Sunday, November 22, 2009

On Anarchy

For about ten years now i have been studying anarchy off and on. I recall ten years ago being at a Christian music festival and finding a flyer advertising the time for a speaker, who was to speak on the relationship between Christianity and Anarchy. The speaker was Andrew Mandell. Besides speaking on anarchy, he is most well know for being the lead singer of the celtic punk band "Ballydowse," as well as singing for the old school punk band, "Crashdog."

I remember holding the flyer and thinking, "now these punk rockers have taken it too far." But i said that without knowing a single thing about it. Later i heard Andrew Mandell talking to a crowd of 5,000 people say, "Anarchy is about self-control, not chaos." I didn't know what he meant at the time, and immediately decided he was wrong. My opinion has changed since then.

Anarchy is the lack rule.
It is necessarily non-violent.
It is completely non-coercive.
It is a line of thought that steers people away from ruling or controlling others.
It trust others to make the right decisions.
It trusts that even when people don't make the right decisions, all will be well in the end.
It puts no stock in power, pride, control, domination.
It says that if anything is going to be done, its going to have to start with me.
If there is to be order, i must control myself.
If there is to be peace, i must choose to live at peace with others.
If i have a problem with someone, i go to them rather than their superior.
If i feel change is needed, i must live out that change.
If i dont want trash all over the city, i must go pick it up.
If i see a problem with people not having their needs fulfilled, i must go and fulfill their needs.
I must never take the opportunity to be above another.
I must respect everyone.
I must give all the dignity they deserve.
I must never use psychological tactics to persuade.
I must not use more than i need.

Anarchy is a personal choice that all of us can choose. It is the choice to everyday place ourselves underneath others. to humble ourselves. to forgive. to love. to be kind. Anarchy is not "to be against authority," it is, "to not be authority."

today i will strive to be an Anarchist.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Who is us?

Sounds like a strange question, but i'm wondering, who is 'us?' That word can be used in such a diverse manner. It can mean, me and my dog. Or all of 'us' living in Chicago. Or quite broadly, as in all of 'us' in the world.

Us; we; our; etc. Who are 'we' talking about here?

"Get to the point," you may already be saying. This question comes to mind when i think about the 3,000 people who died in the 9/11 attacks. And then when i think of the 300,000 people who died in the tsunami a couple years ago in southeast Asia. It was brought to my attention that we don't mourn the 300,000 as much as the 3,000 because they are not 'us.' Presumably under this definition of 'us', we are speaking of Americans. Though i suppose it could mean, "North Americans," or "Westerners," as well.

SO who are 'we'? Are we Americans? or perhaps are we humans? Earthlings? Children of God? Humanity? However we define, 'us,' I think we all have to recognize, we humans, are all in this together, whether we like it or not. We are all God's children, and as i tell my kids all the time while they hit and yell at each other, "You are brothers, act like it. Brother don't hurt brothers or make them feel sad."

They seem to get that, now if only We could.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Surviving the Woods

Its a tradition with most to give gifts for birthdays. It is, however, not the tradition in our family. Leastwise not with me. I always ask for an experience, and most frequently for a camping trip. This year was no exception. But i did not want a camping trip per se, but a Survival Trip!

So at about 2 pm on Saturday afternoon my wife drove me to the top of a mountian in Appalachia, dropped me off and said, "I don't even know what to say. Ummm alright, bye. love you." And with that she drove off. Leaving me with my clothes and a backpack with the following items: 1 gallon of water; 1 lb. of Trail mix; a knife; a sleeping bag; a metal cup; and an edible wildplant guide and mushroom guide.

My inspiration was defintely Les Stroud from "Survivorman" and Bear Grylles from "Man Vs. Wild." In reality i could be more amptly compared to Christopher McCandless from "Into The Wild," and that couldn't have been comforting to my worried wife (Christopher didn't make it out alive, due to misidentifying and consuming a poisonous plant).

But unlike Christopher i had the safegaurd of companions. Nathan, Micheal, Landon and my younger brother Kyler. When they met me at the top of the mountain, we headed out on foot into the woods. first down into a valley following a dried out creek bed, and then up another mountian just about to the top where we found a nice dry spot to construct our survival shelters. This 3 hour hike nearly killed me due to an extreme lack of previous physical excersion. But the others seemed to do just fine. whatever.

So we started a quick fire and began to construct a large basic lean-to shelter. This constisted of one long thin trunk of a tree being propped up horizontally about 5 to 8 feet of the ground and leaning on one side a bunch of branches to form a bit of a hide out. To make it "waterproof," we added pine branches. By this time it was dark, we were tired and not soon after that everyone was fast asleep. Well everyone except for me. I wound up staying up most the night adding wood to the fire. But i probably got a good 2 hours of extremely uncomfortable sleep on the ground that night.

The next morning Nathan (wearing a tshirt, and boxers and a belt holding a knife which was longer than his boxers) and Micheal decided to make a second shelter, while Landon, Kyler, and myself were sent out on hunting duty. After making our way through a hellish patch of thorned briars and circling half way round the mountain we returned with little more than some mushrooms which i was unable to indentify, so they went to waste. Though Landon did eut a small salamandor and I feasted to my hearts content on an inch worm. Oh and we found water, which we collected to drink after boiling.

The rest of the day was spent make pine needle tea, attempting to make fire without the use of a lighter, attempting to capture a deer, cooking and eating a small turtle, improving the shelters and sharpening spears. It was a day of testing survival tactics. Some worked, others failed, and none of us were looking forward to the sun going down.

Another sleepless night.

By morning the clouds were rolling in and we were rollin out. The hike back proved to be about as bad as the hike there, with the only possible exception being the pounding rain that decided to grace our ascent to the top of the mountain where we started. Actually, i absolutely loved the rain. I don't know why. It just felt great to be at the mercy of mother nature. We have done such a wonderful job in life of protecting ourselves against her.

I, of course, was the last one to make it up the mountain, but i felt great in the end. I was hungry, thirsty, soaked, terribly tired, and my leg muscles were sooo soar, but i felt great. For a moment it all felt right. Like a wrong had been corrected. Upon further reflection i think im coming across some answers.

I couldn't help but think while in the woods about the Natives who may have lived here or at least passed through at some point. The People who lived here in America for God only knows how long, before the European invasion. I have long felt the weight of their lost lives on my shoulders. Like when God tells Cain that he hears Ables blood crying out from the soil, the blood of the Native Americans cries out.

We have so quickly forgotten about the mass genocide that our European ancestors carried out on the people of this land. And my how my mind boggles when i think of how effectively we have silenced Their ancestors by handing out hush money.

And not only the mass genocide on the people, but the raping and ravaging of the land. The Natives respected and took great care of the land, taking only what they needed and not over indulging. Not so with the westerners. We came in and treated the land and animals as if they were expendable. As if ours very lives didn't hinge upon the their health.

In only a couple hundred years we have managed to tear this place a part.

