Showing posts from July, 2012

Student Debt Crisis: It’s Time for a Jubilee

Dissent Magazine / Op-Ed
Published: Tuesday 31 July 2012

“With soaring tuition, poor job prospects, and loans that take decades to pay off, there’s no question that students need a year of jubilee. ”

Organizations that usually demand cancellation of the crippling debts owed by impoverished countries in the global South are now calling for debt forgiveness for a different group of borrowers: U.S. students.

With soaring tuition, poor job prospects, and loans that take decades to pay off, there’s no question that students need a year of jubilee. Yet, the idea that groups accustomed to running international solidarity campaigns have taken up their cause is an unexpected twist.

I’ve always liked the Jubilee debt campaign. For a couple of decades now, it has been an impressive and truly international drive, with strong leadership from the global South. In this country, the Jubilee USA Network has done a great job…

Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela: Forgiveness is possible

Even after the worst atrocities, forgiveness is possible, says a South African psychologist and researcher. At its core lies empathy, the turning point where people encounter and recognize each other as human beings.

Gobodo-Madikizela joined South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1996, everything she had ever read about the aftermath of mass atrocities told her that forgiveness was not possible.

But as a coordinator for the commission, Gobodo-Madikizela repeatedly saw forgiveness happen between victims and perpetrators of atrocities committed during South Africa’s apartheid regime.

Prompted by that experience, she set out to understand what she had observed. A psychologist and researcher on trauma and healing, she wanted to know what happens deep in the process of forgiveness.

Her conclusion after years of research: forgiveness is possible even in the aftermath of mass atrocity. It…

The Church Year and the Lectionary Commentary – 18th Ordinary (Day 2)

Psalm 51:1-12

1 Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love!
Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion!
2 Wash me completely clean of my guilt;
purify me from my sin!
3 Because I know my wrongdoings,
my sin is always right in front of me.
4 I’ve sinned against you—you alone.
I’ve committed evil in your sight.
That’s why you are justified when you render your verdict,
completely correct when you issue your judgment.
5 Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin,
from the moment my mother conceived me.
6 And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places;
you teach me wisdom in the most secret space.[a]
7 Purify me with hyssop and I will be clean;
wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and celebration again;
let the bones you crushed rejoice once more.
9 Hide your face from my sins;
wipe away all my guilty deeds!
10 Create a clean heart for me, God;
put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!
11 Please don’t …

The Church Year and the Lectionary Commentary – 18th Ordinary (Day 1)

2 Sam. 11:26–12:13a

26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband Uriah was dead, she mourned for her husband. 27 After the time of mourning was over, David sent for her and brought her back to his house. She became his wife and bore him a son.
But what David had done was evil in the LORD’s eyes.
12 So the LORD sent Nathan to David. When Nathan arrived he said, “There were two men in the same city, one rich, one poor. 2 The rich man had a lot of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing—just one small ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised that lamb, and it grew up with him and his children. It would eat from his food and drink from his cup—even sleep in his arms! It was like a daughter to him.
4 “Now a traveler came to visit the rich man, but he wasn’t willing to take anything from his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had arrived. Instead, he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the visitor.”
5 David got very angry at the man, and he said to Nathan, “As…

The end of the church as we know it

While the institutional church is in decline, possibilities abound for new ways of producing faithful followers of Jesus Christ.

By Amy Butler

Has anybody out there noticed that church attendance has been lower lately? The church budget is stretched thin because fewer people are giving? You can’t get a commitment out of people who are so busy they are already making summer plans -- for next summer? Welcome to the reality of church decline.

There has been quite a bit in the media lately about the trending decline of the institutional church and ongoing conversation about what strategy might ensure its sustainability. Countless observers of American religious life have noted that the church, all versions, is struggling. What they mean by decline is that fewer people are attending church, churches and denominational entities are getting organizationally smaller and there’s less money to go around.


Fareed on Guns

From CNN:

Most of the pundits have concluded that the main cause of this calamity is the dark, strange behavior of the gunman. Talking about anything else, they say, is silly. The New York Times’ usually extremely wise columnist, David Brooks,explains that this is a problem of psychology, not sociology.

At one level, this makes sense, of course, as the proximate cause. But really, it’s questionable analysis. Think about this: are there more lonely people in America compared with other countries? Are there, say, fewer depressed people in Asia and Europe? So why do they all have so much less gun violence than we do?

