Clear the way in us, your people

Hanto Yo

(Hanto Yo means “clear the way” in the Lakota language of the North American Plains.)

God of surprises,
you call us
from the narrowness of our traditions
to new ways of being church,
from the captivities of our culture to
creative witness for justice,
from the smallness of our horizons
to the bigness of your vision.

Clear the way in us, your people,
that we might call others to freedom
and renewed faith.

Jesus, wounded healer,
you call us
from preoccupation with our own histories and hurts
to daily tasks of peacemaking,
from privilege and protocol
to partnership and pilgrimage,
from isolation and insularity
to inclusive community.

Clear the way in us, your people,
That we might call others to
wholeness and integrity.

Holy, transforming Spirit,
you call us
from fear to faithfulness,
from clutter to clarity,
from a desire to control to deeper trust,
from the refusal to love to a readiness to risk.

Clear the way in us, your people,
that we might all know the beauty and power
and danger of the gospel.

—Gwyn Cashmore and Joan Puls, From One Race the Human Race: Racial Justice Sunday 2003, published by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland: Churches Commission for Racial Justice, London.

A peace prayer that we can all share

This peace prayer is not Christian in origin. It actually comes from the Druids, who according to the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids, often say it in their ceremonies. However, since it leaves it up to you which divinity you are addressing it to, I would suggest it it is a prayer we can all join in praying.

Deep within the still centre of my being
May I find peace.
Silently within the quiet of the grove
May I share peace.
Gently (or powerfully) within the greater circle of humankind
May I radiate peace.

Practicing reconciliation between Muslims and Christians

breaking breadAs a moderator of the The Christian-Muslim Interfaith Bridge it shouldn’t be any surprise that I’m interested in how we practically practice (yes, I know I’m verging on tautology) reconciliation between Muslims and Christians. Recently I came across these comments in Peace-Building by, between, and beyond Muslims and Evangelical Christians by Mohammed Abu-Nimer and David Augsburger (Editors):

“There are a wide range of forgiveness practices and rituals in both religious communities. Some are similar, perhaps parallel; others unique in character and practice. In their description of rituals of reconciliation, you Irani and Funk (2001, P. 187) portray the powerful rituals of sulh (settlement), musalaha (reconciliation), musalaha (exchange of handshakes), and mumalaha (breaking bread together) that demonstrate forgiveness and further reconciliation with the language of bitter coffee shared and broken bread together. Each group possesses a vocabulary and a set of practices that facilitate the offering and reception remorse, repentance, and a desire to return to relationship and reconciliation. Dialogue on the nature of these practices and their unique strengths to resolve injury is a central task of interfaith conversation on peacemaking.”

The mention of breaking bread resonated with me deeply given I take Acts 2 as a pretty good description of authentic Christian community:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Breaking bread isn’t a practice that should just be practiced with people we are already reconciled with. It can be an act of reconciliation in itself.

I have discovered that you Christians are good infidels

For the title of this post I choose a quote from “The Missing Peace of Evangelical Missiology: Peacemaking and Respectful Witness” by Dr. Rick Love. He writes:

“So how should the mandates of peacemaking and evangelism fit together? The biblical foundation layed in this study, along with the poignant stories from Nigeria and Indonesia demonstrate that peacemaking and evangelism go hand in hand. There should be a congruity between our message (the gospel of peace), our mandates (peacemaking and evangelism), and our manner (the irenic way we carry out the great commission) We preach of peace, we work towards peace, and we imitate the Prince of Peace.  This approach to obeying Christ’s last command elicits particular urgency since the challenge of peace between Muslims and Christians is one of the defining issues of this era.”

Can you be Reformed and Pacifist?

Reformed teaching is not where I’d normally look for a defence of Christian pacifism. Moreoften I tip toe through the TULIPs and listen for the voices of the more radically reformed.

And yet, surprise, surprise, it would appear that some at least find ample justification for peacemaking in the teachings of Calvin, without recourse to the much maligned Anabaptists. Check out this article by Seumas Macdonald on “Why solid reformed doctrines are the basis of a biblical pacifism.”

In contrast to the Christocentric approach I would take, MacDonald takes a more theocentric approach. I’m not entirely convinced that nonviolence can be reconciled with the teachings of the magisterial reformers, but I take it as a conversation starter.

Ahimsa, Christian style

It surprises me sometimes, that people are quite happy to listen to Buddhists speak of ahimsa, but get quite agitated when Christians speak of nonviolence.

I’m not sure what it is, whether it’s the exotic unfamiliarity of Buddhism in contrast to the assumed familiarity of Christianity, or the fact that Buddhists are less numerous and politically significant in the West, or something else entirely. But when the Dalai Lama speaks of ahimsa, people lap it up. But when a Christian speaks of nonviolence, people call it irresponsible.

This gets me to wondering, maybe we need to de-familiarize the New Testament, to help people see it with fresh eyes? To help people approach it with a beginner’s mind? What if we were to translate the New Testament a different way?

Ahimsa in the New Testament

Blessed are the ahimsa practitioners, for they will be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)

Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, practice ahimsa. And the God of love and ahimsa will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, ahimsa, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (Galatians 5:22)

He came and preached ahimsa to you who were far away and ahimsa to those who were near. (Ephesians 2:17)

Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Practice ahimsa with each other. (1 Thessalonians 5:13)

Make every effort to practice ahimsa with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then ahimsa-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)

What happens for you when you encounter the words of the ancient messengers this way? Do you object to the translation? Do the implications disturb you? Does it encourage? Or give you a fresh perspective? On Buddhism or Christianity?