Furthermore, on this trip i realized that half the world lives in this hand-to-mouth fashion. It was hard for all of us pampered American boys to survive two days with reletively comfortable conditions, while many live like this their entire lives.

I suppose in that moment of being hungry, tired, thirsty, wet and soar, i felt justice. It felt like for that moment all was fair. And i could be at one in spirit with those who lived in this land before and us and with those today who continue to struggle through life with so little.

May God have mercy on us all.
His redemption is so sweet.


Monday, August 10, 2009

It comes from within

The happy are happy.

The angry are angry.

The annoyed are annoyed.

The content are content.

etc. etc. etc.

Jesus and Non-Resistance

I thought i would post some of the papers a wrote for my college courses. I have a feeling some of my thoughts have changed slightly on things, but i hope they are interesting for you. Heres the first one....

Throughout Christian history the teachings of Christ found in the four gospels of the New Testament have been dissected, as to what He was trying to say, debated, on how we should apply them to our lives, and diluted, when we feel that they are just to hard to live out. The most dramatic example of this is Jesus’ teachings on non-violence. The church’s stance on this issue has gone from one extreme to the other and everything in between. From the early church to the post-modern church, Christians have had an interesting journey wrestling with the concepts of violence and non-violence.
The foundation of the great debate starts with the words of the Messiah. His stance on non-violence is clear from passages such as Matthew 5:9,

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Matthew 5:38-39, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for and eye, and tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also,”

and Matthew 5:43-44, “You have heard that it was said, ’You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

After reading such direct commandments it is very difficult to understand how people who call themselves followers of Christ could ever conceive of living a life as anything other than a pacifist. Not only in his words did he uphold a non-violent stance, but also in his actions, such as the time when he was arrested found in Luke 22:49-51, “When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said ’Lord, shall we strike with the sword?’ And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, ‘Stop! No more of this.’ And he touched his ear and healed him.” The act of Jesus not resisting the arrest, and later the crucifixion makes it overwhelmingly obvious that Christ lived as a model of what Christians are to be and that His Kingdom is nothing like the kingdoms of this world. However, as time will show, it does not take very long for Jesus’ life to be misinterpreted and for the church to get way off course.
The early church understood the message of Jesus, and lived it out in spite of heavy persecution. In his book, The Secret Message of Jesus, Brian McLaren states the position of the early church to non-violence through the words of an early Christian leader, Tertullian, “Confessing ‘Jesus is Lord’ means taking Jesus seriously as Lord, as the authority for the believer: Caesar commands us to kill our enemies, and Jesus commands us to love them. Caesar makes use of torture and chains, Jesus calls us to forgiveness and holiness” (151). So how did the church get from there to here? Most put the responsibility of the change on the Roman emperor Constantine who brought Christianity mainstream in the fourth century. “The orientation quickly changed when the Roman emperor Constantine claimed to convert to Christianity in the early fourth century… Gradually, Christians felt themselves protected by Rome’s swords, not threatened by them. It grew harder and harder to criticize or distrust something that contributed to their own feeling of security. Eventually - this is hard to imagine, but the full truth of it must be faced- the church itself used the sword to force conversions and execute heretics” (McLaren 153-4).
In time the church found they needed justification for some of their unorthodox methods. What was quickly developed is known as the, “Just War Theory.” This theory was first introduced by Augustine of Hippo in The City of God and was later refined by Thomas Aquinas in his book, Summa Theologica. “The just war theory gave seven criteria for a “just war” : a just cause for the war, a legitimate authority declaring war, a formal declaration of war, the goal being a return to peace, recourse to war only as a last resort, a reasonable hope of success, and means proportional to ends” (McLaren 155). Obviously very few, if any, wars waged in the name of God have ever fit this criteria and yet Christians today still use this theory as their reason for war support.
So how have any modern day Christians come to the persuasion of non-violence? It began with a group of Reformers in Switzerland who wanted to move towards a more literal interpretation of the Bible. This group of Reformers is later known as the Anabaptists. The Anabaptists were birthed out of dissatisfaction with both the Catholics and Lutherans in their method of compromising on scripture to meet worldly wants and needs. In the beginning there were some sects of Anabaptists that were very violent, but they soon died out and what was left was a body of believers who, like anything else Christ said, took the teachings of loving your enemy literally and applied it, in an uncompromising fashion, to their lifestyle. Something that makes the Anabaptists unique in their theology is that they view scripture through the lens of Christ, not Paul or the Old Testament prophets. “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” ( I Corinthians 3:11). In this they suffered immense persecution and alienation from much of Europe for centuries to come, much of the time being uprooted from their homes only to find themselves in yet another area of immense hatred that sometimes led to martyrdom.
In what seemed to be a blessing from God as relief from all their suffering, Dutch Mennonites (descendants of early Anabaptists) were invited to take up land in Prussia and Southern Russia (Ukraine) in the 18th century. This seemed to be an answer to prayer since they were promised almost complete autonomy which included religious freedom and exemption from military service. However, in the early 1900’s with the outbreak of the first World War, the situation for Russian Mennonites started to become rather complicated. They welcomed the German invasion of their villages with open arms, seeing the German soldiers as their kin ( the Russian Mennonites continued through the centuries to keep German as their primary language, with many of the villagers never bothering to learn Russian) and as saviors from the Russian government that had been oppressing them for a couple of decades. While amongst the Mennonite villages, the German soldiers provided the Mennonites with weapons and trained them in “self-defense units”. This was the first time in their history that Mennonites had compromised on their non-resistant values. Many villages refused to take up arms, staying firm in the ways of their Lord. In his memoir, A Russian Dance of Death, Dietrich Neufeld revisits that painful mistake, “For the Mennonites the blunder of abandoning pacifism for militarism was particularly incriminating. Have we not always, with justified pride, pointed to our 400-year tradition, which signified a strict pacifism? And at the very moment when, as a result of a bloody war without parallel, militarism had been exposed in all it’s worst aspects…then we abandon our noble position. A Mennonite who surrenders the fundamental idea of peace and affirms war has judged himself” ( Neufeld 79-80 ). Many may look back on that time in history and find the actions of the Russian Mennonites justified, but as it turned out all their compromising did for them was bring even more loss of life to their villages.
Many followers of Christ today would say that if you truly loved someone, then you would be willing to kill for their safety. And on a more global scale, if a cruel dictator is murdering thousands of innocent people, then it is the world’s and the church’s responsibility to stop them. But that is all going on the assumption that we are like God, and that we obtain complete control. John H. Yoder shows a powerful example of what seemed to be a justifiable violence in his book, What Would You Do?. “The plot against Adolf Hitler’s life, for example, in which the well-known Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was implicated, is often cited as an example of the need for exceptions to the moral prohibition against violence. Yet Bonhoeffer’s effort failed…By the criterion of probable success that attempt was wrong “ ( 15-
16 ). In such dire circumstances humans often feel that they need to take the situation into their own hands. And defense for others is a natural response, but not one that Christians are called to act out if it means taking the life of another. Christians are called to obey the commands of Christ, and trust that He has not led them down the path of destruction, but the path of true life.
The call to non-resistance in a Christian context cannot be practiced without the understanding of the nature of Jesus’ Kingdom. Anyone can take the above scriptures mentioned and say they were meant to be metaphorical, or that it was just for those people in that culture. But pacifism is just one of the many facets to this upside-down Kingdom. Christ was very clear that he was coming to establish his heavenly kingdom, not an earthly one. If he had thought it beneficial to bring about justice through political means he would have done it. There was plenty of opportunity for him to do so. But God’s definition of justice is sending his son to die on the cross for the filth and depravity of the world, so that justice is served, and all have a chance for eternal life through Christ. Jesus called all believers to do things like dying to one’s flesh, being in the world but not of it, pacifism, and many more impossible tasks. But that is just the point. It is impossible to obey anything Christ taught without his grace, so that he may truly be the King of our lives.
The church has gone through so many degrees of violence and non-violence it is not difficult for any one person to look at history and judge what is the best course for Christians to take on this issue. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. expressed his opinion on this issue, “Through violence you may murder a murderer, but can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate. Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that “ (Quoted in McLaren 154). It seems very clear why Jesus commanded all who want to follow him to not lead a life of revenge and worldly justifications. But even if it all seemed better to do things the world’s way and to ignore what Jesus said, should Christians still live out the seemingly illogical option? The answer is, “Yes.” Understanding is always very helpful, but the church is not called to thorough understanding. She is called to obedience. As the living God incarnate, Jesus’ life and words come before anyone else, and proceeds all others. The whole point of being a Christian, is to follow the One who’s name is so proudly worn.
In conclusion, the church no longer has the excuse to tie itself to the patriotism of worldly kingdoms, because Christians belong to the Kingdom of Heaven and are thus aliens to this world. And as such it does not war with fleshly tools like fists and bombs, but with love and prayer. When Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me,” that was a big hint that this life would not be easy, and probably filled with some suffering. But everything pales next to the enduring love of God.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

