. A revolution has to do with an overthrow or replacement of a government or political system. A rebellion is more the act of resistance or defiance to a government or ruler. Revolutions tend to be looked at favorably. Rebellions tend to have a negative vibe. Why is that exactly?

In general, the answer is far more simple than some make it out to be. A successful rebellion results in a revolution. If a group of rebels fails to achieve their goal, they are simply rebels. And because the revolution never happend, and there was no change in the powers, the powers brand the rebels treasonous, traitors, and work their magic to silence their dissent. But if the rebels are successful, they become revolutionaries. As the new powers, they decide who the revolutionaries are and who are, or were, the traitors.

If the outmanned, outclassed, and outgunned colonials would have failed against the British, their rebellion against the empire would have been just that: a squelched rebellion of a rabble group of traitors. Instead, because of the victory, we remember what that rabble did as the American Revolution, and those men as revolutionaries.

In the quote above, how John Adams characterized what the founders were doing–as revolution and not rebellion–falls in line with the winner’s attitude. As a leader, among the group of many leaders, he defined the parameters by which the history to come would be known. If they were merely rebels, then what they were doing and going to do to the British Empire was merely the misguided, whine-filled complaining of an angry band of subjects. But, as revolutionaries, they were the enlightened leaders, guiding their fellow oppressed peoples to liberty.

Makes a world of difference when you say it a certain way. Kind of like propaganda.

Poll: Why did the south secede?

In December of 1860, South Carolina decided to secede from the Union. In the few months following, another 10 states in the south also agreed to secession. The question: what was the reason given by these states to separate from their northern brethren?

Remembering the Anabaptists today

As much as I appreciate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which our country chooses to celebrate today, I cannot fail to remember the importance of this day long before Dr. King, the American Civil Rights struggle, and even United States itself.

On 21 January 1525, a band of brothers and sisters, united in the living Christ, under persecution, signed their death warrants and forfeited their earthly lives for the sake of obedience and fealty to the one true King, Jesus. Knowing adult baptism was illegal, Conrad Grebel took water and baptized George Blaurock in the home of Felix Manz. The history of the Anabaptists in Switzerland and elsewhere was from that moment on a wildfire. This stuff was real now.

Felix Manz was martyred by drowning 2 years later. George Blaurock was burned at the stake in 1529. Conrad Grebel was captured and imprisoned in October 1525. He escaped the next March and died of the plague not long after. Michael Sattler, the man I (and others) most admire and who was unknowingly the reason I embraced the Anabaptist legacy, became an Anabaptist himself (along with his wife) in 1526. He was quickly thrust into the role as a leader of the young faith and in May 1527 was burned on the pyre for it.

The courage, the tenacity, the devotion to Jesus and to their communities as well as to the people of neighboring villages, is unquestioned and a true inspiration. They were imperfect people; I would have fit right in. But their love for the truth, for people, for justice, for the Word of God, still helps bring people and communities to their knees before the Lord.

Reading Dr. Carl Bogus on the Second Amendment and Slavery

I began to read the original journal piece by Dr. Carl Bogus titled “The Hidden History of the Second Amendment.” This is the piece at the foundation of Thom Hartmann’s recent Truthout article, “The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery.”

A little unfortunate on the last name for authoring a scholarly piece. Now you get phrases like, “I read the Bogus article,” or, “I read that one. That was Bogus,” and they just don’t help the cause.

I wanted to read the original piece and see how much or how little I agree with Hartmann’s article (as well as others; a quick search will expose a lot more discussion about Dr. Bogus’s research). If true, this is extremely damning for the credibility of supporting the Second Amendment the way groups like the NRA do, or, the group I’m most interested in, conservative Christians who seem strongly passionate about the right to bear arms. If in fact the intention of the Second Amendment was for the preservation of slavery–established as an appeasement, or compromise, to the slave holding states–then those who believe we must read and understand the Constitution in the way the founders originally intended, which the same conservative Christians tend to do, have a dilemma on their hands. Can they continue to support the idea meant to preserve slavery? They can’t start saying, “That may be what it meant then, but with slavery out of the picture it means this to us,” without fundamentally changing how they read the Constitution. It would be very inconsistent. Or, perhaps they say, “That may have been the intention, but the literal wording isn’t focused on or limited to slavery.” While that might seem better, there’s still the problem of consistency. For the sake of freely owning guns, will they legitimize and support the preservation of such an evil institution?

Not long into reading I arrived at my first question. Bogus was discussing the Insurrectionist Theory of interpreting the Second Amendment. The Insurrectionist Theory is “the idea that the ultimate purpose of an armed citizenry is to be prepared to fight the government itself.” The people have the right to arm and defend themselves, especially in the event their government turns tyrannical. (This article might be helpful for a bit more info on this interpretation.) This interpretation of the Second Amendment has a fairly substantial following. Look at the Tea Party platform for example.

Here’s the paragraph from Dr. Bogus’s article that made me start asking questions:

Despite a surface allure, Halbrook paints a dismal picture. It is animated by a profound mistrust not only for government, but for constitutional democracy. For Halbrook, all of the constitutional mechanisms ensuring that government power will not be misused — the division of power between the federal and state governments, the separation of powers among the three branches of government, a bicameral legislature, an independent judiciary, freedom of speech and the press, and a civilian Commander in Chief — are inadequate. He is afraid the constitutional structure will fail. When Halbrook speaks of an armed citizenry as necessary to “counter inroads on freedom by government” and “prevent tyranny and to overpower an abusive standing army,” he is arguing that the constitutionally elected government will itself become the enemy. In short, Halbrook believes both that the ultimate guarantee of freedom must come from the barrel of a gun and that the Founders believed this as well.