Pacifist Boxer Refuses to Hit Opponents

I split my sides over this article from The Huffington Post:

Lebanon, PA — Heavyweight boxer Jim Evans, 24, had an awe-inspiring record of 34 knockouts and just two losses in his first five years as a pro-fighter. He was known as the “Hammer Fist” for his ability to pound his opponents into submission. “All that changed once I fell in love with Kathy, the Quaker woman I eventually married,” said Evans. The Quakers, or as they are also known, the Religious Society of Friends, believe very strongly in simplicity, inner revelation, and pacifism. They are anti-war, anti-violence, and anti-fighting.

Kathy made it crystal clear to Evans that if they were to marry, she would not tolerate his striking another man. “That caused a big problem,” recalled Evans. “I loved Kathy with all my heart and did not want to lose her. But boxing was the only profession I knew, the only thing I could do.” After much thought, Evans decided to find a way to keep boxing without having to strike his opponents.

Evans came up with a unique and innovative approach to nonviolent boxing. “I developed my footwork and bobbing and weaving strategies so strongly that my opponents would exhaust themselves trying to hit me.” When his opponents’ energy levels became suitably depleted, Evans would preach Quaker pacifism to them until they couldn’t take it any more and simply surrendered. In the two years since then, he has never lost a fight. Explains Evans, “I saved my marriage and returned the sport to what it used to be called — The Gentlemanly Art of Boxing.”

Social Justice on Australian Christian Radio

Jarrod McKenna writes: “How would America’s largest mainstream Christian radio stations respond to issues of social justice for the poorest of poor, climate change, and nonviolence? Hold that response in your mind as you listen to an Australian equivalent in this interview [about the upcoming Surrender Conference in Australia].

Click here to read the rest and hear the interview.

I’m just miffed they have all the good conferences in Melbourne instead of Sydney! Talk about injustice!

Can dispensationalism ever accommodate pacifism?

Had a matrix download this morning, while dressing for work and playing with the kids. I gather my subconscious has now had sufficient time to process the Bonhoeffer 4 conversation last week over at NeoBaptist, and now insights are bubbling to the surface. Phase change.

Here are some of the threads:

Suggestions that pacifists don’t take the Old Testament seriously enough drew out the fact that my theology of war and peace is deeply eschatological, that I do not see pacifist ethics as timeless, but rather, that I see them far more climactically and post-resurrectional.

It also drew out that I see the state as Babylon, not Jerusalem, and draw a much stronger distinction between the church and state than Christendom-defending Christians are comfortable with.

And of course it highlighted that I see read the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament, that my understanding of Christian interpretation is deeply Christo-centric.

This got we wondering about rival eschatologies, like dispensationalism. I recently read a suggestion that dispensationalists read the New Testament through the lens of the Old Testament, that they are much more Israel-centric, in complete reversal to me.

I recalled that dispensationalists draw a strong distinction between Israel and the church, that they saw a eschatological role for the state of Israel that rivalled that of the church, and this fed back into how they interpreted state-church issues.

I realised that their much publicised literalism was not monolithic but deeply Israel-centric. They are as figurative as amillenialists in their own way, but in rival ways. They’re figurative about New Testament ethics but literal about Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel.

And it hit me: Christian pacifism, at least the sort of Christian pacifism that takes the Old Testament seriously, may rest on an eschatological understanding of the church as the new Israel that is deeply antimical to dispensationalists. It may be that dispensationalists have no way to embrace pacifism and stay dispensationalists. Could it be that Richard Dawkins and the New Atheists are right in a way? That the brand of Christianity they know, dispensationalism, IS intrinsically violent? If true this could have deep implications for future conversations.

The Seven Steps of Just Peacemaking

Have you ever considered what active peacemaking might actually look like? In his book, Just Peacemaking: Transforming Initiatives for Justice and Peace, Glen H. Strassen makes the observation that maybe we’ve all been too negative:

Ever since [Constantine, Ambrose and Augustine] there has been a debate between pacifism and just war theory: Should Christians give clear witness to Christ by remaining non-violent, or should they fight for injustice for their neighbour when they can do so by just means? It is still an important debate today. But unfortunately, the debate has focused Christian ethics only on the negative side of the issue: Are Christian prohibited from making war? It has turned attention away from the positive mandate of active peacemaking: What should we do to make peace?

This is my condensed summary of his Seven Steps of Just Peacemaking

  1. Affirm Common Security. The first step is to affirm our common security partnership with our adversaries and build an order of peace and justice that affirms their and our valid interests.
  2. Take Independent Initiatives. We need a new strategy of independent initiatives, directed towards transforming the reaction of the adversary.
  3. Talk with your enemy. Talk to your advisaries, in a manner designed to resolve conflict.
  4. Seek Human Rights and Justice. Seek human rights and justice for all, especially the powerless, without double standards.
  5. Acknowledge Vicious Cycles. We need realistic acknowledgement of the vicious cycles we are caught up in, and our need to participate in a realistic peacemaking process.
  6. End Judgemental Propaganda, Make Amends. Instead of judgemental propaganda, we can acknowledge to others that we have caused hurt and want to take actions to do better.
  7. Work with citizens groups for the truth. The final step is to participate in groups with accurate information and a voice in policy making.