im back, maybe

I suppose its was April when i last posted something. Ever since then my life has been quite a whirl wind. You might even venture to say its been a bit crazy. I wont get into all of it now, but here is a short summary.

1. we decided to move to West Virginia.
2. we prepared.
3. Becca and the two youngest boys (at the time) flew out east.
4 Meshach and I drove from Portland to Southern West Virginia in about 5 days.
5. I started a new job.
6. we had a baby, Baby Jov!
7 we get in a tuffle with the hospital and Child Protective Services.
8. i start working again.

Doesn't sound nearly as crazy as it was, but believe me you, it was crazy. And i hope that at least for a while that craziness can remain at bay.

Furthermore on this blog i was doing a chapter by chapter summary of Reimagining Church by Frank Viola. And in the same way that i had no time to be writing about it, i also had no time
read it. In addition to that, i dont know when i will because there are ten other books im finding intriguing right now too. So if you want to hear more about that, go out and get the book, because i aint spoon feedin you anymore! just kidding, but seriously.

I hope to have a review of the book "wounded innocents: the real victims of the war on child abuse." Its a book about the Child Protective Services and how instead of doing there objective, to curb child abuse, they have torn apart innocent families and destroyed lives. coming soon.

B Randon

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tilling The Inner Land

As you may have noticed, I changed the name of this blog. Unlike Facebook i didn't propose the idea to my entire readership and ask for a vote. Reason being, quite frankly I think all three of you would have taken too long to reply. None the less, you deserve an explanation, and i am semi-prepared to give it to you. Please hold all questions until the end.

The past four years i have attempted to create gardens. My first Garden was in Toledo, OH at my rented duplex. At the time, I only knew that if you put a seed in dirt, it might grow. That was the full extent of my knowledge of gardening. So in a horribly lit area measuring about 4x2 feet i planted peppers, tomatoes and watermelons! the package said i needed to keep a good 12 inches or more between the plants, but i figured they didn't know i had limited space, so i planted enough seeds for probably 30-50 plants of each crop. So i guess around 150 plants in all, when i had enough space for 3 plants, and enough sun for none. There were a huge number of other things i did not take into consideration, but hey, at least i tried. Surprisingly a couple plants managed to grow out of the soil, but yielded hardly anything, and what it did produce, the bugs feasted on. It's nothing short of hilarious to think back on that futile effort.

My second garden was set up for success, but not by me. At this point i still didn't even know that you needed to till the ground. Nor, until recently did i know a thing about soil preparation, building raised bed, etc etc. But a 20 year gardening vet. tilled up some ground for me that had been gardened for some 30 years, so it was good to go. Except the night that i showed up with all my little seed packets to plant in May, I found out that planting seeds in May would lead to me possibly having about five tomatoes before the autumn frost wiped out the plants. So i went out and bought a bunch of pepper, tomato, broccoli, cauliflower, watermelon, and cabbage plants. With guidance from my friends i managed to get a pretty good crop that year. though most of it went bad before we could use it, since we still had no clue how to can vegetables.

My third garden consisted of three tomato plants and five pepper plants, planted in planters on our back porch at a new apartment we just moved into. They were doing pretty good, but due to unforeseen troubles with the locals, and many other reasons, we packed our bags and hit the road out west, leaving before getting anything.

Some friends and I have started just a couple weeks ago on my fourth garden. By the grace of God, in the middle of Portland, OR, right next door we were able to secure a .11 acre lot to garden, for free. Being here, I am surrounded by passionate urban gardeners, and I am learning a lot about this wonderful lost trade, that we all need.

For the past couple of weeks we have done nothing but till the soil. till, then till some more, then till that again, and now try again, and again, now a little deeper. Since this is new ground its been especially difficult, due to the extraordinary amount of good size rocks, and the hard clay soil.

So im figuring out that gardening is not just opening a seed packet, dumping it out and covering it with some dirt and then waiting a few months for delicious tomatoes. It takes time. Its a long process that requires much patience, perseverance and beer. It may take years to get a good plot going the way you need it to, but its worth it in the end.

During the tilling process there are a lot of big ugly rocks to remove. There often needs to be some good compost mixed in to make the soil more healthy, and so much more. And this is where the tilling idea comes from.

In our community we have what are called "til-ing" groups. I forget what it stands for, but during these times 3 or so people gather together for an intimate heart to heart conversation. And through prayer, confession, exhortations, etc. we till the hard, unproductive rock-filled soil of our hearts. We kindly assist one another in removing the 'rocks' in our hearts that may choke out the plants that could otherwise grow and produce fruit. These rocks may be sin in our lives, hurts from the past, ignorance, etc.

The Inner Land part, is stolen from Eberhard Arnold's book, called....Inner Land. Bet you didn't see that one coming. Its a tough to read good book. I imagine from the title alone, you get what its general subject might be about...our souls, our hearts, our lives.

So with this new trajectory, lets till the soil in our hearts, in our souls. It may take a lot of painful hard work, requiring patience, perseverance, a bit of beer, and of course each other, but in the end our souls will be suitable soil for wonderful life-giving fruits.