The United States stands out from the rest of the world not because it has more nutcases – I think we can assume that those people are sprinkled throughout every society equally –but because it has more guns.

Look at the map below. It shows the average number of firearms per 100 people. Most of the world is shaded light green – those are the countries where t…

Skilled Christianity

Posted on 7.27.2012

I've been blogging for over six years, and if you've been with me from the beginning you may have detected a change in the tone and tenor of this blog.

In the early years this blog seemed much more doubt-filled. But over time it has seemed to some of my friends that the blog has grown more faithful and apologetical. In the early years my tone toward Christianity was more aggressive and attacking, the voice of an outsider (though coming from an insider). In recent years my tone is more insider trying to show how Christianity might be "held together." I've been trading in criticism for something more constructive. And I have to admit that my faith over the last six years has been bolstered by a variety of things. Some highlights:

My rediscovery of prayer in The Book of Common Prayer.

Reading the bible with the damned (to borrow Bob Ekblad's phrase) in my experienc…

Neither The Joker Nor Godlessness Drove Batman Shooting
By Jeffrey Scholes

Jeffrey Scholes is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and Director for the Center for Religious Diversity and Public Life, UCCS.

When men don't fear God, they give themselves to evil. This was clearly the case in the latest mass murder. – Ray Comfort

As many of us are struggling to find a reason or reasons for the Aurora, Colorado theater shootings in the early morning of Friday, July 20, there is no shortage of pundits offering their own explanations. Maybe the alleged shooter, James Holmes, was depressed after scoring low on exams in his PhD program at the University of Colorado. Or he must have had a rough upbringing. Or the common refrain: he’s simply psychotic, and no verifiable reason for the shooting will ever be discovered.

The responses from religious commentators, scholars, and pastors…

Ideas on Saving the World

Empire Remixed

Posted: 26 Jul 2012 09:57 AM PDT

During a recent episode of CBC’s Ideas, Political Theologian William T. Cavanaugh shared:

The world has had enough of well-meaning American undergraduates going out and trying to change the world. Please don’t go out and try to change the world. Go back home to your little town in Minnesota and find your identity and your life in a place where you can be planted and take root.

Smalltown Minnesota never felt so small.

Maybe he’d been having a bad day. Maybe Cavanaugh had recently overdosed on Wendell Berry. It can happen to the best of us.

But move back to my hometown? The University adventure was all about getting out and moving up. It was about expanding my mind and my experience. It was about making connections and becoming my own person.

To go back now would be a betrayal…

The Song of Lamech is Not the Song of the Lamb
Posted on 7.26.2012

Recently, I made the argument that Jesus's response to Peter about forgiving "seventy times seven" was a reference to the Jubilee. More specifically, the Jubilee of Jubilees. (That post can be found here.)

I'd like to extend that analysis by connecting Jesus's instruction on forgiveness to the very first reference of "seventy times seven" or "seventy seven" in the bible--Lamech's Song of the Sword.

The Song comes after the sin of Cain and Cain's exile. From there the descendents of Cain are named and among them is Lamech. In the middle of this, without any real context, Lamech gives what has been called the Song of the Sword:

Genesis 4.23-24
Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words:

I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for injuring me.
If Cain i…
The Church Year and the Lectionary Commentary – 17th Ordinary (Day 4)

John 6:1-21
6 After this Jesus went across the Galilee Sea (that is, the Tiberius Sea). 2 A large crowd followed him, because they had seen the miraculous signs he had done among the sick. 3 Jesus went up a mountain and sat there with his disciples. 4 It was nearly time for Passover, the Jewish festival.
5 Jesus looked up and saw the large crowd coming toward him. He asked Philip, “Where will we buy food to feed these people?” 6 Jesus said this to test him, for he already knew what he was going to do.
7 Philip replied, “More than a half year’s salary worth of food wouldn’t be enough for each person to have even a little bit.”
8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, 9 “A youth here has five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that for a crowd like this?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there. They sat down, about five thousand of them. 11 Then Jesus t…

Mean-world-syndrome_small Aurora, and The Mean World Syndrome

David Ropeik on July 24, 2012, 1:37 PM

It’s a Mean Mean Mean Mean World. Just ask the people in Aurora, Colorado. Or the people in Colombine, Colorado. Or the people of Port Arthur, Australia, where a schizophrenic massacred 35 and wounded 23 in 1996. What do those three mass murders, and so many others, have in common? The killers were all inspired to some degree by things they saw in movies.

