Saturday, May 29, 2010

Holy Flakes

A satirical look at what happens when we make Jesus a commodity.

On top of a dusty shelf in a small town grocery
were boxes of some store brand flakes that hadn’t sold in years.
The manager that transferred in with marketing degrees
thought he could sell that cereal with his big fresh ideas.
He found a picture of the pope and when he got it scanned,
used photoshop to take a spoon and put it in his hand.
Then a bubble with a caption of what the pope was trying to say,
"If you’re a Christian act like one and eat your Holy Flakes."
Holy Flakes, Holy Flakes. Holy Holy Holy, Holy Flakes.
The same old folks came in that week to get their raisin bran.
They all felt convicted when they saw the holy man
so they filled their carts up with John Paul instead of stuff they liked.
They thought it was their duty as the good God fearing kind.
And the Holy Flakes sold so well they couldn’t keep them on the shelf so they diversified.
Soon there were Sacred Chips,
Virgin Mary Chicken Strips
and Prince of Peace Apple Pie.
It doesn’t matter if it has no taste cause its all in the name.
Soon they had a one brand town with pantries all the same.
It left them with no appetite for stuff that broke the mold
and a faith that was as shallow as the milk left in the bowl
of Holy Flakes.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Non-Violent Direct Action

I repeated this phrase probably 30-40 times to my U.S. History classes when we studied the Civil Rights Movement a few weeks back. I wanted them to understand that the message of Martin Luther King Jr. and many other civil rights leaders was not one of passivity. It wasn't a message that asked folks to sit back and do nothing while the aggressors beat the tar out of you. These leaders specifically sought out unjust laws and then directly violated those laws. There is nothing passive about that. There was a reason Dr. King was placed in Montgomery, Alabama in 1956. There was a reason that Dr. King and others showed up in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. There was a reason that they showed up in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer of 1964. Injustice was occurring and they wanted to attack it head on with non-violent direct action.

The tactics of Mahatma Gandhi heavily influenced Dr. King. Although Gandhi was assassinated in 1949, King traveled to India a decade later and visited the birthplace of Gandhi. It had a profound impact on his vision for the beloved community in the United States, he wrote:
Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity. In a real sense, Mahatma Gandhi embodied in his life certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe, and these principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation.
That "moral structure of the universe" was obviously evident in the words of Jesus, and in this regard, specifically in the Sermon on the Mount. In fact, Gandhi was heavily influenced by the New Testament. King looked at some of Jesus' words with skepticism until he saw their tangible application in the Indian independence movement a decade earlier:
The 'turn-the-other-cheek' philosophy and the 'love-your-enemies' philosophy, were only valid when individuals were in conflict with other individuals; when racial groups and nations were in conflict, a more realistic approach seemed necessary. But after reading Gandhi, I saw how utterly mistaken I was.
It was only then that King fully realized that the nonviolent tactics of Jesus were the only viable solution to the problems facing oppressed people in the world. To recognize this individually it implies that Jesus had a political message, that God did not send His son to earth to simply teach us how to get to heaven. Why would Jesus teach a message of nonviolent resistance? My answer would be that nonviolence is the way of the Kingdom not a way to make it to the Kingdom, which implies that the Kingdom is already here - now - right now, all around us. That is why Jesus tells us to pray for His will to be done "on earth as it is in Heaven." So Jesus' words need to be taken literally and need to be applied to our lives today. Look at a passage from Matthew 5:39-41, in three short verses Jesus gives us the basis for non-violent direct action:
Do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.
In all three of these instances, the offended party is taking action, they aren't sitting helplessly waiting for the offender to continue harming them. "Turn you cheek," "give your coat," and "walk another mile." All three of these flew in the face of what was acceptable to the culture. Take for example the walking the extra mile. The Romans had oppressed the people of Israel for nearly a century prior to the public ministry of Jesus. Violence by the hands of the Romans were perpetuated against the Jews on a daily basis. In 4 BCE, Rome had sanctioned a mass execution of male children in attempts to eliminate the supposed "messiah." These acts were all carried out by Roman soldiers -- then Jesus says "If a [Roman] soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles." This is a defiant action. This is not apolitical. Jesus has a purpose here in telling the listeners to take part in this non-violent direct action. It was Roman law that soldiers could demand that subjugated people could be asked to help carry gear, and it was actually illegal to force them to carry the pack for more than a mile (1,000 steps). Jesus was telling His listeners to purposely break a law to demonstrate the injustice of the situation.

Fast forward to 1961. In Washington D.C., 13 riders boarded Greyhound buses heading south. The goal of these Freedom Riders were to bring attention to the unjust Jim Crow law of segregated seating on interstate travel. The riders met angry mobs and violence throughout the Deep South on their way to New Orleans - which they never reached -- most being arrested in Jackson, Mississippi. But the nation noticed and the law was thereafter enforced. Passengers were permitted to sit wherever they pleased on interstate buses and trains, "white" and "colored" signs came down in the terminals, separate drinking fountains, toilets, and waiting rooms were consolidated, and the lunch counters began serving people regardless of race.

Nonviolence is not passivity. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr.:

Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.

Kung Fu Bear

This has nothing to do with anything, I just thought it was hilarious.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Radical Book

I'm really excited about getting a copy of David Platt's new book titled Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream. Don't know if you remember, but we put out a challenge the week before Easter to listen / watch one sermon each night before Resurrection Sunday. I haven't read the whole thing, but this book looks to be based off of those sermons. We never went to Birmingham, Alabama during our travels, which is where Dr. Platt pastors a church. Instead we heard about this sermon series through a remarkable blog that if you haven't checked it out before you really should, you will be inspired:
If you are interested in reading the first chapter of Dr. Platt's book you can go here.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What Jesus Left Out

In Luke 4 Jesus returns to Nazareth and stands up in the synagogue, probably the same synagogue he went to as a child and young adult. He simply stands, finds where the prophet Isaiah wrote these words:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
. . . "then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down." But he left something out. Something that seems pretty crucial to the actual verse in Isaiah. Here is the passage in Isaiah:
"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor

and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn."
I'm wondering why? Anybody have any thoughts why Jesus would read all of Isaiah 61:1-2a, but leave out 2b: that he has come to proclaim "the day of vengeance of our God." Is Jesus trying to tell us something by not telling us something?