Peace be with us.


Reimagining the Gathering Place

Alright folks, sorry, I have been away mentally, and unable to concentrate on this study, but if i wait until I'm mentally with it, we may be waiting a long time, so lets plow ahead forward.

There are two basic church locations and set ups today, in a "church building," which i will refer to as a basilica (and that includes houses converted into basilicas) and in someones home.

In the New Testament its clear that church meetings were held in peoples homes, and when there were too many to fit in the home, they multiplied and had two meetings in two different homes. And this trend continued from Jesus, to the apostles, to the early church for 300 years. That's a long time. But for what reasons? Frank will tell us...for at least these five reasons...

1. The home testifies that the people comprise Gods house...

Like the Old Testament Judaism concept of the Temple being the house of God, we see today people calling a church building the 'house of God'. But the early Christians understood well that Gods presence resides in the community of God, in the people, not a particular building or object. So then, there is so sanctity placed on a building, or a "sanctuary" in the building. The people is where its at!

Nor is a building even qualified to be called a church...what a miscommunication we are sending to the general public. The church is the people, not the building.

2. The Home is the natural setting for 'One-Anothering'...

The activities that are described for us in the New Testament that a church should be partaking in is best suited for a small group sitting together in a circle, Mutual participation, exercising the gifts of the spirit, fostering intentional, face-to-face community, eating the communal meal, fostering mutual love and edification for one another, interactive sharing, and the shared life of the Holy Spirit, affirming one another, etc, etc. These are all made possible by the unique setting of a small group of people sitting in a circle together.

3. The home represents the humility of Christ...

"Humility, naturalness and pure-simplicity," are values the early church held that a home represented well (as opposed to the basilica setting).

Also, as Viola points out, Christians in America put between $9 and $11 Billion into church buildings every year! I don't know all the numbers, but I do know that there are higher priorities for our money in this world today. Take, for example, the 30,000+ children dying everyday as a result of a lack of food. Or the thousands of even just Americans that struggle to have adequate health care. Or the pregnant teenager who would keep her baby if the church would put their money where their mouth is and help this young lady raise her child. Or simply helping Bob next door (who, by the way, hates the church) pay his gas bill so he and his family can be warm. And literally hundreds of thousands more important needs that exist today, all of which could be seriously addressed by the Church if we weren't burning our money on building and maintaining 'church' structures.

4. The Home reflects the Family Nature of the Church

If anyone has ever had a family gathering before at a church building or rental hall (as i experience on some thanksgivings), you probably have noticed the inorganic detached feel of it all. It just doesn't feel right.

Basilica churches are designed (well) to create a passive group of people who all look towards and receive from one person in the front. Also the front pulpit area is often raised in order to reinforce the idea of a division between the clergy and the laity.

Needless to say, this does not reinforce the new testament model of church which encourages mutual participation, interactive talks, etc. The home setting does just that. Just like a family.

In addition to that, its easy to see how in a basilica, one can easily hide away and never be noticed, but this is nearly impossible to do in the home setting....and that's a good thing.

5. the Home Models Spiritual Authenticity

The basilica model of church fosters a (false) division between the sacred and the secular. No such division exists in the New Testament, or in reality. The church gathering is not a sacred event which would call for dressing up and putting on your "spiritual" demeanor. Life is sacred. Life is spiritual. The home setting for the gathering helps us to connect the spiritual with the everyday life. Its all one. "Its all the blanket."

To conclude, its really quite simple, The church is supposed to be an edifying social activity, and the basilica is not conducive to such interactions, but the home does. To quote Viola..."The typical Sanctuary, or chapel, the pulpit, the pews, and the massive space breathe a formal air that inhibits interaction and relatedness. The peculiar features of a home produce the opposite effects."

So there you have it. Time to sell those church buildings or convert them into little communes. Whatever you do, stop meeting in them for church gatherings, you have a house for that purpose.

Next chapter...reimagining the Family of God


the one called, Brandon

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Salvation has Come!

Sorry i have not written in a while, i've had a lot of things on my mind that have not allowed me to adequately read and transfer the info i have been sharing on Violas book. and i still have not read the next chapter, so im taking a break at least for one post.

I recently returned from a weekend retreat for our church community. A lot of really great things occurred there, and it was very rejuvenating. One thing i bring back from that experience is a renewed sense of what it means to have salvation, to be the church, to be the community of God. All day Saturday we explored this theme by doing an in depth Bible study of the first four books of Genesis and some of Ephesians. This is ONE thing i got....

There is NO such thing as Personal Salvation. Salvation is a word to describe the chance to live a communal life, with God and others.

Let me explain further. Before the foundations of the earth were laid there lived one God, in three persons. These three persons lived in absolute harmony with one another, and do to this day. We will call These three persons in one, the Triune God, or Yahweh. Yahweh lived in absolute community, in oneness with the three persons within. (I hope this doesnt sound too weird, if it does, dont worry about it) So Yahwehs plan for the earth was to open this this community if you will, to man. This is where Adam comes into the pictures. As it says in Genesis, Adam walked and talked, and was one with God. Still though, God saw that Adam should not be alone, and thats where the animals and Eve came into play.

Adam and Eve were two persons, but one together. They had absolute trust, community and love for each other. And they were one with God. They lived in true peace. Not peace that the world offers that looks more like the mere absence of conflict. But of course, sin came and all the negative outcomes. The main point being that communion with each other and with the Triune God was broken. Finger pointing and distrust came, and created a downward spiral until finally mankind was killing each other out of jealousy and rage. IT got pretty ugly. Though this is not what God had in mind for humanity, he was not about to give up.

God had a plan, a vision for humanity that meant returning to true community with each other. true peace. true harmony. Oneness with others and with God. I wont go through the entire Old Testament, but suffice it to say that starting with Abraham's calling to leave the land called Ur, God was working and preparing to renew the life that we once had. I (and others) call it the "life-together" life. Life with God, life with others. All of us as One. And this is where Jesus, the messiah, comes into play.

Jesus came to show us the way back. He showed us THE WAY TO LIVE. And he came to reverse the consequences of sin, which is, in a phrase, broken relationships. Again, with God and with others. Jesus' death upon the cross, not only showed us what it means to sacrifice and lay down your life for another, but it also broke the hold that sin can have in our lives. Jesus' work in his life and upon the cross therefore, gives us the ability to be one with God and others. To be in community with God and others. Salvation is living a "life-together" life. There is no such thing as personal salvation, because salvation has not come to you, it has come to us. Salvation is for Everyone, as a unit, rather than everyone individually.

Those who take up this new life of community experience salvation! This is the Gospel! The good news! That is, once we were alienated from God and others due to our sin. But through Jesus we are given the chance to no longer have sin as a deterrent in our relationships. We can live the way God intended for humanity, and still absolute community and harmony with those around us.