Should there be talk about banning violent movies, as there is talk about controlling access to assault weapons with ammunition magazines that contain 100 rounds? No, although Andy Borowitz does a hilarious send-up of just that idea in a satire reporting that the National Rifle Association, claiming it’s “high time to take action against the number one cause of violence in America,” has proposed a ban on all violent movies. Movies don’t make people murderers any more than guns do. Still, guns make muderousness much more feasible, and popular entertainment certainly plants ideas that…

The Church Year and the Lectionary Commentary – 17th Ordinary (Day 3)

Ephesians 3:14-21

14 This is why I kneel before the Father. 15 Every ethnic group in heaven or on earth is recognized by him. 16 I ask that he will strengthen you in your inner selves from the riches of his glory through the Spirit. 17 I ask that Christ will live in your hearts through faith. As a result of having strong roots in love, 18 I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together with all believers. 19 I ask that you’ll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.
20 Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; 21 glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen.

“Far beyond all that we could ask or imagine” – herein is grace!

“Far beyond all that we could ask or imagine” – herein is glory!

“Far beyond all that we could ask or imagine” – herein is the secret of li…

Some Thoughts on God’s Relation to Violence

Last night I put together this list of approaches to God’s relation to violence, especially in the Old Testament. This is off the top of my head. I doubtless have missed some, and perhaps misnamed others, but the list gives us an idea of the variety and attention being given to this important matter these days.

God’s Sovereignty

-the Bible accurately reflects what happened
-God is sovereign and just in all his actions
-therefore there is nothing problematic here even if we today have trouble accepting it


-the Bible accurately reflects what happened
-God meets his people where they are and deals with them in terms of national, political, and religious realities of the time
-God is willing to “get his hands dirty” (that is, act in ways that do not fully reflect his character and will) in order to move with his people toward fuller and clearer expressions of who he is and what he does (e.g. Jesus)

God allows his people to tell his story

-the Bible tells the story of …

Gun Laws, None Dare Call it Time

July 24, 2012 By scotmcknight 27 Comments

Sandy Levinson, at Balkinization:

Some of this blog’s readers will know that I am against our gun laws — we are a violent society and our violence is magnified by the 2d Amendment’s right to bear arms, a right taken far too liberally in our culture. The issue for me, however, is not simply repealing the 2d Amendment or drastically reducing what constitutes the right to “bear” arms, but how Christians participate.

The GOP is in bed with the NRA; the Dems learned from Al Gore’s opposition to gun laws, which many Dems supported, that they can’t win elections with that platform. So today no party is willing to re-examine our gun laws.

The reality is similar with regard to firearms, including the ones used in Aurora. For better or worse–and i…

Distribution of Wealth


Lament, Confession and The Politics of Jesus

July 24, 2012 By Christopher Smith Leave a Comment

This is the third Slow Church post in a short series about Lament and the Aurora Theater Shooting…
You can read the previous posts here: [ Part I ] [ Part II ]

“To learn to lament is to become people who stay near to the wounds of the world, singing over them and washing them, allowing the unsettling cry of pain to be heard.” — Chris Rice / Emmanuel Katongole RECONCILING ALL THINGS

Continuing our reflection on what it means to lament, I want to focus now on locating lament. Generally speaking, where and how does it happen? I want to start with an insightful comment that my friend Gary Lynch left on yesterday’s post:

I also believe that lament has to be and must also be something very personal, it is something that we feel in our bones and in our heart, it is each person expressing deep sadness and contrition over a particular event or …

The Church Year and the Lectionary Commentary – 17th Ordinary (Day 2)

Psalm 14

14 Fools say in their hearts, There is no God.
They are corrupt and do evil things;
not one of them does anything good.
2 The LORD looks down from heaven on humans
to see if anyone is wise,
to see if anyone seeks God,
3 but all of them have turned bad.
Everyone is corrupt.
No one does good—
not even one person!
4 Are they dumb, all these evildoers,
devouring my people
like they are eating bread
but never calling on the LORD?
5 Count on it: they will be in utter panic
because God is with the righteous generation.
6 You evildoers may humiliate
the plans of those who suffer,
but the LORD is their refuge.
7 Let Israel’s salvation come out of Zion!
When the LORD changes
his people’s circumstances for the better,
Jacob will rejoice;
Israel will celebrate!

