Faith and relevance in the 21st century

Category: Middle East

The forgotten Christians

Since the time of Jesus, millions of Christians have had a fascination with visiting the Holy Land. It is a pilgrimage for many of us, almost in the same way as visiting Mecca is for Muslims.

For much of my adult life I have wanted to visit the biblical sights in Israel, and last year I finally had the opportunity.

My work in the area of aid and development, as well as my passion for justice to be done for people living on the margins of society, had alerted me to the plight of Palestinians in the Holy Land. I didn’t know a whole lot about the conflict and its history, but I did know that Palestinians were the ones being oppressed and that therefore, as a follower of Jesus, I wanted to know more about the conflict from their point of view.

Our view of the world is determined by where we stand. Too often in Christian circles, we stand with those in power. If we stand with power, we will see the world from that point of view. This has been the case with Christendom ever since the time of Constantine. But if, like Jesus, we stand with the oppressed, we will see the world from their perspective.

This is where we need to understand something that is terribly misunderstood in the church: God plays favourites.

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Thoughts on Paris…

Eiffel_tower_from_trocaderoAs the horror of what happened in Paris sink in to our psyches, many predictable responses are being heard by different commentators and world leaders.

Some people think Paris happened because they let too many Syrian refugees in. Others counter that what those refugees were fleeing is the very same violence as happened in Paris. I think both lines of reasoning are overly simplistic.

The problem with distorted thinking is that it nearly always contains a tiny element of truth, and it is this that people grab on to in order to justify their own ideologies. As the U2 song, Raised by Wolves laments, “the worst things in the world are justified by belief”. Continue reading

Shane Claiborne on tearing down the walls

There was a wonderful sermon by Shane Claiborne this morning at Surrender. He spoke about tearing down walls in our lives and in the world, and how that is what the kingdom is about. Some of the other points Shane made were as follows:

  • The rich man and Lazarus – the rich man seemed to be a religious man. He knew the prophets, he referred to ‘Father’ Abraham.
  • The gates of hell will not prevail. We need to storm the gates.
  • God loves people back to life.
  • Referring to Ash Barker’s book, Shane said we won’t make poverty history until we make poverty personal.
  • Wounded people should be our greatest teachers. He reminded us that Henri Nouwen spoke about the wounded healer.
  • We need to be very careful not to think too highly of ourselves if we want God to use us.
  • Iraqi Christians are praying for North American Christians. They said Iraq is where it all started and that North America didn’t invent Christianity, they only domesticated it.
  • He knows some people who are working with Friends Without Borders.

During his talk Shane showed shots of the Israel/Palestine wall with moving paintings on it of people tearing down or opening up the wall. May it happen soon and may it happen peacefully. It happened in Berlin in 1989 and it can happen again with enough pressure.

One planet, one people

I was recently at a training day where several ‘stations’ were set up, much in the tradition of the stations of the cross in the Catholic Church. One of the stations had a video showing of this guy called Matt who goes around the world being filmed simply dancing. Of all the stations I went to that morning, and all the reflecting I did, this one had the most impact on me. Although, looking at Matt’s website, it seems as though he is just doing this because he loves to travel, for me the following video speaks of something deeper. Through his dancing exploits around the world, he is bringing people together and releasing a sense of joy.

There is something about joyful dance that makes the spirit come alive. King David danced for joy, and for millennia it has been an expression of exuberant pleasure. What this video reminded me of was the fact that whoever and wherever we are, from the sights and smells of Jerusalem to the nearby occupied West Bank, to the wartorn mountains of Afghanistan, to the shopping malls of western suburbia, we are one people, living on one planet. We are all children of God; as Bono put it, “Jesus, Jew Muhammad. It’s true – all sons of Abraham.” Enjoy.

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If I was in charge….the Middle East

There will never be peace in the Middle East until the U.S., as the world’s only superpower and with all its resulting influence and power, calls for both sides to lay down their weapons, and not just Hezbollah (referring to the current crisis in Lebanon). The US needs to show courageous global leadership by being a true peacemaker, especially if it is to truly be a Christian nation. As Bono so brilliantly puts in in the live versions of ‘Love and Peace…or else’ – “Jesus, Jew, Mohammed – all sons of Abraham”.

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