Salvation is not...Jesus died on the cross and now we can retire from our lives and go to heaven. FAR FROM IT!!! Salvation is that we are FREE to live as ONE with others, WITH God. now let us find out what that means. I can say one thing. Salvation, the Gospel, it looks a lot like community. It looks a lot like unconditional love. Love without conditions. Life with you.

One of the speakers kept referring to Jerry McGuire's now cheesy phrase, "You complete Me." And that just it. We are incomplete with out each other and without God. But when we are made one with each other, we become complete.

this life together will not always look pretty, and it will not always be without conflict. It will look a lot like a man and a woman who choose to share all their things in common and live together in a house. It may get ugly at times, but they remain committed through thick and thin. They are committed to figuring out how to live life together. And this is a beautiful picture of our life together in this thing we call Church, The community of Gods people. Salvation has come to US. We are free to live at peace with our brothers and sisters. We are free to share all things in common.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Chapter 3 : Reimagining the Lords Supper

Simple and short, yet profoundly altering.

Most of us, if we have grown up in the church, know of the Lords supper (or communion, Eucharist, breaking of bread, etc.) as a religious ceremony or ritual done during a church service. It is usually practiced by taking a small amount of bread or a wafer and a shot glass of grape juice and ingesting them. Nowadays it is often accompanied by gentle music and we are supposed to think about our sins and what Jesus did on the cross. Is this practice built on biblical grounds?

Viola says no. And he is not alone in that assertion. In the New Testament this practice was a part in a full meal. IT was anything but a religious ceremony. It also was not a time of mourning and focusing on our short comings. It was a celebration of the victory Jesus accomplished on the cross.

The passover meal is its predecessor. In the passover meal Jews gathered together as the People of God to remember how God had delivered them from the tyranny and enslavement in Egypt.

This meal is a covenant. The covenant that God made with us, His people through Jesus' death upon the cross. Our covenant to share in the cup of suffering, in loving service to one another each and everyday. And we remember the Lords promise to not leave us behind, but to return one day. And in that sense we eat the meal in anticipation of the great wedding banquet we shall partake in when our Lord returns.

Regularly breaking bread together from my perspective is the act of coming together as a new creation, not only personally but as a whole. We are a new family with God as our father, and gathering together for this meal is just what families do, we eat together. Take sunday afternoon dinners or thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays as an example.

Come let us eat together.

next chapter - Reimagining the gathering place

Peace be with you, brandon

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

chapter 2 : Reimagining the Church meeting

"Neither "going to church" nor "church service" appears in the New Testament," states Viola.
There are, however four types of meetings found in the New Testament....Apostolic, Evangelistic, Decision-making and church meetings.
Apostolic Meetings- When an apostle is planting a new church. The Apostle speaks to an audience who is interact with him. These meetings are temporary and are meant to teach believers how to function under the headship of Christ.
Evangelistic Meetings- these were also held by an apostle (someone sent out to plant churches) in public areas where non-believers frequented. These were also for the purpose of planting a church or adding numerically to existing churches in the area. This meeting is also temporary and irregular.
Decision-making Meetings- Occasional meetings held to make important decisions in the church. These are open-participatory meetings with the help of elders. All believers gathered there would come to a decision together under the headship of Jesus.

Church Meetings- regular gatherings, at least once a week of a local body of believers. This is the meeting that is discussed in this chapter. These meetings look incredibly different from the present day church services that many attend, normally on Sunday morning or Saturday evening.
To begin with, these meetings are not held in buildings, there is no pastor at the center of things, there is no sermon, no worship leaders, no 'professionals' at all. No paid position is held in the church. In this chapter viola focuses mostly on the reality of no human officiation.

The purpose of the church meeting is mutual edification. Mutual being key. The meeting is marked by everyone in the gathering participating in the mutual edification of everyone in the gathering. This contrasts with the institutional styled church where one person (pastor, bishop, father, whatever) is primarily responsible for the edification of the entire passive audience sitting in the pews, facing the leader standing on the pulpit.
To see the beautiful picture of the New Testament gathering read 1 Corinthians 11-14. Viola comments, "Freedom, openness, and spontaneity are the chief marks of this meeting. "One-anothering" is its dominant feature--mutual edification its primary goal." Taking from Paul's explanation, the picture is of each and every person in the gathering bringing a song, a teaching, a word of knowledge, etc. Believers in the early church frequently even wrote and sang songs for the edification of the Body.
Although the meeting is not officiated by a human, nor is it necessarily planned out, it is not marked by disorderliness either. Respect for one another, attention to each other, and speaking in order is the ideal. But most importantly, following the leading of Jesus through the Spirit will lead to the orderliness of the meeting.

Christ as the head of the church and the head of the church meeting is free to use whomever he chooses in the gathering to say whatever He (Christ) wants to say. Without this feature, viola points out, you may never know whether Christ is present or not. In a church that is being handed over to Spirit for leading, you know if the Spirit is present. In an institutional church, whether Christ is present or not, the service steams ahead forward. The worship leader leads songs as usual, the sermon is preached as usual, the benediction and offering are still done. The point is that in an institutional church does not need Jesus' presence in order to function. The New testament model of the church meeting does, or else it does not function.

There is NO biblical precedent for one man to dominate the church meeting (as does the pastor, etc.) Nor is there precedent therefore for anyone to forbid the use of a believers gifts in the body. I personally have heard pastors call the people in the church, "my congregation" or "my flock." This is not the picture we find in the New Testament. The believers are Gods People, we are all His flock and he is our shepherd, our pastor. Furthermore we are all called Priests, a part of a royal priesthood. There is not one man who offers up prayer to God on behalf of the rest and tells everyone what they ought to do. We are all priests, enabled to speak to God and minister to one another.

There are a lot more points i wanted to hit, but i will leave it at that. At the end of the chapter Viola admits that he cannot simply put into words exactly what its supposed to look like, but does tell a story about a personal experience he had with a house church having no leader and being lead by Jesus. I recommend reading it.
Food for thought. tell me what you think.

Next chapter is entitled, Reimagining the Lord's Supper. sounds good. peace be with you.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Reimagining Church: Church as organism

I am currently reading Reimagining Church by Frank Viola. For this very important relevant book i have decided to write a short summary of each chapter and maybe a few thoughts of my own.

The reason I wanted to write about this is, it would seem that our present church structure, style, theology, or whatever the church is today is not working out too well. By that i mean that genuine change is not occurring in the individuals or the greater body of Christ. By that I mean there is no significant deviance from the world at large in terms of behavior, values or actions between professing Christians and everyone else.

(By the way this book is sort of a follow up to Pagan Christianity by the same author, which was a must-read. 1 of maybe 3 books i would claim that for)

Chapter 1 : Reimagining the church as an organism.

There are many images put forth of the church (i.e. a family, bride, a vineyard, a field, etc.) all of which are 'organic' living examples rather than institutional examples. This is significant since most of the (western) church today is by definition institutional rather than organic. And over the course of this book and these blogs we shall see the stark difference. Furthermore i hope that it is made evident that the organic model of the church is deeply rooted in the character of God and the scriptures.