Here’s how The Message renders Psalm 14:

1 Bilious and bloated, they gas, "God is gone."
Their words are…

The Church Year and the Lectionary Commentary – 17th Ordinary (Day 1)

2 Samuel 11:1-15

11 In the spring, when kings go off to war, David sent Joab, along with his servants and all the Israelites, and they destroyed the Ammonites, attacking the city of Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.
2 One evening, David got up from his couch and was pacing back and forth on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. 3 David sent someone and inquired about the woman. The report came back: “Isn’t this Eliam’s daughter Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 So David sent messengers to get her. When she came to him, he had sex with her. (Now she had been purifying herself after her monthly period.) Then she returned home. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David.
“I’m pregnant,” she said.
6 Then David sent a message to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked about the welfare of Joab and the army and how the battle was going. 8 Then David told Ur…

To Understand and be Understood

These five practices for moving beyond the polarization which currently dominates our public discourse are adapted from Charles C. Camosy, assistant professor of Christian ethics at Fordham University in New York City:

1. Humility.

-We might be wrong
-Acknowledge that our views are ours, not Truth itself.
-We seek understanding and are willing to change our mind if convinced.

2. Treat your conversation partner as a full-fledged human being.

-They are human beings, God’s beloved creatures, well worth knowing in their own right.
-Never presume to know what someone thinks or what motivates them because of their gender, race, level of privilege, sexual orientation, or social location.
-Listen to learn rather than critique (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”)

3. Avoiding binary thinking.

-Genuine issues are almost always too complex to fit into simplistic categories like liberal/conservative, religious/secular, open/close-minded, pro-life/pro-choice, etc.
-Binary …

Mission in John - Scot McKnight


Scot McKnight

Here is an outline of God’s mission, mostly drawn from the Gospel of John and its use of the word “send,” I sketched in my preparations for the teaching at SommerOase in Denmark. This sketch was the theological foundation of my talks.
Dansk Oase
July 2012


Theme: Who is God? (in mission)

1.0 Mission Begins IN God.

“I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
“the Father is in me, and I in the Father” (10:38; 17:21, 23).
Now a brief sketch of a major Christian doctrine, the Trinity, and its connection to mission.

1. God has been eternally missional, is missional, and will be missional forever. (Eschatology is inherent.)

2. Why? Because the Trinity is mutual indwelling in love for the Other.

3. God is essentially and endlessly missi…

A Faith Not Worth Fighting For Addressing Commonly Asked Questions about Christian Nonviolence; Summary and Review(1)

(2012-05-17). A Faith Not Worth Fighting For: Addressing Commonly Asked Questions about Christian Nonviolence (The Peaceable Kingdom Series) . Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

“We begin this book with the audacious hope that you will accept our proposal to concede that following Jesus could demand a lifelong commitment to nonviolence” (6). In this book editors Justin Bronson Barringer and Tripp York invite readers to journey into the ever-popular and important concern of “what would you do if” objections to this claim. This first volume in “The Peaceable Kingdom Series” offers thorough yet accessible essays from a variety of contributors to address these matters from a center of what we might call Christological Realism. Stanley Hauerwas, in his forward to this volume, identifies this center as the legacy of the great Mennonnite theologian John Howard Yoder. These essays may then be considered a furthering of the tradition of Christological pa…

Guns and Grace

Our national debate about guns and gun control revolves around the “rights” of the individual citizen according to how one interprets the second amendment. As citizens, Christians have every reason to weigh in on this debate.

However, “rights” language is not the Christian faith’s natural habitat. We cannot say all we might want to say or describe our way of living in this language. Many Christians will likely question the “right” of any private citizen to own an assault rifle or any other weapon whose sole purpose is maximal killing. Thus, it may be necessary for us to use this language in the public debate, but this hardly exhausts a Christian response to the gun culture in which we live.

Christian faith is animated and normed by the cross of Jesus Christ. In Philippians 2 Paul pictures the Jesus in whose light and by whose resurrection life we live in a way that is rightly recognized as decisive and determinative for his followers. In this picture, it is precisely not the…