According to Dr. Bogus, Halbrook sees “an armed citizenry as necessary” for when “the constitutionally elected government” becomes the enemy.

There is a lot of fear and mistrust behind this theory. Is that why they buy, and even stockpile, guns? Out of a fear of the government one day storming in and attacking the people?

Where is the trust in the system of government they choose to be under? Where is the trust in the checks and balances in place? Isn’t their security why they voted for whoever they voted for? Would they ultimately stop buying or even get rid of their guns if, let’s say, the head of the NRA became President of the United States?

If they did not feel the threat or live in that fear,1 would they still own the guns? What would be the need? Protection from other fellow citizens doing evil? Okay, but that has nothing to do with the threat of a tyrannical government. Hunting for food? Fine; but, again, that has nothing to do with the threat of a tyrannical government.

For someone to argue in favor of gun rights, but do so on the basis of this insurrectionist theory (to be ready for when the government becomes the enemy), they would have to live in a constant state of fear. They cannot trust the government no matter who is in power. Being suspicious of government (frankly I believe we all need to be suspicious of government and keep them honest) would be trumped by paranoia. Otherwise, the argument fails.

These are just some of the thoughts and themes that came up. There will surely be more to come.

1 Jesus told us not to live in fear of those who can merely kill our bodies (Mt. x.28; Lk. xii.4-5).

Book Review- The Devil in Pew Number Seven: A True Story

When my husband told me we would be receiving this book to review I was very excited and this book did not let me down. It had me from the very first page. In fact, I started it in the evening, read until 1:30 in the morning, got up at 6:30am to read some more and finished it by about 10am. It was that good.

Let me give you a little bit of info about the book and then I will tell you why you should definitely read it, too. This is the true story of Rebecca Nichols Alonzo and her family. She was born into a little community called Sellerstown. The book shares about about her parents’ love story and travels as traveling preachers before she was born, but the main story mostly takes place at the Free Welcome Holiness Church in Sellerstown, North Carolina where her father took over as the pastor in 1969. A man that attended the church decided to make it his mission to terrorize the family until they left the church, as he had lost a lot of control over the congregation when Rebecca’s dad came to town. He tried to accomplish this through numerous bombings of their house and church, threatening phone calls and mail, sniper fire and even trying to pay someone off to run the pastor down with a car. Throughout the entire story Rebecca’s parents stand steadfast and instead of teaching their children to be fearful and hateful, they repeatedly encourage them to trust in the Lord and forgive their enemies.

I knew that I would like this book from the very beginning, but this book turned out to be so much more than I had even hoped it would be. This book truly addresses the issues that hold us back from forgiving, and the true toll that anger, bitterness, and lack of forgiveness can have on our own lives and walk with the Lord. This book made me step back and take a look at the condition of my relationships present and past. I realized that I am not as good at speaking “the language of heaven” as I thought I was. That is something that God is now working on in my heart because of Rebecca’s courage to tell her story and share the wonderful lessons of forgiveness that her parents taught her and her brother. I am so thankful for this book. I plan on reading it again and again so that these lessons are never far from my mind. I am grateful that Rebecca had the courage to share her story and I hope that you will pick this book up and be blessed by it as well.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Authentic brotherly love and community

Meditated on this passage from my reading today:

As Dirk [Philips] writes, authentic brotherly love in the true congregation of God is demonstrated in the ways “that we minister to each other with a willingly extended hand, not only with the spiritual, but also with the temporal gifts which we have received from God.” (Biesecker-Mast, Separation and the Sword in Anabaptist Persuasion, 192)

For Dirk Philips, a true congregation implied “a much broader idea of community that was generally associated with the notion of a religious congregation” (p. 190).

Community itself is more than just meeting together on Sunday mornings or Wednesday evenings. Community among believers, among a group of disciples, does not exist if they come together only once or twice a week. Ministering to one another using our God-given gifts—and that means something physical, tangible—is an absolute must. Coming together regularly, and then not-so-regularly but quite often, is when community is cultivated.

We need to share our time, energy, talents, money, and goods. That does not mean we reject completely the idea of owning any personal property (though there’s nothing wrong or evil with that). It means we are willing and ready to share within our community whatever is needed, whenever it’s needed. That we have come to a place where we love our neighbors so much we are pained by seeing any of them suffer a need, and without hesitation do what is in our power to help them out of their poverty; poverty being the lack of something.

It also means that we will be humble and open enough to let our community know when we have a need. That we will stop playing the martyr, “just bearing my cross,” card and allow the community to bless you just as you bless the others. If one person suffers, the whole community suffers.

Isn’t that how it should be?

Ben Witherington on those 4th Century Icons

Recently I referred to the news bit on the discovery of Peter and Paul (but not Mary? ) iconic art. The masterful one, Ben Witherington, mentioned it as well:

So while I find this story ([click here]) interesting, it is hardly earth-shattering and the claims about what is ‘earliest’ are probably rather hyperbolic.

True, but I was just stuck by the Star Trek like technology, where lasers are used with insane precision to remove layers of debris without doing any damage to the underlying art. Amazing stuff. Next they’re going to be fixing and healing the broken bones of the skeletons in those catacombs…like on V. Indeed: life imitates art.

4th century icons of Peter and Paul discovered

In a bit of cool news, I ran across this article at

The earliest known icons of the Apostles Peter and Paul have been discovered in a catacomb under an eight-story modern office building in a working-class neighborhood of Rome, Vatican officials said Tuesday.

The images, which date from the second half of the 4th century, were discovered on the ceiling of a tomb that also includes the earliest known images of the apostles John and Andrew. They were uncovered using a new laser technique that allowed restorers to burn off centuries of thick white calcium carbonate deposits without damaging the dark colors of the original paintings underneath.

The history, the technology. This is pretty slick.

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