To start with Viola jumps right into one of the hardest concepts to grasp, and that is the Trinity. He (with others) says that a good understanding of the Trinity can be used as a reference for all other 'theology' in the church. It is the beginning and end to all that we need to know about the Christian way of life. The relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit shows the real meaning and expression of, "mutual love, mutual fellowship, mutual dependence, mutual honor, mutual submission, mutual dwelling and authentic community."

"The church is an organic extension of the Triune God." In the church, we ought to be seeing this life of mutuality and egalitarianism. We see in the Trinity, the Son, the Father and the Holy Spirit as equal parts of the Godhead. So too should the church function, with equally valued persons all giving of themselves to one another in mutual love.

Viola, goes on to talk about four different avenues that most folks take when trying to "reimagine" the church. They are: Biblical blueprintism, cultural adaptability, post-church Christianity and organic expression.

Biblical blueprintism- Defined by the idea that pretty much everything done in the New Testament acts as a blueprint for the church today. There is no separation between things which are written simply to describe what was happening, and those things that were happening in the church that were meant to be normative church practice (descriptive vs. prescriptive). All things written in the New Testament are taken as prescriptive. Viola suggests that this approach is misguided. I would agree.

cultural adaptability- This view takes the gospel and the scriptures and contextualizes it for each period of time and culture, etc. But it also has the tendency to over-contextualize, rendering the Gospel a weed that blows in the wind.

Post church Christianity- This one is really important to me because i have entertained this idea. In this category you find people who feel that church is little more than hanging out with friends. There is no need to do anything really, other than hang out and have a good time. It's probably the most extreme reaction against the institutional church without actually throwing out the faith altogether. (And by the way I have known many people personally who have held this view, and have fairly easily been pushed over the edge and lose their faith in God, and often even in the loving people around them.) While this view, like all of them, has some truth about it, it is not the full picture.

Organic expression- This category is what this book is all about. It is said by Viola to have at least these four elements :

1. Christ is the head (not a pastor, bishop, pope, or any other human)

2. All members have a function in the church (bringing songs, teachings, word of knowledge, encouragement, wisdom etc etc.

3. Gives visible expression to New Testament theology

4. Always grounded in the Triune faith (that i vaguely talked about before)

To quote Viola, "The Trinity is the paradigm informing us on how the church should function. It shows us that the church is a loving, egalitarian, reciprocal, cooperative, non hierarchical community." To quote Becca's notes found in this book, " Right on, right on!" Indeed I find that incredibly insightful as well.

To conclude here, Viola likens the church today as a modern day version of the Greek mythological man Procrustes who supposedly had a magical bed that fit everyone perfectly. However what was actually happening was Procrustes would take a short person and stretch them out to fit the bed, and a tall person would have their limbs cut off to fit the bed. Today, Viola says, we are and have been doing the same with scripture. We cut it up and stretch it out to fit into our little version and idea of what it should be. And in so doing this we have justified many entirely non-biblical church practices. This method is called, "cut and paste."

We find a verse here and cut it out from its historical, chronological and circumstantial context, and paste it together with others to make whatever kind of theology we like. Its absurdity at best, and soul destroying at worst. And we repeatedly use this method of 'bible study' in order to support just about anything we want to.

So presumably in the upcoming chapters we will to begin look at the Scriptures and the New Testament church with new eyes. And perhaps we can begin to see the church today as needing to look more like an organic organism that a multi-national corporation.

Next chapter will be specifically dealing with the church meeting.

May grace and peace follow you everywhere you go.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Where are all the protesters now??

At the end of October 2006 Becca, Meshach and I hopped into a van with several others from our church and headed to Washington D.C. We were going to protest the war(s). Upon arriving the day before we all headed into an episcopal church that was crowded with people sleeping on the wood floors. Interesting night it was.

The next morning we headed for the rally which had hundreds of thousands attending. We made a banner that said, "anything bombs can do, love can do better." and on the other side it simply said, "Love thy enemy. -Jesus" It was a great experience, but it did not come without some great disappointments.

Now most know that i am no fan of George W. but i was really turned off by the extreme hatred for W. by many who were at the protest. I kept thinking, "isn't this a peace rally? How can we have peace if we continue to hate?" Somehow we have to figure out how to be against the war, and not show hatred towards those who are guilty of the war mongering. Or else nothing is ever going to change.

But fast forward to 2009. Now we have a new guy in office. Some call him Obama, some call him the messiah. While I'm glad to see W. gone i am not an Obama follower. But here is my question....Where are all the protesters now?? Everyone wanted a Democrat in office believe that it would somehow bring an end to the wars. Yes Obama has set a date about a year and half away to be out of Iraq, but in the meantime he has escalated the war in Afghanistan. Clearly simply having a democrat in office is not the answer that we should all be looking for...peace. In fact i submit (as others have as well) that the American Empire has been expanding for a long time. I guess you could say its been expanding ever since the first day it became a country. And this agenda has been pushed by Republicans and Democrats alike.

Anyhow there's my rant. I hope the anti-war protesters keep up with the protesting, because the wars are still going, and this American messiah is not slowing that down.

With faith in Christ alone,


My old friend Jim

My Old half amish friend Jim used to always say things. And then he would say, "Fight me, fight me." I loved that about Jim. Heres an example of something he would actually say quite a bit:

"You guys should move to Michigan! Michigan is the promised land. Toledo is actually a part of Michigan you know. Fight me, fight me."

In the spirit of fighting Jim, i ask the same to you, "FIGHT ME, FIGHT ME."

It is through this deliberation that we can be refined! so reply, comment away and dont take my word for it. fight me.

In the spirit of unity,


More on Wilberforce and the use of force

This is a response to the responses i have gotten about the previous post.

Martin Luther King Jr. was quoted basically saying that while we need to work on changing the heart for any real lasting change, in the mean time the law is there to regulate behavior, and restrain the would be attacker.

First i want to say thanks to Matt who posed this question for dragging me into an even tougher task. Now I am not only taking on one, but two of the most influential Christians in the past two hundred years. I have to make this CLEAR....William Wilberforce and especially MLK jr. are two men i respect deeply. They both dedicated their lives and lost their lives in self sacrificial service to others. They are both people we ought to look up to, and strive to emulate in a lot of ways. That said, they were still humans and one need not agree with absolutely everything they did or said in order to see them as great examples of a person living out their faith in service to the King.

Now about that quote. I'm not so sure that the law even does what MLK was saying it does. The law hardly restrains someone, it merely punishes someone after the fact, in most instances. It is based more on revenge or 'getting even' than on actual restraint.

that aside when i think about this question, and i do frequently, i have to always return to what Jesus has taught, and lived. That is a life lived without the use of force. AND without asking others to use force on his behalf, i.e. the police. Both points of which are equally important. For what is the difference between using force and asking someone else to use force for you. There is no final difference. the outcome is the same. Furthermore, you cannot find anywhere in the New Testament the use of force being used by any of Christs followers, save one.

Peter used force once. He cut off the ear of the centurion who attempted to arrest Jesus. HE was sharply rebuked for his use of violence (even a violence used against something completely unjust). Jesus, when talking to Pilate later that night, explained that the reason for this non-use of violence was because of the uselessness of it in accomplishing the goals of God, the establishment of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is not of this world as he explains, and therefore it is useless and even harmful to use the tactics of this world; namely, the use of coercion, be it physical, relational or any other sort.

Some might argue that this was only in this instance because God willed it for Jesus to go through all of that for the forgiveness of sins. But if that were true we would have other examples of his disciples later using force, but we don't. The use of force in the early church was strictly forbidden.

Jesus taught us to never restrain an evil man. He taught us to allow someone to hurt us if they try. To allow someone to steal from us if they try. To allow someone to take advantage of us if they try. And in all these things to even go beyond what was being forced out of us and give to the perpetrator more than what is asked. Why? i have some ideas, but when it comes down to it, i don't know to the full extent, and certainly don't naturally just do these things. But i must trust and obey.

` As far as the Government using these tactics...I'll talk about that in at a later date. But for our purposes here, I do not see a difference between using force ourselves or asking others or accepting others to do the work for us. Therefore i cannot condone even the use of force within the government. But again, i'll talk more about that later.

We must always remember that this life is but a mist in the air. and all the things that evil men may attempt to steal from us (possessions, time, health or even our lives) are fading away anyhow. They mean nothing in eternity (which is now). So we must hang onto things with a very loose grip. As someone said, "we didn't come into this world with all these things and were not going to leave with all these things."

I hope that's at least somewhat of a coherent answer.

Peace be with you!!


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Wilberforce was misguided!

Wilberforce was misguided....sort of. As you may recall, William Wilberforce was the man who rallied to get the slave trade banished in England in 1833. He did this after becoming a Christian and knowing that the message of the Gospel leaves no room for slavery, and now he is a hero to most Christians as a great example of a Christians using politics to correct injustices in the world.

While I am all about correcting injustices in the world, i believe the technique in which we do this is not limited to politics. To go further, i would say, its pointless to use politics and sometimes very dangerous. As a holder of this view, Wilberforce would be one of the best people to persuade me otherwise. Afer all, few things are more repulsing than the idea of slavery, especially when you hear all the horrifying true stories of the way slaves were treated.

Heres the thing. I have argued, and im not original on this, that you cannot legislate morality. More to the point for me, no laws could change the hearts of the people who are perpetrating these evil acts. Specific to our subject; The evil in the hearts of slavetraders is what caused the slave trade, and outlawing slavery will not change that. Therefore the evil in their hearts will be manifested in another way. The root of the problem has not been uprooted. You can cut back a weed with sissors, but rest assured, it will return quickly unless you completely uproot it.
My argument therefore is that we work to uproot the problems of the world, which is lodged within the heart, and do not waste our precious time on fighting the symptoms of the problem, through politics.

Here is a prime example of the evil of slavery (although outlawed, still in the hearts of some) being manifested in a new way. recently i listened to an hour long radio program on the subject of micro-loans in Third World countries. I have heard a lot of great things from organizations like Mennonite Central Committee who have been working with others to make these very small loans a possibility for people in extreme poverty. The loans are used to create small businesses, enabling them to have a livable income. Some non-profits give out these loans and help support the loan holders with a 0% interest rate. Other for-profit companies can do these loans for no more than 20% interest.

On the other hand a woman on this radio program was interviewed who, like many in her field, have come under great criticism for their loaning interest rates. The Radio host questioned her saying, "Some people have been saying that your offices have outrageous interest rates that do more harm than good to people who are already in extreme poverty. They say your taking advantage of them with interest rates up 50% !, what do you have to say?"

she replied, "We do what we have to in order to cover costs."
"so what is your interest rate?" He asks

She dances around the question, "It varies from country to country."

"Alright, say Mexico, what is it in Mexico?"

She continues to dance, "Its the same as most companies there."

"Well, what is it?!?" He's getting a bit annoyed at this point.

"Well in order to cover our costs we charge an interest rate of 70%"

!!!!!!!!!!! 70% interest!!!!!!!!!!!!

It is easy enough for us rich "educated" Americans to be taken away by robber barron credit card companies, who charge an outrageous amount of interest, like 25%. But to consider these poor people, already in abject poverty being taken advantage of by these credit agencies, giving them loans they can't pay back. Or if they can, they will have to pay almost twice as much as they recieved, this is slavery! Because if they dont pay it back, the agency goes to work on them.

So we may not be able to go steal people and bring them to the mother land to harvest the crops, but believe me, the same evil that created that kind of slavery is creating other kinds, and this example is just one of many.

At this point, those of us who believe this is unjust, like myself, and believe something should be done about it have atleast two options. (1) we could work to make these sort of actions illegal, or (2) we could go at it with a philosophy that says, if i can help to change a persons heart that does these things, then we may actually uproot the problem. Let us focus therefore on the renewal of hearts! On forgiveness, reconciliation, so that we may spur one another on towards a life of purity and love for all of mankind. So that the greed we are all so inclined to is cast off, and destroyed. Lord help us.

Brandon W.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Just a good (true) story

It was a hot August day in a suburb of Columbus. I was assigned to do work on a municipal building. They had Brick walkways leading up to the entry way of the building. My task was to remove all the cement mortar between the bricks and then replace it. OBVIOUSLY (to me) then no one could walk on it while i did it.
So there was a front and back door to get into the place, so it became obvious to me that i needed to make sure that everyone entered and exited through the entryway that i was not working on.
This is about the time that i went inside the building to ask the front desk lady person in the lobby there if i could lock the doors from the inside. She said no, so i went outside to ponder more. It was not long before two cop cars tore into the parking lot and the police jumped out of the vehicles and surrounded me.
"get your hands out of you pockets now!!" they yelled.
"ummmmm, ok. is there somethings wrong officers?"
At this point they did not respond to my question, but started a long interrogation session about the purpose of my presence at the building. They did not believe me. They searched my vehicle, frisked me, you know, the whole shabang. After a while they conceded that i, in fact, was not a terrorist. wait what???
As it turns out, apparently the front desk lady person in the lobby decided that due to my scruffy beard and shabby clothes, there was a high probablity that i was a terrorist rather than a mason, and therefore notified the authorities, promptly. It later made for a good laugh, and simply added to the list of run ins with the authorities to my list. None of which, by the way, have been for anything other than misjudgments and misunderstandings.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The hutterites PART II

IF you havent read the post immediately below, do so first. Or not. its up to you. really it is.

SO back to The Hutterites.

-Like i said, The hutterites number over 50,000 this day and are growing quickly. Each community has between 50 and 150 persons.

-Oddly enough there is very few people joining them. They grow from within. At the turn of the 20th century each family averaged 12 children. wow. They are a very family centered group. They are strictly monogamous as well.

-Everyone in the community speaks atleast three languages fluently, Hutterisch, German and -English. Each is used for different purposes.

-Their finances are 100% shared, and distributed evenly according to each persons need

-They share all of their meals and each family has its own little apartment to live in.

-large scale agriculture is their main source of income, and unlike the Amish, they readily embrace technology, but still make an effort to keep it in its place. For instance, they will use large combines for farming, truck for transportation, and electricity for a wide variety of things most people use it for. They do, however, forbid the use of TV and other electronic gadgets that tend to be more of a hindrance on our personal relationships.

-Contact with the outside world is kept to a minimum, in order to guard themselves from becoming entrenched in negative patterns of the greater society, such as divorce, cheating, Materialism, stealing, violence, promiscuity, etc. two examples of the success of this philosophy are, in the past 400+ years of existence there has been zero murders, and very few divorces.

-spiritually they are very much focused on things in the 'Kingdom.' The reign of God and the things of eternity are at the front of their minds and priorities. therefore they do not involve themselves in politics or anything of that sort.

-they are very disciplined and genuine in their spiritual practices, evident in their daily services amongst other things.

If you are interested to learn more about this very interesting group of people here in the U.S. there are several books about them. Hutterite Society by John Hostetler is a great read. We can learn a lot from this humble disciplined loving group of people.

Peace and Grace be with you.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

right?...what you? Part 1

Dont ask me what that means, sounds like something Zeke my two year old boy might say. BUt i have always heard, "write what you know," so i will try to focus in on some of the things that i atleast think I know about.
The biggest thing that has consumed my mind for the past few years has been community. You might already know this since anyone i spend any sort of a significant amount of time with i end up spouting out a bunch of propaganda about living in community. But fear not, no propaganda here....wink. Well i suppose i will share some interesting stuff about different intentional communities out there. I'll start off with a very little known intentional community, and the longest lasting biggest communal group in existence today....The Hutterites.

The Hutterites Are over 50,000 strong these days, and reside mostly on fairly secluded colonies in Montana, the dakotas, washigton, minnesota, canada and some other places. They have thousands of these self-sufficient farming communities.

Their roots are in the 16th century Anabaptist movement. From this movement we get the Mennonites, Amish, Brethren in Christ, and closely related is the Quakers. The Anabaptist were a group that popped up at the same time as the Reformation where we find Luther and the Lutherans splitting from the catholic church in the early 1500's. This is where the protestant label came about. But many would say that the anabaptists are not protestants, nor catholic, but their own stream.

Anyways The Hutterites were a communal group within the Anabaptist stream. They look to the early church of the first century for inspiration. They found a church wholeheartedly devoted to serving one another sacrificially, and a part of that was declining the right to own private property. they also found a church that was willing to die for Christ, rather than kill (as the so called holy roman catholic church was so willing to do at the time).

So they were a pacifistic-nonviolent communal group in Europe, and as a result were highly persecuted. Being tortured and killed for their faith was more than common. By the thousands Hutterites were put to death , and whats worse, it was at the hands of people who supposed were following Christ, both the Catholics and Lutherns. Its sick really. And unfortunately they continued to be persecuted for centuries even after they finally fled from europe, then russia, and now into the "land of the free"called the Americas.

As a result of their non-violent stance they refused to go to war when drafted in the first and second world war. They feel that killing is wrong, no matter how evil the other person may be. To take the soul of another person is not permissible for us humans, who are all, by the way, deeply wicked within ourselves. So during WW I they were thrown into concentration camps and prison, where they were treated like animals. One particular story is very saddening of a couple of Hutterites taken to Alcatraz were they were tortured and placed in solitary confinement for a very long time. They were then transported to another prison in the mid-west where they were still ill-treated, until they finally gave up the ghost, before their families could even come to see them.

they are a humble, queit and disciplined group of people.

More on them later!

May your day be blessed.

do you smoke weed?

Well I've been in Oregon now for six months. It only took about 12 hours of being in oregon for the first person to ask me if i smoked weed. Odd, i thought, but odd things happen every once in a while. But it only took another hour before another person asked. and another. then another. Until one tall 40 something year old man actually came to me offering me what he called "the good oregon stuff, not that Mexican shit you get over there in Ohio." Very odd i thought.

Over the past six months then i have never had so many people ask me if i smoke weed. And when i say they ask me if i smoke weed, it is just as startling as it sounds. Out of nowhere. Heres the problem. NO ONE believes me when i say i dont. NO ONE. they say, "Oh right, you just happen to drive a VW van, have a big scruffy beard, and just happen to be pretty chilled all the time."

Im reminded of my high school days. Quite frequently I was sent to the drug and alcohol counselor. They would ask me questions like, "why are your eyes so glossy?" That to me sounded more like a question for an optometrist, but ok. "Why did you paint your finger nails?" "why are those pants so baggy?" "Why did you cut your hair like that?" and other questions like this. to which the only possible answer of course that i smoked weed.

Well for all you high school drug counselors, and all of you Oregonians (Pronounced org-own-e-ns) I would like to tell you once and for all. I dont smoke. Even if i wanted to i have asthma! And here's even more....shh dont tell anyone...I never have. So there ya go. Yes I just happen to drive a VW Van, hold up two fingers and say "peace," have a scurrfy beard, eat organic, have kids running around barefoot, and have a sticker on my than that says, "Biodiesel: no war required." And yeah, im normally pretty chilled out.

Peace man.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Muslim Nation

What better of a way to start out your very own blog than on a heavy note. No sense in doing any ice breakers here. Lets dive in.

I am currently reading David Shenks' book Journeys of the Muslim Nation and the Christian Church. Its a great book and i highly recommend it. In it he explains how Jesus and Muhammed took two very different paths to accomplish their mission. He says,

Jesus the Messiah and Muhammed the Prophet of Islam traveled in opposite directions. The Messiah turned his back on the invitation to become a king with an army; instead he resolutely set his face to Jerusalem and the cross. Muhammed welcomed the invitation to become governor and left suffering in Mecca for Medina and political power.
The implications of this then of course, is exactly how the followers of these two men will act. For the followers of Christ the call is to set down your will (perhaps to not suffer, or to get revenge, etc.) take up your cross (not literally, but not metaphorically either, just differently) and follow the God who chose to suffer at the hands of sinners, and forgive them in the mean time.
On the other hand the followers of Muhammed would logically follow his path, which was the quick acceptance of political and military power in order to carry out the will of the sovereign, all-powerful God who would never subject himself to suffering. (side note: every Muslim would probably not like me calling them followers of Muhammed, they are followers of God from their perspective. I mean no harm)
I would be quick to point out that Christians have one of the worst reputations throughout history of being a violent people. And Some Muslims have chosen the road of peace for the most part. But focusing in on the beginnings of these two faiths we find the true nature, the true root of what it means to be a Christian and what it means to be a Muslim.
Something to think about........
Peace to you on this day.

I enter

My friend Mateo, from across the sea in the small north african coutry of Morocco once told me, "If you make a blog, i would probably read it." We shall see about that.